The previous time the Gonzaga women faced off against Carroll College, the Bulldogs more than doubled the Saints’ scoring output.
This year, GU scored exactly twice as many points, beating the Saints 86-43 in the Zags’ lone exhibition basketball game Friday night at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
Despite what inevitably turned into a blowout, the Zags’ start could either be considered sloppy – turning the ball over on their first play and committing two more turnovers within the first 10 minutes – or lucky – since the Saints shot 28.6 percent from the field in the first quarter.
Senior guard Laura Stockton was responsible for two of those three GU turnovers.
“I hate that,” Gonzaga coach Lisa Fortier said. “But we’ve also had the first play of the game be a big 3 and that’s gone poorly, also. I wish we would score on the first play every time, but it doesn’t always happen.”
Although the Zags had 12 turnovers, Carroll finished with 21 (13 of which were forced). GU took full advantage, scoring six fastbreak points and 35 total points off turnovers.
Most notable in the Zags’ offensive performance was the scoring distribution: All but two of the 11 players who played scored and five players finished in double figures.
“I like the contributions all around. I don’t think anybody, whether they scored a bunch of points or didn’t, I don’t think anybody who came in didn’t give us something good,” Fortier said. “We have a lot of people who are capable scorers, and we wanted to get our shooters to shoot.”
Zykera Rice, who has been dealt the tall task of replacing Jill Barta, who skipped her senior year and was selected 32nd in the 2018 WNBA Draft, brought energy from the tip, scoring the Zags’ first four points. Down the stretch Rice slowed a bit, but she still finished with 15 points and one block.
With about three minutes remaining in the first quarter, Rice’s teammates joined her in a scoring flurry. It started when junior Katie Campbell (13 points) hit two consecutive 3-pointers from the same right corner of the arc. Then, in transition, Stockton secured a steal and dished it inside to Jill Townsend (12 points), who finished with a layup.
From there, the Bulldogs were in complete control. At halftime, they were shooting 63.6 percent from the field, compared to the Saints’ 25 percent, and 100 percent from the free-throw line to Carroll’s 56 percent.
Gonzaga picked up where it left off to start the second half. Opening the scoring, Jessie Loera swiped the ball at half court, leading to Chandler Smith’s 3-pointer.
Smith finished with a game-high 23 points.
“I really want her to be aggressive,” Fortier said of Smith. “I want all of our seniors to be aggressive, and I think it’s a little more Laura and Zykera’s natural characteristic. Chandler is a little more behind the scenes sometimes, so we’re trying to make sure she is aggressive, and make sure she is an assertive offensive player and not just a distributor and ball mover. Today she, for the most part, was ready to score, and we’re going to need some consistent point contribution from her moving forward.”
Smith said she wants to work on her role as a leader, particularly integrating new players.
She’s especially excited to see the growth of freshman Melody Kempton, a Post Falls High graduate, who added 10 points and eight rebounds in her collegiate debut.
“I’m super excited about Mel,” Smith said. “She’s so athletic and has been so eager to learn. I’m excited for her. She’s going to do big things.”
Fortier said Kempton’s athleticism will lend itself to running the floor for extended minutes and getting on the glass – something her nine rebounds suggest she is capable of doing.
Gonzaga opens its regular season on Wednesday, hosting Montana at 6 p.m.
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