BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – Santa Clara played some of its best basketball of the year during a 9-0 second-half run which cut Cal State Bakersfield's double-digit lead down to three, but the Broncos couldn't completely slow down the unbeaten 'Runners at the Icardo Center, losing 66-53 Tuesday night.
Santa Clara (0-4) held the 'Runners well below their season averages of 81.3 points and .455 percent shooting - pulling within three, 45-42, with 11:20 left.
Alyssa Shoji and Meagan Fulps combined to score 25 of Santa Clara's 53 points. Lena Gipson had 15 rebounds to move into sixth place on SCU's all-time rebounding list.
However, CSUB's high-octane offense put together a 13-4 spurt, using their transition game to go up 58-46 with 7:05 to play. CSUB starter Breana Fields led all scorers with 15 points and Tamiko Davis cleared 12 rebounds.
"We slowed down and were poised," said Santa Clara head coach Jennifer Mountain, referencing the Broncos' play in the second half. "We battle enough to be in the game but make crucial mistakes. For the fourth game in a row (the opponent) had over 20 points off our turnovers. They come at bad times."
Cal State Bakersfield (4-0) was fresh off impressive wins over NCAA tournament qualifiers San Diego State and Big Sky favorites Montana.
Iman Scott had dropped in a 15-foot jumper to put the Broncos in front with 11:31 remaining in the first half and Shoji connected on a 3 moments later to extend the lead to five at 17-12.
The 'Runners answered with a 16-0 run, fueled by points in the paint, six coming from Davis, who made a last-second basket a year ago to beat Santa Clara in the Leavey Center 78-76.
The 'Runners led at halftime 36-24.
"In the first half, especially early, they got some transition buckets and got to the rim," said Mountain. "They had 24 points in the paint on us in the first half. We went to a zone in the second half which was a good adjustment."
Gipson began the second half with consecutive field goals for SCU, demanding the basketball underneath and the Broncos would be right back in it, 36-30, after Gipson kicked it back out to Fulps for an open jumper.
Kathy Willinsky, Shoji and Gipson scored on consecutive Bronco possessions to keep SCU close after the 'Runners had built the lead back up to 12 at 45-33 with 13:56 left. By the 12:10 mark, an Ashley Armstrong free throw had made it a five-point game and a put-back lay in by Lindsay Leo made it 45-42 midway through the second half – bookending 9-0 Bronco run.
With the ability to score in bunches, CSUB put together the 13-4 surge to go ahead for good. Santa Clara turned the ball over 23 times, matching a season high.
"We got the game within three, then two turnovers led to two baskets on the other end and all of the sudden it's a seven-point game," said Mountain. "Crucial turnovers at crucial times. We are not making plays when we need to and not making shots when we need to. We are close, but not putting it together."
The Broncos will return to action following the Thanksgiving break, playing mid-week games at South Dakota (Tuesday, Nov. 30) and Wichita State (Thursday, Dec. 2).