Since the 2004-5 basketball season, when Gonzaga joined the 1996-97 Portland team to make it through the West Coast Conference season unscathed, the Bulldogs women have lost just seven of 70 conference games.
Gonzaga, poised to capture a sixth straight title, has the talent to run the table again.
“We would never set that as a goal,” GU coach Kelly Graves said. “We want to win every game, of course. We want to win the regular-season championship. If it happens, it happens. We’re certainly capable, but we’re capable of getting beat any night.”
The first test is Saturday afternoon when Portland, off to its best start since that historic season, visits McCarthey Athletic Center. Both schools are 11-4, but the Bulldogs have faced three ranked teams and UP hasn’t played that kind of schedule.
Neither has the rest of the conference, although five of the eight teams have won more than they have lost, including 9-5 Pepperdine, which lost to two ranked teams but beat Purdue.
“I think the league looks as good as it has since 2001,” Graves said. “We can never have an off night. We’re the biggest game for everyone. That’s not arrogant, but we’re going to get everyone’s best.”
The Pilots shocked Gonzaga 70-67 here last year when Gonzaga Prep graduate Tara Cronin, now a junior, had a career night of 22 points and 13 rebounds.
WAC gets tougher
A year ago only Fresno State entered Western Athletic Conference play with a winning record. Things are looking better now, with five of the nine teams at 8-5 or better and the conference RPI at 13, just ahead of the WCC.
The Bulldogs, who visit Idaho on Saturday for the Vandals’ first WAC contest, are 9-5 with three losses to Top 25 teams.
Boise State leads the way at 11-3, Louisiana Tech is 9-3 and New Mexico State, which just knocked off Top 25 Kansas, is 10-4.
Idaho has been hampered by injuries and is just 2-11, but last season the Vandals went 3-8 before improving to 10-6 in conference play.
“I think the league looks probably as good as it’s ever been,” Vandals second-year coach Jon Newlee said. “It’s going to be rough every night. Everyone is playing really well. Once again we’re going to be very thin at the post position. We’re going to have to have some people step up and play better and smarter than we did in nonconference (games) to be successful in the conference.”
Washington State (5-8, 0-2 Pac-10) is home against Arizona (6-6, 0-2) on Thursday and Arizona State (8-5, 0-2) on Saturday. It’s the first time in six seasons the Sun Devils arrive without a local player on the roster. … Freshman Katie Baker (Lake City) hit her first nine shots and scored a career-high 25 points to lead Montana to a 73-67 win over Weber State Saturday night. She followed that up with 23 points and 17 rebounds in a 63-55 win over Idaho State. Her Grizzlies (7-7, 2-0) are at Eastern Washington (7-6, 1-0) on Friday. Montana State (8-7, 1-1) visits Eastern on Saturday. … Weber State senior Tonya Schnibbe (University) had 16 points and eight assists at UM and 16 points and four assists in an 82-62 loss at Montana State on New Year’s Day, moving her into the Big Sky top 10 with 479 assists. … Portland State senior Claire Faucher became the school’s all-time assist leader in a loss at Oregon State and then eclipsed the Big Sky record in a 95-86 conference-opening win at Sacramento State, when junior teammates Kelli Valentine (Mead) had 12 points and 11 rebounds and Lexi Bishop (Shadle Park) had 10 points. Faucher has 712 assists, 11 more than UM’s Brooklynn Lorenzen (2001-04) amassed. … Faucher (7.4) is seventh nationally and Schnibbe (6.4) 11th behind national leader Courtney Vandersloot of Gonzaga (9.3). … Vandersloot and Washington State freshman Kiki Moore are tied for fifth nationally in steals (3.8). … Eastern Oregon (10-5, 5-1) knocked off its second ranked team this season with a 63-51 road win over No. 24 Corcordia, with junior Samantha Flett (Wellpinit) scoring 15. … Central Valley graduate Tracy Goehri (Pacific Lutheran) shot 15 of 18 for 33 points along with 14 rebounds in two victories last week.