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Gonzaga women have slow start, then roll to lopsided win over Cal State Bakersfield

UPDATED: Sun., Nov. 10, 2019

Gonzaga’s Jill Townsend, right, pokes the ball away against CSUB’s Miracle Saxon during lopsided win in The Kennel. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga’s Jill Townsend, right, pokes the ball away against CSUB’s Miracle Saxon during lopsided win in The Kennel. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)

Long before tipoff Sunday afternoon, Jenn and LeeAnne Wirth wore big smiles, ear-to-ear and full of anticipation.

For the first time since high school, they were in the starting lineup together.

The smiles only grew from there during Gonzaga’s 92-48 season-opening win over Cal State Bakersfield. By game’s end the junior forwards had combined for 31 points and eight rebounds.

The operative word is “combined.”

“I can’t put it into words, but it’s been a long time since we started together,” Jenn said. “We have that little twin thing going … it just feels good to have someone out there where you know what they’re going to do and how they’re going to play.”

Jenn and LeeAnne also started in the exhibition win last week over Warner Pacific, but this was for real. And it feels so good, the twins want to keep it that way for the rest of their Gonzaga careers.

“I remember back in high school we played on the same club team,” LeeAnne said. “For some reason someone thought it was a good idea to split us up.”

“When the season was over I looked back and thought I never wanted to do that again,” LeeAnne said.

For the rest of the Zags, there was no looking back after a lackluster first quarter.

The Zags got off to an uneven start, shooting 4 for 11 from the field and 0 for 4 from long range.

At the other end of the court, CSUB – which had 30 turnovers in an 80-49 loss Friday night at Washington – was taking care of the ball.

GU led by only 14-10 after one quarter. It was still 18-14 early in the second when freshman point guard Kayleigh Truong hit a 3-pointer, then stole the ball to lead a break that led to a layin for Jessie Loera.

A minute later, Truong took another steal and dished off for another layin by Loera – until a late whistle erased the bucket and slapped Truong with a charge.

The foul seemed to energize the Zags, who offered Truong pats on the shoulder as the Kennel crowd of 5,000-plus booed as the replay appeared to show the CSUB player shuffling her feet before the foul.

The rally continued. Outscoring the Roadrunners 21-3 during a 6-minute stretch, the Zags led 44-21 at halftime and left no doubt by the middle of the third quarter.

Truong had a remarkable debut. In 22 ½ minutes, she shot 6 for 9 and finished with a game-high 18 points along with four rebounds while starting at point guard.

The starter, Loera, had nine of the Zags’ 22 assists. Shooter Katie Campbell, who was on the receiving end of several, had 13 points on 4-for-6 shooting from beyond the arc.

“That’s how the game is supposed to be played,” Truong said. “We share the ball really well – you can’t ask for any more than that.”

Certainly the Zags have more to give – good thing, because bigger challenges are around the corner. A solid Tennessee Martin squad comes to the Kennel on Thursday night, and three days later, the Zags play at No. 3 Stanford.

Suddenly, front court depth is an issue, as wing Kylee Griffen was recently lost for the season. Now true freshman forward Eliza Hollingsworth is sidelined with a high-ankle sprain.

Coach Lisa Fortier wasn’t sure how long Hollingsworth will be out, but said the 6-foot-2 Australian won’t be redshirted.

That was a positive sign, but the biggest might have been the big first-half minutes Fortier gave to the starters: 13 for Jenn Wirth, almost 15 for LeeAnne and an eye-popping 17 for Jill Townsend.

“I didn’t realize that – that’s why I subbed her so fast in the second half,” Fortier said.

However, point was proven: the Wirth twins are ready to go the distance, for the next game and the one after that – together.

“I’ll take as many minutes as I can get,” LeeAnne said.

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