SANTA CLARA, Calif. – In the final weekend of non-conference action, Santa Clara women's basketball hosts two games at the Leavey Center this week. On Wed., Dec. 18 the Broncos face UC Davis at 5:30 p.m. and on Fri., Dec. 20 they play Georgia State at 7 p.m. Santa Clara is 3-6 this season and is coming off a 64-61 win at Utah Valley. Friday will be a Barefoot Coaching game to bring in shoe donations for those in need.
"The biggest improvement we've made this season has been on the defensive end," said Santa Clara head coach Jennifer Mountain. "We're doing a much better job of understanding where we need to be. Sometimes we don't have that intensity, but that's something we've addressed. Right now we're in a position where we've been improving every game. We're also healthy which is a huge plus heading into conference. It will give us a chance to start off conference play on a good note."
Santa Clara is averaging 66.6 points per game and is shooting 40.9% (217-530) from the field. The Broncos are shooting 25.2% (37-147) from deep and 72.3% (128-177) from the free throw line. They are averaging 42.6 rebounds per game, 16.4 assists per game, 21.2 turnovers per game, 6.6 steals per game and 1.9 blocks per game.
Nici Gilday leads the Broncos with 13.0 ppg on 37.4% (46-123) shooting from the field. Gilday adds 4.0 rpg, 2.8 apg and 1.9 spg while playing a team-high 31.3 minutes per game. Vanessa Leo leads the team with 8.0 rpg while scoring 8.7 ppg on 48.4% (30-62) shooting. Leo is second on the team with six blocks. Ruta Zurauskyte has seen action in all nine games and is averaging 7.0 ppg and 2.9 rpg while shooting a team-best 62.8% (27-43) from the floor.
"Rocky has come in and done a nice job for us lately and Ruta has really progressed in the last month," said Mountain. "Ruta's fitness level has increased which raises the level of her game. Offensively and defensively she's so much better at clogging up the middle and being a huge threat on the offensive end. There are going to be a lot of people that are crucial in playing important minutes for us going forward."
Of the 45 starts for Santa Clara in 2013, 22 have been made by true freshmen. Jo Paine from Oregon City, Ore., Montana Walters, also from Oregon City, Ore. and Marie Bertholdt of Alameda, Calif. have started nine, seven, and six games, respectively.
Paine has started all nine games and is second on the team with 10.0 ppg while adding 4.3 rpg. Paine is shooting 47.8% (33-69) from the floor and is second with nine threes made.
Walters had started eight games and leads the team with 3.3 apg while scoring 6.4 ppg. Walters leads the team with 13 three's made and is adding 2.9 rpg.
Bertholdt has started the last six games and has played in all nine. She is averaging 8.4 ppg and 5.3 rpg while shooting 61.1% (22-36) from the floor. Bertholdt also leads the team in free throws made (32) and attempted (42), good for a 76.2% mark from the charity stripe.
Santa Clara is 10-12 all-time vs. UC Davis and 6-2 at the Leavey Center. The first meeting between the two schools came in 1968-69. Last season the Broncos fell 70-59 in Davis. The last meeting at Leavey was an 81-78 Santa Clara win in 2011-12.
The Aggies enter the week with a 2-7 mark in 2013. They took down San Jose State 95-61 and Akron 71-58. Last week the Aggies lost 88-71 at Saint Mary's.
"Traditionally Davis is a unique group in that they run a lot of Princeton sets on offense," said Mountain. "Off and on this year they have also played the buzz defense which is an extended 2-3 zone that puts an emphasis on making you go a little too quickly. We've been preparing to take care of the ball and working on what we need to do to succeed."
UC Davis averages 64.3 ppg on 38.0% (194-510) shooting. The Aggies shoot 31.0% (76-245) from three and 73.2% (115-157) from the free throw line. They average 36.1 rpg, 13.9 apg, 20.2 tpg, 7.8 spg, and 1.8 bpg.
Sydnee Fipps leads the Aggies in scoring with 16.0 ppg while also adding 5.2 rpg, second on the team. Fipps shoots 39.7% (48-121) from the field and is second in threes attempted but is shooting just 21.8% (12-55) from deep. Alyson Doherty is second on the team with 11.0 ppg on a team best 51.6% (32-62) shooting percentage. Doherty also leads Davis with 5.6 rpg and 1.3 bpg. Kelsey Harris is scoring 10.4 ppg on 37.7% (29-77) shooting and leads the team in threes made and attempted with 25 and 65, respectively. Harris chips in 4.8 rpg and just under 1.0 spg.
"We've got to do a good job of defending personnel," continued Mountain. "They have a couple of players who shoot the ball really well and have a couple of players that hurt us last year. Fipps is somebody that we have to make sure we locate. It's important to make them put the ball on the floor instead of taking jump shots."
Santa Clara has never faced Georgia State.
The Panthers are 4-6 on the season and have won four out of five games after opening 0-5. The only loss in the last five games was a 70-58 loss vs. No. 22 Georgia. Last week they won 56-55 at Kent State.
Georgia State averages 65.3 ppg on 38.2% (231-604) shooting. The Panthers shoot 30.0% (54-180) from three and 71.7% (137-191) from the free throw line. They average 36.3 rpg, 11.5 apg, 17.3 tpg, 8.7 spg, and 2.1 bpg.
Kendra Long is the only player averaging double-digit points per game with 13.5 ppg on 34.1% (42-123) shooting. She leads the team in threes made (17) and attempted (64). Long adds 4.7 rpg, is second on the team with 2.9 apg and leads the team with 2.3 spg. Brittany Logan leads the Panthers with 6.8 rpg while scoring 7.8 ppg. Logan is shooting 54.8% (17-31) from the field but struggles from the line with a 45.5% (5-11) mark. Alisha Andrews is tops on the team with 4.9 apg while also scoring 7.6 ppg. Andrews shoots just 29.2% (28-96) from the floor but adds 3.2 rpg and 2.2 spg.