SANTA CLARA, Calif. - In a three-game opening week of West Coast Conference action, Santa Clara women's basketball will host San Francisco on Mon., Dec. 30 at 7 p.m. before heading to Southern California. The Broncos face Pepperdine Thurs., Jan. 2 at 7 p.m. and LMU Sat., Jan. 4 at 2 p.m. Last week Santa Clara topped Georgia State 87-68 to finish non-conference play at 4-7.
"I really like where we're at heading in to conference play," said Santa Clara head coach Jennifer Mountain. "I think we've made huge progress in the last two weeks and we're playing much better. We've been taking care of the ball and just being smarter on offense and more aggressive on defense. Knowing this conference, you have to play well every single night because anyone can be beat on any given night. I'm looking forward to heading into conference play and now we just have to go out and play well."
Santa Clara is averaging 68.7 points per game and is shooting 40.7% (274-657) from the field. The Broncos are shooting 25.6% (45-176) from deep and 73.8% (163-221) from the free throw line. They are averaging 42.6 rebounds per game, 16.3 assists per game, 20.3 turnovers per game, 6.0 steals per game and 2.1 blocks per game.
Nici Gilday leads the Broncos with 14.0 ppg on 39.0% (60-154) shooting from the field. Gilday adds 3.8 rpg, 3.0 apg and 1.6 spg while playing a team-high 31.5 minutes per game. Vanessa Leo leads the team with 6.7 rpg while scoring 8.0 ppg on 42.7% (32-75) shooting. Ruta Zurauskyte has seen action in all 11 games and is averaging 8.7 ppg and 3.3 rpg while shooting 62.5% (40-64) from the floor. Zurauskyte leads the Broncos with 11 blocks.
Of the 55 starts for Santa Clara in 2013, 26 have been made by true freshmen. Jo Paine from Oregon City, Ore., Montana Walters, also from Oregon City, Ore. and Marie Bertholdt of Alameda, Calif. have started 11, eight, and seven games, respectively.
Paine has started every game and is second on the team with 9.8 ppg while adding 4.8 rpg. Paine is shooting 47.0% (39-83) from the floor and is tied for the team lead with 13 threes made.
Walters has started eight games and leads the team with 3.3 apg while scoring 6.4 ppg. Walters is tied with Paine with 13 three's made and is adding 2.9 rpg.
Bertholdt has started the last eight games and has played in all 11. She is averaging 8.7 ppg and 5.5 rpg while shooting 63.0% (29-46) from the floor. Bertholdt also leads the team in free throws made (38) and attempted (50), good for a 76.0% mark from the charity stripe.
"It's huge for us to get off to a good start with three games this week," said Mountain. "I like how our schedule opens up with us at home and then a quick trip down to L.A. Being at home to start off is a positive. San Francisco is playing really well right now but I think everyone in the conference is better this year. It's going to be about us playing well and doing the things we need to do."
Santa Clara is 52-35 all-time vs. San Francisco and 24-17 at the Leavey Center. Last season the Broncos topped USF 61-48 at home and 69-64 on the road.
The Dons enter conference action with a 5-6 record and are coming off a win at Fresno State 76-47. San Francisco has not won back-to-back games this year but has lost back-to-back games just once. The back-to-back losses came Nov. 17 and Nov. 20 vs. Long Beach State in double overtime and at San Jose State.
"San Francisco won more non conference games than they have in the past and are playing really well right now," said Mountain. "They have some freshmen who have stepped in and done a nice job and some players that are returning from injuries. They're more spread out than they have been in the past so we have to make sure we use our size against them. They don't have enormous size inside but they shoot the ball better than in the past. They're going to be super-scrappy and throw a variety of defenses at us. It will more about us making sure we take care of the boards and taking them out of what they want to do defensively."
San Francisco is averaging 71.8 ppg and is shooting 41.3% (295-715) from the field. The Dons are shooting 30.4% (48-158) from deep and 72.0% (152-211) from the free throw line. They are averaging 42.0 rpg, 10.7 apg, 15.7 tpg, 7.4 spg and 2.9 bpg.
Rachel Howard leads the team with 12.7 ppg and has a team-high 18 threes made. Howard also leads the team with 17 steals and is averaging 2.1 apg. Zhane Dikes is a close second with 12.5 ppg while playing a team-high 34.1 mpg. Dikes averages 5.0 rpg and leads the team with 2.3 apg. Taj Winston scores 11.5 ppg with 5.7 rpg, 1.3 apg, and 1.3 spg while Taylor Proctor averages a team-high 8.0 rpg while scoring 11.3 ppg.
Santa Clara is 32-33 all-time vs. Pepperdine. Last season the Broncos won 38-36 on the road vs. the Waves and 64-52 at home.
The Waves enter the week with a 4-7 record and are coming off a 74-51 win vs. Northern Arizona. Pepperdine has won two of its last three games after suffering a five-game losing streak. The first four losses of the streak were on the road over the space on nine days.
Pepperdine is averaging 72.6 ppg and is shooting 43.0% (303-704) from the field. The Waves are shooting 34.9% (51-146) from deep and 73.2% (142-194) from the free throw line. They are averaging 41.2 rpg, 14.5 apg, 16.0 tpg, 6.8 spg and 2.3 bpg.
Brianna Richardson leads the Waves with 17.6 ppg on 45.3% (77-170) shooting from the field. Richardson leads the team with 4.6 apg and 2.8 spg while adding 3.5 rpg. Keitra Wallace is scoring 13.0 ppg on a team best 55.6% (45-81) shooting. Wallace grabs 4.5 rpg and dishes out 2.3 apg. Ea Shoushtari leads the Waves with 7.2 rpg and is scoring 12.3 ppg on 37.1% (46-124) shooting from the floor. Shoushtari is averaging 3.1 apg and 1.7 spg as well.
Santa Clara is 43-20 all-time vs. LMU. Last season the Broncos fell on the road to the Lions 71-50 but won at home 58-54.
The Lions finished non-conference action 3-8 with a loss last week to Seattle 72-70. LMU started the season 1-7 but has won two of its last three games, including back-to-back wins vs. Northern Arizona and UNLV.
LMU is averaging 65.4 ppg and is shooting 36.2% (263-726) from the field. The Lions are shooting 27.9% (58-208) from deep and 69.9% (135-193) from the free throw line. They are averaging 42.8 rpg, 15.5 apg, 19.5 tpg, 9.9 spg and 2.8 bpg.
Hazel Ramirez leads the offense with 13.5 ppg and 5.6 apg. She adds 2.4 spg and 3.0 apg while running the point. Deanna Johnson is second on the team with 10.5 ppg on 32.6% (42-129) shooting. Johnson chips in 2.0 rpg, 1.7 apg, and 1.0 spg. Mackenzie Kerins leads LMU with 8.7 rpg and is scoring 6.3 ppg on 47.0% (31-66) shooting. Kerins is second on the team with 1.6 spg.