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Women’s notebook: Gonzaga ‘searches for identity’ after slow start to WCC season

Tue., Jan. 3, 2017, 11:16 p.m.

Gonzaga women’s basketball coach Lisa Fortier is still trying to find the right roster combinations from game to game. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga women’s basketball coach Lisa Fortier is still trying to find the right roster combinations from game to game. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Long after the crowd left the McCarthey Athletic Center on Saturday, several Pacific women’s basketball players gathered for a selfie to celebrate their 65-63 win over the Zags.

“Hey, we won,” one of them said.

“Hey, we beat Gonzaga,” another player said. They all laughed.

Make no mistake: The target is still on the backs of the GU women, who won 11 straight West Coast Conference titles until last year. The Bulldogs certainly felt it.

“There was a lot of aggressiveness from Pacific,” senior guard Elle Tinkle said after the game. “Our conference is getting better.”

That last point is debatable. With nonconference play in the books, the WCC ranks 13th out of 32 conferences in the Ratings Percentage Index. That’s down four spots from a year ago and three from coach Lisa Fortier’s first year as head coach in 2014-15.

The WCC ranked eighth in 2013-14 and seventh the year before that.

No matter, GU still gets everyone’s best game, and the margin for error seems slimmer than before. Last year, injuries were the biggest reason for a fifth-place conference finish.

This year, the Bulldogs’ 0-2 start is the product of several factors besides the 7-for-43 shooting effort from beyond the arc against Pepperdine and Pacific.

“There’s a search for identity right now, but I wouldn’t call it an identity crisis,” Fortier said Tuesday.

A big challenge is sorting out the minutes on a talented backcourt.

“It’s a positive having such depth, but it’s hard to keep all of those players engaged and in rhythm,” Fortier said. “I don’t know from night to night which of our guards is going to have a great game.

“No one has separated themselves in practice.”

That’s especially true at shooting guard. Last week, Emma Stach started both games but logged only 43 combined minutes. Makenlee Williams played 25 minutes, Chandler Smith 20 and Zhane Templeton 14.

EWU’s Payne wins Big Sky award

For the first time in her career, Eastern Washington senior forward Ashli Payne is the Big Sky Conference Player of the Week.

Payne picked up her first double-double of the season with a season-high 21 points to go along with a season-best 14 rebounds last weekend to help the Eagles pick up a 67-57 win against defending Big Sky champion Idaho.

Payne shot 70 percent from the field (7 of 10) and drilled four of her six 3-point field-goal attempts against the Vandals. The Bremerton native also had a season-high 14 rebounds.

She shared the award with Northern Colorado’s Savannah Scott.

The Eagles (6-6, 1-0 Big Sky) are on the road this week in Montana.

WSU’s Molina gets Pac-12 nod

A big win for Washington State meant the first award of Chanelle Molina’s career.

The Cougars point guard was named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Week, two days after she led WSU to a much-needed 75-59 win at Oregon.

Molina scored a career-high 20 points to push her average to 11.1 for the season.

WSU’s win over the Ducks ended a six-game losing streak and improved the Cougars to 6-8 overall and 1-2 in the Pac-12 going into Friday’s home game against ninth-ranked UCLA.



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