Gonzaga Women Wrap Up WCC Title With Win Over LMU
LOS ANGELES — The Gonzaga Bulldogs claimed the outright West Coast Conference Championship on Thursday night at Loyola Marymount, 75-69.
Chandler Smith led the Zags with 17 points, going five-of-nine from the field with two assists and three steals. Jill Barta added 12 points and two steals, and Emma Stach scored 10, hitting two threes. Zykera Rice scored nine points to go with a team-high nine rebounds. Gonzaga shot better in the second half, 53.8 percent, shooting 41.8 percent on the game. They forced 16 turnovers for 26 points off turnovers and 10 steals.
Both teams struggled to find a flow offensively early on. LMU hit a three in transition and led 9-5 at the four-minute mark. Stach ignited the Zag offense with a three at the three-minute mark to pull within one. Jenn Wirth drained a late 18-foot jumper, and Rice followed a miss to tie the game at 13 after one. GU led on the glass 14-10, and blocked three shots with five offensive boards. Smith stole the ball at midcourt and went coast to coast as GU led 19-15 two minutes into the second. The Zags run extended to 10-0 as Smith beat the shot clock buzzer and GU led 23-15 at the seven-minute mark. The Zags hit a four-and-a-half minute scoreless streak, but still led 27-21 with one minute left in the quarter. Gonzaga led 27-23 at half. Barta scored in double digits with 10 points to lead GU. Rice and Jill Townsend has six rebounds each as GU led 25-18 on the glass. Gonzaga scored eight second-chance points on seven offensive boards.
Three minutes into the second half LMU regained the lead, 32-31. Laura Stockton took back the lead on a baseline drive. Rice followed her own miss as GU went on a 7-0 spurt to lead 38-32 at the six-minute mark of the third. The Lions responded with five-straight until Townsend hit a foul shot. Jenn Wirth hustled to follow a miss in transition, and Townsend made two more. Smith drilled two threes and the Zags built their first double-digit lead, 49-39, with two minutes left in the third. They kept that lead and were up 55-45 after three. Smith scored 11 points in the quarter and led GU with 15 points to that point. GU made their last six field goals of the quarter and shot 60 percent in the quarter. GU forced five turnovers in the quarter for 11 points off turnovers.
Stach drilled a three two minutes into the fourth quarter and Gonzaga led 62-48, their largest lead to that point. LMU scored seven-straight points to get back within range. Two threes cut the lead to three at the 4:01 mark. Barta ended the LMU run with a spin move inside and GU led 66-61 with three minutes left. A steal and score from Jessie Loera put GU back up seven, 68-61, with two minutes left. Loera kept it rolling to find Rice on the roll to answer two LMU free throws with 1:23 left. LMU got no closer than five, as GU won 75-69.
“I am so excited for our team,” Gonzaga head coach Lisa Fortier. “We had to battle on the road tonight and we did. We responded to some in-game adversity very well and got great play from our bench. We need production from everyone in order to be a very successful team, and tonight those contributions directly affected the outcome. I’m really proud of the team.”
Townsend added three points and six rebounds, and Loera added nine. The GU bench led in points, 23-12.
The Zags (21-5, 14-1 WCC) had already claimed their 13 WCC title in the last 14 years and this marked their 14th in program history, but now they have secured the number one seed at the WCC Tournament. GU continues their road trip on Saturday at 1 pm at Pepperdine. Live links are available at GoZags.com.