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Gonzaga uses balanced attack in 77-68 win over Eastern Michigan

The Zags win the first of a back-to-back in Las Vegas.

NCAA Womens Basketball: West Coast Conference Tournament-Gonzaga vs Portland Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The last time the Gonzaga women’s basketball team played in Vegas, things didn’t go as planned. Nine months later, the Bulldogs find themselves back on the winning side of the scoreboard as they opened a two-game visit to Sin City with a 77-68 win over the Eastern Michigan Eagles.

The Zags used their balance and depth to withstand a pesky Eastern Michigan squad. Jenn Wirth notched a double-double as she led GU in scoring with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Jill Townsend had a double-double of her own with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Melody Kempton had a strong performance with 13 points and 8 rebounds, and Kaylynne Truong added 11 points, 4 assists, and 3 rebounds.

Eastern Michigan used a pair of strong performances from Jenna Annecchiarico (27 points, 6 assists) and Ce’Nara Skanes (24 points, 5 rebounds).

The game started slowly for the Bulldogs who converted just a single field goal in the first three minutes. The Eagles used some timely shooting from Annecchiarico to build a narrow 18-16 lead by the end of the first quarter as the Zags struggled to find their offensive rhythm, while the defense was blunted thanks to foul trouble for Leeanne Wirth that relegated her to three minutes of play in the first half.

Gonzaga eventually settled into the game and didn’t have too big of a hole to climb out of it as the Truong twins and Jenn Wirth helped the team keep pace. While Townsend was held scoreless through the first 14 minutes of the game, back-to-back baskets from her—including a three—launched a 14-5 run to end the first half and helped the Zags turn a two-point deficit into a lead that they would never relinquish.

After the half, Gonzaga’s defense tightened and held Eastern Michigan to 25% (8-32) shooting from the field over the final 20 minutes. While GU’s three-point shooting cooled down in the second frame, everyone was involved as eight different players scored during the half. Kempton made herself a handful to deal in the paint with for the Eagles, with 8 points and 7 rebounds helping the Zags gain separation and then hold off a late rally to secure a win in the first game of a back-to-back.

With the win, Gonzaga now sits at 4-2. In such a disjointed season, it’s not terribly surprising that Gonzaga hasn’t been firing on all cylinders through the first six games of the season. But the talent on this team is too good for them to struggle for long. With one more game in Vegas on Monday afternoon to help them work out the kinks, we might see the Zags start to hit the ground running at the start of WCC play next week.