SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The Gonzaga University women’s basketball team pulled out a 67-61 victory at Santa Clara University Sunday afternoon. The victory over the Broncos moved the Bulldogs record to 16-3 overall and 6-1 in the West Coast Conference. Santa Clara – coached by former Bulldog assistant coach and player Jennifer Mountain – fell to 7-11 on the year and 3-4 in league.
Gonzaga was led in victory by juniors Sunny Greinacher and Lindsay Sherbert, along with senior Haiden Palmer. Greinacher scored a team-high 17 points – 13 of which came in the second half – while Sherbert added 15 points – 11 in the opening 20 minutes - and Palmer had 10.
The free throw line was the critical mark in the contest for each team. Gonzaga went to the charity stripe 27 times, sinking 21 of them. Santa Clara headed to the line 26 times, hitting 22.
The free spot was most important in the final five minutes for the Bulldogs. GU hit 8-of-11 to starve off the Broncos final push and earn the six-point victory.
Gonzaga had broken open the game early, building a 15-point advantage 10 minutes into the first stanza.
The bench production of Sherbert and sophomore Kiara Kudron were critical during the stretch as the two combined for 15 of the Bulldogs opening 26 points. They rattled off nine-straight points – five by Sherbert and four by Kudron – to give GU’s its largest lead of the game at 26-11 with 10:08 remaining in the half.
Sherbert was sizzling form the field, hitting 4-of-6, including 3-of-4 from beyond the 3-point arc, to have 11 points before 10 minutes had expired in the contest
Santa Clara started chipping away at the Bulldogs lead by getting to the foul line though. Eleven of the Broncos final 23 points came from the charity stripe. There was a four minute period SCU didn’t hit a field goal but did hit 6-of-6 from the line to get within 11 points of the advantage at 28-17.
The Broncos went on to close out the half on a 9-2 run – spurred still by the charity stripe where five of the nine points came from – to cut the Bulldogs halftime edge to 37-34.
SCU continued to stun the 23rd ranked Bulldogs by opening the second half with back-to-back layups. The two easy buckets by Vanessa Leo and Raquel Avila allowed the Broncos to gain the one point edge – their first of the game since they drained a 3-pointer to begin the contest – at 18:26.
An old-fashion 3-point play by Greinacher gave back the lead to Gonzaga at 40-38.
The contest would tie twice before the Bulldogs put together an 8-2 run that grabbed them the lead for good. Palmer scored four of the eight points, including two free throws to cap off the spurt and put the score at 50-44 with 9:47 remaining.
Gonzaga held at least a four point lead down the stretch and its largest advantage was nine points in the final minute.
Four different Zags hit the important free throws in the waning minutes. Greinacher was a perfect 4-of-4, while junior Keani Albanez also drained four. Albanez’ final two came with 15 ticks on the clock.
The Broncos were led by Ruta Zurauskyte and Nici Gilday with 21 and 16 points, respectively.
The Bulldogs held the 37-36 rebounding advantage, forced 21 Bronco turnovers and scored 21 off the miscues. Twenty-eight of GU’s 67 points came from the bench.
Gonzaga returns to action Thursday, Jan. 23 when it plays at Loyola Marymount University. Game time is set for 7 p.m.