SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Coming off of a thrilling last second buzzer beater to top Long Beach State on the road on Dec. 9, Santa Clara women's basketball will continue its four-game road trip as the Broncos travel to San Jose State and UC Davis this week. The Santa Clara win put them at 4-4 on the season while the Spartans sit at 3-5 and the Aggies are 2-4.
The game at San Jose State will be on Wed., Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. and the game at UC Davis will be Sun., Dec. 16 at 4 p.m.
The win at Long Beach State was just the second road game of the year for Santa Clara. It lost at Pacific 72-45 on November 20. The Broncos took down Cleveland State in a neutral game at John Ascuaga's Nugget Classic on November 24.
"Anytime you're on the road you have to take care of the basketball and I thought we did a great job at Long Beach State," said Bronco head coach Jennifer Mountain. "Taking care of the ball and controlling the tempo on the road are key. We need to concentrate on ourselves and getting better every single day. We went really light Monday and Tuesday we'll start with the scout stuff. Hopefully we'll be ready to outplay [San Jose State] on Wednesday."
Meagan Fulps leads the Broncos in points per game with 15.0 and Ruta Zurauskyte is second with 11.6. Zurauskyte leads the team with 7.5 rpg and is shooting .540 (37-68) from the field. Fulps is shooting .430 (41-94) from the field and .420 (21-50) from beyond the arc. A .730 (17-23) free throw shooter, Fulps is averaging 3.40 rpg. Nici Gilday leads the team with just under 3.0 apg while Lindsay Leo has a team-high eight blocks while scoring 8.3 ppg and bringing down 5.7 rpg.
San Jose State is 3-2 at home in 2012 but has not won a game on the road in three tries. The Spartans have beaten San Francisco State 70-51, Utah Valley 81-72 and CSU Northridge 73-63. The Broncos beat Utah Valley 80-67 on November 17 and lost to CSU Northridge 70-67. Last week San Jose State fell 74-60 to Pacific and 93-82 to Southern Utah at home. Against common opponents the Spartans are 2-0 while Santa Clara is 1-1.
Ta'Rea Cunnigan averages 20.3 ppg to lead the Spartans on offense. She is second on the team with 6.3 rpg and 25 assists while playing 36.2 minutes per game. From the field Cunnigan is shooting .424 (53-125) and .217 (5-23) from three. She has attempted a whopping 69 free throws while converting 51, good for a .739 percentage. Defensively, Cunnigan leads the team with 34 steals. The Spartans only have eight players that have seen action this year. Emily Schill and Riana Byrd and tied for second on the team with 10.0 ppg while Byrd leads the team with 9.1 rpg. Schill is shooting .500 (29-58) from the field and .759 (22-29) from the free throw line.
"She's a good player and really does a good job of getting herself to the free throw line," said Mountain of Cunnigan. "She does a great job of slashing, penetrating to get to the rim and drawing contact. We've got to make sure we move our feet and stay in front of her so we don't allow her to do that to us."
The match-up of Zurayskyte and Byrd could prove to be one of the biggest of the game, with both players averaging over 7.0 rebounds per game. Mountain thinks that the Broncos have the edge.
"Ruta has a little bit more size and experience than Riana," said Mountain. "Byrd is extremely left-handed dominant so we're going to try to take that away from her. She plays hard and rebounds so we have to do a good job of being physical with her and I think that's a pretty good matchup for Ruta."
The Aggies last game was at home vs. Saint Mary's. The Gaels won the game 75-56. It was the third West Coast Conference opponent UC Davis has faced this season, losing to Pepperdine 83-65 at home and on the road to San Francisco by a final of 72-65. In a match-up with No. 1 Stanford, UC Davis fell 87-38. The Broncos lost to the Cardinal as well this year.
UC Davis is led on offense by a duo of double-digit scorers. Sydnee Fipps leads the Aggies with 18.7 ppg in just under 30 minutes player per game. She is shooting .493 (34-69) from the field including .379 (11-29) from beyond the arc and .767 (33-43) from the charity stripe. Fipps also averages 3.2 rpg while collecting a team-best 17 steals. Cortney French is averaging 15.5 ppg and shooting .400 (20-50) from the field. French is shooting .343 (12-35) from three and .833 (10-12) from the free throw line while also averaging 3.0 rpg.
As for the key to taking down the Aggies, Mountain said it came down to one thing.
"Defense," said Mountain. "We have to keep them in front and not allowing easy looks to the basket. They're getting a lot of points in transition and they want to play an up-tempo pace. They don't run a lot of sets but it's a lot motion, a lot of dribble-drives and looking to create. We have to do a good job of controlling the tempo and playing our style and not getting caught up in what they want to do."