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Kayleigh Truong scores career-high 21 points to lead Gonzaga women over Toledo 91-70

Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Kayleigh Truong flips up a shot after the whistle during a game against the Toledo Rockets on Sunday at McCarthey Athletic Center. Truong scored a career-high 21 points in the Zags’ 91-70 win.  (Courtesy of Gonzaga Athletics)
By Greg Lee The Spokesman-Review

Gonzaga women’s basketball coach Lisa Fortier dismissed the notion that Kayleigh Truong was making up for lost time Sunday.

It was more like Truong was picking up the slack for her twin sister, Kaylynne, who played but was under the weather.

No matter. Fortier would take a career-high effort from Kayleigh Truong any time to be sure.

Truong scored 21 points to lead the Bulldogs to a comfortable 91-70 win over the Toledo Rockets before a crowd of 4,843 in the Bulldogs’ home debut.

The 21 points were one better than 20 that Truong scored against Nebraska in March 2022.

“(The twins) are well adjusted to filling in when one person struggles the other one will take over,” Fortier said. “I’m not surprised at all. She’s been an important part of the program every minute she’s been out on the court since she got here.”

Kayleigh Truong missed 12 weeks during the heart of the season last year with an ankle injury.

“It felt really good,” Truong said. “… It was a stringer losing in Pullman, but we all went back to the drawing board. In our film sessions and our practices we dug deep, we knew what happened in Pullman could have gone our way, too.”

Truong had plenty of help Sunday. Inside terror Yvonne Ejim poured in a team high 22 points to go with nine rebounds and four assists. Brynna Maxwell had 14 with five rebounds and Eliza Hollingsworth had 10 points and a team high 11 rebounds.

Gonzaga (2-1) had a huge turnaround on the boards after losing to Washington State 77-72 in overtime on Thursday in a game where the Cougars punished the Zags on the glass with a 45-32 margin.

The Zags had a 27-rebound bounce back as they outrebounded the Rockets (1-1) 43-29.

“We believe that there is a direct correlation between outcome/success and rebounding,” Fortier said. “We needed to right that ship for sure.”

From the opening tip through the final horn Gonzaga had its way against a Toledo team that matched experience. The Rockets returned all five starters off a team that was the most successful in school history. They won its first NCAA Tournament game last year since 1996.

The Rockets had Gonzaga’s attention, which might explain the Zags’ 11-0 start.

As it turned out, the Zags were able to do what they wanted, and their lead slipped under double digits once.

“They’re a really tough team,” Fortier said. “I know the margin of victory doesn’t make it necessarily seem like that, but they’ve come back from big deficits before and they have some players that are very explosive.”

Gonzaga struggled in the second quarters of its first two games. So avoiding a letdown Sunday was one of the keys.

A basket by Ejim in transition off a nice assist from Kayleigh Truong gave the Zags their biggest first-half lead at 38-20 with 3:34 to go before intermission.

They led 44-31 at halftime. Ejim had 19 of her 22 points in the first half on 8-of-10 shooting.

Gonzaga continued to extend its lead in the second half. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Truong allowed the Zags to take a 71-52 lead into the final period.

Truong reached 21 points when she made a jumper at the 7:12 mark of the fourth.

A free throw from Maud Huijbens gave the Zags their biggest lead at 84-60 with 3:43 remaining.

“Against (Washington State) we didn’t play bad,” Fortier said. “We gave up too many (easy shots). … Me and the players sometimes forget (the) process and when the outcome doesn’t match what we want the process to be then we get a little up in arms about it. … I thought they did a nice job of taking the things we talked about and putting it into action.”