The Gonzaga women’s basketball team (9-2, 4-0) defeated the University of Portland Pilots (6-3, 3-0) 75-43 Saturday afternoon in The Kennel.
The Zags looked to extend their home win streak to 22 games after defeating Pacific 79-59 Monday. Senior forward Jenn Wirth had a career night, finishing the matchup against the Tigers with 26 points and seven rebounds.
On the other hand, the Pilots are coming off a big conference win of their own, defeating Saint Mary’s 81-58 in Portland. Sophomore forward Alex Fowler led the Pilots with 16 points and five rebounds, complemented by a 13 points and 10 assists double-double from junior guard Haylee Andrews.
Last time these two teams matched up against each other, Portland came away with the upset victory over the Zags in the 2020 West Coast Conference tournament last March.Wirth gave the Zags a 69-68 lead late in the game, but with 8.6 seconds left, Andrews got the ball and hit a game winning floater over Wirth to win the game, giving the then No. 11 ranked Zags an early exit ticket out of the WCC tournament.
The top two teams in the conference face each other for the first time this season and respectively looked to continue their success on the season. The Zags currently lead the WCC in rebounding offense (41.45), rebounding defense (27.91) and rebounding margin (+13.55), and the Pilots are scoring 71.4 points a game this season, ranking third most points in the conference.
The Zags came out from the tipoff with a 5-0 lead after a three point bucket from Cierra Walker and a soon after quick layup from Wirth. After Portland head coach Michael Meek took a timeout within the first minute of the first quarter, the Zags would finish the quarter on a 13-5 run, ending the first quarter with an 18-7 lead.
The Zags were aggressive on both sides of the ball to start the game, causing six turnovers and scoring 12 points in the paint. Walker provided the Zags with another three, co-leading with Wirth with six points each. The Pilots were 2 of 12 from the field to start the game.
“I thought our team did a really good job in all areas today,” GU Head Coach Lisa Fortier said. “I really liked how we handled the pressure… I thought it was one of our most complete games we’ve had so far this year.”
The Zags offense slowed down a bit to start the second quarter, but as the quarter went along, the team started to gain more momentum and increase the lead to 17 after Kayleigh Truong hit a three point shot at the buzzer to end the half. In the first half, the Zags shot 46.7% from the field compared to 27.3% from the Pilots. Furthermore, the Zags and Pilots were 4 of 6 and 1 of 6 from behind the arc respectively. Wirth led the Zags in scoring with 12 points while Fowler led the Pilots in scoring with eight points.
To start the second half, the Zags continued to dominate on the defensive side of the ball, using the team’s length in the paint to contest shots and transition on offense. After three quarters of play, the Zags out-rebounded the Pilots 31-15, winning the offensive rebound battle 10-4 and 21-11 defensively. The final rebound totals for the Zags were 43-21, 16-4 and 28-17 respectively, all in favor of the Zags.
“That’s one area that we really stepped up in,” Wirth said. “This year, we are making it part of our identity.”
The Zags would maintain the team’s 30 point lead for the rest of the fourth quarter, eventually winning the game by a 32 point margin and extending the home winning streak to 22 games. Wirth finished the matchup with a 21 point 10 rebound double-double, followed by a 12 point performance from twin sister LeeAnne Wirth. Fowler led Pilot scorers with 11 points.
COMING UP: The Zags look to continue its winning ways against the Santa Clara Broncos Thursday night in Santa Clara at 6 p.m. The game will be broadcasted on the WCC website and more information on other broadcasts of the game will be known later in the week.