The games will get tougher, but that didn’t matter to the Gonzaga women’s basketball players Friday night.
The Bulldogs opened year two of the Lisa Fortier era with a 64-31 exhibition win over Carroll College that also served as a tune-up for the serious games ahead: Air Force a week from now and 16th-ranked Stanford two days after that.
And if exhibitions are about the fans, Friday’s game at the McCarthey Athletic Center served a higher purpose: Fans got acquainted with a host of new players as well as new NCAA rules that divide games into quarters instead of halves.
The spectators were slow to pick up on the latter – the concessions were empty at the quarter breaks – but embraced the next generation of GU players.
They came in waves as Carroll obligingly missed its first 17 shots and GU built an early 22-0 lead.
The first was freshman guard Zhané Templeton, who hit 5 of 6 shots on the way to a game-high 13 points.
The first player off the bench, Templeton admitted to being “all nervous” when she took the court. “But they got me the ball in good spots and making my first three shots was a big confidence-booster,” Templeton said.
Freshman point guard Laura Stockton of Gonzaga Prep hit the floor running, scoring 4 points and dishing out two assists in nine first-half minutes. By game’s end she had six points, five assists and zero turnovers as father John was in the house, taking time off from his new gig as an assistant coach at Montana State.
And then there was forward Kiara Kudron, a junior forward who felt like something of a newcomer after her redshirt year. She was in the starting lineup that also included post Shelby Cheslek and guards Elle Tinkle, Emma Stach and Georgia Stirton.
“It was a little difficult, taking a year off,” said Kudron, who made just 2 of 5 shots, “so I figured I’d hit the glass hard.” Kudron finished with a game-high 12 rebounds and led GU to a 42-25 advantage on the boards.
The game got out of hand early, as GU made 15 of its first 22 shots. The GU starters were too athletic for Carroll, which had lost by only 59-54 at defending Big Sky champ Montana two nights earlier.
Too worried about of giving up easy buckets inside, the Saints gave up wide-open looks to Stach and Stirton; together they had 12 of GU’s first 13 points.
Carroll finally got on the board on Baylee Watson’s 3-pointer early in the second quarter. GU led 37-8 at intermission before letting up in the second half.
Fortier said she “liked the way we started,” especially the way GU contested shots inside and dominated on the boards.
On the other hand, she felt the Bulldogs didn’t get to the foul line enough (GU was 4 of 6 from the line) and looked disjointed at times. She also subbed early because some of the starters looked winded.
And while first-game raggedness is expected, Fortier added that “The way we run our offense needs to be second-nature, and there was a lot of pausing and uncertainty.”
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