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Gonzaga Women's Basketball

Gonzaga women cruising into California road trip

Gonzaga guard Jill Townsend heads to the basket against Pacific during the first half of Monday’s 79-59 win in the McCarthey Athletic Center.  (Colin Mulvany/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Almost halfway through their West Coast Conference schedule, the 18th-ranked Gonzaga women are cruising.

But they’re still keeping their feet on the gas, looking for ways to improve – no easy feat, considering they’ve won their past seven games by an average of 23 points and are riding a winning streak of 12.

Up next is a Thursday night game at Pacific, a team the Zags drubbed by 20 earlier this month at the Kennel. Two days later, GU is at Saint Mary’s, which lost by 32 that same weekend in a game that wasn’t even that close.

All of which begs the question: How do coach Lisa Fortier and her staff stoke the competitive fires?

Actually, they don’t need to.

“When you play a team for the second time, it’s really about just helping these guys stay in the present as much as possible,” said Fortier, whose team is 13-2 overall and 8-0 in the WCC.

“The things we really don’t talk about is beating opponents,” Fortier said earlier this week. “We also don’t talk about championships; we just keep trying to get better every day.”

That’s trite but true, although it’s more difficult this season. Because of COVID-19, the Zags must find more motivation from within.

In addition to the uncertainties of the schedule, they also must do without the male practice players they’ve worked with for years.

“We have to hold ourselves to a higher standard in practice, because we don’t have the practice guys to push us,” senior forward Jenn Wirth said. “Those guys give us a different look and they replicate other teams’ offenses and defenses really well.

“It really is tough to go against each other all the time.”

The Zags still have plenty of bodies. Everyone is healthy going into the stretch, however long it goes.

GU got a scare late in Sunday’s game at Portland, when starting point guard Kayleigh Truong landed awkwardly on her right leg and had to be helped off the court. Fortier said Truong is expected back for this week’s road trip.

It begins in Stockton, California, where host Pacific is back home after a quick trip for a COVID makeup game at BYU. The Tigers lost that one 80-61 to fall to 5-5 overall and 3-4 in the conference.

GU also has a makeup game to play against BYU; that contest will be played Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the Kennel.

Pacific continues to rely on senior forward Valerie Higgins, who averages 17.1 points and 8.1 rebounds. GU held her to barely half those numbers on Jan. 4 at the Kennel, as Higgins was 4 for 13 from the field.

GU shot 54% from the field, although they outrebounded the Tigers by only 34-29, well below their average of plus-14 in conference games.