(Editor’s note: Gonzaga media release)
LAS VEGAS – The Gonzaga Bulldogs built a big first-half lead and defeated Pepperdine in the West Coast Conference Tournament Quarterfinals on Friday at the Orleans Arena, 81-70.
Jill Barta led Gonzaga with 24 points on seven-of-10 shooting, and Jessie Loera added 13, two short of her career high. Zykera Rice scored eight along with Emma Stach. GU shot 53 percent on the game, going nine-of-20 from three, with Barta and Loera hitting three each. The Zags led on the glass, 36-27, and had 20 assists, led by Chandler Smith with seven and Loera with six. Smith also led the Zags on the glass with seven boards.
The Zags went inside early to Rice and Barta for a 6-0 lead forcing a Pepperdine timeout two minutes in. The Zags kept getting to the basket and Barta drilled her first three as GU led 13-4 at the six-minute mark. She followed with a pull-up jumper, and another bucket made it 20-6 with four minutes left in the quarter. GU led 27-13 after one quarter as Loera hit GU’s third three. GU led 13-4 on the glass with six second-chance points, 14 points in the paint, and seven assists. Barta was five-of-six for 12 points in quarter.
Pepperdine scored the first five points of the second quarter before Barta hit another three. LeeAnne Wirth drove for a bucket and Barta hit another to push the lead to 16, the largest to that point. The Waves went scoreless for almost four minutes as the Zags went up 41-18 on a 14-0 run. Barta scored seven in that stretch and Loera hit another three in the run to the 4:19 mark. The Zags continued to build from there carrying a 53-24 lead into the half, their second highest point total in a half this season, as they scored 60 in the first half at Pacific. Barta led all scorers with 19 points on seven-of-nine shooting. GU shot 59 percent from the field, seven-of-14 from three, with Barta hitting three and Loera nailing two, and led on the glass with 23-14. The GU bench scored 17 points, led by Loera with six and LeeAnne Wirth with five, and led points in the paint 20-12. GU dished 14 assists, with Smith and Loera tossing five each.
Rice scored four early points for GU in the third, and the Zags led 61-30 at the 5:12 mark as both teams hit two-minute field goal droughts. Loera finished the quarter with two easy buckets for GU, LeeAnne Wirth made a strong move inside, and Gonzaga led 67-38. Loera hit double-figures with 10 points and GU was still shooting 54 percent. Barta had 22 points to finish the quarter. Katie Campbell opened the fourth with a three, but Pepperdine turned it into an 11-3 run before Loera hit another three at the 6:20 mark. Pepperdine remained hot in the quarter and pulled within 13 with two minutes left. Laura Stockton responded with a big contested bucket to beat the shot clock. The Waves got the lead down to nine, but Gonzaga won 81-70.
“We had a great first half, I loved the way we were sharing the basketball and getting good shots,” Gonzaga head coach Lisa Fortier said. “Defensively we were great as well, but unfortunately got a little soft in the second half, but credit Pepperdine. I don’t know if we have played a better half this season than the first half today.”
The Gonzaga bench scored 31 points, with LeeAnne Wirth and Jenn Wirth adding seven and six points respectively to Loera’s 13.
The Zags (25-4) won 25 games for the 11th time in program history and 10th time in 11 seasons. GU will face San Francisco in the semifinals on Monday at 12 pm. The game is live on BYUTV and live links are available at GoZags.com.