The Gonzaga women are cruising to another West Coast Conference title, but they’re not driving while distracted.
And they’re certainly not looking past anyone, not even a last-place San Diego team. Instead, GU went straight for the heart on Valentine’s Day, rolling to a 71-44 win at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
“They would get an earful if we came out casually against any opponent,” GU coach Lisa Fortier said. “I know that happens sometimes, but we definitely didn’t want to treat them differently.”
There were distractions aplenty Thursday night, including snowy roads, Valentine’s Day and a GU men’s game that began at 8 p.m. That depressed the crowd size at the Kennel, but did little to dim the Zags’ focus ahead of Saturday’s big game against second-place BYU.
Instead, the 13th-ranked Zags utterly dominated the Toreros, improving to 23-2 overall and 12-1 in the WCC.
It was GU’s seventh straight win since a two-point loss at BYU on Jan. 17.
This one got ugly early for the Toreros (8-17, 1-13), who haven’t won a game since New Year’s Eve.
Back home for the first time in 12 days, the Zags led 22-6 after one quarter and 30-11 midway through the second.
If San Diego needed any more convincing, guard Jessie Loera drilled a pair of 3-pointers in a span of 40 seconds, making it 38-12.
GU rolled to a 42-12 halftime lead thanks to a dominant defense that held San Diego to four first-half field goals (out of 26 shots) and domination on the glass 21-10.
“Our week of practice was just phenomenal and we wanted to bring that into the game today,” said Loera, who had three steals along with 13 points. … “Tough defense, we all love that.”
The four field goals were the fewest in a half by a GU opponent this year.
“That takes a little bit of luck,” Fortier said. “But nothing was easy (for San Diego). We didn’t give up transition baskets or open layups.
“If you eliminate the easy baskets, then you make a team work hard in the half court and that can happen.”
The Zags also had it going on offense, shooting 14 for 21 from the field in the first half.
Forward Zykera Rice was a tough challenge for the Toreros, who resorted to fouling her. Rice finished with a game-high 15 points.
Laura Stockton added 10 points and three assists, and LeeAnne Wirth had nine rebounds.
“Offensively, everything we tried worked,” Fortier said.
San Diego opened the second half with a 10-0 run, but it already was too little, too late. Wirth ended the run with a short jumper and Jill Townsend turned a nice pass from Stockton into a 3-pointer that made it 50-22.
“We lost some focus in the second half, which I hate,” Fortier said. “I know it’s natural, but it’s tough for a coach.”
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