Santa Clara chases another upset win over Ohio State


Santa Clara will look to remain unbeaten and top Ohio State in men’s basketball for the first time in 40 years when the teams meet Saturday in the final of the Emerald Coast Classic in Niceville, Fla.

The Broncos (6-0) earned their shot at the championship with an 88-82 triumph over Oregon in Friday’s second semifinal. Arizona transfer Adama Bal had a career-high 25 points in the win.

Earlier, the Buckeyes (4-1) got 29 points from Bruce Thornton in a 92-81 triumph over 17th-ranked Alabama.

Santa Clara and Ohio State will be meeting for just the third time. The Broncos got the better of a December 1983 home matchup, 71-69, before the Buckeyes got revenge with an 88-41 shellacking in December 2001 in Columbus, Ohio.

Santa Clara, which barely got by Southeastern Louisiana 65-63 in its on-campus tournament opener, has opened 6-0 for the second time in the last four seasons. The Broncos are 2-0 against Pac-12 foes this season, having registered a 89-77 victory at Stanford on Nov. 14 before taking down Oregon on Friday.

While noting that Bal was “spectacular” on a night when he shot 10-for-14 and found time for five rebounds and four assists, Santa Clara coach Herb Sendek noted the key to beating the Ducks — and in turn in having a shot at knocking off the likes of the Buckeyes — is balance.

“That’s how this squad is going to win. It’s going to be a team effort,” he said after watching all nine of his players who took the court score points. “Our guys are incredibly unselfish.”

Against Ohio State, the Broncos will see a team that has bounced back from an early loss to then-No. 15 Texas A&M with three straight wins, none more impressive than the tight affair with Alabama in the tournament semifinals.

Buckeyes coach Chris Holtmann noted after the win that he is seeing confidence growing in his team.

“We’re earning a level of belief that you have to earn when you’re playing good people,” he said. “You’ve got to go earn that with your play and your competence on the court. I think we’re earning that, inch by inch.”

–Field Level Media

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