Zag win vs USF

Gonzaga senior Jenn Wirth (3) wins a tip in the Bulldogs' 79-66 victory against the USF Dons Thursday night in The Kennel.

No. 17 ranked Gonzaga women’s basketball (17-2, 12-0) claimed it’s 16th straight victory after shooting past the San Francisco Dons (10-9, 7-7) 79-66 in The Kennel Thursday night.

With the win, GU extended its conference lead to 2.5 games with just five conference matches remaining on the schedule. For the Dons this loss was its first since being defeated by Gonzaga back on Jan. 16. 

San Francisco boasted 11 international players on their roster, including four of their five starters. They were led by Greek freshman Ioanna Krimili, averaging over 19 points per game.

GU won the opening tip and would take the first lead of the game on a Jill Townsend mid ranged jumpshot. The Dons would respond quickly with a layup as both offenses enjoyed a high scoring first period. Gonzaga was especially strong from the three point line, shooting 4-8 from behind the arc. 

Despite GU's hot shooting, the game remained close early as The Dons had plenty of open opportunities throughout the first quarter. At the end of the period Gonzaga led 23-18.

“For them to come in and put up 18 quick early points on us in the first quarter. We definitely had to step up and we knew that,” Townsend said. “It was emphasized in timeouts and in the second quarter we were able to come out and execute and turn them over a little more.”

GU's offense would open the second quarter in similar fashion as the first with a pair of three pointers in their first two possessions. This would extend the lead to 29-18 as GU's defense began to slow down The Dons offense. 

“We did a better job in the second (quarter)," Townsend said. "They made a couple of threes but we were not giving them easy baskets. Which was an adjustment we had to make because we had people cutting right down the middle of the paint unguarded.”

The Zags lead would extend to a high of 15 in the quarter before a late run by USF cut its deficit down to nine. With just five seconds remaining in the quarter, GU backup guard Kaylynne Truong dribbled the full court before burying a long three pointer at the halftime buzzer to put the Zags up 45-33 at the break.

The third quarter contained back and forth action as GU began with made jumpshots from Jenn and LeeAnne Wirth before they were countered by a pair of jump shots from the Dons' Lucija Kostic. 

The gameplay was fairly even for the majority of the third period before a late 7-0 run by the Dons narrowed GU’s lead to 58-49. The quarter would finish at a 61-49 GU advantage. 

The Dons came out sharp in the fourth quarter with tough defence that held Gonzaga to just two points through the first three minutes of the fourth period. With the lead at ten with under seven minutes remaining, Townsend hit a crucial three pointer that extended the Zags lead to 13.

“You have to have an answer,” GU Head Coach Lisa Fortier said. “We prefer to get the stops but if you don’t get the stops you have to have somebody answering on the other side.” 

A GU layup and a pair of LeeAnne Wirth free throws put Gonzaga up 17 with five minutes to go and sealed a wire-to-wire victory for the Zags. While San Francisco mustered a small run towards the end of the fourth, the lead was never in doubt for the remainder of the game.

Up next for the Zags is Santa Clara on Saturday afternoon in The Kennel. 

Jack Culhane is a staff writer.

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