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Balance again on full display in Gonzaga women’s romp over Texas Southern

UPDATED: Sat., Dec. 14, 2019

Gonzaga forward LeeAnne Wirth  puts up a shot against Texas Southern guard Destiny Arvinger  during a nonconference basketball game on Dec. 14, 2019, at the McCarthey Athletic Center. (James Snook / For The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga forward LeeAnne Wirth puts up a shot against Texas Southern guard Destiny Arvinger during a nonconference basketball game on Dec. 14, 2019, at the McCarthey Athletic Center. (James Snook / For The Spokesman-Review)

In a game like this, the Gonzaga women needed to rise to their own expectations and no one else’s.

Not that the crowd didn’t appreciate the Zags’ 80-45 nonconference win over Texas Southern on Saturday afternoon.

But though it was GU’s first home game in more than three weeks, many fans left in the third quarter – to beat the traffic, grab some Christmas bargains or settle into their chairs for the GU men’s game later that night.

That’s too bad, because this team is shaping up into something special: a No. 17 ranking with 9-1 record marred only by an overtime loss at current No. 1 Stanford.

Even better for those who stuck around: There’s no such thing as garbage time when everyone is playing double-digit minutes.

“They’ve done a really good job,” said head coach Lisa Fortier, who’s enjoying the evolution of this team as much as its success following the graduation of Zykera Rice, Laura Stockton and Chandler Smith.

“We work hard to help them develop, and they work hard to take the coaching and develop themselves,” Fortier said.

Of the departed players: “We love ’em and we miss ’em,” Fortier said, “but at this time of the season we’re talking about the new group, and they’ve done a really good job.”

The résumé includes recent wins over Power 5 teams Purdue and Washington State, which boosted expectations for an easy win against the 3-7 Tigers.

The Zags didn’t disappoint.

Less than 2 minutes in, TSU was down 8-0 and calling timeout.

It didn’t help. Dominating inside and out, the Zags were up 22-9 after one quarter and 42-17 at intermission.

“Some really good team basketball, that’s what did it,” said junior forward LeeAnne Wirth, who had 14 points and eight rebounds for one of the most complete games of her career.

“There just can’t be any letup,” Wirth said.

There was one, actually: GU was outscored 14-13 in the fourth quarter, a recurring problem of late. Fortier also noted some leaky defense against players who were driving and the Zags’ 14 turnovers against the TSU pressure.

Those will be addressed over the weekend as the Zags prepare for a tricky final week of nonconference play: Tuesday at the 7,150-foot elevation at Wyoming, followed by a home game Friday against 20th-ranked Missouri State.

No matter the opponent, the Zags have a winning formula, and it worked to near perfection in the first half against TSU: Find mismatches inside, and kick it outside to a hot shooter.

On Saturday, that was senior guard Katie Campbell, who hit a pair of 3-pointers in the first 2 minutes and went 4 for 5 on the afternoon.

Campbell matched LeeAnne and Jenn Wirth with 14 points, then marveled at the symmetry.

“It’s nice when we have a combination of bigs and guards both getting double figures, instead of just bigs or just guards,” Campbell said.

“That means we’re getting the ball in and out and moving the ball a lot,” Campbell said.

The payoff was a season-high 25 assists – seven each from Jessie Loera and Kayleigh Truong – and a stellar shooting effort.

GU was 52% from the floor and 43% from long range while holding the Tigers to 33% and 18%, respectively. TSU’s halftime total of 17 points was the lowest by any GU opponent this year.

Gonzaga limited Texas Southern to 17 points combined in the first half, the lowest halftime scoring output by an opponent this season.

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