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#18 Zags WBB Kick Off Conference Play Right

taking down the Pilots by 21? ya, that’s good stuff

Well, I referenced revenge in the subtitle for our last article and, boy, did the Women go out and exact some for their loss in WCC Tournament by defeating the Pilots 74-53. For pleasant site, we saw Kayleigh start the game off as a starter with some heavy taping on that left pinky after suffering that injury against Arizona and missing the New Mexico matchup.

The game started off with Portland making a layup, but they would promptly go on a 5 minute scoring drought because of Gonzaga’s tight perimeter defense and some quality 1-1 defense down low by Ejim. Portland opened up with a 1-3-1 zone, but this didn’t fool the Zags one bit as they found the open pockets at the free throw or baseline to create easy assists and baskets. Ejim might’ve had an uncharacteristic start by missing her first three shots, but she roared back towards the end of the quarter to finish with 11 points. Maud played four minutes and was able to grab 4 offensive rebounds while Gonzaga as a whole snagged 15 total rebounds (7 offensive and 8 defensive) compared to just 4 (all defensive) from Portland. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs got the message with regards to turnovers as they only coughed up 1 the entire quarter while forcing the Pilots into 3, two of which were of the deadball variety so they could only convert this into 2 points. Honestly, the only disappointing thing about this period relates to second chance points as Gonzaga only registered 5 in the boxscore due to some of their insistency to go up in traffic or take off-balanced attempts. Heading into the second quarter, Gonzaga led 20-6.

Portland’s Coach Meek swore he didn’t rip into the team for their first quarter performance, but whatever he said worked wonders as Portland opened up the period on a 12-4 run to crawl back within 2 points. This likely relates to two points: first, Ejim picked up two quick fouls and as such only saw 1 minute for the entire quarter. Second, Portland’s offense looked far more decisive with their passes (0 turnovers this quarter) and penetrated the Gonzaga defense, which initially trotted out a 1-3-1 zone before reverting to their man-man defense. When ZagDad talked about the importance of Ejim on defense in his last comment in the pregame thread, I imagine this was what he was thinking about. Portland’s defense also started to introduce some light full court pressure to disrupt the Bulldog’s offense, which picked up after the five minute mark and helped to generate 4 turnovers from Gonzaga that they turned into 6 points. The Zags also committed 7 personal fouls, not all of which were terribly obvious, that Portland turned into 6 points on seven attempts. Because of Ejim’s foul trouble, we saw a lot of bench players take the court including Stokes, Salenbien, Little, and Burton. While I might’ve liked to see some staggering of the rotations, the bench unit did well en route to 7 points to help stem the Pilot onslaught (22 points) and regain some of the lead built up in the first period as Gonzaga led 36-28. While this was certainly a down quarter for the Bulldogs compared to the first, it was good to see the team stepping up as neither Truong sister had converted a basket at this stage in the game.

Coming out of the half, it was good to see Brynna starting as she took a rough fall on her drive to the hoop after which she was visibly grimacing and limping before the period ended. Portland continued with their full court pressure and it really caused some nervy moments as the baseline entries were not good at all, but Gonzaga was not going to be stopped as they kicked off the period with an 8-1 run over the first five minutes. Ejim chipped in 7 points and 3 steals, but also committed 3 of the 4 Gonzaga turnovers this quarter while also picking up her third foul, which limited her to just 7 minutes. Thankfully though, the Bulldog defense didn’t let Portland climb back into the game with Yvonne on the bench as the Zags took a 54-38 lead into the final period. This certainly wasn’t the prettiest period as no other Gonzaga player had more than three points and the game flow was broken up by 11 personal fouls (5 on GU and 6 on Portland), but that’s how games against Portland seem to go as of late.

As the teams kicked off the fourth quarter, I was surprised to look at the boxscore and see that Brynna had quietly picked up 12 points, 4 assists, 6 rebounds, and a steal. Little did I know that the Brynna’s quiet contributions would get loud as she scored 6 straight to open the period in style and made all three of her free throw attempts after getting fouled on corner three late in the game. Both teams were letting it all hang out as Gonzaga committed 7 fouls and Portland committed 9 of their own. I do think the refs were calling the game a bit tight, but it’s pretty clear that Portland plays to foul as they average just under 19 per game on the year after this matchup. The Bulldogs defense did it’s job well by holding the Pilots to just 5-17 shooting and just 15 points in the quarter while the offense, led by Maxwell, scored 20 to prevent any chance of a miracle comeback. And with that, the Zags head home 1-0 in conference play with their 21 point win, 74-63.

In the preview, I highlighted some relevant stats that I want to return to here:

  • Turnovers: Portland (11) / Gonzaga (13)
  • Points off turnovers: Portland (16) / Gonzaga (12)
  • Shooting: Portland (19-58) / Gonzaga (25-67)

Very nice to see the turnovers get reined in despite the Portland pressure causing some unsettling moments for quite some time throughout the game. The shooting looks rough, but that’s going to happen from time to time (more below).

While not highlighted earlier, I want to shine a light on the dominant rebounding shown by Gonzaga last night. They pulled down 48 total rebounds with 19 offensive and 29 defensive compared to just 32 total rebounds for Portland with 11 offensive and 21 defensive. While the Bulldogs could only convert their offensive boards into 20 points, that kind of intensity against a Pilot team that wants to win those battles shows how diverse this team can be at times.

The assist number is a little concerning given that their two games with 15 or less were losses, but I think Portland’s defense looked specifically oriented to limit such opportunities and rather create 1-1 opportunities, which also shows itself in Gonzaga having their second lowest FG% of the year. It’s also relevant that the Truong sisters went a combined 2-15 overall and 0-8 from three and they just seemed off tonight rather than being outplayed in my opinion so let’s hope they can shake off this performance before the Santa Clara game next time out.

Let’s also hope the foul trouble Ejim showed doesn’t follow her the rest of conference play because if she’s dropping a point per minute and playing defense the way she did tonight, she will feast and this team will shred the WCC.

What did you think of the game? What did you like? What didn’t you like?