Minus the best player in program history the Gonzaga women’s basketball team is going to be just fine.
The post-Courtney Vandersloot Era opened Friday night at McCarthey Athletic Center with a 101-88 smackdown of a veteran Hofstra team.
“I thought we did a lot of good things, especially offensively,” said Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves after picking up his 299th win as a Division I coach. “We ran a lot of sets and made a lot of calls. The kids executed and we got good baskets. Obviously, it’s the other side of the ledger that I’ve got to be a little bit disappointed. Credit them, they are a good team.”
The three senior leaders from last year’s Elite Eight team combined for 59 points for the team that led the nation in scoring at 85.3 points a game last year.
Kayla Standish picked up when she left off last year when she had 30 points in back-to-back NCAA tournament games with 22 points. Katelan Redmon added 15 point with 13 assists, and Kelly Bowen matched her career high with 17.
Oregon State transfer Haiden Palmer added 14 points in her first start.
All eyes were on the point to see how the Bulldogs were going to do without the only player in NCAA history who amassed more than 2,000 points and 1,000 assists.
And with the Bulldogs getting 23 assists on 41 baskets, the 4,247 fans went home feeling well about the prospects. Six players had at least three assists, led by Kansas State transfer Taelor Karr with five.
Sophomore Jazmine Redmon got the start and contributed four points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals.
“I learned from Courtney a lot last year and I’m learning from coach what he wants me to do,” the Mead grad said. “I feel more confident than I did last year. I’m still trying to get the feel of the game from the point guard position.”
There were definitely some issues on the defensive end, but part of it was the 52 combined fouls that lead to 67 free throws.
“We’ve always been a pretty good defensive team,” Graves said. “I anticipate we will tighten some things up. Our offense gets all the attention, but if you look at the number over the years, we have been a real good defensive team. We’ll get better.”
Graves put 13 players in the game – although prized 6-foot-5 freshman Shelby Cheslek from Pullman is a likely redshirt – and 11 scored.
“We have nine new people,” Bowen said. “When you have people that haven’t played in a Gonzaga uniform it takes that extra little bit of leadership. … In games you need to be the calming factor all the time. … Obviously, I think we did all right.”
The Zags shot 51.3 percent despite missing countless layups and made just 17 of 31 free throws. They also had 18 turnovers.
Hofstra shot 40 percent and had 26 turnovers, which cost them 28 points. The Pride were 28 of 36 from the line in the foul-marred game.
Shante Evans, who played on Team USA with Standish and Katelan Redmon at the Pan Am Games last month, had 13 points, but nine came from the foul line. Kate Loper, a sophomore from Post Falls, started and scored 18 points, including five 3-pointers.
“A lot of the things we worked on throughout the week on Gonzaga just got shoved back,” Loper said. “I definitely didn’t do what I needed to do defensively. That’s the thing. I know my shot isn’t going to go certain nights, but I’ve got to work on other things. The first game shows you some things and you’ve got to go from there.”
The Pride play at Eastern Washington Sunday afternoon while Gonzaga visits No. 5 Stanford, which won 72-59 at No. 24 Texas.
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