STANFORD, Calif. – Gonzaga set a school record for wins last year and reached the Elite Eight for the first time in history. Three starters are back, along with a pair of key transfers, and the Bulldogs remain the underdog.
“Gonzaga always has a way of flying under the radar,” Stanford Hall of Fame coach Tara VanDerveer said after watching her fifth-ranked Cardinal struggle early before beating the Bulldogs 76-61 Sunday afternoon. “They have an excellent team, are very well-coached and they are hard to guard.”
VanDerveer should know. Gonzaga gave Stanford all it could handle in two meetings last year before losing both contests. The Bulldogs finished 31-4 and coach Kelly Graves is on the cusp of his 300th career victory.
“I told the team before the game it was a win-win situation for us,” Graves said. “As long as we went out and competed we’d learn something about ourselves.”
Gonzaga, the seven-time defending WCC champions, showed plenty in the first half, outscoring Stanford 18-7 over the last 6:05 of the first half to take a 32-31 lead into the intermission.
“You never really know until you play a good team,” said Gonzaga guard Haiden Palmer, who scored a team-high 13 points. “The way we competed in the first half gives us something to shoot for. We’re in a good spot.”
Gonzaga (1-1) just didn’t have an answer for Nnemkadi Ogwumike, who finished with 33 points and 18 rebounds.
Chiney Ogwumike added 19 points for the Cardinal (2-0), who extended their home winning streak to 64.
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