Asked to find any flaws in her players’ performance Saturday afternoon, Gonzaga women’s coach Lisa Fortier had to work harder than they did.
Well, there were some defensive lapses late in the first half, Fortier allowed after a 74-47 West Coast Conference win over San Francisco at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
Then she paused.
“That is being a little nit-picky,” Fortier conceded while noting that the Bulldogs led 39-17 at the half in holding the Dons to 21-percent shooting.
The Bulldogs did much more than that, all afternoon. They outrebounded USF 50-37, forced 20 turnovers (15 via steals) and played unselfish offense to the tune of 20 assists.
Nine of those came from sophomore guard Jessie Loera, who had a career game that also included a team-high 15 points and five rebounds.
“This year I’ve been playing more and I’ve been getting more comfortable,” Loera said.
For all of the Bulldogs, this one felt as comfortable as the weather, with GU’s 3-point shooting percentage of 37 roughly matched the temperature outside.
Even the timing couldn’t have been better for the Zags (13-4 overall, 6-0 WCC), who face their toughest WCC game of the season on Thursday at Saint Mary’s.
“You always want to be playing well going into anything that’s significant,” Fortier said. “But we thought this was significant.”
The Dons (8-9, 3-3) were coming off their best conference win of the season, an 18-point home win over Loyola Marymount.
“We made a team who’s very good look like they’re struggling,” Fortier said.
After a slow start that included one field goal in its first eight shots, Gonzaga still led 16-7 after the first quarter thanks to a stifling half-court defense. The Bulldogs also got a crowd-boosting steal from Chandler Smith, whose pass to Loera led to another one that Barta turned into an easy layup.
GU got its first double-digit lead on a 3-pointer from Emma Stach. Two minutes later, Loera added another trey to make it 24-9.
A 39-17 halftime lead ballooned to 55-23 on Loera’s layup with 3 minutes left in the third quarter.
Ten Zags scored, with Barta (14), Stach (11) and Zykera Rice (10) joining Loera in double figures despite a heavy dose of double-teams down low.
“Teams have been wanting to double down on our post,” Loera said. “But they kick it out to us and we pass it back to them.”
USF, with only eight player in uniform, got a game-high 16 points from Anna Pierce.
Gonzaga faces another road-home split next week, hosting Santa Clara on Saturday at 2 p.m.