Gonzaga had already taken Idaho behind the woodshed in the first half of their women’s basketball Friday night.
The Bulldogs were up 18 with the basketball as time was winding down when the Vandals tipped a pass to Courtney Vandersloot into backcourt. Vandersloot, who already had 10 points and nine assists, raced back for the ball, wheeled around and saw there wasn’t much chance to make anything happen.
The amazing All-American then seemed to go into slow motion, dribbling just inside halfcourt and letting a two-handed shot fly – for the basket that gave the Bulldogs a 53-32 lead.
The only intrigue after that was whether Vandersloot would break Robin Allen’s single-game assist record (17), the only assist record she doesn’t have. She didn’t but it hardly mattered in the 93-62 beatdown before 2,757 fans at McCarthey Athletic Center.
“She’s a Steve Nash,” Idaho coach Jon Newlee said. “That’s what I told our kids in practice. That’s my mistake, I told them she’s Steve Nash. I’m going to take the blame for that.”
Vandersloot finished with 18 points and 10 assists, five coming on GU’s first five baskets of the game. Katelan Redmon had 23 points, scoring 10 straight to end a 14-5 run that bumped a three-point lead to 32-20. Idaho (6-3) cut that in half but the Bulldogs (8-3) closed the half with a 15-0 surge with Kayla Standish, who finished with 21 points, getting six points and Vandersloot the last seven.
The Bulldogs shot 68.4 percent in the half, settling at 56.5 for the game.
“I thought offensively, the first half … unfortunately there are two ends of the floor,” Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves said. “Defensively we weren’t stellar in the first half. Offensively we were about as good as you can get. That’s a team that’s top 20 in field-goal defense, 32 percent.
“We were getting great shots and it’s contagious. … We were getting to the rim, getting to that 6-, 8-foot range. When you give Redmon and Standish those shots and they’re going to make them.”
Newlee said, “It was an unbelievable shooting display in the first half. They definitely got open looks and they made us pay. It felt like they made every shot. Not just 68 percent, I thought it was more like 98 percent.
“Our communication was extremely poor and our aggression was extremely poor. We were back on our heels. Gonzaga is a great team but our players gave them too much respect, especially Vandersloot, who I think is the best point guard in America. For sure. Without a doubt.”
Three other things stood out. Gonzaga had 29 assists on 39 baskets. The Bulldogs forced just 14 turnovers but turned those into 27 points. And in building a commanding 42-24 rebounding advantage, nine by Redmon, they had 14 offensive boards, good for 20 second-chance points.
“They made us play for every turnover and every offensive rebound they got,” Newlee said. “We were actually taking decent care of the basketball but we were turning it over on the top and once you do that against these guys it’s over.”
Derisa Taleni led Idaho with 16 points and Rachele Kloke had 14 but Yinka Olorunnife, who leads the team at 13.3 points and 9.8 rebounds, had just eight points and six boards.
“That’s not us,” Newlee said. “We’re a blue-collar team. We’ve got to come out whether it’s Eastern Oregon or Gonzaga, we have to play. We were intimated by what they did last year. … They have a lot of weapons. You can’t key on a couple of them. They can go so many different ways. I think they’re a great ballclub. … It’s a learning experience.”
Normally division championships are celebrated with champagne showers in the locker room. The Spokane Indians settled for cheering and high fives on a crowded bus.
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