Gonzaga planned an evening of honoring seniors Taelor Karr and Meghan Winters and celebrating another West Coast Conference basketball championship. Amid those plans, Portland attempted to be the ultimate party poopers.
In the end, Gonzaga toasted a successful end to its regular season Thursday, but not before Portland pushed the Bulldogs to the limit.
Jazmine Redmon hit two free throws with 19 seconds left and Shelby Cheslek came up with a key steal with 5 seconds remaining as the Bulldogs (25-5, 15-1 WCC) held off the Pilots 59-56 at McCarthey Athletic Center.
Gonzaga will carry a 13-game winning streak and the No. 1 seed into next week’s WCC tournament at Las Vegas.
The Bulldogs had already clinched their ninth consecutive WCC title, but they didn’t figure to have so much trouble against the Pilots (10-18, 5-10), whom they defeated 82-51 on Jan. 14 in Portland.
Poor shooting from the start hurt Gonzaga. The Bulldogs shot 2 of 18 on 3-pointers and 19 of 58 from the field overall.
“You know, good shooting’s contagious and so is bad shooting,” GU coach Kelly Graves said. “It looked like we had some kids who struggled with their confidence.”
“We didn’t play bad, we just didn’t hit shots,” said Karr, who finished 1 for 8 from the field but was crucial at the free-throw line by making 7 of 8. “Then I thought we kind of got down on ourselves a little bit.”
The Bulldogs were also lacking some inside power as junior center Stephanie Golden was sidelined with the flu. Golden had scored 48 points in GU’s last four games.
“Stephanie is always such a strong, strong post, so not having her presence in post kind of shook us a little bit,” said Cheslek, who had a team-high 13 rebounds and tied Karr with a team-high 10 points.
The Pilots trailed 57-56 after Annika Holopainen’s 3-pointer with 1:15 left. Luttinen missed a jumper with 25 seconds left and fouled Redmon, who hit 2 of 2 free throws for breathing room. Cheslek’s steal avoided a potential tying 3-point attempt.
“We didn’t have a good shooting night, but I give (Portland) a lot of credit,” Graves said. “They came to play tonight. They had nothing to lose.”
California 73, Washington State 60: Layshia Clarendon scored 26 points and the sixth-ranked Golden Bears (26-2, 16-1) defeated the host Cougars (10-18, 6-11) to remain tied for first place as they attempt to win their first Pac-12 title.
Lia Galdeira scored 18 points to break the school’s season scoring record for a freshman. Galdeira has 418 points, five more than Jazmine Perkins scored four seasons ago.
Stanford 71, Washington 36: Chiney Ogwumike had 24 points and 13 rebounds while guiding the fourth-ranked Cardinal (27-2, 16-1 Pac-12) past the host Huskies (19-9, 11-6) in Seattle.
Northern Colorado 67, Eastern Washington 66: D’Shara Strange banked in a short jumper with 2 seconds left to give the Bears (17-10, 14-4 Big Sky Conference) a win over the Eagles (15-11, 11-6) at Greeley, Colo.
The second-place Bears are one-half game behind Montana. EWU is in a third-place tie with Idaho State and Sacramento State with three games remaining.
Idaho 65, UTSA 53: Alyssa Charlston scored 22 points, hitting 10 of 14 from the field, and the host Vandals (13-14, 10-6 Western Athletic Conference) held on to third place by rallying past the Roadrunners (14-12, 8-7) in the second half.
The game was tied at 37 with 7:38 left when the Vandals went on a 21-6 run. Charlston scored six points and Ali Forde five during the run.
Idaho has two conference games left.