Cal Poly took Santa Clara out of its rhythm in the second half and the Broncos could not figure out how to get any separation from them.
That is until they went small. Very small.
After entering a lineup that included Kevin Foster, Evan Roquemore, Brandon Clark, Denzel Johnson, and Yannick Atanga, Santa Clara pulled away and won their fourth straight game 72-64 on Monday night.
“Our bigs were struggling a little bit with all the movement,” Santa Clara head coach Kerry Keating said. “They’re a little undersized and it caught up with us a bit. I thought it was better for us that we get more pressure on the ball but also some versatility in disrupting the flow of their offense.”
The Mustangs had figured something out and was limiting the Broncos’ offense. Cal Poly went on an 11-0 run that spanned from the first half to the second half, and they were able to take the lead 33-31.
Santa Clara trailed 50-48 when they switched to the smaller lineup with 9:48 left in the game and took off from there.
“We wanted to put four guards on the court so we could switch everything and put pressure on the ball,” Roquemore said. That was one of the main points of our game today to put pressure on the ball so we could get more possessions in the game.”
The Broncos (9-2) went on a 13-2 run and bumped their lead to as much as 13. They never had more than one forward on the floor the rest of the way.
Roquemore made a living from the line down the stretch and made nine of his 10 free throws for the game to finish with 16 points to go along with five assists.
Cal Poly (4-5), who was coming off a win against Eastern New Mexico, has yet to win consecutive contests this season and fell to 1-4 on the road. Their only win was at then-No. 10 UCLA on Nov. 25.
Foster had an uncharacteristic off night shooting but was able to make an impact in other areas. The senior guard went 3-for-15 from the field with 10 points but also had seven assists and three steals.
“He’s sharing the ball and making an impact on defense,” Keating said. “What he’s finding out about his new condition with his body that it’s not a one-sided game, that he can have an effect on it.”
Marc Trasolini paced Santa Clara with 24 points and seven rebounds.
SCU went nearly three minutes without scoring in the first half, allowing Cal Poly to jump ahead 9-6. But Evan Roquemore hit a three that spun around the rim twice before going down and was fouled, tying the game at nine.
It started a 13-0 run for the Broncos, including six from Kevin Foster, to put them up 19-9.
The Mustangs slowly started to chip away and took advantage of another Santa Clara scoring drought, cutting the lead to 26-22.
After starting the game by hitting eight of its first 12 shots, Santa Clara only managed to hit two of its final 10 of the half.
A three looked like it was going to bail them out again. Trasolini hit a three and followed it up with a pair of free throws to put them up 31-22.
Cal Poly responded with three straight baskets, including a pair from Brian Bennett to make the halftime score 31-29.
It is the first time since the 1988-89 season Santa Clara has started the season 9-2.
“We’re overfocused,” Keating said. “Not to beat the cliché down, “one game at a time” but our team is overfocused on the next game and the current game. We’ve done a really good job of worrying about 1-0 every time.”
Julian Clarke will be returning form an ankle this injury this week, after missing the last two games.
Follow Zack Farmer on Twitter: @Zack_Farmer