SPOKANE, Wash. – The (RV) Gonzaga Bulldogs’ Laura Stockton nailed a game-winning jumper from the elbow with nine seconds left, and Elle Tinkle stood the Gaels up on defense at the other end as Gonzaga secured the 59-58 win in front of a sellout crowd inside the McCarthey Athletic Center on Saturday afternoon, in a battle between the two teams atop the West Coast Conference standings.
The lead changed hands 19 times in the game, including 12 times in the second half. The Zags entered the fourth quarter with a four-point lead, 45-41, but the Gaels opened the period on a 7-0 run. GU quickly regrouped with six-straight to regain the lead 55-52, including four from Kiara Kudron who led the Zags with 14 points, five assists, and three steals. SMC nailed a three to tie the game and nail-biting finish was on. Emma Stach, who was the second-leading scorer for GU with nine, drove the lane and scored at 1:39, but three free throws from SMC gave them the advantage, 58-57, leading into Gonzaga’s final possession. Stockton, who scored six points with six rebounds to go with four assists, came off a high pick and roll and pulled up at the elbow for the game-winner. The Gaels drove into the body of Tinkle who stayed straight up and denied the Gaels’ last attempt.
“It was really a play for anybody, it just happened to be me,” Stockton said. “I just stepped up and took it like a normal shot, and I’m just glad I could help my team out. Getting the stop at the end is really what got us the win.”
The Zags started the game struggling offensively, and built an 11-point lead by the 9:25 mark in the second quarter. The GU offense kicked it in high gear from there with threes from Stach and Tinkle sandwiched between four points from Kudron to take a 29-28 halftime lead. The Zags built their largest lead to finish the third quarter as Makenlee Williams drilled a three and scored a transition 360-layup to take the four-point lead into the exciting fourth quarter.
The Zags pressed and trapped hard all game on defense, forcing 22 SMC turnovers leading to 16 Gonzaga points. The Zags also led 8-0 in transition points and 5-2 in blocks. The Zags had nine steals and only turned the ball over eight times. Jill Barta scored eight points with seven rebounds for GU, and Chandler Smith provided five points, three rebounds, and three assists off the bench. Each team hit five threes, and SMC shot 44 percent compared to 33 percent for GU from the field, but Gonzaga made up for that with the turnovers they forced.
“Everyone who played got a rebound and in this game that was a huge emphasis for us, we had to rebound,” Gonzaga head coach Lisa Fortier said. “We wanted Laura to drive hard to the basket and see if she could draw some people. She was going to have Jill as a kick out, she is going to have a shooter on the strong side, and whatever option presented itself we were okay with. We weren’t going to wait on that one until the end, we wanted a second chance at a rebound, and it was pretty well-executed.”
The Zags built a two-game lead in the WCC standings by improving to 21-4 and 12-2 in the conference with their 12-straight win. GU heads out on a week-long road trip next week, beginning with San Francisco at 7 pm on Thursday. Live links are available at GoZags.com.