It couldn’t have worked out much better for the Gonzaga Bulldogs on Sunday night.
The GU women posted a workmanlike 77-51 victory over the Monmouth Hawks, winning their fourth consecutive nonconference game to start the season.
And the 5,561 in the McCarthey Athletic Center got to see every player in Gonzaga’s new uniforms play at least 8 minutes.
Which was part of coach Kelly Graves’ plan.
“Once we got a good enough lead in the second half, after the starting group played four or five minutes, we wanted to shut it down,” said Graves, whose team led 40-23 at halftime and by 23 less than 5 minutes into the second half.
It was not that Graves didn’t respect Monmouth, which finished third in the Northeast Conference and was 19-15 overall last season. It had more to do with Gonzaga’s schedule.
After battling past Wisconsin at home Friday night, the Bulldogs will travel to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, today for a three-game Thanksgiving-break tournament starting Tuesday. By Thursday, GU will have played five games in seven days.
“That’s a lot of basketball to ask,” Graves said.
So Graves asked his team to start fast. The Bulldogs did, leading 17-7 after a little more than 6 minutes.
Haiden Palmer led the charge, with the 5-foot-8 junior guard scoring 10 of her team-high 14 points in that stretch.
By halftime the Zags were shooting 56 percent from the floor, were holding Monmouth (0-3) to 33 percent and had taken control.
And yet Graves was lamenting lost opportunities.
“We’re not the biggest and strongest team inside, but we still need to make those,” Graves said of GU’s seven misses inside of 3 feet in the first half.
“We’ve kind of been struggling in that sense just to find our identity,” said 6-2 junior post Stephanie Golden, who had a couple of those early misses. “I think we’re overthinking it a little bit. We just realize we have to go up strong and do what we do best.”
That happened more in the second half, as Golden (4 of 5 after intermission when she scored all of her nine points) got going.
“She needed that,” Graves said of the junior who came in averaging 4.3 points and rebounds a game. “She needed some positives coming out of her first couple games. And it was good to see her knock them down.”
Just about everyone from GU did, as the Zags shot 51.7 percent from the floor. Of the 14 who played, 12 scored and 11 grabbed rebounds.
Monmouth had the game’s leading scorer, 5-7 guard Alysha Womack, who had 21.
Now the Zags head for Mexico and a tournament that includes No. 8 Louisville, Missouri State (Tuesday’s opponent) and Oregon State.
“We definitely want to go in and win it,” Golden said.
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