SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Fueled by a strong performance from senior Lindsay Leo, the Santa Clara women's basketball team notched a victory in its home conference opener against Loyola Marymount. After a tight first half, the Broncos used a 10-0 run midway through the second half and held on to grab a 58-54 victory.
Leo led Santa Clara (10-6; 2-1 WCC) with a 21-point night. The senior added eight boards and three blocks. Meagan Fulps had 14 for the Broncos, including a perfect nine of nine from the line.
The Lions (7-9;1-2 WCC) were led by Alex Cowling who scored 14 points and had 12 rebounds.
"We did a better job in the second half, especially the first 10-12 minutes," said Santa Clara head coach Jennifer Mountain. "I think we played a little tight at the end. They were able to take some quick shots that hurt us."
Loyola Marymount jumped out to an early 6-0 lead with two jumpers from Mackenzie Kerins and a pair of free throws from Deanna Johnson. After the slow offensive start, Nici Gilday sparked the Bronco offense with a fastbreak layup. After surrendering an easy layup, Santa Clara got their offense going with a jumper from Lindsay Leo and a three-pointer from Raquel Avila to force an LMU timeout. Entering the first media timeout, the Lions held a 8-7 advantage.
After the media break, Gilday hit a jumper in the paint to give Santa Clara its first lead of the contest. However, LMU responded with a bucket from Chelsea Barnes to regain a slim 10-9 lead.
Avila evened the game at 10-10 converting one of two from the charity stripe. The teams went back-and-forth, trading jumpers and free throws with the game still tied at 14-14 with 7:30 remaining in the first half. By 2:40, the Lions had pulled ahead by four, 20-16. However, the Broncos' would make a run to end the half. Ricki Radanovich hit a triple to pull Santa Clara within one followed by a Leo hook-shot to take the lead. The Lions responded with a tough jumper from Hazel Ramirez. Senior guard Meagan Fulps converted on and-one to give the Broncos a 24-22 lead entering the break.
The Broncos struck first in the second half with great ball movement resulting in two points in the paint by Ruta Zurauskyte. After a defensive stop, Leo converted an and-one to give Santa Clara a 29-22 lead. The Lions responded with two quick baskets, including a Ramirez layup in transition to pull within three. Fulps knocked down two from the free-throw line followed by a defensive stop. After the first media timeout of the half, the Broncos held a 31-26 advantage.
Santa Clara's defense allowed them to break the contest open,After Ashley Lovett hit a mid-range jumper to pull the Lions within three, Zurauskyte backed down a LMU defender and hit the easy layup to begin the run. The Broncos would go on a 10-0 run over roughly three minutes highlighted by the inside presence of Leo. During the run, Leo accounted for six of the Broncos 10 points.
"During the run, we handled pressure, we attacked the basketball and we got it to our bigs and they were able to get it done for us," said Mountain.
LMU's Emily Ben-Jumbo stopped the Bronco run and Cowling added a layup to cut Santa Clara's lead to single digits. Leo and Ben-Jumbo traded points down low before Leo found Gilday on a backdoor pass for an easy layup to extend the Broncos lead. Gilday added a jumper to give Santa Clara a 47-34 lead with 7:50 remaining.
With a 47-38 lead, Fulps came up with a long rebound and found a streaking Avila down court. With a defender in front of her, Avila passed to a trailing Leo to put the Broncos up 49-40. After a few LMU layups put a dent in the Broncos' lead, Fulps knocked down a three-pointer to give Santa Clara 52-44 lead with 5:06 remaining.
Loyola Marymount would continue to battle with Ramirez knocking down a key three-pointer to pull within five. However, Leo continued to dominate down low and added a much-needed layup to extend Santa Clara's lead to 54-47. The Lions would cut Santa Clara's lead to two, 54-52, with roughly a minute remaining. With LMU in transition, Leo came up with a clutch block and rebound to give Santa Clara the ball with 21.9 seconds remaining. LMU was forced to foul Fulps who hit both free throws. After Kerins hit a jumper for the Lions, Fulps went back to the charity stripe and closed out the contest with two more free throws.