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Eastern Washington University Basketball

Eliza Hollingsworth’s go-ahead basket helps Gonzaga escape with win at Eastern Washington 82-80

By Greg Lee The Spokesman-Review

It wasn’t the game Gonzaga coach Lisa Fortier expected when she scheduled Eastern Washington between two ranked teams, Louisville and Stanford.

Eastern Washington gave Gonzaga all it can handle and more before the Zags escaped Reese Court in Cheney with an 82-80 nonconference decision Tuesday.

Gonzaga was two days removed from an 81-70 loss to No. 23 Louisville. Third-ranked Stanford (7-0) visits the Zags on Sunday.

EWU forced the Zags into a turnover with 7.8 seconds remaining moments after Aaliyah Alexander made a tough basket in the key to pull the Eagles (4-2) within the final margin.

After a timeout, EWU wanted to get the ball to Alexander or its second option, Jamie Loera. But Alexander was defended tightly. Loera tried to drive into the key before being cut off and she kicked the ball to Jaleesa Lawrence. But Lawrence’s shot was off target as the buzzer sounded.

Fortier put together what she’s called the toughest nonconference schedule in school history. But she didn’t think the game against the Eagles would end up among one of the Zags’ three most difficult early games.

“I didn’t circle it as one of the top three, but it was circled with all the other ones in like, ‘You guys, there are no breaks,’ ” Fortier said. “It’s another team with an (ESPN) preseason player of the year (Loera) that is well coached.

“Everybody tell her (EWU coach Joddie Gleason) I said that. It’s really hard to play against your friend and it’s really hard for me because she’s more than that, so it’s really challenging to do this game.”

Kayleigh Truong scored on a drive off a screen from Yvonne Ejim that drew Gonzaga (7-2) even at 78 with 1:49 remaining.

Eliza Hollingsworth made it 80-78 when she took a great pass from Kaylynne Truong with 22 seconds to go. It looked like Truong might shoot, but instead she squeezed the pass between defenders and Hollingsworth finished.

Kaylynne Truong made two free throws for an 82-78 lead with 13.5 seconds remaining.

Gonzaga had to overcome poor second-half shooting (16 of 43, 30 of 73 for the game).

The Zags did so by crashing the boards. They had just one offensive rebound in the first half before finishing with 20.

Gleason bemoaned being outrebounded 42-25, but especially getting handled on the offensive boards.

“Pretty obvious. It was rebounding,” Gleason said of the difference overall. “There were three, four, five shot attempts on some of those opportunities.”

In one flurry early in the fourth quarter, Gonzaga’s usual sharp-shooting Brynna Maxwell, who led the nation most of last season from 3-point range, missed four 3-point attempts in one exchange.

After a 13-4 start by Gonzaga, the game turned and became ultracompetitive until the end.

EWU appeared to outplay Gonzaga most of the first half. A 15-7 surge, capped by a Loera 3-pointer, gave the Eagles their biggest lead (35-28) with 4:01 left in the half.

The Zags used a 10-0 run over the final 4 minutes to take a 37-35 lead into halftime.

A 3-pointer by former Lewis and Clark standout Jacinta Buckley gave EWU its biggest lead in the fourth quarter at 77-72 with 3:31 to go.

Ejim and Kaylynne Truong led the Zags with 23 points apiece, Hollingsworth added 12 and Maxwell added 11.

Hollingsworth led the lopsided margin on the boards with 14 rebounds and Ejim had 10. Kaylynne Truong led with eight assists.

Lawrence led the Eagles with 21 points. Alexander had 19, Loera chipped in 14 and Jaydia Martin added 13. Loera also had seven assists and three steals.

GU’s game with Stanford tips off at 1 p.m. Sunday.

EWU entertains Boise State the same day at 2.