Big Second Half Helps Bulldogs Defeat EasternWashington, 87-61 - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

Big Second Half Helps Bulldogs Defeat EasternWashington, 87-61

SPOKANE, Wash.The Gonzaga University women's basketball team used a huge second half to pull away from Eastern Washington University and claim an 87-61 victory Tuesday evening at the McCarthey Athletic Center. The Bulldogs, up just four at halftime, blew up for 52 points in the final half, while holding the Eagles to just 30, to improve its record to 5-2 on the season. Eastern Washington fell to 4-3 on the year and has now lost to the Zags six-straight times.

The 2,152 fans in attendance thought Gonzaga had the game easily in hand with how the Zags started off the contest. The Bulldogs scored on their first six possessions, with each starter scoring at least a bucket, to hold a 12-0 lead at 16:44. The Eagles themselves missed their first nine shot attempts and finally scored on a layup by Brianne Ryan at 15:23 to make it 12-2. Gonzaga continued to roll, putting together a 10-2 run to take its largest lead of the half at 22-4 with just 10 minutes gone on the clock. Senior Tiffanie Shives drained two 3-pointers during this span for the Bulldogs.

But then things started to unhinge for the Zags as the Eagles went on a 25-6 tear to take a one point lead and stun Gonzaga at 29-28 with 1:47 left before halftime. Eastern Washington hit five 3-pointers, including two each by Chene Cooper and Jessica Huntington, and forced Gonzaga to turn the ball over eight times and hit just 3-of-9 from the field.  

"I think we learned a lesson today," explained head coach Kelly Graves about the Zags first half performance. "We took our foot off the gas a little bit and relaxed. Coach Schuller does a good job and Eastern Washington battled. They hit a couple three's to get us on our heels and that happens in this game. Right before halftime though, I thought we made an important run to get us the lead back at break."

Gonzaga was able to get its game back on track, scoring on back-to-back possessions to reclaim a three point lead with 48 seconds left in the half. A jumper by EWU's Cooper put it back to a one possession game but two free throws by senior Vivian Frieson with 13 ticks remaining gave the Bulldogs their 35-31 halftime margin. 

"We lost some intensity in the first half but we regrouped and picked it back up in the second half," explained sophomore Katelan Redmon.

Regrouped they did. The Bulldogs got their double-digit lead back less than three minutes into the second half scoring the first six points and had built a 21 point lead 12 minute into the half after a pretty spin move in the lane by Redmon, who got fouled and converted the free throw,  put the score at 66-45. 

"We talked about doing what we do best to get things going," explained Graves of his halftime talk. "We did it methodically. We didn't make any huge runs but got it running on offense and forced some tough shots to methodically put the game away."

Gonzaga continued to increase the scoring margin, securing its largest lead of the game of 33 points, 87-54, on a 3-pointer by freshman Meghan Winters. 

The Zags closed out the game with all five starters scoring in double-figures. Senior Heather Bowman was the lead scorer for GU with 22, while Redmon added 17. Junior Courtney Vandersloot, currently first in the nation in assists per game at 10.2, handed out 14 assists, her fourth-straight double-digit assist performance, along with scoring 13 points. Frieson and Shives both chipped in 11 points.

"I was really glad to see Heather have a good night. She got to the free throw line and provided a good presence inside for us," said Graves. "Courtney has had 42 assists in three games and had 12 against Stanford – which is as good as it can get. You get that many assists because you have people that can finish once she gets them the ball. Just another solid night by a special player."

Gonzaga shot an impressive 54.5 percent from the floor (36-of-66), including 55.6 percent (5-of-9) on 3-pointers, and was 66.7 percent (10-of-15) at the charity stripe. The Bulldogs held the huge 42-23 rebounding advantage and scored 21 second chance points and 16 fast break points.

Eastern Washington was led by Cooper who had 14 points and Julie Piper who added a double-double of 12 points and 10 boards. The Eagles shot 45.6 percent (26-of-57) from the field, including 31.3 percent (5-of-16) on 3-pointers, and was 57.1 percent (4-of-7) at the line.

Gonzaga returns to action when it plays at Montana State University this Friday. Game time is set for 4:30 p.m.

Liz Smith
Assistant Sports Information Director
Gonzaga University

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