Rice's career day leads Zags past Saint Francis - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Rice's career day leads Zags past Saint Francis

Photo: GU Athletics Photo: GU Athletics

By Gonzaga Athletics

SPOKANE, Wash. -- The Gonzaga Bulldogs had an outstanding performance, top-to-bottom, through their lineup as they defeated Saint Francis at home on Sunday, 97-74.

Zykera Rice led the way with a career-high 23 points on 10-of-12 shooting. Jenn Wirth had her first career double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds, both career highs, on six-of-seven shooting. Jessie Loera scored 13 with five rebounds and four assists, and Chandler Smiths scored 10, with Jill Townsend adding 10 off the bench. All totaled, nine Zags scored four points or more and six had five rebounds or more. GU dominated the glass, 54-19, their high in rebounds for the year. GU shot 61 percent from the field, also a season-high and the highest under coach Fortier, and the fourth-highest mark in school history. Laura Stockton fueled the offense with a team-high five assists.

"I felt really confident tonight and I was ready to step up," Wirth said. "My role changes from game to game, so I am able to change my focus depending on what is needed from me."

Loera hit an early three for the Zags and they kept SFU at arm's length early in the first quarter. Jill Barta returned to the lineup four minutes in to a standing ovation from the GU faithful in attendance and played 14 minutes, scoring nine with six boards. SFU dialed a deep three to make it 12-9 at the five-minute mark. A layup from Townsend and free throw from Barta extended the lead to 17-11, but SFU finished on a 7-3 run over the final two minutes to trail 22-20 after one. Rice and Loera finished the quarter with six points.

Loera opened the second quarter with a layup and her second long ball, and the scored remained within four points to the four-minute mark, when Gonzaga went on a 4-0 spurt fueled by a jumper from Rice and layup from Townsend. Townsend ran down the other end and took a charge, and GU led 46-37 at half after Barta turned a steal into a layup. The lead marked the largest for GU in the half. Rice was a perfect six-for-six from the field for 13 points to lead the team. Loera added 11 with two threes, and Rice and Jenn Wirth had four boards each. GU shot 58 percent from the field, tying their highest percentage in a half this season. GU dominated the boards, 20-12, and 12-3 in second-chance points. All eight Zags that entered the game scored.

The Zags extended their lead to 19, thanks to a 7-0 run, and led 63-44 at the 4:44 mark in the third quarter. SFU hit a scoreless streak of three minutes and Jenn Wirth scored seven points over that stretch and GU was eight-of-10 from the field. The SFU scoreless streak hit four minutes, and another three minutes without a field goal. GU led 73-48 at the end of the quarter, their largest lead to that point, shot 67 percent from the field, and held SFU to 17 percent. SFU started the fourth quarter on a 7-0 run, but got no closer than 19 in the quarter as GU won 97-74.

It was the first time five Zags scored in double figures since the WCC Semifinal game against San Francisco last season. GU's bench outscored SFU 34-17, 64-30 in the paint, and 24-7 on second-chance points.

"We focused on getting the ball inside, and we did a great job on rebounding and slowing their pace," Gonzaga head coach Lisa Fortier said. "We were able to be patient against their pressure and execute well in the half court."

Gonzaga (6-4) remains at home before Christmas and hosts Western Illinois at 6 pm on Thursday. Live links are available at GoZags.com.

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