Gonzaga women hope to return to the court Thursday against Portland
Jan. 5, 2022 Updated Wed., Jan. 5, 2022 at 7:40 p.m.
Finally, the Gonzaga women are going to play some basketball again.
The Zags are on for Thursday at 7 p.m. at Portland – assuming they have enough players and that Portland can do the same.
For the third straight season, the COVID-19 pandemic is playing havoc with college basketball. Two years ago it claimed the NCAA Tournament and last year it took away the fans.
Now it’s playing with everyone’s sanity.
Coaches and players are now used to dealing with shutdowns, quarantines and protocols, but that doesn’t make the challenge any easier.
“It’s similar to last year in that we don’t know how we’re going to get through all of this, but once we do, we’ll be in pretty good shape,” GU coach Lisa Fortier said.
GU played its 12 nonconference games as scheduled, but its first two West Coast Conference games (against San Francisco and Loyola Marymount) were postponed. Also lost for now is Saturday’s home game against Santa Clara, which has paused its program for two weeks.
That means Thursday’s game will be GU’s first since winning at Eastern Washington on Dec. 21. The Zags’ last home game was Dec. 12; unless they can find a last-minute replacement on Saturday, their next game in the Kennel will be on Jan. 15, a gap of more than five weeks.
Gonzaga is working with the conference to reschedule the postponed games.
“We’re likely to have some Monday games,” Fortier said.
In the meantime, there’s a game to be played – an important one, too, as GU is 9-3 and Portland 10-2. The Zags are 32nd in the NCAA NET rankings, while the Pilots are 54th.
Considering that both teams must face BYU at least twice, a loss on Thursday would make it difficult to compete for an at-large NCAA Tournament berth should they fail to win the WCCs.
One more caveat: Neither team is quite sure what they’ll be up against at the Chiles Center.
According to WCC rules, a team must be able to suit up at least eight healthy players (though it could appeal for a postponement if, for example, all of its guards are out).
Because of privacy issues, Fortier could offer nothing more.
“I think we’re going to have eight players, and I think Portland is going to have eight,” Fortier said.
Beyond that, Fortier could offer no additional information apart from point guard Kayleigh Truong being fully recovered from a left knee injury suffered six weeks ago.
“I think the players are doing the best they can, but it is challenging us,” Fortier said. “We’ve had a practice with five players, with eight and with 12, so we’ve been all over the place.
“But we’ve gotten used to it.”
The Zags come into the game holding opponents to 54.5 points per game. They are averaging a plus-11.9 rebound margin, ranking ninth in the nation and first in the conference.
Guard Kaylynne Truong averages 11.9 points to lead a balanced GU lineup. Kayleigh Truong is averaging 11 points and senior forward Melody Kempton scoring 10.8 ppg while shooting 55.3%.
Portland is expected to counter with junior forward Alex Fowler (17.9 ppg, 9.3 rpg) and Haylee Andrews (12.4 ppg along with 6.2 assists per game to rank 11th in Division 1).
“They are really talented and cause a lot of turnovers,” Fortier said. “It will be interesting to see what we’ll be like.”
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