In a game in which four players scored in double figures, and two more came close, the No. 20 Gonzaga women’s basketball team cruised to an overpowering 86-51 win over Pepperdine on Thursday at McCarthey Athletic Center.
Senior guard Haiden Palmer came two assists away from a triple-double, prompting coach Kelly Graves to jokingly ask his team who missed the two shots that would have completed the feat.
“It was a decisive win,” Graves said. “We hit them early and we hit them often.”
Gonzaga (21-3, 11-1) now has a three-game lead over San Diego (18-3, 8-3) with six conference games to go.
“I don’t think we are near as good as we can be,” Graves said. “If we get it all together at the same point, we will be tough to handle.”
Pepperdine (5-17, 1-10) was without one of the its best players, junior guard Bria Richardson, who previously suffered a foot injury.
The Waves actually led the game after Ea Shoushtari hit the game’s opening shot. But the Waves lost the lead for good when Gonzaga’s Palmer hit a jumper to make it 7-5.
Gonzaga raced to a 45-24 lead and didn’t let up in the second half, leading by 39 points with 4 1/2 minutes to play.
Palmer finished the game with 12 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
She didn’t know she was that close to a triple-double until Graves told her in the locker room.
“I thought I had a double-double,” she said, smiling. “It’s definitely a feel-good win that gives us a lot of confidence going into Saturday and for our next few games.”
Junior wing Lindsay Sherbert led all scorers with 19 points. She also had four assists and three rebounds.
At one point in the second half, Sherbert missed the front end of a one-and-one. Palmer got the rebound, fed Sherbert on the outside and she promptly nailed a 3-pointer.
“It felt great to hit the three to make up for the missed free throw,” she said. “I think we come into every game focused on us. I don’t think we ever let up.”
The Waves would probably agree. Keani Albanez hit three 3-pointers en route to 13 points. Shelby Cheslek scored 12 points and had 12 rebounds. Senior guard Jazmine Redmon and reserve forward Elle Tinkle both scored eight points.
“When we have a lot of people filling up the stat sheets, that’s how you know we are playing good basketball,” Palmer said.
Graves said he constantly has to coach to avoid his team getting complacent when it has a lead of more than 30 points in the second half.
“We just got a lot of production from a lot of different people.” Graves said. “But when you play 14 kids in the second half, it’s hard to keep your rhythm.”
Pepperdine was led by Keitra Wallace and Amanda Lovely, who both scored a team-high 13.
Sherbert, who sat out last year after transferring from California, didn’t want to talk about the lead Gonzaga carries into the final stretch of conference games. Gonzaga, which rose to No. 15 in the USA Today Coaches Poll, plays at 2 p.m. Saturday against Portland.
“We are just focused on Saturday’s game,” Sherbert said. “We are not looking ahead.”
Idaho 75, New Mexico State 66: Stacey Barr led four players in double figures with 22 points and added 10 rebounds as the Vandals (16-7, 9-0 Western Athletic Conference) defeated the Aggies (7-15, 4-5) at Las Cruces, N.M., for their ninth consecutive win.
Ali Forde added 10 points, 13 rebounds and four assists for Idaho, which rallied from a seven-point, first-half deficit. Idaho took the lead for good on a Barr 3-pointer midway through the second half.
The Vandals are 9-0 in conference for the first time since the 1981-82 season.
Eastern Washington 81, Montana State 66: Lexie Nelson and Aubrey Ashenfelter scored 16 points apiece and every starter scored at least 12 points as the Eagles (10-10, 6-5 Big Sky Conference) rolled past the visiting Bobcats (11-9, 6-5).
Ashenfelter, Hayley Hodgins and Nelson had consecutive 3-pointers to fuel a 20-5 first-half run as the Eagles took control.
EWU’s starters shot a combined 26 for 46 from the floor. Ashenfelter added five assists and joined Melissa Williams with a team-high 11 rebounds.
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