Gonzaga holds off Missouri State 70-67

Gonzaga holds off Missouri State 70-67

The Gonzaga women’s basketball team held off Missouri State 70-67 Sunday afternoon at the JQH Arena. The Bulldogs held off MSU’s second-half comeback and made free throws down the stretch to secure the win.

“Overall, they executed what we wanted to and we made most of our free throws,” Head coach Lisa Fortier said. “I think it really came down to staying calm. We didn’t turn it over at that stage, we accepted coaching, we worked together as a team and communicated.”

Gonzaga (10-1) was led by Chandler Smith with 15 points and 10 rebounds for her first double-double of the season, while Jenn Wirth added 14 points and Zykera Rice chipped in 13 points with eight rebounds. The Bulldogs shot 41.4 percent from the floor for the game and 44.4 percent from long range while winning the rebounding battle 41-31.

The Zags opened the first period shooting 50 percent from the floor while controlling the paint. The Bulldogs outscored Missouri State (1-7) 10-4 inside while controlling the glass, 10-5. Gonzaga closed the period on a 10-4 run to lead 22-13 after the first 10 minutes.

Gonzaga was scoreless for the first 3:40 of the second period before Jessie Loera hit an open three. Loera’s trey sparked a 7-0 run for the Bulldogs to give them a 12-point lead (29-17) with five minutes to go in the period. With 41 seconds remaining, the Zags extended their lead to 14, but Missouri State closed the half on a 4-1 run to cut GU’s lead to 11 (39-28) heading into the break.

Missouri State outscored Gonzaga 19-15 in the third quarter to cut the Bulldogs lead to seven (54-47) with 10 minutes to go. Jenn Wirth hit a quick elbow jumper to open the fourth quarter, and another jumper by Wirth with 5:48 to go gave the Zags a nine-point lead, 61-52. Yet an 8-0 MSU run over the next 1:30 cut GU’s lead to one, 61-60.

A pair of free throws from Rice ended MSU’s run, and both teams were held scoreless for the next three minutes. Rice once more ended the drought, this time with a jumper in the paint with 52 seconds to go to give the Bulldogs a 65-60 lead. The Bulldogs held off Missouri State in the final minute to secure the 70-67 win.

Missouri State was led by Brice Calip with 20 points off 7-of-14 from the floor and a perfect 6-for-6 from the charity stripe. Alexa Willard added 14 points and four rebounds.

“I’m hopeful that this is going to help us,” Fortier said. “There’s bound to be more close games. This is just the second or third game that has come down to the wire, and there are more of those coming. I think we gained valuable experience…Missouri State is so physical, and it’s such a tough place to play. Their program is so storied and they are well coached. For us, I think it’s a great win; not just that we got the win but to do it here at a place like Missouri State…I’m really proud of our team.”

Gonzaga returns to the McCarthey Athletic Center for its final nonconference matchup of the season as it plays host to Idaho, Thursday, Dec. 20 at 6 p.m.