March 16, 2006
Santa Clara, Calif. - The Santa Clara women's basketball team begins its campaign for a Women's National Invitation Tournament Championship tonight, taking on the Oregon State Beavers in the first round of the event. This year's WNIT appearance marks the eighth time in the last nine years that the Broncos have advanced to the postseason. Tipoff with the Beavers is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis.
Santa Clara, the West Coast Conference regular-season co-champion, begins the postseason with a 19-11 overall record and an 11-3 mark in conference play. The Broncos won 12 of their last 14 games, including a notable nine-game winning streak. After capturing the WCC title with a win over Pepperdine on February 25, however, the Broncos suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Waves in the WCC Tournament final.
Senior guard Michelle Cozad leads the Broncos with 18.2 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. The WCC Player of the Year led the team in scoring in 23 games this season and scored in double figures in 28 of 30 contests. Also in double figures for Santa Clara is sophomore guard Chandice Cronk, who averages 10.3 points and 2.3 rebounds. Junior Kasey Monteith has been the anchor inside for the Broncos, with 7.4 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. Senior Kayla Huss has also stepped up for the Broncos recently, scoring in double figures in four of the last five games and averaging 13.0 points in those contests.
The Beavers, led by first-year head coach LaVonda Wagner, enter the game with a 15-14 overall record and a 7-11 mark in Pac-10 play. Oregon State finished the regular season tied for seventh in the conference. The squad is led by a trio of seniors who combine for 70 percent of Beaver scoring. Leading the way is forward Kimberly Butler, with 18.7 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. Guard Mandy Close follows with 13.4 points and 3.0 rebounds while guard Anita Rivera, a Lake Elsinore, Calif. native, contributes 12.0 points and 3.1 rebounds per game.
Tonight marks the fifth meeting between Santa Clara and Oregon State. The Broncos trail the series 1-4; however Santa Clara came away with a victory in the most recent 1997 meeting. In that game, Santa Clara won by a 15-point margin, 79-64 at Toso Pavilion.
The Broncos enter tonight's contest averaging 73.7 points per game and outscoring opponents by a 3.5 point margin. The Beavers average 63.0 points and outscore opponents by a margin of just 1.6. Santa Clara tops the Beavers in rebounding, with 37.5 per game compared to the Beavers 35.0. Oregon State shoots 43.3 percent from the field, slightly better than the Broncos' 42.8 percent. Yet, the Broncos dominate from three-point range, shooting 38.5 percent to Oregon State's 28.5 percent. The Broncos and Beavers have faced only one common opponent this season. In early December, both squads took on Portland State. Santa Clara was edged by the Vikings 83-82, while the Beavers defeated the squad 87-58.
The winner of tonight's game will advance to the second round of the WNIT and will face the University of Wyoming Cowgirls in Laramie, Wyo. on Saturday. The time of that contest is still TBA.