Washington State got Gonzaga’s attention in Hawaii and paid for it in Spokane.
Exactly eight years after their previous scheduled meeting and 13 days after they met at a tournament, the Bulldogs’ big guns bagged the Cougars 93-75 Saturday afternoon in a nonconference women’s basketball contest before 3,908 fans at the McCarthey Athletic Center
“In Hawaii it was kind of hard after that loss (to Mississippi), it took the wind out of our sails a little bit,” Gonzaga leader Courtney Vandersloot said. “It’s hard to get pumped for a game, regardless of the opponent. We were excited to play in front of our home crowd. The energy got us going.”
Vandersloot had 13 points and 14 assists, most to Katelan Redmon and Kayla Standish, who had 26 and 22 points, respectively.
It was Standish who made the biggest different, going against a WSU team that is much taller and talented than in recent years. When the teams met in the tournament in Hawaii, Standish had nine points in the 67-65 win.
“I think we were more aggressive than last time,” the 6-foot-3 junior said after hitting 10 of 14 shots while getting seven rebounds, four blocks, two steals and two assists. “The posts were more demanding, and once we got the ball we finished. That’s what we’ve been struggling with.”
WSU (2-8) was leading 18-15 about 6 minutes into the game when the Bulldogs (7-3) went on an 11-0 run. Redmon had two baskets, Vandersloot scored from the lane and Janelle Bekkering had a 3-pointer, but Standish had the signature play.
She blocked Carly Noyes, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, inside, then dribbled the ball up the court and pulled up for a jump shot just inside the free-throw line that put Gonzaga ahead for good at 19-18.
“I thought we had some extra playmakers today and, quite frankly, I thought our offensive execution was pretty good,” Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves said. “Kayla was outstanding. She did a good job on Noyes. She’s a good player and Kayla won that battle. That’s big for us. If we get an interior presence like that, we’re going to be tough to beat.”
The Bulldogs used that run for a 46-34 lead at the half and then weathered an 11-0 run by the Cougars that made it 56-52 with 15 minutes to play. Standish made two free throws to stop the threat. GU ended up shooting 52.7 percent after a 57 percent second half and had 24 assists and 39 baskets.
“There was 10 minutes in the first half I’d love to have back, especially offensively,” WSU coach June Daugherty said. “We weren’t efficient. I loved the second half, coming out in our man-to-man defense and (coming back). The execution for the second half I’ll take, but I’d like that 10 minutes back. That and free throws is where, to me, we lost the game.”
The Cougars, who shot 50 percent from the field in the second half, made just 7 of 18 free throws. Noyes and freshman guard Ireti Amojo led WSU with 12 points and April Cook had 11.
“Nobody was intimidated by the environment,” Daugherty said. “They were disappointed, but there were great (looks) of things to come. They’re leaning. I’m excited about our team. … There was no quit in them. This was a very united effort by our team.
“Gonzaga seemed like they couldn’t miss. Credit to them.”
Redmon, a redshirt junior, is the only Bulldog to have played against WSU, back in her freshman year at Washington.
“They’re a whole different team from when I played them,” she said. “They’re a lot better, they’re definitely improving.”
Redmon added six assists and six rebounds.