Women's Basketball Takes Final Game of Southern California Swing 69-65 Over LMU

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – In the final game of a three-game conference-opening week, Santa Clara women's basketball topped LMU by a final of 69-65. The win puts the Broncos at 6-8 overall and 2-1 in WCC action while the Lions are now 3-12 overall and 0-4 in conference play.

Santa Clara returns to the floor Thurs., Jan. 9 at 7 p.m. vs. Saint Mary's at the Leavey Center.

"From the beginning of the game I thought Nici was really focused and aggressive," said Santa Clara head coach Jennifer Mountain. "She took it to the rim, hit jumpers, and made huge free throws down the stretch. Today was a team effort and they did a good job taking Ruta out of the game but our guards did a good job picking up the slack. Rocky did a great job of handling pressure. Now we have a full week to prepare for our two games next week."

Santa Clara shot 37.7% (20-53) from the field and 36.4% (4-11) from three. The Broncos had 36 rebounds, eight assists, 15 turnovers, six blocks, and two steals. Nici Gilday led the offense with a career-high 34 points on 10-20 shooting. Gilday also went a career-best 13-13 from the free throw line. Raquel Avila had a career-high 15 points on 6-10 shooting from the floor and added five assists. Bertholdt grabbed 10 boards for the second straight game while scoring eight points.

LMU shot 41.2% (28-68) from the field and 18.8% (3-16) from three. The Lions had 38 rebounds, 14 assists, 14 turnovers, seven blocks, and nine steals. Deanna Johnson led the offense with 19 points on 9-16 shooting with a team-high six assists. Taylor Anderson scored 13 points with four boards while Leslie Lopez-Wood scored 12 points and four steals. Mackenzie Kerins pulled down a game-high 12 boards with six points.

Santa Clara scored the first five points of the game, three coming on a perfect trip to the charity stripe by Gilday after she was fouled attempting a shot from three. Sophie Taylor of LMU scored the first bucket for the Lions at 17:04 to make it a 5-2 game.

The Broncos went on a 6-0 run over 1:47 to make the lead 11-2 at 14:09. LMU was 0-4 from the floor during the Santa Clara spurt. Lopez-Wood ended the run with a nice up and under layup at 12:50.

Santa Clara's lead continued to grow and the Broncos pushed the score to 16-4 on a three from Avila and a jumper by Gilday. The Lions answered with a bucket but Gilday hit two more free throws to get the lead back to 12.

Gilday scored six straight Santa Clara points but Deanna Johnson converted an and-one at 8:20 to make it 20-9. Katie Hawkins answered on the other end with a wide-open three.

The lead got to single digits at 23-14 on a deep three from Hazel Ramirez with just over six minutes left in the half. Gilday continued her hot shooting with a jumper off an in-bounds pass to get the lead back up to 11 points.

A three by Lopez-Wood with 54 seconds left in the half cut the Bronco lead to seven at 31-24. Santa Clara turned it over on an in bounds pass but got the ball back for the final shot of the first half. The Broncos couldn't convert and the halftime score was 31-24. 

Santa Clara shot 35.5% (11-31) from the field and 28.6% (2-7) from three in the first half. The Broncos had 18 rebounds, six assists, six turnovers, two blocks, and one steal. Nici Gilday led the offense with 17 points on 6-12 shooting from the field and 5-5 from the free throw line. Avila scored seven points with three assists while Marie Bertholdt scored four points with five boards.

LMU shot 31.3% (10-32) from the field and 22.2% (2-9) from three in the first half. The Lions had 23 rebounds, four assists, 10 turnovers, four blocks, and four steals. Johnson and Lopez Wood led the offense with five points each. Kerins led the team with eight rebounds while scoring two points.

LMU got within three on a jumper by Taylor at 17:41 but Gilday answered with a transition three on the other end to make it 36-30. Johnson scored four consecutive points for LMU to get the Lions within two at the 15:46 mark.

The teams went back and forth with the Santa Clara lead ranging from two to six points over the next seven minutes. LMU took the lead on a corner three from Lopez-Wood at the 7:57 mark but Avila answered with a three of her own to get Santa Clara back on top 51-49.

Following the under-eight media timeout, Kerins tied the game again with a baseline jumper. Gilday answered yet again with a turn around jumper to give her a new career high with 26 points.

With the lead at one, Gilday made a pair of free throws and Avila knocked down one of her own to make it a two-possession game. The Broncos came up with a stop and held possession with 43 seconds left and the score 61-57.

Vanessa Leo came up with a huge block on the next LMU possession and Gilday was fouled with 25.7 left. She hit both to make it a 63-57 game but Johnson went right to the lane and hit a jumper. The Lions called timeout to set up their full-court press with 21.1 seconds on the clock.

The Broncos hit their free throws down the stretch to close out the win on the road.

Game Notes: Nici Gilday scored more than half of the Bronco points in the first half and had just seven less than the entire LMU team. … Ruta Zurauskyte scored 28 points at Pepperdine but didn't score until she hit two free throws with 18:59 left in the second half but didn't make a field goal. … Jo Paine also scored 28 at Pepperdine but didn't score. … Raquel Avila had a free throw taken off the board when it was ruled she went over the line on her attempt.