Jan. 7, 2007
MORAGA, Calif. - The Santa Clara women's basketball team got the defense of its WCC regular-season title off to a successful start Sunday afternoon, out-gunning the Saint Mary's Gaels 84-71 at McKeon Pavilion. The Broncos pulled away in the second half, shooting 59.4% in the final 20 minutes to keep Saint Mary's in catch-up mode and come away with the win.
The Broncos (9-7, 1-0) will continue WCC play next week, traveling to the Pacific Northwest to take on the Gonzaga Bulldogs at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 11, before closing the trip with a 2 p.m. contest Saturday, Jan. 13 at Portland.
"I actually thought our intensity and energy on the defensive end was good in the first half, but we always talk about the importance of the first five minutes of the second half," said head coach Michelle Bento-Jackson. "Today was the first game of the year where we increased a lead, and while we made our shots, I thought we did a much better job today on the defensive boards."
Jen Gottschalk, behind a huge first half performance, scored a team-leading and career-high 27 points and grabbed nine rebounds, while from the outside, Chandice Cronk added career-highs of her own with 26 points and eight three-pointers made, now on the year giving her an NCAA-leading 64 three-pointers.
"Jen definitely made it look easy today, she is the type of player that has a nose for the ball," said Bento-Jackson. "Her teammates did a good job of finding her, but she is so good at finding the ball around the basket, and she did a great job of finishing tonight."
Sheridan Arredondo scored 24 points to pace the Gaels, while Jontelle Smith added 14. Eghosa Obaiza grabbed 11 rebounds to lead all players Sunday.
Gottschalk's 19 first-half points carried the Broncos to the 10-point halftime lead at 37-27. The teams battled back-and-forth for the first 11 minutes of the half, which featured six lead changes. But despite 10 straight points from SMC's Arredondo, the Broncos held on to an 18-17 lead before gaining some separation.
Santa Clara ran off nine consecutive points in the next 3:36 behind the scoring of Gottschalk and Tracey Walker, who scored 11 points and grabbed five rebounds Sunday. The duo continued to shine in the final minutes, and by the end of the half had combined to score SCU's final 19 points.
The Broncos and Gaels proved why they are the WCC's highest-scoring teams in getting the second half off to a frenetic start, scoring a combined 34 points in the opening six minutes. Ashley Gonnerman's layup 10 seconds in started the stampede, as the teams exchanged buckets in alternating waves of red and white jerseys sprinting up and down the court.
SCU held the hot hand throughout the opening volleys, hitting 13 of its first 17 attempts to stretch its lead to 23 at 67-44 with 11:14 remaining. Cronk then nailed her sixth three of the game and followed up with a jumper the next trip down to give the Broncos a 72-49 lead.
The Gaels simply could not keep up with the Broncos in the second half, as Santa Clara continued to fire away, led by the accuracy of Cronk and the inside work of Gottschalk. SCU's lead got to as many as 24 at 78-54 with 8:14 to play, while the Gaels, with the outcome no longer in doubt, trimmed the deficit to 13 by the final horn.