Revenge for last year was more of a by-product of the statement that the Gonzaga women’s basketball team wanted to make about this year.
The Bulldogs opened the West Coast Conference season before 3,208 fans at McCarthey Athletic Center Saturday afternoon with a 90-54 dismantling of Portland, the team that shocked them on their home court in the WCC opener last year.
“We keep that in the back of our minds,” junior Courtney Vandersloot said of her 18-point, nine-rebound game. “I don’t know if it is revenge or not. We don’t really think of it that way, but we think we had something to prove and we wanted to set the tone for the WCC.”
Heather Bowman led the way with 23 points and Vivian Friesen and Katelan Redmon had 14 apiece.
“It’s how we wanted to come out,” Bowman said. “We wanted to come out strong and we had a little revenge to take out on them. We really don’t (say revenge) when we’re talking about it, it’s more just proving ourselves. It’s not about them, it’s about us defending our home court.”
The Bulldogs, who have won five straight conference titles, won this game with a dominating first half, doubling up the Pilots 42-21.
They got separation early with a 10-point burst in less than two minutes, courtesy of Vandersloot, who started it with a 3 and had assists on the other three baskets. They turned that into a 16-2 run with three consecutive put-back baskets.
Gonzaga didn’t slack off in the second half, pushing the lead to 37.
The Zags (12-4, 1-0) limited the Pilots (11-5, 0-1) to 34.6 percent shooting, scored 35 points off of 29 turnovers and were plus-nine rebounding, with 17 on the offensive end that helped produce a 52-12 difference in points in the paint.
“That’s where we did it tonight,” Graves said of his team’s defense. “They weren’t able to get in a rhythm and they’re a rhythm team. When they get in a rhythm they’re tough offensively. It’s a great way to start league.”
Laiken Dollente led Portland with 17 points but 14 came in the second half, when junior Tara Cronin, a Gonzaga Prep graduate who torched the Zags for career highs of 22 points and 13 rebounds last year, had all of her eight points.
“We take pride in our defense,” Vandersloot said. “We think we get our offense from our defense. That’s when we’re at our best.
“I think we played well. … We shared the ball well, we played good defense, so it was a good all-around game.”
Veteran Portland coach Jim Sollars, who won his 500th game earlier this season, was impressed.
“They’re just a lot more mature,” he said of GU. “They’re better, they’re deeper and they just play at lot more mature. Bottom line is they’re a better basketball team than we are.
“I don’t think we’re as bad as we showed today, but we have to do some things differently on a day-to-day basis. We have to learn to practice hard, practice better. We’re young and we’re really dumb. They don’t understand.”
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