Zags force 22 turnovers in win over Saint Mary's - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Zags force 22 turnovers in win over Saint Mary's

Photo: Gonzaga Athletics Photo: Gonzaga Athletics

By Gonzaga Athletics

MORAGA, Calif. – The Gonzaga Bulldogs led wire-to-wire in a tightly contested game at Saint Mary’s on Thursday night, 73-65.

Gonzaga forced 22 SMC turnovers for 13 steals and 22 points off turnovers, while only turning it over 10 times themselves. Jill Barta led GU with 19 points and six rebounds, and Chandler Smith added 17 points and four steals, as Barta had four steals as well. Zykera Rice scored 11 and Jessie Loera was six-for-six from the line in the final minute to finish with nine points, with two assists and two steals.

The Zags forced two turnovers on the first three SMC possessions and led 6-2 right out of the gate. Jenn Wirth picked up an offensive rebound and found Emma Stach for a three as GU led 11-7 at the seven-minute mark of the first quarter. The Gaels found a couple long balls but GU was still in the lead, 13-12, at the 4:03 mark. GU scored four in a row before the Gaels made it three-point game. Jenn Wirth drilled an 18-footer to go back up three as SMC closed to one with two minutes left in the quarter. Loera found LeeAnne Wirth down low on GU’s final possession as they led 21-18 after one. The Zags’ first quarter attack was balanced with six players scoring and GU scored eight points off six Gael turnovers, while shooting 57 percent from the field.

Gonzaga held Saint Mary’s scoreless for the first five minutes of the second quarter building a 32-18 lead. Barta and Rice each had four points in that stretch as Barta hit 10 points, and Loera found two assists as the Gael turnover total reached nine. SMC scored five in a row before Rice nailed an 18-footer. Katie Campbell answered a SMC three to keep the lead above 10, 37-26, with 2:43 left. Gonzaga went scoreless for the final two minutes and led 41-33 at the half. GU shot 55 percent from the field and forced 11 SMC turnovers for 14 points. Gonzaga led by as much as 14 as SMC never led. Barta scored 10 points with Rice and Smith scoring 8 points, and Smith added 3 steals. Loera added two steals and two assists.

Gonzaga was scoreless through the first three minutes of the third quarter as Saint Mary’s closed to 41-39 before Rice hit a free throw. The Gaels began hurting Gonzaga on the offensive glass, with 11 offensive boards midway through the third quarter as Gonzaga led 44-41 at the 4:35 mark. The Gaels tied the game at 2:24 at 46 with a steal and score, but Barta responded with a three-point play to regain the lead. GU led 51-48 at the quarter after a LeeAnne Wirth hit a jumper late. GU shot 25 percent in the quarter and SMC led them on the glass, 14-6. Gonzaga held them without a field goal for the final 2:41.

An up and under jumper from Smith early in the fourth made it 54-50 and she went coast-to-coast with 7:21 left to add two more to the lead as she broke into double figures with 13. The scoring slowed as SMC scored the only point over the next two minutes. Barta scored a sweeping basket and took a charge as GU led 60-55 with 3:45 left. Laura Stockton scored a bucket with a foul and GU increased the lead to 62-55 with three minutes left. Rice followed up a miss but SMC responded with a layup and Gonzaga led 64-59 with 54 seconds left. Loera made four-straight foul shots but SMC made two and a three as GU led 68-64 with 37 seconds left. Loera made two more and GU stole the ball, making one more free throw to lead 71-64 with 28 seconds left. After SMC made one foul shot, followed by a lane violation, Smith made two foul shots. It was decided from there as GU won 73-65.

“We gave such a great team effort tonight,” Gonzaga head coach Lisa Fortier said. “Saint Mary’s is so strong and physical, but our team weathered their third-quarter push. We were able to string together some huge stops and scores when we needed them the most. I am really proud of our team for playing so tough on the road.”

The Gonzaga bench outscored SMC 18-10 with nine coming from Loera.

The Zags remained unbeaten in West Coast Conference play at 14-4 and 7-0 in conference, gaining a game on the 5-2 Gaels. The Bulldogs are back at home on Saturday at 2 pm against Santa Clara live on SWX.

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