SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Looking to get things going on the road, Santa Clara women's basketball heads to Northridge, Calif. for the Radisson Hotel Chatsworth Thanksgiving Basketball Classic. The Broncos will play the host Matadors Fri., Nov. 29 at 7:30 p.m. The second game will depend on the outcomes of the first day but Santa Clara will face either Hampton or Utah State. Last week the Broncos picked up their first win of the season with a 67-57 win vs. San Francisco State before dropping a close 67-62 game vs. UC Santa Barbara.
"Back-to-back games are always hard," said Santa Clara head coach Jennifer Mountain. "We have to do a good job of making sure we get a lot of sleep and a lot of rest. We can't go too hard this week and have to prepare ourselves for the quick turnaround. It's going to be less than 24 hours regardless of what game we play Saturday. That's where the role players are going to have to step in and maybe have a bigger role in that second game."
Santa Clara is averaging 74.4 points per game while shooting 42.6% (136-319) from the floor and 27.4% (23-84) from three. The Broncos have outrebounded opponents 240-200 and have not been outrebounded in a game yet this season. They have also dished out an impressive 18.6 assists per game while leading at halftime of each game.
"Our team defense is a lot better now," said Mountain. "The concept of help has resonated with the team. We're containing the ball a little bit better as well. Our rotation is still a little bit slow at times which is hurting us. We're seeing improvements but we need to finish plays on both ends of the floor."
Nici Gilday leads Santa Clara with 14.8 ppg on 39.0% (30-77) shooting from the field while adding 3.8 rebounds per game. Gilday is averaging 1.2 steals per game and 2.8 apg. Freshman Jo Paine is scoring 11.4 ppg and grabbing 5.8 rpg. Of players with at least one attempt per team game, Paine leads Santa Clara with a 73.3% (11-15) mark from the charity stripe. Vanessa Leo averages 10.8 ppg and a team-best 8.8 rpg. She is shooting 51.2 (21-41) from the field and is tied for the team lead with four blocks. Montana Walters is tops on the team with 4.3 apg and eight three pointers made. She is scoring 8.0 ppg and chipping in 2.8 rpg. Marie Bertholdt has started the last two games and is averaging 9.0 ppg and 5.4 rpg. Bertholdt leads the team in shooting percentage with a 72.2% (13-18) mark.
"We're starting three freshmen, a sophomore who hasn't played a lot and a junior who is in a new role this year," said Mountain. "Our inexperience has reared its head at times and it's cost us some possessions. But these players are competing in every single game and we're learning from our mistakes. I love the future and what it will bring but we need to gel a little bit better right now and have a little more urgency at times."
It's not just the starters and freshmen that are playing a key role, however. The returning players are providing valuable minutes off the bench for the Broncos.
"Our returners are coming in and providing good minutes," continued Mountain. "We're going to need everyone to come in and contribute in their roles. I'm hoping this weekend we can practice a few days and put a collective group effort out there the next weekend."
Santa Clara is 7-2 all-time vs. CSU Northridge with the last meeting coming last season in Santa Clara. The Broncos dropped a close game 70-67. The last meeting in Northridge was in 2011-12 when Santa Clara came away with a 90-72 win.
Northridge enters the week with a 2-3 record, picking up wins at Clemson and at Georgia Southern. The Matadors played their first home game last week and fell to BYU 82-66. They are averaging 69.4 ppg on 38.1% (128-336) shooting from the field and 30.9% (34-110) from deep. Northridge averages 45.8 rpg and 15.2 apg.
"Lister is a scorer that can shoot the three and get to the rim a little bit with that scorer's mentality," said Mountain. "Both her and Guay are looking to push tempo a little bit and create on their own. They're just good players. If we do a good job on those two then I think we have a good chance to win the game."
Cinnamon Lister leads Northridge with 17.2 ppg on 36.0% (32-89) shooting from the field. She I 32.6% (14-43) from deep and leads the team with 3.8 apg. She has averaged 1.8 spg and 2.0 rpg. Ashlee Guay scores 16.2 ppg on a team-best 53.2% (33-62) shooting. She also leads the team from deep, shooting 41.2% (7-17). She averages 5.0 rpg and 3.4 apg. Mikayla Thielges leads the Matadors with 9.2 rpg while scoring 4.2 ppg.
Santa Clara and Hampton have never played.
Hampton is 3-1 on the season with opening weekend wins vs. Saint Peter's and Southern Miss. Last week the Pirates fell on the road to LSU before beating Texas State. They average 66.0 ppg and 45.8 rpg while shooting 37.9% (94-248) from the field.
The offense is led by a trio of triple-digit scorers in Malia Tate-DeFreitas, Alyssa Bennett and Nicole Hamilton. Tate-DeFreitas leads the team with 18.0 ppg on 33.8% (24-71) shooting. She is grabbing 6.3 rpg and dishing out 1.8 apg. Bennett scores 16.8 ppg on a team-best 52.9% (27-51) shooting from the field. She is second on the team with 6.8 rpg and is tied for the team lead with 1.2 bpg. Hamilton scores 14.3 ppg on 40.8% (20-49) shooting with 6.5 rpg and a team-high 3.5 apg. Brielle Ward is tops on the Matadors with 7.3 rpg while adding 2.3 ppg.
Santa Clara is 2-0 all time vs. Utah State with the last meeting coming in 1984-85. The broncos beat the Aggies 70-47 at the Boise State Tournament. The two teams met the previous season at the UC Irvine Christmas Tournament with the Broncos winning 68-66.
Utah State enters the tournament with a perfect 4-0 record. The team topped WCC member LMU 100-58 while also picking two wins last week over Utah and Idaho State. The Aggies average 89.5 ppg on 45.3% (124-274) shooting from the field and 36.7% (29-79) from downtown. They also average 50.0 rpg and 6.0 bpg.
Jennifer Schlott leads the team with 24.3 ppg on 44.3% (31-70) shooting. Schlott adds 4.5 rpg, a team-high 5.3 apg and is shooting 30-36% (30-36) from the charity stripe. Makenlee Williams isn't far behind, averaging 23.8 ppg with a team-best 61.7% (37-60) shooting percentage. Williams shoots 47.1% (8-17) and an amazing 92.9% (13-14) from the free throw line. Ingrida Strikas leads the Aggies with 7.8 rpg and is third in scoring at 9.5 ppg while shooting 48.3% (14-29) from the field.