SPOKANE, Wash. - The Gonzaga University women’s basketball team used one of its best first half performances of the year to roll to a decisive 79-50 victory over 24th ranked University of San Diego Saturday afternoon at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
The Bulldogs (14-3, 4-1 WCC) offense and defense were both clicking in the opening 20 minutes as they scored 50 points – their second-highest opening half point total of the season – and held the Toreros (15-2, 4-2 WCC) to 27 points on 34.4 percent shooting (11-of-32).
“I told the team at halftime that I thought that might be the best half that’s ever been played by a Zag team in this building, at both ends of the floor,” said Gonzaga head coach Kelly Graves of the Zags strong play in the opening minutes. “San Diego is a really good team and we just took it to them. I was so proud of them.”
Gonzaga hit a smoking 55.6 percent (20-of-56) from the floor and 75.0 percent (9-of-12) from the charity stripe. The Zags also forced eight Torero turnovers, scored 14 points off the miscues and held the 32-12 edge in points in the paint and the 25-18 advantage in rebounding.
The Bulldogs were aggressive from the start, scoring the first six points and pushing it to a 16-2 advantage at the 13:52 mark. Senior Haiden Palmer and junior Sunny Greinacher combined for 12 of the 16 points.
Sophomore Kiara Kudron got into the action next, coming off the bench to score nine-straight points for the Bulldogs which put the lead at 25-10 with less than 10 to play in before intermission.
Palmer believed the aggressive and fast start was crucial to the victory.
“We always say come out strong in the first five minutes and get the other team on the heels a little bit, especially at home,” Palmer said. “That’s our goal. Whenever we come out strong, we usually have a pretty good game.”
Gonzaga’s lead ballooned above 20 points at the six minute mark – after Greinacher sank two free throws.
Palmer finished with 17 points in the first stanza, while also passing out three assists and making three steals. Greinacher added 12 points, while sophomore Kiara Kudron had her nine.
San Diego was able to get Gonzaga’s lead below 20 points early in the second half. The Toreros used an 8-2 spurt to start the final half which put the Bulldogs lead at 19 at 54-35.
A 3-pointer by junior Danielle Walter, followed by back-to-back long-balls by classmate Keani Albanez pushed the Zags edge back above 20 points though and started a 17-4 run that gave them their largest lead of the contest – 32 points – at 71-39 with 6:53 remaining.
During the run, the Toreros were held scoreless from the 14:33 mark to the 8:34 mark and went 0-for-9 from the field with four turnovers.
Nine players scored for Gonzaga, 11 players had a rebound and nine had an assist.
Palmer led all scorers with 19 points. She also tied a career-high with six assists and had six rebounds and four steals. Greinacher chipped in 14 points and five boards, while Kudron finished with 10 points and a game-high eight boards.
Walter, starting her third-straight game for the Bulldogs, finished with nine points, a career-tying high seven assists – with no turnovers – and three rebounds and one steal.
For the game, Gonzaga shot 42.3 percent (30-of-71) from the field and 73.7 percent (14-of-19) from the charity stripe. They passed out 21 assists, held the 49-40 rebounding edge and had 12 steals off 18 San Diego turnovers.
San Diego was led by Malina Hood and Amy Kame with 13 and 11 points, respectively.
Gonzaga returns to action Friday, Jan. 17 when it plays at the University of San Francisco. Game time is set for 7 p.m.