The Gonzaga women’s basketball team (17-2, 12-0) defeated the Santa Clara Broncos (12-7, 8-5) 67-50 Saturday afternoon in the McCarthey Athletic Center.
The Zags were coming off its 16th straight victory in play this year after the team’s 79-66 victory against the University of San Francisco Dons in The Kennel Thursday night. The win streak is the third-longest win streak in the nation amongst teams competing in the 2020-21 season, trailing only Bucknell (17) and California Baptist (19), both dating back to last season.
Senior Jill Townsend led the Zags with 17 points against USF, followed by 16 points from sophomore guard Kayleigh Truong. Shooting 50% from the field and 52.4% from behind the arc, the Zags dominated offensively.
The one thing that was in the way of a Bulldogs victory is a Broncos stampede. The fourth-placed team in the West Coast Conference (WCC) rankings beat the Portland Pilots 77-66 Thursday night, led by 24 points from redshirt senior Ashlyn Herlihy. Herlihy and top scorer and junior guard Lindsey VanAllen (12.4 ppg) looked to continue to spark the offensive side of the ball for The Broncos.
The Zags debuted its white and pink threads for the first time this season, but the play for the Zags to start the game was also something they weren’t familiar with based on the past few games. Senior forward Jenn Wirth got out to a hot start for the Zags, scoring eight of the first 10 points for the Bulldogs, with Townsend and senior forward Anamaria Virjoghe combining for the other four points in the first half to give them a 12-8 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Zags would pick up the tempo in the second quarter, out-scoring the Broncos 22-3 in the second quarter.
The Zags came out strong defensively, and even though the team struggled from behind the arc in the first half, shooting only 20%, GU was able to respond with timely shooting from the field, shooting 42% from the field. Melody Kempton ended the first half with an impressive layup while being fouled, sending the Zags into the locker room with a 34-11 lead.
“We continued to be great on the glass, which is becoming a part of our identity for us,” GU head coach Lisa Fortier said.
The Broncos flipped the switch to start the second half, outscoring the Bulldogs 17-7 to start the third quarter to cut GU’s lead down to 13. Herlihy and Merle Wiehl made timely buckets for the Broncos, and the Broncos were able to continue that momentum for the remainder of the quarter. Briefly paused by a three pointer from GU’s Abby O’Connor, SCU’s Ashlee Maldonado ended the quarter on a buzzer-beater layup, cutting GU’s lead to 11 heading into the final quarter of play.
“It was mostly about defense at that time,” Fortier said.
The Wirth twins asserted themselves to start the fourth quarter, scoring the first six points of the quarter for the Zags. The Zags would reassert themselves in the fourth quarter, stopping the Broncos on the defensive side of the ball complemented by veteran leadership from the Wirth twins, Townsend and Kempton. The Zags finished the game shooting 43.1% from the field and outrebounded the Broncos 43-24. The Zags’ bench also outscored the Broncos’ bench 23-13.
Wiehl led all Broncos scorers with 11 points, and the Wirth twins had 12 points each to lead the Zags in scoring, followed by 10 points from Townsend. Jenn Wirth is only 26 points away from reaching the 1,000 point mark, and the team looks to continue its winning ways going forward.
“Without keeping them to that low of a score, it would have been a much different game,” LeAnne Wirth said.
Up next for the Bulldogs: The Bulldogs head to Provo, Utah on Thursday, Feb. 18 in a matchup against the BYU Cougars, where the team looks to extend its winning streak to 18 games.