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Women's Basketball Opens WCC Slate Against Rival Santa Clara

Jan. 5, 2007

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This Week In Women's Basketball: The Saint Mary's women's basketball team (6-7, 0-0 WCC) will open its West Coast Conference slate against Bay Area rival Santa Clara (8-7, 0-0 WCC). The lone game of the week is scheduled for Sunday, January 7 at 2:05 p.m. from McKeon Pavilion.

Last Time Out: Saint Mary's strung together its fourth consecutive win when it defeated Toledo at home 95-73. The Gaels erupted for 56 points in the second half and were led by sophomore guard Jontelle Smith's career-high 26 to defeat the Rockets in McKeon Pavilion.

Who's Hot: Saint Mary's sophomore guard Jontelle Smith was named the West Coast Conference Co-Player of the Week for her efforts against Sacramento State and Toledo. Smith had a career-night against Toledo, leading the Gaels to their fourth consecutive victory in a 95-73 rout. Smith poured in a career-best 26 points on 5-of-8 from the floor, including a 4-for-6 output from beyond the arc. The 26 points was the largest single-game outburst by a Gael in two seasons.

Against Sacramento State, the Pinole native tallied a team-high 15 points to lead SMC to a 71-59 win. Over the course of the four-game winning streak, Smith has scored in double-figures in each contest. On the week, the sophomore guard has averaged 20.5 points per game and shot 10-for-22 from the floor, including 5-of-11 from downtown and 16-for-19 from the charity stripe. Smith leads the Gaels in scoring with 11.4 per tilt.

Scouting Santa Clara: The Broncos sport an 8-7 overall record and are coming off victories over Toledo (73-64) and San Jose State (71-59). As a team, SCU is averaging 70.3 points per game while allowing its opponents to drop in 73.5. The Broncos are shooting 41 percent from the floor, 42 percent from three and 74 percent from the charity stripe.

The Broncos are led by Chandice Cronk and her 17.2 points per game. Cronk has been lights out from everywhere, shooting 45 percent from the floor, 47 percent from three and 82 percent from the charity stripe. Ashley Graham shoots the ball nearly as well and is coming off a week where she was named WCC Co-Player of the Week. Graham averages 12.7 per tilt while shooting 44 percent from the floor and from beyond the arc while converting 75 percent of her free throws.

Versus The Broncos: Sunday's matchup will mark the 43rd meeting between the two rivals. Santa Clara holds a 25-17 advantage after taking both games last season. The last time the two programs faced off was on Feb. 15 when the Gaels were edged 64-62 in McKeon Pavilion.

Career Night: Against Toledo two Gaels guards exploded for career nights to lead SMC to a 95-73 victory. Sophomore Jontelle Smith blew up for 26 points on 5-of-8 shooting, including four threes to tally the game-high. Junior Mattiana Thalley scored 18 points off the bench on 6-of-10 shooting, including four treys in five attempts.

Fast Pace Gaels: Saint Mary's leads the WCC in scoring, pouring in 71.0 per game. The matchup between the Gaels and Broncos will showcase the two leading scoring teams as SCU follows with 70.3 per tilt. The Gaels erupted for 100 points against Northridge in the Hilton Concord Classic and 95 against Toledo.

Glass Cleaners: Saint Mary's has been all over the glass in non-conference action. The Gaels lead the WCC in the category with 40.2 per game. SMC also leads in offensive rebounds, pulling down 15.85 a contest. Senior forward Eghosa Obaiza is third in the league with 7.5 boards per game and leads the league on the offensive glass with 3.69 per game.

Turned Away: Saint Mary's is second in the WCC with 4.85 blocked shots per contest. The Gaels are led by Eghosa Obaiza and her 1.77 blocks a game which ranks fourth in the conference. Senior center Sheridan Arredondo ranks fifth with 1.38.

Ball Thieves: The Gaels rank first in the WCC with 11.69 steals per contest. Saint Mary's is led by junior guard Lauren Shaughnessy and her league leading 3.08 steals per game. Obaiza ranks ninth with 1.77 steals per game. Shaughnessy is also third in assists with 4.77 helpers per game.

Paul Thomas Records First Gael Victory: First-year head coach Paul Thomas recorded his first career Division I victory with a 69-68 win over Miami. Event though Thomas has won 235 times in his 12-year career, the thrilling win over Miami marks his first as a Gael and the first for SMC in the 2006-07 season.

Gaels Ink Two Recruits: Saint Mary's women's head basketball coach Paul Thomas announced the signing of Suzie Davis (Oxnard, CA) and Leanna Richey (Brentwood, CA).

Davis preps at Pacifica High School where she is a two-time Pacific View first-team selection and all-county selection. The 5-11 guard/forward led the Pacific View League in scoring (17 ppg), rebounds (11 ppg), blocks (3bpg) and steals (3spg). Richey led Liberty High to an 18-10 overall record and a 10-4 BVAL mark. The 6-3 post is also a standout on the volleyball court earning All-BVAL accolades.

Three Newcomer Join Roster: Saint Mary's welcomes three new players to the squad in 2006-07. The Gaels welcome freshmen Lindsay Ellis, from Sacramento, CA and Kira Kojola, from Espoo, Finland, along with junior college transfer Mattiana Thalley, from Carson CA and Compton Community College.

Saint Mary's Picked To Finish Fifth In WCC: The Gaels were picked to finish fifth in the West Coast Conference in 2006-07. The Gaels finished in fifth place last year, but return four starters and bring in a new head coach in Paul Thomas. Saint Mary's received 28 points, five points behind Santa Clara for fourth. Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount were picked to finish first and Gonzaga was picked to finish third. San Diego, San Francisco and Portland rounded out the final eight.

Next Week: Saint Mary's will embark on its first road trip of conference play when it heads to the Pacific Northwest for two games. The Gaels will face Portland on Thursday, January 11 and then head up to Gonzaga for a Saturday, January 13 matchup. Both games will tipoff at 7:05 p.m.