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Gonzaga women bounce back from loss to BYU with blowout 74-58 win over Santa Clara

There’s no better way to bury the memory of a bad loss than burying the next team that comes your way.

The Gonzaga women did just that Monday afternoon, rolling past Santa Clara, 74-58, to stay within a game of first place in the West Coast Conference.

Two days earlier, the Zags dropped into second with a lopsided loss at BYU. How they would respond was the big question when they got back on the practice floor Sunday afternoon.

“We had a good practice, worked on drills and applied them to today,” Coach Lisa Fortier said.

Those lessons were applied early and often as the Zags took a wire-to-wire win that was even more lopsided than the final score.

Shooting 59% from the field, the Zags led 19-10 after one quarter, 38-19 at halftime and by as many as 29 in the third quarter before easing up on the pedal.

Soon after the game was over, the celebration began as Fortier marked her 200th win. As she walked into the locker room, players doused her with water.

“How do I feel? Wet,” said Fortier, who reached the 200 mark in her eighth season while losing only 52 games going into the last two games of the regular season.

“It’s exciting,” said Fortier, who deflected the credit to the three assistants who’ve been with her since she took over the program in 2015: her husband Craig Fortier, Jordan Green and Stacy Clinesmith.

“I’m proud to be a Zag and proud to be part of something that’s bigger than myself,” Fortier said.

Fortier has won through consistency – “beating the teams we’re supposed to beat,” she said after the Zags did just that against the third-place Broncos.

Fortier probably also felt a bit relieved. Two weeks ago, after a home loss to BYU, the Zags struggled in their next outing. Not this time.

Asked about the loss at BYU, Fortier replied: “We don’t dwell on the other stuff for very long.”

The Zags (22-6 overall and 13-2 in the WCC) still have a chance of sharing the title should BYU stumble this week at Santa Clara or Pacific.

Regardless, Fortier stressed that the Zags are focused on improving as they head into the final stretch. GU plays Pepperdine on Thursday night and closes the regular-season on Saturday with a Senior Day matchup against Loyola Marymount.

The Zags are already seeded into the semifinals of the WCC Tournament, March 7 at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.

Because of poor weather and the unusual 2 p.m. tipoff time, the game drew a sparse crowd of less than 1,500. Those who came weren’t disappointed, as GU showed its versatility and depth to dominate a team that had won its previous three games.

Five Zags scored in double figures, with guard Kayleigh Truong leading the way with 18.

Post Anamaria Virjoghe had a career-high 12 points, with two buckets coming from outside.

“If you don’t guard me I’m going to shoot it,” Virjoghe said.

The Zags got 12 points from Yvonne Ejim, 11 from Melody Kempton and 10 from Cierra Walker.

Lana Hollingsworth had a game-high 17 for the Broncos (14-12 overall and 8-8 in the WCC). However, WCC scoring leader Lindsey VanAllen was held to 7 points – 12 below her average.

The game was originally scheduled for Jan. 8 but postponed by COVID-19 protocols

Colin Mulvany/The Spokesman-Review Gonzaga forward Yvonne Ejim grabs a rebound away from Santa Clara guard Ashley Hiraki (31) on Monday in Spokane.