SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Santa Clara led throughout and used a second half run to pull away from visiting Portland, 77-55, Saturday afternoon at the Leavey Center. It was the home finale for the Broncos, who will travel to Los Angeles next week for their final regular season games of the year.
Santa Clara (9-17; 5-7 WCC) honored the senior careers of Lena Gipson, Kathy Willinsky and Becky Goll prior to the tip. Gipson finished the day with 21 points and Willinsky had a career-high seven assists.
Gipson made 9 of 12 shots and cleared 12 rebounds to record her 50th double-double in her career. She will go down in the SCU record books as one of the most prolific scorers and rebounders in school history.
"I was really happy for our seniors," said Santa Clara Head Coach Jennifer Mountain. "It was a great team effort, with four players in double-figures. We had good inside-outside presence, we attacked the rim. We did a little bit of everything today and did it well."
Guards Meagan Fulps and Ricki Radanovich each scored 19 points for SCU and Alyssa Shoji had 11. Radanovich's 19 points matches a career-high. Fulps also came up with seven rebounds.
Portland (15-12; 6-6 WCC) remains in fourth place in the league standings, trying to hang on to that spot to assure themselves of a first-round bye in the upcoming postseason tournament. The Pilots received a team-high 17 points from Natalie Day.
Following the senior day celebration, the homestanding Broncos jumped out to a 10-2 lead, then Shoji put SCU up by nine with a triple at the 14-minute mark of the first half. Santa Clara out-rebounded Portland 21-13 in the first half, allowing for a 17-11 SCU lead after the first nine minutes following a mid-range jumper by Ashley Armstrong.
"Right from the beginning we wanted to go out and throw that first punch," said Mountain. "We set the tone right there. It was Senior Day, so there is always a lot of emotion and intensity that comes with that."
The Pilots slowly cut into the early deficit and pulled within six, 25-19, on Lauren Angel's reverse layup, however the Broncos answered with back-to-back scoring drives from Shoji and Fulps to lead by 10, 29-19, inside of four minutes remaining in the half.
Santa Clara led 30-21 at halftime.
After shooting 1 for 11 from three-point range in the first half, the Pilots made their first two attempts from long range following the break and got within seven, 41-34, on a transition basket by ReZina Teclemariam.
The SCU perimeter game of Fulps, Shoji and Radanovich kept the Broncos in front and when Fulps dropped in her third trey of the night, Santa Clara led 54-41. Moments later Gipson put SCU up by 15 on a bucket in the lane and the Broncos would not look back from then on.
"This (win) could make a big difference down the road," said Mountain, looking ahead to the possible seeding for the upcoming postseason tournament. "The next two games are really important."
Santa Clara plays at LMU (Thursday, Feb. 24) and at Pepperdine (Saturday, Feb. 26).
1. Gonzaga (12-0) 24-4
2. St. Mary's (9-3) 17-10
3. Pepperdine (7-5) 16-10
4. Portland (6-6) 15-12
5. Santa Clara (5-7) 9-17
6. San Diego (4-8) 14-12
7. LMU (4-8) 10-16
8. USF (1-10) 4-21
Final regular season games:
Thursday Feb. 24
Santa Clara @ LMU
USF @ Pepperdine
St. Mary's @ No. 25 Gonzaga
San Diego @ Portland
Saturday Feb. 26
Santa Clara @ Pepperdine
USF @ LMU
San Diego @ No. 25 Gonzaga
St. Mary's @ Portland