March 1, 2007
PORTLAND, Ore.- In the first round of the West Coast Conference Tournament, the Gonzaga University women's basketball team, as the No. 1 seed, defeated the No. 8 team University of Portland 68-55 at the Chiles Center in Portland, Ore., Thursday afternoon.
The Zags, who have won seven-straight, improved their overall record to 22-9.
"I'm proud of the way we played," said head coach Kelly Graves. "It wasn't pretty but we made the plays down the stretch. We went inside the second half and that's our game. We're not a perimeter team. So now, we move on."
The Bulldogs went into the halftime with a slight 33-28 advantage. Freshman Heather Bowman finished the first half with 10 points, hitting 2-of-3 from the field and 6-of-6 from the free throw line. Senior Stephanie Hawk, who added seven points, was a monster on the defense end, grabbing six rebounds and blocking three shots in the first stanza.
Gonzaga quickly built a 6-0 lead after back-to-back three-pointers by the senior tandem of Katy Ridenour and Hawk, but Portland used an 11-0 run to take the five-point advantage at the 15:52 mark. Anne Graner had five points during the run, while Rachel Warren added four points.
The Pilots held the lead until a layup by sophomore Jami Bjorklund knotted the game at 19-19. A free throw by sophomore Maria Hassett gave the Bulldogs back the lead for the first time since the 8:22 mark.
Gonzaga pushed its lead to eight, its largest of the half, after Bowman made a layup to make the score 29-21 with 3:57 left in the half.
The game continued to be close early in the second half, but with Gonzaga holding a 40-37 advantage at 14:26, the Bulldogs went on a 10-2 run to take an 11 point lead. Hawk made a layup, junior Rachel Kane drained a three-pointer, senior Simone Santos sank a free throw and hit a jumper and Bowman capped things off with a layup.
The offensive push from Gonzaga put Portland out of sync as the Bulldogs were able to extend their lead to 18; their largest of the game, after Santos converted an old fashion three-point play.
"In the second half we got the ball to these two (Heather Bowman and Stephanie Hawk). We were taking 8-10 footers, which is our game. Plus, we played better defense the second half. Defensively I love this team. We held (Jennifer) Dollente to four points."
Bowman finished the game with 19 points, three rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block. Hawk added 15 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three blocks for Gonzaga.
"I think I had some nerves going in (to first tournament as a freshman)," said Bowman. "But once we got into the flow of the game the team relaxed. I don't think I was comfortable until we got up by 18.
Leading the way for Portland was Warren and Kendra Morris who scored 19 and 17, respectively.
The Bulldogs will play in the semi finals of the WCC Tournament on Saturday, March 3. Gonzaga will face the No. 7 seed University of San Francisco, 80-67 upset winners over No. 2 University of San Diego, at 2 p.m.