Playing its third-straight game on the road and seventh in the last nine games, the No. 22/25 Gonzaga University women’s basketball team battled for a 91-82 overtime victory at Loyola Marymount University Thursday evening at Gersten Pavilion.
The Bulldogs outscored the Lions 16-7 in the overtime period to claim the nine-point victory and improve their record to 17-3 on the year and 7-1 in the West Coast Conference. Loyola Marymount fell to 5-14 on the year and 2-6 in league.
The free throw line was critical for the Zags in overtime. Gonzaga – who entered into the game hitting just 65.1 percent from the line - sank 12-of-13 in the five minute overtime. Junior point guard Danielle Walter was the one called upon the most – heading to the line eight times and connecting on seven.
The see-saw battle looked to be ending in GU’s favor in regulation. A layup by sophomore Shelby Cheslek gave the Zags a one-point edge with 30 seconds remaining, while two made free throws by junior Sunny Greinacher had them up three 75-72 with 4.2 ticks remaining.
Unfortunately, Walter fouled Deanna Johnson as she let a 3-pointer fly with 0.6 left. Johnson calmly swished all three free throws and sent the contest into overtime – the Zags second of the season.
Gonzaga’s Haiden Palmer hit a jumper to start the overtime and the Zags would never relinquished the lead from that moment.
LMU got within one at 78-77 with 2:55 remaining in OT but seven-straight points by GU – four coming at the charity stripe – sealed the deal.
Gonzaga then rattled off its seven final points of the game - all coming in the final minute – from the free throw line. Walter had five of the seven, while Greinacher hit the other two.
Loyola Marymount had a strong second half, overcoming a 15-point Gonzaga lead early in the half and whipping away the Zags 10-point edge at the 13:31 mark with a 13-2 spurt that gave the Lions a two-point advantage at 54-53 with 10:10 remaining.
The game would see four more lead changes in the final 10 minutes and four ties.
Gonzaga’s largest lead down the stretch was four points at 67-63 with four minutes to play, while Loyola Marymount’s largest advantage was also four points, coming at the 8:30 mark.
The explosive play of both Palmer and junior Lindsay Sherbert led to the Zags 13-point advantage at intermission.
Sherbert sparked the Bulldogs early, entering the game and making a lay-up two minutes later. Those two points started a 10-2 run that turned a four-point Gonzaga deficit into a four-point advantage at 19-15 with 9:34 left in the opening half. The guard from Temecula, Calif., ended the run draining back-to-back 3-pointers.
After the Lions battled back to knot the contest at 21-21 – the fourth tie of the game – they used the free throw line to regain the advantage at 25-23. LMU’s Hazel Ramirez and Johnson each sank two free throws to give it the 2-point edge with 6:39 remaining.
It was Sherbert who tied the game with another layup. That layup too started a run – the most important run of the opening half. Gonzaga went on to end the half scoring 19 points and holding Loyola Marymount to six. Palmer – who had hit two 3-pointers in the opening six minutes but then was held scoreless - tallied 11 points in the final five minutes to help Gonzaga take the 44-31 advantage into the lockerroom.
Palmer finished the game with a career-high 32 points. She hit 14-of-24 from the field, including 2-of-6 3-pointers and 2-of-3 from the charity stripe. She also had seven rebounds and three steals.
Greinacher added a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds. She also had four assists and one steal. Sherbert added 12 points and Walter finished with 10.
LMU was led by Johnson’s 25 points and five assists. Ramirez, who fouled out after getting called for a technical at the 7:30 mark of the second half, finished with 16 points and four assists.
Gonzaga ended its four-game roadswing Saturday with a game at Pepperdine University. The contest is set for 2 p.m.