By: Kimberly Veale
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Santa Clara senior forward Lindsay Leo never let her team say die Sunday afternoon against fourth-ranked Stanford. In her fifth year as a Bronco, Leo welcomed the challenge to play a Final Four team on her home court. The Archbishop Mitty product out of San Jose, Calif., scored 10 of her team-high 16 points in the first half to keep the Broncos close through the opening 10 minutes of play.
However, a large crowd of 2,728 fans at Santa Clara's Leavey Center saw the Cardinal pull away and win 92-57. Santa Clara (1-1) was coming off an impressive 77-54 victory over UC Irvine in its season-opener Friday night.
"My mindset going into this game was that we had nothing to lose," said Leo. "I wanted to really give them a run for their money. It was a great chance for all of us to test ourselves."
Leo and senior classmate Meagan Fulps combined for 12 of Santa Clara's first 16 points and the Broncos trailed by just five, 17-12 with 13:25 left to play in the first half. Fulps finished with 14 points, making three 3s. Ruta Zurauskyte had seven rebounds and Nici Gilday (pictured) distributed six assists.
The Cardinal countered with 22 points by All-America forward Chiney Oqwumike and senior Joslyn Tinkle made 9 of 11 shots. Stanford (2-0) has qualified for 25-straight NCAA tournaments under long-time head coach Tara VanDerveer. Now in her 34th season, VanDerveer brings back Oqwumike and company, aiming for the program's sixth consecutive Final Four appearance.
"Santa Clara has an excellent team, they came up with a big win against UC Irvine, and our team responded to the challenge," said VanDerveer. "We started a different lineup. We went with our high energy players, and I think it kind of gave us a great jump start. Chiney, Amber and Joslyn are kind of our big three, but other people stepped up and really helped. I was really excited to be able to play 11 people in the first half – that's always a good thing."
VanDerveer recognized the effort of Leo, saying, "Lindsay did a nice job for Santa Clara. She was the one who really hurt us the most. She's a really nice player and she had an excellent game. They have a very well coached team, and this was a great win for us."
Santa Clara showed its maturity in the second half, despite only scoring 11 points in the first 10 minutes after the break, Leo wasn't worried, "I think the second half showed our maturity level. We did have a bit of a letdown in the beginning, but we were able to put our heads down get out of our funk. We wanted to come out as hard as we could. I think we played well in the first half and we just had to get back to that mindset in the second half."
Santa Clara returns to the court Saturday Nov. 17 at the Leavy Center against Utah Valley at 2 p.m.