(Gonzaga University Sports Information Release)
LAS VEGAS – The Gonzaga Bulldogs put together their best full-game and collective effort on the season on Friday afternoon in the Play4Kay Showcase at Mandalay Bay Events Center, downing Kent State 77-57.
Jill Barta hit 30 points for the first time this season on 11-of-17 shooting, and added six rebounds. Chandler Smith scored 11 with seven rebounds and Zykera Rice added 10 points. Jessie Loera led with eight assists and the Zags hit seven threes as a team, their highest total this season. GU shot 49 percent and were a terror on defense, forcing 20 turnovers for 16 steals and 31 points off turnovers, all season highs. Loera and Smith led with five and four steals each. All totaled eight Zags scored and had rebounds.
The Zags first two possessions were great again, with buckets by Barta and Rice. Kent State answered with five in a row. Gonzaga regained the edge on two threes from Barta and would not trail again. The Zags were excellent on defense in the quarter, leading 32-15 as Smith found Barta in transition off a made basket at the buzzer. GU forced eight turnovers for 18 points and eight transition points. GU shot 81 percent from the field and 80 percent from three. Barta was seven-for-seven from the field for 19 points and hit all three three-point attempts. It was the most points GU has scored in a quarter this season.
Kent State caught their footing a bit to start the second quarter and trimmed the GU lead to 39-31 by the two-minute mark, as the Zags hit an almost four-minute scoreless drought. Smith finished with a put-back at the buzzer and GU took a 44-32 lead into half. The 44 points is the most in a half for GU this season by seven points. The Bulldogs forced 13 turnovers with 11 steals for 20 points, and outscored the Golden Flashes in the paint 18-10. GU shot 58 percent as a team and held KSU to 44 percent, and GU hit four threes, tying their highest total for a game this season.
Four minutes into the third quarter, Barta drilled a three extending the lead to 53-34. Jenn Wirth answered a four-point KSU spurt with a layup at the 4:30 mark. The Zags hit a 2:30-minute scoreless stretch to end the quarter and KSU chipped the lead down to 10 by the buzzer, 56-46. Emma Stach opened the fourth with a three to kill the scoreless stretch. Barta hit the 30-point mark three minutes in on a great backcourt cut from Loera for the reverse layup. At the 4:17 mark Smith hit two free throws, making the advantage 72-50, GU’s largest lead of the game. They took home the 77-57 win.
The Bulldogs (2-2) will play DePaul tomorrow at 3 pm to round out the tournament in the fifth-place game. Live links are available at gozags.com