SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Alyssa Shoji scored a game-high 23 points and the host Broncos received seven second-half points from Aragon High School graduate Arteivia Lilomaiava to overcome a slow start and beat Long Beach State 73-63 Monday night.
Santa Clara (4-1) continues to enjoy its best start since 2007-08. The Broncos have won all four of their home games and look to make it five-straight when the team returns to action at home next Monday against Big West favorites UC Davis.
Long Beach State (1-3) scored the game's first 15 points. The 49ers had led by scores of 15-0, 17-1 and 19-3 before Shoji made the first field goal for the Broncos 7 minutes and 20 seconds in.
"I don't know for sure, maybe we were tentative or not in the flow of the game, but it's an adjustment that we really have to work on," said Santa Clara head coach Jennifer Mountain when asked about the team's slow start. "But we've matured as a program and these players have confidence in themselves. We wanted to keep chipping away and we did it on the defensive end quite frankly, getting stops."
After trailing by as many as 16 in the first half, Santa Clara pulled within six on Ricki Radanovich's baseline triple. Then true freshman Nici Gilday's put-back made it 23-19 and Shoji sank a 3-ball on SCU's next possession.
By the 8:08 mark of the first half it was a one-point game, 23-22.
Despite shooting just 29.4 percent from the field (3 for 16 from three-point range), the Broncos were down by just six at halftime, 34-28.
Less than two minutes after the break Radanovich tied the game for the first time, 36-36, by making the second of Santa Clara's eight 3s on the night.
Lilomaiava gave the Broncos a big boost off the bench by scoring seven of her career-high nine points in the second half. The two-time San Mateo County 'Player of the Year' converted a transition lay up at the 10:15 mark to put SCU in front 53-49.
"We were going against two post players that were really active and that is a hard matchup for Ruta (Zurauskyte) and Teivia came in with energy and athleticism, rebounding the ball for us," said Mountain about Lilomaiava's best night as a Bronco thus far. "Huge boards and put backs created some easy looks for herself and she even scored some transition buckets. I thought she was the key in the second half for us coming back."
A terrific pass from Gilday and finish by Ruta Zurauskyte sparked a decisive push by SCU, part of a 7-0 run that turned a 55-55 game into a 62-55 Bronco edge.
Another fastbreak lay up by Lilomaiava extended the SCU lead to 10, 67-57, with 3:32 left and newcomer Tyler Woods put the game out of reach with her first basket moments later.
Once Santa Clara got going, the Broncos closed out the game on a 70-44 run.
"This (season start) is huge for us," added Mountain. "I feel like the program is taking a turn for the best. We have been working hard as a (coaching) staff and the benefits are paying off, winning games we should win."
GAME NOTES: Shoji moved past Ashley Graham '07 and into third-place at SCU in 3-pointers made (209) … Shoji is on-pace to break the all-time career record of 244 set by Chandice Cronk '08 … the Broncos went 5 for 11 from beyond the arc in the second half after making just 3 of 16 prior to the intermission … Santa Clara used the same starting lineup as it has all season: G Alyssa Shoji, G Meagan Fulps, G Ricki Radanovich, F Ashley Armstrong and C Ruta Zurauskyte … the Broncos have limited their turnovers to just 14 and 15 respectively in their last two wins.