The Gonzaga women keep finding a way to win.
Even more important as they head into Monday’s West Coast Conference semifinal against Santa Clara, the Zags have more than one path to getting that W.
Santa Clara knows that as well as anyone. In the first meeting in the Bay Area, Gonzaga allowed the Broncos to shoot 43% from the field; however, the Zags answered by hitting shooting almost 60% from the floor, including better than 50% from long range.
They also struck early, making 12 of their first 14 shots on the way to a 27-10 lead and a 71-52 victory.
In Spokane on Feb. 13, GU had one of its worst 3-point shooting games of the season (4 for 18) but held Santa Clara to 11 first-half points, got double-digit scoring from four players and won by almost the same margin, 67-50.
However, both games have the common thread of utter dominance on the boards: 74-41 in the two games combined.
“That’s been our identity,” coach Lisa Fortier said last week as the Zags enjoyed a nine-day layoff after the end of the regular season.
GU’s other identity: favorites to win the tournament. The top-seeded Zags are 21-3 overall, ranked 18th and have already punched a ticket to the NCAA Tournament.
Not so for the rest of the field, with the possible exception of bubble-sitting BYU, which faces San Francisco in the other semifinal.
“They all have a renewed sense of hope,” Fortier said.
Meanwhile, GU is hoping to win the WCCs for the first time in three years.
“We want the confetti,” senior forward Jenn Wirth said last week.
First they must win on Monday. Two years ago they did so in dramatic fashion on a buzzer-beating layin against Saint Mary’s. However they lost Jill Townsend and Laura Stockton to injury, then the title game against BYU.
Last year they fell to Portland on a last-second shot after blowing a 20-point lead in the first quarter.
But unlike last year’s Pilots team, Santa Clara doesn’t have a lot of last-season momentum. The Broncos (14-10 overall) lost three of their last four regular-season games before beating Loyola Marymount 83-68 in Saturday’s quarterfinals.
In that game, senior forward Merle Wiehl scored a career-high 28 points, and junior guard Lindsey Van- Allen had 22. The Broncos also forced 19 turnovers.
Gonzaga has won the past 10 meetings dating back to a loss in the WCC Tournament in 2017.
Three players average double figures for the Broncos: VanAllen (12.8 ppg), Wiehd (11.5) and senior forward Ashlyn Herlihy (11.3).
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