Women's Basketball Rides Two 20-Point Performances, Big Second Half Past San Francisco in WCC Opener

Credit Don Jedlovec

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. – In its West Coast Conference opener, Santa Clara women's basketball beat San Francisco by a final of 81-72. The win puts the Broncos at 5-7 overall and 1-0 in WCC action while the Dons are now 5-7 overall and 0-1 in conference play.

Santa Clara returns to the floor Thurs., Jan. 2 at Pepperdine at 7 p.m.

"All game we talked about turning up our defensive pressure and our kids decided to do it," said Santa Clara head coach Jennifer Mountain. "We made things happen and got them out of doing what they did all game long, which was getting into the middle. It was a great team effort of playing together on defense in the second half and that's what fueled us on the other end."

Santa Clara shot 48.0% (24-50) from the field and 43.8% (7-16) from three. The Broncos had 37 rebounds, 17 assists, 20 turnovers, five blocks and six steals. Ruta Zurauskyte and Nici Gilday led the offense with 21 and 20 points respectively. Zurauskyte added a team-high eight rebounds and three blocks while Gilday dished out four assists. Jo Paine added 12 points and two assists while Raquel Avila scored seven points with five assists.

San Francisco shot 43.8% (28-64) from the field and 22.2% (2-9) from three. The Dons had 32 rebounds, 10 assists, 14 turnovers, two blocks and 10 steals. Taj Winston led the offense with 14 points on 5-9 shooting with six boards. Zhane Dikes scored 11 with five boards and Taylor Proctor scored eight points with six rebounds and four assists.

The Dons took their first lead on an offensive rebound put back by Dikes at 15:51. She was fouled on the shot and out of the under-16 timeout finished the three-point play to make the score 7-4.

With the Broncos down three, Paine hit a three to tie the game at 9-9 at the 14:54 mark. It was the first points for Santa Clara not scored by Zurauskyte who had scored the team's first six points.

San Francisco went on a 6-0 run over two minutes to get out of tope 15-9 with 12:55 remaining in the first half. Montana Walters went to the free throw line and knocked down one of two to end the run.

After a jumper by Claudia Price got the Dons out in front by seven, Gilday hit a three to get the Broncos back within four points at the 12-minute mark.

The lead got to double digits for the first time on an offensive rebound and a layup by Winston at 8:49. Avila answered at the other end with a three to make the score 27-20. A layup by USF led to a timeout by Santa Clara.

With the shot clock winding down, Gilday dished to Paine at the right elbow who nailed the three as the shot clock expired. Gilday hit a three on the next Bronco possession to make it a four-point game with 6:42 remaining in the first half.

The Dons went on a 6-0 run over 1:46 to get the lead back out to 10 with 1:38 left on the clock. Zurauskyte hit a jumper to end the run and make the score 38-30. On the next Bronco possession Paine made an acrobatic layup to lead to a three-point play that got Santa Clara within five.

San Francisco had a last second shot that was off the mark to end the first half. The teams went to the locker rooms with the score 42-33 in favor of the Dons.

Santa Clara shot 44.0% (11-25) from the field and 45.5% (5-11) from three in the first half. The Broncos had 18 rebounds, eight assists, 13 turnovers, three blocks and one steal. Paine led the offense with nine points on 3-5 shooting with two boards and two assists. Zurauskyte added eight points, three rebounds and two blocks while Gilday scored six points to go with two assists.

San Francisco shot 43.2% (16-37) from the field and 0.0% (0-4) from three in the first half. The Dons had 22 rebounds, six assists, three turnovers, and seven steals. Dikes led the offense with seven points on 5-7 shooting from the free throw line. Proctor, Winston, Price and Denae Mary Williams all scored six points while Paige Spietz had four steals.

The Broncos came out and scored the first four points of the second half to get within five at 42-37. Rachel Howard and Aundrea Gordon hit back-to-back threes for the Dons to put them up 11 points.

With the deficit at a game-high 12, Gilday nailed a deep three as the shot clock expired to spark a 9-0 Bronco run over 2:24. A layup by Vanessa Leo off a nifty pass from Gilday at 12:50 got Santa Clara within three points at 50-47. San Francisco called a timeout to regroup and got back on the board with a baseline jumper from Winston at 12:20.

After Paine drew an offensive foul, Leo stepped to the line for a one-and-one and cut the Dons' lead to just one at 52-51. San Francisco answered with a baseline jumper from Spietz. The Broncos kept the momentum going and took the lead 55-54 on a one-and-one by Leo and two free throws from a USF technical by Gilday.

Paine put the Broncos on top by two with a three from the right corner at 7:22. An over-the-back by USF put Bertholdt at the line for two shots and she extended the lead to 65-62.

A flagrant foul on Spietz gave Santa Clara a chance to extend its lead to five points. Zurauskyte hit one of two from the line and Gilday made a jumper on the ensuing possession. The Broncos were on a 14-2 run over four minutes to get on top by a game-high seven points at 71-64. San Francisco was 1-6 from the field during the run.

After a layup by Zurauskyte, Bertholdt read a pass perfectly and went coast-to-coast to put the Broncos on top by double-digits for the first time in the game with 1:54 left on the clock.

The Dons began full court press and started to foul to extend the game. Santa Clara was able to hit its free throws to close out the victory.

Game Notes: Attendance was 370 … Montana Walters entered the game at 13:15. It was her first action in two games … Rachel Howard was called for a technical at 10:58 in the second half for slamming the ball on the ground … Paige Spietz was given a flagrant foul with five minutes remaining in the second half.