Big second half propels GU to 78-51 win over USF

Big second half propels GU to 78-51 win over USF

The No. 18/17 Gonzaga women’s basketball team shot a season-best 59.3 percent from the floor to run past visiting San Francisco 78-51 Thursday night at the McCarthey Athletic Center.

Zykera Rice led Gonzaga (18-2, 7-1 WCC) with 15 points; Katie Campbell added 12 points, two assists and two steals and LeeAnne Wirth added 11 points off 5-of-6 from the floor with a team- and career-high tying eight rebounds. Twin sister Jenn Wirth also pulled in eight rebounds and chipped in six points.

The Bulldogs scored at will inside, outscoring San Francisco (5-14, 1-7 WCC) 44-30 in the paint while outscoring the Dons’ bench 25-16. Gonzaga also claimed the edge on the glass with a 37-28 advantage while holding USF to 36.7 percent shooting.

“We definitely didn’t have our best offensive night, by any means, but our defense was able to step up and keep us in the game until our offense picked up in that fourth quarter,” sophomore guard Jill Townsend said. “The fourth quarter we definitely stepped it up, and we held them to 51 points, which is great for any game.”

The Zags had a slow start to open the game, committing four turnovers and attempting just nine shots in the opening period. San Francisco claimed a 9-5 lead with 3:50 to go, but the Bulldogs closed the period on a 6-2 run to tie the game 11-all after the first 10 minutes.

Gonzaga shot 61.5 percent in the second quarter alone, sinking 8-of-13 attempts, but Gonzaga struggled to take care of the ball, committing another five turnovers in the second. Despite forcing the Dons to shoot just 25.0 percent from the floor in the second, Gonzaga was unable to pull away and led by just five (21-16) with 5:34 to go. A 10-4 run to close the quarter gave the Zags some breathing room as they headed into the break with a 31-20 lead.

The Bulldogs’ hot shooting continued into the third period as they finished 8-of-16 from the floor, yet San Francisco drained three from long range to keep the Zags within 13, 52-39. Defensively, the Bulldogs locked down in the final 10 minutes, employing a high-intensity half-court press that forced four quick turnovers on the Dons. Their defense, coupled with a scorching 75 percent shooting, sparked a 26-point fourth quarter for the Zags, and they ran away with the 27-point victory, 78-51.

“If we’re scrappy, if we’re flying all over the place, if we have our hands up, we’re long and athletic,” head women’s basketball coach Lisa Fortier said. “It’s’ when we have our hands on our knees and we’re not in our proper positions, then they are scoring layups. It was the same press; we didn’t do anything different. We just did it better.”

The Zags held San Francisco leading scorer Shannon Powell well below her average of 16.6, allowing the senior guard just 10 points. Powell was the lone Don in double-figures; Julia Nielacna added nine points and three assists.

Gonzaga returns to the McCarthey Athletic Center Saturday, Jan. 26 to host Santa Clara at 2 p.m.