Although they had trouble securing a halftime lead, the No. 22 Gonzaga women’s basketball team exploded in the second half Saturday to bury visiting San Francisco 101-66.
Gonzaga (20-3, 10-1) solidified its first-place position and enjoys a two-game lead in the West Coast Conference with the win over the Dons (8-14, 3-8).
The final score hid the jostling in the first half, when the teams traded the lead a dozen times before Lindsay Sherbert hit a 3-pointer and a layup to give Gonzaga a 50-46 lead at halftime.
“That was critical,” coach Kelly Graves said of Sherbert’s buckets. “It took us a while to figure out what we needed to do. I didn’t think we had the intensity defensively that we needed in the first half. But we did in the second.”
The Bulldogs came out of the locker room and jumped all over San Francisco into what quickly turned into a blowout.
“You always tell your team, ‘Just hang around. Hang around,’ ” Graves said. “They were hanging around and made some shots. But once the better team starts to take control, it starts to snowball.”
Sherbert, who also made a 3-pointer at the end of the game to take Gonzaga’s score over the century mark, scored a game-high 23 points. She also had seven rebounds and two assists.
“I think we came out a little shaky in the beginning,” Sherbert said. “Coach got on us at halftime and we came out really strong.”
The Dons came into McCarthey Athletic Center and didn’t seem the least bit intimidated by the partisan crowd of 5,476 or the stingy Gonzaga defense.
The Dons had four players in double figures, led by 14 points from sophomore guard Zhane Dikes. Taylor Proctor and Alexa Hardick both had 11.
In the first half, the teams traded baskets. Behind the 16 first-half points of Sunny Greinacher, the Zags raced to a 27-20 lead before the Dons took off.
San Francisco went on a 19-9 run to retake the lead at 39-36. The teams traded leads a dozen times before Sherbert came off the bench and hit a 3-pointer and a layup to race to a 50-46 lead just before the end of the half.
The Gonzaga defense, which Graves has called his best, gave up nine more points to San Francisco in the first half than they did the entire game in the 89-37 Thursday win over Santa Clara.
But the defense held the Dons to 20 second-half points as the offense exploded.
“It’s kind of crazy to compare how different the two haves can be,” said Greinacher, who had 17 points and seven rebounds.
As she spoke, Graves came over and told the 6-foot-4 junior from Essen, Germany, that she “carried us in the first half.”
“It makes me feel good that I can help the team,” she said. “It was a fun game.”