The end score of 87-43 Monday night wasn’t able to erase the depth of the struggles that the No. 25 Gonzaga women’s basketball team endured in the first half against UC Riverside.
The (9-2) Zags went one-for-eight from free-point land and numerous layups that turned into bricks. As a result, Gonzaga trailed several times before the defense of Haiden Palmer allowed the Bulldogs to make a run late in the first half.
In one series alone before the half, the Zags missed four shots as the seconds ticked off right before halftime.
“It’s super frustrating,” said forward Sunny Greinacher, whose eyes widened as she spoke. “We practice those shots. They are supposed to go in during the game. You definitely feel bad for the coaches.”
Coach Kelly Graves didn’t want to dwell on the early misses. He noted that of the 36 field goals scored by Gonzaga, 25 came from assists. “That is a great percentage.”
As expected, Graves was pleased with several performances. Greinacher finished with 21 points and five rebounds. Lindsay Sherbert had 19 points, of which 15 came on five 3-pointers in the second half.
“She needed that,” Graves said of Sherbert. “As a team, we went o-fer (14 from the 3-point arc) at Stanford. We needed that outside threat.”
The only thing close to a criticism Graves has levied against Greinacher, the 6-4 junior from Essen, Germany, is that she needs to consistently play aggressive inside. Greinacher did just that against UC Riverside, finding ways to get the ball to the rim often with players draped all over her.
“Sunny was terrific,” Grave said. “She gives us a whole different dimension when we have that inside presence. I’m happy for her. She’s a good kid.”
Graves said he didn’t call anything special defensively to turn the UC Riverside game into one of the most lopsided halves he’s ever coached.
“That’s a trap we do on made baskets. The kids are like wolves,” Graves said. “Once they see a team struggling, their eyes light up.”
As he often does, Graves had good things to say about the Highlanders, who left McCarthey Athletic Center with a 4-5 record on the season.
“UC Riverside is a good basketball team,” he said. “They will finish in the upper half of their conference.”
DON’T COUG IT
Not long into the discussion of the second half rout of the Highlanders – the defense kept them to 13 points in the entire second half – Graves mentioned a tough regional battle with the Washington State Cougars on Saturday in Pullman.
“Anytime you play a regional team, it’s an acid test,” Graves said. “They got us here last year. We need to … make it right.”
Palmer was ready to talk about the Cougars as soon as the questions of the bitter taste of Stanford and the Highlanders blowout ended.
“We are at least thinking about them,” Palmer said, referring to the Cougars. “You definitely always want to beat Washington State.”
The Cougars, 5-5, play the same UC Riverside team on Wednesday. Despite the average record, WSU beat No. 10 Nebraska in Lincoln on Nov. 30.
“They are a good team,” Palmer said. “But we are definitely going down there expecting to get a win.”