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Gonzaga Basketball: 3 takeaways from rare WCC road loss to Santa Clara Broncos

For the first time in over a decade, Gonzaga Basketball fell to Santa Clara. What are some takeaways from the game?

Dec 20, 2023; Spokane, Washington, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Anton Watson (22) runs the baseline
Dec 20, 2023; Spokane, Washington, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Anton Watson (22) runs the baseline / James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
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For the first time in over a decade, Gonzaga Basketball fell to Santa Clara. What are some takeaways from the game?

After dominant wins over San Diego and Pepperdine, it looked as if Gonzaga Basketball's non-conference concerns were a thing of the past. Unfortunately for them, a trip to a good Santa Clara sqaud put them back into reality. They trailed double-digits early on and were able to come back and take a late lead.

But a missed free throw followed by an Adama Bal basket for the Broncos set up the 77-76 upset win, ending a 26-game losing skid to Gonzaga. For the Bulldogs, not only are they going to be unranked for the first time in years but their NCAA Tournament streak could also be in danger if they don't win the WCC Tournament. Here are some takeaways from the latest Bulldog defeat.

1. Anton Watson is great but needed help

At the beginning of the game, Watson was the only Bulldog that could score, getting 15 early points. It was shades of the UCLA game, with Watson doing everything to keep the lead. This time, the supporting cast let him down. Graham Ike had just five points in 17 minutes before fouling out, while Nolan Hickman went 1-9 from the field. Braden Huff (14 points) off the bench paired with Watson was what allowed the team to come back but a 2/20 shooting performance was what did the Bulldogs in again.

2. Lights were too bright for Dusty Stromer

Ike wasn't the only starter who couldn't stay on the floor, as Stromer finished with 0 points on 0/2 shooting. After missing a defensive assignment early in the second half, he was benched for the rest of the game. Watson was able to play the 3-spot and they came back but that can't be the solution every time. If Stromer can't find a way to have an impact on the road, Gonzaga Basketball will be in big trouble.

3. Nembhard's second half a hopeful sign of things to come

If I had to find a brightspot from this disaster (besides Watson), Nembhard had a strong second half, scoring 15 of his 21 total points on 6/10 shooting. It's the opposite of some of his previous games, where he went cold in the second half in losses. However, that missed free throw throws his production away since it created the scenario to lose at the end.

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Gonzaga has to be hopeful that Nembhard can be a consistent offensive scorer each game in WCC play. Of course, had Hickman given them anything, they probably win so it's definitely not on the former Creighton guard. Still, he's the prize pickup and with no guard depth, he has to play well all the time for this team to be good enough to go dancing in March.