Gonzaga raced out to a 42-17 halftime lead and went on to a 76-52 victory over Montana on Wednesday night in the season opener for both teams at the McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane.
The Lady Griz turned it over 21 times and shot 35.0 percent — they were 2 for 15 from the 3-point line — to fall to the Bulldogs for the seventh straight time.
McKenzie Johnston scored 17 points and added seven assists while playing all 40 minutes, but she also had six turnovers.
Gonzaga converted Montana’s 21 turnovers into 27 points, many of them easy transition baskets, one of the primary concerns for third-year Lady Griz coach Shannon Schweyen going into the game.
“The turnovers turned into layups, and that’s when they can have a big run in a hurry and a big flurry of scoring,” she said.
“They do a good job keeping you off balance. We worked all week on being prepared, but as much as you try to simulate that, there were times when we did exactly what their press is trying to make you do: go fast and make mistakes.”
Montana made two of its first three shots and held an early lead as Gonzaga was slow to get going, but six first-quarter turnovers and 27.8 percent shooting by the Lady Griz allowed the Bulldogs to take control.
Gonzaga turned a 9-7 game into a 23-11 lead by the end of the first quarter and built a 25-lead by halftime. Montana had 15 turnovers at the break and was shooting 29.6 percent.
“We had too many turnovers and couldn’t buy a basket in the first half,” said Schweyen. “Coming into a place like this, you have to have someone shoot the ball well.
“If we had knocked down a few more in the first half, it might have felt like we were hanging around a little bit more.”
The outcome was already decided by that point, but Montana scored more points in the third quarter (19) than it did in the first half (17) and outscored Gonzaga by one over the final 20 minutes.
Montana shot 39.4 percent in the second half.
“I was pleased how we responded in the second half and started shooting to score,” said Schweyen. “We shot the ball with a little more confidence in the second half.
“We weren’t going to stop them, but if we could have been scoring with them a little bit more…”
Jace Henderson scored six points and added 10 boards, but she was limited by foul trouble. She and Johnston combined to shoot 11 for 21. Everyone else: 10 for 39.
And though Montana did not shoot that well and turned it over too many times, the Lady Griz did have assists on 17 of their 21 baskets, which suggests the offense had its moments.
“I was encouraged by some things a lot of people did. It’s a positive to come into a place like this. It’s a championship-type atmosphere,” said Schweyen.
“I think we definitely learned a lot about ourselves today. It exposes some things and shows you things you need to be working on. Now we have time to go fine-tune some things we need to get better at.”
Montana won’t play again until hosting Providence (MT) on Tuesday, Nov. 20.