On a day when the Gonzaga women’s basketball program said goodbye to its most prolific offensive player, the Bulldogs once again made a statement with defense.
The 21st-ranked Zags locked up a share of their sixth straight West Coast Conference championship Saturday afternoon with an impressive 87-45 Senior Day drubbing of third-place Pepperdine before 4,829 fans, the third-largest McCarthey Athletic Center crowd for a women’s game.
Just as they did Thursday night against Loyola Marymount, the Bulldogs (23-4, 12-0 WCC) took the suspense out early with lock-down defense – and kick-started the game just right with two baskets by Heather Bowman, the WCC and school all-time leading scorer, who pushed her career total to 2,080 with 12 points.
“That felt really good,” said Bowman, who came to Gonzaga from Lewis and Clark High School. “We just had everyone clicking and it let us enjoy the moment. We played really well. Looking back we probably won’t remember the game as much, but there won’t be any negatives from this day.”
Senior Vivian Frieson had 18 points to become the 15th member of the 1,000-point club, reaching the milestone with 6:34 to play with an acrobatic layup off an assist from Bowman. She also had 11 rebounds for her fourth double-double.
“It’s amazing,” said Frieson, who came from Garfield in Seattle. “It’s a good feeling. It just says something about our team. You have a great player like Courtney (Vandersloot), a great player like Bowman and they’re willing to give up the spotlight for something like that, for me. It shows what kind of team we have.”
The third senior, Tiffanie Shives, who transferred from Michigan State after her freshman season, had five points and is sixth on the school 3-point list with 118.
“I honestly feel like I’m so fortunate,” Shives said. “I’ve been in an experience where my team wasn’t like this and the fans weren’t this accepting and opening and friendly. I’m going to miss it. I love so many people here.”
The seniors exited to a standing ovation at the 6:15 mark.
Pepperdine (17-9, 8-4) went nearly 10 minutes without scoring and 11½ without a basket in the first half. Unlike Thursday, when their lead was 25-14 at halftime, the Zags’ offense was hitting on all cylinders.
Gonzaga turned a 12-10 lead into a 33-10 blowout. Along the way the Waves missed 18 shots and had 10 turnovers, then trailed 45-20 at the break.
“I think we were a lot more assertive today,” Frieson said. “The last game we weren’t assertive against that zone. Instead of looking to pass and cut like we normally do, we laid back.”
Vandersloot, the junior guard, engineered the offense, hitting 7 of 8 field goals and free throws for 23 points and dished off nine assists.
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