Courtney Vandersloot made just one basket when Gonzaga smoked San Diego 109-73 midway through the West Coast Conference women’s basketball season.
When the Bulldogs closed out the regular season Saturday with a 77-67 win over the Toreros, Vandersloot had 24 points.
“She has good feel for the game,” GU coach Kelly Graves said. “Everything you ask her to do, she does. She can defend. She’s a master at controlling tempo. She can score, she can set other people up and she does it when we need it. That’s what a player of the year does.”
And that’s what Vandersloot is, continuing a tradition.
The Bulldogs won the WCC championship for the fifth straight year, and for the fourth time in those five seasons a Bulldog received the conference’s top individual honor.
Vandersloot, a sophomore, replaces teammate Heather Bowman, who followed Stephanie Hawk, who was honored two seasons after Shannon Mathews became GU’s first WCC women’s player of the year.
“I had that extra year of experience under my belt,” said Vandersloot, who was newcomer of the year and All-WCC last year. “We have last year’s top player, Heather, so teams had to focus on her. That opened up more opportunities for me to be a scorer and a playmaker.”
Vandersloot led the WCC in assists at 7.3 a game, which is third in the country, and is third in scoring at 16.4.
Bowman, a junior who was also a newcomer of the year, led the league in scoring (19.8) and was fourth in rebounding (7.5) to become the third Bulldog to be named All-WCC three times.
“Somebody said it before, it’s almost 1A, 1B,” Graves said. “We have the two most outstanding players in Courtney and Heather. It’s a tough call, but Courtney Vandersloot, when all is said and done, is really the engine that makes us go.”
Junior Vivian Friesen was also named All-WCC, the first time since Portland in 1997 that one team had three selections, a first for the Bulldogs.
Kelly Bowen was picked for the all-freshman team.
“Obviously, I’m pleased,” Graves said. “It is well deserved for each one of them.”
Friesen fills up a box score, averaging 10.1 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.6 blocks.
Bowman played in all 30 games for the 24-6 Bulldogs, with 12 starts in WCC games. She averaged 5.2 points and 4.5 rebounds.
The other individual awards included Louella Tomlinson of Saint Mary’s the defensive player of the year; Alex Cowling of Loyola Marymount, the newcomer of the year; and Jim Sollars of Portland, the coach of the year.
Tara Cronin, a sophomore at Portland from Gonzaga Prep, earned honorable mention.
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