The No. 25 Gonzaga women’s basketball team starts a brutal stretch of road games today with a game at Washington State in which coach Kelly Graves hopes to deliver some payback for a loss last year in the McCarthey Athletic Center.
The WSU game starts as stretch in which Gonzaga plays four games on the road, two games at home, and another four on the road as it begins play in the West Coast Conference.
“It’s a big deal if you make it a big deal,” Graves said. “At some point, we will get tired and that’s where our depth will come into play.”
Up next is the final nonconference game for a pesky 6-5 Cougars squad that beat Gonzaga 57-51 last year.
WSU comes into the game after having to go to overtime Wednesday to win a close 77-73 victory over the same UC Riverside team that Gonzaga played the previous Monday.
In that game in Spokane, the Highlanders played Gonzaga tough in the first half only to have the Bulldogs run away in the second half for an 87-43 blowout victory.
The Wednesday game in Kennewick was another scoring show by Washington State’s dynamic guard duo of Lia Galdeira and Tia Presley.
Against the Highlanders, Galdeira scored 26 points and iced the victory with a couple of late shots and free throws. Presley added 24 points and 11 rebounds in the game against UC Riverside.
Graves noted that of the 741 shots taken this year by WSU players, some 363 have come from Galdeira, who is averaging 18.1 points, and Presley, who averages 20.5 points a game.
“Defensively, we have to make sure the shots for Galdeira and Presley are contested,” Graves said. “They can be streaky shooters. When they are on, they are tough to stop. Just ask Nebraska.”
On Nov. 30, the two guards got hot enough to topple the Big 10 school in Lincoln when the Cornhuskers had a No. 10 ranking.
Coming into the rematch, the Bulldogs are led by senior guard Haiden Palmer, who is averaging 14.4 points a game. She is followed closely by 6-4 forward Sunny Greinacher, who is averaging 12.6 a game, and junior Lindsay Sherbert, who is averaging 11.8 points.
Greinacher has been playing well, but Graves said he’s still searching for other post players to step up. Shelby Cheslek, a sophomore center from Pullman, started earlier in the year but has been coming off the bench in recent games.
“I always hope for more because she’s 6-5 and athletic and is our best rebounder,” Graves said of Cheslek. “Where I think she is struggling is offensively.”
On other hand, Graves loves the offense from 6-3 senior center Stephanie Golden.
“Stephanie has the opposite issue,” Graves said. “She’s struggling to defend night in and night out, but she can score. I have played Stephanie and Shelby together. They are a nice complement.”
Graves likes having Sherbert start because the transfer from California finds ways to score early in the game.
“We haven’t had complete play from all of them,” Graves said. “That’s why the depth chart hasn’t changed. It won’t until they give us good looks at both ends of the court.”