They shot 29 percent from the floor, were outscored 22-5 at the free-throw line and were held to one point in the final 4 minutes.
Yet the Gonzaga Bulldogs still did enough things right to nearly knock off Saint Mary’s when the West Coast Conference’s top two women’s basketball teams met Jan. 10 in Moraga, Calif.
The 54-51 decision was the last time Gonzaga (20-5, 10-1) lost. The Bulldogs will seek to increase their winning streak to nine and their WCC lead to two games in the loss column when the Gaels (16-6, 8-2) play at McCarthey Athletic Center at 6 tonight.
Saint Mary’s outscored GU 6-0 during the final 2:53 in the first matchup. The Bulldogs set up a final 3-point shot for senior Taelor Karr, but the shot was off the mark.
“We ran exactly what we wanted to run, in that moment, to the player we wanted to get the shot for, and we just didn’t make the basket,” GU coach Kelly Graves said. “But we executed it perfectly.”
GU brings the WCC’s top scoring offense (69.4 ppg) and scoring defense (54.5) into the game, but the Gaels counter with juniors Jackie Nared, Danielle Mauldin and Kate Gaze, who combined for 41 points in the first matchup. Nared leads the WCC in scoring (17.9 ppg) and is second in rebounding (9.1 rpg) behind Mauldin (11.2).
Gonzaga’s bench outscored the Gaels’ 15-2 and played 35 more minutes.
Keani Albanez, GU’s top scorer off the bench (7.4 ppg), said she thinks GU has the edge with veteran guards Karr and Haiden Palmer, and the inside presence of 6-foot-5 Shelby Cheslek and 6-4 Sunny Greinacher.
“We don’t rely on just one player to get big numbers … whereas they have the other side,” Graves said. “They have players that can fill up the stat sheet lots of different ways.”
It will be a homecoming for Gaels sophomore forwards Carli Rosenthal (Coeur d’Alene High) and Hayley Hendricksen (Lewis and Clark).