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Zags almost grind out upset, fall to Stanford 66-62

A late Truong three rimmed out and the Cardinal survive a huge scare in Spokane.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Stanford at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The Gonzaga Bulldogs almost upset the reigning champion Stanford Cardinal in Spokane, ultimately falling short, 66-62.

Throughout the first 10 minutes, it looked like the Zags had easily figured out the vaunted Stanford defense. The Zags consistently attacked the Stanford post, scoring eight points in the post and earning five more at the charity strip.

Of course, the Cardinal defense wasn’t going to crack that quickly. Stanford locked it down, forcing the Zags into contested shots. After shooting 8-of-14 in the first quarter, that plummeted 4-of-13 in the second quarter, 4-of-12 in the third, and 4-of-15 in the fourth.

Despite those shooting numbers, Gonzaga was never out of the game, thanks to an aggressive mindset on attacking at the rim. This coincided with an abysmal free-throw shooting afternoon for the Cardinal. Stanford shot just 8-of-18 from the free-throw line, compared to the Zags going 17-for-19. That, in itself, is largely the reason the Zags were able to stay in the game.

The fourth quarter was an absolute battle, and the Zags and Cardinal were tied 58-58 with a shade over three minutes left in the game. The misses continued for Gonzaga and it seemed like the Cardinal were going to pull away with the win until Cierra Walker drained a huge three-pointer with 15 seconds remaining to pull the Zags within one, 63-62.

The Zags narrowly stripped Anna Wilson of the ball, ultimately getting called for a foul, and Stanford’s free throw woes continued. She missed the first but made the second, giving the Zags a two-point deficit with 12 seconds left. A good three-point jumper from Kaylynne Truong rimmed out and the rebound battle bounced off Melody Kempton’s finger tips to give the Cardinal the ball with just a few seconds remaining.

Gonzaga fouled Spokane’s own Lexie Hull, and Hull hit two free throws to finally put the game out of reach.

However, as is usually the case when the Zags and the Cardinal meet, it was a close game throughout the entirety. If there was ever the definition of a good loss—this is it. Gonzaga fought through Stanford’s defense, and a made basket here or there could have largely been the difference.

Down the box score, the two teams were evenly matched. The Cardinal outrebounded the Zags 36-31. The Zags held control of the ball, turning it over 11 times to Stanford’s 13. Each team finished with eight steals. And neither team was able to run the ball effectively against the other—a total of seven fastbreak points for both teams.

The Zags move to 3-1 on the season. They now have a few days off before heading to Hawaii for the Rainbow Wahine Showcase, where they face Utah, Eastern Illinois, and Hawaii.