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Gonzaga Women's Basketball

Gonzaga women set to host cellar-dwelling Pepperdine

Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Jenn Wirth (3) shoots during the second half of a college basketball game on Saturday, February 13, 2021, at McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane, Wash.  (Tyler Tjomsland/THE SPOKESMAN-RE)

It’s been a rough year for the Pepperdine women – so rough, that even after a 20-point win over Saint Mary’s last weekend, the Waves are still deep in the West Coast Conference cellar.

At 5-14 overall and 2-14 in the WCC, the Waves will finish last unless they can close out the regular season with a couple of wins.

That should provide some motivation. Trouble is, Pepperdine is on the road Thursday night against Gonzaga, a team with even more incentive.

The Zags are 18-3 overall and 14-1 in the WCC, but they’re only one game ahead of BYU after losing to the Cougars last week.

GU needs to beat either Peppderdine or Loyola Marymount on Senior Day to clinch at least a tie for the WCC title.

Win them both and the Zags take the outright title for the fifth year in a row.

Not only are the Zags trying to win a championship; with the postseason around the corner, they’re trying to get better.

On top of that, it’s Senior Week at the Kennel, and for the first time this year, the players’ families will have a chance to see them compete at home.

“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” said senior forward Jenn Wirth, who along with twin sister LeeAnne will be preparing for what could be their last games at the Kennel.

“I’m just trying to prepare on the court,” Jenn Wirth said.

The loss to BYU ended the Zags’ 17-game win streak and dropped them five spots, to 21st, in this week’s Associated Press poll.

It offered some motivation, however, to improve ahead of the WCC and NCAA tournaments.

Looking back at the 61-56 loss, coach Lisa Fortier noted that GU struggled to excel in several key areas – notably rebounding, which the Zags won 35-30.

“You can’t be just OK in all the areas; you have to be excellent,” Fortier said.

“We don’t get blown out – that’s not going to happen to us,” Fortier said. “But in order to get to the next level, you have to be dynamic in one or two areas.”

For the season, GU has been extraordinary in several key areas: fifth in Division I with plus-13.1 rebounding margin, 15th in field-goal shooting (46.8%) and 13th in assists per game (17.3).

Not surprisingly, Pepperdine has struggled statistically as well as on the court. The Waves rank near the bottom of Division I in 3-point shooting (3.8 makes per game), turnover margin (minus 4.1) and scoring offense (56.6 ppg).

In their first meeting on Dec. 30 in Malibu, California, Gonzaga shot only 37% from the field (23 for 46), but outrebounded the Waves 49-21.

Malia Bambrick is the lone Wave in double-figure scoring with 10.1 ppg.

Monique Andriuolo and Cheyenne Givens contribute 9.1 points per game. Andruiolo also leads the team in rebounds with 7.5 per game.