PULLMAN – Haiden Palmer scored a quiet 20 points to lead the No. 25 Gonzaga women’s basketball team to a hard-fought 70-62 road victory at Washington State.
With fog- and snow-covered roads, the Gonzaga faithful easily outnumbered the fans for WSU inside Beasley Coliseum for a game that had to compete with the Gildan New Mexico Bowl.
“This is the best WSU team I’ve seen,” said GU coach Kelly Graves, who lost to the Cougars last year in Spokane. “That’s why this a great win on the road.”
The 6-6 Cougars gave the 10-2 Bulldogs everything they could handle in the first half as the teams traded leads seven times with five ties.
“We had some turnovers that made it tough for us going into the half,” WSU coach June Daugherty said. “It just seemed like whenever we made a run, they had an answer.”
Gonzaga, which has struggled to score early in games from its half-court offense, feeds off turnovers. On this day, the Zags forced 24 WSU turnovers that led to 25 points, mostly on fast breaks.
“That’s pretty uncharacteristic for us,” Daugherty said. “Give Gonzaga credit. It’s still a game I believe could have gone either way, except for not taking care of the ball.”
Palmer led all scorers with 20 points, and she also had six steals.
“It’s always fun to play the Cougars,” Palmer said. “They always give us a run for our money.”
Behind the hot shooting of Tia Presley, a junior guard from Gonzaga Prep, the Cougars scratched first and held the early lead until a 3 by Gonzaga’s Lindsay Sherbert – who finished with 13 points – put the Zags ahead for the first time halfway into the first half.
Gonzaga then dialed up the defensive pressure to fuel a run to lead 36-28 at the half.
In the second half, Gonzaga played better defense on Presley while her teammate, Lia Galdeira, heated up. She finished with 15 points and six rebounds.
“It’s frustrating,” Presley said. “We’ve been in all our games. We just need to find out what it takes to come out with a win.”
Presley, who led WSU with 19 points, used the dribble to create space either for an open jump shot or quick drives to the rim.
“Playing Gonzaga is always a big game,” said the 5-foot-9 guard. “They didn’t recruit me and last year to beat them was great. But you don’t want to lose to your hometown (team).”
WSU started the second half hot again, but the Zags eventually pulled away.
“We want to win them all,” Graves said. “But if you would have told me we would be 10-2 after playing five schools on the road from power conferences, I’ll take it.”