LAS VEGAS – The Gonzaga Bulldogs have just one more team standing in the way of their eighth West Coast Conference championship.
The top-seeded Zags will battle sixth-seeded San Diego today at 1 p.m. for what could also be their second consecutive WCC Tournament title, and head coach Lisa Fortier’s third as head coach.
It won’t be an easy feat. The Zags had some trouble against the Toreros in the final week of the regular season when Gonzaga pulled out a 58-54 victory over San Diego on Feb. 22 in Spokane.
The Zags had a one-point lead with less than a minute left. Laura Stockton’s clutch 3-pointer with 33 seconds on the clock took away any hope San Diego had left for an upset.
Gonzaga’s offense struggled against the Toreros as the Zags shot just 35.6 percent from the field. Most of their struggles were in the paint where they managed just 16 points.
Gonzaga’s previous meeting with the Toreros in San Diego on Feb. 1 went a bit smoother for the Zags. Chandler Smith dominated that matchup with 12 points and seven boards.
The Zags can expect a tough fight from guard Aubrey Ward-El, who was named to the All-WCC first team this season and leads the Toreros with 14.4 points per game. Gonzaga kept a tight grip on Ward-El in both regular-season meetings. She was held to three field goals in 13 attempts for eight points in the last meeting.
Emma Stach will likely guard Ward-El. Stach is a quick defender on the perimeter and did well putting pressure on San Francisco’s top scorer Anna Seilund on Monday, holding her to just nine points. Backup guard Jessie Loera could also get some time defending Ward-El.
Maya Hood will likely cause the Zags some trouble inside. Hood is in the top-10 all-time in nine statistical categories at San Diego and currently leads the all-time list for total rebounds and offensive boards. This season, she averages 11.8 points and leads the team with 7.5 rebounds per game.
Hood had a decent showing against the Zags in both meetings. She roughed up the Zags quite a bit in the second game with 11 points and 12 boards.
San Diego advanced after knocking off seventh-seeded Pacific 66-56 in the other semifinal Monday. It was the first time a sixth and seventh seed squared off in the WCC semifinals.
Forward Sydney Williams scored a team-high 20 points on 7-of-9 shooting. Guards Ward-El and Myah Pace joined Williams in double figures, scoring 16 and 10, respectively.
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