Santa Clara coach Dick Davey is an advocate of the inside power game.
The highest percentage shot in basketball is a 1-foot shot or a dunk, he told the assembled media at Wednesday's press conference at the Huntsman Center.And yet it's the 3-point shot that has 15th seeded, 18-11 Santa Clara in the NCAA Tournament. Without a phenomenal late season 3-point barrage the Broncos would surely just be watching a game on TV today instead of playing in one.
And they will need a lot of 3-point magic today against the No. 2 seed in the West, Arizona. The Huntsman Center game begins at 6:05 p.m.
The No. 5-ranked Wildcats (24-3) are the class of the field. They were here two years ago when they defeated the Shawn Bradley-led BYU Cougars in the second round.
Three players from that team are the three top scorers on this year's Wildcat club, Chris Mills, Khalid Reeves and Ed Stokes. Swingman Mills is a first-team All-American and is averaging 20.4 points and 8 rebounds a game. Reeves, a guard, has a 12.3 point average and 7-foot center Stokes puts in 11.5 points a game. They combine with point guard Damon Stoudamire (11.2 points a game) to make Arizona one of the favorites to win the NCAA tourney, something Lute Olson has not yet accomplished in his impressive tenure in Wildcat country.
But back to the surprising Broncos. They had to win the West Coast Conference Tournament to make the NCAAs. They did it by making all nine of their 3-point shot attempts in the second half against Pepperdine to rally to a 73-63 victory.
The Broncos have made 34 of their last 59 3-point attempts and were 28 of 47 in the WCC tourney. Freshman Steve Nash from Canada, averaging just 8 points a game, went berserk in the tourney, making 10 of 13 from 3-point land, including all four attempts in the second half of the Pepperdine game, a half in which he scored 20 points to secure WCC Tournament Most Valuable Player honors.
As such, Davey has adjusted his philosophy on shooting from the outside. If they're open, his players are allowed to bomb away.
But he knows the difficulty Santa Clara faces tonight. "We think we have to play pretty close to a perfect game to have a chance . . . We're going to have trouble early because we're going to be very nervous. If we can stay close in the first 10 minutes it will be an interesting game. If not, it could be ugly," he said.
Olson doesn't want the Broncos to get comfortable. "The biggest thing is making sure we're not giving their 3-point shooters good looks at the basket," he said. That means putting pressure on their shooters before they get the ball, he added.
Santa Clara's leading scorer is forward Pete Eisenrich with a 14.3 average. Guard Mark Schmitz averages 13.6. Davey feels point guard John Woolery's play will be the key for the Broncos.