Gonzaga’s offensive focus in recent years hasn’t been on 3-point shooting.
But the Bulldogs are more than capable in that department, as they proved to Pepperdine during Saturday afternoon’s sold-out game at McCarthey Athletic Center.
Haiden Palmer, Taelor Karr and Keani Albanez hit three 3-pointers apiece and Gonzaga finished 12 of 24 from long range during an 81-52 win over the Waves to open the second half of the West Coast Conference women’s basketball season.
Both numbers were season highs for the Bulldogs, who average about 15 per game and lead the WCC in 3-point percentage at .379 (138 for 364).
“One thing is, if you live by the 3 you can die by the 3, so we want to make sure that’s not what we’re relying on,” said Palmer, who had game highs of 17 points and four steals and tied teammate Shelby Cheslek with a game-high five assists. Cheslek also had a game-best eight rebounds to lead GU’s 48-28 advantage.
“It’s really funny, but the 3-point shot has never been a huge part of our game here,” Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves said. “We’re shooting a good percentage, but we don’t shoot a lot. … The 3-point shot is, I think, a good byproduct of inside play.”
The outcome, in a ragged, rugged game that included 39 fouls and 38 turnovers, kept Gonzaga (18-5, 8-1) in first place ahead of Saint Mary’s (14-6, 6-2), which was idle, and BYU (15-6, 6-2), which defeated Santa Clara. Gonzaga has won six consecutive games and eight of its last nine.
The last-place Waves (4-16, 1-8) lost their seventh consecutive game.
The Bulldogs stormed to a 13-2 lead, boosted by Palmer’s two 3-pointers and another by Karr.
The lead grew to 15 points before the Waves chipped away to trail 27-19 with 2:48 left in the first half.
GU went to the 3-pointer again, with two by Albanez and one by Palmer, to build back a 15-point lead 38 seconds before halftime.
The Waves made their last serious rush with a 9-2 run to trail 42-34 with 17:21 left. GU responded with a 9-0 run, with six points by Palmer and a 3-pointer by Jazmine Redmon.
“I was never, ever concerned that we weren’t going to win the game,” Graves said. “(The Waves are) going to make a run and it’s a 40-minute game. But we have depth, and once we got it solved and finally got it figured out, we got some easier baskets.”
The partisan crowd voiced its displeasure at many of the officials’ calls and noncalls.
“They’re an aggressive, physical team, so we were expecting that for the most part,” Palmer said. “They were a little bit more (physical) than normal, though.”
Pepperdine is the only team to own three WCC wins over Gonzaga since 2004-05.
The Bulldogs are down to three WCC home games: Feb. 14 against Saint Mary’s, Feb. 16 against San Francisco, and Feb. 28 against Portland.