CHENEY – Eastern Washington held Gonzaga’s offense in check for about three quarters on Sunday.
But the Eagles’ offense didn’t take advantage of the Bulldogs’ early shooting woes, and eventually Gonzaga pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 63-51 victory at Reese Court.
The win extended the Bulldogs’ streak in this annual women’s basketball series to 15.
“It’s important that we understand we’re not backing down to anybody. We’re gonna give them what we got,” said EWU coach Wendy Schuller. “Days like today it wasn’t enough. We played hard. We just didn’t play smart all the time.”
The Eagles committed 24 turnovers (the Bulldogs had just 11), and their offense went cold in the fourth quarter, when they made just 2 of 13 attempts from the field.
Largely that was due to Gonzaga’s adjustments defensively. The Bulldogs employed presses and traps much of the second half.
“I love our presses and getting on the top of that press,” said Gonzaga senior Chandler Smith, who scored a game-high 20 points. “It brings out a tenacity in our team, which we needed in the second half.”
Indeed, the Bulldogs (2-0) couldn’t quite shake the Eagles in the second of three straight Big Sky opponents to open the year. Gonzaga’s lead hovered around five points for most of the game. It wasn’t until 3:18 remained in the fourth quarter that the Bulldogs had their first double-digit lead, 57-47.
Smith was a steady presence inside for the Bulldogs. She played a team-high 34 minutes and didn’t commit a foul, all while dealing with a migraine.
“Chandler played extremely tough today,” GU coach Lisa Fortier said. “She was not feeling well and she came up big. We couldn’t really sub her because for a while there she was the only one who was making any baskets.”
Gonzaga made just 2 of its first 13 attempts, mirroring EWU’s shooting of the fourth quarter. But the Bulldogs kept getting the ball inside, scoring 30 points in the paint, and they converted those 24 EWU turnovers into 24 points.
Eventually that wore down the Eagles, who outrebounded the Bulldogs 49-42. EWU made 9 of 27 from 3-point range (33 percent) and managed just two fast-break points.
But the Eagles got just the kind of performance they needed from senior Kapri Morrow. She finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds, both team highs.
“We expect games like this from her night in and night out,” Schuller said.
The Eagles also got a strong performance from freshman Jessica McDowell-White, who started and scored 12 points and grabbed nine rebounds – though she also committed seven turnovers.
“We’ve got a lot of weapons out there, and once we play together a lot more we’ll be able to see what everyone can do,” McDowell-White said.
Once again Gonzaga sophomore Jill Townsend provided a spark off the bench with 10 rebounds and 10 of the team’s 19 bench points. Senior Laura Stockton scored 13 points, made all five free-throw attempts and had five assists.
The Bulldogs host Idaho State on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Eastern Washington hosts Eastern Oregon.
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