SRX_GU VS_BYU_17

Gonzaga guard Jill Townsend (32) is greeted by Gonzaga head coach Lisa Fortier as she comes off the court during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021, in the McCarthey Athletic Center.

Saturday’s game at San Diego was almost an afterthought during Gonzaga’s virtual news conference on Tuesday.

All the talk was about the showdown with BYU, and it fell to senior Jill Townsend to bring up the fact that the Toreros are among the nation’s leaders in steals.

“But we don’t know that much else about them,” Townsend said before the conversation returned to BYU.

Because of COVID-19 protocols, GU didn’t play the Toreros earlier this year in Spokane. With the end of the regular season almost here, there’s no plan to do so.

But the Zags still have plans to win another West Coast Conference regular-season title. At 18-3 overall, they’re 13-1 in the WCC after losing Thursday night at second-place BYU (15-3, 13-2).

Third-place San Diego (12-5, 9-3) still has an outside chance at a share of the title, but will need to knock off the Zags on Saturday at Jenny Craig Pavilion.

The Toreros hope to accomplish that with defense, the kind that beat Portland 66-59 on Thursday night.

In that game, San Diego forced 20 turnovers, converting those into 28 points. The Toreros had 10 steals, leaving them second in Division 1 at 14.1 per game.

San Diego’s offense also clicked against UP. With the help of 20 assists, the Toreros got 19 points from Steph Gorman, 12 from Kendall Bird and a double-double (15 points, 11 rebounds) from senior guard Sydney Hunter, who also had seven assists.

Guards Myah Pace (11.8 ppg) and Jordyn Edwards (10.4) lead the way, but the Toreros are also deep, with seven players averaging at least six points a game. Meanwhile, Gonzaga is coming off an uneven performance at BYU. Forwards Jenn Wirth and Melody Kempton combined for 28 points – half the team total – and shot 12 for 23.

The rest of the Zags shot 10 for 35; starting guards Townsend and Cierra Walker were 2 for 11 and totaled five points.

Gonzaga finishes the regular season next week at home against Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount. For the first time this season, players’ families will be allowed to attend games in the Kennel.

Jim Allen can be reached at (509) 459-5437 or by email at jima@spokesman.com