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Gonzaga takes over first place in WCC

Gonzaga received career scoring highs from Sunny Greinacher and Shelby Cheslek on Thursday night while jumping into first place in the West Coast Conference with a 74-59 home home over BYU. Read story

Greinacher agreed that GU's defense set up its offense Thursday night.

“I think we got our confidence from our defense,” she said. “(BYU) didn't score for the first couple of minutes and I think that gave us a lot of confidence.”

The Bulldogs wanted to stop BYU from lobbing the ball to Hamson, but the lobs actually went in a different direction.

“They couldn't guard Shelby inside. That was just the truth,” Greinacher said. “We could lob it to her and she did a good job of ducking and posting up.”

Greinacher is showing more and more confidence in her scoring. She didn't score in double figures during GU's first eight games of the season, but she has hit double figures seven times since.

“Coach still tells me to be more confident and not hesitate that much,” she said. “I'm working on it. Today was just another step.”

Cheslek has 99 rebounds and 33 blocked shot for the Bulldogs this year, but she may be opening up a new dimension with her scoring. Until Thursday, she had scored in double figures just once this season.

“I didn't know when it would happen,” she said. “I was hoping it would happen soon. … It's great that it happened against a big team like BYU.”

Cheslek said she wasn't surprised by the Cougars' 17-0 second-half run, a rally so sudden that it took just 3 minutes, 15 seconds.

“Every great team will come back and fight, and I think BYU did that,” Cheslek said. “But we held ourselves together and controlled ourselves and came back from it.”

“Coach was definitely yelling a little louder (after BYU's run), but I think all of us on the court still knew that we had this game,” Greinacher said. “We just had to keep calm and continue what we were doing.”

“Two things we talked about after the game: No. 1, I was really proud with how we started and how we played in that first half,” Graves said. “I thought that defensively we were as good as we've been. I also told them I was really proud of them in the way he handled that comeback.”

Graves had another message to his players after the game.

“I don't often single out players in the locker room after, because it's a team win,” he said. “But I did single out our post players tonight. … Not only in shutting down arguably their best player (Hamson), but just the way they were scoring. We haven't had those kinds of inside baskets much at all this year. … I made the challenge to them before the game and they answered it.”

Hamson almost disappeared on the court. Asked the secret to defending a 6-7 player, Graves had a good comeback.

“We have a 6-5 kid (Cheslek) that's not too bad,” he said. “That's a good start. We don't have a bunch of little munchkins. I just thought we did a nice job of pushing (Hamson) off the block. Five feet in, she's a load and she's terrific. Get her 6-10 feet out, that changes her game a little bit.”

Gonzaga's back in first place, with big games left at BYU (Feb. 23) and at home against Saint Mary's (Feb. 14).

“In the end, (the BYU win) is just one game,” Graves said. “But it was an important game for a lot of reasons: our psyche, playing one of the better teams in the conference, and to do it the way we did.”

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Jim Allen Sports reporter Jim Allen's primary coverage areas are Eastern Washington University football and men's basketball, and college and high school soccer. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Jim Meehan Jim Meehan's coverage areas include Gonzaga University men's basketball, Spokane Shock football, golf and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Chris Derrick Chris Derrick is a sports reporter. His primary coverage areas are the Spokane Chiefs, Spokane Indians, women's basketball and high school softball and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Josh Wright Josh Wright is a freelance correspondent who covers the University of Idaho football team and men's basketball team.

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