There’s no chance the Gonzaga women will look past Thursday’s game at Stephen F. Austin.
True, an even bigger game looms three days later at second-ranked Stanford, but the Zags are doing a good job this season of living in the here and now.
Seven games in, the Zags are 6-1 and ranked 23rd in the Associated Press poll. They’re also down to nine healthy players, which means everyone will be expected to contribute when GU faces the Ladyjacks in a key nonconference game in Nacogdoches, Texas.
“This is the time when we show our toughness and when we show our character,” GU coach Lisa Fortier said Monday night after the Zags beat Maine 62-43.
They did so without two key players: starting point guard Kayleigh Truong, who suffered a foot injury 10 days ago against Louisville, and backup forward Maud Huijbens, who is under concussion protocol.
Both players are out indefinitely, Fortier said.
The game, which tips off at 3:30 p.m. also is a homecoming of sorts for Kayleigh and Kaylynne Truong, who grew up in Houston.
“I can’t wait to go home,” said Kaylynne Truong, who said she expects 20 or 30 family and friends to attend.
“I’m just very excited to see my family and friends again,” she added.
“It’s hard for them to get up (to Spokane) to see us play.”
But this is foremost a business trip, and Kaylynne Truong and starting forward Yvonne Ejim will carry a heavy load on Thursday.
Stephen F. Austin is one of the nation’s better midmajor programs and is coming off a 28-5 season that ended with the Ladyjacks reaching the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Along the way, the Ladyjacks gave GU a tough battle in Spokane.
That game was deadlocked at 52 with less than 3 minutes left before the Zags won 64-54.
SFA is 5-1 and coming off a successful Clasico Thanksgiving Tournament, as the Ladyjacks went 2-0 with wins over Morgan State and Boston College.
Four players are averaging double figures for SFA with forward Aiyana Johnson leading the way with 14.3 while grabbing 7.3 rebounds a game.
Rice (89-77 on Nov. 10) is the only team to defeat Stephen F. Austin this year .
“They press you all game,” Fortier said of the Ladyjacks. “We’re going to rely on our veterans.”
The Zags have four players averaging double digits, including Ejim (16.9 ppg), Brynna Maxwell (13.0), Kaylynne Truong (12.7) and Eliza Hollingsworth (10.4).
The Bulldogs are shooting at a program-record 79.3% from the free-throw line, which also ranks 14th in the country.
Maxwell is shooting 57.1% from the 3-point line to rank first in the West Coast Conference and third nationally.
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