Zags pick up 66-52 win At Saint Mary’s

Zags pick up 66-52 win At Saint Mary’s

The No. 15/13 Gonzaga women’s basketball team powered past Saint Mary’s 66-52 Saturday evening at the McKeon Pavilion in Moraga, Calif. The Bulldogs now stand alone in first place of the West Coast Conference with the win following a BYU loss at Pepperdine.

“We just played tough,” head women’s basketball coach Lisa Fortier said. “Our players were real physical, and we knew we had to be. [Saint Mary’s] is extremely physical, some of the most physical players that we’ve played against in any conference, any tournament or anywhere we play, it’s the Saint Mary’s players that are the most physical. So we really spent a lot of time talking about that.”

Gonzaga (21-2, 10-1 WCC) was dominant inside offensively, outscoring Saint Mary’s (14-8, 7-4 WCC) 34-26 in the paint. The Bulldogs locked down defensively, forcing the league-leading Gaels to shoot just 32.7 percent from the floor (16.5 percent below their average) in addition to forcing 21 turnovers on the Gaels.

The Bulldogs finished with four players in double-figures, led by 14 points from Jenn Wirth off 6-of-11 from the floor to go along with seven boards. Jill Townsend added 12 points, while Katie Campbell and LeeAnne Wirth each chipped in 10 points. Laura Stockton dished out a game-high nine assists in the win; she’s now nine assists shy from moving into third all-time in career assists.

Gonzaga forced six of Saint Mary’s 21 turnovers in the first quarter, scoring nine of their 18 first-quarter points off turnovers. LeeAnne Wirth started things off for the Zags with four straight points, and a layup from Townsend with 5:42 to go gave the Zags a five-point lead, 10-5. Gonzaga controlled the pace of the game and took advantage of its size inside, working the high-low game for 10 points inside the paint. After 10 minutes, Gonzaga held an 18-11 lead.

Saint Mary’s opened the second on a 6-0 run, but the Bulldogs responded with 10 unanswered including eight straight from Jenn Wirth to gain an 11-point advantage, 28-17. With 2:14 to go, Gonzaga maintained its 11-point lead, but the Gaels closed the period on a 6-2 run to cut the Bulldogs’ halftime lead to seven, 32-25.

Gonzaga came out firing in the third, shooting a stifling 69.2 percent (9-of-13) from the floor, and a 6-2 Bulldog run gave the Zags an 11-point lead (38-27) just 1:40 into the second half. A 4-0 SMC run over the next minute cut the lead to seven, but the Bulldogs outscored the Gaels 17-12 to close the period with a 12-point advantage, 55-43.

In the fourth quarter, the Zags’ pressure defense took Saint Mary’s out of the game, forcing eight turnovers and limiting the Gaels to nine fourth-quarter points. Gonzaga finished strong for the 66-52 win.

Saint Mary’s was led by Sam Simons with 16 points off 6-of-10 from the floor and 4-of-6 from long range. Sydney Raggio also finished in double-figures with 11 points to go along with a game-high 16 points.

Gonzaga continues play on the road next week, heading to Portland Saturday for a 4:30 p.m. tip.