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Gonzaga Women's Basketball

Gonzaga women emphasize defense, coast to another WCC rout 89-60 over Saint Mary’s

By Greg Lee The Spokesman-Review

Lisa Fortier is going to continue to demand excellence, beginning with defense, on a team that has an ultratalented offense.

“I think we can be really good (defensively),” the 10th-year Gonzaga coach said following the Zags’ 89-60 home win over the Saint Mary’s Gaels on Saturday. “I don’t think their attitude is we want to get into a shootout with (teams). Certainly, that’s the easy part with this team. For certain players on our team, the defense is easier. We’re all pretty comfortable offensive players. The defensive part – we all don’t have a second nature. That’s the hard part. If we want to keep getting better we have to dig into that hard part. We’re only going to go as far as we defend.”

Fortier chatted up her team at halftime, expressing that she wasn’t pleased with what transpired in the first half. Even though the 17th-ranked Zags led 40-26 at halftime.

The Zags, who stretched their home winning streak to 29 before a crowd of 5,439 at McCarthey Athletic Center, allowed more points in the second half. But the effort was much more satisfying to Fortier as the Zags (18-2 overall, 5-0 West Coast Conference) extended their winning streak to 12.

“We had better pace,” said Fortier, who said some of the Zags were “out to lunch” at different times on defense. “Defensively, our struggle is we didn’t have all five players on the same page for very much of (the game),” Fortier said. “Things to work on.”

Gonzaga faced a team that played more zone defense than any other opponent. That required the Zags to be patient finding the open spots.

Reigning WCC Player of the Year Kaylynne Truong, who has been more distributor than scorer this season, took advantage of open looks, making 7 of 14 attempts from 3-point range for a game-high 25 points to go with six assists.

Fortier said she appreciates how Truong has adjusted her game to best suit the Zags.

“Whatever we need is what she provides,” Fortier said. “We were a little bit stagnant offensively and we needed her to make some baskets. She’s been able to do what we’ve needed her to do when we needed her to do it for almost every game she’s played in the last two years for sure, and probably before that, but we didn’t notice it as much. … She gave us a big lift.”

Saint Mary’s (8-10, 1-3) had to abandon its zone defenses, but by then it was too late.

Plenty of Zags contributed. Yvonne Ejim scored 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field with five rebounds and three assists; Brynna Maxwell had 14 points with three 3-pointers; Kayleigh Truong added 10 points and five assists; and Eliza Hollingsworth led with nine rebounds.

“It felt great. I could hit the ocean,” Kaylynne Truong said. “My teammates were finding me. That’s what is great about this team, we find each other. I’ve said this before, anybody can go off. We just play off of that. … Every single year it’s just a different me … and be whatever the team needs me to be. I just try to be efficient at that. This year I don’t need to score as much.”

Maxwell said the Zags would celebrate the win knowing they’ll be spending some time working on defense at the next practice.

“We’ll probably talk about it more on Monday,” Maxwell said. “We’re doing a lot of focusing on defensive points per possession. And that was way too high tonight.”

The victory was Gonzaga’s 275th WCC win (275-34) in 18 seasons.

Gonzaga hits the road for two games next week.