SPOKANE, Wash. - The largest non-sold out crowd was in attendance to watch the Gonzaga University women's basketball team defeat the University of San Diego 69-58. Five-thousand eight hundred and twenty-nine Bulldog faithful, the fifth-largest crowd in school history, helped propel the Zags to the 11-point victory Saturday afternoon at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
"I thought the crowd was great and was really into it today," explained head coach Kelly Graves after the victory. "I think they appreciated that both teams played hard and played extremely well. It was so nice to see and they saw a great, competitive, intense game. We needed that crowd today and they delivered for us."
It might have been a double-digit victory for Gonzaga (21-3, 10-1 WCC), but the game was a battle from start to finish.
"I was really proud of our team," stated Graves. "That was a hard-fought game. San Diego is in the top 10 in the country in scoring defense. I thought in the first half they dictated the temp and both teams defended well. But in the second half we got it out, ran a little bit, got some easy buckets, and then a couple of our big time players stepped up."
The Bulldog trio of senior Katelan Redmon, Kayla Standish and redshirt sophomore Haiden Palmer were the big time players that stepped up as the three combined for 53 of GU's 69 points. Redmon, after scoring just four points in Gonzaga's victory over the University of Portland Thursday, tallied a game-high 24 points, including a crucial 17 in the second half. Standish registered her fourth double-double of the year, scoring 15 points and grabbing 13 rebounds; which tied a season high for her, while Palmer chipped in 14 points, all coming in the final half.
"I thought Kayla, Katelan and Haiden did a great job in the second half," explained Graves of the three who scored 40 of the team's 44 second half points. "Haiden was on the bench most of the first half with two fouls and gave us a big lift in the second. She's just gritty and tough."
Gonzaga was able to go into halftime with the slight 25-21 advantage.
The Bulldogs did hold an 11-point advantage with 5:20 left before the intermission after a 10-2 run - which saw Katelan Redmon score six points, sophomore Jazmine Redmon add four points and saw Stephanie Golden start it off with her trademark jumper - but San Diego (16-6, 7-3 WCC) put together a 9-2 run down the stretch to get within four points of Gonzaga.
USD's Dominique Conners was the catalyst for the visiting team, scoring 10 of her team's 21 points in the opening half.
Conner's continued her strong play in the second half and hit two free throws at the 16:37 mark to get the Toreros within 3-points at 32-29.
Gonzaga's muscled up a 15-8 run though to finally break back into a double-figure lead at 47-37 with 8:38 remaining in the game. Seven of the 15 points came at the line as Redmon sank 4-of-4, Standish hit 2-of-2 and Palmer made 1-of-2. It was Standish that gave the Bulldogs the 10-point edge after grabbing the offensive board on Palmer's missed jumper and scoring on the put back.
The closest the Toreros got in in the final eight minutes was seven points.
The Bulldogs largest lead was 13-points secured twice, the final time coming on a jumper by Katelan Redmon, assisted by Jazmine Redmon at 1:54 to put the score at 64-51.
Gonzaga, who turned the ball over eight times in the opening 20 minutes, finished with 11 total for the game. The Bulldogs themselves forced the Toreros to give up the ball 17 times and was able to score 16 points off those miscues.
The Bulldogs now hit the road for a crucial game with first-year West Coast Conference member BYU Thursday. Gonzaga enters into the 6 p.m. contest with the Cougars at 10-1 in league. BYU sits in second in the conference standings at 9-2.