Feverish Comeback Falls Short; Zags Fall 65-60 To Ohio State
"I'm really disappointed," stated Gonzaga head coach Kelly Graves after the game. "I thought this was one we could have gotten and we let it slip away. We did a lot of things late that cost us the ball game. Unfortunately, it was a little thing here and a little thing there. Credit Ohio State though, they made the plays when it mattered and we didn't."
Ohio State took its first lead of the game with 54 seconds remaining in the first half and never let it go the rest of the contest. Even though the Buckeyes never relinquished the advantage, Gonzaga did all it could to fight for the victory.
It looked like OSU had the win in hand when Amber Stokes stole the ball from Gonzaga's Shelby Cheslek which then turned into a layup by Ameryst Alston, giving the visiting team a 7-point edge at 54-47 with 5:53 to play in the contest.
Gonzaga, feeding off the energy of the 5,424 fans in attendance, rattled off a run though that tied the contest with 3:49 left on the clock. Sophomore Sunny Greinacher started things with a jumper, followed by a lay-in by junior Haiden Palmer. Senior Taelor Karr stepped up to the line and sank two free throws - after missing her previous two in the half - while sophomore Stephanie Golden sank the front end of the bonus to tie the game at 54. Unfortunately, Golden missed the second which would have given GU the lead.
A dagger came nearly a minute later for Gonzaga when Stokes nailed a 3-pointer - her first long-distance shot of the season - as the shot clock sounded to break the tie and give the Buckeyes the lead once again.
After Karr was called for an offensive foul, Golden fouled OSU's Tayler Hill who sank two of her 12 free throws on the night to push Ohio State's lead to five.
Greinacher hit a jumper to slice the edge to three and Gonzaga then had the possession with 54 seconds remaining after Stokes missed both free throws and Cheslek grabbed the defensive rebound. Bad luck loomed though as Cheslek's outlet pass was picked off by Hill, who again was fouled, and made both from the line.
The never-give-up Bulldogs kept fighting and sliced the lead to one with 26 seconds left. Karr made one free throw and missed the second but Cheslek was there for the offensive board. Her kick-out went to Greinacher who quickly passed to an open Palmer. The Zags leading scorer drained her first 3-pointer of the night to put the score at 61-60.
Karr quickly fouled to put Alston on the line for the bonus. She missed the front end, but another little thing didn't go Gonzaga's way as Hill grabbed the offensive board off the missed free throw. Hill was fouled and kept her perfect streak alive from the charity strip to give the Buckeyes the 63-60 advantage with 18 seconds left.
Gonzaga couldn't get a 3-pointer off in the final seconds and, when the play broke down, Karr's drove the lane with seven ticks remaining for a lay-up but it was off the mark.
Hill finally sealed the heart-pounding victory for Ohio State with two free throws.
Gonzaga led by as many as nine points in the first half and held Ohio State to 3-of-15 shooting over the first 13 minutes of the game. The Buckeyes closed out the opening stanza with a 15-4 run to hold the 25-23 halftime advantage.
Hill was the leading scorer in the game with 25 points, 14 coming in the second half. She also was one rebound shy of a double-double.
Palmer led three Zags in double-figures with 13 points. Karr chipped in 11 points and Greinacher added 10.
The Bulldogs look to rebound against the University of Idaho Thursday. GU hosts the Vandals at 6 p.m.
NOTES - The Bulldogs have already lost twice at home this season, matching the total from last year when they went 15-2 at the McCarthey Athletic Center...the Zags haven't lost two games at home against non-conference foes since the 2008-09 season, when they suffered setbacks to South Dakota State and Tennessee...Ohio State earned its first road victory of the year... both teams shot 18 free throws, however, the Buckeyes missed just three of their attempts while Gonzaga missed a season-worst 11... the 25 points scored by Ohio State guard Tayler Hill were the most by a Gonzaga opponent this season...the Buckeyes shot 47 percent, the second-highest mark by allowed by GU this season. Only top-ranked Stanford (49 percent) shot better against the Zags... Gonzaga attempted a season-low eight 3-pointers...the Bulldogs shot 45 percent, their best effort in a loss this season...GU freshman Kiara Kudron played 14 minutes, matching a season high...Elle Tinkle swiped a career-best three steals...Gonzaga is 13-14 against Idaho, its next opponent. The Bulldogs, however, have won the last three meetings by an average margin of 34.3 points per game.