February 28, 2002

Women's Basketball Opens WCC Tourney with 30-Point Win

Feb. 28, 2002

Box Score| Quotes| Notes

SAN DIEGO, Calif. - Story to come. Local product Kendra Rhea led the Santa Clara University women's basketball team to a 30-point victory over host San Diego in the first round of the West Coast Conference Tournament, held tonight at the Jenny Craig Pavilion. She scored a game-high 17 points and added six rebounds in the Broncos' 82-52 victory. The win gave the Broncos their 20th of the season, marking the fifth-straight year the Broncos have reached that plateau.

The win also breaks a three-game losing streak in the JCP and a four-game road-losing streak to the Toreros. Santa Clara is now 20-8 overall, while USD finishes their season with a 13-15 mark.

Rhea, from nearby Lakeside, led five Broncos in double-digit scoring, including 13 from senior guard Caroline Gruening and 12 from her backcourt teammate, senior Becki Ashbaugh. Junior Jennifer Bradley and sophomore Jennie Rondel added 11 points.

San Diego's Erin Malich led the Toreros with 17 points while Marta Menuez added 12. Both grabbed five rebounds. The Toreros, who lead the league in three-point field goal percentage, went 0-8 in the first 30 minutes of the game and only made two in the contest.

Gruening opened up scoring immediately with a three-pointer from the top of the key, followed two possession later by Ashbaugh's own trey. Junior teammates Tammy Annas and Julie Butler registered steals off a strong Bronco defensive presence that allowed SCU to take an early lead. In fact, an Annas lay-in made it 10-2 in favor of the Broncos, forcing USD head coach Kathy Marpe to take a time out just four minutes into the game. She sparked something in her players, as the Toreros kept SCU scoreless while a Malich three-point play capped a 7-0 USD run to make it a game again.

Bradley came off the bench and scored on a lay-up and a baseline three, but Malich--who had nine of USD's first 13 points--made the game 15-13 on a post move. But Bradley was hot and made a three from the other side of the arc and finished the half with a team-high 11 points.

Defensive pressure continued, as the Broncos forced the Toreros into using the entire 30-second shot clock on most possessions and even causing two violations by the half. A fall-away five footer from Rhea gave SCU a 20-15 lead with just eight minutes left. At the 5:30 mark, a Gruening three from the left wing made it a 10-point ball game.

But USD would not go away, and held SCU at 27 points on the scoreboard while shrinking the Bronco advantage by half. Butler couldn't convert on a three-point play, but ended the Broncos' three-minute scoring drought. SCU foul trouble kept San Diego in the game, as the Toreros went 7-9 from the charity stripe in the first half. Bradley nailed her third three of the period with 38 seconds remaining and a defensive stop ended the first half with the Broncos holding their biggest lead at the JCP, up seven at 32-25.

Santa Clara returned the lead to 10 before San Diego reduced it again to seven. The Broncos' passing game kicked into high gear as the team opened up a huge lead. A jumper at the free throw line from Rhea made it a 20-point ball game at 63-43 while junior Courtney Cushing made a similar shot to give her squad a 30-point final margin.

The Broncos will find out their next opponent and time for Friday's contest after the conclusion of the remaining first round game, as remaining teams will be re-seeded. Top-seeded Pepperdine and fourth seed USF won the first two contests. Saint Mary's and Portland played after the Broncos' contest.