SANTA CLARA, Calif. – With the non-conference schedule in the rear view mirror, Santa Clara women's basketball opens West Coast Conference play with a pair of games at the Leavey Center. The Broncos face Saint Mary's on Sat., Dec. 27 at 2 p.m. and Pacific at 7 p.m. on Mon., Dec. 29. Last week Santa Clara dropped a double overtime game at Oregon 92-88. They are now 5-4 on the season.
"Our goal throughout the preseason was to really work on how to play the game," said Santa Clara head coach JR Payne. "We wanted to create an identity as a ball club and I think that although we are still striving for consistency, we are definitely creating an identity as a hard working team."
Santa Clara is outscoring opponents by an average of 71.1-68.2 and outrebounding teams 45.2-37.2. Their 71.1 ppg is second among WCC teams. The Broncos are shooting 41.7% (232-557) from the floor, third in the conference, 31.5% (41-130) from three, also third in the WCC, and 70.7% (135-191) from the free throw line. The Broncos 36.6% field goal defense allowed is also third in the conference.
"The WCC is one of the strongest leagues in the country right now and will be very challenging," said Payne. "Every single night teams will be well coached, skilled and experienced. I hope that our preseason has equipped us for what will be a very tough league schedule."
Nici Gilday leads the WCC in scoring with 19.2 points per game and is shooting 45.3% (62-137) from the field. Gilday is adding 3.6rebounds per game and 1.0 steals per game. She leads the team in threes made (21) and attempted (50) and is second in free throws made (28) and attempted (31) while leading the way in the conference in free throw percentage (90.3%). Marie Bertholdt is second on the team in scoring with 9.3 ppg and leads the way with 7.8 rpg. She leads the team with 32 free throws made and 38 attempted. She is shooting 47.3% (26-55) from the floor and averaging 1.0 spg. Raquel Avila is third in the conference with 4.2 apg and is chipping in 5.0 ppg and 2.3 rpg. She is also second in the WCC with a 1.9 assist to turnover ratio. Sidney Rielly is second on the team with nine threes made and is scoring 6.7 ppg on 45.1% (23-51) shooting from the field. Maddison Allen is third in the WCC with 1.6 bpg and scores 5.4 ppg to go with 4.8 rpg.
"Saint Mary's and Pacific have both had tremendous preseasons and are very confident right now," added Payne. "They have great combinations of experience and talented youth and will be very tough opponents."
Santa Clara is 34-32 all-time vs. Saint Mary's and 15-17 at the Leavey Center with the first meeting coming in 1978-79. Last season the Broncos and Gaels split the season series, each picking up a win on the road.
Saint Mary's is 7-4 on the season and 2-3 on the road. The Gaels are coming off two losses at Virginia and at George Washington. After dropping their season opener, they won six in a row but have lost three of their last four.
Saint Mary's is outscoring opponents 66.7-65.7 and outrebounding teams 41.7-32.3. The Gaels are shooting 43.8% (256-585) from the field, 25.2% (32-127) from three, and 70.6% (190-269) from the free throw line. The Gaels are tops in the WCC in field goal percentage and defensive rebounds. They are second in rebounding defense and third in rebounding margin.
Lauren Nicholson is second in the WCC in scoring with 18.2 ppg on 44.8% (73-163) shooting. She is tied for second on the team with 2.1 apg and adds 3.6 rpg. Haylee Hendricksen is second on the Gaels with 10.0 ppg while shooting 52.1% (37-71) from the floor, good for third in the WCC. She is second on the team with 6.5 rpg. Shannon Mauldin scores 9.6 ppg while leading the team with 2.3 spg and adding 6.0 rpg. She is also tops on Saint Mary's with 2.9 apg. Carli Rosenthal leads the team with 7.7 rpg and scores 6.2 ppg. Stella Beck is shooting a conference-high 63.8% (44-69) from the floor to go with 9.3 ppg and is second on the Gaels with 6.8 rpg.
Santa Clara is 25-18 all-time vs. Pacific and 11-7 at the Leavey Center with the first meeting coming in 1974-75. Last season Pacific swept the season series.
Pacific is 8-3 on the year and 2-2 on the road. Last week the Tigers topped New Mexico State but fell at Long Beach State the next day. Before the loss to Long Beach State, Pacific had on five in a row and seven of eight.
Pacific is outscoring opponents 65.8-56.7 but being outrebounded 39.3-38.8. They are second in the conference in scoring defense and third in scoring margin. The Tigers are shooting 38.6% (256-664) from the floor, 29.1% (73-251) from three, and 65.9% (139-211) from the charity stripe. The Tigers lead the WCC in steals and turnover margin while placing second in assist to turnover ratio. They are also second with 6.6 threes made per game.
Kendall Kenyon leads Pacific with 12.4 ppg and 10.6 rpg, also a conference-high, on a team-high 50.0% (48-96) shooting from the floor. She also leads the team with 13 blocks and si second with 17 steals. Hailie Eackles scores 9.9 ppg with 2.4 rpg and 1.0 spg. Madison Parrish it tops in the WCC with 4.6 apg and adds 8.5 ppg to go with 2.5 rpg. Her 1.7 assist to turnover ratio is third in the conference. Erin Butler paces the team in threes made (28, also second in the conference) and attempted (70) while scoring 9.5 ppg with 5.4 rpg and 1.3 spg. Unique Coleman is averaging a team-high 2.1 spg with 5.7 ppg and 3.9 rpg.