Tenacious defense helped the BYU women’s basketball team defeat Santa Clara 65–48 on Saturday to snap their two game losing streak on the road.
With the win, the Cougars improved to a 6–2 record in the West Coast Conference and 15–6 record overall. With this loss, Santa Clara (12–10 overall) dropped to a 4–5 record in the WCC.
“Santa Clara is one of those teams that is in the top five in the league,” BYU head coach Jeff Judkins said. “It’s hard to beat them here. We needed to win a road game with tough competition, and that’s what we got.”
BYU earned its first win on the road since playing in San Diego on January 10 where the Cougars escaped with an overtime victory against the Toreros. This game was different. Instead of a close game the whole time, BYU led Santa Clara for almost the entire game. The Broncos’ only lead was by two points with 19:22 left in the first half. The Cougars’ largest lead of 22 points came with 9:09 left in the second half.
Senior leadership once again helped the Cougars come out with a big win. Haley Steed led all scorers with 17 points. The nation’s leader in assists also dished out six assists and four steals. Keilani Unga contributed seven rebounds, two blocks, and 13 points, her second game in a row scoring double digits. Unga also scored 13 points in Thursday’s home win against St. Mary’s.
The Cougars started off the game with a 10–2 run, sparked by two three-pointers by Steed. Kim Beeston and Stephanie Seaborn made a few key shots to keep a BYU run alive and continue to push the lead. BYU led 30–17 at the half.
BYU came out strong in the second half, but Santa Clara was not ready to quit. Broncos’ guard Meagan Fulps made a shot from beyond the arc to spark a 12–0 Bronco run. With a little under four minutes left in the game, BYU’s lead was cut to nine points.
Unga put a stop to Santa Clara’s attempted comeback by stealing the ball. Beeston scored on that possession to solidify BYU’s victory. The Cougars ended the game with six free throw attempts.
“We really needed this win,” Unga said. “On the road, we haven’t done what we wanted to do. This was huge for us because it gives us even more momentum.”
BYU shot 36 percent overall. The Cougars drained seven from downtown, three from Steed, two from Seaborn, and one from Beeston.
Santa Clara only shot 23 percent in the first half (0–4 from beyond the arc) and 31 percent overall. Only one of the Broncos’ players scored in double figures. Center Ruta Zurauskyte earned a double-double scoring 10 points (4–11 from the field) and grabbing 10 rebounds.
“We executed our defense, we got stops when we needed to,” Unga said. “And when we didn’t execute, we got together as a team and made stops.”
BYU will return to Provo to try to keep their home winning streak alive against San Diego on Thursday.