Zags take control in fourth quarter to win at Pacific

Zags take control in fourth quarter to win at Pacific

The No. 15/13 Gonzaga women’s basketball team picked up a tough road win with a 63-51 win over Pacific at the Alex G. Spanos Center Thursday evening. The Zags limited Pacific to five fourth-quarter points to pull away with the victory.

“Our fourth quarter defense was really good, we made free throws and I think we embraced a little bit of the physicality,” head women’s basketball coach Lisa Fortier said. “In the second half, we embraced it a little bit more, we posted up really strong, we had some big finishes and ultimately made free throws down the stretch.”

The Bulldogs dominated the glass 44-30, including a season-high 23 offensive rebounds, and doubled the Tigers’ points in the paint, 32-16. Gonzaga (20-2, 9-1 WCC) was led in scoring by Laura Stockton with 15 points, five assists and three steals, while Zykera Rice added 13 points, seven rebounds and three steals.

In the opening period, Gonzaga offset a cold shooting start with stifling defense, finishing with five steals in the first 10 minutes. The Bulldogs also controlled the boards, outrebounding the Tigers 11-7 including seven offensive rebounds. Pacific’s shot 50 percent in first, and after 10 minutes the game was tied 14-all.

Pacific (13-7, 6-4 WCC) opened the second quarter on a 10-4 run to take a 24-18 lead just over three minutes into the period. An old-fashioned three-point play from Rice followed by a layup by Jenn Wirth cut the lead to one (24-23), but a layup from Pacific’s Valerie Higgins at the 4:54 mark ended the Tigers’ scoring drought. The Bulldogs responded once again, outscoring Pacific 10-3 over the final minutes to take a four-point lead (33-29) heading into the break.

The game was tight throughout the third with six lead changes and four ties, and neither squad led by more than three points. A layup from Pacific’s Ameela Li with 2:53 to go gave the Tigers a one-point buffer (46-45), but a jumper from Rice and an offensive rebound and layup from Stockton gave the Zags a 49-46 lead with 10 minutes to go in the game.

Gonzaga locked down in the fourth, holding Pacific scoreless for the first 5:25 until a free throw from Higgins gave Pacific its first point of the quarter. At the same time, the Bulldogs put together a 7-0 run, fueled by four points from Melody Kempton. The Zags never relinquished their defensive pressure, allowing just four Pacific points in the final minutes. Gonzaga converted 7-of-8 free throws down the stretch to seal the 63-51 road win.

“[Defensively in the fourth quarter] we bent our knees and were locked in as far as baseline drives and trying to limit their opportunities around the basket,” Fortier said.

Pacific was led by Higgins with a game-high 18 points off 6-of-11 from the floor to go with nine boards while Brooklyn McDavid added 11 points and four rebounds.

Gonzaga continues play on the road as it travels to Moraga, Calif., to take on Saint Mary’s at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 2.