They miss their fans, but the Gonzaga women are finding their comfort zone in the new-look McCarthey Athletic Center.
Going into Monday’s West Coast Conference matchup with Pacific, the Zags are riding a 20-game win streak in the Kennel.
The last two have come without fan support, unless you count the piped-in crowd noise and the 300-odd cardboard cutouts scattered throughout the arena.
That didn’t matter on Saturday, as No. 23 GU cruised to a 69-37 win over Saint Mary’s.
Happy with the win – their seventh straight – the Zags are also just happy to be playing.
Meanwhile Pacific has gotten in just four games this year and is coming off a COVID-related cancellation Saturday at Portland.
“This season has given us a lot of obstacles,” senior forward Jenn Wirth said after the game. “We get to practice and play here every day, and we’re grateful for that.”
The Zags are also accepting the new reality at the Kennel. Three weeks after a close call against Montana in their first home game, they utterly dominated the Gaels to improve to 8-2 overall and 3-0 in the WCC.
“They know what this game means,” Coach Lisa Fortier said. “They just collectively went out and did what they could do on the basketball floor.”
“There’s only so much that we can control,” Fortier said. “The world is crazy.”
But crazy enough for Pacific to pull a monster upset? Probably not.
Pacific, picked to finish sixth in the WCC, hasn’t won in the Kennel in more than 4 years.
Then again, Pacific is 3-1, with wins over LSU, UNLV and Saint Mary’s and a lopsided loss at No. 1 Stanford.
They also have one of the most complete players in the conference in senior guard Val Higgins, a first-team all-conference preseason pick who averages 18.3 points and almost eight rebounds.
Higgins also has 15 steals, an average of almost 4 per game.
“She’s playing very well,” Fortier said of Higgins, who lit up GU for 20 points in her last visit to the Kennel. GU won that game, 68-67.
The Tigers also return senior guard Brooklyn McDavid (11.8ppg, 5.8 rebounds).
Pacific averages 40.1% from the floor and 30.9% from long range.
Sixth-year Pacific head coach Bradley Davis told the Stockton Record that a matchup with GU is “a losable game because they are really good. There is not really a weak link there. We’ve got to come prepared with a game plan, and we have to make sure we play a complete 40 minutes.”
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