How good is the Gonzaga women’s basketball team’s defense?
Add the total points scored by each of the last two teams to come into the McCarthey Athletic Center to face the Bulldogs and it wouldn’t be enough to win either game.
Days after limiting Colgate to a program record for fewest points allowed in a game – an 81-31 blowout – the Bulldogs held Fairfield (3-3) to a season-low and handed the Stags an 82-42 pasting on Monday night.
Gonzaga has allowed two East Coast teams just 73 points. Total. For both games. Combined.
“You guys have to take my word for it,” Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves said. “Fairfield is a very good team. They’re a good program and they have a great coach.
“The thing is, they like to run a lot of sets – they like to run something every time down the floor. We took them out of that defensively. And that started fueling our offense.”
The Bulldogs (5-1) had 14 players with court time and 13 played significant minutes (10 with 10 minutes or more). And it mattered very little who Graves sent into the game; the defensive intensity never lagged.
It’s quickly becoming a character trait for this year’s Bulldogs.
“It has been for a couple years now, but for some of those years it was because we had trouble scoring,” Graves said. “This year’s team takes its intensity from the seniors. Look at who those seniors are. Two of those players are our ballhawkers (Haiden Palmer and Jazmine Redmon).
“Haiden scores a lot of points, but she really loves to play defense.”
And Redmon, from Mead, is the West Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year.
In a game highlighted by an intense defense, Redmon quietly took Fairfield’s Alexys Vazquez out of the equation.
“Jazmine is like a cornerback out there on an island,” Graves said. “Who is Fairfield’s best player? No. 13 (Vazquez). How many points did she have? Not very many (four points). That’s what Jazmine can do to a player: she never touched the ball.
“She’s her own island. Jazmine Island. Redmon Island, whatever you want to call it.”
The Gonzaga defense committed a defensive crime wave: a little grand theft, some petty larceny and more than a few picked pockets. It added up to 18 steals.
“We’re sending a lot of players out there who are a lot alike physically,” Graves said. “‘Sherbs’ (Lindsay Sherbert), Kiara (Kudron), Elle (Tinkle), Shaniqua (Nilles), they can all get after you and make things tough for you. And then we have some players who can step up and block some shots.”
Shelby Cheslek, who did not start against the Stags, came off the bench to play 20 minutes, grab six rebounds, block four shots and commit a pair of steals – including a stellar steal in the Fairfield backcourt, dribbling into the forecourt and feeding Palmer for a layup in the closing seconds of the first half.
The second-half surge, too, is becoming a team trait.
Against Fairfield, the Zags opened the second half on a 16-2 run that was fueled by four 3-pointers, two by Keani Albanez.
Palmer led the Bulldogs’ offense with 18 points, with Sunny Greinacher adding 14. Sherbert added 13 and Albanez 11.
Katie Cizynski, a 6-foot-2 senior forward, was the lone Fairfield player to score in double figures with 17.