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Gonzaga Women's Basketball

GU women join AP poll after taking Stanford to overtime

Gonzaga Bulldogs head coach Lisa Fortier watches the action unfold during the second half of a college basketball game on Thursday, November 14, 2019, at McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane, Wash. Gonzaga won the game 78-55. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

They didn’t earn a win, but the Gonzaga women just gained the nation’s respect.

Barely 12 hours after falling in overtime at No. 3 Stanford, the Zags rose into the Top 25 of the Associated Press media poll.

In the poll released Monday morning, GU is ranked 23rd. They received a handful of votes last week before beating Tennessee Martin 78-55 on Thursday in Spokane and falling 76-70 at Stanford on Sunday night.

The Zags already are 23rd in the USA Today Coaches poll.

As the poll came out, the Zags (2-1) were back in Spokane, taking a day off and trying to focus on the what-now instead of the what-might-have-been.

“These games are harder,” Fortier said Monday. “When you play a top team and get blown out, at the end of the day you can say ‘we’re not as good as they are.’

“But losing by a few… you second-guess everything, and so do the players,” Fortier said. “Looking back, we didn’t play that well. To think we almost beat Stanford and we didn’t play that well.”

However, Fortier said she was happy for the team at reaching the Top 25.

“This particular team has never been in the Top 25,” Fortier said.

Interestingly, a year ago GU needed a win over then-No. 8 Stanford to reach the Top 25. The Zags stayed there all year, rising as high as 11th.

That team finished 29-5 and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament. However, GU lost three starters in Zykera Rice, Laura Stockton and Chandler Smith, which apparently made an impression on voters who didn’t do their preseason homework.

For them, Sunday’s game was a wakeup call.

It’s almost unheard of for a team to enter the poll coming off a loss. That’s especially true for non-Power Five programs, but the Zags pulled it off after taking Stanford to the wire.

Then again, asked Fortier, where would the Zags be had they pulled off the upset?

Fortier didn’t venture a guess, but she’s always playing the long game.

“I like security,” she said, defining that as fashioning an NCAA Tournament-worthy resume regardless of what happens in the West Coast Conference tournament.

The work begins with practice on Tuesday, a home game Friday night against Eastern Washington and another week preparing for the Gulf Coast Showcase in Florida.

“That will be a big test,” Fortier said.