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Top-seeded Gonzaga stunned by fourth-seeded Portland, 70-69, in semifinals of WCC Tournament

UPDATED: Mon., March 9, 2020

Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Jill Townsend (32) drives to the hoop against the Portland Pilots defense during the first half of a West Coast Conference semifinal basketball game on Monday, March 9, 2020, at The Orleans in Las Vegas, Nev. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Jill Townsend (32) drives to the hoop against the Portland Pilots defense during the first half of a West Coast Conference semifinal basketball game on Monday, March 9, 2020, at The Orleans in Las Vegas, Nev. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

LAS VEGAS – Gonzaga relinquished a 20-point lead built in the first quarter and the top-seeded Bulldogs couldn’t overcome fourth-seeded Portland for the third time this season, losing 70-69 at the Orleans Arena.

The 11th-ranked Bulldogs (28-3) failed to make the championship game of the WCC Tournament for the first time since 2016 – also the last time they failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament – and will now wait to see who and where they’ll play in the NCAAs.

Portland led by one point inside the final 30 seconds before Jenn Wirth gave Gonzaga the 69-68 lead with a layup with eight seconds to go. The Pilots inbounded and handed off to Haylee Andrews, who drove the lane before sinking a short floater that put Portland back on top with three seconds left. GU’s Jessie Loera couldn’t convert a halfcourt heave in the closing seconds.

Gonzaga trailed at halftime in each of the two regular-season matchups – including a 13-point deficit when the teams met in Spokane – so the Bulldogs were in unfamiliar territory when they led 39-35 after two quarters in Vegas.

Portland had already begun to close the deficit at that point, trailing by as many as 20 in the first quarter when Gonzaga erupted for a season-high 29 points and made 13 of 16 (81%) from the field.

The top seed combined to score just 21 points over the next two quarters, though, allowing the Pilots to enter the final frame with a 53-51 advantage. Portland led by as many as six points before Gonzaga junior and WCC Player of the Year Jill Townsend fouled out with 5:16 left.

The Bulldogs were led by Jenn Wirth, who had 21 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Townsend scored 17 points and grabbed five rebounds before fouling out. Loera finished with 11 points and four assists.

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