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Raeanna Jewell hit two straight 3-pointers and Shannon Mathews drove the lane for a layup to get things started against a vaunted Utah team. The Zags would never look back, going wire to wire.
Once the perimeter game loosened up the Utes' defense, Ashley Burke got down to business inside (thought she too nailed a trey) and Anne Bailey started hitting just about every mid-range turnaround jumper she took. Burke would go off for 20 points while Bailey got 18.
On the other end, meanwhile, Julian Laney was playing some serious lockdown defense on Utah's All-American candidate, limiting Kim Smith to a mere 10 points. Jewell, Mathews, Rachel Kane and Dominique Harris caused all sorts of problems for Utah's point guard and clearly flustered her with constant forced turnovers and missed shots.
After being up by 19 points, Utah made a run and confused the Zags with a fullcourt press. With poor free-throw shooting, the Utes closed to within 5 but it was too little too late.
"This was a great win for our program," mentioned Graves after his team's win over the Utes. "Utah is one of those Top 50 programs and that is where we are working on taking this team. This was a big step in that direction and I'm really proud of our kids."
In a game that saw Gonzaga's defense hold Denver scoreless for nearly 9 minutes and a paltry 30% shooting for the game, it could've been much worse for Denver.
It was a balanced scoring attack for the Zags as Rae Jewell, Ashley Burke, Anne Bailey, Stephanie Hawk and Shannon Mathews all put up significent numbers, not the least of which was a large rebonding effort.
But coach Kelly Graves saw to it that his entire roster received meaningful minutes, and Dominique Harris, Katie Prichard, Elaina Renius and others made the most of their chances.
It was a game that the Zags controlled from the tip. Gonzaga easily outmanned the Pioneers from Denver University. However, a big lead coupled with an underdog playing for pride led to some sloppy, lackluster late-game action by the Zags that drew Kelly Graves' ire, especially the 16 2nd-half turnovers!
But when the final buzzer sounded, the Zag women were 10-2 and on a roll.
In the Bulldogs' final preconference tune-up, they'd face a team fresh off a one-point victory over New Mexico State. But once again, the Zags would sprint out to a quick lead and build it to insurmountable numbers.
And once again Ashley Burke would do most of the damage on finishing fastbreaks and her post work. Aided by a huge assist game by the Zag guards (second most assists in a game in GU history), other forwards like Stephanie Hawk and WCC Player of the Week Anne Bailey would contribute significantly.
Dominique Harris continued to provide great energy and a scoring spark off the bench to complement her defense. The freshman combo guard is really showing signs of being something special.
Similar to the Denver game, Sac State couldn't score a point until less than 14:00 remained in the 1st-half. The Hornets could only muster 15 points in the first 20 minutes.
But also similar to the Denver game, Gonzaga took a 29 point lead in the final half and let their foot off the gas, allowing Sac State to climb back to within 15 by the final buzzer. Again, Kelly Graves utilized his entire bench. But playing with a lead must be improved now that WCC competition begins.
"This was a good win for our team to have heading into conference play," added head coach Kelly Graves after the Bulldogs seventh straight win. "I thought we played good stretches of basketball tonight and you can't beat the type of success we had in converting baskets off of assists. I think we are ready to get into WCC action on Thursday night."
Catch the women in action in K2 on Thursday evening, January 6, 7:00pm, then 2:00pm on January 6, Saturday afternoon against Santa Clara and St. Mary's, respectively.