SPOKANE, Wash. – After taking its conference-opener on the road, the Santa Clara women's basketball team heads to Gonzaga to take on the defending West Coast Conference champions on Sat., Jan. 5 at 2 p.m. The Broncos enter the game 9-5 overall and 1-0 in conference play while Gonzaga is 11-4 overall and 1-0 in the WCC.
In 54 games between Santa Clara and Gonzaga, the teams are tied at 27 wins apiece. Gonzaga is 16-11 at home vs. the Broncos all-time. Last year the Zags beat the Broncos 87-55 at the McCarthy Athletic Center in Spokane.
"The trip to the Northwest is always a hard one," said Santa Clara head coach Jennifer Mountain. "To get it out of the way early on is nice. You have to play well here if you want to win. It's an incredible environment and it will be a good test for us early in the conference schedule."
Despite not playing its best basketball at Portland, the Broncos came away with a win. In conference play especially, getting the win is the bottom line.
"Any time you get a road win in conference it's a positive," said Mountain. "We didn't play that well but we still won which makes it a little better. Portland is always a tough place for us and I don't know why we don't play well there. That being said, coming out with a W is all that matters."
As a team Santa Clara is shooting .410 (341-832) from the field and .331 (80-242) from beyond the arc. The Broncos are outrebounding opponents 543-532 and have 218 assists to their opponents 174. Santa Clara's defense has forced 267 turnovers, 19.1 per game, this season.
Meagan Fulps leads Santa Clara with 12.4 ppg and is shooting .393 (59-150) from the field and .372 (29-78) from deep. At Portland on Jan. 3, Fulps moved into 10th place on the all-time Santa Clara scoring list with her layup two minutes into the game. Fulps sits at 1,136 career points and could move past Suzy Meckenstock (1982-86, 1,144) for ninth all-time at Gonzaga.
Ricki Radanovich is second on the team, percentage points behind Fulps, with 12.4 ppg while also pulling down 2.6 rebounds per game. Radanovich leads the Broncos with 36 three pointers made. Ruta Zurauskyte is the only other Bronco averaging double figures with 10.2 ppg and is grabbing a team-high 7.5 rpg. Lindsay Leo leads the team with 18 blocks while scoring 9.2 ppg and grabbing 7.0 rpg. Nici Gilday has a team-best 3.2 assists per game and is scoring 7.5 ppg as well. Gilday also leads the team with a 1.7 assist/turnover ratio.
Gonzaga is outscoring its opponents by an average of 10.1 points per game and is shooting .413 (381-922) from the field. The Zags also shoot .379 (81-214) from downtown and .611 (149-244) from the charity stripe. On defense the team forces 19.9 turnovers per game. Of Gonzaga's four losses, two have come at the hands of ranked teams (vs. No. 1 Stanford 69-41 and vs. No. 11 Louisville 55-42). It has taken down USC 63-52, Wisconsin 62-53 and Idaho 97-62.
Haiden Palmer leads the team with 12.5 ppg and is the only Zag in double figures. Taelor Karr is shooting .421 (45-107) from the field and .462 (24-52) from deep including 8-9 vs. San Diego. Sunny Greinacher leads the team with 5.2 rebounds per game and Shelby Chesklek has a team-best 24 blocks. As a testament to its depth, Gonzaga has eight players averaging double-digit minutes and two more averaging over nine.
"We have to take care of Taelor Karr who went off vs. San Diego from three and was 8-9," said Mountain. "We also have to make sure that we guard Haiden Palmer on the perimeter. Their post players are big and it will be important for us to keep them off the boards so rebounding will be a huge emphasis. Turnovers will also be a big emphasis for us. They force a lot of turnovers and get a lot of transition buckets. We have to make sure we keep those transition buckers under control."
Gonzaga is known for being a tough place to play, a fact Mountain and the Broncos are well aware of.
"There are 6,000 fans that are right on top of you and are into the team," said Mountain of what makes Gonzaga such a tough place to visit. "They are die hard basketball fans that are very loud so it's hard to hear. It's definitely a home crowd."