Zags outlast Montana in lone non-conference home contest

The No. 25/25 Gonzaga women's basketball team withstood a late-game Montana run to earn the 58-51 victory Sunday afternoon inside the McCarthey Athletic Center.
Gonzaga takes down Montana in lone non-conference game at home
Gonzaga takes down Montana in lone non-conference game at home

SPOKANE, Wash. –Gonzaga (3-2) finished with two players in double-figures, led by LeeAnne Wirth with 12 points and eight fouls while Cierra Walker added 10 points and four steals. Both Jenn Wirth and Jill Townsend chipped in nine points each.

As a team, Gonzaga shot 31.1 percent from the floor and 27.8 percent from long range—their lowest percentages of the young season—while edging the Griz on the glass 40-36. The Bulldogs forced 19 turnovers on Montana (1-2), scoring 17 points off those turnovers. Gonzaga held Montana to 39.2 percent shooting from the floor and 17.6 percent from three.

“We need to keep getting better,” Head Coach Lisa Fortier said. “We have a lot to work on still. Obviously, we did not shoot the ball well today; we were out of rhythm. Which Montana got us out of rhythm. They played really hard, and they played really strong and tough.”

It was a slow start for either team, and just under five minutes in the first quarter the score was tied 4-4. An and-1 from LeeAnne Wirth with 5:06 to go sparked an 11-5 run over the final five minutes to put GU in front by six, 15-9.

The scoring struggles continued into the second quarter as both squads shot under 30 percent for the quarter. The Zags were able to build a nine-point lead (28-19) late in the period behind a strong showing at the line—6-of-8 for the quarter—but a late free throw from the Griz cut the lead to seven heading into the break, 30-23.

Solid shooting and strong defense helped Gonzaga extend its lead to as many as 14 in the third period. The Zags hit 7-of-17 attempts to shoot 41.2 percent, outscoring Montana 16-11 in the stanza. The Bulldogs added nine points off eight Griz turnovers and held a 12-point advantage (46-34) with 10 minutes to go.

A quick 8-0 Montana run to open the fourth cut the lead to four, 46-42, with just under seven minutes remaining. The Griz shot 57.1 percent from the floor compared to Gonzaga’s 25.0 percent shooting, outscoring the Zags 17-12 in the final quarter. With 4:42 to go, Montana’s Carmen Gfeller hit a jumper to cut the lead to two (48-46), but the Zags countered with a big three from Kayleigh Truong two minutes later. The Bulldogs sealed the win with free throw shooting down the stretch, hitting 7-of-10 attempts in the final quarter to put the Griz away, 58-51.

Montana was led by Sophia Stiles with a game-high 15 points to go along with four steals, two assists and four rebounds. Gfeller also finished in double-figures with 12.
“We’re going to keep getting better,” Fortier said. “We don’t want to be our best right now. There are still a lot of bright spots on the team.”

Gonzaga returns to the floor Sunday, Dec. 20 against Eastern Michigan in the first game of the Holiday Hoops Classic in Las Vegas, Nev. Check for up-to-date game time information.