After a very competitive ﬁrst half, the USF Dons women’s basketball team lost a heartbreaking game to rivals Santa Clara on Saturday. The 59-51 loss bumps the Dons down to 2-9 in the WCC, 4-20 overall. The Broncos (9-14 overall, 2-8 WCC) move up to seventh in WCC standings behind LMU, while the Dons stay a game ahead of Portland to hold on to the eighth spot. Number 19 ranked Gonzaga holds the top spot in the conference, followed by number 22 ranked Brigham Young University.
Both USF and Santa Clara played an energetic ﬁrst half, trading leads four times in the ﬁrst twenty minutes. USF stepped up their defensive pressure on the Broncos, while both teams played almost equally as well as each other offensively. A buzzer beater by the Dons put USF in the lead 26-25 at halftime.
“We said before the game, ʻletʼs start the game like we normally ﬁnish,ʼ” head coach Jennifer Azzi said.
While the Dons may have started off stronger than usual, they had trouble keeping up their momentum in the second half. They lost the lead and fell deeply behind, while Santa Clara picked up their ﬁeld goal percentage and boosted their three-point percentage to 50%, making 5 of 10 in the ﬁnal twenty minutes.
“There was a lull in the second half where we stopped doing what was working. Instead we need to sustain that, play the game for forty minutes. Thatʼs something we really need to put into practice,” Azzi said.
“[The second half] had unforced turnovers; thatʼs a critical time we really need to be thinking possession by possession.”
The Dons regained some momentum later in the second half, but werenʼt able to recover from the initial letdown. USFʼs leading scorer was senior guard Rheina Ale with fifteen, followed by junior forward Bailey Barbour and junior guard Mel Khlok, each with nine.
“Bailey had a huge night, it was a huge game for her. She continues to be a real presence for us inside,” Azzi said, “Rheina didnʼt shoot great but she just played hard and thatʼs the kind of leadership we need. Sheʼs so competitive, she really ramped up her pressure.”
Barbour led the team in rebounds with eleven, and was just a point or an assist short of a double-double. She also had three blocks.
“We canʼt have a let down of effort ever. That should be a given every single time you walk out on the court, and the three things we talk about — attitude, effort and energy — they really did that tonight, I was pleased with that,” Azzi said, “I was very proud of their effort tonight.”
The Dons will face their Bay Area rivals from Santa Clara at least one more time this season.
“Thereʼs deﬁnitely things to watch in the ﬁlm, to see how we can get better. We need to learn from the game, not get down about it. Be proud of the effort, but know that we can do better,” Azzi said.
USF will face the University of San Diego Toreros in San Diego this Thursday at 7 p.m. The next home game is Saturday, Feb. 11 against Gonzaga University.