Make no mistake – it’s only one game, but it is an important game.
The No. 18/19 Gonzaga women’s basketball team travels to Provo, Utah, for a Thursday night matchup with West Coast Conference newcomer Brigham Young.
BYU’s Cougars (21-4, 9-2 WCC) are second in the conference standings after losses to Saint Mary’s and Pepperdine, and until they were dropped this week after the Pepperdine loss, were ranked No. 22 in the Associated Press’ Top 25 Poll.
“If you take their stats and ours and hold them up next to each other, it’s crazy how similar the two teams are,” Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves said after the Bulldogs (21-3, 10-1) wrapped up an intense practice on Tuesday.
“Then you watch the style of play, and it’s more than just the stats. We play alike,” Graves added. “It really is a good matchup, and on paper it looks really, really even.”
Senior Kristen Riley, a 6-foot-3 center, leads the Cougars in scoring with 11.4 points per game. Kim Parker and Lexi Eaton also average double-digit scoring. BYU averages nearly 40 rebounds a game, can shoot well from the perimeter and is dangerous in the paint.
“I think it will just be a big battle for the WCC,” Gonzaga senior Kayla Standish said. “We would like to retain our title, and I’m sure they would love to come in and take it and they’re capable of doing that if we don’t put a stop to it.
“We’re glad the big matchup has finally arrived.”
WSU’s Presley injured: Washington State freshman point guard Tia Presley is likely out for the rest of the season after the Gonzaga Prep graduate suffered a left foot injury last week prior to the Cougars’ road trip to Los Angeles.
The injury was confirmed Monday when the team returned from the trip. There is a narrow chance Presley could be back in time for the Pac-12 tournament, but team officials said it’s not probable.
“It’s very unfortunate – Tia’s had an unbelievably successful freshman year,” WSU coach June Daugherty said.
Presley had appeared in all 21 games, and took over the starting role for the Cougars (10-13, 4-7 Pac-12) early in Pacific-12 Conference play – starting in eight Pac-12 games. She averaged 5.8 points a game and was third on the team in steals.
Senior April Cook returned to her role as starting point guard when the Cougars traveled to USC and UCLA over the weekend, finishing with 18 points in a loss to the Trojans and 13 in a loss to the Bruins. Cook had been starting as the No. 2 guard.
“It happened so quickly that we moved April right back to the starting point guard position – which she was her first two years here at (WSU),” Daugherty said. “It looked like she didn’t even miss a beat … just looked really comfortable there and did some great things for us.”
Tip-ins: Eastern Washington senior Chene Cooper is fifth in the nation (Division I) in assists with her average of 7.3 per game. Her number of total assists – 175 – is the top mark in the nation. Teammate Brianne Ryan is 22nd in the nation in scoring (19.3 ppg). … The latest bracketology report by ESPN’s Charlie Creme – which speculates what the women’s NCAA tournament bracket would look like if the season ended today – lists Connecticut, Stanford, Notre Dame and Baylor as the likely No. 1 seeds. Gonzaga is listed as a No. 11 seed, and as playing a first-round matchup in Spokane against Kansas State.