Nov. 6, 2002
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The Michelle Bento era unofficially began Wednesday night as the Santa Clara University women's basketball team raced to an 88-60 win over Bay Area Pro-Am, a local club team comprised of former college players in an exhibition contest at the Leavey Center.
Bento, in her first season as the head coach of the Broncos, guided her new team through a variety of offensive and defensive sets in the team's first exhibition game of the preseason. Four SCU players scored in double figures and all nine Broncos scored. The telling statistic of the game, however, was Santa Clara's defensive effort that limited Pro-Am to just 32.4 percent shooting from the field and 26.7 percent from beyond the three-point arc.
"Defense is going to be our focus this year," said Bento, who's team was playing without the services of four players due to injuries. "I would have liked to see us be a little more consistent and play with more intensity right from the tip. We started a bit slow and we need to come out with more energy. I think once some of the nerves of our players wore off, we were able to relax and we played better."
Senior Kendra Rhea led the Broncos in scoring with 17 points, while senior Julie Butler added 16 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. Melanie Turner, a former University of San Francisco standout, led Bay Area Pro-Am with 16 points. Former Bronco performer Caroline Gruening scored 10 points for Pro-Am.
Santa Clara bolted out to an 18-7 lead early in the game, keyed by a 12-0 run before Bay Area Pro-Am went on an 11-0 run of their own to tie the game at 18-apiece with 9:32 remaining in the first half. The Broncos went on a 6:26 scoring drought before Kim Butler connected on a short jumper in the lane to break the tie and give SCU a 20-18 lead. Santa Clara then went on a 16-8 run to close out the half with a 36-26 lead.
Santa Clara broke open a tight game midway in the second half when junior transfer Whitney Sutak connected on a driving left-handed lay-up in the lane with 9:03 left in the game to give the Broncos a 58-45 lead. The Broncos then outscored Pro-Am by a 30-15 margin to close out the 28-point victory.
"This was a good test for us to see how we stand right now," said Bento. "We will go back, look at the film and see what rotations worked for us and which ones didn't. We have a ways to go before we will be ready for the first regular season game. But, our players are working hard and we are making progress."
The Broncos return to action Friday, Nov. 15 in their final tune-up of the exhibition season. Santa Clara opens its regular-season on the road, playing a non-conference match up at Lehigh University on Friday, Nov. 22 in Bethlehem, Pa. SCU will open its home schedule Dec. 4 against Fresno State, Bento's alma mater, at 7 p.m. at the Leavey Center.