The Gonzaga Bulldogs spent much of their first conference game against the LMU Lions trying to claw their way back into it. Big shots from the familiar faces of Jill Townsend and Jenn Wirth down the stretch helped give the Zags a nail-biting 65-62 win.
LMU went on a 13-2 run in the first quarter to take a 19-13 lead after 10 minutes, and from there, it looked like the Lions were on their way to an upset. Led by junior guard Ariel Johnson’s offense, LMU used a surprisingly stifling defense to essentially silence the Zags’ frontcourt advantage.
Through the first half, Jenn Wirth was limited to just two shot attempts. LMU was clogging the paint and forcing the Zags to settle for jump shots, which, unfortunately for Gonzaga, did not fall throughout the entire night. The Zags finished the night shooting 36 percent from the floor and 6-of-24 from long range.
LMU was never able to make a sizable run to put the game away. The Lions went into halftime leading 33-25, but Gonzaga opened up the second half with a quick five points to make it a game, and the two squads would trade baskets for the rest of the evening.
Ultimately, it was the experience of the Zags that pulled out the win. Townsend shifted her mindset in the second half, attacking the hoop relentlessly and hitting 7-of-8 free throws. She finished the game with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Jenn Wirth, after the slow first half, finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Cierra Walker was the only real outside shooting threat, finishing with 12 points off 4-of-10 shooting from three.
It was enough offense from the starting five to make up for a non-existent bench night. The Zags mustered just two points from Melody Kempton. The bench finished the night shooting 1-of-14.
LMU kept it close, but they could not keep Gonzaga off the offensive glass, and that perhaps was the difference in the game. Gonzaga finished with 17 offensive rebounds and 14 second chance points. All of that spelled just enough for the Zags to get a win, which in the end, is what counts.
Gonzaga’s next game is at Pepperdine on Wednesday, at 5:00 pm.