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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Women’s basketball: On heels of comeback win over EWU, Gonzaga takes on No. 3 Stanford

Gonzaga’s Yvonne Ejim shoots the ball against Eastern Washington’s Jamie Loera on Wednesday at Reese Court in Cheney.  (James Snook/The Spokesman-Review)
By Greg Lee The Spokesman-Review

The Gonzaga women’s basketball team began the second half of its rugged nonconference schedule this week.

The grind continues with three games against Pac-12 teams, beginning Sunday when third-ranked Stanford (8-0) visits McCarthey Athletic Center.

“Every turn there’s someone tough. That’s by design,” Gonzaga coach Lisa Fortier said. “That’s not exactly what we’ve done in the past. We’ve had a tough schedule but not as tough as this. … Same goals. We’re still trying to get better, still trying to learn about ourselves and be our best that day but not get too worried about the results and continue to focus on the process. What we’re looking for is long term.”

As of late Thursday afternoon there were 27 tickets left. So it’s officially going to be designated a sellout. The game, which tips at 1 p.m., can be watched on SWX and ESPN+.

Stanford started the season at No. 15, but the Cardinal have shot up the rankings.

The Cardinal are led by four players in double-figure scoring, similar to Gonzaga. Six-foot-3 junior forward Kiki Iriafen leads the way, averaging a double-double with 19.7 points and 10.3 rebounds, and 6-4 senior forward Cameron Brink is also averaging a double-double (18.9 points, 12.1 rebounds). She also is averaging 3.8 blocks.

“They’re pretty veteran,” Fortier said. “Their interior is playing very well. They’re Stanford. They don’t make a lot of mistakes. They make you have to beat them. There are some areas I think where we can be strong.”

When Gonzaga has had time to prepare for games, especially formulating a scout, things have gone well.

Stanford is a frequent visitor to Spokane. This will be the Cardinal’s 15th game in the Lilac City – seven NCAA Tournament games, six at Gonzaga and two games at the Gonzaga Invitational in coach Tara VanDerveer’s first season (1985-86).

External expectations were lower for Stanford when standout forward Haley Jones moved on to the WNBA. But Stanford always restocks.

Zags, Eagles revisited

When Gonzaga visited Eastern Washington on Wednesday, it was a game between coaching friends.

Fortier played for EWU coach Joddie Gleason two years at Butte College, a two-year school in Oroville, California.

As Fortier left the postgame interviews, she told the assembled media to tell Gleason she loves her.

A few minutes later, after Gleason had talked with the media, she countered that she loves Fortier but at the moment didn’t like her.

Eastern was up to the challenge, falling 82-80 before 1,378 at Reese Court.

“That’s the takeaway in one of these tough losses is trying to grow from it,” Gleason said, “… and the whole journey of the season. This game will help us in the Big Sky season and the Big Sky Tournament.

“Obviously, we’re disappointed with the result, but what a great atmosphere. There are probably a lot of Spokane people that came here not understanding the kind of team we have. Hopefully, now it’s evident that there are two good (Division I) teams in the Spokane area. What a great opportunity for us.”

EWU challenged Gonzaga from tip to finish.

“Nobody hung their head. They took turns not being great tonight,” Fortier said of her team. “Nobody got a case of, ‘Poor me.’ We couldn’t stop them the majority of the evening.”

Except for struggles EWU had in second-half rebounding, there was a lot for Gleason to like.

“I just love the buy-in from this group,” Gleason said. “They’re fun to coach. They come to work every day, they play for each other. This is what we’re about.”

EWU (4-2) also plays Sunday when Boise State (6-1) visits. Tip is at 2 p.m.