Don’t expect a big motivational speech on Tuesday from Gonzaga women’s coach Lisa Fortier.
BYU coach Jeff Judkins won’t need one either; in fact, both coaches may need to talk their players down from the ceiling of the Orleans Arena, where the Zags and Cougars will play at 1 p.m. for the West Coast Conference tournament title.
For BYU, the surest way off the NCAA Tournament bubble is to win the league’s automatic bid.
The Zags, their ticket to San Antonio punched long ago, are playing for something a little more personal. This year’s seniors have won four straight WCC regular-season titles, but it’s been three years since they raised the tournament trophy.
“We want the confetti,” senior forward Jenn Wirth said last week.
Last year, GU lost to Portland in the semifinals. Two years ago, they fell in the title game to BYU, which also returns several players from that 2019 team.
Gonzaga (22-3) has won 21 of its past 22 games, is ranked 16th in the Associated Press poll and still has a shot at a high seed at the NCAAs.
BYU (18-4) has even more to play for. Two weeks ago, the Cougars were penciled in for an at-large berth by most experts. Then came a rough trip to the Bay Area, as they barely won at Santa Clara and got drubbed at San Francisco.
As of Monday, they were among the First Four Out by ESPN.
“I think we deserve to be in the Tournament,” Judkins said last week. “Even by losing a game to San Francisco on the road. We should still be in the hunt.”
On Monday, the Cougars made their case, throttling USF 85-55 in a game that was every bit that one-sided.
Trailing 19-16 after one quarter, BYU outscored the Dons 49-13 in the middle quarters to advance to the title game.
Earlier Monday, the Zags struggled to a 72-62 win over Santa Clara.
Even after winning, “We were frustrated,” senior Jill Townsend said. “We just let them get to their tendencies a little too much, and we didn’t have a hand in their face quick enough when they got those shots off.”
Expect more intensity from the Zags on Tuesday. “BYU is always a game we circle on the calendar,” Townsend said.
The teams split their two regular-season games. GU won 63-56 in Spokane on Feb. 2 but fell 61-56 two weeks later at BYU.
The game will feature the WCC’s Co-Players of the Year, Jenn Wirth of Gonzaga and Shaylee Gonzales of BYU.
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