SANTA CLARA, Calif. – In its final non-conference game of the season, Santa Clara women's basketball beat UNLV by a final of 70-64. The victory puts Santa Clara at 8-5 while the loss moves UNLV to 4-10. The Broncos are now 5-3 all-time in games on New Year's Eve and UNLV is 1-2. The eight non-conference wins for Santa Clara is the most since 2007-08 when the team went 11-3.
Santa Clara will return to the court on Thur., Jan. 3 at Portland at 7 p.m. in the conference-opener and then Sat., Jan. 5 at Gonzaga at 2 p.m.
Santa Clara shot 45.9% (28-61) from the field including 7-18 from beyond the arc. Four of the five Santa Clara starters scored in double digits and the fifth, Meagan Fulps, scored eight. Ricki Radanovich led the Broncos with 19 points, including 14 in the second half. Radanovich shot 7-14 from the field and 4-7 from deep. Both Ruta Zurauskyte and Lindsay Leo had double-doubles. Zurauskyte scored 15 and had 11 rebounds while Leo scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
UNLV shot 34.4% (21-61) from the field and was 6-21 from deep. Kelli Thompson led all scorers with 29 points on 9-26 shooting and 5-15 from three. Alana Cesarz scored 18 points on 7-16 shooting and had six boards. Rejane Vernon led the Rebels by grabbing nine rebounds.
"Ricki's been solid all year for us and she stepped up for us again today," said Bronco head coach Jennifer Mountain. "I thought our post presence was an important part of this game because it's what they focused on and it opened things up outside. We worked the high-low with [Ruta Zurauskyte and Lindsay Leo] and they got some put-backs as well. They did a good job of making them pay on the high-low."
Zurauskyte got the scoring started with a layup on a lob pass from Radanovich 19 seconds into the game to give the Broncos the quick 2-0 lead. Radanovich made it a 5-0 start with a three from the right side on the next trip down the floor.
UNLV scored its first points on a pair of free throws by Alana Cesarz at the 18:14 mark to make the score 5-2.
Santa Clara went on a 6-0 run over two minutes to extend its lead to 13-4 before Danielle Miller went to the line and made two free throws to get the game within seven points.
The Broncos took their first double-digit lead at 16-6 at 13:03 on a jumper by Radanovich from the right side of a fast break.
Zurauskyte nailed a three ball from the top of the key at 12:32 to extend the Bronco lead to 19-7.
Over 2:32 Santa Clara extended its lead to 21-7 behind an 8-1 run fueled by solid inside play. The run ended when Cesarz made just the second Rebel's field goal at the 10:46 mark and was fouled. She knocked down the free throw to make the score 21-10.
UNLV got back within three points at 21-18 with a 11-0 run over the span of two minutes that saw Kelli Thompson nail back-to-back threes from the left side.
Santa Clara answered with its own 7-0 run over two minutes, using two steals, to get back out on top by 10 at 28-18.
Not to be outdone, UNLV followed with a 11-1 run over the final 6:56 of the first half to enter the locker room with the score even at 29-29.
Santa Clara shot 41.4% (12-29) from the field in the first half and was 2-8 from beyond the arc. The Broncos won the rebounding battle 23-18 and forced 12 Rebel turnovers.
Zurauskyte led the Broncos in the first half with nine points and added four rebounds. She shot 4-7 from the field including 1-1 from downtown. Leo had a team-high six rebounds and Fulps chipped in five points and three assists.
UNLV was led in the first half by Cesarz and Thompson who each scored a game-high 11 first half points. Thompson was 4-13 from the field and 3-8 from three while Cesarz was 4-10 from the field and 3-3 from the charity stripe. Thompson also grabbed a team-high five rebounds.
"I thought that our defensive energy when we had our first half lead dropped and you can't do that," said Mountain about what she told her team in the locker room. "You have to play hard for 40 minutes and I think we learned a lesson from that. I don't know if we got over-confident or what but they started hitting some shots. If you give a team confidence going into halftime anything can happen."
Santa Clara retook the lead right out of halftime on a three ball from Fulps and on the next possession Avila hit nothing but net on another three to give the Broncos a quick 35-29 lead.
Cesarz scored the first Rebel points of the second half on a layup at 18:32. The Rebels continued with a three by Danielle Miller and a layup and foul by Cesarz that tied the game again at 37-37. In all the Rebels scored six points in less than 30 seconds.
Just as quickly as it was tied, Santa Clara rebuilt a 45-37 lead over two minutes on a layup by Leo and six points from Radanovich.
After a jumper by UNLV, Radanovich hit her second consecutive three to make the Bronco run 11-2 over two and a half minutes going into the first media timeout of the second half.
The Broncos went back up by double-digits at the 12:06 mark on a jumper from Radanovich that made the score 52-41.
UNLV outscored the Broncos 9-3 over four-plus minutes to get back within five at 55-50 with 7:50 remaining in the second half.
A layup by Leo at 4:56 made the score 61-53 in favor of the Broncos.
With 40 seconds left in regulation Thompson banked in a three to make the score 68-63 but Santa Clara was able to hold on to the lead.