Gonzaga women look forward after disheartening NCAA Tournament loss to Ole Miss
March 18, 2023 Updated Sat., March 18, 2023 at 9:05 p.m.
STANFORD, Calif. – It took awhile, but coach Lisa Fortier and two of her players eventually managed to find some perspective late Friday night after one of the most disappointing losses of her nine seasons in charge at Gonzaga.
In the obligatory postgame news conference following the Zags’ 71-48 loss to Ole Miss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Kaylynne Truong and Yvonne Ejim joined their coach in dissecting the game.
It was as one-sided as the score – worse, even, as the Zags trailed by 28 late in the third quarter.
The stats were even more shocking and spoke to Gonzaga’s lack of physical play and quality depth against a top-tier team.
Everyone talked about the nation’s top 3-point shooting team going 1 for 17. That was bad enough, but GU had a season-low seven assists and got only six points from its bench.
Ejim was the Zags’ only consistent offensive threat, hitting 8 of 14 shots on the way to a game-high 19 points. The rest of the team was 9 for 44 from the field.
Gonzaga’s biggest run the entire game was four points.
The situation was just as dire when Ole Miss had the ball. The Zags forced just eight turnovers and gave up a season-high 24 offensive rebounds.
“I feel like if anything it was definitely felt on the boards, especially, just having to compete with them,” Ejim said. “I feel like that’s where most of their physicality was that we were not able to overcome a lot of the time.
“And I feel like that bled into, once they got those rebounds, they felt that they could be more physical on offense, on defense, like, pressuring us. So, I feel … a lot of it started with … the rebounds and then obviously brought them energy and carried into the rest of their game.”
For Truong, the problem was simpler.
“I got some open shots, but they just weren’t falling today,” she said dispassionately.
Meanwhile, Fortier ran the emotional gamut: tears when she discussed the team’s ability to overcome injury and win 28 games; frustration at allowing Ole Miss to “dictate the pace and tempo of the game”; and a shrug when asked about the difference in quality between the West Coast and Southeastern conferences.
“San Diego is physical. BYU is physical. Portland is physical,” Fortier said.
But she allowed that “the conference prepares you for certain things, I don’t know that it necessarily prepares us for the NCAA Tournament.”
At that point, the Zags had no choice but to look forward – to a veteran roster next year and a chance to make another run.
“We can already start, like, tomorrow or whenever we get back on the court or getting your body right, getting your mental right … whatever that matters in your life, whatever it takes to get better as a basketball player in order to contribute to this team,” Ejim said.
Fortier took a coach’s view of the challenge moving forward – and she should, because the Zags have won just two NCAA Tournament games in the past eight seasons.
“We are talking about a lot of things that we can try to build on from this year,” she said. “I think that it’s on-the-court stuff, it’s off-the-court stuff, it’s leadership stuff. It’s so many things.
“We have so many options, and I think if they have the same attitude they took this year going into next season, which there will be different challenges, then we are going to again be a hard out.
“We weren’t really a hard out today, unfortunately.”
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