Clearly this was Jill Townsend’s night.
Finally free of the protective mask she’d worn the previous four games, Townsend saw her way to a remarkable shooting night Thursday to lead the Gonzaga women to a 75-47 West Coast Conference win at Loyola Marymount.
Held to six points in the first half, Townsend scored 15 in the second half to help the Zags break a 30-all halftime tie and pull away in the second half.
“We didn’t like where the score was at halftime, and the third quarter we had to make a push, and we did,” said Townsend, who made 9 of 16 shots on the way to a game-high 21 points.
The win also gave the 13th-ranked Zags (26-2 overall, 15-1 WCC) the outright WCC regular-season title. They lead second-place BYU by four games with three to play.
LMU (6-20, 3-11) came into the game on a six-game losing streak but shot well in the first half to force the halftime tie.
GU scored the first eight points of the third quarter – six by Townsend – but LMU made it a one-point game on a pair of free throws by Ciera Ellington with 2 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter.
Just as quickly, Gonzaga took over the game. Townsend hit a short jumper and a layin sandwiched around a 3-pointer from Kaylynne Truong to make it 47-37 after three quarters.
“Our offense has been struggling and our percentages have been struggling, so it was nice to go out there, and everyone was in the same flow,” Townsend said.
With LeeAnne Wirth and Melody Kempton saddled with three fouls each, Jenn Wirth gave GU its first double-digit lead of the night, 51-39 with 8 1/2 minutes left.
GU pulled away from there. The Zags took a 66-44 lead with 1 1/2 minutes left, and the final score was GU’s biggest lead.
Gonzaga’s offense struggled in the first half, shooting just 41% from the field and 25% (3 for 12) from long range. LMU hit 55% from the field.
The shorter Lions also held their own on the glass, getting outrebounded only 12-11.
On the night, GU shot 43% from the field and outrebounded the Lions 36-24.
In addition to Townsend, the Zags got double-figure scoring from Kayleigh Truong (with 13) and Jenn Wirth, who had 11.
LMU took an early 12-5 lead and made nine of its first 12 shots to go ahead 21-17 after one quarter.
Gonzaga is at Pepperdine on Saturday. The Zags close out the regular season at Portland on Feb. 29.
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