Zags Defeat Portland To Clinch At Least a Share of WCC Title
SPOKANE, Wash. – Twelve Gonzaga University women’s basketball players scored, paced by Haiden Palmer’s 12 points, to lead the 24th ranked Bulldogs to a 72-61 victory over the University of Portland Saturday afternoon in front of a sold out crowd at the McCarthey Athletic Center. The 11-point victory clinched at least a share of the West Coast Conference regular season championship; the Zags unprecedented 10th straight.
Palmer was the only Bulldog to break double-digits but with a balanced offensive attack that featured 11 other players, it didn’t matter much. Junior Lindsay Sherbert came off the bench to have the next highest, scoring nine points. For the game, the bench contributed for 34 of the 72 points.
Gonzaga head coach Kelly Graves believes the depth of his team is one of their top strengths.
“We are deep, and it’s legitimate depth,” stated Graves. “Anybody can come in and contribute.”
Sophomores Kiara Kudron and Elle Tinkle each scored six points off the bench, while junior Maiki Viela contributed five in an important seven minute stretch. Kudron also had a game-high eight boards and three assists.
The Bulldogs didn’t shoot particularly well, finishing the game shooting 38.8 percent from the floor, hitting 26-of-67. It’s the second-straight game Gonzaga shot below 40 percent.
“For whatever reason, we’re just not shooting the ball very well, so it doesn’t look as pretty as it might be,” said Graves. “We’re a good shooting team, and we’re just kind of out of sync right now. We were getting some good shots, we just didn’t make them.”
In contrast, Portland hit an impressive 51.1 percent (23-of-45) from the field and was led by Cassandra Brown’s 16 points. Brown, who scored all her points in the second stanza, drained 6-of-9 from the floor, including a perfect 4-of-4 from beyond the 3-point arc.
Gonzaga did win the battle of the boards, outrebounding Portland 42-26, including an impressive 21-2 edge on the offensive end. The offensive rebounds turned into 25 second chance points. The Pilots were held to just two second chance points.
“I thought defensively we were pretty good,” explained Graves. “We did a great job on the boards and had good energy.”
Sherbert scored six of her nine points minutes after entering the game. Her barrage of layups turned a two point deficit into a two point lead seven minutes into the contest.
The game would stay close – with Gonzaga not leading by more than four points – until a 7-0 run turned a 14-14 tie into a 21-14 advantage with 7:08 left in the first. Portland responded with 5-straight points but a 10-2 run over the final five minutes allowed the Bulldogs to open a 10-point lead – 31-21 – at intermission. Jazmine Redmon started the run with a jumper, while Shelby Cheslek closed out the half nailing two free throws.
A quick start by Gonzaga in the second – which consisted of an old fashion 3-point play by Sunny Greinacher followed by a Greinacher steal and fastbreak layup by Palmer – was the start it needed.
The Bulldogs never led by fewer than 10 points in the final 20 minutes and their largest lead with 19 points, coming at the 4:04 mark when Stephanie Golden made a layup to put the score at 68-49.
The victory improved Gonzaga’s overall record to 24-4 and its WCC mark to 14-2. Portland fell to 14-13 on the year and 7-9 in league.
Before the game, Gonzaga honored Pilot head coach and Graves mentor Jim Sollars, who is retiring after 41 years as a head coach, including 28 at Portland.
The Bulldogs close out the WCC regular season next week, hosting Saint Mary’s College Thursday at 6 p.m. and the University of the Pacific Saturday at 2 p.m. The Gaels handed the Zags their first league loss of the season.
“Saint Mary’s gave us our first conference loss, so I think our kids are going to be ready and certainly motivated for next week,” explained Graves of the Zags next opponent. “Plus, that’s a game that could clinch our 10th straight championship outright, so it’s going to be meaningful in lots of different ways.”