On paper at least, the Washington State women’s basketball teams appears to be playing better than Gonzaga as the regional rivals get set to settle things tonight.
The Cougars (7-2) have handled the common opponents, No. 22 Dayton and Idaho State, easier than the Bulldogs (5-2). Washington State rolls up U.S. Highway 195 for tonight’s game at McCarthey Athletic Center just over a week after knocking off No. 10 Maryland, and the Cougars have two veteran guards who are scoring more than half the team’s points.
But to win, the Cougars have to do it on Gonzaga’s turf, and the Bulldogs are currently riding a 25-game home winning streak that dates back to Dec. 29, 2012, when the Zags lost 57-51 to … Washington State.
“It’s a very exciting game,” WSU coach June Daugherty said. “One of the reasons why is because they are so well coached and they are talented. They also have an amazing fan base.”
The Zags continue to adjust to new guards Georgia Stirton, a junior transfer from North Idaho College, and freshman Emma Stach as they face All-Pac-12 guards Lia Galdeira and Tia Presley.
“Washington State is a very good team,” GU coach Lisa Fortier said. “If we can keep (Galdeira and Presley) in front of us, we will give ourselves a better chance at victory.”
Presley, a senior, said she’s pumped to play in what probably will be her last game in Spokane. The former Gonzaga Prep star is averaging 19.4 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. Galdeira, a junior, is averaging 20 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.
“I haven’t been home to play in Spokane since my sophomore year,” Presley said, referring to GU’s last home loss.
“Hopefully, I’ll see a lot of Coug fans and Gonzaga Prep fans. It will be fun, for sure.”
The Zags are led by senior forward Sunny Greinacher, who is averaging 14.9 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. She’s followed by senior shooting guard Keani Albanez (10.9 points), and 6-foot-5 center Shelby Cheslek (10.1 points and 11.7 rebounds).
“We are always focused when it comes to playing WSU because we know they really want to beat us,” Greinacher said. “They are not going to be intimidated by the atmosphere. It’s going to be a really good game.”
The Zags went on the road to Pullman last year and beat the Cougars 70-62 as WSU failed to match up to Gonzaga’s height advantage in the front court.
Daugherty said she remembers walking off the floor after a loss to Dayton telling her assistant coaches that “we’ve got to get bigger and longer. Hats off to my staff … we are much longer and taller than we ever have been at Washington State.”
Behind the guards, the Cougar’s third leading scorer is senior 6-4 center Shalie Dheensaw, who is averaging 9.3 points and 7.4 rebounds a game. But the team is also getting solid minutes from 6-2 freshman forward Louise Brown, of Melbourne, Australia, who is averaging 4 points and 7 rebounds a game.
Brown “has been instrumental to our success because of her offensive rebounding,” Daugherty said.
Presley said the Cougars won’t need big speeches to get up for the game.
“Their fans provide so much energy for them,” Presley said of the Bulldogs.
“We just need to come out aggressive like we did in our other big wins. Just playing Gonzaga is always exciting.”
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