Cronk and Graham Lead Way In Rivalry Series Win over Spartans

Dec. 30, 2006

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SAN JOSE, Calif. - The Santa Clara women's basketball team capped off its non-conference season on a high note Saturday night, defeating the San Jose State Spartans 71-59 at the San Jose State Event Center. With the victory, the Broncos also gave Santa Clara an all-important three points in the Rivalry Series battle between the two schools, upping SCU's lead in the annual battle to 15.5-3.5.

Santa Clara (8-7) will begin West Coast Conference play when the team returns to action on Sunday, Jan. 7, traveling to Moraga to face the Saint Mary's Gaels in a 2 p.m. battle.

Chandice Cronk and Ashley Graham teamed up once again to lead the Bronco scoring effort, posting 15 points apiece. For the second straight game, all of Graham's points came from beyond the arc, as she hit five of her eight attempts, and also passed out eight assists. The Broncos, who led the nation with 139 three-pointers coming into Saturday night's game, made 13 on the night, eight of those coming from Graham and Cronk.

"Ashley and Chandice are a great duo and I would put them up with anyone in the country when it comes to shooting," said head coach Michelle Bento-Jackson. "They give us a lot of stability and it boosts the team's confidence when they are shooting well."

"Ashley played a phenomenal game on both ends of the floor tonight," Bento-Jackson continued. "She had a tough defensive assignment tonight and she did a great job."

Kasey Monteith and Anna Martin each scored 10 points to round out the four Broncos scoring in double figures.

The Spartans, coming off of a win of their own against Pacific, their first of the season, took an early lead over the Broncos, as Alisha Hicks and Myosha Barnes carried SJSU to an early 15-11 lead.

Santa Clara would recover soon enough, as five points from Cronk made it a one-possession game, and a three-point play from Monteith with 12:01 to play in the first half pulled SCU even. The Broncos then took their first lead of the game, and subsequently would never trail again, with 11:38 left in the half following a Graham three.

Things stayed close for the rest of the half, as the Broncos, behind five more points from Cronk, stretched their lead to 30-23 at one point, but then allowed the Spartans to close the gap near the break. Two Jaime Hall free throws got the Spartans to within one at 32-31 just before halftime, but Jen Gottschalk's free throws in the final minute gave SCU a 34-31 lead heading into halftime.

Gottschalk scored nine points and grabbed seven rebounds in 25 minutes Saturday, showing that she is fully recovered from a back injury that forced her to miss all or parts of Santa Clara's last four games.

"It's no question that having Jen back has helped us," Bento-Jackson said of Gottschalk's presence. "Every single night she can give us consistency, both on the boards and from a scoring standpoint. She did a great job for us tonight."

Santa Clara re-asserted its power at the start of the second half, as Cronk's jumper and Gottschalk's three to begin play gave SCU an eight-point lead at 39-31. Although San Jose State recouped three of those points to get within five, Graham responded with a three and Ashley Gonnerman added a jumper to extend the lead to 10 at 44-34.

From that point, the Broncos built their lead up again, as another three from Graham put the Broncos up 51-38 with 12:57 to play. But a game Spartans squad made one more effort, as Alisha Hicks' three-point play with 8:59 left whittled the SCU lead down to five at 54-49, but that was as close as the Spartans would get. Santa Clara, behind a pair of threes from Martin, immediately ran off 11 straight points in the next two minutes to put the game out of reach.