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#23 Gonzaga WBB Head Home with a Victory

A hot start in the first quarter helped the Zags ground the Owls

After apparently experiencing some airplane difficulties on the way to Houston and having an early shootout before this afternoon game, the Gonzaga women were able to channel their energy and add a quality road win to their resume. Let’s dive into how this game went and detail some of the highs and lows experienced this afternoon

In the first quarter, Zags got out to a hot start by dropping 9 points in the first two minutes before Owls’ coach Lisa Edmonds called a timeout to get her team together. However, the talk during the break clearly didn’t help as Rice made three fouls, including an incidental elbow to Kaylynne’s nose that caused her to go down in a heap with obvious bleeding, and 5 more Gonzaga points before getting their first bucket. With Kaylynne on the bench getting work on her nose, the Zags’ offensive dominance stalled for the remaining five minutes as they only scored 8 points. This was really frustrating to watch after dominating the first part of the quarter and owes itself to the lack of shooting options from the bench unit, inability to convert on second chance opportunities (only 2 points despite 3 offensive rebounds), and coughing up four turnovers. This allowed Rice to gain some momentum and cut away at the deficit to just 28-17 heading into the second quarter. It’s worth noting that after a terrible shooting performance on Thursday, Eliza Hollingsworth bounced back wonderfully with 14 this quarter.

Eliza continued her hot streak into the second period by scoring the first 8 of the first 10 points for Gonzaga with a 2 three pointers along with some physical defense from the team that forced two turnovers from Rice that prevented them from scoring until the 6 minute mark. With Kaylynne continuing to get treatment on her nose, it was nice to see Claire O’Connor started the second quarter, but she was subbed out two minutes in for Calli Stokes despite an assist an one of Eliza’s threes. Rice was able to make a little run over the final three minutes, but Gonzaga played tough and entered the half 47-33.

At the break, one has to ask, is Eliza okay? 21 points while shooting 7-7 FG, including 4-4 3FG, to go along with 3 rebounds and 1 steal. Did she read my words from yesterday’s write-up and say (add your own Aussie accent), “that random guy doesn’t know what he’s saying, hold my beer!”? Almost makes me just want to focus on statistics so awesome takes can’t be referenced for the world to remind itself how... special I am.

That’s a crazy performance for any player and only 1 point shy of her career high set against Liberty earlier this season. BIG ups to her because her performance was absolutely essential to the dominating first half with Kaylynne missing (just 3 minutes), Yvonne Ejim being uncharacteristically quiet (just 6 points), Brynna Maxwell’s shot not falling as we’ve recently seen (6 points but 1-4 FG). As a team, Gonzaga shot 54.8% (17-32), including 53.8% from deep (7-13), won the rebounding battle 20-12 (5-4 on the offensive glass), and blocked 3 shots. However, not all was rosy, as the Bulldogs made 9 turnovers and, as with last game, could only turn their five offensive rebounds into 6 second chance points. I want to give a little shoutout to Naya Ojukwu as she played just one minute, but snagged an offensive rebound, converted the successful second-chance layup, and made an authoritative block as she rotated over to help Brynna. She oozes athleticism and it should be a treat to watch her develop for years to come.

In a good sign for the team and player, Kaylynne started the second half, with some very obvious gauze in her left nostril, and immediately dished out two dimes Yvonne and later made a beautiful step-back three. However, Rice came out playing tighter offensively along with tougher defense, particularly on Eliza who was held scoreless this period, as they started to chip away at their deficit, cutting it down to 7 points with 2:30 left to play before Fortier called a timeout to get the team’s act together. While Ejim immediately scored a layup, neither team scored for remaining minutes and Gonzaga led 64-55 at the quarter’s conclusion. Outside of Yvonne dropping 10 points, it was a pretty uneventful quarter and a bit disappointing as it seemed Gonzaga was going to let their lead, 21 points at one stage, slip away to make this game more competitive.

The first five minutes of the final regulation period started off with both teams missing baskets before a brief outburst of 7 points from the Zags and 4 points from the Owls where we saw Kayleigh and Yvonne assisting each other for layups and Kaylynne drilling a corner three was followed by two more scoreless minutes thankfully broken up by the media break. Coming out of this timeout, the slog of a game continued with missed shots, turnovers (Gonzaga with 5 and Rice with 4), and fouls (both teams into the bonus with 3 minutes left) before ending with the Bulldogs winning 80-72.

Well, for a game that started out looking like the Men’s team performance against CSU Bakersfield fueled by Eliza’s 21 points, the Bulldogs certainly came back down to earth in the second half, as evidenced by Eliza’s 0 points. It’s hard to be overly critical against the Zags given they defeated a team selected to finish third in their conference on the road, but it’s hard knowing that this scoring margin could have been so much more.

While the overall field goal percentage wasn’t terrible in the second half (13-29), all the shots had to come from the inside as the Zags went 3-13 from deep and Rice was able to pack the paint as such. After looking great the past two games, Brynna had a rough night from the field as she went 1-8 on her field goal attempts while Kayleigh’s struggles continued with her 4-12 performance. Despite playing just three minutes in the first half, Kaylynne came back from her nose injury and dropped 15 points (5-10 FG and 4-8 3FG) to go along with 4 assists. She did have 3 turnovers, but I won’t give her too much criticism since they were in positions where Rice couldn’t convert them into points if I recall correctly. Yvonne bounced back nicely after a quiet first half to total 18 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 assists, although her streak of seventeen games with 20+ points was ended tonight.

As a fan without formal experience playing or coaching basketball, take the following words with a grain of salt, but I felt like Claire O’Connor and Naya Ojukwu deserved more minutes this game. The live stats service Sidearm stopped updating the game near the end of the third quarter so I’m not entirely sure how many minutes either got, but I would estimate 4 and 2 respectively. With the bench only adding 11 points tonight and looking thoroughly non-threatening on the offensive end, I really want to see both given more leash to develop their role within this team and hopefully provide some threat offensively that players like Maud, Calli, and Esther don’t quite bring to the floor. However, with defense being a point of concern for this team, I can see the argument that those three established bench players should take those minutes as they bring more on that end. Maybe things will change once Bree gets back, although her numbers from last year don’t inspire confidence in me.

Because the live stats service apparently broke, I’m limited with too much discussion about second-chance points, but my eye tells me that the conversion rate was not great. I know that not every chance will go in, but a number of missed layups seems related to players rushing their attempts and going up in awkward body positions that limit the potential of a high percentage shot going in the hoop. Given that this seems to be a problem across multiple games, I would love to see some statistic regarding Gonzaga’s national ranking in this area, but I can’t easily find numbers like that for the men’s side and I’m not ready to start my own analytics so we’ll just have to watch together. Who knows though, maybe I’m overreacting and this will age like milk similar to my Eliza comments from yesterday.

Also, Eliza deserves another shout out. While she couldn’t eclipse her career high in points by scoring in the second half, she showed all of us her importance to this team by chipping in 6 rebounds and 2 steals (I could’ve sworn she got a block as well, but I’ll trust the boxscore).

On the lighter side of things, check out the Truong sisters recreating an iconic sporting performance and one of the most emotionally riveting ever captured to film:

I’m dying.

The Bulldogs will take their 10-2 record back home and get nearly a week off before facing off against the other SDSU, South Dakota State University, in the McCarthey Center on 12/17 @ 5pm ET. The matchup should be televised by ESPN+.

So, fans of Gonzaga WBB, let’s turn our attention to the Men’s team tonight as they travel to Seattle to face off against the Fusk-, erm I mean, Huskies, at 11pm ET on ESPN2.