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Gonzaga women hoping to rebound from hard-fought loss to BYU

UPDATED: Fri., Jan. 18, 2019

Gonzaga forward LeeAnne Wirth drives to the basket against BYU on Thursday  in Provo, Utah. (BYU / Courtesy)
Gonzaga forward LeeAnne Wirth drives to the basket against BYU on Thursday in Provo, Utah. (BYU / Courtesy)

On the bright side, the Gonzaga women still own the best start in program history.

However, it was BYU doing the celebrating Thursday night in Provo, Utah, after knocking off the 13th-ranked Zags 70-68.

BYU coach Jeff Judkins called it “one of the nights … that makes it all worth it.”

The Marriott Center court resembled a mosh pit after a win that left BYU (15-3 overall) atop the West Coast Conference standings at 7-0.

“That’s the hard part, watching the other team celebrate like that,” coach Lisa Fortier said Friday from California, where the Zags will try to regroup Saturday afternoon at San Diego.

That much never changes for a program that’s 62-16 in WCC games under Fortier. Half of those losses came during Fortier’s injury-plagued second season in 2015-16.

“But it didn’t matter what our record was that year, it’s everybody’s biggest deal to beat us,” said Fortier, whose team is 16-2, 5-1.

The only GU women’s team to match that start was Kelly Graves’ 2004-05 squad, which went on to sweep the WCC regular-season and tournament titles.

That’s still the plan, but the Zags will need to clean up a few things against top-tier WCC opponents. Before every game, the coaches post a list of goals.

“We made maybe three of out I don’t know how many,” Fortier said. “If we had made just one more. …”

The little things added up in what amounted to a one- or two-possession game for the entire second half.

While it was Laura Stockton who missed a potential winning 3-pointer with 3 seconds left, and LeeAnne Wirth who couldn’t convert at the buzzer after an offensive rebound, the Zags failed to capitalize on some of their biggest strengths.

The Zags came into the game with a plus-10.2 rebounding edge against WCC foes, but outrebounded BYU by just 32-30.

Also in WCC play, GU was beating opponents by an average of 40-18 in the paint. This time they were on the short end, 30-28.

The Zags also managed just 14 fast-break points.

None of that would have mattered had GU shot well at the foul line, but the Zags were just 12 for 19 in the second half. That was preceded by an 11-for-20 effort the game before, against Portland.

“I suppose we’re going to have to get in the gym and everybody make a thousand (free throws) and refocus,” Fortier said.

In the short term, the focus will be on the Toreros. San Diego (7-10, 1-6) is coming off a 69-60 home loss to Portland, the Pilots’ first conference win in six tries.

GU is back home Thursday night against San Francisco.

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