SPOKANE, Wash. - The Gonzaga University women's basketball team opened West Coast Conference play with a statement, defeating visiting University of Portland, who came into the game with the exact record as the Bulldogs at 11-4, by 36 points, 90-54, on Saturday afternoon at the McCarthey Athletic Center. Four different players scored in double-figure points for the Zags as they improved their overall record to 12-4 on the year and 1-0 in conference. The Pilots fell to 11-5 overall and 0-1 in conference.
"What a great way to start league play," stated head coach Kelly Graves, who has won seven of 10 WCC openers in his tenure at Gonzaga. "I was really pleased with how we played tonight, especially defensively. Portland came into the game second in the WCC in scoring, right behind us, and we did a terrific job putting the clamps down on them."
The victory was something of revenge for Gonzaga as Portland defeated the Zags at the McCarthey Athletic Center last season, 70-67. The setback last year was GU's only conference loss at home and first loss to Portland in 17 contests."Everybody in conference is so familiar with each other," explained Graves. "Every day we know we are going to get everybody's best and today we were ready and were better."
It was a 10-0 spurt midway through the first half that broke the game open for the Bulldogs. With Portland leading 11-10 on a Laiken Dollente 3-pointer, junior Courtney Vandersloot got into the action. Vandersloot responded to Dollente's trey with one of her own. The point guard then found sophomore Kelly Bowen in the corner, who drained her own 3-pointer. Vandersloot followed that play with a fast break that found sophomore Katelan Redmon cutting to the basket for an easy layup. The run was capped off with another assist by Vandersloot, this time she found sophomore Kayla Standish on an inbounds play. Standish sank the jumper to put the Zags lead at 20-11 with 11:37 left.
"Courtney can do so much, she is a game changer," said Graves. "She has showed such versatility this season for us. She can score, find the open player – she maybe is the best point guard in the country and she continue to show everybody why."
Gonzaga closed out the half outscoring Portland 22-10 and held the 21 point advantage at intermission at 42-21.
The Pilots were able to get the Bulldogs lead down to 18 early in the second half but a jumper by senior Tiffanie Shives; followed by a layup by classmate Heather Bowman put GU's lead back above 20 for good.The Zags largest lead of the contest was 37 after Standish hit one-of-two free throws at the 2:11 mark to put the score at 89-53.
Gonzaga finished the game shooting 46.7 percent (35-75) from the field, including 26.7 percent (4-15) on 3-pointers and was 72.7 percent (16-22) at the charity stripe. The Zags held the 44-35 edge in rebounds, including the 17-7 advantage on the offensive glass. GU scored 52 points in the paint, 35 points off of the Pilots season-high 29 turnovers, had 18 second chance points, 18 fast break points and 28 points scored by the bench.
The Zags were led by Bowman and Vandersloot, who scored 23 and 18 points, respectively. Bowman chipped in six boards and two steals and Vandersloot, who leads the nation in assists, handed out nine, made six steals and had three rebounds.
Also in double-figures were senior Vivian Frieson and Redmon who both registered 14.
The Pilots were led by Dollente with 17 points.
Gonzaga returns to action Thursday, Jan. 14 when it welcomes Saint Mary's College to the McCarthey Athletic Center. The Bulldogs-Gaels matchup is set for 6 p.m.
Liz Smith, Assistant Sports Information Director, Gonzaga University