SPOKANE - The Gonzaga University women's basketball team revenged its only loss of the West Coast Conference season with a 69-54 victory over Saint Mary's College Thursday night in front of a sold out crowd at the McCarthey Athletic Center. The victory allowed the first-place Bulldogs to move to 11-1 in league and gain a two-game lead on the second-place Gaels who are now 8-3 in conference.
"I thought we did a great job tonight," explained Gonzaga head coach Kelly Graves after his team gutted out the 15-point victory. "Saint Mary's came in with an RPI of 34. They are legit. That was a good team and that was a good win for us."
The victory was not only important in the league standings but it did indeed revenge the Bulldogs (21-5, 11-1 WCC) only setback in WCC play. The Gaels (16-7, 8-3 WCC) defeated the Zags three games into the league season by the score of 54-51. In that game, Gonzaga shot a dismal 29.2 percent from the field and went to the line only six times.
In Thursday's game, the Bulldogs shot much better, hitting 46.4 percent (26-of-56) from the floor and were able to drain 12-of-16 from the charity stripe.
Gonzaga's defense was also on point all game long. The Bulldogs forced the Gaels to turn the ball over 26 times - the third most turnovers by SMC in a game all season and second most in a WCC contest - and were credited with 17 steals. More impressive was the Zags scoring 30 points of the Gaels miscues, including 22 in the all-important first half.
"Defense usually wins most of our games because we have been offensively challenged a good portion of the year," said Graves. "Defense is what this team has taken to heart and it always bodes well for us."
Three Gonzaga players registered four or more steals in the game, including senior Taelor Karr who finished with five, which resulted in four buckets.
Junior Jazmine Redmon not only added four steals but held the conference's leading scorer to just seven points. SMC's Jackie Nared entered into the game averaging 17.9 points per game, but Redmon's stifling defense allowed her to only hit 3-of-11 from the field and forced her to turn the ball over a game-high six times.
"Jazmine does not get a lot of credit sometimes but she did a fantastic job on [Jackie] Nared," explained Graves of his point guard. "Nared was averaging just below 18 points a game and did not reach double-digits for only the third time this season. It was a team effort but it definitely started with Jazmine."
It was Redmon who helped Gonzaga to their 36-24 halftime time advantage. The Spokane native led all scorers in the opening 20 minutes with nine points, hitting 4-of-5 from the field. Her only 3-pointer of the first half allowed the Bulldogs to capture at 20-12 advantage with 9:00 left in the half and forced Saint Mary's to call a timeout.
The Gaels did cut the Bulldogs lead to 22-18 with 6:13 remaining after Nared scored a layup; her only points of the half.
Gonzaga's posts stopped the Saint Mary's push and allowed the home team to go into the locker room up by 12. The combination of junior Stephanie Golden, redshirt freshman Shelby Cheslek, freshman Kiara Kudron and sophomore Sunny Greinacher accounted for nine of the Zags final 14 points.
The closest Saint Mary's got to Gonzaga in the final half was eight points at 51-43 with 11:08 left in the game.
A free throw by Kudron followed by a lay-in by Golden moved the Bulldogs lead back above double-digits for good.
The Zags largest lead was the 15-point advantage they ended the game with. Freshman forward Chelsea Waters gave GU the edge with a layup with 15 seconds left on the clock.
Three players ended the game in double-figures for Gonzaga. Golden registered a game-high 13 points, while Redmon chipped in 12 and Greinacher had 10.
Saint Mary's was led by Carli Rosenthal and Danielle Mauldin with 10 points each.
The Bulldogs return to action Saturday when they host the University of San Francisco. Tip is scheduled for 2 p.m.