March 2, 2006
SPOKANE, Wash. - The Santa Clara women's basketball team will begin their quest for a second-straight WCC Tournament title tonight at the McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane, Wash. The Broncos enter the weekend as the tournament's first seed and will face the eighth seeded Portland Pilots tonight at 6 p.m.
SCU's vaunted three-point shooting paces the nation as the Broncos have nailed 233 threes this season, and their average of 8.6 a game is also tops in the NCAA. Santa Clara's 38.7% accuracy from behind the arc currently stands at 11th in the country. The team's 76.3% free-throw shooting accuracy is fourth-best in the NCAA while SCU's 73.5 points a game ranks 20th.
The Broncos are coming off a competitive weekend in Los Angeles, where they clinched the school's first WCC regular-season championship since 1998-99 with a win over the fourth-place Pepperdine Waves, 77-74. Senior Kayla Huss stepped for the Broncos to help the team seal the title and top tournament seed, with a combined 32 points in two games. Santa Clara wrapped up the regular season with a 17-10 overall record and an 11-3 mark in the WCC. The Broncos won 10 of its last 11, including a notable nine-game winning streak.
Santa Clara earned additional recognition when the West Coast Conference handed out its postseason honors, as head coach Michelle Bento-Jackson was named Coach of the Year in voting done by her fellow WCC coaches. Senior guard Michelle Cozad became Santa Clara's first WCC Player of the Year since the 1997-98 season and was also named first-team All-WCC. Fellow senior Kayla Huss was also named first-team All-WCC, the second time in her career that she has been so honored.
Since the WCC held its first postseason women's tournament in 1992, Santa Clara has posted a 17-11 record in tournament play. The school has captured three WCC tournament titles, tied for most among the WCC schools with Pepperdine's three titles.
The Portland Pilots enter post-season play with a 4-23 overall record and a 1-13 mark in WCC play. Last weekend, the Pilots dropped a pair of conference games on the road at San Francisco and San Diego. The Pilots are led by senior Whitney Grant, who averages 15.4 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. Junior Rachel Warren leads the Pilots in rebounding, averaging 7.6 per game, third best in the WCC. The Brisbane, Australia native is also second on the team in scoring with 12.0 points per game.
Tonight's meeting marks the third of the season between the Broncos and Pilots. On January 8, the Broncos edged Portland 74-73 behind 33 points from Ashley Graham. At the Leavey Center on February 4, the Broncos bested the Pilots a second time behind a double-double from Kasey Monteith.
Following tonight's opening round, the conference will re-seed the remaining teams for Saturday's semifinal matchups. Should the Broncos advance, as the highest seed they will have first choice of starting times in Saturday's session.