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Gonzaga women play sharp, rout Saint Mary’s 85-49 ahead of showdown with BYU

The Gonzaga women needed a game like this.

Four days after a miracle win at San Francisco and two days ahead of the showdown at Brigham Young, the Zags simply took care of business Thursday night against Saint Mary’s.

They did so in entertaining fashion, taking care of the ball and swiping it away from the Gaels in an 85-49 romp at the McCarthey Athletic Center.

“It was fun, wasn’t it?” coach Lisa Fortier said.

It was also nothing like the teams’ first meeting, last month in Moraga, California, when GU led by one point going into the fourth quarter.

This one was over by the middle of the third quarter. Up by 39-26 at halftime, the Zags scored the first 12 points of the third quarter to take a 51-26 lead and began to look ahead to Saturday’s big game at BYU.

That game will probably decide the West Coast Conference title, as both teams are 12-1 in the WCC and four ahead of third-place Portland in the loss column.

By all accounts, Thursday’s game put everyone in the right frame of mind for the trip to Utah.

“Every game matters, and we wanted to play well today,” said Fortier, whose team is 21-5 overall. “And we did.”

By game’s end, the Zags had done a number on the Gaels. They stole the ball 18 times, racked up 22 assists, had five players score in double figures and outrebounded Saint Mary’s 46-30.

Fortier didn’t necessarily see that coming.

“We had a couple of off practices, so we were very much looking for a performance like this,” Fortier said.

The Zags didn’t start out that way.

Saint Mary’s (12-13, 6-8 WCC) led for most of the first quarter, but Kayleigh Truong hit a 3-pointer to give GU a 15-13 edge with 1 minute, 39 seconds left in the period.

The Zags never trailed again.

GU was outrebounded 10-8 in the first quarter, but made 3 of 5 long-range shots and forced eight Saint Mary’s turnovers.

The latter trend continued in the second quarter, as GU forced eight more turnovers and led 39-26 at halftime.

The only thing missing was GU’s typical dominance on the glass. The Zags, however, crashed the boards in the second half, outrebounding the Gaels 28-14.

Senior forward Melody Kempton led the way with a double-double that included a game-high 12 rebounds and 17 points.

Kaylynne Truong led the scoring with 18 points. Yvonne Ejim had 15 points and Cierra Walker and Kayleigh Truong 12 apiece.

Kayleigh Truong also had a game-high seven assists, almost matching the eight put up by the entire Saint Mary’s roster.

“I love it when I can throw dimes to my teammates,” Truong said.

Gonzaga shot 45% (34 for 75) from the field and held the Gaels to 35% (19 for 54).

The Zags had another stellar night at the foul line, making 11 of 12 attempts.

After the trip to BYU, the Zags close out the regular season with three straight home games.

Santa Clara is at the Kennel on Monday for a COVID makeup game, tipping off at 2 p.m.

Pepperdine is in town on Thursday, and Loyola Marymount is the visitor for the Feb. 26 Senior Day game.