SANTA CLARA, Calif. –With non-conference play in the rearview mirror, Santa Clara women's basketball will open up play in the West Coast Conference on Thurs., Jan. 3 at Portland at 7 p.m. The Broncos will then play on Sat., Jan. 5 at 2 p.m. at reigning WCC-champ Gonzaga. Tune into www.SantaClaraBroncos.com to hear play-by-play announcer John Nash call the action for the Broncos live.
"I'm really pleased with where we're at going in to conference," said Santa Clara head coach Jennifer Mountain. "I thought a lot of people matured and grew up during our non-conference schedule. I'm really excited with how Rocky [Raquel Avila] played because it gives us a true point guard and lets us move Meagan [Fulps] to her natural two-guard spot. I also think our post players are doing well. We'd like to get one of the wins back but we lost to some teams that are playing well."
Santa Clara wrapped-up non-conference play on a three game winning streak. Last week the Broncos took down Fresno State 58-53 on Dec. 29 and UNLV 70-64 on Dec. 31 at home after coming off of a 3-1 road trip through California. The eight non-conference wins for Santa Clara are the most since 2007-08 when the team went 11-3 and finished the season 20-11 with an 8-6 mark in conference play.
Fulps leads Santa Clara with 12.7 points per game while pulling down 3.2 rebounds per game. Ruta Zurauskyte leads the team with 7.6 rpg and is third with 10.8 ppg. Zurauskyte is leading the team in field goal percentage at 51.4% (57-111). Nici Gilday has picked up her play and is scoring 6.9 ppg to go along with 4.5 rpg coming off the bench. Raquel Avila has given Santa Clara a true point guard and is scoring 3.4 ppg with 2.3 assists per game.
Lindsay Leo ranks second on the roster with 7.1 rpg and is scoring 9.6 ppg. Leo leads the team in free throw shooting at 85.7% (24-28) and blocks per game with 1.3. Leo recently moved into second place on the all-time Santa Clara blocks list with the 83rd of her career vs. Fresno State on Dec. 29. The all-time leader is Annie Garrison (1997-2001) with 207.
Ricki Radanovich is second on the team with 12.4 ppg and leads the team in threes made (34) and attempted (96). From the field Radanovich is shooting 37.3% (57-153) while also averaging 3.0 apg, 2.8 rpg and 2.8 steals per game. She had a scorching month of December to help lead Santa Clara to a 5-1 record on the month while averaging 15.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.7 apg and 3.0 spg. She scored at least 20 points twice (21, 12/12 at San Jose State and 20, 12/19 at CSU Bakersfield) and had at least 15 two other games (15, 12/16 at UC Davis and 19, 12/31 vs. UNLV). Radanovich shot 41.5% (34-82) from the field and 40.0% (18-45) from beyond the arc. She nailed at least two threes in every game except one and was 6-7 from the charity stripe on the month.
Heading into WCC play, the Broncos are hitting their stride and playing good basketball at the most important time in the season.
"We're playing pretty well right now, having won six of our last eight games," said Mountain. "The fact that we are healthy at this point is a huge key for us and we're playing some good basketball. We can do a better job of taking care of the basketball but some individuals have really stepped up for us. Ricki [Radanovich] has been great all year and we have some people coming off the bench to help us. I really think we have the depth to succeed this year."
After completing non-conference play, Portland is 5-8 with a 3-2 mark at home. As a team the Pilots shoot 37.9% (282-744) from the field and 29.3% (66-225) from three. Portland has picked up wins over Nevada 70-61, Fresno State 76-69 and Oregon 68-49 at home. Against common opponents both teams are 1-1 with losses to CSU Northridge and wins over Fresno State.
Kari Luttinen leads Portland with 13.1 ppg and is third with 4.4 rpg. She is shooting 36.6% (67-183) from the field and 27.0% (17-63) from beyond the arc. Cassandra Thompson is the only other Pilot averaging double figures with 10.2 ppg. She is second on the team with 7.3 rpg. From the field Thompson is shooting 53.8% (56-104), tops of the team. Amy Pupa is the Portland leader with 7.7 rpg while scoring 4.5 ppg and averaging 3.4 apg which is second on the team. Jasmine Wooton narrowly edges Pupa for the team-lead in apg with 3.5 and is scoring 7.2 ppg.
"The key matchups will be with Kari Luttinen at guard and Cassandra Thompson in the post," said Mountain. "Luttinen hurt us in the conference tournament last year and has a great ability to score. Both players struggled earlier in the year but they are playing well now. It's going to be a dog fight just like every conference game."
With its best non-conference showing under Mountain, she has set high goals for the team this year in conference play.
"Our goal is to finish the season in the top three in our conference," said Mountain. "It's a pretty lofty goal with Gonzaga, BYU and Saint Mary's having proven over time how good they are and San Diego is playing well this year too. If we play well we can get into the top three even with a lot of good teams in the conference."