By the standards of this crazy women’s basketball season, the Kennel was rocking Thursday night.
Genuine human fans were in the stands for the first time this year, and cheerleaders were at full roar – perfect timing for the 21st-ranked Gonzaga women to do what they do best: Win another West Coast Conference regular-season title.
They clinched at least a tie for it, anyway, in a 95-49 runaway win over Pepperdine. The Zags can take the championship outright against Loyola Marymount on Saturday, when the emotions will be even higher on Senior Day.
They were already high enough Thursday. At least two dozen fans made the 2½-hour drive from Okanogan to see senior guard Jill Townsend, and she responded with 23 points and eight rebounds.
It was also a big night for senior Jenn Wirth, who joined Townsend in Gonzaga’s 1,000-point career scoring club. Needing only two points coming in, Wirth got them on a jumper in the opening minutes.
The game got out of hand early as GU improved to 20-3 overall and 15-1 in the WCC. The Zags lead BYU by one game with one to go.
The first half was as one-sided as it gets in Division I as Gonzaga took early leads of 11-0 and 24-5. By the end of the first quarter, the Bulldogs led 27-8 while shooting 11 for 19 from the field and outrebounding the Waves 12-4.
The lead grew from there as Townsend put up a game’s worth of numbers in the first half: 16 points on 5-for-8 shooting. She also made all four of her long-range shots.
By intermission, Gonzaga led 53-19, its biggest halftime lead of the season.
Gonzaga coach Lisa Fortier went deep into her bench in the third quarter, but the Zags padded the lead further to 64-21 midway through the period and 78-31 going into the fourth.
Senior forward LeeAnne Wirth had 16 points and five rebounds, while redshirt freshman Eliza Hollingsworth had a career-high eight points.
For the game, Gonzaga shot 56% (37 for 66) from the field and outrebounded the Waves 40-23.
Pepperdine fell to 6-14 overall and remained in last place in the WCC at 2-15.
Gonzaga nearly broke the century mark for scoring for the first time since early in the 2016-17 season, when it beat UC Irvine 102-38.
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