Gonzaga women win WCC Tournament Title

Gonzaga women win WCC Tournament Title

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — The Gonzaga women’s basketball team won their seventh West Coast Conference Tournament Championship in program history, and third in five years, with an 86-75 victory over third-seeded Saint Mary’s in the Orleans Arena Tuesday. The win sends GU to its ninth NCAA Tournament appearance, and second under third-year head coach Lisa Fortier.

Gonzaga’s Jill Barta exploded for a tournament-record 37 points on 12-of-19 shooting from the field. She connected on five of her eight attempts from three-point range, and made all eight of her shots from the free-throw line. The redshirt sophomore scored 22 points in the first half. Her 37-point total was one-point shy of the program record set by Amy Simpson in 1983. Barta’s 12 made field goals tied the tournament record. The Fairfield, Mont. native eclipsed the 1,000-point mark in her short career, and is now at 1,003.

Kiara Kudron and Emma Wolfram added 14 and 10 points for the Bulldogs. Kudron grabbed nine rebounds and Laura Stockton dished out eight assists.

The Zags (26-6) finished the game at 48 percent from the field, while SMC was 46 percent. Gonzaga made 8-of-17 from behind-the-arc, compared to the Gaels’ 7-of-18 three-point shooting. Both teams shot well from the free-throw line, GU went 14-for-15 and Saint Mary’s made 16-of-18. Gonzaga had a 38-29 edge on the boards. The Bulldogs had a 42-28 advantage in points in the paint.

Stockton started the game with two high-difficulty layups and a face-up jumper from Barta forced a SMC timeout just a minute-and-a-half into the first quarter as the Zags led 6-0. After back and forth play, Stockton found Barta and Elle Tinkle for layups for the 14-6 lead midway through the first quarter. The Zags exploded on a 7-0 run to finish the quarter led by great transition baskets. GU shot 76 percent from the field in the quarter, and outrebounded the Gaels 10-5, and outscored them in the paint 20-6. Barta led with 13 first-quarter points. The 32 points was two short of their season high set against Washington State.

After a 5-0 start to the second quarter for SMC, the Zags responded on a 4-0 push to force another Gaels’ timeout. Barta dropped a deep trey and Kiara Kudron spun around her defender for the 41-20 advantage at the six-minute mark. The Gaels went without a field goal for almost five minutes in the second quarter, as GU led 47-27 with three minutes left. SMC went scoreless later in the quarter for over three minutes as Gonzaga led by 25, their largest lead of the half. The Zags took a 53-32 lead into the half. It was the most points GU has scored in the first half this season and Barta finished with 22 points. The Zags shot 58 percent from the field, outrebounded the Gaels 19-14, and outscored them in the paint 32-12. GU finished with 12 assists, led by five from Stockton.

The Gaels opened the half on a 10-0 run before Kudron free throws ended it at the 6:50 mark. The Gaels cut the lead under 10, 55-49 by the 4:47 mark of the third quarter before Barta answered with a three. A jumper from Chandler Smith and putback from Kudron put the Zags back up 64-51 with 1:22 left in the quarter. GU led 66-55 after three quarters.

Barta hit an early three in the fourth to pace GU, hit another, and then Emma Stach drilled one as Gonzaga led 77-59 with five minutes left. The lead dipped down to 10, but a step through from Barta for her career-high 35th point put the Zags back up 81-69 with 1:26 to play.

Barta was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player following the game. Kudron and Stockton joined her on the All-Tournament Team.

Gonzaga will find out its first round opponent for the NCAA Tournament on Monday, during a live selection show on ESPN.