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Without Laura Stockton, 18th-ranked Gonzaga women use balanced scoring attack to slow San Francisco

UPDATED: Thu., Jan. 24, 2019, 9:28 p.m.

Gonzaga’s Zykera Rice, left, drives against San Francisco’s Moa Lundqvist during the Bulldogs’ 78-51 win on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019, in Spokane, Wash. (Mike Wootton / Courtesy)
Gonzaga’s Zykera Rice, left, drives against San Francisco’s Moa Lundqvist during the Bulldogs’ 78-51 win on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019, in Spokane, Wash. (Mike Wootton / Courtesy)
By Kendra Andrews The Spokesman-Review

With floor general Laura Stockton sidelined with an aggravated shoulder injury, the 18th-ranked Gonzaga women’s basketball team had a next-man-up mentality on Thursday night.

Facing the team with the second-worst record in the West Coast Conference, the Zags were still heavy favorites over San Francisco even without their starting point guard, and they delivered with a 78-51 victory.

In their first game back at the McCarthey Athletic Center after a two-game road trip – which featured GU’s first loss of conference play – it took the Bulldogs until the fourth quarter to pull away for their 27-point win.

Leading 52-39 after three quarters, , GU (18-2, 7-1) shot 75 percent from the field in the fourth. The Bulldogs limited USF (5-14, 1-7) to 41.7-percent shooting and 12 points in the final quarter.

Chandler Smith took over starting duties for Stockton and finished with seven points, six assists and five rebounds. Jessie Loera added eight points and six assists, and Zykera Rice led all scorers with 15 points.

“We definitely didn’t have our best offensive night, by any means,” said GU’s Jill Townsend, who added nine points. “Our defense was able to step up and keep us in the game, and keep us where we wanted until our offense picked up.”

The Zags missed four of their first five shots and committed four turnovers in the first 8 minutes. At the end of the first quarter, they were shooting 44.5 percent from the field, had missed every 3-point attempt and were tied at 11 with the Dons.

GU opened the second quarter with more inconsistency. Katie Campbell, who finished with 12 points, hit GU’s first 3-pointer 30 seconds in, but 1 1/2 minutes later, Loera committed the Zags’ fifth turnover.

About halfway through the second quarter, the Zags seemed to have found a rhythm. Smith stole the ball from USF’s Kia Vaalavirta and converted a layup. Three seconds later, Louise Forsyth added the team’s second 3-pointer.

The Zags closed out the half on a strong defensive note. As the clock wound down, Townsend stole the ball from Marianna Klavina and GU led 31-20 at half.

GU gave up 19 points in the third quarter. Near the end of the quarter, GU had a 6-minute scoring drought and USF shot 1 of 7 from the floor during the same stretch.

“We were trying to come out and have a great impact in the first 5 minutes (of the second half) and it just didn’t workout for us,” Zags head coach Lisa Fortier said. “But we did outlast them. We kept grinding, we kept getting stops, we kept getting defensive rebounds. As bad as our defense was in that quarter, we were still able to score the ball. I think the highlight was our fourth-quarter defense.”

GU shot a season-high 59.3 percent from the field compared to USF’s 36.7.

The Zags will host Santa Clara at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Kennel.

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