(University of Montana Media Release)
FULLERTON, Calif. -- Santa Clara hit five early 3-pointers to jump out to a 23-7 lead after the first quarter and the Broncos led the rest of the way as they opened the Cal State Fullerton Titan Classic with a 68-58 victory over Montana on Friday afternoon in Southern California.
The Lady Griz (2-3) would pull within five, 40-35, late in the third quarter, but Santa Clara (4-2) scored the final eight points of the period and never allowed Montana to get closer than seven over the final 10 minutes.
“I was proud of the way the ladies kept fighting and got it close down the stretch,” said Lady Griz coach Shannon Schweyen. “We didn’t make many outside shots tonight, but we kept clawing away and battling and got some great stops down the stretch.”
Montana trailed 23-6 after the first quarter in Sunday’s home loss to Arizona and fell behind big again five days later. The Broncos went 5 of 8 from the arc in the opening quarter, 8 for 13 overall, to grab a lead they would hold the rest of the game.
Three Santa Clara players connected from distance in the early going while Montana was struggling to a 3-for-12 start that would ultimately cost the Lady Griz the game.
“It was almost comical in the first half, with good shot after good shot and nothing going in. We couldn’t get a break,” said Schweyen. “Nobody could get one to drop.”
Behind seven points from Abby Anderson, who is looking to score now in a way she’s never done before, Montana outscored Santa Clara 14-7 in the second quarter, holding the Broncos to 1-of-9 shooting.
At the half Montana’s deficit had been cut to nine, 30-21.
"Abby did a lot of nice things. Her endurance is getting better to where she can go longer,” said Schweyen. “They were basically letting us have it in the post all night, so our posts had to start hurting them in there a little bit. Abby did a good job looking to score the ball.”
Montana put its first good scare into Santa Clara late in the third quarter, when Emma Stockholm scored on three straight possessions to take it from 40-29 to 40-35 and force a Bronco timeout.
It was as close as the Lady Griz had been since three minutes into the game.
“The second half we finally got on a little bit of a roll and knocked a couple down,” said Schweyen, whose team would put up 37 second-half points.
The Lady Griz came out of the timeout with some pressure, but Santa Clara handled it and got a rally-halting 3-pointer from the corner from Emily Wolph.
It would spark an 8-0 close to the third quarter for the Broncos, who took a 48-35 lead into the final period.
“We tried to press and give them a change of tempo to maybe create a turnover,” said Schweyen. “Then they come down and hit a three. That was a big bucket for them.”
Santa Clara would have five players connect from 3-point range, with Tia Hay going 3 for 3 on her way to 25 points.
“They’ve got a lot of kids who can knock them down and score,” added Schweyen. “They got them in both man and zone. They are really balanced. They are a good basketball team.”
Montana scored 23 points in the fourth quarter on 50 percent shooting, but it would be too little, too late. The Broncos would go 9 for 12 from the free throw line to keep the Lady Griz at arm’s length.
“We had these guys in the low 60s coming down the stretch. We’ve got to shoot and score better than we did,” said Schweyen.
Stockholm, who went 6 for 9, and Gabi Harrington both scored a team-high 12 points, while Anderson finished with a career-high 11.
McKenzie Johnston had nine rebounds, seven points, seven assists and a pair of steals while playing all 40 minutes.
Montana will play Cal State Fullerton (4-2) on Saturday at 6 p.m. (MT). The Titans played Delaware on Friday night.