This year’s Gonzaga women’s basketball team mean business. They showed that early against Warner Pacific in an exhibition Saturday afternoon.
WPU, an NAIA school out of Portland, Oregon, could not get past an aggressive full-court press by the Zags to start the game — they fell behind 19-0 in a little over 3 minutes thanks to a flurry of turnovers and quick counterattacking. Bruno sank a three after a timeout to stop the bleeding, but by then it was much too late for the Knights.
After that, the Zags just kept rolling, surpassing the century mark midway through the fourth quarter en route to a 105-45 blowout before a home crowd of about 3,000 at the Kennel.
“We started the game really high-energy, lots of great team plays,” senior guard Katie Campbell said. “We were just really excited really ready to play and I think that's what contributes to the great start.”
GU’s bigs kept abusing their matchup against an undersized frontcourt and the guards continued making hustle plays to keep the ball in their hands. GU’ starting trio of Katie Campbell, Jessie Loera, and Jill Townsend combined for 10 steals, hounding the Knights’ ball handlers relentlessly on defense and slicing their zone and distributing on the other end.
“That's usually how we get our best our best shots and our best plays,” Campbell said. “We do a lot of good extra passes or one more passes. And we just like shooting the ball.”
With the early lead in hand, for the rest of the game the focus for the Zags became spreading the wealth. Jenn Wirth led a diverse GU scoring effort with 17 points and 7 rebounds to go with 2 blocks, 2 steals and 2 assists. Campbell scored 16 points, Townsend had 13, and LeeAnne Wirth had 12 to round out all of GU’s double-digit scorers. None played more than 23 minutes, and six more players scored at least six points.
“We've been playing each other in practice for the last 30 days-plus, so I just felt really good to get out there and play a different team,” Jenn Wirth said. “The starting five just came out with a lot of energy and it’s been building up for the last month. I wouldn't expect anything less.”
Gabriella Bruno was a lone bright spot for the Knights, leading all scorers with 19 points and shooting 4 of 7 from three.
The Zags also had their way with WPU on the glass, pulling down more rebounds on offense than the Knights did in total.
“Sometimes you have to go if you want to get rebounds,” coach Lisa Fortier said. “And our players weren’t satisfied with, ‘Someone else will get it’. They all went after it.”
Despite the dominant win, there remained some question marks ahead of GU’s regular-season matchup with Cal State-Bakersfield on Nov. 10. Both Campbell and Fortier pointed to ball-screen defense as an area they’re going to need to work on in addition to defense and shooting overall.
“I think we played into some of our habits that aren't my favorite,” Fortier said. “Such as where we were able to steal the ball in areas where normally we wouldn’t be able to. So just working on some fundamental defensive team things.”