As fans exited the McCarthey Athletic Center, one aficionado felt the need to make a play of his own and vocalize the obvious pun.
“She made the most of that golden opportunity,” he said.
Perhaps not the cleverest observation, but certainly an accurate statement in regards to Stephanie Golden’s performance on Thursday night.
Golden came off the bench and scored a career-high 15 points and added six rebounds and four assists as the No. 22 Gonzaga women’s basketball team picked up a 79-61 West Coast Conference victory over Loyola Marymount in front of 5,086 fans.
Golden’s opening came early. She entered the game to replace starter Katelan Redmon, who picked up two quick fouls, and played 9 minutes in the first half – matching her previous career high of 10 points before halftime.
“It was exciting – I just really wanted to make the most of my minutes,” Golden said.
Golden wasn’t the only player off the bench to have an impact for the Bulldogs (18-3, 7-1 WCC). Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves was also impressed with Sunny Greinacher’s seven-point performance –which included three rebounds, three assists, a block and a steal – and Jazmine Redmon’s 11 points, four assists and three steals.
In total, Gonzaga’s bench scored 35 points, while Loyola Marymount’s bench scored two points.
“When you get that kind of production from the bench, it’s a good night,”Graves said. “Stephanie gave us a big lift. The thing about Stephanie is she plays her butt off. If she played 30 minutes a game, she’s going to produce. She’s got a great nose for the basket and when her time comes and she steps into a bigger role, she’s going to make the most of it I’m sure.
“When you look at Sunny’s numbers – now that’s production. She and Jazmine were terrific. Jazmine is just a great competitor. She has all the intangibles that you look for that you might not see on a stat sheet and she displayed all those things tonight.”
Gonzaga starters Kayla Standish and Haiden Palmer each scored 14 points, while the Lions’ (5-15, 1-7) Hazel Ramirez – who averages 9.2 points a game – poured in a career-high 24 points.
LMU’s Alex Cowling, who leads the WCC in scoring (20.8 ppg), scored 23, though the Zags were able to shut her down for an 18-minute scoreless period between the first and second halves.
“I thought we played a pretty good game,” Graves said. “I didn’t like the fact that we got outrebounded and I thought they outhustled us for a portion of the game and that showed up on the boards, but I liked how we executed our game plan.
“We got it inside, we didn’t turn it over. For the most part I was pretty happy.”
Graves and the rest of Bulldogs are now looking forward to Saturday’s rematch with Saint Mary’s, which beat Gonzaga 66-63 at home on Jan. 14 and ended Gonzaga’s 34-game WCC win streak.
“There’s extra incentive – I will say that,” said Golden – a Moraga, Calif., native. “We want to pay them back obviously. They came in and beat us in front of our fans. I’m looking forward to playing in my hometown and hopefully we can return the favor and beat them down there.”