Zags Start Slow – Finish Strong at Pacific
STOCKTON, Calif — The Gonzaga Bulldogs started slow but then exploded to a win in their first conference game, 99-72, over Pacific on the road on Thursday night.
GU started 0-for-their-first-seven shots, but they went 25-for-their-next 29 in the first half. Five players scored in double-figures in the game, led by Jill Barta with 15 points, and Jenn Wirth added 14, Emma Stach scored 12, Zykera Rice scored 11, and Jill Townsend added 10. GU shot 54 percent from the field in the game and 69 percent in the first half. The Zags dominated the rebounds, 46-33, and 46-11 in bench points. The Bulldogs pounded the ball in the paint, 44-26 in points, and dished a season-high 25 assists. Barta had her sixth double-double of the season with 10 boards. Chandler Smith was just a point short of a triple-double with nine points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists.
The Zags got the ball to the rim early, but had trouble converting, trailing 7-1 through the first four minutes. GU started 0-for-their-first-seven shots. Back-to-back buckets from Barta and Jenn Wirth got the Zags started offensively. The Zags used those buckets to spur a six-for-six field goal run and lead 14-13 with two minutes left in the first. GU ended the quarter going nine-for-their-last-nine from the field to lead 20-15. Smith led with five points, and Rice and Jenn Wirth added four each. GU hit another bucket to start the second quarter before the streak was broken. Katie Campbell nailed a corner three off the inbounds and Stach found Jenn Wirth to break the press and GU led 29-21, their largest lead to that point, with 6:55 left. That lead grew to 10 before Pacific responded.
Jenn Wirth hit her third elbow jumper in as many tries, and Jessie Loera nailed a three in transition as GU led 40-29 with four minutes left in the second, their largest lead to that point. The Zags went on another field goal run, going 11-for-their-next 11 ending the half up 60-35, their largest lead of the game. They scored 60 first half points for the first time since they scored 63 against Southern Utah on January 3, 2011 in Spokane. After starting the game 0-for-seven from the field, they went 25-for-their-next 29 shooting 69 percent from the field and 57 percent from three with four makes. Jenn Wirthled the Zags with 11 points, going five-for-five from the field. Smith added nine and Barta and Stach each scored seven. The Zags had 17 assists, tying their second-highest total in a game this year. GU dominated the boards 20-9 and 27-0 in bench points, to go with a 26-8 advantage in points in the paint.
Pacific started the second half trimming the lead to 17 through the first four and a half minutes before Rice broke the trend with a free throw. Pacific got it down to 17 again, but a 6-0 run with two steal and scoops from the Zags put them back up 73-50 with 2:30 left in the quarter. GU led 77-58 at the end of three. Pacific started the fourth quarter hot from the field, but GU had every answer and the Tigers got no closer than 18 early in the fourth. The Tigers got no closer than 19 from there as GU won going away, 99-72.
“I am so proud of the well-rounded effort by our team tonight,” Gonzaga head coach Lisa Fortier said. “Pacific is a talented team and always a difficult matchup for us. I love the way we stuck to the game plan and made the right reads during critical times of the game. Our huge second quarter and the way we rebounded the ball allowed us to separate tonight. It’s a great way to start WCC conference play.”
All totaled, 10 Zags scored five or more points, and nine had at least two rebounds. Loera added nine points and five assists.
Gonzaga (8-4, 1-0 WCC) will stay on the road and face Santa Clara on Saturday at 2 pm. Live links are available at GoZags.com.
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