Cozad Leads Potent Offense

Jan. 30, 2006

By Jeremy Herb
The Santa Clara

Michelle Cozad has done something even Gonzaga's Adam Morrison can't claim.

Despite Morrison's status as the West Coast Conference's top basketball superstar, Cozad earned an astonishing fifth WCC Player of the Week award on Monday -- compared to Morrison's four so far this year.

Cozad is dominating the WCC in multiple statistical categories, and even though the season is only two-thirds over, she only needs one more player of the week award to match the men's record set by Bo Kimble of Loyola Marymount University.

"Once she puts her head towards what she wants, she gets it," senior guard Kayla Huss said. "That's something that distinguishes her from when she is playing good versus when she's playing great."

Cozad was also named the WCC Player of the Month in December. She is averaging close to a double-double per game this year, and barring some unforeseen disaster, she is clearly the front runner for WCC Player of the Year.

Some of her accomplishments this year include leading the WCC in scoring, averaging 18.4 points per game, more than three points above the second-place scorer. Her 2.89 three-pointers per game lead the WCC. She is tied for the league lead with 9.6 rebounds per game. Her .853 free throw percentage is second in the conference. She is third in the league in steals, with 2.17 per game.

Cozad, however, remains modest about her achievements. When asked about her year, she would only admit she's "had a good season so far."

Head coach Michelle Bento-Jackson said she knew Cozad was a different player when the team began training this season. Bento-Jackson said that Cozad's conditioning coming into the season was much improved and that has led to much of her successes this year.

In the Broncos' 71-58 win over first-place Loyola Marymount on Saturday, Cozad had 25 points and 11 rebounds, her seventh double-double of the season.

She also hit a three-pointer with 1:21 left to keep the Broncos lead in double digits and prevent the Lions from making a late run.

The Broncos are currently third in the WCC and their victory over the top-ranked Lions shows they have the potential to challenge for a WCC title.

But while the Broncos lead the WCC in offense, averaging 75.6 points per game, they are last in defense, allowing 73.5 per game.

"We need to focus on staying aggressive and not taking one possession off," said sophomore guard Tracy Walker. "We average more points than anyone. We need to work on the D."

In their victory over the Lions, the Broncos forced 14 turnovers and limited LMU to shooting 33.3 percent from the floor. It was the third time this season Santa Clara has held a team to under 60 points.

Bento-Jackson also cited rebounding as another area of concern. The team is last in the WCC in rebounding margin, allowing opponents to grab an average of 5.2 more boards per game.

"We need to be efficient and consistent with our defense and rebounding," Bento-Jackson said. "When we're consistent and give a good effort, we have the ability to be a good half-court defense team."

According to her teammates, Cozad leads her team by example on both sides of the ball as one of the two seniors.

"She is successful on both defense and offense. She gets out there and works her butt off," sophomore guard Chandice Cronk said. "It's apparent we all look to her for leadership."

Bento-Jackson said that Cozad's teammates have confidence in her ability to perform.

"Being consistent every day with her effort has helped show the younger players what we need to do here," Bento-Jackson said. "She's someone who can carry the team on her back."

Cozad transferred to Santa Clara as a junior in 2003-2004, after finishing her career at San Joaquin Delta College as the school's all-time leading scorer. However, in her first season as a Bronco, Cozad only played in the first six games after a foot injury.

She came back in 2004-2005 and showed a glimpse of what she had in store for this season. Despite only starting eight games, Cozad was named the Broncos' "Most Outstanding Offensive Player" after averaging 13.1 points per game.

In the WCC Tournament, Cozad was one of the key players in the Broncos' upset of No. 1-seed Gonzaga en route to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2002. For her efforts, Cozad earned the WCC Tournament MVP.

The Broncos next game is at 7 p.m. Thursday against Gonzaga in the Leavey Center.