Seniors Lead Santa Clara in Malibu, Broncos to Play Dons at WCC’s

MALIBU, Calif. – Santa Clara seniors Kathy Willinsky and Lena Gipson combined for 44 points but homestanding Pepperdine closed out the West Coast Conference regular season schedule with a 91-75 win over SCU Saturday.

Santa Clara (10-18; 6-8 WCC) scored 75+ points for the second time in three games. Willinsky's 22 points was a new career-high, going 8 of 12 from the field and 6 of 6 from the line. Gipson also scored 22 and had 17 rebounds.

"Our post play from our seniors was terrific tonight," said Santa Clara Head Coach Jennifer Mountain. "Kathy had a career-high; they really gave us a presence inside."

The Broncos finish the regular season tied with Portland for fourth in the WCC standings and will be the fifth seed in the upcoming league tournament in Las Vegas. Fifth-seeded Santa Clara and eighth-seeded USF will play the first game of the 2011 WCC tournament on Friday, March 4 at 12 noon.

Jazmine Jackson scored a career-high 29 points to lead all scorers, helping Pepperdine (18-10; 9-5 WCC) improve to 11-3 at home. The Waves will open the WCC tournament as the league's No. 3 seed Saturday, March 5, playing either No. 7 LMU or No. 6 San Diego.

Gipson was unstoppable in the opening moments, scoring Santa Clara's first 10 points. A fast-paced start saw the two teams exchange leads nine times in the first half. Gipson, who now has 52 career double-doubles, had 15 points and 8 rebounds in the first 12 minutes.

Lauren Bell's fast-break layup allowed Pepperdine to establish a seven-point lead, 25-18, at the 8:50 mark of the first half. The Waves made 4 of 7 attempts from long range and shot 58 percent (18 of 31) from the field in the first half.

When Willinsky scored and was fouled at the 5:18 mark, SCU took the lead 29-28. The Broncos made 12 of 13 free throws in the opening half, with Ricki Radanovich and Alyssa Shoji sinking all four of their attempts. SCU was 18 of 23 from the line for the game.

Santa Clara's 38 points in the first half was a season-high but Pepperdine led by seven, 45-38.

The Waves poured on the offense after the intermission, separating themselves from the Broncos by reeling off a 15-3 run, bookended by a three-ball from Katie Menton.

Pepperdine built up a 19-point lead with 15:54 left but Santa Clara answered back. Baskets from Willinksy, Shoji and Ashley Armstrong pulled SCU within nine, then Radanovich swished in a three-ball from the baseline to make it 72-64, with 8:30 to play.

Jackson's offense proved to be too much for SCU to overcome in the second half. The junior from Oakland's Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep scored her 29th point on a driving basket with 3:40 left to make it 85-71 Waves, essentially putting the game out of reach for the Broncos.

Despite a pair of free throws by Willinsky following an intentional foul on Pepperdine, Santa Clara would not be able to get any closer than 10 in the closing moments.

FINAL WCC STANDINGS
1. #23 Gonzaga 14-0 (26-4)
2. St. Mary's 10-4 (19-10)
3. Pepperdine 9-5 (18-10)
4. Portland 6-8 (15-14)
5. Santa Clara 6-8 (10-18)
6. LMU 5-9 (11-17)
7. San Diego 5-9 (15-13)
8. San Francisco 1-13 (4-23)

WCC TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE (WBB)

WCC Tournament Central
Friday, March 4

#8 San Francisco vs. #5 Santa Clara - 12 p.m.
#7 San Diego vs. #6 LMU - 30 min. after Game 1
Saturday, March 5
#8 USF/#5 SCU vs. #4 Portland - 12:00 PM
#7 LMU/#6 USD vs. #3 Pepperdine - 30 min. after Game 1
Sunday, March 6
5/8/4 vs. #1 Gonzaga - 11:00 AM
6/7/3 vs. #2 St. Mary's - 30 min. after Game 1
Monday, March 7

Women's Championship - 12:00 PM (ESPNU)