Santa Clara Women Surge Past USF, Winning 59-51

( photo)
( photo)

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – Santa Clara found an offensive rhythm in the second half, reeling off a 17-3 run to break open a close game and beat local rival San Francisco 59-51 at War Memorial Gym on Saturday.

Alyssa Shoji made three triples during Santa Clara's second-half surge and was one of four Broncos to reach double-figures in scoring. Shoji, Lindsay Leo and Ricki Radanovich each had 12 points while Ashley Armstrong added 10.

"I thought it was a collective team effort. We had a little bit of foul trouble in the first half and responded with good energy in the second half and began to shoot the ball much better," said Santa Clara head coach Jennifer Mountain. "I'm proud of the kids because we really needed that one."

Santa Clara (9-14; 2-8 WCC) bounced back from a tough loss Thursday at USD, a game that got away from them late in the second half. The Broncos will host a pair of West Coast Conference games next week at the Leavey Center, beginning with LMU on Thursday night.

San Francisco (4-20; 2-9 WCC) received a game-high 15 points from senior guard Rheina Ale, who had 11 of those points in the first half. Her buzzer-beating jumper put the Dons up 26-25 at halftime.

Neither team shot the ball particularly well in the early going (combining to go 5 for 18 from three-point range in the first half) but Santa Clara went inside to find its offense, with layups from Meagan Fulps and Armstrong putting SCU in front 23-20.

But SCU missed 4 of their last 5 shots before the break and Ale's jumper gave USF a one-point lead at the intermission.

Santa Clara is one of the NCAA's best 3-point shooting teams, and its perimeter game started to get going in the second half. Both Armstrong and Radanovich connected on long 3s to push the Broncos ahead 33-30 with 15:30 left.

An 11-0 Bronco run began moments later, highlighted by a deep trey from Alyssa Shoji, who also made a midcourt steal and dish to Armstrong, igniting the Bronco bench and the SCU fans who made the short trip into the city.

Freshmen Nici Gilday and Tyler Woods also scored during Santa Clara's decisive run in the second half. When Shoji made her third three-pointer, the Bronco lead had swelled to 15 at 52-37 with 6:55 to play.

"I thought our defensive pressure was better in the second half," said Mountain. "We switched the on-ball screens and did not allow (USF) very good shots. Ashley's offensive presence really helped and we got the ball inside and those touches opened up the outside for Alyssa to knock down some big shots."

At the 2-minute mark, Mel Khlok made a long 3 to pull USF back within 10 and then hit another on the Dons next possession to make it a seven-point game in the closing moments.

It was the first meeting of the year between SCU and USF; the two longtime rivals will play again Saturday, Feb. 25 at the Leavey Center … Broncos head coach Jennifer Mountain improves to 6-2 all-time against the Dons … both home games next week will be special events at the Leavey Center - Thursday vs. LMU is BLACK OUT NIGHT and Saturday's game with St. Mary's is the program's Alumni Day and Play 4Kay, where fans are encouraged to wear pink to support breast cancer awareness.