RENO, Nev. – Six-foot-four-inch center Ruta Zurauskyte scored 22 points and pulled down a career-high 16 rebounds and junior classmate Ricki Radanovich connected on seven 3s to give Santa Clara University women's basketball team an 82-71 victory over Cleveland State University.
Santa Clara (3-3) evens its season record, out-scoring Cleveland State (1-4) 8-2 in the final 2:24, sparked by Radanovich's seventh triple of the afternoon – a new career high for the off-guard from Diablo, Calif.
Radanovich finished with 21 points on 7 of 15 shooting from long range. Her seven three-pointers was two shy of the SCU school record.
"I thought it was a complete team effort," said Santa Clara's fifth-year head coach Jennifer Mountain. "Ricki hit some big shots for us, which set the tone on the outside, and Ruta did an absolutely wonderful job finishing around the basket. The combination did not let (CSU) focus on one or the other."
The consolation game of the University of Nevada's John Ascuaga's Nugget Classic in Reno was tight throughout, especially in the first half. SCU led 7-2 in the early going but it quickly became a one-possession game, and remained that way until Cleveland State took its only substantial lead on the day, 35-30, on Kalie Montgomery's bucket with 5:32 left in the first half.
Santa Clara shot the ball well, making 30 of 55 shots (54.5 percent), which included seven 3s in the opening half. Radanovich, Meagan Fulps and Nici Gilday each made triples just prior to the intermission. When Fulps made one of her three long balls with 2:13 remaining in the first half, SCU took the lead for good at 39-36.
The Broncos went into the locker room at halftime leading 44-38. Fulps scored 13 on 4 of 7 shooting and Gilday distributed seven assists to go along with her 11 points. Gilday's seven dimes was a career-high. The sophomore from San Jose's Presentation High School passed out six earlier this year against then-No. 4 Stanford.
"Nici is one of those players that is sometimes silent but deadly," said Mountain. "You look at the stat line and it may not jump out at you, but in that second half she was a major factor, getting to the basket, doing the little things and she is always a presence on defense. I am really proud of how she is playing."
Shalonda Winton – who matched a career-best by scoring 31 points for Cleveland State in their 86-79 loss to Nevada on Friday – pulled CSU within two at 46-44 just after the break, at the 17:51 mark. Winton led all scorers with 23 points.
Leading by just two early in the second half, Santa Clara surged ahead thanks to baskets from Ashley Armstrong, Zurauskyte and Rachel Avila to establish an eight-point edge, 54-46 with 15:16 to play.
Back-to-back field goals from Zurauskyte pushed the SCU lead into double digits, at 61-49. Zurauskyte continued her excellent start to her redshirt junior season, going 9 of 12 from the floor and making 4 of 5 from the free throw line.
With the game going down to the wire and Winton slicing CSU's deficit down to three, 66-63 at the 5:11 mark, on consecutive possessions for the Broncos, Radanovich buried a three and Gilday knocked down a jumper to keep SCU up six.
When Kiersten Green made one of two free throws with 2:43 left, CSU was down just two, 71-69. The Broncos then reeled off the 8-2 run to close out the game, with Radanovich, Lindsay Leo and Gilday accounting for the decisive points down the stretch.
"The thing about Ricki (and her performance), it was not just her shooting," said Mountain about Radanovich's play. "She was a leader on the floor, she took charge and competed, played well on defense … really the complete package from Ricki this weekend."
Santa Clara will look to improve on its 3-3 record (2-1 at home) when Cal State Northridge visits the Leavey Center on Thursday, Nov. 29 at 7 p.m.
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