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No. 21 Gonzaga women face test at Missouri State

UPDATED: Fri., Dec. 14, 2018, 6:33 p.m.

Gonzaga’s Jill Townsend  drives to the basket  against Washington State  last Sunday in the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga’s Jill Townsend drives to the basket against Washington State last Sunday in the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)

The Gonzaga women have seen a little of everything this year.

“It certainly seems like it,” said coach Lisa Fortier, whose team is 9-1 and ranked 21st partly because it’s able to adapt.

“We’ve faced zone and now we’ve faced pressure,” said Fortier, referring to GU’s 76-52 win Sunday over Washington State.

In that game, the Cougars pressured the perimeter and took away the 3-point shot. After a shaky first quarter, the Zags settled down, relied on their power inside and pulled away.

“We’re ready for the challenge,” Fortier said of GU’s lofty spot in the rankings. “Our biggest adversary is ourselves and our own mental toughness.”

Missouri State is 1-6, but two of those losses came in overtime, 63-60 at Wichita State and 83-76 at North Texas. The Bears have lost four straight but are balanced on offense and like to play pressure defense.

Missouri State (formerly Southwest Missouri State) is shooting only 40 percent from the field but a respectable 32.8 percent from beyond the arc. The Bears are also have a plus- 2.4 rebounding margin

“They’re really aggressive and they pressure a lot,” Fortier said. “They’re going to try to turn us over, so it will be a good test for us.”

GU has passed most of the others thanks to its versatility, balanced scoring and deep bench.

Senior forward Zykera Rice scores 11.1 points a game, but eight Zags average at least five. GU is outrebounding opponents by five boards a game, but is hitting 34.3 percent from 3.

“I love that it (scoring) can come from anyone at any time,” Fortier said.

Nine players are averaging at least 20 minutes on the court. Even when they’re on the bench, players are focused, Fortier said.

Facing varied defense helps.

“It helps them stay engaged,” Fortier said. “Maybe (the opponent) is going to zone us, maybe they’re going to trap us, but we’re going to have an answer.”

Gonzaga is back in the Kennel on Thursday for its final nonconference game, against Idaho.

After nine days off, the Zags open West Coast Conference play Dec. 29 at Loyola Marymount.

Their first WCC home game is Jan. 3 against Saint Mary’s.

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