Eight minutes was enough for the Gonzaga women; eight minutes of near-perfect defense and dominance in the paint on both ends of the court.
That’s all GU needed Saturday afternoon to take control and cruise to a 91-52 nonconference win over Portland State at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
Trailing 16-10 with three minutes, 19 seconds left in the first quarter, the Bulldogs scored the next 21 points on the way to a 47-25 halftime lead.
The Bulldogs took it from there, pushing the lead to 30 early in the second half for their second straight win.
“We always tell our team defensively that it’s a game of runs,” coach Lisa Fortier said after the game. “You want to lengthen your own runs and make the other team’s runs as short as possible.”
Mission accomplished. The Zags (4-3) had a few hiccups in their first game against a zone defense, but patience and crisp passing were rewarded with a huge night in the paint as forwards Jill Barta and Zykera Rice combined for 50 points against the shorter Vikings.
In the most telling stat of the day, GU outscored PSU 52 to 18 in the paint. The Bulldogs also were a terror on defense, forcing 23 turnovers with 11 steals for 32 points.
GU controlled the glass as well, with 46 rebounds to 36.
“We knew they were going to zone us,” Fortier said. “You have to work it. It took a few minutes to get the hang of what we were looking for, but once we figured that out, we really didn’t look back offensively.”
Neither did Barta, who finished with 30 points to become the first player in program history with five 30-plus scoring games.
The game was even more satisfying for Rice, who scored a career-high 20 points and along with a game-high 10 rebounds for her second career double-double.
“It took a lot for that to happen,” said Rice, now a starter in her senior year. “It takes a lot to be patient against the zone, and I felt we had great composure against it tonight,” Rice said.
Another first-time starter, wing Chandler Smith, enjoyed her most complete game as a Bulldog: 10 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, while playing a game-high 34 minutes.
“She’s so multidimensional,” Fortier said of the 6-foot Smith. “She’s a big guard who can rebound, she can shoot the three and get to the paint, and she can pass.
Noting that Rice and Chandler have bigger roles this year, Fortier praised both for “stepping up.”
With starting point guard Laura Stockton out for a fourth-straight game, Smith helped guards Jessie Loera and Emma Stach wear down the Vikings (3-4).
“I thought it was really flowing today,” Smith said. “We weren’t sure how we were going to come out against the zone, but we did a good job of pushing the tempo.”
Smith also had three steals, the first of which led to a 3-pointer from Barta that started the 21-0 run.
Amid the celebration, Smith kept her eyes on the big picture going into Wednesday’s big game at Washington State.
Noting that GU has now faced almost every type of defense, Smith figures experience will pay off – hopefully in the next game.
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