By Sue Favor
FULLERTON, Calif. â€“ No. 24 Gonzaga (USA Today/ESPN) held off a tough Cal State Fullerton team Friday night to pull out a 73-60 win.
Senior forward Kayla Standish led the Bulldogs with 26 points, including 20 in the second half, and 11 rebounds. Taelor Karr added 15. Senior guard Megan Richardson headed up the Titans’ scoring with 18, 13 of which were from the final period.
The game started out slowly for both teams, each of which struggled to score. This was especially true for Fullerton who did not reach the double-digit scoring mark until 2:40 to go in the period.
Gonzaga began with numerous turnovers, and then changed defenses three times as they struggled to get into a rhythm. In the last 3:42, the Bulldogs went on a 10-6 run to close out the half 28-15.
Both teams came out with much improved shooting in the second half, and both Standish and Richardson stepped up for their teams. Even so, Gonzaga stretched the lead to 41-23 with 15 minutes to play. But Fullerton did not give up and cut the lead to 49-40 at the 10:11 mark. They hung on to a 10-13-point margin until over seven minutes to go, when Standish found another gear and poured in her last eight points.
The Bulldogs shot 45 percent and the Titans, 27.8.
Gonzaga Coach Kelly Graves said he was disappointed with the way the team performed.
â€œWe got out-played tonight, which is not typical of us,â€ he said. â€œI give Fullerton credit – they played hard and they played aggressive.â€
The Bulldogs are rebuilding somewhat in the wake of the graduation of All-American point guard Courtney Vandersloot. Graves called it â€œgrowing pains.â€
â€œWe’ve always been a finesse team,â€ he said. â€œBut tonight we proved that we can come out hard, and we won the game.â€
Fullerton is also rebuilding, with four active freshmen on the roster including Chante Miles, who got her first career start in the game at the point. Coach Marcia Foster said the Titans’ poor shooting in the first half was due to nerves.
â€œAt halftime I told them to just relax,â€ Foster said. â€œThey were rushing shots and weren’t fundamentally doing what they know to do; they weren’t executing.â€
Graves and Foster, longtime friends, pitted their teams against one another last season. Foster said â€œthe game was over in two minutes and we got beat by 50.â€
She likes the improvement she saw Friday night.
“I’m proud of the way we played,â€ Foster said. â€œWe played hard and didn’t give up.â€
Titan senior guard Lauren Chow hit a personal milestone in the game, with 7:53 to go, scoring her 1,000th career point – the 21st Fullerton player to do so.
With the win, Gonzaga moves to 5-1 on the year. They return home to take on USC Sunday.
Fullerton is now 3-3 and is in a three-way tie for third place in the Big West Conference. They now travel to Northern Arizona for a Sunday match up.