Junior Jazmine Redmon hit two free throws and redshirt freshman Shelby Cheslek made a steal with five seconds left in the game to help secure a tight 59-56 victory for the Gonzaga University women’s basketball team over the University of Portland Thursday night at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
“We have had it pretty easy in conference play,” explained Gonzaga head coach Kelly Graves of the Zags previous 14 WCC victories that have come by an average of 22.7 points. “Ever win has been in double-figures until tonight. It’s important that we grind out a win in this kind of game. Give Portland credit they came to play tonight. I don’t think that we had our “A” game. I definitely give the credit to the other team more than us tonight.”
The Pilots had cut the Bulldogs lead to one point with 1:15 remaining in the contest on a 3-pointer by Annika Holopainen and had the ball with a chance to take the lead with 25 ticks left but Cheslek’s 6-5 frame forced Kari Luttinen’s jumper to go long and Redmon was there for the defensive rebound.
Redmon, the 72 percent shooter from the free throw line, then calmly sank her two double-bonus free throws after getting fouled in the backcourt to give the Zags their 3-point advantage with 19 seconds left.
Portland brought the ball up the court after Redmon’s two made free throws, but a pass at midcourt by Jasmine Wooton was picked off by Cheslek and ultimately sealed the victory for Gonzaga.
Redmon and Cheslek, along with junior Haiden Palmer combined for 20 of Gonzaga’s 32 points in the final half, including 15 of the team’s final 18 points.
It was even Redmon and Cheslek who propelled the Bulldogs to their largest lead of the game, which was 10 points, hit three different times in the final half. The final time GU made its lead 10 points was with 6:17 left in the game after Redmon sank her other two free throws of the game to put the score at 52-42.
The Bulldogs halftime lead was also just three points at 27-24. Gonzaga shot a dismal 29.0 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes, going 9-of-31 from the field, including an uncharacteristic 1-of-14 from beyond the 3-point arc.
Gonzaga did hold the advantage from the first minute of the game, but the contest would tie three times in the first half. The Zags largest lead in the opening frame was only seven points.
The Zags finished the contest shooting 32.8 percent (19-of-58) from the field and was a sub-par 59.4 percent (19-of-32) from the charity stripe.
Cheslek ended the game with her second career double-double, scoring a team-tying high 10 points and bringing down a career-high 13 boards. She also had three blocks and her one crucial steal. Senior Taelor Karr, playing in her last regular-season game at the McCarthey Athletic Center, also chipped in 10 points.
Portland was led by both Wooton and Luttinen with 16 and 12 points, respectively.
Gonzaga now puts its focus on the West Coast Conference Championship. The No. 1 seed Bulldogs will play in the semifinals Saturday, March 9 at Noon.