The way the Gonzaga started against Portland Friday night it seemed like the toughest decision Bulldogs basketball coach Kelly Graves was going to have to make was whether to order a pizza – at halftime.
Of course, that near surgical precision didn’t last but the Bulldogs delighted most of the crowd of 4,917, the fourth-largest for the GU women at McCarthey Atheltic Center, with an 87-67 win that ran their winning streak to 10 games, 24 straight in the West Coast Conference
The Bulldogs scored on 13 of their first 15 possessions for a 29-10 lead and pushed it to 39-15 by hitting 18 of 22 shots.
Then the defense got a little soft and his team missed their last six shots to cool off to 61.8 percent, and Portland cut the lead to 51-38 by scoring the last seven points.
“They made that nice little run at the end of the half, it gave me some ammunition,” Graves said. “We had it going inside and outside early. I wouldn’t say we let off the gas, we never let off the gas, but for whatever reason we didn’t finish very well.”
After a ragged start to the second half the Bulldogs (20-4, 8-0 WCC) used a pair of 10-point runs, despite shooting 35.9 percent in the half, to coast to the win.
It was a typical performance for the team that leads the nation in scoring (85.3) and assists (20.1).
Courtney Vandersloot, the national leader in assists (9.6), had another 14 of the team’s 22 to go with 25 points, her 11th double-double accounting for 55 of GU’s total points. Katelan Redmon added 22 points and Kayla Standish had her fourth double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Claire Raap had 10 points off the bench.
“Quite frankly they have the three best players in the league and then they have two of the best role players in the league,” long-time Portland coach Jim Sollars said of the Gonzaga starters. “And they’re well-coached. I don’t know how you stack Vandersloot, Redmon and Standish, but they are the three best players in the league.
“They’re clearly, clearly, the best team in the Northwest.”
But Graves did have some complaints.
“I was a little disappointed in our defense,” he said. “I thought we gave them too many good looks and they’re a very good offensive team. I think they’re second in most every offensive category in the conference behind us.
“Quite frankly, there were stretches there where we couldn’t stop them. I think we’re a good defensive team and they made us look bad at times. I think they have five different players that have scored 20 more points in a game. … We couldn’t separate from them. I think you have to give a lot of credit to them.”
Still, GU turned 16 Portland turnovers into 22 points and limited the Pilots to 41.5 percent shooting.
“We’re not going to lose very often when we score 87 points,” Graves said. “Offensively we did some good things.”
For example, just three turnovers in each half.
“As many possessions as we get and to have six turnovers, we take quick shots and I think generally we take very good shots,” he said.
Lauren Angel led the Pilots (12-11, 3-5) with 25 points and nine rebounds. Gonzaga Prep grad Tara Cronin had nine points and five assists in her last game in Spokane.
“I love playing in front of my family,” he said. “I have such a great support system in Spokane. Even all the fans, they’re rooting for me to be successful, win or lose. I enjoy playing in Spokane.”