The Gonzaga Bulldogs used a balanced attack to dispel Portland on the road on Thursday night, 70-56 inside the Chiles Center.
Both teams started slow offensively through the first 14 minutes of the game, but Gonzaga started building from there and shot 35 percent on the game, but 47 percent in the third quarter. 10 Zags scored in the game, and GU led 46-29 on the glass. Zykera Rice led GU with 14 points and Chandler Smith finished with 11 points and eight rebounds to lead the Zags. GU forced 20 Pilot turnovers for 13 steals and a 23-11 advantage in points off turnovers. Jessie Loera led the Zags with four assists and Rice and Smith had three steals each.
The Zags had two turnovers through the first three minutes, but kept Portland from taking advantage as the score was tied at two, forcing three Pilot turnovers. A breakaway score off a steal from Smith broke the Zags’ three-minute scoreless streak to make it 4-2 with five minutes left in the period. The Pilots’ scoreless streak extended to almost six minutes before they tied the game at four. A free throw from Jenn Wirth and follow-up from Jill Townsend put the Zags back up 7-4. Portland responded with a 6-0 run, but GU tied the game from the line at 10 to finish the quarter. Portland opened the second quarter with five-straight points before Gonzaga scored on free throws from Townsend. Jill Barta broke into the scoring column at the 7:25 point to give GU a 16-15 lead from the line. GU continued on an 8-0 run fueled by a layup and assist from Laura Stockton. The offenses for both teams picked up the pace for the final four minutes of the quarter, as GU scored 12 of their 31 and Portland scored 10 of their 28 for the 31-28 halftime GU lead. Townsend had six points for GU with four rebounds, including two offensive. Rice led the Zags with 10 points and four rebounds. The Zags forced 12 Pilot turnovers for 11 steals, led by Smith with three, as she added six points. GU got their offense from the free throw line mostly, going 13-of-18 in the half.
Smith hit a three for GU two-and-a-half minutes into the third quarter and GU led 36-28. Emma Stach scored her fourth point of the quarter streaking to the basket off a pass from Jenn Wirth, and Gonzaga scored seven before Portland got on the board in the quarter. Two free throws from Barta put the Zags up 10, 40-30, their largest lead to that point. A follow-up from Smith in transition extended the lead to 12, 46-34, with 2:30 left. The lead grew as big as 17, before Portland hit a shot at the buzzer and GU led 55-40 after three. Gonzaga shot 47 percent from the field in the quarter and led 21-8 in points off turnovers as the Pilot turnover total reached 16. GU recorded seven offensive rebounds in the quarter and led 33-19 on the glass, as Stach scored six in the quarter.
Early in the fourth, Jenn Wirth completed the three-point play in transition and GU led 58-40. The lead grew as big as 19 three minutes into the fourth and Portland got no closer than 14 as GU won 70-56.
“Road wins are never easy, and this one certainly was a struggle,” Gonzaga head coach Lisa Fortier said. “I thought the ball was stopping too much in the first half, and we didn’t play the kind of offense we wanted. In the third quarter we found a group that finally had the right mix of energy, and offensive flow we were looking for and that’s when we separated.”
Gonzaga utilized 23 offensive rebounds, led by Smith and Jenn Wirth who had four each, and Townsend added three to keep possessions alive. GU used their full roster, as no one played over 27 minutes on the night.
The Bulldogs (12-4, 5-0 WCC) return home on Saturday for a 2 pm game against San Francisco live on SWX. Live links are available on GoZags.com.