SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Grabbing a nine-point lead just before the midway point of the second half, Santa Clara suffered through a scoring drought down the stretch and was unable to hold off a surging BYU squad, eventually falling 58-56 to the Cougars on Saturday afternoon at the Leavey Center.
The Cougars' Lexi Eaton and Morgan Bailey, two of the top four scorers in the WCC, scored 26 of BYU's 35 second half points to down Santa Clara in the end.
The loss drops Santa Clara to 7-13 overall on the year, including 2-9 in WCC play. With the win, the Cougars improve to 17-5 on the season and 9-2 in conference action.
The Broncos return to action on Thursday, Feb. 5 when they travel to "The Kennel" to take on Gonzaga at 6 p.m.
Santa Clara shot 27.6 percent (16-58) from the field and 27.3 percent (3-11) from downtown. The squad collected 44 rebounds, dished out 9 assists, and recorded 3 steals, 4 blocks and 11 turnovers.
The Cougars shot 33.3 percent (16-48) from the floor and 25.0 percent (2-8) from three-point range. BYU recorded 39 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals, 3 blocks and 11 turnovers.
Eaton, the No. 1 scorer in the WCC averaging 19.5 points per game, led the Cougars with 27 points and 13 boards. Bailey added another double-double performance, scoring 19 points to go along with 12 rebounds.
Shooting 4-of-6 from the floor to open up the contest, Taylor Berry's two layups sparked a 7-0 Santa Clara run to put the Broncos ahead 9-4 at the 15:01 mark in the first half.
A banked hook shot by BYU's Bailey ended a four minute plus scoring drought for the Cougars but Santa Clara managed to keep a five point lead with 11:53 to go courtesy of two free throws by Vanessa Leo and a turnaround jumper in the paint by Morgan McGwire.
Utilizing a 3-2 zone defense, the Broncos held the Cougars to 5-of-18 shooting over the first 12 minutes of play, preserving a 17-11 lead for Santa Clara.
Cooling off from the field, Santa Clara's lead dwindled to 19-17 at the 4:16 mark after Eaton, scoring 14 first half points, buried two from the charity stripe. Bertholdt ended a scoring drought for Santa Clara with a lay-in down low and Raquel Avila answered on the following possession with a foul line jumper to push the Bronco lead back to six with just over three minutes to play in the first half.
Another bucket inside by Bertholdt followed by a putback score two minutes later pushed the Santa Clara lead back to seven, 30-23, going into halftime.
With the shot clock time winding down on the first Santa Clara possession of the second half, Avila nailed a jumper from the left elbow to give the Broncos their largest lead of the game at nine.
Combining to score eight points over the next five minutes of half number two, Bailey and Eaton helped keep the Cougars within striking distance, trailing 37-31 at the 15:40 mark. Later, a right wing triple by Gilday propelled the Santa Clara lead back to nine.
Providing the only scoring for BYU thus far in the second half, Eaton and Bailey continued to attack the hoop and eventually cut the Santa Clara advantage to 42-39 with 9:51 remaining. Meanwhile, Santa Clara suffered through a 2-of-16 shooting slump during the middle portion of the second half that relinquished their nine point lead.
After nailing a deep two to bring the Cougars within one, Eaton added two from the foul line at the 5:21 mark to give BYU its first lead, 45-44, since the opening moments of the first half.
Going six and a half minutes without a score, Bertholdt knocked in a pair from the foul line to cut the deficit to one at the 2:12 mark.
After Xojian Harry hit a floater just outside of the lane, Bertholdt responded with a lay-in while drawing contact. With a chance to tie the ballgame, Bertholdt's free throw attempt hit the back iron and allowed the Cougars to corral the rebound.
Both squads would trade free-throws in the waning moments and the Cougars came away with the come-from-behind victory.