The Gonzaga Bulldogs (9-2, 4-0 WCC) extended their winning streak to eight games on Monday night after they took down the Pacific Tigers (3-2, 1-1 WCC) by a score of 79-59 in Spokane. Jenn Wirth led all scorers with a career-high 26 points to go along with seven rebounds.
“My teammates had my back tonight for sure,” Wirth said. “All of our guards had their heads up and were looking inside and giving me good passes.”
Both teams came into the matchup following victories over West Coast Conference foe St. Mary’s. GU most recently defeated the Gaels last Saturday 69-37, while the Tigers won their matchup by a score of 78-70 in Moraga, California.
“Our team did a really good job following the scouting report,” Head Coach Lisa Fortier said. “We did a really good job of guarding people.”
Despite numerous turnovers, the Zags offense found its rhythm through Jenn Wirth in the first half. The senior got on the board early with an and-one layup after cleaning up a missed layup from Jill Townsend. Later in the first quarter, guard Kaylynne Truong quickly zipped a pass to forward Wirth who finished through another contact layup.
Wirth continued to torch the Tigers defense in the second quarter both in the paint and on the perimeter. She tallied 10 points in the period through aggressive post play and crafty footwork near the basket, as GU stretched their lead to as many as 17 points. Wirth would finish the first half with 16 points on 6-for-7 shooting from the floor.
With Wirth dominating on the inside, the Zags also received a boost from their guards on the wing. Redshirt senior Cierra Walker found success from behind the arc with three shots from deep, one of which came at the end of the first quarter to beat the buzzer. Lily Scanlon and Kaylynne Truong also hit consecutive three-pointers near the end of the first half.
GU shot 59.3% from the field, including 60% from behind the arc as they nursed a 44-28 lead heading into the break.
Defensively, GU was tasked with slowing down the Tigers’ leading scorer Valerie Higgins. The redshirt senior came into the matchup averaging 18 points per game; however, she could not find such success against Jenn Wirth. Higgins was limited to 11 points on 4-for-13 shooting, including just two points in the second half.
“The best thing we did against her was not foul her,” Fortier said. “We made her work for the baskets that she did get, and that makes a difference.”
With their top threat in check, GU was able to clamp down on the Tigers’ offense throughout the game. UOP’s forwards were continuously turned away by the Wirth twins in the paint, while Kaylynne Truong and Walker proved to be lockdown on the perimeter.
The Tigers shot 36.7% from the floor, below their season average of 40.1% for the season.
The second half featured more of the same from Wirth and the Bulldogs both offensively and defensively. Forward Jill Townsend kicked off the fourth quarter with a layup from Kayleigh Truong, who then knocked down a three-pointer following a steal by Anamaria Virjoghe. GU’s lead ballooned to 20 points.
Wirth achieved a career-high in points after another feed inside from Truong, resulting in another basket and giving her 26 points for the night. Fortier attributed her performance to her overall development as a player.
“Everybody knows she’s a good offensive threat,” she said. “She’s become a good defender and she’s really adding rebounding to her game.”
Melody Kempton and Walker each added 11 points while Kaylynne Truong dished out nine assists on the night to go along with seven points.
The Zags return to action this Saturday, January 9th against the Portland Pilots at 2 pm in Spokane. Fans can tune into the matchup on SWX or via the WCC website live stream.