Broncos hang with conference heavyweight, team fails to take them out
THE SANTA CLARA
January 15, 2015
Coming off their first conference win of the season, the Santa Clara women’s basketball team was riding high heading into their tough matchup versus Gonzaga University.
Entering Saturday’s game with an impressive 11-4 record (4-0 in conference play), the Bulldogs had already established themselves as one of the teams to beat in the West Coast Conference. They showed just how dangerous they can be on Saturday as they beat Santa Clara, 78-70.
“It’s tough against (Gonzaga),” the Broncos’ Head Coach JR Payne said. “They’re so long on the perimeter so everything’s pretty contested.”
Despite an encouraging 83-68 win earlier in the week versus University of Portland, the Broncos have been struggling to find wins early on in the season. Santa Clara has gone 1-3 in January, all against conference teams.
Gonzaga started the game strong and came out with a 19-8 lead early on. They soon after extended their lead to 31-14 with just six minutes remaining in the half.
The Bulldogs shot 52 percent from the field, compared to Santa Clara’s 34.5 percent, contributing to Gonzaga’s huge lead in the first half.
“They’re a very good team so when we got open shots we had to take them, but just because they’re big doesn’t mean that we wanted to stay away from them,” senior guard Nici Gilday said. “We definitely wanted to attack them hard and be aggressive to the basket.”
The Broncos fought to close the gap late in the first half, scoring 15 points in the final six minutes while slowing Gonzaga’s offense down.
“We really picked up some momentum going into the half, so we just wanted to carry that over and continue to pressure them,” Gilday said. “Our defense is our best offense, when we can pressure and get into them and create turnovers we can get easy buckets.”
Santa Clara entered halftime down 38-29.
The Broncos cut to within 10 points of the Bulldogs for the majority of the period. However, Gonzaga proved to be too much to handle.
“They definitely had (a) size advantage over us, but what we give up with length we make up with speed,” Gilday said. “We were just trying to get into to them to disrupt their length.”
Gonzaga had a rotation of three players who were 6-foot-4 or over, which is taller than anybody on the Santa Clara roster.
Despite the height advantage, the teams tied the rebounding battle 31-31.
“Our mission is always to win the rebounding battle and we tied them tonight, but if you go top-to-bottom on size, then I think we won that matchup,” Payne said. “If they’re three inches taller than us at every position, then I think we won that battle.”
The intensity on the floor and off the bench gave the Broncos a spark, fueling them towards the end and closing the margin to just six points with four minutes remaining.
“That’s who we are, we just play hard,” Payne said. “I thought our intensity was great from the tip, we were aggressive on both ends of the floor.”
The late surge by the Broncos made the game close -— however, 10 points in the final five minutes from Gonzaga put the game out of reach.
Santa Clara was outshot 50 percent to 41.7 percent by Gonzaga. The Bulldogs scored most of their points from the free throw line, scoring 26 of their points from the strike compared to the Broncos’ 15.
“That’s what I thought was the biggest difference, they made their open shots, we didn’t,” Payne said. “Free throws as well; we’ve got to be able to get to the free throw line more.”
Contact Nick Redfield at nredfield@scu. edu.