There were two points of emphasis for the Gonzaga women’s basketball team heading into its Sunday afternoon game against Portland State at McCarthey Athletic Center.
By the end there was another.
The Bulldogs fashioned their 86-61 win on defense (25 turnovers) and rebounding (42-28 advantage), but in order to build on that their depth is going to be challenged.
Gonzaga (9-3) had lost its previous two games because of suspect rebounding and indifference on defense. To address this, the Bulldogs started in a zone with freshman forwards Kayla Standish and Kelly Bowen, their leaders in rebounds per minute, in the lineup.
“Defense and rebounding were our two focuses,” GU coach Kelly Graves said. “That’s where we slipped.”
And it worked after a slow start.
When Kelsey Kahle converted a three-point play, the Vikings (5-4) led 26-22.
“I thought we came out aggressively and did a good job picking apart their zone,” PSU coach Sherri Murrell said. “Then they went to a man defense and got more aggressive and we turned the ball over too much.”
That led to a six-minute drought while the Bulldogs put together a game-changing 13-0 run.
Bowen scored on a putback and finished a fast break off a Vivian Frieson pass started with a Jami Schaefer steal. Heather Bowman made four free throws, Standish hit a 3-pointer after a Frieson blocked shot and Courtney Vandersloot (18 points, five assists, five steals) capped a coast-to-coast drive after a steal with a spin move in the lane for a 35-26 lead.
“Our defense and rebounding wasn’t what it should be,” said Bowman, who scored 20 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. “That’s what allowed us to pull away. After they hit a couple of 3s we said we’re going to lock them down. We can’t have this happen.”
Overall the Zags scored 30 points after turnovers, turned 14 offensive rebounds into 15 points while giving up just five second-chance points and had a 17-0 advantage in fast break points.
Then came the new emphasis on a strong bench, which produced 33 points against the Vikings.
The Bulldogs played the game without sharp-shooting guard Tiffany Shives, who will have microfracture surgery on her knee today and miss the rest of the season. Just after taking control of the game, Schaefer, the defensive stopper, was lost with a cut above her eye that required four – “say 42” – stitches. Then in the closing minutes, backup point guard Tatriana Lorenzo suffered a dislocated pinky finger.
“I said depth was one of our strengths early,” Graves said. “That’s being tested now.”
Sophomore Claire Raap helped pick up the slack by matching her career high with 12 points, 11 in the second half.
“Coming in as a freshman from Prosser it was a big step up,” she said. “I’m starting to feel like I can really help. Playing the ‘four’ I’m a little undersized but I’m starting to get confidence. … I’m not a creator, I have to be there in those open spots for the dish. I want to be that solid player that when Coach says where he needs me I can do it.”
After closing the first half with an 18-3 run, Gonzaga dominated the second half with 57.6 percent shooting while holding the Vikings to 31.3 percent.
PSU struggled because point guard Claire Faucher, who led the nation in assists last year, played only seven minutes before fouling out with one assist.
“We didn’t have an answer for Bowman and we didn’t have an answer for Vandersloot,” Murrell said. “It hurt having Claire out. She was one of the reasons we were able to beat them last year. But they are a good team. I wish we would have had a much better performance but they’re going to win a lot of games.”
Kahle led the Vikings with 14 points. Local players Kelli Valentine (Mead) and Lexi Bishop (Shadle Park) combined for 11 points.