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Gonzaga Women's Basketball

Gonzaga women travel to Houston – hometown of Truong sisters – for Betty Chancellor Classic

Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Brynna Maxwell, left, celebrates with teammate Kaylynne Truong on Saturday at McCarthey Athletic Center.  (James Snook/For The Spokesman-Review)
By Greg Lee The Spokesman-Review

The Truong twins are headed home for Thanksgiving.

The Gonzaga graduate standout guards get to play three games in three days 30 miles from where they grew up – Houston.

They’re grateful to be returning to Texas. But this is no vacation according to Kayleigh Truong.

“It’s definitely going to test us to see how deep our team can go,” Kayleigh said. “We’re also playing high quality opponents. So it’s not like we’re just going on vacation. It’ll be good, it’ll be a good test running into different obstacles and seeing where we have to polish things or make adjustments and stuff like that.”

All four teams in the pre-arranged opponent tourney qualified for the NCAA Tournament last year. So it’ll have a postseason feel – although the most games a team plays at one site in the NCAA Tournament is two in three days with a day’s rest in between.

The Zags (4-1) open against Liberty (2-2) on Friday in the Betty Chancellor Classic at the Merrell Center. Tipoff is at 11:15 a.m. All the games will be on ESPN+.

Gonzaga meets Alabama (6-0) at 11:15 a.m. on Saturday and then finishes with its toughest test thus far against 20th-ranked Louisville (5-0) on Sunday at 10:45 a.m.

Gonzaga drew a good warmup with Liberty, which is coming off a 57-46 loss to North Carolina A&T on Sunday. The Flames lost to No. 11 Texas 75-57 last week.

Gonzaga coach Lisa Fortier believes her team is ready.

“It comes at a perfect time because we’re five games in, we’ve had enough time to get some experience for those who don’t have experience and dust the cobwebs off a little bit and then go out and test yourself at a high high level,” Fortier said. “It’s good timing.”

Fortier takes a team to Texas that features five players – all starters – in double-figure scoring. She knew her team wouldn’t have any problem scoring. The emphasis has been improving defensively.

The trip will test the team’s depth and endurance against some of the best opponents on the Zags’ schedule. That’s part of the reason Fortier put together the schedule as she did.

“It is tough to play three games back to back to back,” Fortier said. “The biggest part is the competition. We’ve played tough teams. Obviously the Washington State game didn’t go our way. It’s just keep taking that next step. (This week) is going to be a step up as far as that competition goes and how sharp we’re going to need to be and how strong we’re going to need to be and how we’re going to need to execute. I’m looking forward to seeing how our team does.”

Graduate 6-foot-1 forward Yvonne Ejiim, who is leading the team in scoring (18.8) and rebounding (8.0), is looking forward to the Zags’ resolve being tested.

“It’s another one of those stretches where we play really good teams back to back to back,” Ejim said. “I feel like it’s going to show us how gritty we are and how consistent we can stay as well. We’ll learn things and we’ll do things really well. The whole three days we’re just going to have to keep up with our wind and get some rest.”

Liberty has struggled in two of its four games; Alabama has yet to have a close game; and Louisville, which has made five straight Elite Eights, is rebuilding a roster that lost 10 players to graduation or the transfer portal. The Cardinals graduated their top three scorers and six of their top seven scorers.

Gonzaga graduate senior forward Eliza Hollingsworth, who has proven to be a threat from the perimeter and a physical force inside, knows the trip will make the Zags better.

“It’s exciting to be playing really good opponents,” Hollingsworth said. “It’s a time to get better.”