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Gonzaga barely survives Pacific, 81-78

The Tigers just would not go away.

The Gonzaga Bulldogs narrowly avoided an upset by the Pacific Tigers, barely hanging on for an 81-78 victory on Thursday.

Gonzaga led by as many as 16 points through the first three quarters of the game. However, midway through the third quarter, Pacific started to chip away. They continued to keep on chipping away, and exploded in the fourth quarter to make this more of a game, taking the lead at 74-73 with three minutes remaining.

Yvonne Ejim grabbed the offensive rebound and the putback to give the Zags a 75-74 lead. Kaylynne Truong hit a couple of free throws and Ejim scored another bucket for the Zags to lead by five points with just under two minutes remaining.

Anaya James had other plans. She hit two baskets to bring the Tigers within one point as the Zags offense went cold. Her three point attempt with seven seconds left missed the mark, and Truong iced two free throws in the final seconds to give the Zags the win.

It was a hard-fought win for a Gonzaga squad that struggled offensively, and for a defense that was a bit uncharacteristic. Gonzaga hit just 43.5 percent of their shots and for whatever reason could not stop the Tigers from making buckets. The Zags’ defense, which normally holds opponents to under 40 percent shooting, watched as the Tigers drained 54.4 percent of their field goals.

That discrepancy was more than enough to keep Pacific in the game, despite Gonzaga generating 25 second-chance points and outscoring the Tigers at the free throw line by 13. In fact, Gonzaga led for 98.3 percent of the game.

The Tigers received some big performances from Liz Smith and Anaya James, who scored 21 and 18 respectively. Gonzaga’s frontcourt star Ejim led all scorers with 22, and McKayla Williams poured in a very-needed career-high 19 points.

It was the 11th-straight win for the Zags and the stiffest test for the Zags this conference season. Gonzaga continues the road trip with a game against Saint Mary’s on Saturday afternoon.