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FutureStarrSanta Clara Easily Handles #BYU at the #MarriottCenter
Santa Clara easily defeated BYU at the Marriott Center, sweeping their season series for the first time since 2006. It was an easier feat than expected for the Broncos who out-shot the Cougars 49% (29 of 70) from the field and 22% from 3-point range.
The Broncos had an impressive start, hitting six of their first seven three-pointers to take a commanding 20-16 lead in the opening quarter - their best start to a game this season.
Santa Clara University, the oldest higher learning institution in California, is a Jesuit university situated in Silicon Valley. It boasts more than 20 Division I sports programs and an impressive arts and entertainment scene with the Center of Performing Arts and de Saisset Museum; additionally, Santa Clara hosts the Founders Cup - college basketball's premier tournament - annually.
On Thursday night at Marriott Center, Santa Clara University easily defeated BYU by 19 points. Santa Clara scored 12 points early and built a 19-point lead at halftime. Though BYU cut their deficit to four in the second quarter, an incredible run by Santa Clara put them back ahead 44-30 at halftime.
BYU fell to 20-13 and 6-8 in the West Coast Conference (WCC), despite an NBA scout being present. They shot 44% (25 of 69) from the floor and 52% (19 of 35) from 3-point range.
BYU was held to just 3 of 13 3-pointers and 2 for 23 from long range the rest of the way as a strong perimeter defense kept them from making any serious progress.
BYU was led in scoring by Rudi Williams with 20 points and Fousseyni Traore added 13 points. Spencer Johnson also contributed with 11 points off the bench for a strong game for BYU.
BYU's best player remains Gustin, who leads the team in points per game and rebounds per game with 16.2. She has recorded a double-double in each game this season and looks on track to break the school record for rebounds in one season.
Santa Clara, California is home to numerous Silicon Valley companies and the Jesuit-run Santa Clara University. On its campus are several historic homes built during the 19th century that remain in excellent condition today.
Last Saturday, Santa Clara University completed their historic sweep of BYU by winning by 16 points at the Marriott Center. With 10 made out of 17 attempts from 3-point range and only 1 of 13 attempts from beyond the arc in the first half, the Broncos took control of the game early. With this win, they improved to 16-13 overall and 6-8 in West Coast Conference play.
Santa Clara's Lara Edmanson led the way with 15 points, along with five rebounds and two assists. Tess Heal and Olivia Pollerd each scored nine points to round out the scoring for Santa Clara.
Heal leads the WCC in scoring at 16.4 points per game, followed by Pollerd at 15.3. With four players scoring double figures, the Broncos will continue to rely on them for their offense going forward.
The Broncos possess several players who can hit 3-point shots and should be able to attack the Cougars with that ball in hand. The big men in the paint must fight for offensive rebounds, making it difficult for the Cougars to get possession of the ball.
Podziemski, the leading scorer at the WCC Tournament, was on fire again and will look to capitalize on BYU's lack of shooting on Friday night. As one of the league's best outside shooters, he will be a threat to score whenever he has possession of the ball.
BYU hasn't been as dominant on the road this year, but Thursday night's game against Santa Clara should give them a chance to turn things around. A win would push their record up to 8-2 on the season and give them an edge in taking control of the WCC race.
In this matchup, the Broncos have several players who can contribute, such as top recruit Tess Heal and freshman Ayzhiana Basallo. Furthermore, Olivia Pollerd was an impressive standout for Australia at Under 17 nationals last year.
Pollerd has yet to play at the NCAA level, but she hopes to make an impact in the WNBA. She was an integral part of Australia's dominant run at Under 17 Oceania Championships in 2019.
This talented player is an excellent addition to the Broncos and shows great promise for the future. She has demonstrated that she can be a reliable scorer, while her defense adds valuable depth to their squad.
She is a versatile guard who can play both off the ball and on the wing. Additionally, her shooting range extends far, with high percentage accuracy on jumpers.
Santa Clara Broncos have been the top rebounding team in the WCC this season and will be a formidable opponent for the Cougars on Thursday evening at Marriott Center. Fousseyni Traore leads the charge with 12.9 points per game and 7.8 rebounds per contest.
Heal has made a name for herself as an impressive freshman, winning three times this season the University Credit Union West Coast Conference Freshman of the Week award. After moving to California with her family, Heal was quickly integrated into life at University Credit Union West Coast Conference headquarters. Her uncle Shane Heal, who served four times on Australia's Olympic team and currently coaches professionally in Australia, also helped facilitate that transition.
Heal is an all-around point guard who can do it all on the court. She's also a good defender and athletic presence on the court, which helps Santa Clara easily handle BYU at Marriott Center where they've won six of their last seven matches.
She's scoring 16 points per game this year, which is significantly more than she was scoring as a freshman. That's one of the major reasons why she's on track to become the program's first freshman to score 500 points in one season.
Her eight UCU Freshman of the Week awards are second-most in WCC history. Additionally, she's on track to become the first player in school history to reach 2,000 points this season.
She knows her team has a long way to go before they reach their goal, but her belief in their ability to win is high. With quality depth on board, the Broncos look more likely to compete for an NCAA Tournament spot.
Last season, BYU came into this season with two unproven big men who were expected to learn from veteran players like Richard Harward and Gavin Baxter. But when both suffered season-ending injuries, Traore and Atiki were forced into action sooner than anyone had anticipated.
Transitioning from non-American to American basketball can be a difficult feat for any player, especially one who didn't grow up here or have much prior experience playing the sport. Not only is it physically demanding but also emotionally draining.
Atiki Ally Atiki is a 6-10 Tanzanian-born big man who began playing basketball for London Basketball Academy in Canada as a wing but quickly developed into a power forward when he arrived at BYU, giving him the versatility to operate on both ends of the court.
He's an impressive shot-maker from distance, with consistent handles that indicate his potential to be a top-five NBA draft pick if he can reach that level.
His standing vertical is an astonishing 45 inches and his max vertical is an even greater feat at 46 inches - both record-setting heights in NBA combine history.
His strength as a defensive end is unmatched. He began as a guard, dribbling before beginning an incredible growth spurt that saw him reach 6-foot-11.
That's why he's become such a dominant force in the West Coast Conference this season. He leads BYU in scoring at 12.9 points per game and ranks as the top rebounder with 7.8 boards per contest, boasting an impressive block ratio of 1.2. His success won't stop anytime soon as BYU looks to build upon their 20-win streak next week against St. Mary's before concluding the regular season against San Francisco February 25th.