Dec. 12, 2006
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The Santa Clara women's basketball team continued to exorcise itself of a couple of tough losses two weeks ago by winning its second game in a row, this one a 74-67 victory Tuesday night over the Pacific Tigers at the Leavey Center. Chandice Cronk's 24 points led four Broncos scoring in double figures and the team made a season-high 18 steals to highlight a balanced effort.
"We definitely didn't shoot very well to start the game, and that's why it was so important that our defense was so intense," said head coach Michelle Bento-Jackson. "And once the offense got going, it's always nice to have a balanced scoring attack, it just makes us that much tougher to defend."
The Broncos will now head out to America's Heartland to do battle with a pair of Big 12 teams, taking on the Kansas State Wildcats Friday at 5 p.m. PT before closing out the trip with a 12 p.m. PT battle against the Kansas Jayhawks on Sunday.
In addition to her 24 points, Cronk also hit a career-high seven three-pointers Saturday night. Point guard Ashley Graham dished out a career-high 13 assists in the game as Jen Gottschalk scored 12 points and Ashley Gonnerman and Tracey Walker each added 10. Forward Kasey Monteith grabbed a team-leading 11 rebounds and scored eight points to contribute to the winning cause.
"I have complete faith in Ashley and know that she will do what she knows best out there," Cronk said of Graham's performance in running the offense. "She sees the floor great, gets the ball up the floor, and is such an amazing point guard."
Santa Clara had some catching up to do after the first eight and a half minute of the game, as the team started 1-of-11 shooting from behind the arc while Pacific had no trouble on the outside. The Tigers got four three-pointers in that span, the last from Jake Kelly, who led the team with 17 points on the night, to take an early 22-13 lead.
But the Broncos broke out of the slump and scored 16 unanswered points over the next 5:18 as Cronk drained a trio of threes to fuel the run. The Tigers got a layup from Karen Dawkins to cut the lead to five, but Elizabeth Doran cashed in from long range to get the lead to eight at 32-24 with 5:51 left in the half. SCU got the lead as high as 12 en route to a 49-38 halftime lead.
Cronk's three to start the second half brought the lead to 14, and Santa Clara's aggressive defense and tough rebounding prevented Pacific from sustaining a run. The defense played a major role in maintaining the firm lead as the Bronco offense went scoreless for just over five minutes midway through the half and Pacific got to within eight at 61-53 with 9:55 to play.
The offense woke up soon after, rebuilding the lead to 15 at 71-56 with 4:36 to play as a pair of Gottschalk baskets sandwiched a Cronk three.
"With Pacific's guards being up on ours, [our guards] were able to get the ball to us underneath so we could score," said Gottschalk. "And when we score underneath, the defense has to come in, which leaves our guards open outside. I think it's a great strength because then opposing teams don't know what to do in guarding us."
Despite being in foul trouble, which allowed the Tigers to cut into the lead from the free throw line late, the Broncos held the lead, and iced things with Gottschalk's fast-break layup with 55 seconds left that gave SCU a 73-65 lead.