MORAGA, Calif. - Saint Mary's scored 11 of the game's final 14 points to overcome a five-point deficit and hand the Gonzaga University women's basketball team a 54-51 West Coast Conference loss Thursday evening at McKeon Pavilion in Moraga, Calif.
With the tough 3-point loss, the Bulldogs dropped to 12-5 on the year and 2-1 in West Coast Conference play, while the Gaels improved to 11-4 overall and a league-leading 3-0 in WCC.
The Bulldogs themselves had to overcome a rough first half to get into the position to control and possibly win the contest. Gonzaga went into the locker room at halftime down 29-24 after shooting just 29.4 percent from the floor (10-of-34) and missing all 12 shots from behind the 3-point arc.
Gonzaga did score the final four points in the opening 20 minutes to turn its 9-point deficit with 1:47 to play into a manageable 5-point deficit. Junior Stephanie Golden sank two free throws while classmate Jazmine Redmon, who was hit two early fouls and only played six minutes in the first, drove the lane and scored a hard lay-up to close out the scoring.
The Zags opened the second half with a scoring burst, tallying 10-straight points to claim their first lead of the contest at 34-29 – a lead it would hold until the fateful final 17 seconds. Senior sharpshooter Taelor Karr began the scoring, hitting a 3-pointer, her 12th in three games. Sophomore Sunny Greinacher tied the contest at 29-29 with a layup off an assist by Karr while Karr gave the Bulldogs their first lead with her second 3-pointer. Greinacher followed with a jumper to put the advantage at five with 16:36 to play in the game.
The Gaels did charge back and tied the game at 36-36 at the 13:49 mark but a 10-2 spurt by the Zags had them holding their largest lead of the contest at 46-38 with 8:01 remaining. Karr and junior Haiden Palmer both drained a 3-pointer during the run, while sophomore Keani Albanez started things off with a layup and Palmer closed things out with a jumper.
Saint Mary's started their charge though with a 3-pointer by Kate Gaze at the 6:56 mark. Teammate Danielle Mauldin, who ended the first half with 11 rebounds, was fouled by Karr 36 seconds later and sank two free throws to cut Gonzaga's lead three.
Greinahcer, who returned to the game after sitting for eight minutes with four fouls, halted SMC's run with a layup to give the Zags back some breathing room with a five point lead with 5:21 to play but then things started to go the home team's way.
Mauldin grabbed the offensive rebound off her own miss to score a layup, followed by two free throws by teammate Carli Rosenthal to put GU's edge at one point. It was Golden that stepped up for GU and scored to make it a 3-point lead at 50-47 with 4:06 remaining but after that make the Zags only scored one point.
Gonzaga's final point was a free throw by Golden at the 2:53 mark which made Gonzaga's lead 51-48.
Gaze hit a baseline jumper at 2:14 to get Saint Mary's within one of tying the game but then both teams went cold. The Bulldogs had three opportunities to score and make it tough for Saint Mary's but couldn't get the ball through the hoop.
It was with 17 seconds left the tide turned for the Gaels. SMC's Jackie Nared missed a jumper with the shot clock winding down but Gonzaga couldn't get the rebound as Mauldin did instead. Golden fouled Mauldin who then went to the line and sank two free throws which gave the Gaels a 52-51 lead.
Gonzaga called a timeout to set up a play for Palmer. Her teammates found her but her free throw line jumper rimmed out and Nared grabbed the defensive rebound for Saint Mary's. Nared made her two free throws after being fouled with 7.4 seconds left to put their advantage at three points.
Karr had one last opportunity to tie the contest but her 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded was off the mark.
Karr finished the game with 11 points as did Palmer. Greinacher was the Zags leading scorer with 12 points.
For the game, Gonzaga shot a dismal 29.2 percent (21-of-72) from the field, including 17.4 percent (4-of-23) on 3-pointers. It did make 5-of-6 from the free throw line.
Nared led Saint Mary's with 17 points while Mauldin had a double-double of 12 points and 17 rebounds. The Gaels shot worse that the Bulldogs at 26.9 percent from the field (14-of-52) but made up for it at the charity stripe, hitting 22-of-27.
Gonzaga looks to regroup Monday when it plays at the University of Portland. Game time is set for 7 p.m.