February 28, 2012

Santa Clara Women’s Basketball 2012 WCC Tournament Preview

Complete WCC Tournament Notes (PDF)

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -
Santa Clara has a history of playing well in Las Vegas under current head coach Jennifer Mountain, who has won four postseason games in her three seasons at SCU thus far. The Broncos swept the season series with Portland and held halftime leads over both USD and BYU in previous meetings this year, which should give the Broncos confidence heading into Thursday's opener.

Game Notes - March 1-5, 2012

ZAPPOS.COM WCC BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS

Orleans Arena (Las Vegas, Nev.)
Tournament Central

Second Round, Thursday, March 1 at 2 p.m.
#7 Portland (11-19; 4-12) vs. #6 Santa Clara  (12-17; 5-11)

Quarterfinals, Friday, March 2 at 2 p.m.
#6 Santa Clara vs. #3 San Diego (21-7; 12-4)

Semifinals, Saturday, March 3 at 2 p.m.
#6 Santa Clara vs. #2 BYU (24-6; 12-4)
Championship, Monday, March 5 at 12 noon (vs. TBD)
Complete tournament bracket (PDF)

SCU HIGHLIGHTS
* Santa Clara is led by fourth-year head coach Jennifer Mountain
* Mountain is 4-3 at the WCC tournament during her three previous at SCU
* Senior G Alyssa Shoji (14.4 ppg) set a new WCC single-season record by making 96 three-pointers this season
* Shoji ranks No. 3 in NCAA in 3PT FG (3.3 pg) and No. 9 in 3PT% (41.6)
* Shoji and junior F Lindsay Leo (10.5 ppg/7.1 rpg) were both named All-WCC * Honorable Mention performers
* SCU makes 7.6 threes per game, leading the WCC and ranking 10th in NCAA
* SCU closed out the year winning 2 of its last 3 games and 4 of last 7
* The Broncos boast a team GPA of 3.1 and had a league-best three players named to the WCC All-Academic Team

LIVE COVERAGE

Both Thursday and Friday's games will be televised live on BYUtv, ESPN3 and ESPN Full Court. Saturday's game with BYU will be televised on BYUtv and ESPN3. Additionally, a live audio stream will be available on SantaClaraBroncos.com for all games this week, with Sam Farber providing the play-by-play from Las Vegas. The women's championship game on Monday will be broadcast on ESPNU/ESPN3.

SANTA CLARA
The Broncos (12-17; 5-11 WCC) closed out the regular season with pivotal wins against Portland and USF to secure the No. 6 seed in the WCC tournament. An emotional 'Senior Day' win over rival USF on Saturday was a fitting send off for G Alyssa Shoji (14.4 ppg), who will go down in the record books as one of the Broncos' all-time best players. Shoji leads a backcourt that can fill it up from long range. Shoji, G Meagan Fulps (10.6 ppg) and G Ricki Radanovich (8.1 ppg) have combined to make 193 three-point baskets this season. Early in the season, the backcourt was complemented by the presence of 6-foot, 4-inch C Ruta Zurauskyte (12.8 ppg/7.8 rpg) and F Lindsay Leo (10.5 ppg/7.1 rpg), helping SCU get off to a 6-1 start. However, Zurauskyte suffered a season-ending knee injury in mid-December and the Broncos went through a tough stretch during January, losing 7-straight WCC games. The team has bounced back to win 4 of 7 to close out the regular season, getting a lift from freshman G Nici Gilday (4.5 ppg), who is averaging 5.3 rebounds and playing 26 minutes over the past six games. Santa Clara has not played on a neutral floor this season.

 HEAD COACH JENNIFER MOUNTAIN
'JMO' became the eighth Santa Clara University head women's basketball coach in April 2008. Mountain led the Broncos to a top-tier finish in the WCC standings in 2010-11 and for the third-straight year won at least one postseason game at the conference tournament. Her SCU teams have showed marked improved in her three seasons thus far. Mountain came to the Mission Campus after serving seven seasons as the top assistant coach at Gonzaga, where she helped the Bulldogs to four-straight WCC regular season championships and one WCC tournament crown. "Jen understands what Santa Clara is all about," said SCU Athletic Director Dan Coonan. "It's about competitive basketball but it's about so much more than that. Educating men and women for competence, conscience, and compassion -- that's what Santa Clara really stands for. We believe that and live that here. I think Jen is the perfect person who embodies those kinds of values."

The Jen Mountain File:

• Head Coach - Santa Clara University (2008-pres.)
• Assistant Coach- Gonzaga University (2001-08)
• Boys Head Coach - St. George's School (1994-2001)
• Amateur Player - Gonzaga University (1987-91)

QUOTABLE
"Going into the tournament we put the focus on ourselves and our play" said Santa Clara head coach Jennifer Mountain. "This is going to be our last week together, as this team. They have put a lot of time and effort into it, a lot of emotion. Blood, sweat and tears go into a whole season. This is their last chance together and hopefully they go in with a good energy level and play well."

WE GO WAY BACK
The relationship between the two head coaches Thursday dates back to Jennifer Mountain's childhood growing up in Portland. Jim Sollars was Mountain's camp coach at Oregon State when she was a seventh-grader. It was the first-ever camp she attended and credits Sollars as being one of the earliest positive influences motivating her as a young player.

STATISTICAL TRENDS
* SCU is 9-2 this season when scoring 70+ points and just 3-15 when failing to reach 70
* The Broncos can shoot the three extremely well, but the team is 0-7 when shooting less than 35 percent from the floor
* In turn, the current four-guard starting lineup has put the team in a disadvantage down low, out-rebounding opponents just 6 times in 19 games since the loss of Ruta Zurauskyte

2011-12 WCC STANDINGS (Feb. 28)

(Seed) Team (WCC) Overall

(1) # 20/21 Gonzaga (14-2) 25-4
(2) BYU (12-4) 24-6
(3) San Diego (12-4) 21-7
(4) Saint Mary's (11-5) 20-9
(5) Pepperdine (8-8) 13-14
(6) Santa Clara (5-11) 12-17
(7) Portland (4-12) 11-19
(8) San Francisco (3-13) 5-24
(9) LMU (3-13) 7-21

ALYSSA SHOJI SHATTERS WCC 3-POINT RECORD

Alyssa Shoji established a new WCC and SCU single-season 3-point record on Saturday, Feb. 25 against USF. Shoji made No.'s 94, 95 and 96 on the season, shattering the previous mark of 94 set by Bronco alumna Chandice Cronk in 2006-07. Shoji, the senior from Bellevue led the WCC led the WCC in 3PT FG (84) and ranked 35th nationally as sophomore in 2009-10, which had been her previous season-best total. She is No. 2 all-time in WCC history with 283 triples (15 shy of No. 1).

SHOJI IS ALSO SCU'S ALL-TIME 3-POINT LEADER
On Thursday, Jan. 5 , 2012 in a victory against Portland, Alyssa Shoji broke SCU's all-time 3-point shooting record of 244 set by Chandice Cronk '08 when she made five 3s. Shoji is leaving quite a mark on the Bronco record book, ranking among SCU's all-time best in points, assists, 3s, FT% and minutes.

SCU WCC TOURNAMENT HISTORICAL NOTES
* The Broncos have won the WCC tournament three times (1992, 1998, 2005)
* SCU has also been the runner-up four times (1993, 2002, 2003, 2006)
* SCU hosted the WCC's 10 times in 17 years prior to the event moving to Las Vegas in 2009
* SCU won the first-ever WCC tournament title in 1992 and hosted the first 5 (1992 through 1996)
* En route to their 1998 tournament title, SCU's average victory margin was 17.6
* The Broncos broke 15 WCC tournament team and individual records in 2005
* Caroline Grueling '02 set the tournament scoring record of 34 vs. SMC in 2002- she made a tourney record 8 threes in that game
* Becki Ashbaugh '02 had a tournament record 10 assists vs. USF in 2000
* SCU has won at least once in each of the past three years, making the semifinals in 2010
* SCU is the only No. 8 seed to have advanced into the semifinals (2010)
* Lena Gipson '11 totaled 16 rebounds vs. Portland in 2011, one shy of a tournament record

RECENT WCC TOURNAMENT RESULTS
2010-11
ROUND 1: #5 SCU 52, #8 USF 48 - Alyssa Shoji scored a season-high 18 points and made 5 threes
QUARTERFINALS:  #4 PORTLAND 54, #5 SCU 64 - Portland avenged a 22-point regular season loss to advance; ReZina Teclemariam scored a career-high 28 points for the Pilots
2009-10
ROUND 1: #8 SCU 68, #5 USD 67 - Senior Maggie Goldenberger made a buzzer-beating jumper to lift SCU to a dramatic win, sparking run into the semis
QUARTERFINALS: #8 SCU 74, #5 PORTLAND 61 -
Lena Gipson had 23 points and 15 rebounds as the Broncos rallied from a halftime deficit to out-score UP 43-25 in the second half
SEMIFINALS: #1 GONZAGA 87, #8 SCU 57 -
GU forced Santa Clara into 32 turnovers; SCU had become the only No. 8 seed to advance into the semis
2008-09

ROUND 1: #8 SCU 82, #5 SMC 55 - Santa Clara shocked rival SMC behind Lena Gipson's 19 points and a 46-19 edge in the second half
QUARTERFINALS: #4 LMU 71, #8 SCU 60 - Renahy Young had a game-high 23 points for LMU

LEAGUE-BEST THREE HONORED ON ALL-ACADEMIC TEAM
Honoring excellence in the classroom and on the court, Santa Clara University placed a league-best three student-athletes on the 2012 West Coast Conference Women's Basketball All-Academic Team.

Junior Ashley Armstrong (3.86 Anthropology)
Junior Meagan Fulps (3.63 GPA - Communication)
Sophomore Ricki Radanovich (3.34 Accounting)

Santa Clara women's basketball owns a collective GPA of 3.1 as a team, a point of emphasis for the Broncos since head coach Jennifer Mountain took over the program in 2008. In fact, 10 of the team's 16 players post GPA's above a 3.0. Junior Ruta Zurauskyte (3.52 GPA - Finance) was an honorable mention.

FACING TOP TEAMS

Santa Clara has played five teams ranked or listed among the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Top 25 this season. WCC members Gonzaga and BYU; and non-conference opponents who have all received votes: Cal, Princeton, and Fresno State.

ALYSSA SHOJI LEADS NCAA IN 3s
From Jan. 3 through Jan. 15, Alyssa Shoji, Santa Clara University's women's basketball point guard, led all NCAA Division I players in three-point shooting. The senior from Bellevue, Wash. averaged 3.9 makes per game at the time, ranking No. 1 nationally in the NCAA and her shooting percentage came in at No. 1 as well.

BRONCOS 96 POINTS NEARLY SETS ROAD SCORING RECORD

Santa Clara's 96 points in its 20-point win over Sacramento State Dec. 22 was a season-high and most since Dec. 28, 2005. The point-total was also the second-highest on the road in school history, approaching the all-time road scoring record of 99 set in 1991 at Portland. The 96 points was the seventh-most in school history overall.

BEST START IN OVER 10 YEARS

Fourth-year Santa Clara head coach Jennifer Mountain and her Broncos got off to a 6-1 start this season, the program's best since SCU went 9-0 to open the 1999-2000 campaign. The team scored over 80 points per game during that stretch, which ranked among the NCAA's leading offenses. Five of those wins came on their home floor at Santa Clara's Leavey Center.

CAPITALIZING ON HOME SCHEDULE
A year ago, SCU posted a winning record against WCC teams on its home floor and tied for fourth in the league standings. That momentum carried over into the new season, with the Broncos winning all five of their early-season home games. Wins against CSU Bakersfield (Nov. 11), Northern Colorado (Nov. 16), Southern Utah (Nov. 18), Long Beach State (Nov. 21) and UC Davis (Nov. 28) at the Leavey Center had SCU off to a perfect 5-0 start at home and a 6-1 overall record.

FULPS MAKES 17 FREE THROWS - SETS ALL-TIME RECORD
Junior guard Meagan Fulps established a new SCU school record by making 17 of 20 free throws in the Broncos' season-opening victory over CSU Bakersfield (Nov. 11). The 17 makes was a new record, breaking the previous mark of 15 set by SCU legends Melissa King '93 and Christine Silvernail '94.

ESPN RANKS SCU RECRUITS AMONG BEST
The Bronco program is welcoming in one of the nation's top recruiting classes, according to ESPN.com., who ranked the class No. 56 nationally. The class includes guards Nici Gilday and Tyler Woods along with frontcourt players Vanessa Leo (sister of current SCU teammate Lindsay Leo) and Colleen Rooney.

SCU'S RUTA ZURAUSKYTE NAMED NATIONAL PLAYER OF WEEK

Following a 33-point, 13-rebound performance at UC Irvine (Dec. 3) and a 17-point effort in a victory at Cal State Northridge (Dec. 1), Santa Clara University junior Ruta Zurauskyte was named Jesuit Basketball's National Player of the Week. Zurauskyte posted four double-doubles this season and her 33 points vs. UC Irvine tied for the seventh-best single-game scoring night in Santa Clara history.

BRONCOS INK WASHINGTON'S KATIE HAWKINS TO NLI
Santa Clara University has received a National Letter of Intent from Katie Hawkins, a 5-foot-10 guard from Snohomish, Wash. and senior at Glacier Peak High School. Hawkins can really distribute the basketball, dishing out 4.2 assists per game last season, while averaging 12.5 points. ESPN.com writes 'Uncommon size and skill-set combination makes Hawkins not only a big point guard, but a player who can handle the other perimeter positions and provide a low-post element to each. At the point, she can make all the passes, including putting the ball on a laser from 3/4 court.' Hawkins was a First Team 3A All-WesCo league honoree last season. She led Glacier Peak to a 15-11 overall record and an appearance in the 2011 Washington State tournament at the Tacoma Dome. As a sophomore, Hawkins stepped up and was instrumental to the Grizzlies run in the district playoffs.

CREATING A CULTURE OF ACADEMIC SUCCESS

Santa Clara's work ethic on the basketball court has translated into success in the classroom. With a team GPA of 3.1, head coach Jennifer Mountain's emphasis on academic prowess continues to pay off, facilitating a culture that has allowed 10 of the team's 16 players to post GPA's above a 3.0. An array of majors, including Business, Biology, Engineering and Anthropology, make up a wide range of areas that comprise the team's academic pursuits.

"That's something we look for when we're recruiting," said Mountain, who is in her fourth season at Santa Clara. "The kids that are excelling in the classroom generally are the kids that excel for me on the floor. I've been very blessed. I don't have to worry about them going to class, and worry about eligibility issues or anything like that."

"There is no doubt that the team's impressive GPA is directly correlated to the emphasis Coach Mountain places on academics," said Santa Clara Academic Support Manager Jason Stock. "I have enjoyed working with Coach Mountain for the last four years because I know that the well-being of the girls as people and as students is always of the utmost importance. It all starts with recruiting. The entire women's basketball coaching staff does an excellent job of recruiting young women who will represent Santa Clara well both on and off the court." 

SCU'S LENA GIPSON SIGNS PRO CONTRACT

Record-setting SCU women's basketball alumna Lena Gipson '11 has signed a contract to play professionally in the Southern European island country of Malta. Gipson will be playing for Hibernians Medsea and former men's Italian National Team Head Coach Bruno Di Pietrantonio.

"My time at Santa Clara, as well as at the other universities that I've played at, and believing through injury, has reaffirmed the thought that through hard work and determination anything is possible," said Gipson. "Do not be discouraged, do not let yourself be deterred; if you set your mind to it you can achieve goals that you had never thought possible."

Gipson had been told that she wouldn't even be able to play recreational basketball after a major knee injury during her senior year of high school at San Joaquin Memorial near her hometown of Hanford, Calif.

STRONG FINISH TO THE 2010-11 SEASON

The Santa Clara women's basketball team climbed up the league standings in 2010-11, finishing in a tie for fourth after winning 4 of 7 WCC games at home and winning 11 games overall. Jen Mountain's team closed out the season with a 9-9 record in their last 18 games, including winning back-to-back WCC games twice and beating rival USF at the WCC tournament in March.