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Zykera Rice punishes Pepperdine in 79-54 Gonzaga win

The junior forward scored 23 points and the defense did the rest.

NCAA Womens Basketball: West Coast Conference Tournament-Gonzaga vs San Diego Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Junior forward Zykera Rice set the tone early for the Gonzaga Bulldogs, scoring 23 points in a midday win over Pepperdine, 79-54.

It was another defensive gem from the women’s squad, who held Pepperdine to 33.9 percent shooting from the floor and forced 15 turnovers.

Rice was absolutely fantastic throughout the game, and her offensive contributions were greatly required. Although the Zags finished shooting 50 percent from the floor, if you take out Rice, the rest of the team shot 39 percent.

Rice was nearly perfect, shooting 11-of-12 from the floor, grabbing six rebounds, dishing out five assists, and stealing the ball twice. All the while, she committed only two turnovers and finished with zero personal fouls. Although the Gonzaga forwards on the men’s side get the most publicity, Rice is right up there in terms of all-around enjoyment to watch. Her game is fluid, controlled, and beautiful to watch.

The Zags took a 37-28 lead into halftime, but outscored Pepperdine in the second half 42-26. Jill Townsend and Jenna Wirth each added nine points, and Chandler Smith contributed eight.

All around, it was a great day for the Zags, who rose to No. 17 in the latest AP Poll, tying the highest ranking in school history.

The women have a packed week, and host Saint Mary’s on Thursday evening before finishing out with another day game against Pacific on Saturday.