Nov. 22, 2002
BETHLEHEM, Pa. - For Michelle Bento's first game as Santa Clara's women's basketball coach, it doesn't get more heart-stopping than the 64-63 win tonight at Stabler Arena against Lehigh.
The Broncos could only watch as Lehigh freshman guard Dawn Gorynski missed back-to-back free throws with just 11.3 seconds on the clock then withstood a late Mountain Hawk offensive flourish to earn their fifth-straight season-opener.
Junior transfer guard Whitney Sutak led Santa Clara with a 16 point, eight assist and eight rebound effort while taking over the point guard duties for the Broncos. Ann Tierney led Lehigh with 20 points and 13 rebounds. Santa Clara opens the season with a 1-0 record, while Lehigh stands at 0-1.
"We could tell at halftime that to win this game was going to take a lot of heart," said Bento. "I was pleased with the confidence our players showed down the stretch and that we were able to respond when we got down in the second half.
"You really have to give Lehigh a lot of credit. They played hard and with a lot of poise and gave us everything they had. We now have to refocus and get ready to play a tough Temple squad in less than 48 hours. We have a veteran team and I think we should be able to respond."
The Broncos overcame a sluggish first half in which they committed 13 fouls and 12 turnovers. Lehigh outscored SCU 14-2 in the first half from the free throw line and enjoyed an 18-4 advantage in charity attempts in the first stanza. Santa Clara recorded a 34-31 halftime edge, largely due to a defensive effort that limited the Mountain Hawks to just 30.8 percent shooting from the field.
"It was a bit disheartening to see how many times Lehigh went to the free throw line in the first half," said Bento. "But, circumstances obviously dictated that. I was pleased that even though they outscored us from the free throw line, we were able to outscore them by a 32-17 margin from the field."
Lehigh's Jana Ransom connected on a turnaround jumper in the lane to tie the game at 34-apiece with 18:40 left in the game. The two teams traded baskets before Sutak connected on a three-point field goal to give the Broncos a 39-36 lead. SCU then stretched the lead to as many as 11 points before the Mountain Hawks mounted a comeback.
Julie Butler committed her fourth foul of the game and Tierney connected on both charity shots to bring Lehigh to within one point before the Broncos went on a 17-7 run to make the score 56-45 with 8:15 remaining. Lehigh then went on a 14-0 run of their own started by back-to-back three-point field goals. The Mountain Hawks claimed their first lead of the game at 57-56 with 5:22 left in the game.
The two teams traded baskets and SCU led by as many as three points in the final minutes before a jumper by Tierney brought Lehigh to within one at 64-63 with :57 seconds remaining. The Mountain Hawks missed two jumpers and two free throws in the final minute and the Broncos held on for the win.
Santa Clara returns to action Sunday afternoon with a 10 a.m. (Pacific) tipoff at Temple University. The game will be televised live in the Philadelphia area by regional cable network Comcast Sports in addition to the regular Internet audio broadcast on www.SantaClaraBroncos.com.