Even in paradise, the Gonzaga women had to deal with plenty of adversity Saturday night.
And yet the Zags overcame it all – turnovers, lost leads and the memory of last year’s NCAA Tournament – and knocked off sixth-ranked Louisville 79-67 in overtime in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis in Paradise Island, Bahamas.
“They had a gut check, we had a gut check, but I guess our gut check was a little bit better,” coach Lisa Fortier said after the Zags knocked off the program that eliminated GU in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Zags also made some big history: Louisville is the highest-ranked team the Zags have beaten in program history. On three occasions – most recently against Stanford in 2019 – GU has knocked off a No. 8 team, but the Zags broke that record .
Then again, Fortier pointed out that “our program has been on the map for a long time.”
She also stressed that this isn’t the same team that lost to Louisville last year.
“I think that for this team, this is impactful,” she said. “Now we have to do something impactful (Sunday).”
That will happen against another unranked team, Marquette, which upset No. 3 Texas 68-61 earlier in the day. Tip-off is at 11:30 a.m. .
After a fast-paced, error-prone 40 minutes of regulation, the Zags (4-0) dominated the overtime.
They also took care of the ball: after committing 29 turnovers in regulation, they had none in the extra period.
Guard Kaylynne Truong opened the period with a driving layin and never looked back, scoring 10 of her 16 points in overtime. With 3½ minutes left, she drove for another layin and hit the resulting foul shot, putting GU up 67-61.
With barely 2 minutes left, Eliza Hollingsworth scored the last of her career-high 18 points with a driving layin that made it 72-64.
Yvonn Ejim, who finished with 13 points, gave GU its first double-digit lead (74-64) on a short jumper with 1:08 left.
The clincher came with 29 seconds left, as Brynna Maxwell scored the last of her game-high 21 points on a free three to put GU ahead 77-67.
Maxwell was 4 for 7 from long range, while the rest of the team was combined 1 for 12.
“We knew she could shoot it,” said Louisville coach Jeff Walz, who was more perturbed by GU’s 50-31 domination on the boards.
“That sums it up right there,” said Walz, who noted that GU had almost as many offensive rebounds (18) as the Cardinals had on defense (19).
Those numbers were a point of pride for Fortier.
“It’s always one of my favorite things to do,” Fortier said as she scanned the stat sheet and pointed out that while no Zag had double-digit boards, “everybody got a few.”
That included Hollingsworth, who had five boards while going 6 for 9 from the field.
“We needed to not shy away from the contact and be strong,” Hollingsworth said.
The Zags and Cardinals wrenched plenty of drama out of the 40 minutes of regulation play. Two technicals against Louisville helped GU take a nine-point lead late in the first quarter.
But GU struggled to take care of the ball. By the middle of the second quarter, the Zags had committed 14 turnovers.
Louisville took advantage, going on a 14-4 run to go up 26-25.
GU led 29-28 at halftime, but that was erased even before the second half began because Truong had been hit with a technical foul at the end of the first half.
Louisville hit both technical to go up by one.
Gonzaga led for most of the third quarter, and went up 41-36 on a fastbreak 3-pointer from Maxwell. The Zags led 45-42 going into the fourth quarter, and again by five with 8 minutes left.
Louisville rallied again, and twice led by two, but Hollingsworth nailed two foul shots with 38 seconds left to force overtime.
Hailey Van Lith, a junior guard from Cashmere, Washington, led Louisville with 18 points, but she made just five of 20 shots.
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