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Gonzaga women’s basketball returns from European trip, with plenty of memories on, off the court

UPDATED: Wed., Aug. 28, 2019

This was never about basketball, though that was fun, too.

The Gonzaga women are back from Europe, jet-lagged but joyful after 12 days of cooking pasta, riding bicycles atop medieval walls and standing in the Colosseum.

“That was one of the favorites for the players,” head coach Lisa Fortier said of one of Rome’s biggest attractions, where gladiators often fought to the death in front of thousands.

The Zags played for smaller stakes and smaller crowds, but got a thumbs-up from Fortier in all four games against professional teams in Spain and Italy.

Only one game, the opener in Barcelona, was close. GU prevailed 71-60 despite jet lag and the wide international lane that led to numerous 3-second violations.

“That was an adjustment,” Fortier said Monday, three days after players, coaches and family returned to Spokane.

On top of that, the Zags often felt rushed by the 24-second shot clock, which resets to only 14 seconds following an offensive rebound.

“There were a lot of turnovers,” Fortier said.

The games in Italy went as smoothly as a Venetian gondola, as GU won by 35, 29 and 39 points. Not surprisingly, everyone played.

Jill Townsend, coming off a serious leg injury in March, got plenty of minutes. So did the Truong twins, Kayleigh and Kaylynne, who also had a chance to play at the same time as twins Jenn and LeeAnne Wirth.

“I can’t even recall the fifth player on the court; I think they just wanted to stay out of the picture,” Fortier said.

Overall, Fortier said she was pleased with the team’s play: “I think we have some good players, and they played with real good energy.”

They should be even better thanks to the additional practices, before and during the trip.

“The all got to play, and we got some time to work on some things for the season,” said Fortier, who added that the staff hasn’t settled on a starting lineup or rotation.

They have plenty of time. Classes begin Tuesday, and the nonconference schedule is expected to be released this week.

Fall practice opens at the beginning of October, with the annual Numerica FanFest set for Oct. 12 at the McCarthey Athletic Center.

That will come soon enough. But when asked about their favorite experiences in Europe, “no one mentioned basketball,” said Fortier, who like the other coaches brought her family along.

They did talk about the time spent together in the Sistine Chapel, the canals of Venice and the countryside of Tuscany.

“It was great to see every one walking around, out of their comfort zone,” said Fortier, noting that no one in the group speaks Spanish or Italian.

“And the places we saw, the cathedrals, the Colosseum, it was wonderful,” Fortier said.

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