LAS VEGAS – The Gonzaga Bulldogs fought through a scrappy game to come out ahead, 65-53, over San Francisco in the West Coast Conference Tournament Semifinals on Monday at the Orleans Arena.
Jill Barta led all scorers with 19 points, going eight-of-13 from the field with 10 rebounds for her 13th double-double of the year. Zykera Rice grabbed 10 boards herself with six points, and Emma Stach was huge down the stretch, scoring 14 points, her season high, going four-of-seven from three. Chandler Smith added eight points, five rebounds, three steals, and five assists, and Jenn Wirth came off the bench to score six.
The game was scoreless for the first three minutes, and USF scored the first bucket. Smith got GU on the board at the 6:54 mark with a jumper. A jumper from Laura Stockton pushed the Zags ahead and Stach drilled GU’s first three of the game. Each team hit two-plus minute scoreless streaks and GU led 9-6 after one. Both teams shot below 25 percent, but Gonzaga held USF to 0-for-six from three. USF scored the first four points of the second quarter to take the lead. Barta and Rice came back with four-straight for the Zags. The teams traded threes and USF led 20-18 with five minutes left in the quarter. Smith tied the game with a breakaway steal and Barta put Gonzaga ahead with a three-point play with 4:04 left in the quarter. USF built a three-point lead before Stach tied the game with a three at the 1:30 mark. Jenn Wirth scored the put-back at the buzzer to give GU the 28-26 halftime lead. Barta and Smith each scored seven for GU in the half, and Stach had six with two threes. Barta added six rebounds.
Jenn Wirth scored two-straight and Stach found Barta in transition off a steal from Smith as GU led 36-30, three minutes into the second half. USF stopped the run there and the teams traded baskets from there. Jenn Wirth extended the lead to seven before USF drilled a three at the 3:26 mark. Barta broke a two-minute scoreless streak for GU on the put-back as GU led 43-37 with one minute left in the quarter. GU took a 45-39 lead into the third quarter. USF did not hit a field goal over the final three minutes and GU had 15 second-chance points and 28 points in the paint to that point.
Stach opened the fourth quarter with a jumper as GU took their largest lead of the game to that point. Stach drilled a three at the eight-minute mark for GU’s first double-digit lead, 51-41. Stach hit another long bomb to answer a USF jumper. USF hit a four-minute scoreless streak as Gonzaga went on a 9-0 run building their lead to 15, 60-45, with threes from Barta and Stach. The lead grew as big as 18 as Jessie Loeraadded a three to fuel the finish, winning 65-53.
“That was a really gritty game, but we played hard and found a group in that third quarter that allowed us not to look back,” Gonzaga head coach Lisa Fortier said. “The hustle plays are huge, you have to win the percentage game or the possession game, and we were able to win both today.”
The Zags led on the glass, 42-38, with 17 offensive rebounds, Barta and Rice with five each, for 20 second-chance points and 32 points in the paint. They shot 40 percent, held USF to 36 percent, and hit seven threes. GU tallied 15 assists with five different Zags recording them. The Zags forced 17 turnovers for 25 points off turnovers.
Gonzaga (26-5) moved onto the WCC Championship for the 11th time, second straight, chasing their eighth title. GU will face either San Diego or Pacific. The game is live on ESPNU and the Watch ESPN app at 1 pm tomorrow. Live links are available at GoZags.com.