The Gonzaga Bulldogs 12-point lead evaporated in the second half as the Zags missed a nice resume booster in a loss to the Washington State Cougars, 51-49.
The Zags opened the game opened the game with a bruising defense and survived WSU’s active defense to take a 23-16 lead. The Zags were held to just 28.6 percent shooting and committed 10 turnovers, but that was a dream compared to the Cougar’s 18.5 percent field goal percentage.
Things turned in the third quarter, however. The Cougars’ offense came to life, outscoring the Zags by four points and closing the Gonzaga lead to just three points. The Cougars took the lead early in the fourth quarter, and the teams traded blows for a majority of the fourth quarter.
Melody Kempton drained two free throws to tie the game, 49-49, with 40.7 seconds left. Yvvone Ejim fouled Bella Murekatete, who split the foul shots to give the Cougars a one-point lead with 22 seconds left. Kaylynne Truong, who had been 3-of-4 from three-point range up to that point, missed a three-pointer. Kempton grabbed the rebound but the Cougars knocked it away.
Unfortunately, the Zags had to foul three times with four seconds left to get the Cougars to the foul line. WSU finally took their foul shots with 1.7 seconds remaining. Charlisse Leger Walker missed the first free throw, extending the Cougars lead to 51-49. Cierra Walker missed an off-balance three-pointer as time expired to end the game.
Kayleigh Truong, in her first game back from a knee injury, didn’t seem too slowed down by her recent time on the bench. She finished with 11 points. Her sister led the Zags with 13 points. Ejim chipped in eight.
As usually is the case for the Zags, however, the turnovers were more than apparent. The Zags had 10 turnovers at half, 17 through three quarters, and finished with 20. Ultimately, that would be the downfall. The Zags outrebounded WSU 40-32, but that didn’t matter with that many lost possessions.
The Zags’ defense held strong for the most part, holding WSU’s leading scorer Charlisse Leger-Walker to just 5-of-17 shooting from the floor. The rest of the Cougars shot just 35.1 percent from the floor.
Unfortunately, Gonzaga struggled just as much, shooting just 34 percent from the floor. That, combined with the turnovers, doomed the Zags.