Taylor Proctor drives to the basket against Santa Clara. Proctor led the Dons in scoring with 27 points in addition to three assists and three rebounds. (Photo Courtesy of Hamis Al Sharif/Foghorn)

Women’s Basketball: Dons Undone After Long Lead

The Dons lost by a single point after leading for nearly the entire of the game against the Santa Clara Broncos on Saturday, Feb. 15. at War Memorial Gym. San Francisco seemed to be in control of the contest throughout the first 39 minutes of the game, but a scoring drought allowed the Broncos to catch up and steal the win from the Dons.

Sophomore forward Taylor Proctor set the tone for the game, scoring 27 points on 10 for 16 shooting. She scored eight points in a row within the opening minutes of the game, and already had 16 points less than 7 minutes into the first half. With 13:36 remaining in the half, the Dons led the game 19-10.

The Dons extended their lead to 29-15, but the Broncos answered with five straight points to bring the lead back to single digits. However, Santa Clara was quickly silenced by a deep three-pointer by open senior guard Alexa Hardick that put the Dons up 32-20.

Unfortunately for the Dons, Hardick’s three-pointer were the last points they would score for the next six minutes, as they allowed the Broncos to go on a 13-0 run. Freshman forward Claudia Price was finally able to end the dry spell with a pair of free throws, but the damage had been done and Santa Clara had the momentum going into halftime.

With 15 minutes left to play in the second half, Santa Clara pulled within two points on a three-pointer from leading scorer Nici Gilday. San Francisco responded with a three pointer from Proctor, and two free-throws from junior guard Aundrea Gordon, which helped the Dons regian control of the game and take a 51-44 lead. However, every time it looked as if USF might blow the game wide open. Santa Clara would continue to slowly chip away.

The Dons found themselves tied with the Broncos at 67 apiece with only 1:10 remaining. On the biggest possession of the game, Santa Clara’s Montana Walters hit a clutch three-point shot to put the Broncos up 70-67 with 24 seconds left on the clock, giving them their first lead since the early minutes of the game.

San Francisco responded by drawing up a play for Hardick, the Dons’ top long range shooter, but she was unable to connect on her attempt. Then, with just four seconds left and the score at 74-70 in Santa Clara’s favor, freshman guard Rachel Howard took a shot from downtown hoping for a miraculous four-point play that would tie the game. She made the basket, but without a foul, and the Dons were down a single point with no time left on the clock.

“We have to be able to put two halves together, especially towards the end of the game where we needed it most,” said junior guard Taj Winston, who had eight points. “[Santa Clara] kept fighting to the end, and that is what we needed to do.”

Proctor’s big night was complemented by a 16-point performance from redshirt junior forward Paige Spietz. A solid game from sophomore point guard Zhené Dikes could have pushed the Dons over the top, but she struggled all night, scoring four points and dishing out just three assists.
Next week, San Francisco faces its East Bay rival, St. Mary’s on Thursday, Feb. 20 at 6:00 p.m. in Moraga, Calif.

“We will be locked in and ready to play,” Winston said of the Dons’ upcoming game.

USF will need a strong effort from all of its players on Thursday, as the Dons, who fell to 9-16 (4-10 West Coast Conference), can get back on top of Santa Clara (8-17, 4-10 WCC) in the conference standings with a win.

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