By the end of the first quarter of Thursday night’s game at the Kennel, it was clear that the Gonzaga women weren’t looking past Idaho State.
Instead they reeled off 21 straight points and never looked back on the way to a 69-39 non conference win over the Bengals.
Now they can look ahead to Sunday’s big game against defending NCAA champion Stanford.
“It’s super exciting,” said wing Abby Connor. “These next few days of practice will be high-focus, and we’ll be locked in.”
Then again, the Zags (3-0) already looked rather focused on Thursday following a hard-fought win four days earlier at Montana.
“We’ve never been the type of team that would overlook anybody, and I chalk that up to the seniors,” Coach Lisa Fortier said. “And let’s face it, they’re picked to win their conference and we’re not.”
The game began with only a hint of doubt, as GU missed its first four shots against the defending Big Sky Conference champs.
“I didn’t like the way we started,” Fortier said.
But after trailing 2-0, the Zags almost ran the table in the first quarter. The improbable run began with a free throw from Cierra Walker and a layin from Kayleigh Truong more than 2 minutes later.
A 3-point play from Melody Kempton made it 10-4, and Yvonne Ejim added a pair of short jumpers to keep the momentum going.
Meanwhile, ISU missed eight straight shots and was beaten 12 to 4 on the boards as Gonzaga took a 23-4 lead into the second quarter. The Bengals (1-2) opened the second quarter with five straight points, but GU led 38-17 at intermission.
Pressure was the key, as GU turned six first-quarter ISU turnovers into nine points.
“We did a nice job adjusting, and I like our pressure – it changed the momentum immediately,” Fortier said.
Once again, the Zags got a big boost from their bench, which outscored their ISU counterparts 37 to 9.
For the second straight game, backup guard Kaylynne Truong led the Zags in scoring, this time with 11. Reserve forward Yvonne Ejim had 10 points and three boards.
Truong also had the most time on the floor, 24½ minutes, and 10 Zags played at least 10 minutes. Meanwhile, three Bengals logged at least 31 minutes, and they appeared fatigued late in the game.
Idaho State got within 18 points late in the third quarter, but McKayla Williams’ layup put the Zags up by 20. GU led by as many as 32 in the fourth quarter.
Gonzaga shot 52% for the game and 35% from long range while holding ISU to 35% and 16%, respectively.
Idaho State junior Tomekia Whitman, a member of the Central Valley High School team that won a national championship in 2018, finished with seven points.
The Zags haven’t lost to a Big Sky team since 2008, when they fell 75-72 at Portland State.