The Gonzaga Bulldogs showed solid poise and steadiness in a win over the Portland Pilots with a game much closer than the final score suggests, 68-59.
The Zags got off to a quick 12-4 start and it seemed like it would be a continuation of their first game against Portland. Using Melody Kempton and Yvonne Ejim, the Zags attacked the Portland zone, finding the cracks and scoring in the gaps.
However, Portland began to close the gap, slowly but surely. The Zags tried their best to stymy the advance, switching up their defensive schemes on multiple possessions. Defensive miscues and careless turnovers allowed Portland to pull within one, 31-30, at halftime, much of the offense led by Alex Fowler, who finished with 15 points in the first 20 minutes.
Portland’s full court pressure harried the Zags throughout the game, and the Zags’ defensive switches kept Portland within an arm’s length. Portland took the lead throughout much of the third quarter, but the Zags battled back to own a 46-44 lead through 30 minutes.
The fourth quarter was more of the same. The Zags started to pull away, but the Portland defense forced some key turnovers and hit some key shots as well and pulled within two points with under four minutes remaining. Looking like the ever-steady senior leader, Cierra Walker found the space for a zone-busting three-pointer and the Zags hit five of their last seven field goal attempts to finally put Portland down for the evening.
This was a defensive slog if there ever was one. Both teams didn’t shoot the ball *too* badly, with Gonzaga finishing at 43 percent. However, the Zags did the other tangibles correctly, hitting free throws, fighting for offensive rebounds, and finding the limited opportunities to run for fastbreak points when they could.
The Zags also completely shut down Fowler in the second half. After torching the Zags throughout the first 20 minutes, Fowler only attempted two field goals in the second half.
The Zags improve to 4-0 in conference play and will next Saint Mary’s in Moraga on Saturday, at 1:00 pm PT.