SPOKANE, Wash. – The Gonzaga Bulldogs picked up a signature and impressive win on Thursday night, 80-65, over Western Illinois, who had defeated No. 18 Stanford on the road on Monday night.
Jill Barta (21 points and 11 rebounds), Zykera Rice (14 points and 13 rebounds), and Chandler Smith (12 points and 11 rebounds) all had double-doubles, the first time three Zags did it in the same game since March 6, 2004, against Pepperdine in the West Coast Conference Tournament Semifinals. It marked a career high in rebounds for Rice and matched Smith’s career high in boards. Laura Stockton, Jessie Loera, and Jill Townsend all scored eight points, as GU controlled the game from the second quarter on. The Zags attacked the WIU 1-3-1 zone with precision passing and great mid-range shooting.
Western Illinois led 11-5 through the first four minutes, hitting two of their first three long range attempts. Townsend came off the bench to hit two corner jumpers, and GU got within seven, but WIU built the lead back to 12 with two minutes left. GU closed the quarter on a 6-2 run with Loera hitting a layup at the buzzer. Barta finished with five in the quarter and Townsend had four. The Zags opened the second quarter on a 5-0 run, with a layup from Smith and Barta. The Zags took it from there and outscored the Leathernecks 25-13 in the quarter and led 42-38 at half. Barta scored 15 in the half on five-of-11 shooting. The Zags did most their damage on the offensive glass, with a 13-5 advantage for 11 second-chance points. Smith added seven points and Townsend scored eight off the bench. Four was as high as the lead got, but GU led from the 3:48 point on.
Rice scored the first four points of the third quarter for GU’s biggest lead to that point. The teams went back and forth with GU keeping their lead between seven and five points to the 4:54 mark when WIU pulled within two, 50-48, but Stockton found Barta for a layup and hit a jumper to increase it back to six, 54-48, with 3:30 left in the quarter. GU capped a 6-0 run with a layup from Rice, 56-48, with three minutes left. The Zags ended the quarter with their largest lead, 62-52, erasing three WIU threes in the period. GU shot 45 percent in the quarter.
GU briefly led by 12 to start the quarter, and answered every WIU bucket, allowing them no closer than nine through the first five minutes of the quarter. The Leathernecks pulled to 68-60 with five minutes left, but GU responded with a 9-0 run that put the game out of reach.
“In that first quarter we could have said it is Christmas time let’s just move onto conference season, but we didn’t,” Gonzaga head coach Lisa Fortier said. “I love the way we rallied late in the first quarter, and the next three quarters we kept our foot on the gas pedal.”
5,548 GU patrons were in attendance and GU responded to the atmosphere, dominating the rebounds, 61-42, and 29-13 on the offensive glass for 26 second-chance points. Rice led that charge with eight offensive boards and Smith added six. GU also dominated points in the paint, 42-26, and off the bench, 17-7. The Zags only made one three, but held the sharpshooting Leathernecks to 28 percent from long range and made 15 of their 21 foul shots.
The Zags (7-4) will carry the momentum of the last two games into conference season after Christmas. They open at Pacific on Thursday, December 28 at 7 pm.