The Gonzaga women did many things well in Sunday’s big nonconference game at South Dakota State.
They shot almost 47% percent from the field, won the battle on the boards, turned the ball over just nine times and got a career-high 29 points from senior Jill Townsend.
However, they gave up 11 long-range buckets, the last coming with 2 seconds left in overtime, giving South Dakota State a dramatic 75-72 victory in Brookings, South Dakota.
“They are really hard to guard because of how well they can shoot the ball, and we battled, but it wasn’t quite enough,” coach Lisa Fortier said after the Zags fell to 1-2.
Known for their 3-point shooting, the Jackrabbits shot 44% from beyond the arc. Gonzaga was just 4 for 16 (25%).
With seven ties and 13 lead changes, the game was GU’s third nail-biter in a row. Last weekend in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, they fell to top-ranked South Carolina 79-72, then beat South Dakota 54-50 after trailing by 18 points in the first half.
The loss also will cost the Zags some ground in the rankings. They are currently 18th, though that didn’t reflect the win over South Dakota.
However, this game was no upset. SDSU (3-0) also owns a win over then-No. 15 Iowa State and was sitting just outside the Top 25 a week ago.
Gonzaga had several chances to win the game both in regulation and overtime.
The Bulldogs led 64-61 with 19 seconds left after Townsend made one of two foul shots, but SDSU star Myah Selland got three points on a layin and a foul by Jenn Wirth.
Townsend missed a jumper at the buzzer sending the game to overtime, which couldn’t have begun any better as Cierra Walker and Townsend made jump shots.
That made it 68-64 with 3½ minutes left. Less than a minute later, SDSU was back on top 69-68, thanks largely to another old-fashioned three-point play from Selland.
Back came the Zags on another jumper from Townsend, but Selland answered with a 3-point shot, boosting the lead to 72-70.
Townsend got her final points on a layup that tied the game at 72-all with 9 seconds left. SDSU called timeout, setting up Lindsey Theuninck for the game-winning 3.
Townsend was outstanding in defeat. Her 29 points were the product of 12-for-19 shooting from the field and a 4-for-5 effort at the foul line. She also had six rebounds.
Townsend’s previous high was 28 points in a home win over Loyola Marymount on Jan 25.
Gonzaga got 10 points and 5-for-5 shooting from senior forward LeeAnne Wirth before she fouled out in the fourth quarter. Jenn Wirth had seven points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
The Jackrabbits had four players in double figures.
For the game, both teams shot 47% from the field. Gonzaga turned the ball over just 9 times while forcing 17, and outrebounded SDSU 35 to 32.
Gonzaga is at Wyoming on Tuesday night, then hosts Montana on Sunday in the team’s first game at the McCar- they Athletic Center.
Gonzaga got some good news before the game from the NCAA, which has approved transfer senior Abby O’Connor’s waiver to become eligible to play immediately.
“Abby will make our team better,” Fortier said. “She can do a little bit of everything and works extremely hard on the court.
“Given her circumstances and the additional eligibility granted this year due to COVID-19, it makes sense to allow transfers to play immediately,” Fortier continued. “We are really happy for her.”
O’Connor averaged 12.3 points last year for Loyola of Chicago. The 6-foot guard also led the Ramblers in rebounds with eight per game.
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