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Sports >  Gonzaga women

Borislava Hristova putting together impressive season for WSU

The women’s basketball season is heading down the home stretch, but opponents still haven’t figured out WSU freshman Borislava Hristova.

One thing for sure: They figure to give Hristova a long look when they vote for Pac-12 Freshman of the Year.

And why not? The forward from Bulgaria is averaging 17 points a game – double that of any of her teammates – and is coming off her second straight Pac-12 Freshman of the Week award.

For Hristova, team success is the bottom line. “To be the leading scorer isn’t my goal, but I owe all that to my teammates,” Hristova said.

Together, they’re 12-7 overall and 3-5 in the Pac-12 after last weekend’s loss at Washington; several games have come down to the final minute.

“We know we’re a talented team,” coach June Daugherty said. “We’re only halfway through the league right now and if we stay healthy, those wins will fall into place.”

So far, it seems that everything has fallen into place for the 6-foot Hristova, who’s shooting 46.3 percent from the field and an amazing 90 percent from the free-throw line. She also averages almost four rebounds and has 24 steals.

“She’s a young lady who’s very passionate about basketball, who wants to win at the highest level,” Daugherty said. “She’s used to putting the team on her back.”

Hristova, the MVP of the 2014 U18 European Championships, said she studied the American game before playing it. “I knew that it was going to be different, and for sure harder. … In Europe we think about the game more, but here in the USA the athletes are faster, stronger and athletic.”

Hristova’s numbers have dropped slightly in Pac-12 play – to 40 percent shooting and 15.5 points a game.

“Every team is game-planning for her,” said Daugherty, who’s getting a lot of mileage out of Hristova on the pick-and-roll with Maria Kostourkova.

“There’s been a lot of pushing and shoving, not allowing her to come off screens – now we need their teammates to become more consistent offensively.”

Defense is still a work in progress for Hristova. “It’s solid; she has a long way to go, and she’ll be the first to tell you that,” Daugherty said. “The speed and athleticism in the Pac-12 is unbelievable, but she’s learning to be more consistent.”

Gonzaga hopes to build on win

Beyond breaking a three-game losing streak, how important was it for Gonzaga to hold off Pacific last weekend?

For forward Kiara Kudron, the 68-61 win showed that a little extra work paid off.

After what Kudron termed “a couple of mini team meetings,” she said the Bulldogs realized that we “have to get better at getting into the gym more.”

Leading up to losses against BYU, San Diego and Saint Mary’s, the GU players were “getting too individual and thinking about ourselves – now we’re thinking more about the team,” Kudron said after practice on Tuesday.

At 14-7 overall and 6-3 in the West Coast Conference, the Bulldogs still have an outside chance at the regular-season title and a chance at an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament. GU is ranked 72nd in RPI, but coach Lisa Fortier was hopeful that her team could move up with wins down the road against BYU (16th in RPI) and San Diego (42nd).

“The NCAA tournament is one of our goals every year,” said Fortier, whose team finished in the Sweet 16 last year.

“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.

EWU in control of Big Sky

It was a week to remember for the Eastern Washington program, from winning the Big Sky Conference showdown with Montana State to the buzzer-beating win over Montana.

“I told our team in the locker room I was just about in tears,” coach Wendy Schuller said after the 67-65 win over the Grizzlies. “This is a special group, and watching them do things like they did today is why they are so fun to coach.”

The Eagles are 7-0 in the Big Sky partly because of another big week from senior guard Hayley Hodgins, who scored 57 points in two games shooting 62.2 percent from the field (23 of 37) and 69.2 percent from 3-point range (9 of 13).

Hodgins scored a career-high 34 points in an 81-69 win over a MSU team that was 6-0 in the conference. Two days later, she finished 10 of 18 from the field, helping Eastern become the first team to shoot better than 50 percent from the floor against Montana this season.

That was more than enough to give Hodgins a Big Sky Player of the Week honor along with Sacramento State guard Brianna Burgos.

Burgos scored a career-high 32 points and hit six three-pointers as Sacramento State broke the NCAA record with 25 made 3-pointers in a 126-78 rout of Portland State on Saturday.

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