Santa Clara tops SJSU in South Bay showdown

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Santa Clara tops SJSU in South Bay showdown

SAN JOSE -- Santa Clara University’s lead in the second half never dipped below 16 as the Broncos cruised to their ninth win in the last 11 meetings against SJSU, defeating the Spartans 75-54 and ending their three-game win streak.

Twice the Broncos’ second-half lead was cut to 16 by the Spartans but the Broncos were just too much as they outscored SJSU in both halves Tuesday night at the Event Center.

“They outplayed us, simple as that,” said SJSU head coach George Nessman. “They showed more poise and showed more mental sharpness than we did and that’s how they got the victory.”

Santa Clara was led by guard Evan Roquemore, who racked up 16 points and 5 assists while converting 3-5 from beyond the arc, and also received substantial contributions from several members of the team. Broncos guards Raymond Cowells III and Kevin Foster added 13 and 11 points, respectively, to help earn the Santa Clara victory.

For the game, SJSU collectively shot 25 percent (15-60) from the floor. Guard James Kinney, who entered the contest averaging 23 points per game, was limited by the Santa Clara defense, scoring just 19 points.

“We had to keep Kinney somewhat limited, make him earn it and he had to earn those I thought,” said Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating. “He made some really tough shots. We started to frustrate them a little bit and disrupt their flow and it really helped our pressure in other places as well.”

Nessman called the loss a lesson learned for the Spartans.

“We played a really good team and we didn’t play with a level of concentration that you need to,” he said. “We certainly had a lot of intensity but we didn’t do a good job focusing. We made a lot of careless mistakes and Santa Clara punished us for almost every one of them.”

While Santa Clara outscored SJSU 17-14 in points off turnovers both Nessman and Kinney said it felt like the spread was larger. Ten of SJSU’s 18 turnovers came in the first half, digging a hole the Spartans wouldn’t be able to climb out of.

“They counted on our mistakes, that’s pretty much the game right there,” Kinney said. “We didn’t execute offensively. We broke down on many of our sets and that leads to bad shots, poor decisions overall and transition points for Santa Clara going the other way.”

Santa Clara began to build a lead from the early minutes of the first half. Within the first five minutes the Broncos took a 14-5 lead and it became clear that Santa Clara was the more aggressive team.

SJSU’s defensive intensity showed promise later in the first half when it held Santa Clara scoreless for nearly four minutes, bringing the score to 16-12 in favor of the Broncos with 11:14 left in the first half.

A three-pointer from guard Brandon Clark, however, ignited the Santa Clara offense once again and sent the Broncos on a run that opened the game up early on. Over the next five minutes Santa Clara went on a 15-2 run, capped by a three-pointer from Roquemore, to give the Broncos a 31-14 lead with just less than seven minutes to play in the first.

Another 13-4 Bronco run to end the first sent the game into halftime with the score at 44-25. Roquemore led Santa Clara in scoring with 13 points and in assists with 3 at halftime.

“We didn’t function very well the first ten minutes of the game and that put us in a hole and then we played like we were in a hole and I think it affected out sharpness and Santa Clara took advantage of it,” Nessman said. “It wasn’t an effort issue, they were just playing a higher quality basketball in the first half and I think that’s why they got the lead they got.”

Nessman added that the team will now be able to take its time on the practice court and improve on many things — the team’s next game is not until Dec. 22 against James Madison.

“We need the time, clearly,” he said. “We’ve played a lot of games int he last two weeks and we’re a little worn down. We need to get back to the practice floor where we can have extended practices over a four day stretch where we don’t have to worry about an opponent. We have a lot of time now to focus on San Jose State and what we need to do.”

Local college players turn heads at respective Pro Days

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AP

Local college players turn heads at respective Pro Days

Last week both Stanford and Cal held “Pro Day,” an annual showcase where each school’s departing players audition for NFL scouts. 

To those unfamiliar with Pro Days, these events typically feature lots of men with stopwatches, a few TV news crews, and a group of players running 40-yard dashes, cone drills and 20-yard shuttles. The objective is to give NFL teams an opportunity to evaluate prospects up close and personal.

Since 1982, the top 300 or so prospects in the country have been invited each year to the NFL Scouting Combine, a centralized evaluation for all pro teams. Subsequent Pro Days held by individual schools provide a stage for players who weren’t invited to the combine. They also offer participants a chance to improve their combine performance or give interested teams another look.

At Cal’s Pro Day on Friday, Khalfani Muhammad turned a lot of heads with a 4.35 40-yard dash, faster than any running back recorded at the combine earlier this month. In fact, Muhammad’s time would have tied for fourth best overall. Wide receiver Chad Hansen also impressed with a 4.45 in the driving rain. Quarterback Davis Webb, who had some accuracy issues at the combine, had a good outing despite throwing a wet ball for much of the day. His predecessor, Jared Goff, was the No. 1 pick in last year’s NFL draft.

Stanford’s “Pro Timing Day” on Thursday attracted a lot of attention because of the presence of two projected first round draft picks — running back Christian McCaffrey and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas. Over 40 NFL representatives were on hand, including 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and Carolina Panthers head man Ron Rivera. Several sportswriters and local TV anchors covered the proceedings, which were also streamed live on ESPN3.

It was a far cry from the pre-Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw days, when Stanford had few pro prospects and Pro Days drew sparse turnouts. However, 31 Stanford players have been drafted in the last seven years, including four in the first round and six in the second. McCaffrey and Solomon will boost those numbers.

McCaffrey has been the Cardinal’s marquee player for the past two seasons. He set an NCAA record with 3,864 all-purpose yards in 2015, finishing second in the Heisman Trophy balloting, and then rushed for 1,639 yards in ’16. Thomas had 25 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks in the last two seasons and was named the Pac-12’s defensive lineman of the year last fall.

Surprisingly, most pundits now believe Thomas will go higher than McCaffrey in the draft. McCaffrey is currently projected to go middle or late first round. Thomas is expected to go in the top five. In fact, NFL draft guru Mel Kiper now has Thomas being taken with the No. 2 pick in the draft by that team down the road in Santa Clara.

NFL teams are split as to whether McCaffrey can be an every down back. Some see him as more of a complimentary, third-down type. At the combine, he excelled in the 40-yard dash (4.48), vertical jump (37.5”), cone drill (6.57) and both 20 and 60-yard shuttles (4.22 and 11.03), but did only 10 reps in the bench press. His overall rating at the combine was 5.99 (out of a possible 8.0). At Pro Day on Thursday, he put on a brilliant display in a number of receiving drills, showing off the versatility that many teams crave.

Thomas was one of the top performers at the combine, registering a 4.69 40, 30 reps in the bench press, a 126” broad jump, 6.95 cone drill and 4.28 shuttle. His overall rating was 6.85. On Pro Day, he did a number of position specific drills.

Unlike McCaffrey, who elected to skip the Cardinal’s post-season game, Thomas played in the Sun Bowl and elevated his pro stock with several game-changing plays. The NFL’s post-combine analysis noted: “Thomas' bowl performance against North Carolina opened a lot of eyes, as he was all over the field in the Cardinal's win in a way that isn't even reflected in an impressive stat line (seven tackles, two for loss, sack).”

According to one NFL observer at Pro Day, “In the bowl game, Thomas went from the second round to maybe the second pick in the draft.”

Stanford coach David Shaw, understandably, is a huge fan of both players. He chafes at the suggestion McCaffrey can’t be an every down back.

“People may not want to talk about it, but race is a component in that discussion,” he told me at Pro Day. “Some teams want to put Christian in a box. ‘He’s a white running back, another Danny Woodhead.’ Well, he’s not. If you look at the film, what he did at the combine, and here today, he’s more of a Reggie Bush or a Ladainian Tomlinson. He’s a difference maker.”

Shaw also marveled at Thomas’s rise up the draft boards since his Sun Bowl performance.

“That’s the beauty of bowl games,” Shaw said. “What might seem meaningless to one guy can make 10 million dollars for another.”

Stanford rallies to beat Notre Dame, punches ticket to Final Four

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USATSI

Stanford rallies to beat Notre Dame, punches ticket to Final Four

BOX SCORE

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Alanna Smith's jumper with 23 seconds left capped Stanford's rally from a 16-point deficit in the second half, Erica McCall blocked a last-second shot and the Cardinal edged top-seeded Notre Dame 76-75 Sunday to reach its first Final Four since 2014.

Brittany McPhee scored 27 as the second-seeded Cardinal (32-5) won its eighth in a row overall. This was the third straight year Stanford and Notre Dame have met in the NCAA Tournament, with the Cardinal winning twice.

Down 47-31 in the third quarter, Stanford surged to end Notre Dame's 17-game winning streak. The Irish (33-4) had a final shot, but McCall blocked Arike Ogunbowale's drive near the basket.

The win in the Lexington Regional gives Stanford a chance to pursue its third national championship under coach Tara VanDerveer.

Among those in the crowd at Rupp Arena was Jon Samuelson, whose daughter, Karlie, scored 15 for Stanford. A day earlier, he was at the Bridgeport Regional to see another daughter, UConn star Katie Lou Samuelson, help the Huskies win their 110th straight game.

Smith finished with 15 points.

Ogunbowale had 25 and Marina Mabrey 20 for Notre Dame, which had sought its sixth Final Four in seven seasons.

After driving for a basket with 51 seconds left, Smith added her biggest shot for the go-ahead score. Stanford then denied Notre Dame's Lindsay Allen and Ogunbowale on successive attempts in the final 15 seconds to spark a wild celebration.

THE BIG PICTURE:
Stanford once again proved no deficit was too big to overcome. The Cardinal shot 12 of 26 on 3-pointers, Samuelson and McPhee each making five. Not bad, considering Stanford shot 2 of 15 overall in the second quarter while getting outscored 23-7. ... McCall had 15 rebounds.

Notre Dame seemed to do everything right for most of the game but couldn't stop Stanford's perimeter game in the second half. The Irish also made just 11 of 31 shots after halftime and were topped 33-32 on the boards.

UP NEXT:
Stanford faces the South Carolina-Florida State winner in the Final Four in Dallas next weekend.