ST. THOMAS, U.S.V.I. – The No. 25/RV Zags are back in the Paradise Jam for the first time since 2005 and opened with a 78-66 loss to (RV) Michigan on Thursday night from the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The Zags never led, but remained within single-digits for the large majority of the contest. Jill Barta scored 27 points to lead the Zags, her season-high, on nine-of-13 shooting, going eight-of-eight from the line. Emma Stach scored a season-high 11, hitting two threes, and Laura Stocktonscored 10. Stach also led the Zags with eight rebounds, a career high. Michigan shot 49 percent from the field and 57 percent from three making 12, while Gonzaga shot 42 percent and 15 percent from three making only three. GU won the rebounding battle 34-31 and scored 15 second-chance points on 14 offensive boards, compared to two points for Michigan.
Michigan made their first three shots and led 7-2 early on, a lead they would not relinquish. Emma Stach hit an early three to keep GU in range, 9-5. The Zags hung tough and Barta scored four straight, but Katelynn Flaherty was six-of-seven early with 15 points and Michigan led 26-17 with one minute left in the first quarter. Michigan shot a scorching 64.7 percent from the field in the first quarter, and Jill Barta scored 10 for Gonzaga on three-of-four shooting as the Wolverines led 26-19 after one.
Barta opened the second quarter with a block, hit a three at the other end, and took a charge on three straight possessions, and GU trailed 26-22. The teams traded buckets into the midway point of the second quarter. Michigan finished the quarter with a running three-pointer in front of the GU bench for a 44-34 halftime lead. Michigan built a 10-point lead in the first and second quarter, and took it to the locker room 44-34. Jill Barta scored the highest first half point total for the Zags this season with 17 points on six-of-eight shooting. Laura Stockton added six points, and Michigan shot 57 percent from three with eight made in the half, while Gonzaga was two-of-seven from deep and shot 46 percent from the field.
Michigan scored four to start the second half and ballooned the lead to 12, before Barta answered to keep it at 10. The Zags battled through cold shooting early in the third quarter before a three-point play from Barta at 5:57 made it 50-42 Zags. A free throw from Emma Stach at the two-minute mark finally got Gonzaga under eight, 57-50, but Michigan hit a three at the other end. The Zags shot 40 percent in the quarter but were 0-6 from three, and Michigan led 52-42. Barta finished the quarter with 27 points. Every time the Zags got the lead to under 10 early in the fourth quarter, Michigan responded with a three. Finally, at the five-minute mark Stach hit a three and Zhane Templeton made a steal and bucket to cut it to 67-63 with four minutes and 30 seconds left, forcing a Michigan timeout. Michigan answered the run with a three. The Zags had a couple important possessions late go empty, and got within four, but in the end ran out of time.
Katelynn Flaherty made four 3-pointers and scored 22 points, Siera Thompson added five 3s and 21 points for Michigan (5-0).
The Zags remained winless all-time in the tourney, but look to rebound with a potential top-25 win on the line tomorrow at 2:45 pm when they face No. 10 Florida State from the University of the Virgin Islands. Live stats and live stream links are available at GoZags.com.