SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Falling behind by as many as 14 points in the first half, the Broncos would cut the deficit to five on seven separate occasions in the second half but were unable to muster a come-from-behind victory against San Diego, eventually falling 64-61 on Thursday night at the Leavey Center.
Battling in back-and-forth fashion over the final six minutes of action, Marie Bertholdt's tenth made free throw at the 6:03 mark cut the Torero lead to 56-51.
Up by five, San Diego would score five unanswered points to blossom its lead back to double-digits and put the Broncos in a hole with 3:24 remaining.
Responding once again, Bertholdt, finishing 11-16 from the foul line, converted on another free throw attempt, followed with a lay-in and Emily Wolph tacked on a jumper to cut the lead back down to five with just under two minutes remaining in the contest.
After San Diego's Malina Hood drilled her fifth triple of the game, Nici Gilday kissed a layup off the glass and Wolph converted an old-fashioned three-point play to pull the Broncos within three with 52 ticks left on the clock.
Forcing a turnover on the next San Diego possession, the Broncos had a chance to cut into the lead even more but Gilday was denied on a pull-up jump shot from the baseline. Sent to the foul line, San Diego's Brooke Jelniker missed both double-bonus attempts to give Santa Clara one more chance at pushing the game into overtime. With four seconds remaining, Wolph received the inbound, tried to find space behind the arc but eventually had her potential game-tying shot tipped, subduing the Broncos' comeback attempt.
The loss drops Santa Clara to 7-12 overall on the year, including 2-8 in WCC play. With the win, the Toreros improve to 16-4 on the season and 7-3 in conference action.
The Broncos return to the hardwood this Saturday when they host the Cougars from Brigham Young University at 2pm.
Santa Clara shot 28.6 percent (16-56) from the floor and 16.7 percent (2-12) from three point land. The squad collected 42 rebounds, dished out 9 assists, and tallied 9 steals, 3 blocks and 11 turnovers.
Shooting a perfect 11-of-11 from the free throw line, Wolph led the Broncos with a season-high 19 points. Bertholdt, collecting a double-double, finished with 17 points and 13 boards. Gilday rounded out the double-digit Santa Clara scorers with 14 points and 3 steals.
The Toreros shot 40.7 percent (24-59) from the field and 66.7 percent (6-9) from beyond the arc. San Diego recorded 40 rebounds, 14 assists, 4 steals, 9 blocks and 15 turnovers.
Hood, coming in the ballgame as San Diego's leading scorer averaging 15.0 points per game, shot 5-6 from deep to lead all scorers with 23 points. Sophia Ederaine, the squad's leading rebounder, finished with 6 points and 16 boards, including 4 on the offensive glass.
Sparked by two buckets inside and a wing three by Cori Woodward, the Toreros jumped out to an early 7-0 lead three minutes into the contest. Despite starting out 0-4 from the field, Santa Clara responded to cut the deficit to 10-7 by the first media timeout.
Continuing to find space down low and capitalizing off of Santa Clara's shooting woes, San Diego would continue its run and push its lead to 21-9 with 11:07 remaining in the first half. In the first half, the Broncos shot 25.8 percent from the floor, converting eight baskets on 31 attempts.
Three Santa Clara free throws sandwiched by a lay-in by Bertholdt and a floater by Avila in the lane pulled the Broncos within seven with roughly eight minutes to go.
Wolph, nailing six consecutive free throws on three consecutive possessions, pulled the Broncos within three at the 5:16 mark but San Diego's Malina Hood, leading all scorers with 14 first half points on 5-of-9 shooting, drilled two triples in the final five minutes to give the Toreros their biggest lead at 14 with 1:43 remaining. In the final moments before the break, Morgan McGwire scored twice down in the paint to keep the Broncos within striking distance, 38-28 in favor of San Diego at half.
Staying within reach, Santa Clara managed to cut the deficit back down to seven at the 15:29 mark in the second half.
After playing a little over two and a half minutes without a basket for either team, Wolph converted two attempts from the charity stripe and finished a breakaway layup on the next possession to pull the Broncos within five points of tying the contest. Down the stretch, Santa Clara managed to cut the lead to three but were eventually defeated in the end.