SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Looking to build on some early wins, Santa Clara women's basketball will travel to Long Beach State to take on the 49ers on Sun., Dec. 9 at 2 p.m. Santa Clara is on Winter Break after finishing finals on Friday. The Broncos are coming off a 70-67 loss vs. CSU Northridge and enter the game with a record of 3-4 while Long Beach State sits at 4-3, fresh off a 71-61 win over Arizona on Dec. 2.
Last season Santa Clara beat Long Beach State on November 22 to move to 3-0 in the all-time series. The Broncos were down by 16 during that game but came away with a 73-63 victory. While it was a big win for the team, they know this is a new year and a different team they will be facing.
"It was a great win for us last year and probably put a little bit of a chip on their shoulder," said Santa Clara head coach Jennifer Mountain. "I thought we did a great job then but this is a different ball team and we just need to do what we do consistently and efficiently for the 40 minutes and I think we have a great chance to win the game."
Playing on the road adds an extra challenge to any game but Mountain is confident that if the Broncos play their game, they can come away with a win.
"You have to go in and take care of the ball," said Mountain. "You have to make sure you don't turn the ball over on the road and take high percentage shots. Defensively and on the boards will be a big factor in the outcome. Defensively, we have to get stops. It has to be an attitude that we have for 40 minutes and can't be off and on. I thought we showed in the later part of our game vs. Northridge that we can pick the pressure up defensively but we have to sustain that for longer periods of time and I think we'll be in good shape."
The Broncos have taken down UC Irvine and Utah Valley at home this season while also beating Cleveland State at John Ascuaga's Nugget Classic in Reno, Nev. In a match-up with No. 1 Stanford, the Broncos were able to put up 57 points but fell to the Cardinal.
The Broncos are second in the West Coast Conference with a .433 shooting percentage (168-388) while leading with a .381 shooting percentage from beyond the arc. Their three point shooting percentage puts them at 18th in the country. They are also pacing the conference in threes made per game with 6.9 while they are just one behind the leader in total threes made with 48.
On the offensive end Meagan Fulps leads the team with 14.6 points per game, good for sixth in the WCC, and is shooting an impressive 46% from three (20-43) which is 25th nationally. Ruta Zurauskyte is second on the team with 11.0 points per game and leads with the Broncos with 7.7 rebounds per game, which is fifth in the conference and she is tied for second with 3.0 offensive rebounds. Zurauskyte ranks third in conference with a .534 shooting percentage. Ricki Radonovich has played the most minutes for Santa Clara (215) and has scored 9.9 points per game while also leading the team with 18 steals. Lindsay Leo is second on the team in rebounds, pulling down 5.7 per contest and has scored 8.3 points per game. She is perfect from the free throw line (12-12) which leads the conference and averages the third most blocks per game in the WCC at 1.3. Nici Gilday leads the WCC in three point shooting percentage with a .538 mark (7-13) while Fulps is tops with 2.9 threes per game and Radonovich is third with 2.3.
The 49ers season has included wins over Sacramento State, Washington and Arizona, all at home, and a win at Utah Valley. Against Utah Valley, Long Beach State was down by as many as 22 points but came back to win by a final of 77-69 thanks to outscoring Utah Valley 48-21 in the second half. It was the same story vs. Arizona as the 49ers trailed by as many as 14 before controlling the second half to take down the Wildcats. Long Beach State also took on No. 1 Stanford on the road and fell 77-41.
Long Beach State's Alex Sanchez leads the 49ers in minutes per game (29.7), three point percentage (.400), free throw percentage (.848), rebounds per game (6.4), assists per game (4.7) and points per game (14.3). Long Beach State has seven players averaging at least 20 minutes per game and two more averaging over 16. The 49ers also have seven players averaging more than five points per game. Chantel Dooley is second on the roster with 8.1 points per game and leads the way with 17 steals. Her 2.3 assists per game are second to Sanchez. Devin Hudson places second on the team with 5.4 rebounds per game despite averaging just over 16 minutes played. She is also tops on the team with a .478 field goal percentage.
With so much depth and the ability to keep players fresh, Mountain knows that the roster depth she has built with the Broncos will come into play.
"Luckily we have a lot of depth as well and I feel like we have the depth to compete with theirs," said Mountain. "I think it's really going to come down to the defensive pressure and intensity throughout the game. I think our inside play is going to be a big key not only production wise, but also on the boards. They're playing pretty well right now having just beaten Arizona and playing in the Pyramid is something our kids haven't had a chance to do yet."
As for stopping Sanchez, the Broncos know it will be a challenge, but one they are up for.
"She's kind of their engine that makes them go and she's doing a little bit of everything so it's not like you can take one thing away," said Mountain. "She's a solid player for them that plays the point a little and the off guard. We've got to make her take tough shots and not allow her to get to the paint. She's been pretty consistent for them and we have to make sure we put our best defender on her and if we're in zone we have to know where she is."