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With common foe behind them, Gonzaga looks to bounce back against young Eastern Washington team

UPDATED: Thu., Nov. 21, 2019

Gonzaga forward LeeAnne Wirth  looks to pass against Eastern Washington forward Alissa Sealby (30) and guard Grace Kirscher  in the first half at EWU’s Reese Court on Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018. (James Snook / For The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga forward LeeAnne Wirth looks to pass against Eastern Washington forward Alissa Sealby (30) and guard Grace Kirscher in the first half at EWU’s Reese Court on Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018. (James Snook / For The Spokesman-Review)

The women’s basketball season has barely begun, yet Gonzaga and Eastern Washington already have a common opponent.

That would be the third-ranked Stanford Cardinal, who just turned back the Bulldogs in overtime on Sunday.

Eleven days earlier, the Cardinal routed Eastern by 63 points – which means absolutely nothing, GU coach Lisa Fortier said ahead of Friday’s home game against the Eagles.

“You can’t compare them because it’s a totally different situation, and (the Eagles are) really young,” Fortier said before practice at the Kennel. “I don’t know if they were shell-shocked or not, but it’s not really a comparison.”

Fortier knows from past experience that Eastern won’t go down easily despite a 0-3 record and a lineup that includes just three upperclassmen and three returnees from last year’s squad.

That team, under longtime coach Wendy Schuller, went 13-20 overall and 9-11 in the Big Sky Conference, but came within a couple of buckets from reaching the NCAA Tournament.

That team also took Gonzaga to the limit last year in Cheney before falling 63-51.

Throw in recent close calls – including a one-point win in Cheney in Fortier’s first season as head coach – and the chance of a letdown is even less.

“We have to come out and be ready to go because every game is unique,” GU junior forward LeeAnne Wirth said Wednesday.

Then again, so is every team. Fortier figures the 23rd-ranked Zags (2-1) learned a few things about themselves last weekend in the Bay Area.

“We learned that we’re tough,” Fortier said. “I wasn’t sure how we would battle adversity, but I think we have a good team.

“But we didn’t execute well under that pressure, whether it was physical pressure or theoretical pressure.”

Depth is still an issue, especially as the Zags confronted foul trouble at Stanford. Wirth and Jill Townsend eventually fouled out, while Jessie Loera and Jenn Wirth had four fouls each.

Five players saw at least 30 minutes on the court.

One of those was backup forward Melody Kempton, who had one of the best games of her career (12 points and 10 rebounds in 33 minutes).

Anamaria Virjoghe and Louise Forsyth saw limited action.

“We didn’t have a lot of players on the bench who have played in those kinds of situations … so it hurt us for sure,” Fortier said.

The status of freshman forward Eliza Hollingsworth is still uncertain. She practiced on Wednesday but is scheduled to see a doctor on Friday for an ankle injury.

Gonzaga will be a heavy favorite. The Zags have won 15 straight in the series, which they lead 33-13.

They also won’t be looking past the Eagles, their only opponent between Stanford and the Nov. 29 game against Dayton in the first round of the Gulf Coast Showcase in Estero, Florida.

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