It wasn’t pretty, but Gonzaga grinded out a physical 63-51 victory over Eastern Washington on Sunday to improve to 2-0 on the season. The win is Lisa Fortier’s 100th as Head Coach.
Gonzaga got off to a very slow start and could not buy a basket in the first quarter. They had several open looks, but they just wouldn’t fall. Eastern hit three first quarter triples and held a 12-5 lead after the opening stanza in front of a pro-Gonzaga crowd in Cheney.
In the second quarter, Gonzaga used their defense to create offense. Similar to Wednesday’s opener, the Zags forced several turnovers that led to fast break opportunities and allowed them to take a 27-23 lead into half, despite shooting just 29 percent.
Gonzaga and Eastern traded buckets throughout the third quarter. Chandler Smith led the Zags with a career-high 20 points. Smith excels at mid-range, pull up jumpers and she was able to hit a couple in the third quarter to open up Gonzaga’s offense.
Eastern hit a three to end the third to cut the deficit to 45-42, but Gonzaga’s defense in the fourth quarter was stifling. They forced back-to-back steal and scores to ice the game. In total, Gonzaga forced 24 turnovers and scored 24 points of them.
Katie Campbell had another stellar performance off the bench and has turned into a reliable defender for Gonzaga. After a four-steal performance in the opener, she racked up three more on Sunday. Jill Townsend, the other standout on Wednesday, put up her first career double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds off the bench. Melody Kempton had some great second half minutes with Zykera Rice in foul trouble. The freshman has proven to be an integral part of Coach Fortier’s rotation with Jenn Wirth still out with a finger injury. Gonzaga outscored Eastern 19-3 in bench points.
When push came to shove, it was the seniors Smith and Laura Stockton who led the way on offense in the second half. To go with Smith’s 20 points and four steals, Stockton put up 13 points and five assists to go along with six rebounds. The two of them went 12-for-13 from the foul line.
Gonzaga will face their third straight Big Sky team on Tuesday when they host Idaho State.