“Jen did a good job of mixing it up playing the perimeter and in the lane,” said head coach Michelle Bento-Jackson. “Her versatility makes her a hard matchup for teams.”
The Broncos and Lumberjacks met for the first time ever Saturday afternoon at the Leavey Center.
Santa Clara is in first place in the West Coast Conference with a 9-3 record. The Broncos continue to lead the WCC in three-point field goal percentage, and shot 45 percent from beyond the arc against NAU.
What started off as a fast-paced game slowed dramatically in the second half, as both teams got into foul trouble. All told, 24 of the game’s 37 fouls were called in the second half.
“It (officiating) is a difficult job and they are doing the best job they can,” said Bento-Jackson. “I just wanted to talk with them and have them explain what they saw.”
NAU (4-9) was called for 15 fouls in the second half, but Santa Clara couldn't take advantage, shooting just 13-21 from the charity stripe to close the game.
Five straight points by the Broncos gave them a comfortable 72-61 lead with 3:09 left to play. But the Lumberjacks wouldn't go down easy, scoring five straight of their own to make it a 72-66 SCU lead with less than a minute in the game.
Again fouls got NAU into trouble. Two consecutive whistles saw the Broncos’ Chandice Cronk make three of four free throws to make score 75-66 with just 41 seconds in the game.
The senior guard finished with 17 points, three steals, and three assists, and opened the game with a deep three to help the Broncos jump out to an early 14-4 lead.
Santa Clara continued its stellar defense at the outset, forcing the Lumberjacks into four turnovers before Arizona finally got their first field goal of the game at 17:22. The Broncos are currently No. 2 in defense in the WCC.
A 12-2 run by Arizona cut SCU’s lead to 19-17 midway through the first half. NAU’s Laura Dinkins had a chance to tie up the game at 19 with an open layup, but the ball refused to go down.
Dinkins finished the game with 19 points and 13 rebounds.
“She (Dinkins) is obviously a phenomenal athlete,” Bento-Jackson said. “It wasn’t a matter of us not being able to defend her but her jumping above our players. She’s so athletic and her seven offensive rebounds just shows us why.”
Fouls bogged down Santa Clara after that, but Walker single-handedly kept the Broncos in the lead scoring by seven points in less than two minutes.
SCU led 33-26 with 4:47 left in the first. The Broncos went on a 12-10 run to close out the half, and entered the locker room leading 45-38.
Broncos guard Liz Doran hit a three to open the second half, but was called for traveling and had the shot waved off. Sara Majors made a nifty move around a defender down low for a layup, but again the shot was called off when the ref ruled Majors out of bounds.
Santa Clara fans and Bento-Jackson began voicing their displeasure with the officiating as NAU opened the second with eight straight points to take their first lead of the afternoon at 46-45 with 17:57 left in the game.
Another three by Doran gave SCU a 48-46 lead, and the momentum began shifting towards the Broncos when Arizona was called for five straight fouls.
Cronk got a defensive rebound and pushed the ball upcourt, making a nice behind-the-back dribble to evade an NAU defender before passing to Walker for an open three at 14:24 to extend the Broncos’ lead to 56-48.
A three by the Lumberjacks’ Dinkins cut SCU’s lead to just two points, but a another three by Cronk made the score 61-56 in the Broncos’ favor.
The referees began using their whistles at that point, as fouls were called on five straight possession.
Santa Clara will close out 2007 by playing Cal State Fullerton at the Leavey Center on Dec. 31st. Tip-off is at 7 PM.