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Sports >  Gonzaga women

Gonzaga women host resurgent Eastern Washington after tournament run in Bahamas

Nov. 24, 2022 Updated Thu., Nov. 24, 2022 at 7:51 p.m.

Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Yvonne Ejim, left, defends against Long Beach State 49ers guard Courtney Murphy at the McCarthey Athletic Center on Nov. 11 in Spokane.  (James Snook/For The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Yvonne Ejim, left, defends against Long Beach State 49ers guard Courtney Murphy at the McCarthey Athletic Center on Nov. 11 in Spokane. (James Snook/For The Spokesman-Review)
By Jim Allen For The Spokesman-Review For The Spokesman-Review

The season has barely begun, but Gonzaga and Eastern Washington women have exceeded expectations the only way you can.

The Gonzaga women are 5-1 after winning two of three games last weekend against elite competition in the Bahamas, and they’re a good bet to break into the top 25 next week.

Meanwhile, EWU is 4-1 with a win at Boise State and a near miss at Oregon State.

Now the Eagles have a chance to make an even bigger statement when they visit the Kennel on Saturday against the Zags.

When Joddie Gleason took over the program, expectations couldn’t have been lower; longtime coach Wendy Schuller had been dismissed after a losing season and another mass exodus of players.

But after a slow start last year, the Eagles went 9-21 overall and a surprising 7-13 in the Big Sky Conference after being picked to finish last.

“We had the plan of taking three to four years to get into the top third of the conference, but I think we have a team that can compete with anyone in the conference,” Gleason said.

Whether the Eagles can compete with GU is another matter. However, the Eagles have their deepest and most talented roster in several years.

Leading the way is sophomore forward Jaydia Martin, a versatile 6-footer who is averaging 14.6 points while playing just 24 minutes a game. She also shoots a team-leading 46% from long range.

Guard Jacinta Buckley, a 6-foot-1 junior transfer from UNLV, averages 12.2 points and 6.2 rebounds.

Perhaps the biggest addition is point guard Jamie Loera, a transfer from Arizona State and the younger sister of former GU point guard Jessie Loera of Moses Lake.

“She brings such a competitive greatness to the team,” Gleason said of Loera, who averages 11.8 points and has 22 assists to just eight turnovers. She also pulls down 6.2 rebounds per game, a high number for a guard.

As a team, Eastern is shooting almost 38% from long range.

The Zags won’t take anything for granted, especially with point guard Kayleigh Truong’s status uncertain after she suffered an ankle sprain last weekend.

However, the chase for respect continues.

After the Zags beat traditional power Tennessee on Monday to take third place in the Battle 4 Atlantis, coach Lisa Fortier said that “the bigness of the game wasn’t lost on the staff or our players.”

She also acknowledged “that there aren’t a lot of All-Americans on our roster … but I would go into battle against anyone with these players.”

The key player so far has been junior forward Yvonne Ejim, whose 18 points and 8.2 rebounds per game are easily tops on the team.

Ejim also came up big last week, scoring game-winning buckets against Wyoming and Tennessee.

Kaylynne Truong has picked up some of the slack in the backcourt, averaging 12.4 points and almost five assists.

Brynna Maxwell ranks 16th in the nation in 3-point shooting with a 57.1% average (16 for 28).

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