Strong Defensive Effort for Women's Basketball Comes Up Just Short vs. No. 23 Gonzaga

Strong Defensive Effort for Women's Basketball Comes Up Just Short vs. No. 23 Gonzaga

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Playing its first ranked opponent of the season, Santa Clara women's basketball fell to No. 23 Gonzaga by a final of 67-61. The loss puts the Broncos at 7-11 overall and 3-4 in WCC action while the Bulldogs are now 16-3 overall and 6-1 in conference play.

Santa Clara returns to the floor Thurs., Jan. 23 at San Diego at 6 p.m.

"We had a great defensive effort tonight," said Santa Clara head coach Jennifer Mountain. "We had too many turnovers and missed some easy buckets that we should have had. You can't turn the ball over that much against a team of this caliber. It's all about fine-tuning things and I thought our urgency and effort has gotten a lot better this week. For 40 minutes we played really good defense today. We're doing some things really well right now and giving ourselves a chance to win ballgames."

Santa Clara shot 36.2% (17-47) from the field and 41.7% (5-12) from three. The Broncos had 36 rebounds, nine assists, 21 turnovers, three blocks, and nine steals. Ruta Zurauskyte led the offense with 21 points on 6-10 shooting and seven rebounds. Nici Gilday scored 16 with five boards and three assists while Jo Paine scored nine points on 3-4 shooting from deep. 

Gonzaga shot 33.3% (21-63) from the field and 30.8% (4-13) from three. The Bulldogs had 37 rebounds, 11 assists, 12 turnovers, one block, and 13 steals. Sunny Greinacher led the offense with 17 points on 6-13 shooting with three steals. Lindsay Sherbert scored 15 with four rebounds and three steals while Haiden Palmer added 10 points with five rebounds and three steals. 

Gilday got the Broncos out to the early 3-0 lead at the 19-minute mark on a three from the left corner as the shot click was winding down. Gonzaga came back a minute later to tie the game on a three from Keani Albanez but Paine answered with another three on the other end. 

After the score was tied 9-9, the Zags would go on a 14-2 run over three minutes while holing Santa Clara to 1-5 from the floor. The run put Gonzaga on top 26-11 with 10:14 on the clock.

The Broncos would come back with four straight points off of free throws from Gilday and Marie Bertholdt. Shaniqua Nilles hit a pair from the free throw line but Raquel Avila made a pair of her own to keep it an 11-point game.

Paine hit a deep three at 6:12 to make it a 10-point game and give Santa Clara its first field goal since 14:05. Gilday made a steal and went coast-to-coast to get the Bronco deficit down to single-digits with 5:13 on the clock.

The Bronco defense held Gonzaga without a field goal for six minutes. They would go on a 9-0 run over 3:15 to get within one point at 35-34 with 59 seconds on the clock. Gonzaga was 0-4 from the field with four turnovers during the Santa Clara run. Stephanie Stone hit a layup to end the run and make the score 37-34, where it would say until the half.

Santa Clara shot 42.9% (9-21) from the field and 66.7% (4-6) from three in the first half. The Broncos had 17 rebounds, seven assists, 10 turnovers, and five steals. Gilday led the offense with 12 points on 4-6 shooting with four rebounds and three assists. Zurauskyte added seven points and three boards while Paine scored six points.

Gonzaga shot 43.3% (13-30) from the field and 57.1% (4-7) from three in the first half. The Bulldogs had 15 rebounds, seven assists, six turnovers, and six steals. Sherbert led the offense with 11 points on 4-6 shooting. Shelby Cheslek scored four points with four boards while Plamer had four points and two steals. 

Right out of halftime Santa Clara forced a turnover and Vanessa Leo made a little jumper in the lane to get the Broncos within one. Avila came back with a jumper in the lane to give Santa Clara the 38-37 lead at the 18:31 mark. Greinacher came back with a three-point play to get Gonzaga back on top but Zurauskyte drained two from the line to tie the game at 40-40.

Santa Clara didn't score for five and a half minutes and Gonzaga used the opportunity to get out on top 50-44. The Zags only scored four points during the stretch on a bucket from Sherbert and two free throws from Palmer. Avila finally got Santa Clara back on the board with a fast break lay up to make it a four-point game. 

Gonzaga grabbed an offensive rebound at 3:56 and put the ball in to make it an eight-point game. Gilday came back on the other end with two free throws to keep the Gonzaga lead at six points. 

The Bulldogs hit a pair of free throws and forced a turnover on the defensive end, which led to an offensive rebound and put back by Greinacher. The Zags led 62-53 with just 1:07 on the clock.

Palmer missed a pair of free throws and Paine came down the floor to hit a three and get the Broncos back within six with 41 seconds remaining. Santa Clara fouled Palmer who missed her third consecutive free throw before finally making one.

After two more Zag free throws, Zurauskyte converted a three-point play to make the score 65-59 with just 15.6 seconds remaining. Gonzaga inbounded the ball and was able to convert from the free throw line to close out the win.

Game Notes: Attendance was 368 … The Santa Clara coaching staff has a strong connection to Gonzaga. Head coach Jennifer Mountain played at Gonzaga and was an assistant under current head coach Kelly Graves. Assistant coach Amanda Brown played at Gonzaga and so did director of basketball operations Angie Bjorklund's sister. … This was the first game of the season for Santa Clara on … Sunday was the Roaring Red Out where fans were encouraged to wear red in the stands.