Nov. 28, 2005
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - It is a commonly-known adage that says a team's first win is always the hardest one to get. Now that the Santa Clara women have gotten their first win under their belts, an 80-63 defeat of Central Florida Monday night, things should hopefully fall into place for the Broncos heading into the rest of their non-conference schedule.
The Broncos (1-3) used a school-record 15 three-pointers and a stifling defense that produced 14 steals to overcome a slow start and 21-7 first-half deficit against the Golden Knights (1-4). Michelle Cozad led the Broncos with a superb all-around effort of 22 points, nine rebounds and five steals on the night as Santa Clara shot 50% (29-for-58) from the floor and 55.6% (15-for-27) from beyond the arc.
"I actually thought tonight that we had a great balance between the outside game and in the paint," said head coach Michelle Bento-Jackson. "We're a good three-point shooting team, we're not going to go away from that but we do need to have the balance which I thought we had tonight."
Contributing to that balance were the 14 points and seven assists from Ashley Graham as well as the inside game of Kasey Monteith and Ashley Gonnerman. Gonnerman scored eight down low, grabbed five rebounds and dished three assists while Monteith dropped in six points and pulled down four boards.
After falling behind 21-7 with just under 11 minutes to play in the first half, the Broncos clamped down on the defensive end, pressing the Golden Knights into turnovers and finding their touch from the outside. A free throw from Kimee Goeggel kicked off a 21-2 Broncos run as the Cozad stole a UCF pass on the ensuing UCF possession and hit an open Tracey Walker on the fast-break for an easy lay-up.
After the only Golden Knights bucket in the run brought the game to 23-17, Gonnerman converted a lay-up to cut the lead to four, and that's when the Bronco press turned the tide.
With 6:05 remaining, an Amber Long foul gave the Broncos possession, leading to a Cozad three that cut the lead to one. Mobbing the UCF players right off of the inbound, Graham came up with a steal and fed a wide-open Kayla Huss for her trademark rainbow three to give Santa Clara its first lead of the game at 25-23. Graham again ended up with an errant UCF pass after the press brought the pressure, this time feeding Cozad for another trey, giving the Broncos a nine-point run in a span of 55 seconds.
"We made some adjustments on our half-court defense between Saturday's game and tonight," Bento-Jackson noted about the defensive effort. "The girls did a tremendous job in making those adjustments and we just have to continue to build from here."
After going into the break with a 38-36 lead, Santa Clara kept the pressure on the Golden Knights, pulling away after two Monteith free throws gave the Broncos a 55-47 lead at the 10:59 mark. From that point on, Central Florida never came within eight points of the SCU lead, as a pair of threes each from Graham and Chandice Cronk kept UCF at bay.
The Broncos will hit the road for a Thursday night game at Portland State before returning home on the weekend for a Sunday afternoon home game against UC Irvine. Tip-off in Portland is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday night.