With no snow in Spokane on New Year’s Day, it was the perfect time to take that nice new Karr that the Gonzaga Bulldogs got as an early Christmas present out for a spin.
Taelor Karr scored a career-high 22 points as the Bulldogs routed Saint Francis (Pa.) 92-50 for their seventh straight win before a sellout crowd of 6,000 at the McCarthey Athletic Center on New Year’s Day.
The, a junior guard who transferred without penalty from Kansas State, hit six 3-pointers as the Bulldogs knocked down 13, one shy of the school record.
“That felt pretty good,” Karr said. “It felt good in warmups. … I thought my shot might be coming around.”
Karr played a team-high 27 minutes as 14 Bulldogs played and 12 scored. Reserve Danielle Walter, one of seven players with one 3-pointer, was the only other one in double figures at 11 points.
“That gives us another dimension when you have that consistent 3,” GU coach Kelly Graves said. “That clears the lane (for the posts).”
Now it’s all West Coast Conference all the time with the Zags (12-2) headed to Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount next weekend, packing their 31-game league winning streak with them.
Karr took care of this game quickly. She surpassed her previous Gonzaga high of 15 points with 16 points, including four 3-pointers, before the game was 10 minutes old. The Bulldogs were in a midst of a run, started when Kelly Bowen scored the 12th point on a feed from Karr, where they scored on 10 of 11 possessions, missing just one shot.
Gonzaga led 30-13 midway through the half and 49-20 at the break.
“I thought I was struggling coming off where I was at K-State last year,” said Karr, who averaged 10.3 points as a starter for the Wildcats. “I don’t know what it was, if I was being too timid, trying to fit in too much, just trying to figure out what my actual role is on the team.
“Lately I’ve been a lot more confident. I’m believing it’s going in and it’s starting to pay off.”
By the half, 12 Bulldogs had played and eight had scored, but not two starters and the top two scorers. Kayla Standish missed all five of her shots, Haiden Palmer didn’t even shoot in the three minutes she played before she picked up her second foul. Standish finished with four points, Palmer three.
“I thought that was a good team effort,” Graves said. “Haiden wasn’t great, Kayla struggled a little bit, and we can still do what we did. We’re starting to show we have a good basketball team, a lot of different weapons. As a coach, that’s exciting.”
The team from Loretto, Pa., probably got its first shock before the game, as the McCarthey Athletic Center was filling up for what would be its sixth women’s basketball sellout. Saint Francis has an enrollment of about 2,300 and averaged about 700 fans per game.
The Red Flash (5-8) have won 11 Northeast Conference titles, including the last two under fourth-year coach Susan Robinson Fruchtl, who was a Wade Trophy winner as the Player of the Year in 1992 for Penn State.
After making the last two NCAA tournaments, the Red Flash returned three starters but lost two to preseason knee injuries.
But this day was about Karr, who found out the first day of practice she wouldn’t have to sit out for a season.
“It was just mental,” she said. “You get in a slump. You tell yourself to stay positive and not worry about it but at the same time it takes a toll on you. I try to get those extra shots up. My teammates were behind me telling me to shoot. That encouragement helps. It’s coming around.”