Gonzaga women win thriller to extend winning streak to 14 games

Gonzaga will face Tennessee in Jimmy V Classic
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SPOKANE, Wash. — No. 16/15 Gonzaga women’s basketball answered a major challenge from Pacific with all the right plays down the stretch to win 68-67 on Saturday afternoon in Spokane, Wash.

After Pacific (11-6, 4-2) took a 62-61 lead over the Zags (16-1, 5-0) with 2:53 remaining, Jenn Wirth made a free throw before Katie Campbell took over. Inside the final two minutes, she made a contested three and a jumper from the elbow to put GU ahead for good. Jessie Loera iced it with a free throw with five seconds left.

“It was hard fought, they are really talented,” head coach Lisa Fortier said. “We weren’t at our best, but we made some big plays at big moments. It’s awesome to have those kinds of wins where you have to work for it and grind it out against a really good team.”

The win ties the best start to a season in school history for Gonzaga at 16-1, matching last year’s record-setting mark. GU is also the only undefeated team left in West Coast Conference play.

Jenn Wirth had a career day for GU, posting a double-double that featured a career-high 24 points to go along with 10 rebounds. Campbell finished with 15 points, while Loera had 11 points and six assists, and Jill Townsend matched with 11 points of her own.

“Jenn wanted the ball at important times…and she was ready for the defensive assignments,” Fortier said. “It got heated and it got intense, and Jenn didn’t shy away from that at all, which is what we need. She’s a huge leader on our team, and we want people who want to be in the big moment like that.”

Pacific got off to the hot start with a 16-11 lead, but Jenn Wirth took over offensively with the help of some fantastic passing from the GU guards. She went on to score 14 of the next 21 points for Gonzaga to tie the score at 32-all. LeeAnne Wirth knocked down a free throw at the end of the half to give Gonzaga its first lead of the game.

The second half featured more of the same with each team staying within two or three possessions of each other, but GU held the edge most of the way.

Loera hit a three-pointer from the wing to push the lead to five points at 43-38, but Pacific answered with a 5-0 run of its own before Townsend made a three to give Gonzaga the lead back. Pacific tied it again at 47-all, but Jenn Wirth came through with two more buckets as part of a 6-0 run that gave the Zags a 53-47 lead.

Back-to-back baskets by Campbell, including a three-pointer, pushed the GU lead to eight at 58-50, but Pacific kept battling back. The Tigers put on a 12-3 run to take a 62-61 lead with just 2:53 remaining before Campbell’s back-to-back baskets took the lead back for good.

Gonzaga will hit the road to Santa Clara and San Francisco on Thursday and Saturday, continuing league play. Both games will be broadcast online on the WCC Network.