Starting quickly and finishing the same way, the Gonzaga women beat Santa Clara 71-52 in a West Coast Conference game Thursday night in Santa Cruz, California.
The Zags opened a 22-point lead early in the second quarter, then saw it cut to 10 early in the fourth before.
GU put the game away with a 14-0 run in the final period to win its 10th in a row.
“Our team did a really good job scoring the ball tonight when we were poised and on the same page,” Zags coach Lisa Fortier said.
“There were times were our defense was really tested, but more often than not, we responded.”
The 20th-ranked Zags improved to 11-2 overall and 6-0 in the WCC heading into Saturday’s game at San Francisco. They remain a game ahead of Portland – which they defeated last weekend, and BYU, which visits Spokane on Jan. 23.
GU’s Jill Townsend led the way with 20 points on 9-for-12 shooting from the field. Jenn Wirth added 15 points and four rebounds.
Gonzaga dominated in the first quarter, shooting 12 for 14 from the field to go up 27-10.
The Bulldogs also didn’t allow a Santa Clara rebound until the final seconds of the period.
GU took its biggest lead to that point (34-12) on a Townsend jumper midway through the second.
Gonzaga cooled late in the quarter but still led 40-25 at intermission.
Santa Clara (7-5, 3-3) cut the lead to 52-42 early in the fourth quarter, but any thoughts of an upset disappeared in the next 3 minutes.
The game-clinching 14-0 run began with a 3-pointer from Kaylynne Truong with 8½ minutes left. Townsend and LeeAnne Wirth added buckets before Cierra Walkers’ 3-pointer pushed the lead to 62-42.
A minute later, the Zags took their biggest lead to that point (66-42) on a layup by Jenn Wirth.
The win was GU’s 27th in the past 29 meetings with Santa Clara, which last beat the Zags in the 2016 WCC Tournament.
Gonzaga was without backup forward Melody Kempton of Post Falls, who according to a Gonzaga spokesperson “didn’t make the trip due to health and safety protocols.”
Because of COVID-19 regulations in Santa Clara County, the game was played at the Kaiser Permanente Arena in Santa Cruz.
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