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Gonzaga women rebound from setback against Saint Mary’s with 56-38 romp over San Francisco

UPDATED: Thu., Feb. 13, 2020

Gonzaga Bulldogs forward LeeAnne Wirth  looks for an opening against San Francisco Dons guard Abby Rathbun  during the first half Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020, at McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs forward LeeAnne Wirth looks for an opening against San Francisco Dons guard Abby Rathbun during the first half Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020, at McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

There won’t be another 21-game winning streak for the Gonzaga women, at least not this season.

But you have to start somewhere, so the Zags began a new one Thursday night with a 56-38 win over San Francisco in front of an appreciative crowd in the Kennel.

Now they just need one more to lock up another West Coast Conference title, and five more after that to give those same fans a chance to watch the No. 15-ranked Zags host NCAA Tournament games next month.

Fans may be thinking in those terms, but Coach Lisa Fortier really is taking them one at a time after last week’s loss at Saint Mary’s.

“I think after Saturday it’s a whole lot easier,” Fortier said. “Now the players have a little bit of weight lifted off their shoulders.

“The streak is one, and on Saturday, we hope to make it two.”

It wasn’t easy. USF sagged in on the Gonzaga bigs and disrupted their offense for most of the game.

“They get underneath you and don’t let you cut anywhere, so it’s hard to run a clean offense,” Fortier said. “That was certainly part of it.”

Fortunately, the Zags did an even better job at the other end, holding the Dons to 31% shooting for the game to improve to 24-2 overall and 13-1 in the WCC.

A win on Saturday against Santa Clara would lock up the top seed in the WCC Tournament next month in Las Vegas.

“Defensively, we did a really good job, so there wasn’t a lot of open, easy looks for them,” Fortier said. That was especially true from outside. Averaging 33% from long range in their last 10 games, the Dons made exactly one in 13 tries.

“We defended their strengths, and they defended ours,” Fortier said.

GU also forced 17 turnovers and outrebounded the last-place Dons (9-16, 2-11) by 10.

“There’s nothing wrong with that,” said point guard Jessie Loera, who failed to score but had three assists and two boards.

“I think our defense really showed in this game,” Loera said.

The offense, still evolving after the loss of Katie Campbell to a knee injury two weeks ago, managed just 25 first-half points on 31% shooting.

Junior forwards Jenn and LeeAnne Wirth gradually established themselves after combining for zero points and fouling out at Saint Mary’s.

Against the Dons, they “posted up really hard,” Fortier said. “Whether the ball went there or not, they wanted to draw some attention.”

LeeAnne Wirth and backup forward Melody Kempton had 10 points apiece while Jenn Wirth had eight along with six boards.

GU’s offensive struggles at Saint Mary’s carried over into the first half of Thursday’s game. The Zags missed five of their first six shots and led only 4-2 midway through the first quarter as the Dons put up a trio of airballs.

The Zags led 11-6 after the first quarter and 25-16 at halftime.

The game broke open in the third quarter. Jenn and LeeAnne Wirth opened the half with field goals, leading to a USF timeout.

It didn’t help, as Jill Townsend and Kempton each scored to push the lead to 33-16.

After another USF timeout, the visitors got back to within 12, but GU was back up by 16 going into the fourth.

The Zags led by as many as 22 in the final minutes.

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