The Gonzaga women don’t have a choice.
Exactly how that will happen is anyone’s guess, and probably won’t be revealed until Thursday night’s game at Pacific.
The Zags canceled Tuesday’s regular media availability, leaving everyone guessing as to who will start in Campbell’s place and how her 28 minutes per game will be divvied up down the stretch of the season.
And citing privacy rules, GU also hasn’t shared details on the severity of Campbell’s injury, though she is definitely out for this week’s crucial road trip to Pacific and Saint Mary’s.
Of course, every game is crucial when you’re chasing a home spot in the NCAA Tournament and playing in a non-Power 5 conference.
Last year, the Zags had home court in their grasp until suffering two losses to BYU and season-ending injuries to Laura Stockton and Jill Townsend.
This year feels eerily similar. With seven games left in the West Coast Conference regular season, the Zags are riding high like never before in program history.
They are 22-1 overall, 11-0 in the WCC, ranked a program-best 11th in the nation and riding a 20-game winning streak.
“It’s better than the alternative,” head coach Lisa Fortier said after the BYU game.
However, Fortier spoke those words haltingly, as coaches and players were absorbing the news about Campbell.
Four days later, they know one thing: No single bench player can replace the all-around abilities of Campbell.
The senior from Oxnard, California, is best known for her sweet shot from beyond the arc: 43.1% so far this year. However, she also shoots 42% from the field, and despite her 5-foot-10 height and lean frame has grabbed 3.6 rebounds per game.
Campbell also has 42 assists and a team-high 38 steals.
Barring a complete collapse, an NCAA Tournament bid is a certainty for the Zags.
However, to finish in the top 16 in the NCAA’s final pecking order – the prerequisite to host tournament games – they can afford at most two losses through the WCC Tournament.
Gonzaga has been dealing with injuries since before the season began, as redshirt sophomore Kylee Griffen was lost to a shoulder injury.
True freshman Eliza Hollingsworth has yet to play as she battles a high ankle sprain.
That has already affected depth in the frontcourt, where in WCC play starters Jenn and LeeAnne Wirth and backup Melody Kempton combine to play an average of 76 minutes out of a possible 80.
With Campbell sidelined, things are more complicated in the backcourt, where senior Jessie Loera starts at point and junior Jill Townsend is on the wing.
Fortunately, the top backups – true freshmen Kayleigh and Kaylynne Truong – are as versatile as it gets. Either can play the point or at off guard; currently, Kayleigh also gives Townsend a breather on the wing in addition to spelling Loera at the point.
Kaylynne has subbed at both guard spots.
“Since we were young, our dad taught us to play either position,” said Kaylynne, who prefers shooting guard.
Kayleigh is already seeing more playing time – an average of 19.6 minutes – than she expected, while averaging 5.5 points and shooting 33% from the field.
Kaylynne is making the most of her 12.2 minutes per game. Playing mostly at Campbell’s spot, she is shooting 40% from the field and the same from long range (four makes in 10 attempts).
Both sisters are adjusting to the pace of the college game.
“Getting the experience at the next level, and the transition to a faster pace, it’s been great,” Kayleigh said Wednesday as the Zags were preparing to fly to northern California.
Junior Louise Forsyth is another option. The 6-footer from Canada brings size and athleticism, but isn’t a strong ballhandler and has struggled from long range (29.4%).
Pacific (13-9 overall and 6-5 in the WCC) isn’t the best matchup for a team trying to adjust on the fly. The Tigers have lost four of their past six, but three of those were by 5 points or fewer.
They also came the closest of any team to knocking off the Zags in Spokane, falling 68-67 on Jan. 11.
In that game, guard Valerie Higgins went off for 20 points (on 6-for-7 shooting), seven rebounds and six assists. She also drew seven fouls from the Zags, who saw LeeAnne Wirth foul out.
“They were really physical and aggressive,” Kayleigh Truong said.
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