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First-place Gonzaga heats up from outside

Gonzaga hit a season-high 12 3-pointers Saturday to turn back Pepperdine in West Coast Conference play at McCarthey Athletic Center. The Bulldogs finished 12 of 24 from long range, with Haiden Palmer, Taelor Karr and Keani Albanez hitting three apiece. Gonzaga won its sixth consecutive game and improved to 8-1 in the WCC. Saint Mary's and BYU are both 6-2. Read story                                                                                                                      

Gonzaga wasn't surprised by Pepperdine's rough play.

"They always play physical, they always play really hard," Grave said. ... "Yeah, they're like that. They're freshmen (five on the roster) and they have a lot of young kids. They don't have a lot of experience with us. They certainly weren't intimidated. They came in and they were very game."

"That's how they played us, pretty tough, down at their house," Palmer said of the Jan. 24 game in Malibu, Calif., an 80-46 Gonzaga win. ... "They were aggressive (today), so we tried to be aggressive back."

The aggressive play, however, led to uncharacteristic Gonzaga errors.

"We average 12 1/2 turnovers per game, the best in the conference by a long way and one of the best in the nation, and we had 19 turnovers tonight," Graves said. "That's the most we've had in a long time -- probably November."

Graves was close. Gonzaga had 21 turnovers on Dec. 7 in a win over Portland State.

The 21 fouls whistled on the Bulldogs were a season high.

Both teams were sharp from the line, with Pepperdine 15 of 19 and Gonzaga 13 of 16. Free-throw shooting has not been GU's strong suit, as the Bulldogs entered the game last in the WCC at 60.5 percent (205 for 339).

"We shot 81 percent today, so that's getting better," Palmer said.

GU has also had a tendency to build a big early lead before letting the opponent bounce back. Part of that is because Graves will substitute freely when his starters have built a good advantage.

"That's something we've been working on," Palmer said. "We usually get a big lead and let the other team come back a little bit."

But another factor is that everyone wants to take a swing at the eight-time defending WCC champions.

"We know that every team's going to give us their best because we know every team wants to beat us," Palmer said. "We're on top for the moment, so we get up for every game and play hard."

Palmer tied her third-best scoring total of the season. GU otherwise relied on offensive balance, with Albanez coming off the bench for 12 points, Redmon scoring 10, and Cheslek and Karr scoring nine apiece. Albanez had her biggest-scoring game since her season-high 19 against Missouri State in GU's fifth game of the season.




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