The San Francisco Dons entered Spokane having won six of their past seven games. The Gonzaga Bulldogs were coming off a disheartening loss to BYU on Saturday. The result ended up being an ugly offensive affair for both squads, with the Zags pulling out the win in the fourth quarter, 55-49.
The Zags offense immediately looked a bit out of sorts to start the game. Gonzaga shot just 3-of-15 in the first quarter, including missing all five attempts from long range. The Zags owned the rebounding edge, grabbing five offensive rebounds to try and keep it close, but it didn’t matter much as they couldn’t turn too many of those second chances into points.
The Dons weren’t that much hotter by any stretch, hitting just two more field goals than Gonzaga, but that was enough to give San Francisco a 11-7 lead going into the second quarter.
The two teams started trading three-pointers to start the second quarter, but then both teams went absolutely cold, each team going over five minutes without a field goal. Yvonne Ejim and Melody Kempton both missed some point blank looks at the hoop. San Francisco’s shots just could not fall if they tried. As the second quarter started to close, the two squads finally discovered how to get the ball through the net, and the Zags headed into halftime trailing 22-20.
Ejim paced the Zags at half with nine points, but it was a brutal go for both teams through the first 20 minutes. They combined for just 15 field goals. Gonzaga shot just 7-for-33 from the floor and 2-of-12 from long range. The fact that they went into half just down two with those sorts of numbers was a feat in itself.
The Zags finally started to make a push in the third quarter, taking their first lead of the game 31-29 with four minutes left in the third during the midst of an 8-0 run. The Zags “headed” up during the third quarter, shooting 39 percent from the floor and 2-of-8 from long range. Most importantly, in a game plodding this closely together, the Zags limited their turnovers during the run and forced USF into mistakes, generating seven easy points. Eventually, the Zags would take a very narrow two point lead, 36-34, into the final frame of the game.
The two squads traded baskets in the fourth quarter, but the Dons had the upper hand with a couple of made threes and looked like they might be able to squeak away with a win. The Zags reclaimed the lead, 49-48, with 2:24 off a jumper from Anamaria Virjoghe. McKayla Williams intercepted a pass and Kaylynne Truong split the free throws to give the Zags a two point lead with 1:40 remaining.
Ejim came up with a huge block on Claudia Langarita’s lay-up, and the Zags immediately pounced on the fast break, with Kayleigh Truong racing down the floor for the and-one, giving Gonzaga a five point lead and putting the game safely at bay.
It was a gritty win, but still a win. After coming out incredibly strong against BYU, the Zags’ offense for much of this evening resembled the second half against BYU. The Zags shot just 4-of-22 from long range. Both Abby O’Connor and Cierra Walker finished with zero points, shooting 0-for-6 and 0-for-3 from three-point, respectively. The hero of the game was without a doubt Ejim, who held her own down low, finishing with 14 points and eight rebounds.
After the disappointment of Saturday, the Zags needed a bounce back win, and they got it. The Zags will next head on the road to face off against Santa Clara on Thursday.