Feb. 14, 2006
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Currently riding a seven-game winning streak and in the driver's seat for the West Coast Conference regular-season title, the Santa Clara women's basketball team could not have chosen a better time to hit its stride. The Broncos aim to continue that momentum this week as they travel to Saint Mary's Wednesday night before hosting San Francisco in the home finale Friday night.
Last week's win over Saint Mary's at the Leavey Center, combined with first-place Loyola Marymount's loss to Pepperdine on Saturday, vaulted the Broncos into a tie for first in the conference with the Lions. Santa Clara, on the strength of their 71-58 win over the Lions on Jan. 21, holds the upper-hand in the last four games of conference play.
But the Broncos (14-9, 8-2 WCC), with Saint Mary's and San Francisco straight ahead on the schedule, are not looking toward the horizon towards a showdown with LMU just yet.
"Actually, the message that we are sending to the team, and that I believe they fully understand, is that we are really not focusing on LMU's loss [over the weekend] whatsoever," said head coach Michelle Bento-Jackson. "This whole time we have been taking it one game at a time and focusing on ourselves. As much as we have a great opportunity here, our focus needs to be on beating Saint Mary's Wednesday night."
The Gaels (10-13, 5-5 WCC) dropped last Thursday's contest to the Broncos and will host SCU at McKeon Pavilion this Wednesday night. SMC is led by freshman Jontelle Smith's 12.0 points a game, while in Thursday night's loss Evynn Van Burger scored 16 and grabbed 13 rebounds while Maija Lahde scored 17 points to go with 10 rebounds.
"For us [Wednesday night], controlling the defensive rebounds will be key," Bento-Jackson said. "I thought we did a fairly good job if controlling the Saint Mary's three-point game, and we have made a few adjustments in how we're going to defend a few things that will carry over into Wednesday night's game."
Friday night against San Francisco marks not only the 2005-06 home finale, but also the final home game in the SCU careers of seniors Michelle Cozad and Kayla Huss. Cozad, the WCC's leading scorer with 18.1 points a game, is currently only 72 points shy of becoming the 15th member of the school's 1,000-Point Club.
Huss, in her fifth year on the Mission Campus, has been a part of two NCAA Tournament squads (2001-02 & 2004-05) and one WNIT team (2002-03). Santa Clara's assists leader with 74, she will also finish her career in the school's all-time top-five in assists and free-throw percentage.
"Michelle and Kayla are going to want to put up a good showing up in their last time in front of their home fans and friends," added Bento-Jackson about the team's two senior players. "Plus, we're in a situation right now at the end of our conference season where every game is extremely important. So it's going to be an emotional night, to say the least, but hopefully we can continue to put everything together and come out with the victory."
Wednesday's contest tips off at 7 p.m. at McKeon Pavilion while Senior Night against San Francisco is also scheduled for a 7 p.m. tip. Tickets are available by calling (408) 554-4660.