SAN MARCOS, Texas – Lisa Fortier passed the trivia test with ease. Asked whether she remembered the last time Gonzaga lost an NCAA game as a favorite, Fortier answered instantly.
“2014, James Madison,” she said.
Life got better in a hurry, however. Three weeks later, Kelly Graves moved to Oregon and Fortier, his longtime assistant, took over the Zags.
Anticipating the next question, Fortier noted the upset happened in College Station, Texas. That’s a two-hour drive from the gym where No. 5-seeded GU will face Belmont in a first-round game Monday afternoon.
Since then, Fortier has taken GU to four NCAA tournaments, not including last year’s canceled event, and has gone 3-3.
Only once were the Zags favored, and they didn’t disappoint. As a 5 seed in Corvallis, Oregon, in 2019 they throttled Little Rock, 68-51.
Now they’re favored again, playing about two hours from College Station, where a 7-seeded GU squad fell to James Madision, 72-63, in 2014.
Upsets happen, though the women’s tournament generally runs closer to form than the men’s.
Overconfidence won’t be a problem, said Fortier, who has turned the “one-game-at-a-time” motto into a mantra.
“We don’t undervalue our opponents,” Fortier said.
Gonzaga goes through it every year, the rust-inducing layoff that is meant to reward success.
Winning the West Coast Conference title meant the GU women had nine days between the end of the regular season and the WCC tournament.
Now the Zags are nearing the end of a 13-day layoff since their epic win over BYU in the conference title game.
And yet, that’s nothing compared to Belmont, which hasn’t played since beating UT Martin in the Ohio Valley Conference title game on March 6.
That’s 16 days of rust for the Bruins, but coach Bart Brooks said the players still “feel the synergy” from the tournament.
“Everything is falling into place,” Brooks said.
The Zags have been through this before: the same 13-day layoff before the 2019 tournament. However, restrictions forced by COVID-19 have kept players indoors for longer periods.
However, Fortier says the Zags are fortunate to be in a hotel in San Marcos that’s a good 10-minute walk to the testing site.
“We’re certainly trying to make the most of it,” Fortier said.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.