LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Lena Gipson returned from foul trouble in the first half to spark a 15-0 Santa Clara run and allow the Broncos a 56-49 road victory at Loyola Marymount Thursday night.
Trailing by five at halftime, Santa Clara (10-17; 6-7 WCC) outscored LMU 34-22 in the second half. Gipson scored all 12 of her points after the break while also grabbing a game-high 14 rebounds. Alyssa Shoji added 14 points for Santa Clara and Ricki Radanovich and Meagan Fulps each had 10.
"I remember Coach Mountain saying with fifteen and a half minutes left in the game, 'We are taking the lead and not looking back,'" said Gipson after the win. "We used that as our ammo and a driving force to stay ahead for the rest of the game."
The Broncos move into a fourth-place tie with Portland in the WCC standings heading into the regular-season finale Saturday at Pepperdine. A Santa Clara win and a St. Mary's victory over Portland would give SCU the No. 4 seed and a first round bye in the WCC tournament.
"Big game for us, for a lot of reasons," said SCU Head Coach Jennifer Mountain. "It separates us from LMU (in the standings). It puts us in a situation that we wanted to be in with the conference tournament coming up. Winning on the road is always really important, and we've struggled to do that. It was a big win for the program and gives us confidence heading into Saturday."
LMU (10-17; 4-9 WCC) offset a 26 percent shooting night by grabbing 24 offensive rebounds. Playing without injured stars Alex Cowling and Candice Nichols, senior Renahy Young took 28 shots and finished with 20 points. The Lions have lost 9 of 10 and seven straight.
Looking for their first road victory in the WCC since Jan. 8 at USF, the Broncos went scoreless through the first three and half minutes, missing their first six shots.
After the slow start, Santa Clara started to heat up. Radanovich sank a deep triple and Shoji made another and the Broncos led 12-4. However LMU responded with a 12-0 run to take the lead, sparked by its lone remaining star, Young, who had 10 points in the first half.
Santa Clara went cold again, going without a basket for a stretch of 8:23 in the opening half, all with Gipson on the bench after two early fouls.
"We started off for a couple minutes ready to play but got a little bit flat in the later part of the first half," said Gipson. "We were turning the ball over and not really playing together."
LMU led 27-22 at halftime.
Twenty three turnovers stalled the Bronco offense throughout the night but with Gipson back on the floor in the second half Santa Clara outscored LMU 13-2 following the intermission. The Broncos regained the lead at the 15:58 mark and seemingly took control, 35-29, on a pull-up three-ball from Meagan Fulps.
However, LMU again fought back. Hazel Ramirez's basket capped a 9-0 Lions run and gave LMU a 38-35 lead with 9:45 remaining but Santa Clara's defense would hold LMU without a point for the next 7-plus minutes.
"It was a hard-fought game, they play hard, they always play hard," said Mountain. "We were able to get some momentum going offensively after halftime."
Gipson fueled the game's next run – this one by the visiting Broncos - scoring six of SCU's next nine points. Transition layups by Fulps and Kathy Willinsky pushed Santa Clara ahead by ten, 48-38, under four minutes left.
"They were getting a little bit tired, they are not very deep right now," said Mountain. "It was us getting stops and boards. The last eight to ten minutes defensively we did a nice job."
Ashley Armstrong scored a pair of baskets in the closing moments to provide the Broncos with just enough scoring to close it out.