SPOKANE, Wash. – The No. 17/22 Gonzaga University women’s basketball team broke the century mark for the first time this season and used a big defensive second half to earn the 101-66 victory over visiting University of San Francisco Saturday afternoon at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
The 35-point victory was the second-largest win in West Coast Conference play for the Bulldogs, but it didn’t look like it was going to go that way after the opening half.
The Dons actually led by four points with 2:25 remaining in the opening stanza and shot a blazing 70.8 percent (17-of-24) from the field going into the locker room. Fortunately for the Zags, they too were hot from the floor, hitting 57.1 percent (20-of-35), and rattled off eight-straight points to close out the half and lead 50-46 at intermission.
Gonzaga head coach Kelly Graves believed the final 2:25 of the first half was the momentum shift his Bulldogs needed.
“It was critical, especially anytime you go in with a little bit of momentum,” explained Graves of taking control. “We made a couple of stops to get there, too. It took us a little while to figure out what we needed to do.”
GU hit 3-of-4 field goals in the final minutes, forced the Dons to turn the ball over three times and only allowed them to get one shot off – an errant jumper as time expired.
Junior Lindsay Sherbert was huge for GU, hitting a big 3-pointer – which gave the Zags back the lead for good at 47-46 with 1:05 to play in the half – and scored a fast break layup with 10 seconds on the clock to put their lead at four.
The 46 points scored by San Francisco was the most given up in a half this season by the Bulldogs. On the flip side, the 50 points scored by Gonzaga was the second largest scoring output by the Zags in the opening half.
Despite leading by only four, Graves was happy with how his team executed.
“I thought the first half was great,” stated Graves. “We played good in the first half, but we just didn’t defend with a lot of passion. And give San Francisco credit, they made a lot of shots. They made tough shots.”
After allowing so many points, Gonzaga upped the defensive pressure and held San Francisco to just four points in the opening eight minutes of the second stanza. The Dons hit two of their opening nine shots and turned the ball over five times.
The Bulldogs offense continued to click and they scored 20 points in the same period of time to break open a 22 point advantage at 72-50. Seven different players got into the scoring action, led by Sherbert’s five points and sophomore Kiara Kudron’s four points.
“We started to get some steals out on the perimeter, and those are the kind that lead to fast-break points, easy baskets,” explained Graves of how his team broke open the contest. “You put a couple together, and we hit some 3-pointers and got it rolling, and we got it quickly to 15 and then quickly above 20. It kind of ballooned.”
Gonzaga’s largest lead of the contest was 37 points, hit when Sherbert drained her fourth 3-pointer of the game with 1:21 remaining. Her long ball put the Zags over the century mark at 101-64.
San Francisco finished with only 20 points in the final stanza, 10 of which came in the final five minutes. After hitting 17 field goals in the opening half, the Dons only got 17 off in the final 20 minutes and hit just four.
The Bulldogs finished the game sinking 56.3 percent from the field (36-of-64) – their second-best shooting output of the season. They handed out 28 assists on the 36 field goals, and outrebounded the Dons 37-17.
Gonzaga’s well balanced attack had 11 players score and 56 of the points coming from the bench.
Sherbert led all scorers with a career-high 23 points and added game-tying high seven boards. Junior Sunny Greinacher had 17 points and seven boards, while redshirt sophomore Shaniqua Nilles scored a career-high 11 points and Kudron added 10.
San Francisco was led by Zhane Dikes’ 14 points.
The Zags improved their record to 20-3 on the year and 10-1 in West Coast Conference. The Dons fell to 8-14 overall and 3-9 in league.
Gonzaga’s next game is slated for Thursday, Feb. 6 when it hosts Pepperdine University. Game is set to tip at 6 p.m.