There are five or six good reasons why the Gonzaga University women’s basketball team has been able to post 28 wins this season.
Call them the Bench Bunch.
GU coach Kelly Graves calls on them often, and they played a key role Wednesday in the Bulldogs’ 71-57 first-round win over Brigham Young University in the Women’s NIT at McCarthey Athletic Center.
The first to make an impression was the biggest, senior Delphine Lecoultre. The 6-foot-4 center with a soft-shooting touch came off the bench halfway through the first half with the Zags trailing 15-14. She joined 6-1 Ashley Burke and 6-0 Anne Bailey on the inside.
“We like to go with the big lineup when were not getting the scoring inside we need,” Graves said.
Lecoultre hit a jumper for a 16-15 lead, assisted on a Burke layup and hit another jumper for a 20-16 edge. GU never trailed again.
She also was a presence on defense, getting her hand on one shot and altering many others during five minutes of first-half play.
“It seems like our posts were struggling at the beginning, so I knew coach would try me at least to see how I was doing,” said Lecoultre, who has played more minutes the past five games. “I did well, so I was happy I could help the team.”
Lecoultre wasn’t the only reserve to contribute to the win before the second-largest GU women’s basketball crowd: 3,603.
Katy Ridenour stepped in and played 19 minutes of stifling defense on BYU’s leading scorer Julie Sullivan, helping hold the senior guard to 12 shots.
“How our team works, everything starts with defense,” said Ridenour, a sophomore guard from Post Falls. “You can tell when we are struggling with our offense, because we don’t have our defense going. Defense is something that coach is looking for me to contribute.”
Sixth woman Bailey added her usual 10 points and four rebounds in 25 minutes.
Then there were the 6 minutes of sophomore Rachel Kane. Kane, a 5-7 backup point who didn’t play in the first half, come in midway through the second just in time for the strangest minute of the contest.
BYU’s Sullivan was whistled for a foul and waved her hand at the official, who ignored it. But when teammate Mary Martha Abell picked up a foul 10 seconds later, Sullivan sat the ball on the floor and was assessed a technical.
The Zags, leading 47-39, didn’t take advantage, missing all four free throws. Ambrosia Anderson soon hit a jumper on the other end, and the lead was down to 47-41.
But Kane nailed a 3-pointer from the corner, starting an eight-point run. The Bench Bunch had its last big contribution, and the Zags were on their way to their 28th win.
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