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No. 21 Gonzaga gets off to quick start, uses offensive balance to topple Idaho in nonconference finale

UPDATED: Thu., Dec. 20, 2018, 10:01 p.m.

Gonzaga forward LeeAnne Wirth fires over Idaho guard Gina Marxen on Thursday  in the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga forward LeeAnne Wirth fires over Idaho guard Gina Marxen on Thursday in the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

For all the right reasons, there were plenty of holiday cheers Thursday night at the McCarthey Athletic Center.

Mostly fans cheered a dominating night for the 21st-ranked Zags, who capped the best nonconference season in program history with an 88-51 win over Idaho.

Everyone played and nearly everyone scored, which is a nice way to go into the holiday break.

“We showed up today, which is good, and showed that we were ready to go,” GU coach Lisa Fortier said.

But the Kennel crowd of 5,795 also gave it up for Jenn and LeeAnne Wirth, the epitome of twin posts, as they saw the court at the same time for much of the first half.

They cheered too for guard Jessie Loera, who scored 11 points in her first game back from concussion protocol.

Late in the first quarter, Loera came off the bench and hit a long 3-pointer. Ten seconds later, she took a rebound and drove the length of the court, fending off a defender for a tough lay-in that made it 14-4.

“It feels good to be back,” said Loera, who started eight games and played in nine before missing the last two.

“Coming back, it’s definitely a process, but after hitting a couple of shots, it felt like I was right where I was before,” Loera said.

There was a lot to like for everyone on the court.

GU (11-1) took control early, with leads of 18-2, 21-4 and 30-7. Idaho came into the game hitting almost 11 3-point shots per game. Midway through the second quarter, it had zero.

Goose eggs were the norm for Idaho at halftime, with sharpshooter Mikayla Ferenz the only Vandal starter to score in the first half.

Ferenz finished with a team-high 14 points but was held to 2-for-10 shooting from beyond the arc.

“She’s hard to stop,” Fortier said. “She had one (3-pointer) that was open, but the rest we were contesting.”

Actually, the Zags contested everything.

By halftime, Gonzaga was up 44-19 while shooting 42 percent from the field and outrebounding the Vandals 30-17.

The Bulldogs also scored 18 first-half points off turnovers and beat the Vandals at their own game. At intermission, GU was 4 for 10 from long range, while Idaho was 3 for 16.

“Our focus was to play our defense and play as hard as we can,” Loera said.

Idaho (3-6) played the Zags almost even in the third quarter as Fortier emptied her bench. By game’s end, 11 players saw action and 10 scored.

Jenn Wirth had 12 points and 10 rebounds along with four blocks, while Zykera Rice had a game-high 16 points and six boards.

GU had 14 steals and dished out 18 assists, with Jill Townsend accounting for five.

Gonzaga outrebounded Idaho 53-33.

The Zags open West Coast Conference play on Dec. 29 at Loyola Marymount. Idaho begins its Big Sky schedule the same day at Idaho State.

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