Gonzaga extended their winning streak against USF to 16 games last night as they wrapped up their Bay Area road trip at the Chase Center. It wasn’t a perfect win, but the Bulldogs continue to prove their perseverance and versatility to win out games behind the consistency of Yvonne Ejim.
With the Dons wearing their gold uniforms, which more look like lemon flavored Runts if you ask me, and the Zags wearing their red uniforms, Brynna Maxwell opened the scoring with a contested corner three. Maud also joined the party early on as she carried her scoring over from the last game as she made her first two buckets. However, both teams started off with less than ideal shooting efficiency across the first five minutes as Gonzaga went 3-7 and USF 2-11, which resulted in a low scoring affair of just 10-5. The back half of the quarter saw USF swing the momentum in their favor momentarily, but they couldn’t do more than cut their deficit to just 4 points as the Zags converted their final opportunities of the period to extend the lead to 21-13.
Across the first quarter, Gonzaga looked a little indecisive with their passing, especially compared to the fluidity we saw against Santa Clara. However, they still managed to create good looks with kickouts from the post, but the shooters couldn’t connect. Thankfully, the Zags snagged 4 offensive rebounds that they were able to convert into 9 points to help cover their perimeter deficits. USF didn’t push the pace as much as I would’ve thought heading into this game as they routinely were running their possessions deeper into the shot clock and often getting shots off with fewer than ten seconds left.
Yvonne tough with it pic.twitter.com/VFX3XksGEG— Gonzaga Women's Basketball (@ZagWBB) January 27, 2024
The second quarter began similar to the end of the first for the Dons as they couldn’t get off the mark until after the sixth minute mark. As a result, the Zags were able to increase their lead to 20 points at one stage, but they couldn’t hold the Dons as they were able to go on an 8-2 run across the final three minutes to enter the half down 37-21.
When compared to the first quarter, the Zags struggled to convert their second chance opportunities as they scored just 4 points from 4 offensive rebounds. USF must’ve gotten a talking to at the break as they upped their physicality in the post and forced contested shots on those put backs. The added physicality also seemed to disrupt the Zags with regards to their ball movement as the committed 5 turnovers across the quarter. However, USF’s approach did not make a difference with regards to winning more rebounds as Gonzaga absolutely owned the glass across the first half with 28 rebounds compared to just 13 by the Dons while also limiting them to just 4 second chance points.
After making the first points on the afternoon, Brynna was pretty much invisible until midway through the second quarter as she knocked down 2 threes to end the first half with 9 points. Yvonne Ejim might not have shot particularly well in the first quarter by going 2-4, but she picked up her performance in the second by going 4-5 and finished the half with 15 points to go along with 8 rebounds. Eliza may have been outplayed both in minutes and scoring by Maud in the first half, but she contributed to that rebounding discrepancy by grabbing 5 of her own while also adding 2 blocks
Yvonne putting on a show pic.twitter.com/K7FFbDsCtI— Gonzaga Women's Basketball (@ZagWBB) January 27, 2024
The third quarter started off rough for the Zags as Ejim picked up two quick fouls that forced her to the bench while the team continued their sloppy play by committing several careless turnovers and we watched Kaylynne go down in acute pain after a drive to the hoop when it looked like her and the backup center bumped knees before exiting the arena shortly thereafter for treatment. As a result, across the first five minutes, USF actually outscored the Zags 12-9.
After we returned from the second media timeout, it was reported that Kaylynne was able to come back to the Zags bench under her own power, but she would not see the court for the rest of the quarter, and for a minute, it seemed like the Bulldogs may cough up their lead as they were called for five offensive fouls, continued to turn the ball over, and just couldn’t buy a shot as the Dons went on an 8-2 run to cut the deficit to just 9. Thankfully, Brynna put the team on her back as she used her quick shot to aggressively attack the defense on her way to 11 points across the quarter and help maintain a double digit lead as the teams headed into the fourth period with Gonzaga up 55-41
To open the final quarter, it was amazing to see Kaylynne take the court after her apparent injury in the second, but there was no celebration for her return as she was immediately called for a defensive foul on the first possession as Leite drove into her chest on a drive to the post. I will never understand how in the modern game, the offensive player can essentially enter into the defensive player’s cylinder of space to create contact only to be rewarded with the foul. It’s not an issue in the Women’s game as much as the Men’s, but it’s clearly part of how the game is called nowadays. Sorry, old man rant over.
USF and Gonzaga would go on to trade baskets back-forth across the first three minutes, but after the Dons hit a three minute scoring drought, the game was looking out of reach for the hosts as they were down 65-46. Aya Keita would respond with 5 quick points, but this wouldn’t be enough as the Dons again struck another three minute scoring drought that absolutely slammed the door on their upset hopes as the Bulldogs would win 73-54.
Overall thoughts on the game:
- This had to be some of the worst camera work I’ve ever seen watching basketball as the operator couldn’t get the ball centered properly in frame and I felt like I was watching a football game by having to predict what was happening outside of the shot. This improved after the half, but I still don’t think I’ve ever seen that type of shoddy camera work before.
- This was a pretty chippy game as USF tried to body the Zags across the game, particularly after the first quarter. I’m not saying the Dons played dirty, but they certainly looked like they wanted to disrupt the Gonzaga players physically. While this may have impacted the Bulldogs’ ball movement, it clearly didn’t give them an advantage with regards to rebounding as the Zags out-rebounded the Dons 48-28, including 14 offensive rebounds compared to just 14 defensive rebounds for the Dons.
- While the Dons’ physicality may not have resulted well in the rebounding department, it certainly looked like it disrupted the Bulldogs’ general flow as they committed a number of careless turnovers throughout the game and ended up with 20 on the night. Interestingly, this game was only the third of this season in which the Zags had more turnovers than assists, the other two being WSU and Louisville, and the first they were able to win. Coach Fortier seems pretty chill on camera, but I’ve seen a couple candid moments before interviews that lead me to believe she can be pretty intense so I wonder what her comments to the players were after the game or in practice this coming week.
- While the shooting performance wasn’t great for the Zags (26-57 overall and 7-22 from three), this basically comes back to two rough shooting nights from the Truong sisters. Combined, they shot for 3-18 overall and 1-10 from deep on the night. If you remove their shooting from the game, you end up with a 23-39 performance overall and 6-12 from beyond the arc, both of which are really impressive numbers. To me, the Truongs’ poor shooting performance actually highlights the strong depth and team’s willingness to step up for supplementary scoring when needed.
- On a night with some poor shooting, it was a pleasure to watch Brynna work her magic as she dropped 20 points with a 4-5 three point shooting performance and essentially carry the Zags on her back across a tough third quarter when USF was threatening to erase their deficit with Ejim off the court due to foul trouble.
- It was a pleasure to watch Maud come off her strong night against the Broncos with another high quality performance as she comleted her first double-double of the season. She actually played more minutes than Eliza yesterday, despite Yvonne missing half of the third quarter, as I think Coach Fortier recognized the hot hand early in the game. Maud finished with 12 points on 5-7 shooting and a season-high in both rebounds, 11, and assists, 5. She may have committed a team high 4 turnovers, but I’m going to let that one slide, even if it’s not totally fair of me.
- Esther Little scored! And on a three pointer, her first of the season, no less! In fact, she was one of only four Zags to make one from downtown on the night. She must’ve been reading this site and seeing the comments of her fan, Osco. I know that she brings toughness and defensive versatility with her minutes, but I’m always a bit concerned when she’s on the floor because of her lack of any offensive production. If she can add 2-5 points per game and force defenses to at least close out when she gets the ball on the perimeter, I would feel so much more comfortable with her on the floor.
- I’m really happy that Kaylynne was able come back into the game yesterday. When she went down, I was incredibly concerned we had just watched her play her final minutes in a Zag jersey. Hopefully she’s okay moving forward.
- As automatic as Yvonne has been this season, I don’t ever want to let a stat line of 21 points on 9-13 shooting, 13 rebounds (5 offensive), and 2 steals go unsung. Honestly, the hardest thing about covering this team is not getting lulled by her ultra-consistent performances and just assuming she’s going to show up each and every game. I will say it again and again: SHE’S A BEAST!!! I wish I could go to a game this year because I would just make a stupidly large sign singing her praise, hope she sees it, and comes over to dap me up.
And oh ya...