April 25, 2002

Women's Basketball Ends Season with Third NCAA Appearance in Five Years

April 25, 2002

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Broncos Visit Boulder for Big Dance
Santa Clara advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the third time in the last five seasons with its selection to the 2002 Championships. As the West Region's 11th seed, Santa Clara opened the tournament against sixth-seeded Louisiana State. The Broncos were trying to become the first SCU team to win a tournament game since the field expanded to 64.

It Truly was March Madness
Chris Denker has more on his mind than just leading the Broncos in his first NCAA Tournament game as a head coach. He and his wife Gisette had their first child on Thursday, March 14, by Caesarian section. At 7:43 a.m. Christopher Quinn joined the family, checking in at 9 lbs, 1.5 oz, 21 inches . The proud papa only had a few moments to welcome his son into the world, as he had to catch a late flight to join his team in Boulder and prepare for the next day's game.

The WCC in the Postseason
Santa Clara's at-large selection marked the fifth time since 1994 that the West Coast Conference had two teams in the big dance. Pepperdine, the West Region's eighth seed, earned the WCC's automatic bid by winning the league championship. Saint Mary's and San Francisco received invitations to the WNIT, marking the fourth straight year the league sent four teams to the postseason.

Among the Best in the Nation
Santa Clara finished the season ranked 10th nationally in assists (18.1), 19th in three-point field goal percentage (.373), 20th in three-point field goals per game (6.8), 21st in scoring offense (76.1), and 35th in free throw percentage (.741). Individually, Becki Ashbaugh ranked fifth in assists per game (7.3) and 22nd in free throw percentage (87.1) and Caroline Gruening ranked seventh in three-point field goal percentage (.449).

Broncos Protect Home Court with Perfect 12-0 Season at Leavey
Santa Clara completed the 2001-02 home season at the Leavey Center with a perfect 12-0 mark, becoming only the second team in program history to accomplish the feat. The only other Bronco team to go undefeated at home was the 1990-91 squad, who finished its season 17-0 at Toso Pavilion in the Leavey Activities Center, and 28-3 overall as the WNIT Champions.

Ashbaugh Notches Bronco First: 600 Assists
Becki Ashbaugh set the school record for career assists with her first against LMU on Feb. 21, surpassing Jennifer Lucas' 13-year old mark of 591. Her ninth and final assist against the Lions made her the first Bronco to notch 600 in a career and only the third in WCC history. She finished her career with 646, ranking second on the all-time league chart. On Feb. 9, her free throw with six seconds remaining against Gonzaga made her only the 13th Bronco to reach the 1,000-point marker, making Ashbaugh the first Bronco ever to notch 1,000 points and 500 assists in a career. She finished with 1,104 points and surpassed the 500-assist marker to open conference play. In the WCC, she is only the second to reach both marks, joining Anja Bordt of Saint Mary's, who notched 1,710 points and 654 assists from 1988-91. With her eighth assist of the WCC Tournament, Ashbaugh became the first in Bronco history to notch 200 in one season.

Live on the Internet
Santa Clara's entire schedule was heard on a live Internet audio broadcast this season at www.SantaClaraBroncos.com. Anthony Passarelli finished his first season as the voice of the Broncos. During the regular season, all home contests were also followed online with a live statistical tracker, also located on Santa Clara's official athletic website. By logging on, fans could receive real-time updated statistics direct from the official scoring computer, allowing users to listen to the audio broadcast and keep up with the statistics simultaneously. The features were introduced midway through the 2000-01 season.

In the Rankings
Although the Broncos did not enter the top 25 polls, the team received votes in the first seven weeks after topping two top-25 teams in its first four games. Santa Clara peaked with 12 votes in the AP poll and nine in the USA Today/ESPN listing while the Broncos' RPI ranking topped at eighth nationally by CollegeRPI.com. The Broncos finished the season ranked 41st in the CollegeRPI listing. As a conference, the WCC ranked seventh by CollegeRPI.com. SCU was also rated 49th in the WBCA Summerville RPI listing.

Broncos Buck Preseason Predictions
Despite returning two starters from the 2001 regular season West Coast Conference Championship team, and a third starter from two seasons ago-and having never finished lower than third in league play in the last 10 years-Santa Clara was picked to finish fifth in a poll by league coaches at the start of the season. The Broncos bucked those predictions by tying for second in the regular season and advancing to the championship game in the tournament.

NCAA Tournament Recap
(AP) Doneeka Hodges had 22 points, and Aiysha Smith had 17 points and 12 rebounds as sixth-seeded LSU beat Santa Clara 84-78 in the first round of the West Region on March 15. No. 22 LSU shot 50 percent and was 6-for-11 from 3-point range. Santa Clara, one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country, was just 7-for-21 from long range. Julie Butler led the Broncos with 18 points and 10 rebounds.

Santa Clara took a 69-66 lead on a 3-pointer by Tammy Annas, but LSU followed with a 10-2 run. Ke-Ke Tardy capped it with a free throw that put the Tigers up 76-71 with four minutes left. Santa Clara's Caroline Gruening cut it to 76-73 with a three-point play, then Kendra Rhea and Courtney Cushing each hit two free throws to put the Broncos up by two with 2:24 left. LSU's Temeka Johnson tied it at 78 with a jump shot, then Scholanda Dorrell hit a runner after an offensive rebound to put the Tigers up by two with 35 seconds left. Johnson hit two free throws to put LSU up 82-78 with 17 seconds left after Rhea was called for traveling. Gruening missed a 3-pointer with six seconds left, and Johnson ended it with a breakaway layup at the buzzer.

It was the 1,000th game in the history of the women's NCAA tournament.

The Rally of the Season
The Broncos overcame an 18-point deficit for a three-point victory against Saint Mary's in the semifinal game of this year's West Coast Conference Championship, one of the greatest comebacks in women's basketball history. Quinn Thomas' only basket of the night, a three-pointer from the top of the key, gave Santa Clara its first lead of the game, at 76-75 with 5:26 left on the clock. Kendra Rhea converted an offensive rebound for a three-point play to make it 85-84 in favor of the Broncos, the fifth and final lead change of the night. The Broncos allowed 55 points to the Gaels in the first half, the most allowed to an opponent in at least the last two years. Caroline Gruening went 7-8 from the land of plenty before halftime and broke WCC Tournament individual game records in points (34) and three-point field goals made (8). She tied the records in field goals made (11) and free throw percentage (1.000)... Gruening broke a school record for an individual performance in three-point field goals (8) and tied the second best mark in points (34). Gruening also made all 11 of her field goals in a row, after missing her opening shot and her final three. Rhea followed her opening round 17-point performance with 19 points against the Gaels.

Three Receive All-WCC Tournament Team Honors
For their efforts during the WCC Championship, Becki Ashbaugh, Kendra Rhea and Caroline Gruening were named to the All-Tournament Team. Ashbaugh scored eight points in 9.1 seconds toward the end of the championship game and finished with all 20 of her points scored in the second half. She made four of five from beyond the arc and finished the weekend with a record 26 assists. Rhea finished with her seventh double-double of the season, with 10 points and 11 rebounds against Pepperdine. She scored in double figures in all three games.

Three Named to All-WCC Team
Becki Ashbaugh was named to the All-WCC first team, while Caroline Gruening and Tammy Annas received All-WCC honorable mention honors. Ashbaugh's selection marks her third straight from the conference, as she received honorable mention honors from the league the last two seasons. Gruening makes her second straight selection to the conference's honorable mention squad, while Annas' selection marks her first to the league honor roll.

Gruening, Ashbaugh Named to Verizon Academic All-District VIII Teams
Caroline Gruening and Becki Ashbaugh were named to Verizon Academic All-District VIII teams, as announced by CoSIDA. Additionally, Santa Clara was the only University to have two players named on the 15-player listing. Gruening is a Combined Sciences major with a 3.77 GPA, while Ashbaugh carries a 3.59 GPA in Operation Management and Information Systems. In order to be eligible for Academic All-America honors, a student-athlete must have at least a 3.20 cumulative grade point average, be a starter or an important reserve, and be in at least their second season of athletic and academic eligibility at their current school.

Three Broncos Receive WCC All-Academic Honors
Becki Ashbaugh earned her fourth West Coast Conference All-Academic honor, leading a list of three Broncos who earned recognition, the league announced last week. Ashbaugh carries a 3.59 GPA in Operation Management and Information Systems. Joining Ashbaugh is two-time honoree Caroline Gruening, a Combined Sciences major with a 3.77 GPA, and first-time selection Kendra Rhea, a junior forward who is carrying a 3.25 GPA in Electrical Engineering. To be considered, a student-athlete must earn at least a 3.20 cumulative grade point average while also being a significant contributor to his or her team.

In the WCC Statistics
Santa Clara led the league in seven categories: scoring offense (76.1 ppg), scoring margin (+6.5), field goal percentage (.434), three-point field goals made (6.84), assists (18.1), three-point field goal percentage (.373) and three-point field goals made (6.86). The Broncos were second in free throw percentages (.741). Individually, Becki Ashbaugh was tops in assists (7.32) and second in free throw percentage (.871). Caroline Gruening was second in three-point percentage (.449) and second in three-point field goals made (2.2). Kendra Rhea ranked sixth in rebounds (6.8).

Spreading the Bronco Offense
Four Bronco players averaged over 10 points per contest during the season, making SCU the only team with four players in the league's top 20 scorers. Caroline Gruening led the team with an 11.7 ppg average, while Becki Ashbaugh was right behind her with an 11.4 mark. Julie Butler and Tammy Annas were close by with 11.2 and 10.9 ppg respectively. As a team, the Broncos averaged 76.1 points per game to lead the league.

Gruening from Downtown
Caroline Gruening made at least one three-pointer in all but one of the Broncos' 31 games. She only missed out on the Jan. 12 contest vs. Portland, in which she didn't start due to illness. She had a stellar night in the semifinals of the WCC Tournament, making 8-12 against Saint Mary's She also has made 4-5 from long range on four occasions, against San Jose State, at No. 7 Stanford, at USF and vs. regular season league champion Pepperdine. Included in her stats is an incredible 61.5 percent (16-26) for three-point field goals in December and a 50 percent clip for February. Overall this season, Gruening shot 44.9 percent from the land of plenty (75-167), the second best percentage in the league and seventh best mark in the country.

Broncos Surpass Century Mark
With SCU's 103-58 victory over CS Northridge on Dec. 29, the Broncos surpassed the 100-point mark for only the third time in program history. The record was set by the 1997-98 squad in a 111-38 victory over Eastern Washington. The only other occasion that the Broncos have notched at least 100 points occurred in the 1990-91 season, when the Broncos topped Portland 106-42. Santa Clara almost did it again on Jan. 10, scoring 99 points against Gonzaga.

Broncos top Two Ranked Opponents to Open Season
Santa Clara opened the season by topping 24th-ranked Utah at the Golden Gopher Basketball Classic and followed that performance the following weekend upending host Washington, ranked 25th nationally, at the Seattle Times Husky Classic. Along with last season's win over then-No. 10 Texas Tech, head coach Chris Denker has now led his team to three victories over nationally-ranked opposition in his two seasons at the helm of the Bronco program.

Head Coach Chris Denker
After making consecutive postseason appearances, including a berth in the 2002 NCAA Tournament, head coach Chris Denker (Oregon '90) received a contract extension through the 2005-2006 season. Denker, 35, signed a four-year agreement to remain the Broncos' mentor following a second-straight 20-win season and the program's fifth-straight postseason berth. Santa Clara advanced to the NCAA Tournament as an at-large selection after finishing second in the West Coast Conference standings and advancing to the league tournament's title game. Denker joined the Santa Clara women's basketball staff in 1993 as an assistant coach under then-head coach Caren Horstmeyer. During his seven-year stint as a Bronco assistant, Denker served as the program's recruiting and offensive coordinator. Santa Clara won 68 percent of its games from 1994-2000 and advanced to four postseason appearances and won three WCC titles. In the summer of 2000, Denker was named the Broncos' head coach and he promptly led Santa Clara to a 20-8 overall record and the program's third league title in four seasons. Additionally, the victory over Pepperdine on Jan. 11 made Denker the winningest first-year head coach in SCU history, surpassing 10-year head coach Ken Thompson's first year mark of nine wins in the 1978-79 season. This past season, the Broncos recorded a 21-10 overall record and a 9-5 mark in the WCC. Season highlights included road wins over nationally-ranked Utah and Washington and advancement to the championship game of the WCC Tournament. In two seasons, Bronco players have earned seven academic all-WCC honors and four have earned all-league mention. Denker's career mark stands at 41-18 (.695). Denker has also been an assistant coach Idaho State University and South Eugene (Ore.) High School. As a collegiate player, he lettered in basketball as a freshman at Boise State University before transferring to Linn Benton Community College the next year. At LBCC, he served as the basketball team captain and earned honorable mention All-League recognition in 1987.