Perhaps it was that disastrous game in Spokane four weeks ago, but the Saint Mary’s women haven’t been the same since.
Picked to finish fourth in the West Coast Conference preseason poll, the Gaels went into the Kennel on Jan. 9 with 4-0 record in league play.
They left at 4-1 after a 74-49 defeat that wasn’t that close. GU led 39-12 at intermission and by as many as 32 points in the second half.
A month later, the Gaels have dropped six out of seven going into their rematch with GU on Saturday afternoon in Moraga, California.
Meanwhile, the Zags have overcome injuries – the latest a career-ender for senior guard Katie Campbell – and the ever-present target on their backs to put together a 21-game winning streak that’s the longest in the country.
They’re 23-1 overall and 12-0 in the WCC after a dominant 83-65 win Thursday night at Pacific.
Accustomed lately to winning with defense, the Zags showed they can win a horse race as well, putting up 40-plus points in each half against the Tigers.
The loss of Campbell meant the first collegiate start for true freshman Kayleigh Truong, who had eight points and three assists while playing 29 minutes. Also seeing more time were her twin sister Kaylynne Truong and junior Louise Forsyth.
The Zags responded by shooting 53% from the field and committing a season-low seven turnovers.
“We had sometimes three guards – a bunch of ball-handlers out there,” coach Lisa Fortier said. “We also got back to making the easy pass. Sometimes it’s been us trying to do too much.”
“We got the ball to people eight times on simple plays,” Fortier said.
Apparently, good passes lead to good shots.
After going 8 for 18 from long range against Pacific, the Zags are second in the nation in 3-point shooting accuracy at 40.8%. Only Baylor, at 41.8%, ranks higher.
That doesn’t mean it will be that easy against Saint Mary’s, though the Gaels (10-13, 5-7) are coming off a 72-53 home loss to Portland.
“It’s a big-time rivalry game,” said Fortier, who expects to defend a lot of dribble drive. “But if we defend and play offense as a team then we’re going to be a tough out.”
In the last meeting, Gonzaga got double-figure scoring from Campbell, Jenn and LeeAnne Wirth and Jill Townsend.
Four players average double figures for Saint Mary’s, led by Sam Simons at 15.3 points per game. Emily Codding adds 14.7 (though she hasn’t played since a 72-54 loss against San Diego on Jan. 16), while Madeline Holland and Taycee Wedin average 13.2 and 12.5 points, respectively.
Six Gaels average at least four rebounds per game, led by Codding with 8.4.
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