The Gonzaga women’s basketball team suffered their first loss in WCC play this season in a tough 61-56 game on the road in Provo. The 56 point outing was Gonzaga’s lowest scoring output in conference play.
Jenn Wirth scored 13 of her 18 points in the second half and finished the game with 10 rebounds in a strong outing. Melody Kempton was the only other Zag to reach double figures with 10 points off the bench. BYU successfully bottled up Jill Townsend who finished with 3 points on 1-7 shooting, and Cierra Walker who had 2 points in 29 minutes.
BYU used a balanced attack that saw four different players score in double figures led by star guard Shaylee Gonzales who had 16 points and 7 assists while nearly playing the entire game.
The Cougars had the better start to the game getting out to an 8-2 lead before Gonzaga’s offense got going to force a 12-12 tie at the end of the first quarter. The game remained close from there as the teams went back and forth in the second quarter—the highest scoring period of the game—before Gonzaga took a narrow 31-30 lead at the break.
The glut of the scoring in the third quarter took place during the opening two minutes and closing two minutes of the quarter, as the middle stretch saw the Cougars go on a scoreless drought for nearly six minutes thanks to a stifling Gonzaga defense. However, the Zags couldn’t keep the bucket locked down for the entirety of the quarter. BYU went on a 9-2 run in the final 90 seconds of the quarter punctuated by a three from Shaylee Gonzales at the buzzer to give the Cougars a four point lead headed in the final frame.
BYU carried that momentum into the start of the fourth quarter, with the Gonzaga offense now the unit struggling to find the bottom of the net during a brutal five minute drought that allowed the hosts to cobble together an 8-0 run that stretched their lead to double digits.
Remarkably, that extended drought didn’t totally sink the Zags. Their defense did an admirable job of preventing the Cougars from running away until a Jenn Wirth and-1 finally stopped the bleeding. Over the next two and a half minutes, Gonzaga clawed back and slashed BYU’s lead from 10 points to 3 with under two minutes left.
The Zags got as close as one point thanks to a Kayleigh Truong layup with 46 second left in the game, but that would prove to be their final basket. BYU senior guard Paisley Harding converted a layup with 13 seconds to go after a gritty possession that took 30 seconds off the clock, and Jenn Wirth missed the tying three point field goal attempt at the other end before Harding iced the game with two more free throws.
Despite the loss, the Zags are still the top team in the conference with a 13-1 record in WCC play, but now only carry a narrow one game lead over the Cougars with whom they split the regular season series.