The target is always on Gonzaga’s back, the Zag women are fond of saying after every win.
And there have been plenty of victories lately – 21 in a row going into the weekend.
But Saint Mary’s found the bull’s-eye 14 times Saturday afternoon and upset the 11th-ranked Zags, 70-60, in Moraga, Calif.
The loss will probably cost the Zags several spots in the rankings and leave them with little margin for error if they hope to host games in the NCAA Tournament.
Beaten by 25 last month in Spokane and losers of six of their previous seven games, the Gaels were a completely different team.
Saint Mary’s took an early double-digit lead and weathered a trio of Gonzaga comebacks, ending the nation’s longest winning streak.
It was Saint Mary’s first win over a ranked team since 2015.
“We did not do a very good job of following the defensive game plan today,” GU head coach Lisa Fortier said. “Saint Mary’s was ready to go from the tip, and we were playing catch-up all game.”
The loss dropped the Zags to 23-2 overall and 12-1 in the West Coast Conference, which they still lead by three games after BYU lost at San Diego earlier in the day.
As bad as the Gaels were in Spokane – they trailed 39-12 at halftime – they did little wrong in the rematch, apart from committing 21 turnovers.
That was more than offset by an otherworldly shooting performance by Saint Mary’s, which drained 14 of 21 3-pointers – a 66.7% effort.
The game couldn’t have started worse for the Zags, who missed their first five shots and 10 of their first 11 to fall behind 8-0.
The deficit grew to 14-1 before GU got its first bucket, a layin by Jessie Loera with 3 1/2 minutes left in the first quarter.
The rally gained steam on back-to-back 3s from Kaylynne Truong and a jumper from Jill Townsend, still wearing a mask after being injured last Saturday against BYU.
That made it 20-16, and GU was back in it. However, Saint Mary’s (11-13, 6-7) responded with a trio of 3s to take a 32-23 halftime lead.
GU has overcome worse this season – the Zags trailed Portland by 14 at intermission in the conference opener before rallying – but the Gaels didn’t give them a chance.
The Zags chipped the lead down to 35-28 early in the third quarter, then were outscored 20-9 the rest of the way to trail by 18 going into the fourth quarter.
“We tried to get going inside, but we were not able to create enough offense,” Fortier said. “We could have overcome not being our best on one side of the ball or the other, but today it was both.”
Saint Mary’s took its biggest lead, 58-37, on a 3-pointer by Tracy Wedin, who finished with six of them on the way to a game-high 24 points.
However, Gonzaga got back in the game on a pair of 3s from Louise Forsyth and by taking advantage of several Gael turnovers.
A 3-pointer from Townsend with 5:18 left made it 63-55, but GU would get no closer as the Gaels got another 3 from Wedin to lead by 13 with 3 minutes left.
Loera led the Zags with 19 points on 7-for-14 shooting. The rest of the team was 14 for 50.
It also was a tough day for starting Gonzaga forwards Jenn and LeeAnne Wirth. Both failed to score, and both fouled out late in the game. By then the issue was decided.
SMC shot 56.5% overall, while GU finished at 32.8% from the floor and 33.3% from deep.
Gonzaga returns to Spokane next week for its final homestand of the season. The Zags play Thursday against San Francisco and host Senior Day on Saturday against Santa Clara.
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