Kelly Graves looked over the final score sheet and pointed out what was missing.
“You know, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game where a team’s starters were held scoreless in the first half,” the Gonzaga women’s basketball coach said. “All of (Portland State’s) first-half scoring came from their bench.”
Of course, all of that first-half scoring in the Zags’ 96-47 win over the Vikings Friday night amounted to just 13 points.
Gonzaga held Portland State scoreless until Angela Misa hit a short jumper almost six minutes in, cutting into a 19-point run by the Bulldogs. The Vikings didn’t reach double figure scoring until there was 5:11 left in the half, and they did not score back-to-back baskets until well into the second half.
“I was happy with the defensive intensity at the start of the game,” he said. “This could have been a trap game for us. We could have been caught looking ahead. We leave in the morning and didn’t want them thinking about that until after the game. I told them not to pack until after.”
Ahead lies perhaps the season’s toughest stretch of games: at Ohio State Sunday, at Wisconsin Tuesday and at Stanford Saturday.
Beyond that, the Zags (6-1) have a home game with UC Riverside December 16 and at Washington State Dec. 21 for the final five non-conference games before opening West Coach Conference play after Christmas against Saint Mary’s, Pacific and Portland on the road.
As the coach put it: Big games, big crowds, big players.
“This is going to be a good stretch,” Graves said. “We’re good enough to back there and win two games. I’m going to be disappointed if we don’t.”
“I’m excited to get back there and see what we can do,” senior Jazmine Redmon said. “This is going to help get us ready for March.”
The emphasis on playing tough defense suits Redmon.
“I think it’s a change in attitude,” she said. “I think we just like to get after teams.”
Against the Vikings (2-4), the attitude was matched by effort.
Not only did the Zags disrupt the Portland State offense in the first half, they forced the Vikings into an unfamiliar tempo. the Bulldogs forced 14 turnovers while the Vikings often rushed shots and finished shooting 6 of 30 (20 percent) before intermission.
Portland State finished shooting 19 of 58 for the game (32.8 percent), but committed 26 turnovers while the Zags finished with 15 steals.
The one thing Graves was disappointed in against Portland State, he said, was his own performance.
“I think I let the referees get to me a little bit,” he said. “I’m always working the refs, but I think I let that affect what I was doing.”
Keani Albanez led five Zags in double figures with 17 points, hitting 3 of 4 3-pointers. Haiden Palmer, debuting a faux hawk hairstyle, added 16 points.
“I have to give Portland State a lot of credit,” Graves said. “(Former Washington State coach) Sherri Murrell is a very good coach and her kids came out in the second half and, I thought, played us toe-to-toe. That’s a team that can do some things this year.”
Misa finished with 15 points to lead Portland State.