There’s plenty on the line this season for the Gonzaga women – all the more reason to step up to the line and make those foul shots.
All season, the Zags have been doing just that.
Going into Saturday’s West Coast Conference game at San Diego, the Zags are one of the best free-throw shooting teams in the nation at 78.2%.
That’s somewhat of a surprise. Last year, GU made a solid 74.9% of its foul shots, but graduated three of its best shooters in Jill Townsend, Jenn Wirth and LeeAnne Wirth.
The returnees, however, have stepped up and delivered all year – another reason why the Zags are 15-4 overall and 6-0 in the WCC.
Senior forward Melody Kempton, a 69% free-throw shooter last year, is up to 80.6%. Sophomore Yvonne Ejim is shooting 64.1% after shooting 54.2% last season.
That’s important, because Kempton and Ejim tend to draw a lot of fouls in the paint. Both worked hard on their midrange shots during the off-season, and that’s also paid off at the foul line.
The biggest improvement has come from point guard Kayleigh Truong. Last year, Truong made 30 of 43 attempts, for 69.7%. This year, she’s among the best in the nation at 91.3%, or 42 out of 46; so is teammate Cierra Walker, who’s made 22 out of 24, or 91.7%.
For the Zags, superior free-throw shooting has made the difference in several games this year: Montana, Stephen F. Austin and the first meeting with the Toreros, on Jan. 15.
In that game, a 76-66 win at the Kennel, the Zags went 24 for 29 at the line, while the Toreros were 16 for 28.
That was no statistical aberration, because San Diego is one of the worst free-throw shooting teams in the land. Going into Saturday’s game, USD is hitting 63%, which ranks 324th out of 358 teams in Division 1.
Three Torero starters are making less than 60% of their shots.
For that and other reasons, the Toreros are off to a rough start in the WCC. Picked to finish third, they are 2-5 in the WCC and 10-9 overall.
Three of those losses are to BYU and the Zags, but they also lost at home to Saint Mary’s.
On Thursday against visiting Portland, the Toreros got off to another slow start, trailed by 11 at halftime and couldn’t close the gap.
The first meeting with Gonzaga played out the same way, as an 11-point GU lead was whittled to three before the Zags clinched the game at the foul line.
The Zags are coming off a solid outing Thursday at Pepperdine, shooting 40% from long range and forcing 17 turnovers.
The Zags are back at home next week against Pacific and BYU.
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