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‘Tough, aggressive’ defense by Gonzaga buries Portland by 39

Gonzaga annihilated Portland on defense in a West Coast Conference match-up, 75-36. A huge reason for the win was the leadership from Jessie Loera on the defensive end as she collected four of the team’s 13 steals on the night.

Bridget Case/Swish Appeal

SPOKANE, WA — Whoever said points win a game has never watched the women of Gonzaga University ball out.

Well, technically, they may be right.

But that’s not how the Zags put the beat down on Portland tonight, 75-36 in front of a diehard home crowd that waved like the Red Sea.

The Pilots were only able to put up 36 points - the lowest total points allowed by the Bulldogs all season.

Widespread communication on defense was what would keep Gonzaga’s backcourt control.

“Anticipating their ball movement, and I mean that’s our main thing on defense to anticipate what they’re going to do next,” explained Jessie Loera, who led the night with 5 assists and 4 steals. “In practice, defense is one of our main focuses, and we want to transfer it over to the game, to play tough and aggressive.”

And that’s exactly what Loera did.

Remember that “Friends” episode where Ross, Rachel, Chandler, and Joey were all describing to Monica about how her boyfriend Alan played all the bases in their softball game? “First base Alan! Second base Alan!” Loera was Alan.

Or Bugs Bunny from Space Jam.

If you have no idea how these references can even connect to a female college athlete, that’s okay. Just trust the good old numbers and take a look at the stats.

Gonzaga scored 27 points off turnovers. Portland - crickets.

“I like the way our team is defending right now,” said Gonzaga Head Coach Lisa Fortier. “To hold them to the percentages that we did, is something to be proud of.”

Gonzaga annihilated the enemy by forcing 19 total turnovers on the night. Their biggest offensive strength was their defensive backhand. Tonight’s weapon - Loera.

“Yeah, Jessie’s in super good shape,” explained leading scorer Jill Barta, who finished with 21 points. “She probably is one of the quickest guards that GU’s ever seen.”

Sure, the first quarter was slow. Gonzaga only led 11-8 after missing nearly every attempt. But they came out, bulldogs-a-blazin', hot fast finish in the second period. Portland’s turnover count skyrocketed to nine when the Zags nailed 12 points off those turnovers, gaining a 31-18 lead with just 1:54 left in the first half.

“This game we showed more of how we played, especially compared to last time,” said Loera. “This game I think we came out a lot better and a lot stronger. That’s the way we usually play.”

Not only did the Bulldogs come out strong, they finished fiercely. Communicating on defense has changed everything for this offense. With Loera, getting those steals, that’s what pushes the offense forward.

“The way she does it, it's sneaky, it’s fun to watch,” Barta smiled about watching Loera attack the opponent out on the court.

Since the Zags are over the halfway hump of conference play, do we dare discuss the possibilities of a perfect season? Well, a perfect WCC season at least. Gonzaga’s only four losses this year came in 2017 against non-league opponents.

“It feels great knowing how well we’re doing, and how much better we’re doing,” said Loera.

The last time the Zags finished 15-0 in conference play was in Lisa Frontier’s first season as Head Coach in 2014-2015.

Keep up this momentum on defense, and ladies and gents, you could just be looking at this year’s WCC champion.

Gonzaga plays at San Francisco on Saturday at 2 p.m. PST. Portland heads home to host St. Mary’s on Saturday at 2 p.m. PST.

Lady Zags get an aggressive win tonight over Portland not just on points...let’s talk defense.

Posted by Swish Appeal on Thursday, January 25, 2018