SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Santa Clara was dominant in its season-opener, building up a 26-point first half lead en route to a 77-54 victory over UC Irvine Friday night at the Leavey Center.
The Broncos shot 50.9 percent from the field, which included a 60.0 percent clip in the first half.
"Yeah great start for us; that is a team that we let score 88 points on us last year," said fifth-year Santa Clara head coach Jennifer Mountain Friday night. "Our defense has been a point of emphasis and we can get better in the rebounding categories, but I thought we did a nice job with our defensive pressure and the execution of things we were trying to do out there."
Just a one-point game through the first nine minutes, the Broncos used a 21-3 run to break the game wide open. SCU made 18 of 30 shots in the opening period, getting 12 first-half points from Fulps. Her acrobatic layup in transition with 2:02 left before the break made it 47-21 Broncos. SCU took a 47-26 lead into the locker room at halftime.
UC Irvine (0-1) was playing its first game under the direction of new head coach Doug Oliver, a long-time men's assistant coach at Stanford. The Anteaters are opening the year with a pair of road games, and will now prepare to face San Diego State Wednesday.
"It was all about our defense," Mountain said about her team's first-half surge. "Our offense was fueled by our steals, getting in passing lanes, making things happen and we limited them to one attempt at the goal. When we are rebounding and running, that's where we want to be."
Using pressure defense to generate 14 steals, the Broncos turned 20 UCI turnovers into 20 SCU points.
Camille Buckley, a sophomore transfer from LMU, and classmate Jennifer Tsurumoto did their best to keep UCI within striking distance in the second half. Two of Buckley's 14 points with 13:42 left got the visitors as close as 16, 51-35. Tsurumoto finished with a team-best 17 points, making three 3s.
"We really didn't get into a good flow in that second half and for the most part the game did not have a good flow to it in that second half," said Mountain. "It was real choppy, a lot of stoppage, but again I thought we did a decent job against their zone and made shots when we needed to."
Even though Santa Clara was not as sharp as they could have been late in the game, layups from Raquel Avila, Ashley Armstrong and two free throws by true freshman Brooke Gallaway put SCU up by 24 with 5:01 on the game clock.
The Broncos will host the Stanford Cardinal - ranked No. 4 in both national polls - on Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are available for purchase online at SantaClaraBroncos.com/buytickets or by calling the ticket office directly at 408-554-4660.
"It's a great opportunity for our program to have the No. 4 ranked team in the country here in our gym," Mountain said about Sunday's game with the Cardinal. "They have been to the Final Four in each of the last five years. It's an opportunity we will make the best out of, we will go for it and hopefully give them a good game."