Will star forward Jill Barta in street clothes and a walking boot for her ankle, this game was always going to be tough to win. Freshman Jenn Wirth got the start in her place.
Zykera Rice got the Bulldogs on the board with a put back on an offensive rebound. Unfortunately for her, foul trouble sat her down in the first half. Laura Stockton got the start, but the mask helping shield her broken nose (finally found out the injury while watching the game) clearly affected her on offense. There were also a number of easy shots that the Zags missed right around the bucket, not helping things. UNLV wasn't any better, with their shooting woes, continuing a multi-game drought for them. At halftime, it was squared up at 22.
The offenses for both teams started to pick up in the third quarter, with Chandler Smith knocking down a pair of threes. The lady Rebels answered with a few makes of their own, including a trey from Jordyn Bell as time expired to give them a three point lead heading into the final ten minutes.
Things started to look bleak for the Zags, as UNLV pushed the lead to eight after another Bell three-pointer. Gonzaga never got things going offensively, shooting just 32.7% from the field and shot 3/17 from deep. However, the women started to pull down several offensive rebounds in the final minutes, and used the charity stripe totie the game. The following possession, freshman Jill Townsend hit an up and under layup to give the Zags the lead with two minutes to go, capping off a 9-0 run.
But once again it was Bell with another timely play, this time via a drive with an and-1. She missed the following free throw, but Katie Powell out-fought Rice for the rebound and the put back for the lead with just 30 seconds left. The Rebels packed the paint, forcing a Zag to shoot over them, and it worked, with Stockton missing the game-winning three-pointer as time expired.
Statistically speaking, it was fairly even between these teams. They had the same number and assists and rebounds, but with the game being a defensive shootout, the six made threes by UNLV ultimately made the difference.
It sucks to lose at home to a somewhat inferior team, but when both preseason All-Conference players are either out or hobbled, it's always going to be tough to win. The consistency on defense, regardless of how the offense is doing, is still a great sign of things going forward. Patience will also be needed for this heralded freshmen class, including the Wirth twins who were held scoreless in the game.
Gonzaga doesn't play until next Sunday against St. Francis, so Barta will have at least a week to heal up. The 5-4 overall record might not be ideal, but there's more positives than negatives about this team.