SANTA CLARA -- If Santa Clara wants to make a charge up the West Coast Conference standings, the next three games represent an opportunity.
The Broncos will enter that key stretch on a five-game winning streak after making short work of Portland in a 70-46 victory on Thursday night in front of 1,121 fans at Leavey Center.
Santa Clara (17-6, 5-3 WCC) held the Pilots (8-15, 1-7) without a field goal for more than 11 minutes to start the game and was in control the whole way.
"We were defending pretty well and, obviously, that helped our offense," Broncos coach Kerry Keating said. "To win games late in the year, you've got to defend."
Now Santa Clara hopes to build off its success against the league's lower-rung teams and take that into its upcoming games against WCC's upper half.
Santa Clara travels to face third-place BYU on Saturday before returning for a three-game homestand that begins next Thursday against second-place Saint Mary's. San Diego, which entered the night tied for fourth place in the WCC with the Broncos, also comes to town during that stretch.
"We've got to establish ourselves against the best teams in the conference if we want to be one of the best teams," Keating said.
It didn't take long for Santa Clara to establish its dominance against Portland. The Broncos scored the first nine points and 14 of the first 16.
Already holding a 10-point lead, Santa Clara turned the game into a laugher with a
The Pilots' first field goal finally came with 8:34 left in the half when Bryce Pressley converted a layup.
Santa Clara took a 36-18 lead into halftime. The Broncos made nearly 52 percent of their first-half shots, while Portland made just 18.5 percent (5 of 27).
The tone of the game didn't change much in the second half. Trasolini, who had 11 first-half points, continued to play energized and scored eight points in the first four minutes of the half. He finished the game with 23 points and 13 rebounds.
Yannick Atanga, a 6-foot-8 sophomore from Cameroon, made only his second start of the season and finished with a career-high tying 13 rebounds. He was starting in place of Robert Garrett, who Keating said was late for a pregame meeting and was held out of action.
Santa Clara led by at least 16 points throughout the second half and had four players finish in double figures in scoring. Joining Trasolini was Clark (15 points), Raymond Cowels III (11) and Foster (10).
Ryan Nicholas led Portland with 14 points.
The senior already earned his degree in finance, graduating in March 2012 with a 3.62 GPA.
Follow Jimmy Durkin at Twitter.com/Jimmy_Durkin.