24 hours after the Gonzaga men defeated top-ranked Duke, the Gonzaga women had their chance to take down top-ranked Notre Dame. The Zags came out hot, but were unable to deal with Notre Dame’s size and transition game and fell to the Irish 81-65 in the opening round of the Vancouver Showcase.
Gonzaga opened up on fire. Zykera Rice scored eight straight points, Laura Stockton converted a three-point play, and the Zags led 11-4 before the defending National Champions knew what hit them. Gonzaga held a 14-8 lead with three minutes to go in the quarter before the Irish took over. Notre Dame owned the offensive glass and got out in transition, leading to a 13-4 run to end the first quarter and giving the Irish a 21-18 lead.
Gonzaga was riddled with foul trouble in the first half, mainly in their backcourt. Four players had two fouls, including both Rice and Stockton. Chandler Smith played just six minutes and was ineffective. With the foul trouble and superior size of Notre Dame, the Irish lived in the paint and extended their lead to 11 by halftime.
To their credit, Gonzaga continued to fight. They cut the lead down to eight early in the third quarter, but would get no closer. The Zags’ stingy defense held the Irish to just 40 percent shooting, but they gave up 22 second chance points on 21 offensive rebounds and 56 points in the paint. The Irish had five players in double figures, led by Final Four hero Arike Ogunbowale’s 21.
Rice led Gonzaga with 16 points and seven rebounds. Melody Kempton continued her early season rise with 14 points off the bench. Stockton dished out seven assists and committed zero turnovers. All in all, Gonzaga competed fairly well with the heavy favorite to cut the nets in April. “I think we have a lot we can build on,” Coach Lisa Fortier said after the game. “If we would have built those habits or focused on the habit of checking out every time and really being aggressive on the ball, getting to our help responsibilities, then we can play with a team like that.”
Gonzaga takes on Rutgers Friday at noon in the consolation side of the bracket. Rutgers was outscored 40-15 in the second half in a 10-point loss to Drake.