March 6, 2015
LAS VEGAS - The Gonzaga women's basketball team used 20-5 second half run to pull away from LMU 70-50 in the quarterfinals of the West Coast Conference Tournament on Friday afternoon.
Guard Shaniqua Nilles sparked the run, scoring all nine of her points during the span. LMU pulled within one at 39-38 with a layup from Sophie Taylor at the 12:28 mark of the second half. That's when Gonzaga answered, starting with a layup and free throw from Nilles. Guard Emma Stach capped the run with her second straight three-pointer and the Zags were up 58-41.
"I think we all just realized that this is a close game and a live or die tournament," Nilles said. "We knew we had to step up and really become the team we are."
Junior center Shelby Cheslek notched her fourth double-double of the season with 14 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. She helped the Zags outrebound LMU 36-29 and outscore the Lions in the paint 30-22. Cheslek's 14 rebounds matched her career-high.
"I thought that Shelby (Cheslek) did a great job of enforcing the inside from the get-go," head coach Lisa Fortier said. "They are not easy to defend and they are very athletic."
Senior forward Sunny Greinacher added 14 points and had a fantastic all-around game with five rebounds and six assists. Elle Tinkle and Emma Stach each had 11 to round out four Zags in double figures. Stach's 11 and Nilles' nine gave the Zags 20 points off the bench compared to just four for LMU. The Zags are now 17-0 this season when their bench outscores the opponent bench.
Gonzaga shot 46.7 percent from the field and held LMU to just 37.5 percent shooting. The GU defense also had 13 steals in the game and forced 20 LMU turnovers.
"The press made them scramble and cause turnovers or sometimes make them go faster than they want to," Fortier said. "I'm proud of our team. I thought it was a great defensive effort."
The Zags got a three-pointer from Keani Albanez to start the game and built lead as big as 19-12 in the first half. The Lions closed to within five at halftime at 28-23. The Lions opened the second half with a three-ball and then used a 7-2 run to close within one at 39-38 before Gonzaga went on its big run.
Gonzaga is now 21-0 this season when scoring at least 70 points.
Gonzaga will face fifth-seeded BYU on Monday at 12 p.m. at the Orleans Arena in the semifinals of the WCC Tournament.