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Jill Barta leads Gonzaga women in 79-39 rout of Presbyterian

The Gonzaga women left the U.S. Virgin Islands last weekend on a high note, shutting down Winthrop in their final game of the Paradise Jam.

But disappointment from falling to Michigan and Florida State, the Zags’ first two losses of the season, still lingered this week.

“Coming off the Virgin Islands trip, we have a little bit of a chip on our shoulder,” GU’s Chandler Smith said. But, “every single game’s a new game.”

GU bounced back Saturday afternoon, beating the Presbyterian Blue Hose 79-39 at the McCarthey Althletic Center. It was just the kind of stomping Gonzaga needed to boost morale.

“Any kind of confidence that we can have is never a bad thing,” head coach Lisa Fortier said.

A 40-point margin was, no doubt, a nice boost in confidence the players needed coming back from the Paradise Jam.

Well, except for Jill Barta.

The redshirt sophomore lit up the floor in three games in the U.S. Virgin Islands, averaging 21.7 points and being nearly perfect at the foul line (17 of 18). Despite GU’s 78-66 loss to Michigan, Barta put up a game-high 27 points, the most scored by any player in Gonzaga’s division in the tournament.

She brought the heat back to Spokane on Saturday.

Barta scored 22 points and had 10 rebounds, her sixth career double-double and the second one of the season, to lead Gonzaga.

“Twenty-two points and 10 rebounds is a pretty good night on 13 shots. She was efficient,” Fortier said.

Quite efficient. Barta shot 69 percent from the field (9 of 13) and made 3 of 4 attempts at the foul line. She had two steals and led the Zags with two blocks.

“I try. You got to be one of those players that’s just going to be a leader out there,” Barta said. “But I think we played very good team basketball and I think that just comes out in all of us.”

Barta took control of the court in a slow-starting first half, scoring Gonzaga’s first nine points to put the Bulldogs (5-2) up 9-2 with 3 minutes left in the first quarter.

GU held the Blue Hose (0-7) to eight points in the first quarter and allowed Presbyterian only seven points in the second quarter to lead 31-15 at the end of the half.

Kiara Kudron followed Barta with 12 points and was 4 for 4 at the foul line. Kudron and Smith led the Zags with four assists each. Makenlee Williams scored 10 points and made all four of her free-throw attempts.

The Zags dominated in almost every category, shooting 50 percent (28 of 56) from the field while Presbyterian only made 12 of 44 attempts. GU outrebounded the Blue Hose 42-20 and scored 22 points off 19 Presbyterian turnovers. Gonzaga dished out 17 assists and stepped on defense, with five blocks and eight steals.

“The team defense was better. We were jumping to the basketball, which we needed to do, and corrected some of our areas that are weak, but we still have some work to do on it of course,” Fortier said. “But a good effort I think for sure on the defensive end.”

The Zags will host the Washington State Cougars on Thursday.

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