The Gonzaga women have not enjoyed much Vegas success in recent years. In 2019, Laura Stockton and Jill Townsend suffered brutal injuries in the WCC semi-finals. Last season, they were upset in semi-finals at the buzzer by Portland. For a little while on Monday afternoon, it looked like another bad chapter might be written. But they re-wrote the story in the second half and pulled away from the Santa Clara Broncos, punching their ticket to the WCC Title game with a 72-62 victory.
After beating Santa Clara handily in their two regular season games, Gonzaga knew early on that this one was going to be a lot more difficult. It was an ugly start to the game for both teams. The Zags and Broncos alternated turnovers and missed layups. Both teams had more turnovers than made baskets in the first 10 minutes. Kayleigh Truong got a huge strip and score in the final seconds of the first quarter to give Gonzaga a 12-6 lead.
The lid came off the rim in the second quarter. Santa Clara hit two quick threes after not connecting on any in the first quarter. They cut the Bulldogs lead to 17-16 and had a wide open layup that would have given them their first lead, but they missed the shot, leading to a Truong layup at the other end. With that stroke of good fortune, Gonzaga took control of the game. They immediately went on a 12-0 run to put some distance between them and the Broncos and took a 29-22 lead into halftime.
Gonzaga was 1-for-10 from deep in the first half with 11 turnovers. It was not an offensive clinic by any means, but Jill Townsend tried to her best to settle things down. She led the team with seven points, four rebounds, two assists, and no turnovers.
The Broncos came out hot again in the third quarter, but so did Cierra Walker. Every time Santa Clara would get within three or four, Walker hit a huge three to keep them at arm’s length. She scored eight points in two minutes, kicking off a 7-for-8 stretch for Gonzaga’s offense, to help push Gonzaga’s lead to 13 after three quarters.
Santa Clara just would not go away. Despite another huge Walker three-pointer, the Broncos cut the lead to six with five minutes to go. But freshman Yvonne Ejim hit two buckets inside and Townsend hit the dagger three to push the lead to 11 with 2:45 to go.
Townsend finished with a 14-point, 10-rebound double-double. Walker scored 13, Jenn Wirth added 12, and Truong had 10 points and five steals. Gonzaga is looking for their first WCC tournament championship since 2018 and will play the winner of the BYU-San Francisco game on Tuesday at 1 pm on ESPNU.