Both the Zags and the Cardinal didn’t have their originally scheduled opponents this weekend thanks to COVID. They changed that.
A special make-up game between the Stanford Cardinal and the Gonzaga Bulldogs was a good test for the Zags, but not nearly as close as recent games against one of the nation’s top teams have been, with Gonzaga falling 66-50.
The Zags have traditionally played Stanford rather close, losing this year by four points this season and by six points in overtime in Nov. 2019. The Zags last beat the Cardinal in Dec. 2018. This afternoon, that would not be the case.
As expected, from the get-go, it was a defensive grinder from both squads, with the Stanford defense quickly establishing the upper hand in the first quarter. Even though the Zags held the Cardinal to just 25 percent shooting from the floor, Stanford went with the age-old philosophy of generating offense from defense.
In the first 10 minutes, Stanford forced seven turnovers and generated 10 points. The Zags went into the first quarter trailing 17-12, a total that would’ve been three points worse if not for a banked in three by Kayleigh Truong as time expired.
The Zags dialed in the turnover issues in the second quarter, but still couldn’t find a decent shot against the Cardinal. The Zags shot 27.8 percent in the quarter and a majority of the offense came from Yvonne Ejim, whose late heroics gave the Zags another three-point play right before the buzzer. The Zags closed out the second half with a 7-0 run and trailed 33-24 at half.
Ejim keeps at it at the buzzer and sinks the FT to cut the deficit to nine at half with an old-school three point play 33-24 at half. pic.twitter.com/oaBCWj6TfG
— Gonzaga Women’s Basketball (@ZagWBB) January 9, 2022
The Zags attempted to mark a little bit of a comeback in the third quarter, but a bevy of unfortunate circumstances reared their ugly heads. Kayleigh Truong exited the game after landing awkwardly following a made three-pointer. She got up on her own and exited the court immediately, eventually heading back to the locker room. She would return in the fourth quarter.
Then, the turnovers came, and the Cardinal punished. On back-to-back possessions, the Cardinal defense generated points, pushing the lead to 17 points, the highest at that point. The Zags tried to close the gap behind some solid play from Melody Kempton in the fourth quarter, but the gap proved too large to close.
Ultimately, the Zags were buried by a variety of problems from the game, but two specific stats did not help out their situation. Although the Zags defense made life miserable for the Stanford shooters, the Cardinal absolutely owned Gonzaga on the offensive glass.
Stanford finished with 24 offensive rebounds, which led to 23 second-chance points (although the Zags had 15 second-chance points of their own). Combined with the 21 points generated off of turnovers, that was essentially Stanford’s offense. With the Zags also struggling to shoot or generate any semblance of a cohesive offense (just six total assists in the game), that was the major difference in the game.
Credit to both Stanford and Gonzaga for making the game happen. It was a weird situation. Playing an emergency game in an empty arena was a stark reminder for college basketball that COVID is still here to be a nuisance (and then some) throughout the season.