SPOKANE, Wash. - The Gonzaga University women's basketball team began its quest for a ninth-straight West Coast Conference title with an opening 77-57 victory over the University of San Diego Thursday evening in front of 5,220 at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
"This is huge," Gonzaga head coach Kelly Graves said of the league-opening win after the game. "It's as good of a conference as we have had. I thought San Diego, coming in, had the best non-league performance out of anyone in the WCC so this is a really good win for us."
The Bulldogs 20-point win improved their record to 11-4 on the year and 1-0 in league, while the Toreros fell to 8-5 overall and 0-1 in the WCC.
Gonzaga was sparked in the victory by senior Taelor Karr who tallied a career-high 27 points. The guard scored 24 of her points from beyond the 3-point arc as she nailed a career-high eight three pointers, one shy of tying the single-game record at Gonzaga, which is held by current director of basketball operations Michelle (Elliott) Clark.
"It was great to see Taelor looking for her shot tonight," stated Graves. "I think she can be the best player in the conference and certainly our best player. She and Haiden [Palmer] are 1 and 1A. She was hunting and feeling her shot today. Her teammates were smart enough to get her the ball."
Her teammates got her the ball six times in the opening 20 minutes and she produced, hitting 5-of-6 from the field, including a perfect 4-of-4 on 3-pointers for 15 of the Zags 41 first half points.
Karr also got her teammates the ball and assisted Palmer on her 3-pointer to give GU their largest lead of the first half at 41-21 with 38 seconds left.
With Karr's hot shooting, Gonzaga, who went into intermission with the 41-23 advantage, finished the half shooting 45.2 percent from the field (14-of-31), including a blistering 75.0 percent on 3-pointers (6-of-8).
It was Karr who pushed the Bulldogs lead to 30 points early in the second stanza draining back-to-back 3-pointers to put the lead over San Diego at 56-26 with 16:14 to play in the game. She also helped the team grab their largest lead of the game - 33 points - with her seventh 3-pointer at 12:51 to put the score at 64-31.
Karr's lone miss behind the 3-point arc was the Bulldogs opening shot of the second half at 19:34. Had she drained that 3-pointer she would have tied Clark's record of nine that she set in the Zags 75-63 win at Sacramento State University Dec. 8, 2007. In that game, Clark drained 9-of-12 from 3-point land and had a career-high 31 points.
Along with Karr, two other Zags finished in double-figures. Palmer chipped in 15 points, while junior Jazmine Redmon added 10.
San Diego was led by Amy Kame and Katelyn McDaniel with 14 and 11 points, respectively.
Gonzaga now hosts Santa Clara University Saturday at 2 p.m. The Broncos are coached by former Bulldog player and assistant coach Jennifer Mountain. SCU's director of basketball operations Amanda Brown also played at Gonzaga.
Notes: Taelor Karr surpassed the 1,000-point plateau in her career, having now scored 1,005 points...Karr tallied 629 of those points as a member of the Kansas State University women's basketball team...San Diego came into the contest leading the WCC in scoring at 69.2 points per game...Gonzaga held the Toreros to 12.2 points below that average...Haiden Palmer had a career-high seven steals - six in coming in the first half...Karr also tied a career-high in steals with five...the last time Karr had five steals was when she played at Kansas State.