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Gonzaga women climb a spot to 16th in AP poll after two wins

Gonzaga players celebrate around guard Katie Campbell (24) during last week’s win over BYU. The Zags appear happy to be ranked No. 16 in this week’s AP poll. (Isaac Hale / Associated Press)

The Gonzaga women have moved up another notch in the Associated Press poll by taking care of business while other teams didn’t.

The Zags are 16th this week, thanks to road wins over BYU and San Diego, but also because Maryland got thumped by unranked Northwestern by 23 points.

That dropped the Terrapins five spots, from 12th to 17th, and five other teams moved up a spot – just the kind of scenario that GU needs to climb further as the season progresses.

Even if the Zags (14-1 overall and 3-0 in the West Coast Conference) keep winning, they’ll need help to jump teams from Power-5 conferences – “football schools,” GU coach Lisa Fortier calls them.

GU did just that last year, moving as high as 12th before falling to BYU in the finals of the WCC Tournament.

However, last year the WCC ranked seventh in conference RPI; this year it’s 11th, meaning that any losses likely will move GU down two or three pegs in the AP poll and perhaps a dozen spots in RPI (where the Zags currently rank eighth).

The stakes are high. For the second straight year, GU is chasing a high seed in the NCAA Tournament – perhaps a chance to host first- and second-round games.

That hasn’t happened since 2013, when the NCAA ceased allowing schools to bid for rights to host. Now a team can host only by being a Top 4 seed; GU was a 5 seed last year.

In the meantime, all GU can do is keep winning. Going into Thursday’s home game against Saint Mary’s, the Zags have won 12 straight.

They’ve done it mostly with defense. During last week’s road trip they held BYU to 33% shooting. Two days later, at San Diego, they held the Toreros to 34% from the field and dominated the boards, 40 to 17.

“This was a great way to end a really tough road trip,” Fortier said. “We stayed focused on our defensive assignments and for the most part did a good job executing the defensive game plan.”