Fittingly for the first game of the New Year, the Gonzaga women played with grim resolve Saturday afternoon.
Against the last West Coast Conference team to beat them in the regular season, the Zags did so with defense. They held Saint Mary’s to 31% shooting and dominated the glass on the way to 69-37 win that was every bit that one-sided.
“This game was personal for us,” said senior forward Jenn Wirth, who led the way with her third consecutive double-double: 11 points and 14 boards.
A year ago at Saint Mary’s, the Zags saw a 21-game winning streak buried under an avalanche of 3-pointers – 14 of them.
This time, the Gaels didn’t hit their first long-range shot until midway through the third quarter.
“We remember giving up a lot of points in that game,” Wirth said after GU’s seventh consecutive win.
Saturday’s game was just the opposite. Saint Mary’s didn’t score for the first 8 minutes and didn’t reach double digits until late in the half.
Despite some struggles on offense, the 23rd-ranked Zags took leads of 11-0 late in the first quarter and 25-8 late in the second.
GU was up 30-16 at intermission and pulled away in the second half to improve to 8-2 overall and 3-0 in the WCC.
“We’ve been trying to focus on the scout and defending the scout correctly,” GU head coach Lisa Fortier said after the game. “When we’ve had trouble is when we’ve let them get to their better hand or their pet move.
“We were in our stance, ready to guard, and when we did get beat, we’ve had people ready to help.”
It was only the fifth time in six-plus seasons under Fortier that the Zags held a conference opponents to under 40 points.
When the Gaels (2-6, 0-2) missed, there were few second chances. GU game into the game with a plus-12.6 average rebounding margin, then went out and outboarded the Gaels 41-23.
Jenn Wirth and twin sister LeeAnne, both 6-foot-3, combined for 20 boards, and backups Melody Kempton and AnaMaria Virjoghe added four apiece.
Were the smaller Gaels feeling a bit helpless?
“I hope so,” Fortier said. “We are developing that habit of going to the glass every single time. There have been very few times when I’ve had to say, ‘Go to the glass.’ ”
If there was a blemish in the first half, it was GU’s offense. The Zags shot 10 for 30 from the field and 2 for 13 from long range.
That changed in the third quarter. Kayleigh Truong, with a 3-pointer, sparked the Zags to a 24-point quarter as they shot 10 for 17.
LeeAnne Wirth added 10 points and six rebounds while Jill Townsend finished with eight points and a game-high six assists.
Taycee Wedin led the Gaels with nine points while Finau Tonga added eight rebounds and six points.
Next on the schedule is a Monday night home game against Pacific.
Because of COVID-related cancellations, the Tigers (3-1, 1-0) have played fewer games than any team in the conference.
Bad luck struck again Saturday in Portland, where Pacific’s game against the Pilots was scrapped because of COVID-related protocols.
It was unclear where the COVID issues originated.
“Out of an abundance of caution, today’s game with Pacific is officially postponed,” the University of Portland posted on Twitter.
Despite the cancellation, the Pacific team posted on its website that it “will still make the trip to Spokane” to face Gonzaga.
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