No. 17 Gonzaga women look for bounce-back at San Francisco
Feb. 3, 2023 Updated Fri., Feb. 3, 2023 at 8:59 p.m.
The big question for the Gonzaga and San Francisco women heading into their West Coast Conference game Saturday afternoon: Who can better handle misfortune?
For both teams, adversity was doled out by the truckload Thursday night.
Down to eight players at Santa Clara, the Zags ran into a group of determined and hot-shooting Broncos and lost 77-72. It was their first loss since early November.
And even with a 21-3 overall record, the Zags took a major hit to their hopes to host first- and second-round NCAA Tournament games.
It also cost GU sole possession of first place in the WCC, because a few miles north, second-place Portland pulled off an epic comeback to beat USF 83-80 in overtime.
The Dons led by 16 points early in the fourth quarter, but were held scoreless for almost 9 minutes in regulation.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because Gonzaga inflicted a similar misery on the Dons a year ago. Down six with 49 seconds left, the Zags got a last-second layin from forward Melody Kempton to earn an 83-82 win.
Kempton has graduated, to be replaced this year by Eliza Hollingsworth and Maud Huijbens. But both are out with concussions and were sorely missed on Thursday.
They probably will be out again on Saturday against a USF squad that took GU to the limit last month in Spokane.
Gonzaga was clinging to a two-point lead with 6 minutes left when Hollingsworth hit a layin that sparked a late charge toward a 63-52 win. She finished with 13 points and eight rebounds, numbers difficult to replace for a dwindling number of able bodies.
In that same game, Kaylynne Truong had 17 points and a career-high nine assists, while Yvonne Ejim recorded a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
Truong and Ejim may need to rise to the occasion again Saturday.
Gonzaga hasn’t lost back-to-back games in the same season since January 2017, but with four scholarship players out, things seem a bit fragile.
As Fortier said last weekend, the remaining players can pull only so much slack.
The stakes are high. Another loss, combined with a Portland win at Santa Clara on Saturday, would leave the Zags a game off the pace heading into their showdown next week against the Pilots.
Meawhile, USF (15-8, 5-6) has struggled of late. After going 10-2 in the nonconference portion of the season, the Dons lost their WCC opener to lowly LMU.
Then came Thursday’s collapse against the Pilots. Leading 64-48, the Dons went scoreless until the final seconds of regulation.
“You can’t dwell on things,” USF coach Molly Goodenbour said after the game. “We’ve got Gonzaga coming in here.”
Regardless of the circumstances, Fortier expects a tough game.
“For conference teams, (beating Gonzaga) makes their season,” she said after Thursday’s game.
The Dons are getting a conference-leading 18 points a game out of guard Ioanna Krimili. She was held to 12 in the first meeting with GU.
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