SPOKANE – The Gonzaga University women’s basketball team drained a season-high 12 3-pointers and grinded out a 81-52 victory over Pepperdine University Saturday afternoon in front of a sold out crowd at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
The Bulldogs (18-5, 8-1 WCC) 12 3-pointers were two shy of tying the school record set in 2002. Gonzaga drained eight of their 12 bullets in the opening 20 minutes and ended the contest shooting 50.0 percent from long-range.
“It is really funny the 3-point shot has never been a big part our game here,” explained Gonzaga head coach Kelly Graves whose team has hit 138 this season and has hit double-figure 3-pointers in three different games. “We never go into the game focusing on the 3-point shot. We focus on getting the ball inside and the 3-point shot is a byproduct of the inside game. The opposition has to defend you and have to help out and that opens up the 3-point shot.”
Five different players hit a 3-ball, including junior Haiden Palmer, senior Taelor Karr and sophomore Keani Albanez who each nailed three.
Palmer, who was held to single-digit points Thursday for only the second time this season, led all scorers with 17 points, hitting 7-of-14 from the field, including her 3-of-6 from behind the arc and was 5-of-6 from the charity stripe. The West Coast Conference leader in steals also picked up four steals and dished out five assists.
Albanez and Redmon also cracked double-figures, finishing with 12 and 10, respectively.
Pepperdine (4-16, 1-8 WCC) was led by the trio of Ea Shoushtari, Shay Cooney-Williams and Amanda Lovely who each tallied 10 points.
It was the long-distance shot that propelled the Bulldogs to an early advantage. Gonzaga opened the game hitting 3-straight 3-pointers, including two from Palmer, to open a 9-2 edge at 17:49.
Six minutes later the Zags lead had ballooned to 14 points at 19-5 at 11:07. In that stretch Pepperdine missed its first seven shots and didn’t hit a field goal until the 15:17 mark. Overall, the Waves were held to 1-of-12 shooting and forced to turn the ball over three times.
The Waves did slice the Bulldogs advantage to eight twice late in the first half, including with 2:03 remaining before intermission at 30-22.
Gonzaga regrouped over the final two minutes and used an 8-3 run, which included 3-pointers by Palmer and Albanez, to claim a 38-25 halftime lead.
Pepperdine continued to keep it a close game early in the second half. It cut Gonzaga’s lead to single digits three minutes into the final half at 42-34 and got within 11 points of the lead at 57-46 with 9:29 remaining.
It was the post play that finally broke open the contest for the Bulldogs though. Redshirt freshman center Shelby Cheslek hit four-straight free throws to start a 13-4 run that was capped off by a Karr 3-pointer to put the score at 70-50 at the 5:03 mark. Sophomore forward Sunny Greinacher and junior center Stephanie Golden each had a bucket during the spurt.
Gonzaga never looked back and earned the 29-point victory – its largest lead of the game – when Albanez sank two free throws with 31 clicks remaining.
“I was never concerned that we weren’t going to win the game,” stated Graves. “We have depth and once we finally got it solved and figured things out we got some easier baskets. Give Pepperdine credit though, the y played hard.”
The Bulldogs held Pepperdine to only six points over the final 9:29 of the game. The Waves hit two field goals, missed 10 others, sank two free throws and turned the ball over four times.
The Zags next game is Thursday, Feb. 7 at the University of San Francisco. Game time is 7 p.m.