LAS VEGAS – Consider it an indication of just how much the Gonzaga women’s basketball team has improved the last two months that coach Kelly Graves started with a couple of reasons and quickly amended his list to four.
The Bulldogs stood at 12-5 overall in mid-January after a rough five-week, 7-5 stretch. They were held to 60 points or less in six of those 12 games, five resulting in losses.
Fast forward and the top-seeded Bulldogs come into the WCC tournament riding a 13-game winning streak. With the exception of a 59-56 victory over Portland eight days ago, every win was by double figures.
Graves said Gonzaga, thanks to nine straight regular-season titles, plays with great confidence against WCC foes. GU is 120-10 in the WCC the last nine seasons.
He noted that senior guard Taelor Karr’s improved play was huge in the turnaround.
“After (losing to) Washington State, she was maybe as low as she’s ever been mentally as well as physically,” Graves said. “She recommitted herself and she had an amazing opening (WCC) weekend. We all kind of fed off that.”
Graves pointed out that the defense “really stepped up.” Finally, he said interior players, led by Sunny Greinacher, Shelby Cheslek and Stephanie Golden, have been more productive in conference.
The Bulldogs have a bye into the semis. No. 5 Loyola Marymount and No. 4 BYU meet today at noon at the Orleans Arena with the winner facing Gonzaga on Saturday.
“We’re always worried about our opponents, but at the same time if we execute, play hard, hustle and do all the little things I don’t think there’s a lot of people that can beat us,” said Karr, who was named WCC player of the year.
Graves was asked if the Bulldogs (25-5, 15-1 WCC) have done enough to warrant an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament if they don’t win the conference tournament.
“I don’t even think in terms of that,” he said. “This time of year all these games become important to the (selection) committee, how you play at the end, and it will be televised so committee members will perhaps see it.”
“I think all of them are must wins,” said guard Haiden Palmer.