NORMAN, Okla. – Gonzaga University was on the tough end of what was a great early season women’s basketball game between two talented and top 25 institutions. The No. 25 Bulldogs, playing in the semifinals of the Preseason WNIT, dropped a heartbreaking 82-78 decision to No. 11 University of Oklahoma at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla.
The Zags (2-1) held a slim lead for the majority of the contest – which had 21 lead changes and 14 ties – and even had a four-point edge on the Sooners with five minutes to play in the contest. Unfortunately Gonzaga was called for six of their 32 fouls in the final five minutes and went cold offensively, scoring only two points, hitting one of their final nine shots and missing four free throws.
Gonzaga still held a 3-point advantage – 78-75 with 3:25 remaining on the clock – on a layup by senior guard Haiden Palmer. After the Sooners (3-0) converted an old fashion 3-point play to tie the game, the Bulldogs again had the chance to regain the lead but Palmer missed two free throws and a lay-in opportunity after she grabbed the offensive board following her second missed free throw attempt.
Oklahoma’s Aaryn Ellenberg responded by hitting a baseline jumper with 1:56 to play to give the Sooners their first lead since the 14:23 mark of the second half at 80-78.
The Bulldogs had ample time to tie the contest and a great opportunity when sophomore center Shelby Cheslek was fouled and sent to the line with 42 ticks remaining. Cheslek, who had just reentered the game after sitting the majority of the second half with four fouls, missed both.
Another free throw by Oklahoma’s Kaylon Williams – her eighth of the contest - put the Sooners lead to three.
Palmer had a great look at a tying 3-pointer with 11 seconds left but it was short. Oklahoma would secure the victory with Ellenberg hitting one-of-two free throws in the final seconds.
Oklahoma hit just two field goals in the final 11:50 of the contest, both coming in the last 3:05 of the game. Gonzaga was called for 11 fouls during that stretch and the Sooners converted 15-of-20 free throws.
Gonzaga held the 40-38 halftime advantage and its largest lead of the contest was five, 45-40, with 18:27 to play in the game.
Palmer once again led the Bulldogs, scoring a team-high 19 points. She was one rebound shy of a double-double with nine, and added one assist and one steal. Junior guard Lindsay Sherbert came off the bench to chip in 14 points and a game-high 12 rebounds, while classmate Keani Albanez added 10 points.
The Sooners were led by Ellenberg with 21 points, Williams with 14 and Sharane Campbell with 13. Oklahoma finished the contest hitting 34-of-49 free throws.
The loss ended Gonzaga’s run in the Preseason WNIT. Oklahoma will face No. 5 University of Louisville for the championship, Sunday, Nov. 17. The Bulldogs next game is Wednesday, Nov. 20 when they host Eastern Washington University at the McCarthey Athletic Center.