Coming into Sunday’s game with James Madison, Gonzaga women’s basketball coach Kelly Graves said one of the major keys to victory was winning the rebound battle. Gonzaga was outrebounded in the first half 25-20 but finished the game down only 47-44 in the 72-63 loss.
But during one critical exchange in the second half, the Dukes missed three shots and got three offensive rebounds before Lauren Okafor scored on a layup.
“They are such a good rebounding team that it looked like an onslaught early, but we got that under control and had a good night there,” Graves said. “We had a few putbacks that didn’t go in late. It is frustrating when you start to see it slip away.”
Gonzaga started the game pounding the ball inside to Sunny Greinacher and Shelby Cheslek. But James Madison switched to a zone, which made it tougher for Gonzaga to score inside.
“I don’t think we changed the game plan too much in the second half,” Graves said. “I thought they did a good job. They went to the zone and that took a little bit of the inside attack away but we still had opportunities late and we just didn’t make them.”
Both teams play pressure defense and often rely on fast breaks to spark their offenses.
“We didn’t turn them over as much as we would have wanted. We changed the tempo after part of the first half but we just didn’t get them rattled enough,” Graves said. “You could tell those kids were hungry and down the stretch they got it to the right people and they made shots.”
Greinacher led Gonzaga with 17 points and eight rebounds. She struggled to make sense of how the team lost.
“I don’t even really know what happened,” she said. “They really got us on our heels, and they played confident. We maybe took a step back when we weren’t supposed to, and that’s what happened.”
Haiden Palmer, the Zags’ leading scorer for the season, said she was impressed by James Madison senior guard Kirby Burkholder, who led all scorers with 28 points and 18 rebounds.
“She’s a great player and great players … make it happen,” Palmer said. “They got us down there on the stretch and that’s just the way it goes.”