SPOKANE- Coming off its NCAA Elite Eight appearance in 2010-11, the Gonzaga University women's basketball team made a pretty strong statement that there is no drop in talent despite losing a pretty impressive class to graduation, including All-American point guard Courtney Vandersloot.
The Bulldogs, who led the nation is points per game a season ago, hit the century mark Friday afternoon, defeating visiting Hofstra University 101-88 in front of a record-setting opening crowd of 4,243 at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
"It was exciting," stated 12th year head coach Kelly Graves of the team opening the new campaign. "I thought we did a lot of really good things, especially offensively. The kids executed and we got good baskets which are great."
Four of the five Gonzaga starters finished in double-figure points, with the three senior starters combining for 56 of the 101.
Senior forward Kayla Standish tallied a game-high 22 points, hitting 10-of-15 from the floor and 2-of-4 at the charity strip. Classmate Katelan Redmon registered the lone double-double of the day, scoring 15 points - 12 of which came in the second half - and grabbed a career and game-high 13 boards. Senior forward Kelly Bowen tied her career-high with 17 points and redshirt sophomore Haiden Palmer, on the court for the first time after having to sit out a year after transferring from Oregon State University, chipped in 14.
"The three seniors each had really good games," explained Graves. "I've been telling everybody Kelly [Bowen] has the potential to be a scorer, she showed today that she can hit the perimeter, she went to the basket and got some put backs and she scored in a variety of ways."
Hofstra was led by both Katelyn Loper, who hails from Post Falls, Idaho, and Andreana Thomas with 18 points apiece.
It was a slow starting game for Gonzaga, hitting only 2-of-6 shots in the opening three minutes and turning the ball over twice. But, down 4-2 to the Pride, the Bulldogs went on a 16-0 tear to claim the 18-4 advantage at the 13:43 mark. Five players scored in the run, including freshman Sunny Greinacher who put the Zags up by 14 on a jumper.
Gonzaga continued to increase its lead and held the 23 point advantage at 35-12 with 9:32 left in the first half. The Bulldogs had three more players get into the action as sophomore point guard Jazmine Redmon drained a 3-pointer off an assist by Standish; freshman Keani Albanez followed with a short jumper after making a steal and junior transfer Taelor Karr scored on a layup.
Hofstra slowly started to chip away and was able to cut Gonzaga's lead back into single-digits almost solely from the free throw line. With the Zags holding the 45-27 edge, the Pride went on a 13-5 run, of which nine points came from the charity stripe, to slice the lead to nine with 1:12 remaining in the half.
Greinacher scored on a put-back to give Gonzaga back a double-digit lead at 52-41 at the half.
As they are known to do, the Bulldogs came out of halftime flying and in a blink of the eye had pushed its advantage back to 20-plus points less than five minutes in the final half. Katelan Redmon - held to just nine minutes in the opening 20 due to foul trouble - scored eight of the Bulldogs 15 points in their 15-5 run that helped claim the 67-46 edge.
Gonzaga grabbed its largest lead of the game when redshirt Danielle Walter hit a jumper with 8:14 left to put GU up 25 at 84-59. Walter was the 11th Bulldog to score in the contest.
Freshman point guard Maiki Viela did the honor of putting Gonzaga over the 100-point plateau as she drove the lane and scored her only points of the contest with 17 seconds left.
The Bulldogs, the nation's leaders in assists a season ago at 20.1 per game, closed out the contest with 23. Seven players handed had at least one assist, with Karr leading the way with five.
Gonzaga now hits the road and will face a familiar opponent in Stanford University Sunday at 2 p.m. The Cardinal, ranked No. 5 in both the Associated Press and USA Today Preseason Top-25 poll, ousted the Bulldogs from the NCAA Tournament last season, defeating GU 83-60 in the Elite Eight.