It’s been a memorable start to the new year for the Zags.
Gonzaga (13-4, 4-2) is riding a four-game winning streak in 2017 after falling to Pepperdine and Pacific in late Decemeber to start conference play with a disappointing 0-2 record.
But GU head coach Lisa Fortier said she has already forgotten about 2016. Instead, she and her players are focused on continuing their winning streak with a victory over Santa Clara on Thursday night.
“You make an adjustment and you move on,” Fortier said. “We’ve refocused and we’ve picked apart some areas that we really needed to improve.”
The Zags have certainly made adjustments on the court since their first two defeats in the West Coast Conference, especially on the offensive end.
In their four games this year, the Zags have made 43 percent (101 of 235) of their field goals compared to 38.1 percent (48 of 126) during the last week of 2016. Sophomore forward Jill Barta, who was voted the WCC’s player of the week for the second time this season earlier this week, made the biggest impact on those numbers. Barta notched 22 points at Loyola Marymount and scored a career-high 33 points against Saint Mary’s, the most points scored by an individual player in the WCC this season.
The Zags had the highest offensive success against Loyola Marymount. They made 33 of their 58 field-goal attempts against the Lions and hit 55.63 percent (10 of 18) of their attempts from beyond the arc.
Since the start of the year, the Zags have made 33.7 percent (29 of 86) of their shots from 3-point range. That was a substantial improvement from their seven makes out of 43 3-point attempts against Pepperdine and Pacific.
“We’ve tried to have a short memory on that stuff, and that’s something that we’ve preached,” Fortier said.
But even Fortier could admit that there are some heartbreaks that are hard to forget.
Last year, Gonzaga met Santa Clara in Las Vegas where the Zags were knocked out of the WCC tournament after a 59-58 quarterfinal loss to the Broncos.
Then-senior center Shelby Cheslek’s GU-leading 14 points and Barta’s 9 points weren’t enough to pull out a win. Santa Clara’s Marie Berthodlt scored 20 points and Lori Parkinson had 19 points to earn the Broncos a spot in the tournament’s seminfinals for the first time since 2010.
“Of course, it’s always one of those thoughts, like ‘Hey, we got to get them.’ They knocked us out of the tournament last year, but we’re taking each game one game at a time, one step at a time,” Barta said. “I think this is a great challenge for us, this Thursday.”
The Broncos are coming off a 61-40 trouncing of Pepperdine on Saturday. They are looking for their first win at the McCarthey Athletic Center (0-13) and their fifth victory in conference this season.
Sophomore guard Emily Wolph leads the Broncos (9-8, 4-2) with an average of 12.4 points this season. Senior forward Parkinson follows with a 12.3 points per game, while averaging 15.2 points in conference play.
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