PULLMAN – There wasn’t much time left when Washington State’s Ireti Amojo knocked down a 3-pointer in front of her team’s bench on Wednesday.
But Gonzaga’s Taelor Karr proved that 10 seconds is plenty of time to go coast-to-coast for a layup that produced a thrilling 71-69 win when the Cougars couldn’t get off a shot in the last 3 seconds.
“I knew there wasn’t much time left. I just wanted to push it and not let them get set up on defense,” Karr said. “I was just going with the flow. I’m just happy it went in.
“You have to be confident at all times, but I was going so fast I wasn’t thinking.”
The fans in Beasley Coliseum were still celebrating Amojo’s contested bucket when Karr took off, getting a free lane when the on-ball defender, Rosetta Adzasu, fell down.
“That’s going to happen, unfortunately,” WSU coach June Daugherty said. “What’s tough is we were in man-to-man at that point. Normally you have somebody step up, but that didn’t happen. … The No. 1 rule is stop the basketball, but she had a pretty good head of steam, too.”
Even with a timeout, the Zags’ plan was predetermined.
“We work on that,” Bulldogs coach Kelly Graves said. “That’s what we do. Made basket late in the game, we get it in as quick as we can before the defense can get set up. Taelor took it right to the rim.”
Though both coaches bemoaned too many turnovers (45 between them) and some defensive lapses, the end couldn’t have been more clutch.
With the game tied and less than 2 minutes to go, Gonzaga’s Kelly Bowen nailed a 3-pointer and Kayla Standish had a steal and made two free throws for a five-point lead. WSU freshman Tia Presley countered with a steal and a layup. After another turnover, Jazmine Perkins drove for a basket that made it a one-point game with a minute left.
After that, both teams wasted a possession before Karr’s two free throws after a clutch offensive rebound by Katelan Redmon made it 69-66 with 17 seconds to go, setting up Amojo’s big basket.
“The game wasn’t over at that point. It was just another play that we drew up, I shot and it went in,” Amojo said with a shrug. “It felt good.”
The Bulldogs (4-1), ranked 24th in one poll, started the second half like they were at home, breaking away from a tie with 11 straight points. But as they did in the first half, the Cougars (4-4) came back.
“We’re pretty good front-runners that way, but I think you have to give them credit,” Graves said. “I said this is the best Cougar team I’ve seen in my 20 years in the Northwest and they proved it tonight.”
Standish led four Bulldog starters in double figures with 16, 12 in the second half. Redmon had 14, Karr and Bowen 13.
Presley didn’t play like a freshman, leading WSU with 16 points in her third start.
Carly Noyes, a 6-foot-5 junior, had 12 points but fouled out with more than 3 minutes left. Amojo also had 12.