MISSOULA, Mont. – The Gonzaga Bulldogs got better and better as the game progressed and defeated Montana, 70-55, in Missoula on Saturday night.
Jill Barta had a large contingent of fans from her home state, and did not disappoint, with 23 points and 11 rebounds, her second double-double in as many games, to go with three blocks. Chandler Smith was great on the top of the press, and scored 16 points with six rebounds. Laura Stockton joined them in double-figures with 11 points and five assists, and three steals. Zykera Rice finished right behind Barta with seven boards.
GU took an early four-point lead, but both offenses started slow and the game was all tied at six at the 4:49 mark. Barta hit her first shot at the four-minute mark, a three from the wing to break the tie. Barta scored the next four points as well and took a 15-10 lead to the second quarter. Barta opened the scoring for GU in the second with another three to go to 10 points with six minutes left in the half. GU extended their lead to seven in the quarter, and led 33-24 at the half. Barta had a dominant half in front of her home crowd with 17 points on six-of-11 shooting, with seven rebounds. Smith added six and GU led on the boards 28-14, with 15 offensive rebounds for 15 second-chance points. The Zags forced nine turnovers for 11 points.
Barta scored the first three points of the second half for GU and hit the 20-point mark a couple minutes in. Smith kept scoring as well and GU took a 39-31 lead to the five-minute mark. Smith forced a steal at half court, Stockton scooped and scored with the foul, making it 46-33, their largest lead of the half with three minutes left in the quarter. The Zags three-quarter court trap became more and more effective with Smith on the point, finishing with three steals in the game. GU led 55-42 as Jessie Loera beat the buzzer with the floater.
Smith hit a three early in the fourth quarter, capping a 7-0 run and a three-minute scoreless drought for UM. GU continued to wear down the Lady Griz on the defensive end, leading by as much as 18, and took home the 70-55 win. The Zags finished the game shooting 41 percent, taking control shooting 47 percent in the third quarter. They finished with a 49-34 advantage on the glass with 23 offensive rebounds for 25 second-chance points. GU had 10 steals, thanks to their three-quarter court pressure spearheaded by Smith, winning their sixth-straight against the Lady Griz.
“It was a great effort by our team tonight,” Gonzaga head coach Lisa Fortier said. “Montana is never an easy place to play, and we knew we were going to have to play tough, play physical, and make a way for ourselves if we wanted to come out ahead, and we did just that. I love how we rebounded the ball. It’s also always good when you can get your players back in their home state, and it was a great homecoming for Jill Barta.”
The Zags (1-1) will now head to Las Vegas and the Play4Kay Showcase at the Mandalay Bay Event Center on Thursday, November 23, at 8 pm against Belmont in a loaded field. Live links will be available at GoZags.com.