GU Women open WCC play with narrow win against LMU

Gonzaga is back, looking to take the final step to a title

LOS ANGELES – The No. 23/23 Gonzaga women’s basketball team defeated Loyola Marymount 65-62 Monday evening inside Gersten Pavilion in Los Angeles. The Bulldogs outscored the Lions 40-29 in the second half to secure the win.

Gonzaga (6-2, 1-0 WCC) finished with four players in double-figures, led by a double-double of 19 points, 10 rebounds from senior Jill Townsend. Jenn Wirth added a double-double of her own, with 14 points, 10 rebounds for her fourth of the season. It marks the third-straight game that GU has had at least two players finish with double-doubles. (Wirth is currently tied with BYU’s Lauren Gustin for the WCC lead in double-doubles). Kayleigh Truong added 11 points with a career-high tying seven assists, while LeeAnne Wirth chipped in 10 points.

The Zags won the rebounding battle 42-32 and collected 17 offensive rebounds in the process, which led to 14 second chance points for the Bulldogs. Gonzaga also controlled the paint, outscoring LMU 34-26 inside. The Bulldogs added 18 assists and seven steals to the stat line while shooting 36.0 percent from the floor (25-of-70).

“Welcome to conference play,” Head Coach Lisa Fortier said. “Every game seems like a grinder. They know you. You know them. You just have less room for error against teams that have so much familiarity with each other. We struggled to score for a lot of the game, but we were able to come up with big baskets and big stops down the stretch.”

The Zags opened the game with a quick 6-0 run behind two Townsend buckets and a layup from LeeAnne Wirth. Yet Loyola Marymount (1-5, 0-1 WCC) forced five turnovers on the Zags which led to seven points for the Lions. A 7-2 run in favor of LMU tied the game 11-all with 4:47 remaining in the first period, and the Lions would outscore GU 8-2 to claim a 19-13 lead at the end of the first.

Neither team would find the back of the net until an LMU jumper from Nicole Rodriguez at the 7:34 mark. Gonzaga found its first bucket off a trey from Kayleigh Truong at the 6:22 mark, a bucket that fueled a 9-2 Zag run to cut LMU’s lead to four (26-22) with just over two minutes remaining. Yet the Lions would finish the quarter on a 7-3 run, putting the Zags behind 33-25 at the break.

Gonzaga opened the second half with another quick run, this time a 5-0 run behind a layup from Jenn Wirth and a three from Cierra Walker. Yet the Lions held the advantage until the 4:15 mark of the third period, when another layup from Jenn Wirth put the Zags in front for the first time since the 2:39 mark of the first period. Yet three free-throws from the Lions gave LMU the advantage once more, which they held until a four-point swing from Townsend gave GU the lead once more at the 7:54 mark of the fourth.

The final period featured four ties and three lead changes, and with 3:28 remaining GU was gridlocked with Loyola Marymount 58-all. A layup from Jenn Wirth push Gonzaga ahead, and the Zags would never relinquish its lead as the Bulldogs made free throws down the stretch to seal the 65-62 win in Los Angeles.

Loyola Marymount finished with two players in double-figures, led by Ariel Johnson with 16 points while Chelsey Gipson added 10 points.

“We need to dial it in on the defensive end, continue to get on the glass and keep getting better,” Fortier said. “I’m happy for these guys and the way they kept going, one possession at a time tonight.”

Gonzaga returns to play Wednesday, Dec. 30 at Pepperdine in Malibu, Calif. Tip-off is set for 5 p.m.