No. 17 Gonzaga women getting everyone’s best shot, host Pepperdine Saturday with streaks on the line
Jan. 27, 2023 Updated Fri., Jan. 27, 2023 at 6:53 p.m.
For the Gonzaga women, life at the top of the West Coast Conference means taking a few hits.
Coach Lisa Fortier often talks about the proverbial target on the backs of her players, the extra effort that conference rivals put into knocking off the Zags.
That’s no surprise, considering GU has won 15 of the past 17 regular-season titles.
But things may have gone a bit too far Thursday night. After losing to the Zags by 45 points in their first meeting, Loyola Marymount adopted a more physical approach.
Five minutes in, starting forward Eliza Hollingsworth landed head-first on the Kennel floor and didn’t return. Her status is doubtful for Saturday’s 2 p.m. tipoff against Pepperdine, which means the Zags will be down to eight scholarship players.
Yvonne Ejim and McKayla Williams were treated for minor injuries that included bleeding, and Calli Stokes and Kaylynne Truong each took hard tumbles during the Zags’ 66-55 win.
After the game, Fortier said she expects rivals to change their tactics after the Zags went 9-0 in the first half of the conference schedule.
Referring to LMU, she noted, “We beat them by a lot down there. They’re Division 1 athletes, their coach has pride in their team, and they’re going to come in with a different game plan if the first one didn’t work.”
If Thursday’s game is any indication, nothing will be easy the second time around.
“I’ve always said that it’s easier to come up with a game plan the second time after you lose that after you win,” Fortier said. “And we’re going to have to do that the rest of conference season because we won them all the first time.”
There’s plenty at stake. While everyone else is chasing them, the 17th-ranked Zags (20-2 overall), riding a 13-game winning streak, are pursuing a regular-season title and the chance of hosting first- and second-round NCAA Tournament games.
There’s also the possibility of running the table in the WCC, which hasn’t been done since the conference expanded to 10 teams.
First comes Saturday’s game against Pepperdine, which is tied for last place with LMU at 2-8 after a 70-57 defeat at Portland on Thursday.
Last week, the Waves took care of LMU by 20, but that’s their only win in the past eight outings. Included in that streak is a 77-63 home loss to the Zags in the WCC opener on Dec. 29.
In that game, Truong scored a career-high 26 points. GU also got double-figure scoring from Ejim, Hollingsworth and Brynna Maxwell.
In that game, Pepperdine (7-13 overall) got 16 points from sophomore guard Ally Stedman, who also leads the Waves with a 15.4 scoring average.
Gonzaga is back on the road next week, Thursday at USF and Saturday at Santa Clara.
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