Santa Clara Falls to Saint Mary's in Tough WCC Battle

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Despite a strong defensive effort, the Santa Clara women's basketball team fell to West Coast Conference rival Saint Mary's 56-50 in a hard-fought contest. Santa Clara falls to 12-7 and 4-2 in WCC play, while Saint Mary's improves to 13-5 and 5-1 in the WCC. The Broncos will return to the court on Sat., Jan. 26 with a home game vs. the University of Portland at 2 p.m.

"Defensivley we played another good ball game," said Santa Clara head coach Jennifer Mountain. "We just didn't make plays on the offensive end when we needed to and we gave up offensive [rebounds] at critical times."

The Broncos were led by Meagan Fulps who scored 14 points while adding four assists and a steal. Nici Gilday added 11 points, eight rebounds and four assists. 

The Gaels were led by Kate Gaze who tallied 13 points. Ashlee Smith and Carli Rosenthal were also in double-digits with 11 and 10, respectively. 

Both defenses played well early, coming up with defensive stops to begin the game. After trading scoreless possessions, Rosenthal scored for the Gaels to give Saint Mary's the early 2-0 lead. After a defensive stop, Fulps knocked down a triple to give the Broncos a 3-2 advantage entering the media timeout.

After the timeout, Danielle Mauldin gave Saint Mary's a one-point lead with a jumper just inside the three-point arc. On the Gaels' next possession, Mauldin hit one of two from the free-throw line to add to the lead. On the Broncos' next possession, Fulps found Arteivia Lilomaiava who converted in the paint to tie the game at 5-5. 

Santa Clara's tough defense allowed the Broncos to go on a 8-0 run over 6:51 that was highlighted by jumpers from a Gilday and Fulps, as well as a fast-break layup from Radanovich that put the Broncos up 11-5. 

Smith ended the run and gave the Gaels' their first points in roughly seven minutes with an and-one that cut Santa Clara's lead to 11-8. Mia Greco added one free throw that pulled Saint Mary's within two. Gilday hit identical jumpers from the left side on two consecutive Santa Clara possessions to give the Broncos a 15-9 advantage. However, Saint Mary's answered with two quick buckets that forced Santa Clara to take a timeout with 3:13 remaining in the half. 

After the teams traded stops, Raquel Avila added to the Bronco lead with a layup in transition. Morgan Hatten responded for the Gaels with a triple to cut Santa Clara's lead to 17-16. Lindsay Leo and Rosenthal traded mid-range jumpers to keep it a one-point contest. On the final possession of the half, and time expiring, Fulps drove the lane and hit a buzzer-beating layup to give the Broncos a 21-18 lead entering the half. 

In the first half, Santa Clara shot 33.3 percent from the field (10 of 30), including 11.1 percent from beyond the arc (1 of 9). The Broncos collected 22 rebounds, seven assists, two steals, one block and had 10 turnovers. Saint Mary's shot 30.4 percent from the field (7 of 23), including 16.7 percent from beyond the arc (1 of 6). The Gaels collected 14 rebounds, six assists, three steals, two block and had nine turnovers.

The leading scorer of the first half was Fulps who scored seven for the Broncos, while Gilday tallied six. Smith led the Gaels with 5.

To begin the half,  Gaze hit a mid-range shot that gave the Gaels a one-point lead. Rosenthal used a mismatch inside to grab two quick points in the paint. Ruta Zurauskyte backed down a defender and converted an easy bucket. Trailing 24-23, Fulps and Gilday sunk triples on two straight possessions that gave Santa Clara a four-point cushion, 29-25. Jackie Nared hit one of two from the charity stripe before Zurauskyte responded with a layup. Mauldin cut Santa Clara's lead with a jumper followed by free throws from Nared. 

Up 31-30, Zurauskyte got a tough jumper to fall despite being fouled and knocked down the free throw for a three-point play. Rosenthal responded with a layup to cut Santa Clara's lead to two. Santa Clara extended its lead on a Radanovich triple, but Nared answered with a jumper. Gilday sunk two from the charity stripe to give Santa Clara a 39-34 advantage. 

Leo came up with a key block that allowed Lilomaiava to add to Santa Clara's lead with a layup. Smith knocked down a mid-range shot to pull Saint Mary's within five, 41-36, with 9:48 remaining. 

Gaze put the Gaels within three with a pull-up jumper. Fulps made it a two possession game by draining two free throws. Gaze hit a long three before Smith tied the game at 43-43 with a layup with 6:41 left in the game.

Saint Mary's took a one-point lead on a free throw by Smith. Nared hit a three-pointer to give the Gaels a four-point cushion. Fulps and Gaze traded layups before Radanovich cut Saint Mary's lead to one with a three-pointer from the left side. Rosenthal responded with a jumper that gave Saint Mary's a 51-48 lead with 3:19 left. 

Trailing by three, Santa Clara forced a turnover. Lilomaiava hit a jumper that pulled the Broncos within one, 51-50. Smith hit one free throw to make it a two-point contest. 

A Bronco turnover forced Santa Clara to foul with 24 seconds left. Nared could not convert the free throws and gave Santa Clara possession trailing 52-50 with 22.2 seconds on the clock. However, Saint Mary's held on to the lead and escaped with a 54-50 victory.