Gonzaga 62, San Diego 50
Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves expected to play the West Coast
Conference championship game without Taelor Karr after the senior
guard hurt her back in the semifinals.
After testing it out during warm-ups, Karr announced to her
coach that she was ready to go, giving the Bulldogs just the lift
they needed to make another trip to the NCAA tournament.
Fighting through pain and a rough start, Karr had 14 points, six
assists and five rebounds to help lift Gonzaga to a 62-50 win over
San Diego in the WCC final Monday, earning the Bulldogs an NCAA
berth for the fifth straight season.
”I’m a big believer that you have to have your whole team and
when she toughened it up, a decided `hey, I’m going to play,’ I
think that lifted the rest of the team’s spirits,” Graves said.
”She’s obviously one of our leaders and best players, and really a
tough kid. A lot of kids would have sat this out and she didn’t
With Karr laboring early against the physical Toreros, Gonzaga
(27-5) got off to a slow start offensively. The Bulldogs made up
for it with their defense and two big runs keyed by Karr, one
spanning halftime and another to pull away in the second half.
Tournament MVP Haiden Palmer led top-seeded Gonzaga with 18
points and Sunny Greinacher added 12 to help the Bulldogs win the
WCC title for the fourth time in five years.
”I know going in that I coming in that I was going to give it
my all, try to play, didn’t want to let my team down in the
championship game,” Karr said. ”My teammates all rallied around
Second-seeded San Diego (21-9) slowed Gonzaga down early by
playing physical, but couldn’t make up for 20 turnovers or an
0-for-5 night from 3-point range to come up short in its bid to win
the WCC tournament for the fourth time.
Amy Kame had 13 points and Maya Hood 10 for the Toreros, who now
have to hope for an at-large bid to reach the NCAA tournament for
the fourth time and first since 2008.
”Anytime you can go home, leave your tournament, take a couple
days off and get rest, go back to practice to get ready for the
postseason, it’s such a benefit,” San Diego coach Cindy Fisher
said. ”We will benefit from it. We will improve in the next 10
days, whenever we get to play.”
The Gonzaga women have followed the footsteps of the men’s
program, becoming a mid-major monster in recent years.
Since reaching the NCAA tournament for the first time in 2007,
the Bulldogs have made the bracket five of the past six years,
including three trips to the regionals.
Gonzaga went 15-1 in the West Coast this year – 14 straight
victories to close – to win its ninth straight regular-season title
and earned a No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. The Bulldogs
earned a bye into the semifinals and cruised over BYU 62-43 to
reach the title game for the seventh straight year.
San Diego has been on a little run of its own, putting together
consecutive 20-win seasons for the first time in program history.
The Toreros finished second in the WCC during the regular season
and also had an easy semifinal, rolling over St. Mary’s 74-53 to
reach the championship game for the fifth time and give coach Cindy
Fisher her 200th career victory.
That earned San Diego a shot at Gonzaga, a team it hasn’t had
much luck against and had been in the title game seven straight
The Toreros went into the final with 11 straight losses,
including by 20 on the road and 12 at home this season. The last
time San Diego beat the Bulldogs was in the 2008 WCC championship
game for its third conference title.
The Toreros gave themselves a chance this year by mucking it up
Contesting every shot and passing lane while holding Karr mostly
in check, San Diego led by six midway through and held the Bulldogs
to 12 of 32 shooting in the first half. Karr didn’t get many looks
at the basket early, missing her first four shots while going
scoreless the opening 17 minutes.
The problem for San Diego was that Gonzaga was playing just as
well on defense.
Trailing 18-12, the Bulldogs forced the Toreros into four
turnovers in five possessions and 10 in the half. San Diego shot 10
of 27 in the first half, missing its only 3-point attempt.
Karr got her first points on a layup with 3:14 left and followed
a steal and assist on Palmer’s layup.
Palmer, who had 12 first-half points, added a late 3-pointer in
the corner, helping Gonzaga take a 29-25 lead.
The Bulldogs then scored the next six for an 11-0 run spanning
halftime, going up 35-25 on Greinacher’s turnaround jumper.
San Diego chipped the lead down to 42-40, but started to pull
away with a 10-2 run. Karr hit her first 3-point in six attempts
during the run, then fed Greinacher with a bounce pass to set up a
three-point play that put the Bulldogs up 52-42 with 5 minutes
”I thought we played a great first half, but they really came
out and muscled us around in the second,” Kame said. ”We wanted
to do that to them, but that was something they did well coming out