One year later, little has changed.
Going into today’s home game against BYU, the Gonzaga women have a two-game lead on the rest of the West Coast Conference, are on the cusp of a top-10 ranking and dream of hosting games in the NCAA Tournament.
In other words, it’s the same scenario as last year – when BYU came into the Kennel and blew it all up.
That two-point defeat was GU’s only home loss of the season, but it was among the most costly in recent history as it all but assured the Zags would be on the road for the NCAAs.
A few weeks later, BYU beat the injury-depleted Zags in the WCC finals.
Jill Townsend was on crutches for that one after an injury in the semifinals. By the time this year’s schedule came out she was physically and emotionally ready for the Cougars.
“When we get the schedule, you don’t want to look ahead, but it’s definitely one of the games you’re circling,” Townsend said Thursday night after GU beat San Diego.
Then again, so is BYU, which would be tied atop the WCC standings were it not for a 55-43 loss to the Zags in Provo, Utah, on Jan. 2.
The Cougars shot 33% from the field on the night compared to the Bulldogs’ 40%, and had 12 bench points compared to Gonzaga’s 23.
“We got outexecuted,” BYU coach Jeff Judkins said after the game. “I know this team can play better than we did tonight.”
And so they have. BYU is 13-7 overall and 8-2 in the WCC after beating Portland 66-54 on Thursday night.
That win, the team’s sixth straight, also avenged the Cougars’ only other conference loss and kept them within two games of the Zags.
A win for GU (21-1, 10-0) would give the Zags a three-game lead with seven to play as they chase another regular-season title.
A loss would cut the lead to one game, but the Zags weren’t thinking about that on Thursday.
While admitting to a less-than-stellar game against San Diego, coach Lisa Fortier didn’t attribute that to looking ahead to BYU.
“We’re trying hard to keep the focus, coach them hard and make sure they know what to expect from the team that’s coming in next,” Fortier said after the San Diego game.
The Cougars are balanced with seven players averaging seven points or more per game. Guard Paisley Johnson averages 14.3 points and shoots 39% from 3-point range.
Guard Brenna Drollinger scores 11.3 points but is hitting only 28% from long range. She’s attempted a team-high 136 shots from beyond the arc.
Post Sara Hamson, a 6-foot-7 junior, leads the nation with 4.6 blocks per game.
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