Nothing has changed for the Gonzaga women, even after three losses in their last four games.
By one path or another, the goal is still the same: to get to the NCAA Tournament. This program has known almost nothing else in the past decade, so why stop now?
Even at 14-7 overall and 6-3 in the West Coast Conference, the Bulldogs aren’t counting themselves out.
That was the big picture at Tuesday’s practice as the Bulldogs prepared for this week’s road trip to Santa Clara and San Francisco.
“The NCAA tournament is one of our goals every year,” said Fortier, whose team finished in the Sweet 16 last year. “Either we win the conference tournament or earn an at-large berth.”
The latter task looks daunting at the moment, considering that last year’s team was on the NCAA bubble despite being 41st in RPI after 16-2 in the WCC and 24-7 overall. This year’s squad is 72nd in RPI, but Fortier was hopeful that her team could move up with a strong finish
“We are a better team than we were at the beginning of the season and hopefully not as good as we’re going to be at the end of the season,” Fortier said.
After practice, Fortier and her players talked about doing just that. The skid-stopping win over Pacific was a big lift – not just the win, but in how it was achieved. Double-digit leads were blown more than once, but the Bulldogs managed to make big plays down the stretch.
The job is harder without Elle Tinkle and Emma Wolfram, who are out for the season with injury.
“Losing Elle and Emma has left a big void on our team scoring-wise,” said senior guard Georgia Stirton. “But the chemistry, we’re really trying to work on that.”
And the scoring? Much of that is coming from the bench. Fortier likes the fact that leading scorer Jill Barta (10.9ppg) brings a great life and instant offense.” By the same token, she likes the energy coming off the bench from Zhane Templeton and the “new pace” from Laura Stockton.”
The Bulldogs have a tough chore as they begin the second half of WCC play on Thursday night at Santa Clara. The Broncos (15-5 overall, 6-3 WCC) lost 53-44 last month at McCarthey, but is tied with GU for third place after a 68-57 win over San Francisco. Santa Clara forced 30 turnovers in the victory.
Said Fortier: “It’s going to be a fun weekend, but an importand weekend.”
NOTES: Gonzaga leads the WCC in (and ranks 12th nationally) in rebound margin (plus-10.1) and total rebounds (882). … The Zags are 29-0 under Fortier when they score 70 points and 35-6 (11-2 this season) when they lead at halftime. …GU is holding opponents to 55.5 points per game, which leads the West Coast Conference and is 33rd in the nation. …The Zags are holding opponents to 36.1 percent from the field, which is first in the WCC and 42nd in the country. … Barta has made 22 of her 24 (91.7 percent) free-throws in WCC play, which tops the conference.