With just 9.4 seconds left before the final buzzer, the Santa Clara men’s basketball team charged from behind to beat Saint Mary’s College, 67-66, while on the road just two weeks into a new year and decade on January 11.
The Broncos’ win against their longtime West Coast Conference rivals capped off their best start in more than 40 years, posting 15 wins in their first 18 games.
Forward Josip Vrankic ’21 sank the winning layup, and led the team in scoring that game with 22 points and 10 rebounds.
“The fight for the offensive rebound was just incredible,” Santa Clara head coach Herb Sendek says of Vrankic’s last-minute attempts. “He would not be denied. He found a way to get it back and get it in for us.”
Vrankic—the team’s leading scorer with an average of 12.4 points a game—said it was a team effort forcing the win, refusing to give up even while dragging behind. “We didn’t flinch, we stayed together, stayed composed,” he says. “Our team has grown a lot [since last season]. I feel like we’re a lot more connected.” Referencing the team-building that’s occurred since welcoming a very young cohort to the court last year, Vrankic says they’ve worked hard—together—to build their competitive nature. “A lot of the young guys have stepped up a lot. The freshmen especially,” he says.
One of them—Jalen Williams ’23—gave props to the “classy” upperclassmen for their welcoming camaraderie. “We definitely have a lot of confidence. And just as a group of guys, we all get along really well.”
As for playing on the road, DJ Mitchell ’21 says it was “a relief” for the Broncos to clinch the win over their rivals in Moraga. “We just played as one. We listened to what the coaches had to say. We executed it and we won,” says Mitchell, who scored 16 points.
This was the Broncos’ 227th match against the Gaels— the most common opponent in Santa Clara history. Though SCU holds the most wins in the rivalry, it had not beaten St. Mary’s since 2015.
“Obviously, given the great respect we have for Saint Mary’s, it’s a tremendous moment for our team to get the win,” says Sendek. “I thought our guys played excellent basketball.”