The Gonzaga women haven’t won five out of their last six games without making a few adjustments.
Jill Barta is adjusting just fine. The redshirt freshman forward from Fairfield, Montana has yet to start a game, but she’s made a big impact in helping the Bulldogs improve to 9-4.
Case in point: GU’s West Coast Conference opener Monday night at Pepperdine, where Barta was 5-for-9 from the field, scored 16 points and grabbed six rebounds in a 74-57 win.
Monday’s performance raised Barta’s average to 10.6, just a tenth off team leader Shelby Cheslek and ahead of Elle Tinkle, who’s out indefinitely with a meniscus injury.
“She’s becoming a more versatile, well-rounded player,” said GU coach Lisa Fortier, whose team is at Loyola Marymount on Wednesday afternoon before taking a holiday break.
“She’s worked hard on the areas where we asked her to improve: defense and rebounding,” Fortier said.
Over the last six games the 6-foot-3 Barta is averaging 6.2 rebounds; she also has six steals in the last three games.
Barta isn’t the only Bulldog role player finding a bigger role. In Tinkle’s absence, senior Chelsea Waters got her second straight start against Pepperdine and responded with five points, three boards and a pair of assists.
“She’s been solid for us – she brings energy and defense and helps us because she’s bigger than most of the guards we’re going up against,” Fortier said.
The Bulldogs’ next home game is Dec. 31 against San Francisco. Tipoff is at 5 p.m.
Cougs enter Pac-12 play
Washington State checked off a few boxes in a 66-53 win at Kansas on Sunday afternoon.
The Cougars not only managed to stay focused in historic Allen Fieldhouse, they did it with leading scorer Borislava Hristova in foul trouble. They also found their touch from long range (9-for-16) and got the job done on the boards – a trend coach June Daugherty hopes to prolong as Pac-12 play opens next week.
“I thought we showed a lot of mental toughness to block out everything and play Cougar basketball,” Daugherty said. “That’s a great sign of the maturation process.”
Hristova came into the game averaging 19.4 points a game, but the Jayhawks’ plan “was not to let her get a lot of touches,” Daugherty said.
The Cougars responded, with seven different players scoring at least six points.
“I guess we’re not a one-horse team,” joked Daugherty, who got 26 points from her bench.
After taking several days off for the holidays, the Cougars will open Pac-12 play on Tuesday against Washington. Tipoff at Beasley is at 8 p.m. The game will be televised by Pac-12 Networks.
Eastern Washington goes into Big Sky Conference play with a 6-6 record but with some confidence built through adversity.
It happened again Monday night at Boise State, when the Eagles trailed by double-digits late in the game before rallying. Eastern lost 84-77, but coach Wendy Schuller said “I was proud of our effort.
“I thought there were a couple of times that we go down and could have throw in the towel … but our players stepped up and made plays.”
Going into their Dec. 31 conference opener against Northern Colorado, the Eagles are getting over half their points from sisters Hayley and Delaney Hodges.
Hayley Hodgins (20.4 ppg) has scored in double figures in 28 straight games dating back to last season.
Vandals fall back
Two weeks ago the Vandals were 7-1 and getting votes in the national polls. Now they’re struggling to regain their form after three straight losses.
Double-digit losses at Texas Tech and seventh-ranked Oregon State weren’t unexpected, but then Idaho (7-4) hit the wall in a 71-59 overtime home loss to Abilene Christian.
“We missed a lot of layups towards the end,” said Christina Salvatore, who hit the 270th 3-point shot of her career – a school record.
Help is expected in the form of Sunday’s home game against Carroll College. The Vandals open Big Sky action at home against North Dakota on Dec. 31.
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