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#17 Zags WBB Defeat LMU

remarkably similar scoreline to the previous matchup

The Gonzaga Women hosted Loyola Marymount for their second go around in conference play and emerged victorious, 71-47, in the Annual Pink Game. With Yvonne Ejim still away from the team due to her participation in Canada’s Olympic Qualifying campaign (spoiler: they made it), the Zags pulled together as a team to soundly defeat the Lions and have been rewarded with a bump in the most recent AP Poll up to #17. Let’s recap how this game unfolded.

After a couple empty possessions by both teams, Kayleigh Truong finally kicked off the scoring in the first quarter by knocking down a corner three assisted by her sister. She followed this up with another three from the opposite corner on the following possession. The next several minutes were pretty slow as LMU played fairly conservative on the offensive end while looking to restrict the paint on defense so the teams went into the media timeout with the Zags up 9-6. The Bulldogs would score 6 quick points from three pointers by Bree Salenbien and Kaylynne Truong, but neither team would score for the final two minutes of the quarter as the Zags led 15-6.

Despite shooting well from range (4-7), the Bulldogs struggled to shoot from inside the arc (1-6) and looked a bit sluggish running their offensive sets this quarter without the magnetism of Ejim sucking in defenders to create mismatches for her and others exploit. While Kayleigh led the team in scoring with 6 points, only three other players scored and Brynna Maxwell didn’t even attempt a shot. Another issue seen this quarter was turnovers as the Zags coughed it up four times compared to just 4 assists.

The first five minutes of the second period started off slow with Gonzaga only adding 6 points to their total and LMU failing to score at all, which means they didn’t score for 10 minutes if we include the first period). That being said, the Bulldogs looked better as they were moving well off the ball on offense and took smart, high percentage, shots to add to their lead while dealing with a slow LMU team intent on bringing each possession down to the dregs of the shot clock. Thankfully, the game broke open after the media timeout as the Zags exploded for 17 points across the final five minutes of the quarter as they would head into the half up 38-16.

Seven Bulldogs got onto the scoreboard this period with Kaylynne leading the way by dropping 8 points on a perfect 3-3 shooting. Compared to the first quarter, Gonzaga shot much better as they went 10-13 from the field and 3-4 from deep, but what really impressed me was the 8 assists dished out coming from five different players to go along with just 2 turnovers.

After a quiet first half in which she only got onto the scoreboard in the second period, Brynna Maxwell opened up the half’s scoring by dribbling up the court and knocking down a three pointer in her defenders face. Definitely a shot you won’t see many other Zags take and speaks to how much confidence she has in her self and the staff in her. While Maud would add two on her layup shortly thereafter, the Zags would only score two more times across the entire quarter as the Lions shored up their interior defense and Gonzaga could only shoot 4-17 from the field. In particular, Eliza Hollingsworth had a period to forget as she shot 0-6 and missed several opportunities that we’ve come accustomed to seeing her convert. Thankfully, the Lions weren’t able to capitalize as both teams only scored 11 points a piece so the teams headed into the final quarter with the Zags up 49-27.

After a down third quarter by Zag standards, Fortier opened the fourth with her starters and we were treated to a nice high-low pass by Eliza to Maud that shows just how important Hollingsworth can be to this team outside of simply scoring. The Zags would hit a dry spell over the next couple minutes as the game flow got ground down by fouls, but by the media timeout, this game had entered streetball territory with each team going back and forth with their scoring. LMU in particular seemed to shake off whatever sloth came into their locker room before the game as they were running a full court press and the offense came alive as they nearly doubled their scoring total of the game with 20 points this quarter. However, Gonzaga one upped the Lions to score 22 points before the final whistle blew to wrap up a game that was never really in question. Zags win 71-47.

My Takeaways:

  • For a team averaging 80 points per game, scoring just 71 points may not look great, but to do that without without your leading scorer that contributes 20 per game against a team wanting to play at a snail’s pace is pretty impressive in my eyes. To add some context, Gonzaga only scored 72 points the last time these two teams played
  • While the Bulldogs ended the afternoon by shooting 9-23 from three point range, I want to highlight the disparity between the first and second halves. The team went 7-11 from deep in the first and looked poised for an amazing performance from beyond the arc, but they faltered in the second half as they went 2-12.
  • While I could talk about some of the potential missed points by only scoring 10 from their 11 offensive rebounds, I would rather highlight how Gonzaga punished LMU by scoring 23 points off of 13 turnovers. On the flip side, the Lions only managed to score 8 points from Gonzaga’s 13 turnovers. That’s an interesting disparity
  • Calli Stokes had a great night, particularly in the second half. In her 24 minutes, she scored a season high 10 points on 5-6 shooting while also contributing 7 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 block. It’s been great watching her confidence grow as this season has progressed and I’m really excited about her future with this program.
  • Kaylynne Truong had a great game as she led the team in points with 13 (5-7 FG and 3-5 3FG) while also getting her teammates involved with 8 assists. With the improved health of this year’s squad, she’s not scoring as much this year (11.5 vs 15.8 ppg last season) as she’s fulfilling more of a true point guard role that I think she’s accomplishing quite well.. As it stands, she’s increased her assist numbers from 5.0 to 6.1 and dropped her turnovers from 2.9 to 2.4 compared to last year. But that’s not to say she can’t score anymore as in the two games without Ejim, she’s led the team in scoring both times.
  • Eliza Hollingsworth may have struggled with her shooting, but I remain impressed by her role within this team. She may have shot 2-10 on the night, but she added 6 rebounds, 4 on the offensive end, while dishing out 3 assists and not turning the ball over. Her high-low pass to Hujibens at the beginning of the fourth quarter was really pretty. I really like her versatility and how Fortier uses her to step out beyond the arc to either pull for a three, where she’s shooting 36% on 75 attempts this season, or use her vision to create opportunities for her teammates. I hope she can shake off her rough shooting performance for the next matchup.
  • Across WCC play, Gonzaga has only given up 60 or more points twice and since the Louisville loss have held their opponents to an average of just 57.9 points per game. Mind you, this includes games against Stanford, Cal, Arizona, Eastern Washington (currently second in the Big Sky), Rice (currently second in the AAC), and SDSU (currently first in the Summit). That’s pretty cool and hopefully something that translates out of the conference come March.
  • Great to see this team step up as a unit without Yvonne available. 8 of the 10 players that saw the court scored and all who did scored six or more points. Three players reached double digits and two others scored 9. I like watching studs like Ejim drop 20 a night, but I also love when everyone on the floor can be a threat offensively to keep a defense on their toes.

While Gonzaga was able to return home for this game, they will again hit the road for their next two games as they travel back to California to face off against St. Mary’s on Thursday and Pacific on Saturday. Be sure to check back here for the game previews and associated open threads!