Rattled by Gonzaga's quick, relentless defense, the Montana Lady Griz struggled to find a rhythm offensively Wednesday.
The result was 21 turnovers and 21-for-60 shooting as the Zags raced to a 76-52 win on opening night at the McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane. Gonzaga pushed its win streak to seven games in a row over the Lady Griz basketball team.
"The turnovers turned into layups and they can just have a big run in a hurry," Montana coach Shannon Schweyen told KMPT radio. "Unfortunately we had too many of those and we couldn't buy one in the first half.
"I felt like we had some good looks. Coming into a place like this you have to shoot the ball well."
Although Montana returns four starters, it looked over-matched in front of a crowd of 5,472 fans. The exception was junior point guard McKenzie Johnston, who had a promising performance with a game-high 17 points on 8-for-16 shooting and seven assists.
But Johnston also had six turnovers and teammate Madi Schoening five. Gonzaga piled up 27 points off turnovers.
"Kenz had a lot of heat the whole game and it's not easy to get worked like that," Schweyen said. "They're long, athletic — that length is something you don't see every day.
"They're a good team. Credit to them. They do a good job keeping you off kilter, man and zone. We worked on trying to be prepared but we had a few young kids who did exactly what they wanted us to do with their press."
Gonzaga lost the 2017-18 West Coast Conference player of the year, Jill Barta of Fairfield, who was taken in the 2018 WNBA draft. But the Zags didn't seem to miss a beat on the floor, hitting 44.9 percent of their field goal attempts (31 for 69) and winning the battle of the boards, 42-34.
The final four minutes of the first quarter proved critical. Johnston's drive to the hoop cut her team's deficit to 15-11, then Gonzaga closed out the period with an 8-0 run highlighted by a Jill Townsend's 3-pointer.
The second period was a nightmare for the Lady Griz, who were outscored, 19-6. Montana trailed 42-17 at halftime, due in part to 15 turnovers and 8-for-27 shooting. Gonzaga was 17 for 38 from the field and scored 18 points off turnovers.
"There's some really good things I saw with our zone. We created some turnovers," Schweyen said of the first half. "But they started getting too comfortable with the zone and (UM forward) Jace (Henderson) got in foul trouble. We're a little short-handed there with experience."
Gonzaga's lead ballooned to 32 points with just under seven minutes left in the third quarter. Then the Lady Griz fought back, finishing with more than twice as many points in the final two quarters (35) as they scored in the first two (17).
Four Zags scored in double figures, led by Townsend with 14 points off the bench. Laura Stockton and Katie Campbell added 13 apiece.
Johnston was the only Lady Griz to score in double figures. Schoening and Emma Stockholm each had nine points and Henderson grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds.
"I saw some great things tonight," Schweyen said. "Emma had a good game, (reserve forward) Abby (Anderson) blocked a few shots. If we would have knocked down a few more in the first half you would have felt like you were in it more. Second half we shot the ball with more confidence."
Schweyen played just two of her true freshmen Wednesday, Katie Mayhue and daughter Jordyn Schweyen. The latter got in the game with four minutes left and did not take a shot.
Montana will not play again until Nov. 20 when it hosts Providence (Great Falls).