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Sports >  Gonzaga women

Gonzaga women face two teams chasing it in WCC standings

Gonzaga's Elle Tinkle has taken some of the scoring load for the Zags during conference play. (Dan Pelle)
Gonzaga's Elle Tinkle has taken some of the scoring load for the Zags during conference play. (Dan Pelle)
The Gonzaga women’s basketball team faces a pair of games this weekend that will go a long way toward deciding the conference championship. The first-place Zags (14-4, 7-0) complete the first half of conference play when they travel to take on Saint Mary’s (13-5, 6-1) on Thursday and Pacific (14-5, 5-2) on Saturday. The Gaels’ only West Coast Conference loss came to Pacific, which lost road games to BYU and San Diego. “It’s a big weekend for us,” coach Lisa Fortier said. “It’s against two teams we haven’t played who are chasing us at our heels.” Fortier said she’s pleased with how her team has shared the ball and rebounded well during an eight-game winning streak. “I like how we are playing,” Fortier said. “I think it will be a good test for us on the road against a team that really knows how to close.” Fortier said Pacific’s lineup is athletic, but the Bulldogs’ post players will get a test in Moraga, California. “Our inside play has been great all year,” Fortier said. The Saint Mary’s game “will be a post-play battle. Their kids are bangers.” Gonzaga was able to defeat a pesky Loyola Marymount team last Saturday even though the Zags’ top outside shooters, Elle Tinkle and Keani Albanez, went 0 for 12 from the 3-point arc. “If one of our shooters has a bad night, we will likely have two or three others who will step up,” Fortier said. “It’s comforting to know.” Gonzaga will soon have one more option as Fortier announced that senior wing Lindsay Sherbert has returned to practice after suffering a serious knee injury in a Nov. 29 loss to Iowa. In her absence, junior guard Elle Tinkle has transformed into an offensive weapon. She has averaged 17.7 points and 6.7 rebounds in seven conference games. “I don’t know for sure what we will do with” Sherbert, who was starting when she got hurt, Fortier said. “Whether it’s starting or coming off the bench, we will definitely use her to stretch the defense.” Fortier explained that she loves to use the 6-foot Sherbert in the “stretch four” position. “That’s someone who can play outside like a guard and go inside,” Fortier said. The idea is that Sherbert can use her shooting ability to draw out an opponent’s post player. She can then use her quickness to go around or pass to a teammate slashing through an open lane. “I don’t know that we’ll have her for Saturday or the next Saturday at Portland. Hopefully, by then,” Fortier said.

Bracket madness

In the race to predict everything before it happens, ESPN’s Charlie Crème has already released a couple of versions of “Bracketology.” In the most recent posting, Crème suggests that Washington State will be a No. 10 seed playing No. 7 seed Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Crème also has Gonzaga as a No. 11 seed playing No. 6 seed Washington in College Station, Texas, where the Zags got bounced in the first round last year by James Madison. “It’s nice to be in the discussion,” Daugherty said. “But the goal is to be actually in it in March. We believe we will.” The Cougars, who are tied for eighth place in the Pac-12, get visited by Utah (6-11, 0-6 Pac-12) on Friday. The Utes also came into Pullman last year riding a 0-5 start to conference play only to beat the Cougs 59-57. “We don’t really look at their records,” Daugherty said. “Offensively and defensively, we want to make sure we are playing at a high level.” Daugherty noted that the Cougars started conference play against three ranked teams. After the Friday game against Utah, the Cougars face Colorado (9-8, 2-4 Pac-12) on Sunday. “It’s not a secret that us and Washington had the toughest schedules in the Pac-12,” Daugherty said. “We can’t control the past. We can only learn from it and go forward.”

Big Sky double-down

Idaho (8-8, 2-3 Big Sky) and Eastern Washington (11-5, 4-1) ran headlong into a surging Sacramento State (7-10, 5-1) team this past weekend that has rocketed to the top of the conference standings. First the Hornets flew into Moscow and stung the Vandals 77-49 last Thursday and then Sacramento State came north on Saturday to sack the Eagles 73-67 in Cheney for Eastern’s first conference loss. The Hornets’ wins show how quickly one team, which went 10-10 in the Big Sky last year, can change its or another team’s fortunes in just two games. This week, the Eagles and Vandals trade off playing the same two teams, Northern Colorado (8-8, 2-3) and North Dakota (11-6, 3-2), on the road.
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