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Gonzaga Avoids Major Upset in WCC Opener

Zags chip away from 20 point deficit

In the final game of the decade of the Gonzaga women, it looked like something that hadn’t happen in nearly 11 years was about to take place. Jill Townsend would not allow it to happen. Townsend scored 18 points, including four second half three-pointers, to lead Gonzaga back from a 20-point deficit and beat Portland 62-57 in a dramatic WCC opener for both teams. Portland has not beaten Gonzaga since February 8, 2009.

Portland came out and absolutely blitzed the Zags. They shot 10-for-15 in the first quarter and held a 26-12 lead. They extended it to 20 early in the second, led by four triples from Katie Anderson. Gonzaga cut the lead to 37-24 at halftime, but could never find any rhythm against Portland’s zone, shooting just 30 percent from the field and turning it over 10 times. They also gave up an uncharacteristic 20 points in the paint.

Gonzaga would slowly chip away. Jenn and LeeAnne Wirth scored eight quick points to cut the Pilots lead to seven just two minutes into the third quarter. Jill Townsend followed it up with back-to-back threes to cut the lead to five. Portland kept battling and used a late and-1 opportunity to hold a 53-47 advantage heading to the fourth quarter.

A plethora of missed layups and turnovers, along with an awful charge call, kept the deficit at six for several minutes. Luckily, Gonzaga’s defense tightened up and forced several Portland turnovers to stay within striking distance. The Zags allowed just 20 points in the second half.

After two Katie Campbell free throws, Townsend and Campbell drained back-to-back threes to give Gonzaga their first lead since the opening seconds and bring the sell-out crowd of 6,000 to their feet. Portland, looking to regain the lead, missed four straight threes in the final minute. Jessie Loera nailed two free throws with 8.4 to go to make it a two-score game and allowed Gonzaga fans to exhale.

Townsend finished her afternoon with 18 points, eight rebounds rebounds, and five steals. Campbell added 12 points and four rebounds. Jenn Wirth had 14 points, seven rebounds, and three blocks, but turned the ball over seven times. Gonzaga outscored Portland 15-4 in the fourth quarter. The Pilots shot 2-for-12 from the field and turned it over nine times.

The Zags are back in action on Thursday night at BYU, a team that handed the Bulldogs three losses last year, including the WCC Title game.