LAS VEGAS – Taelor Karr took a seat on the bench and watched her Gonzaga teammates go through practice drills. She twisted her upper body to the right, then to the left, trying to loosen up her ailing lower back.
“Keep an eye on this (drill), even though you can’t go,” coach Kelly Graves told his senior guard.
Karr, the conference player of the year, took a hard fall during Saturday’s WCC tournament semifinal win over BYU. She took it easy at practice Sunday and is “really questionable,” according to Graves, for today’s championship game against San Diego. The winner receives the WCC’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
“She’s sore and she’s hurting,” Graves said. “She’s a tough kid. I know she’ll do the best she can to try to play, but the reality is she’s not in good shape right now.”
If Karr is unable to play, senior Meghan Winters and sophomores Keani Albanez and Danielle Walter figure to see additional playing time.
“In the short term, injuries don’t really hurt you,” Graves said. “The kids all say we have to step up and rally around her. Over the long haul, injuries kill you because you’re missing a really good player.”
The top-seeded Bulldogs (26-5), playing in their seventh straight title game, and No. 2 San Diego (21-8) haven’t met since Jan. 19, a 62-50 GU victory in San Diego. The Zags won 77-57 at home in early January. The Toreros have won 10 of their last 11, including a 74-53 rout over No. 3 Saint Mary’s on Saturday.
“We’re just doing things much better than we were two months ago,” said USD coach Cindy Fisher, who picked up 200th career win Saturday. “You have to do what you do best. What we do best is let our defense create good offense and outrebound our opponents.”
San Diego scored 24 points off 18 Gaels turnovers. Junior guard Amy Kame, an All-WCC selection, scored 25 points. She leads USD in scoring (16.0 ppg), assists (4.0), steals (2.6) and turnovers (3.3). She had 14 and 15 points, respectively, against Gonzaga.
“She likes to get in the paint and do a lot of pump fakes and step through,” said Bulldogs guard Jazmine Redmon, the WCC defensive player of the year. “My goal is to stay on the ground and keep the ball out of her hands.”
Both teams made major strides over the last two months. Graves said it was clear they were the WCC’s top teams by the end of the regular season.
“They do everything right,” Graves said. “If you look at our defensive statistics, it shows we do really good job of making teams play to their weaknesses. The more you watch San Diego, the more you realize they do everything well.”