The box score won’t show that the Gonzaga women’s basketball team overcame a physical opponent Saturday afternoon.
The only thing close to such an assessment may have been the Zags’ 20 turnovers, which were one shy of their season worst.
Try as it might, San Francisco attempted to turn the West Coast Conference game into a rugby match. But the Zags overcame nine turnovers in a sloppy third quarter for their 14th straight win, handcuffing the Dons 73-54 at War Memorial Gym in San Francisco.
The 17th-ranked Zags improved to 20-2, their eighth straight 20-win season and ninth under 10-year coach Lisa Fortier. Gonzaga improves to 7-0 in the WCC.
“I don’t know if they (the turnovers) were because of the physical nature (of the game),” Fortier said. “I know three of them were just dumb things. That takes us to 17 and we can probably fix three offensive fouls. Those are dumb, too. So then we’re down to 14 and we’re not talking about turnovers. They (the Dons) try to push you around and they play that game well.”
It was the style of game Fortier anticipated.
“San Francisco is always really, really physical and they try to see if you can play through it,” Fortier said. “Every time we come here, we have to play through a really physical game. It’s something we’re able to do because our players are physical in a different way.”
It was Gonzaga’s 16th straight win over the Dons (8-12, 4-3).
No WCC team has figured out a way to slow down the Zags. Save for a stretch of turnovers in the third quarter when the Dons got within 11 points, Gonzaga had its way.
Senior forward Yvonne Ejim had her eighth double-double, scoring a team-high 21 points with 13 rebounds.
Graduate wing Brynna Maxwell added 21 points and four rebounds, and for a second straight game junior forward Maud Huijbens had significant contributions off the bench with her first career double-double (12 points, 11 rebounds).
“What’s really special about our team is how many weapons we have,” Maxwell said. “San Fran isn’t a bad team. They have a lot of talent and they’re super physical. It was just a testament to our mentality as a team to play through it.”
Gonzaga’s defense was sharp, especially in the first half. Leading 16-13 late in the first quarter, the Zags went on a 19-0 run for a 35-13 lead.
The Dons were scoreless for 8 minutes, 7 seconds.
Gonzaga handled the Dons on the boards (48-28).
“Another game where we got our defensive field-goal goals and we got our rebounding margin goal,” Fortier said. “We’re trying to become a great rebounding team, not just settle for being a good one.”
The Zags have been typically difficult to deal with in third quarters this season. But the mistakes allowed the Dons to claw within 48-37 with 3 minutes to go.
“The third quarter we were out of sorts,” Fortier said.
That’s as close as they’d get. The Zags matched their biggest lead at 22 points in the fourth quarter.
Fortier praised her team for getting to 20 wins in 22 games.
“I need to be the kind of person who appreciates 20 wins because (we’re not always) going to be knocking the door on 30,” Fortier said. “At Gonzaga, we’ve been conditioned to where 20 is just a stepping stone along the way. So we’re trying to enjoy that and also know we have a lot more to do.
“If you get to 20 this time of the year, it means you did a good job in the nonconference and you’ve started conference well. So that’s what we’re happy and proud of.”
Gonzaga heads to San Diego on Thursday for a third consecutive road game before returning to McCarthey Athletic Center for three straight games beginning Saturday.