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Sports >  Gonzaga women

Gonzaga women’s basketball notes: Zags look to step up on defense against Presbyterian

Gonzaga coach Lisa Fortier has stressed defense during practice this week following a 1-2 record at the Paradise Jam. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga coach Lisa Fortier has stressed defense during practice this week following a 1-2 record at the Paradise Jam. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Last week’s trip to the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands wasn’t quite the weekend getaway in paradise for which the Gonzaga women had hoped. Instead, the Zags got a little dose of reality.

“We learned we’re not invincible,” head coach Lisa Fortier said this week after the Bulldogs lost two out of their three games in the tournament, their first losses of the season.

The Zags (4-2) went into the Paradise Jam off of a 68-63 win over No. 11 Stanford, the Cardinal’s eighth loss at home since 2007. The win gave then-undefeated Gonzaga its third straight victory and the No. 25 spot in the Associated Press poll heading into the tournament in paradise.

“After the Stanford game, we were obviously stoked. That was a huge win for us,” senior Kiara Kudron said. “We came out and showed them how the Zags play, and after that I don’t know if it was we think we’re good enough to beat anyone now or really what it was, but we have to pick it up.”

Fortier said her players have had a chance to regroup in Spokane, watch film and fix the sloppy mistakes that were made in last weekend’s tournament in St. Thomas. And after a couple of practices this week, the Zags already have a sense of what Fortier will be looking to fix up before their next game on Saturday and for the rest of December.

“Almost our whole practice for the first two days back was defense,” junior Emma Wolfram said. “We learned that if we don’t come out with energy and we’re not strong as a team, especially defensively, that we’re not unstoppable.”

The Gonzaga women face the Presbyterian Blue Hose at McCarthey Athletic Center on Saturday at 2 p.m. This is the first time in program history that GU has played the Blue Hose.

Although Presbyterian (0-6) has failed to reach 50 points in four of its six regular-season games, Fortier said they will be a good test for the Zags’ defense.

“Everybody who they play can shoot the ball from the perimeter, so it’s a little bit different than what we’re used to,” Fortier said. “If we don’t stay completely in tune with and dialed in on defense and dialed in on offense, then you’re in trouble against teams like this, because they’re very scary … they fight until they hear the whistle. If we don’t do the same, then we’ll be in trouble.”

Blue Hose breakdown

Presbyterian, from Clinton, South Carolina, comes to Gonzaga following a 54-46 loss to East Carolina on Monday and a 74-62 overtime loss to Texas Southern in the Puerto Rico Classic on Nov. 25.

Junior guard Cortney Storey scored a season-high 26 points, shooting 64 percent (9 of 14) from the field, and tied her career high of five 3s against Texas Southern.

Janie Miles leads Presbyterian’s 12-player roster in scoring, averaging 12 points.

Saturday’s showing in Spokane is the fifth game of Presbyterian’s seven-game road trip.

Barta leads the way

Sophomore forward Jill Barta has made her mark as a young leader on the Gonzaga roster. Barta picked up her first double-double this season –18 points and 12 rebounds – in the Bulldogs’ 71-41 win over Winthrop in GU’s last game at the Paradise Jam on Monday.

Barta scored 27 points against Michigan, the most scored in a single game in GU’s pool – the Reef Division – at the Paradise Jam. Her 12 rebounds against Winthrop were also a game high for the Reef Division. She led her division in total field goals made (22) and free-throw percentage (94.4 percent), netting 17 of her 18 total attempts at the foul line. Barta was one of five players chosen for the Paradise Jam Reef Division all-tournament team.

So far this season, the sophomore has led the GU women on defense and offense. She averages 1.83 blocks, third best in the West Coast Conference, and has put up 113 points in six games this season, the most since Kayla Standish’s 117 points in six games in the 2011-2012 season.

Barta is shooting 60 percent for GU, which ranks her 26th in the country. But Barta has hurt Gonzaga’s opponents this season the most at the foul line. She has made 27 of her 31 free-throw attempts (87 percent), the 89th highest free-throw percentage in the NCAA.

Home for the holidays

Saturday’s contest marks the first of Gonzaga’s five-game December homestand. The Bulldogs will remain in the Spokane area for most of December, leaving the McCarthey Athletic Center one time on Dec. 11 to play Eastern Washington in Cheney.

“Traveling just gets exhausting on your body, so being home, especially coming into exams, just gives us that extra comfort that will hopefully help us on the court as well,” Wolfram said.

The Zags go back on the road on Dec. 29 to play in their first conference matchup against Pepperdine in Malibu, California.

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