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Gonzaga women prove they can hang with Pac-12 teams

Gonzaga basketball is looking good so far. Just ask the rest of the state.

One night after the Gonzaga men sent Washington packing, the GU women did the same to Washington State, beating the Cougars 79-61.

But the Zags made sure to send WSU back to Pullman with a small parting gift.

GU scored a record-breaking 34 points in the first quarter, the most points scored in a single quarter since the Bulldogs’ 33 points in the fourth against BYU earlier this year.

“There are people that this community knows pretty well who have said that we had reached a ceiling and I just don’t think that that exists here at Gonzaga,” GU coach Lisa Fortier said earlier this week.

The Bulldogs broke that ceiling Thursday. They scored 34 in the first quarter on 12-of-15 shooting, hitting 3 of 4 on 3-point attempts and making 7 of 8 free throws.

“We’ve got to start all the games like that. … You have to come out the same way, regardless of the opponent,” Fortier said.

Sophomore standout Jill Barta scored 12 of her 16 points in the first, shooting perfectly from the field (3 of 3) and at the free-throw line (6 of 6).

“It’s a load because you’re trying to guard Barta and not give up the 20 or 30 that she can get,” WSU head coach June Daugherty said. “Credit Gonzaga, they played really well the first quarter.”

GU’s rout of the Cougars marked the first time WSU has lost to a West Coast Conference team this season. The Cougs had previously won in matchups against Loyola Marymount, Saint Mary’s, San Francisco and San Diego.

Fortier said on Wednesday that the WCC, and Gonzaga in particular, can stand its ground against the Pac-12, despite what the rest of the nation might think. And the GU women certainly have begun to prove that notion this season after shocking then-No. 11 Stanford 68-63 in November.

“It might not be exactly the same. We don’t have as many teams ranked in the … Top 25 and this and that, but our conference is very good and, I think, gets the short end of the stick often,” Fortier said.

The Pac-12 has five teams in the AP Top 25 poll, with UCLA ranked the highest at No. 9. But after Stanford and Thursday’s performance against the Cougs, Fortier said the Bulldogs have made a point – they’re good enough to face these conferences, and beat them.

Better yet, crush them right out of the gates.

“I’m just glad we came out at the start and crushed them. We had a good scout and came out strong,” Gonzaga’s Emma Stach said.

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