In a game described as “ugly” and “a grinder” by players, the No. 24 Gonzaga women’s basketball team fought for enough rebounds Saturday to overcome poor shooting to beat the Portland Pilots 72-61 at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
With the win, the Bulldogs (24-4, 14-2 WCC) captured at least a share of its 10th consecutive West Coast Conference championship. But neither coach Kelly Graves nor the players cut down the nets or celebrated.
“We are glad for tonight’s win. But obviously, we need one more,” Graves said. “Then we can celebrate, a little.”
Coming off a poor shooting performance in a 62-52 loss last week to BYU, the Zags shot only 38.8 percent from the floor and had only one player, Haiden Palmer, who had 12 points, score in double figures.
But Gonzaga earned a 42-26 rebounding advantage and outscored the Pilots 25-2 in second-chance points.
“We are out of sync a little bit right now offensively,” Graves said. “We got good shots. We just didn’t make them.”
BYU (23-5, 13-4) beat Loyola Marymount 91-67 and the Cougars have only one game remaining. Gonzaga would have to lose next Thursday to Saint Mary’s and next Saturday to Pacific for BYU to have a chance at a tie.
But for now, Graves said he wants his team to celebrate the win over Portland, which shot 51 percent from the floor and had four players score double figures. Junior Cassandra Brown led the Pilots with 16 points.
“I thought we played hard. Defensively, we played pretty well,” Graves said. “We did a good job on the boards. But our offense has been erratic.”
Lindsay Sherbert sparked the offense early, but the junior wing then went cold. She finished with nine points.
Junior forward Sunny Greinacher had multiple misses inside and finished with eight points. Senior point guard Jazmine Redmon scored seven.
“Every team that plays Portland, the game is the same for them,” Redmon said. “They call it a grinder. But it’s a win.”
Sophomore forward Kiara Kudron finished with six points and a team-high eight rebounds.
“Obviously we get frustrated when the shots don’t fall,” she said. “But we have to keep shooting. Coach tried to pump us up, but it’s up to us to make the shots.”
Gonzaga now focuses on the upcoming Thursday game against Saint Mary’s (20-7, 10-6), which beat Gonzaga on Dec. 28 but lost Saturday to Santa Clara.
“Saint Mary’s gave us our first conference loss,” Graves said. “Our kids will be motivated to play.”
Zags honor Sollars
Graves coached opposite Portland coach Jim Sollars, who is retiring. Gonzaga played a tape of Graves honoring Sollars before the game.
“He gave me my first Division 1 assistant coaching job,” Graves said. “I wouldn’t be here if not for Jim.”