LAS VEGAS – The only thing better than Gonzaga’s offense may have been the Zags’ defense.
Top-seeded Gonzaga bottled up San Francisco’s high-scoring tandem of Rachel Howard and Anna Seilund in a 77-46 blowout Monday in the WCC women’s basketball tournament semifinals at Orleans Arena.
Howard and Seilund usually account for 30 points per game. The Zags have seen the duo at their best when they combined for nine 3-pointers and 44 points in USF’s 77-72 win over Gonzaga last month.
That was then, this is now. Howard missed her first six shots and didn’t score until early in the second quarter with GU holding a 22-4 lead. Seilund’s only bucket in the first half came on a long 3-pointer with 20 seconds left and the Zags leading by 31.
Elle Tinkle, Emma Stach and Laura Stockton saw the majority of the defensive shifts on the Dons’ guards.
“What we really wanted to do was not let them get anything easy because once they hit one shot it’s another and another and another,” Stockton said. “We wanted to shut them down early and try to kill that confidence.”
The final numbers were somewhat misleading. Howard finished with 18 points, but missed on 14 of her 20 shot attempts. She was 1 of 9 on 3-pointers. Seilund scored six of her nine points in the fourth quarter with GU’s starters resting. She was 3 of 12 from the field.
“We know they’re really good shooters,” Stach said. “We wanted to make them put the ball on the floor and see what they could create. I knew my team had my back so if I got beat they’d step up and take a charge.”
Even Howard’s made baskets were a chore. After Stach unsuccessfully went for a steal out front, Howard drove the right side of the lane only to find three Zags waiting for her. She managed to flip in a bank-shot as Emma Wolfram was called for a blocking foul.
USF coach Molly Goodenbour put in a sub for Howard early in the second quarter after she missed wildly on a contested 3-pointer. The coach had a long talk with Howard on the bench before she re-entered a couple of minutes later.
“Our shots just weren’t falling,” Howard said, “and we weren’t necessarily choosing the best shots.”
Early in the third quarter, Seilund appeared to break free underneath only to have Tinkle fly in and swat her layup attempt out of bounds.
The Dons’ secondary scorers couldn’t pick up the slack. Michaela Rakova and Kalyn Simon, who average a combined 19.4 points, had two points on 1-of-16 shooting.
“Sometimes you focus on those two (Howard and Seilund) and the other players go off a little bit,” Tinkle said. “It was great to see us be able to help and recover, and make it difficult on the other players, too.”
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