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Analysis: Sloppy Gonzaga overcomes 'lost focus' to beat Pacific 72-61, advance to WCC women's title game

Mar. 11—LAS VEGAS — It would have been convenient to use the layoff to excuse the sporadic play Monday afternoon.

Gonzaga women's basketball coach Lisa Fortier, though, wasn't biting. While acknowledging her team did many good things, she also called the West Coast Conference Women's Basketball Tournament semifinal ugly.

In the end, the good overshadowed the bad for the top-seeded Zags, who handled Pacific 72-61 in a game that wasn't that close even though Gonzaga did all it could to keep it close at times at Orleans Arena.

Fortier firmly said that the Zags' turnovers — a season high 25 — were not a result of being off since Feb. 28, the regular-season finale.

"We're not going to give ourselves that excuse," Fortier said. "We just didn't play that well. There were some nerves. I know our staff had some nerves. We didn't NOT play well. We just turned the ball over too much. I'm not going to say that's why (the layoff) we turned it over so many times."

The Zags had held Pacific (18-14) scoreless for 6 minutes, 47 seconds to open the fourth quarter, surging to a 70-43 lead thanks to a 13-0 run.

But the Tigers outscored Gonzaga 18-2 the final 3:13 in which the Zags committed six turnovers.

Fortier had subbed out four of her five starters , but she ended up having to put all of them back in to avoid a full collapse.

Fortier was called for a technical foul with three seconds remaining because the Zags had exceeded their timeouts.

Just one of several strange occurrences in a game that featured plenty of highlight efforts by the Zags.

Gonzaga (30-2), which moved up a spot in the Associated Press rankings on Monday, extended its winning streak to 24. The Zags will face third-seeded Portland (20-12) in the championship game Tuesday, a rematch of last year's title matchup. Tipoff is at 1 p.m.; the game will be broadcast on ESPNU.

Fortier told Spokane-area media that Pacific was better than the team the Zags throttled 104-39 and 91-78 in conference play.

"Happy for our team to get through that one," Fortier said. "That one (semifinal) is a hard one. We were just in the locker room talking how hard it is to get the first one, especially when you're the No. 1 seed and you're expected to. Undue pressure is put on ourselves."

Eliza Hollingsworth and Yvonne Ejim had double-doubles. Hollingsworth led with 20 points and 12 rebounds, and Ejim had 18 points and 13 rebounds. Brynna Maxwell added 17 points and Kaylynne Truong had 13 points and seven assists.

Gonzaga had to shake off a slow start that included six turnovers in the opening quarter.

The Zags took an 18-13 lead into the second period. A quick 7-0 spurt allowed Gonzaga to open a double-digit lead at 25-15.

Pacific would cut the lead to nine points with 1:40 to play before half, but a 3-pointer from Brynna Maxwell, who has made a 3 in each of GU's 32 games, gave the Zags a 38-25 lead at halftime.

A basket by Sixth Woman of the Year Maud Huijbens, the first by a player off the bench, gave Gonzaga a 54-34 lead with 2:39 left in the third. Kaylynne Truong canned a 3-pointer behind a screen from Ejim with three seconds left in the third to give Gonzaga a 57-43 lead.

Pacific had its share of turnovers, too. The Tigers had four in a row to open the final period. They finished with 23.

The fourth quarter was a tale of two quarters. But the Tigers found themselves in too deep a hole to dig out of.

"If anything we relaxed and kind of let up," said Ejim, the WCC's Player of the Year. "If anything we lost focus. We had a lot of turnovers and things like that. We weren't making sure passes, we weren't coming to the ball, we weren't getting rebounds. Easy little mistakes happened here and there. That lapse is definitely hard when you're trying to finish the game on a good team."

Portland 63, Santa Clara 61: The Pilots rallied from a 16-point early second quarter deficit to knock off the No. 2 Broncos in the other semifinal.

Portland's Lucy Cochrane, the 6-foot-6 leading shot blocker in the WCC, was subbed into the game with 5.6 seconds left, and she blocked an attempted tying shot as the buzzer sounded.

Santa Clara (24-8) led 22-6 early in the second quarter and went into halftime ahead 30-18.

Eastern Washington transfer Maisie Burnham led Portland with 17 points.