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Gonzaga women embrace target on back

Tue., Jan. 10, 2012, 8:50 p.m.

Gonzaga women’s basketball coach Kelly Graves briefly entertained the idea of playing one-on-one against San Francisco coach Jennifer Azzi – a class of 2009 Hall of Famer.

“She would probably kick my butt,” he joked via telephone while on a recruiting trip in Seattle on Tuesday.

Graves is more serious about the outcome when Gonzaga (14-2, 3-0 West Coast Conference) hosts the Dons (3-14, 1-3) on Thursday at the McCarthey Athletic Center in the Bulldogs’ first WCC home game of the season.

“She (Azzi) is doing a good job with that program – it’s obvious that she has made improvements,” Graves said. “We know we can’t take a night off against any team. If we don’t take care of the ball, they can certainly challenge us and make us pay.”

Likely to be more of a challenge for the Bulldogs – who cracked the Associated Press Top 25 this week for the first time this season at No. 23 – is Saturday’s game against Saint Mary’s (12-5, 3-1). Graves, however, isn’t concerned about the target on Gonzaga’s back.

“We’re used to it – we embrace it,” Graves said. “It’s not something new for us. I’ve heard players interviewed about their goals in previous years – to beat Gonzaga and to make it to the NCAA tournament. We’re OK with that – I think it makes us better. It lets us know we can’t take a night off and just go through the motions.”

Cougs host UW

Could this be the year the streak finally ends?

The Cougars host the Washington Huskies (9-5, 1-3 Pac-12 Conference) on Saturday and are hoping to put an end to a 32-game win streak the Huskies have over WSU that dates back to the 1994-95 season.

The Cougars (9-7, 3-1) got off to their first 3-0 start in conference play since beginning Northwest Women’s Basketball League play 5-0 in 1977-78. The 3-1 record matches the 1995-96 team.

Unfortunately for the Cougars, guard Ireti Amojo, who leads the Pac-12 in 3-point shooting percentage, was lost for the remainder of the season because of an ACL injury suffered in WSU’s conference opener at Oregon.

Amojo, a redshirt sophomore, is second on the team in scoring with nine points per game.

EWU returns home

Back-to-back victories on the road means the Eastern Eagles returned home from their first Big Sky Conference road trip of the season with two things to defend – their home court and a two-game win streak.

Coming off wins at Weber State and Northern Arizona, only the third time in the last decade the Eagles have swept a weekend road trip, EWU (9-8, 3-1 Big Sky) will face defending Big Sky champion Northern Colorado (10-6, 2-1) on Saturday after playing the Sacramento State Hornets (7-9, 2-1) on Thursday.

The Hornets are winless in their seven road games.

“We have to take care of business at home,” Eastern Washington head coach Wendy Schuller said. “When you play Sac State, you have to understand it will be an up-and-down game. We will have to be able to shoot the ball and score points in order to have success.”

Despite Sacramento State’s defensive shortcomings, the Hornets’ Kylie Kuhns is one of the top players in the country. The senior forward leads the nation with 14 double-doubles and ranks third in the nation in rebounding, averaging 12.3 per game.

UI opens in WAC

Idaho opens Western Athletic Conference play on the road this week. The Vandals (5-11) will take on Louisiana Tech on Thursday before facing New Mexico State on Saturday.

The Vandals have lost their last three games by less than 10 points.

Louisiana Tech (7-8) was picked to win the WAC in both the coaches and media polls. The Vandals are 0-13 all time against the Lady Techsters.


EWU senior Chene Cooper ranks fourth in the nation in assists, averaging 7.3 per game. … WSU senior guard Jazmine Perkins grabbed six rebounds in the Cougars’ win against Utah last Thursday to reach 600 rebounds in her career and join Jeanne Eggart (1977-82) as the only players in WSU history, men’s or women’s, to record 1,000 points, 600 rebounds and 200 steals in their careers.

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