By, Kimberly Veale
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Meagan Fulps and Ruta Zurauskyte led the Santa Clara University women's basketball team to a 80-67 win over Utah Valley University Saturday afternoon at the Leavey Center.
Fulps had a record day for Santa Clara (2-1), reaching the 1,000 point plateau for her career, making her the 21st Bronco to accomplish the feat. Her deep three with 15:12 in the first half gave the Broncos a 10-6 lead, one that they never relinquished. She ended the afternoon with 15 points, bringing her career total to 1,014.
"It feels good to accomplish something like that. Of course it's more about our team win today. It wasn't pretty at times but we were able to get it done," said Fulps.
"She's doing more than just scoring for us," said SCU head coach Jennifer Mountain. "She's our senior captain, she is our senior leader, she is our point guard. She's been a great leader so I am very proud of her."
Fulps' teammate Zurauskyte was full of praise as well. "She's such a great leader on the court and off the court. She runs our team and distributes the ball well. It's so much fun to play with her."
Zurauskyte opened the second half by scoring the first eight points for the Broncos. She led the team on an 8-0 run in the first five minutes of the second half, single-handedly doubling the Broncos' lead, 48-34. Zurauskyte finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds, tying her career high.
The opening minutes of the game saw the Broncos trading baskets with the Wolverines in a frantic, up-tempo pace.
"We want to run, and [Utah Valley] likes to get up and down as well," said Mountain. "I thought we didn't make as good of decisions as we have in past games, but the team we face on Tuesday [University of the Pacific] is up-tempo so we will be ready for it."
Utah Valley (1-3) led 6-5 with 15:49 left in the first half, the only lead the Wolverines would have in the contest. Santa Clara went on a 20-6 run in over the next five minutes, pulling ahead 25-12 with 10:03 left in the half. They would finish the half down 40-34.
Ashley Armstrong played vital minutes for the Broncos, providing a spark off the bench. She collected a charge and eight rebounds - four of which came off the offensive glass - along with 13 points in 22 minutes of action. Her three-ball with 13:22 left in the second gave the Broncos a 55-38 lead.
"Ashley came in and did a great job for us," said Mountain. "She did the little things, getting points off put-backs. With size like Ruta underneath, they look to double-team and she capitalizes off of that."
Fulps recognized the contributions of Armstrong as well, adding, "Her minutes are huge. The sixth man slot is so important. She is doing the little things which in turn become big things. Her boards all of a sudden add up to a lot and she came in and took that charge – it was a huge momentum builder."
"Ruta came out [in the second half] a little more intense and was looking for her shot more," said Mountain. "She had 11 offensive boards. Anytime you're getting 11 offensive boards good things are going to happen for you."
Santa Clara's three starting guards (Fulps, Ricki Radanovich and Nici Gilday) all drained one three-pointer or more by the 13:51 mark in the first half. In all, five Broncos knocked down shots behind the arc. Gilday was 3-3 on the day from downtown. Radanovich matched a career-high with 7 assists.
Utah Valley was paced by senior forward Kaycee Mansfield. She had 14 of Utah Valley's first half points, helping the Wolverines trail by just six at halftime, 40-34. Mansfield ended the day with 23 points and Sammie Jensen added a team-high 11 rebounds.
This was the first meeting between Santa Clara and Utah Valley. The Wolverines are coming off an 81-72 loss at San Jose State. Utah Valley is set to join the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) next year.
Santa Clara hits the road to take on University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif. Tuesday Nov 20th. They return to the Leavey Center on Nov. 29 against CSU Northridge at 7pm.