The Gonzaga women’s basketball team got back on track Sunday afternoon, erasing the disappointment of a pair of losses to highly-ranked Big 12 Conference teams last weekend in Las Vegas with a 96-57 dismantling of UC Irvine.
It was the stellar all-around play of Vivian Frieson and Bulldogs-at-their-best second half that pleased a nice crowd of 2,733 at McCarthey Athletic Center.
Frieson filled up the stat sheet with a season-high 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting, 11 rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks, plus the pregame comment that set the tone.
“We just wanted to come in and play hard,” she said. “We didn’t play that great against Baylor. … Against Texas A&M, we played a lot harder that game, played with a lot of heart and we showed we can play with teams of that caliber. We just wanted to come in and have that mentality all the time.
“That was the last thing I said before the game started. … ‘Let’s be the team from the second half of Texas A&M.’ That’s what we have to do all the time.”
And that’s certainly what the Zags (10-4) did, especially in the second half when they outscored the Anteaters (3-9) 31-9 in less than 10 minutes.
Gonzaga finished with a 53-26 second-half rout by shooting 67 percent, out-rebounding Irvine by 12, scoring 18 points off turnovers and increasing its fast-break points from four to 18 while limiting UCI to two.
Kayla Standish came off the bench for her first double-double of 10 points and a career-high 11 rebounds. Heather Bowman had 15 points, closing within 66 of the West Coast Conference career record and 124 of the GU mark. Courtney Vandersloot had 10 points, all in the second half, and eight assists, 42 shy of the GU career mark and 101 of the WCC record.
Irvine’s only player in double figures was Jade Smith Williams with 13. Mikah Maly-Karros, the daughter of former Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Eric Karros, had 10 rebounds but none in the second half.
“It was a matter of bearing down a little more,” Frieson said. “We just came off Christmas vacation. That’s not an excuse, but there was a little rust. It was just a matter of us saying we have to bear down no matter who this team is.”
Frieson carried the Zags to a 43-31 halftime lead with 17 points. Though the Bulldogs never seemed to get into too much of an offensive rhythm, after the Anteaters took a 10-9 lead they slowly sipped behind. The key surge came immediately after Irvine’s lead, when GU went on a 12-3 run with Friesen and Bowman scoring four points apiece.
“I thought overall we played very well tonight,” GU coach Kelly Graves said. “I don’t even think we played that poorly in the first half. They were scrappy, tough and they were physical.
“I thought the second half we got it turned up defensively, got some steals and then we’re pretty good when we’re in transition.”
The Bulldogs play traditional Big West power Santa Barbara on Thursday before getting a nine-day break before opening WCC play at home against Portland. UCSB is 3-7 going into a game at Idaho.
North Idaho College 80, Columbia Basin 72: Kama Griffitts scored 23 points and Tugce Canitez added 16 off the bench as the Cardinals beat the Hawks in the first round of the Chemeketa Holiday Classic in Salem, Ore. North Idaho (10-2) next faces Lane (10-0) today at 5 p.m.
Community Colleges of Spokane 70, Edmonds Community College 44: Meghan Eisenmann scored 18 points and Eleaya Schuerch added 12 as the Sasquatch (7-2) ran away from the Tritons (2-5) in the second half for a win in the opening round of the Lady Tritons Winter Classic in Lynnwood, Wash. CCS next faces Centralia today at 6 p.m.