The Gonzaga University women’s basketball team won the West Coast Conference regular-season title outright Saturday afternoon with a 66-55 win at second-place BYU. The title is the ninth-straight for the Bulldogs who improved to 24-5 on the year with the 11-point win and 14-1 in West Coast Conference. The win also was Zag head coach Kelly Graves 350th of his career.
The Cougars fell to 19-8 overall, 10-4 in league and was dealt their first home loss of the season after winning all 13 prior to Saturday.
Four on the Bulldogs five starters registered double-figure points - and six total - to push them to their victory. Junior center Stephanie Golden came off the bench to score a team and career-high 16 points. Junior guard Haiden Palmer chipped in 13 points and added a game-high nine rebounds, along with six assists and four steals for an all-around stellar performance.
Also in double-digits were senior Taelor Karr and junior Jazmine Redmon each with 10 points.
BYU was led by Jennifer Hamson with a game-high 20 points and Haley Steed with 14 points and nine assists.
It was the brilliant play of both Golden and Redmon that helped Gonzaga to their five-point halftime advantage. Golden came off the bench to score a first half high 11 points, hitting 5-of-6 from the field and the one free throw she took.
It was Redmon’s all-around play that stood out in the opening 20 minutes as she dished out four assists and made three steals that turned into six points for her team.
Golden turned her play on when it was needed most; tallying six points in the Bulldogs important 12-0 run that turned a six-point deficit into a six-point lead at 16-10 with a little over 10 minutes to go in the half. She also scored five points, including an old-fashion 3-point play, in a 9-0 spurt that turned a 20-20 ballgame at 5:41 to nine-point lead with 2:43 left on the clock.
Steed came up big in the final three minutes for the Cougars hitting a baseline jumper and draining a 3-pointer to cut Gonzaga’s halftime edge to 30-35.
Gonzaga forced 14 Cougars turnovers and scored 15 points off those miscues in the opening half and itself shot 48.1 percent (13-of-27) from the field. The Bulldogs did however not hit a 3-pointer, going 0-for-3.
As excepted, BYU battled early in the second half and cut Gonzaga’s lead to two three different times in the first five minutes of the final half, including cutting the edge to 39-37 after Hamson made one-of-two free throws with 15:33 on the clock.
The Bulldogs rattled off an 8-1 run to push their advantage to nine though with 11:39 and ultimately a 19-4 spurt helped break open their largest lead of the game – 16 points – with 6:08 left on the clock. Six different players scored for Gonzaga, including Redmon who converted an old fashion 3-point play to grab her team the big lead at 58-42.
The Cougars were held to 2-of-11 shooting in the Zags break-out run and made them turn the ball over four different times.
The closest BYU got in the final five minutes was 10 points, coming at 60-50 with 4:27 remaining and 62-52 with 1:28 left in the contest.
Gonzaga finished the game shooting 43.6 percent (24-of-55) from the field, including 33.3 percent (3-of-9) on 3-pointers and hit 71.4 percent (15-of-21) at the free throw line.
The Bulldogs forced the Cougars to turn the ball over 20 times - five higher than their season average – and scored 25 points total off those miscues.
The Zags now close out the regular-season Thursday, Feb. 28 by hosting the University of Portland for Senior Day. Gonzaga will recognize seniors Karr and Meghan Winters prior to the game. The contest is set for 6 p.m.