Gonzaga women’s basketball fans were reminded Thursday that the Zags are more than a one-player team.
Playing without senior forward Yvonne Ejim, Gonzaga’s offensive and defensive leader, the Zags didn’t miss many beats in an 83-46 runaway over the Pepperdine Waves in a West Coast Conference game before 4,921 at McCarthey Athletic Center.
There was no drama. Perhaps not wanting to let the news out sooner than needed, Gonzaga announced Thursday morning that Ejim was in Hungary with Canada’s Senior National Team to help Team Canada for the Paris Olympics this summer.
Missing a star player for any reason would be concerning for many teams, but plenty of Zags stepped up in Ejim’s absence.
The 19th-ranked Zags (24-2 overall, 10-0 WCC) pushed their homecourt winning streak to 31 and season winning streak to 17.
Ejim leads the Zags with 20.3 points and 8.3 rebounds a game. As it turned out, they didn’t need those statistics.
“It took a little bit of time to get a little bit of flow in the offense,” Gonzaga coach Lisa Fortier said. “When it gets difficult, we usually throw it to her (Ejim) or run a ball screen for a Truong that involves her.”
By the middle of the second quarter, though, Gonzaga was well on its way to another WCC blowout. Kaylynne Truong’s back-to-back 3-pointers in the final 1 minute, 26 seconds allowed the Zags to go into halftime ahead 36-22.
As they’re wont to do, the Zags wrested full control in the third quarter after a typical halftime reset. Brynna Maxwell’s back-to-back 3-pointers, including a four-point play on one she was fouled, gave Gonzaga a 43-26 lead with 7:44 to go in the quarter.
Junior forward Maud Huijbens and senior forward Destiny Burton combined for 16 points and nine rebounds to make up for Ejim’s statistics.
The game got away from Pepperdine (5-18, 1-9) from the midway point of the third quarter until the end.
Fortier said the Zags gave up too many points inside – perhaps an indication they were without their rim protector.
“The biggest issue was they got too many points in the paint,” Fortier said. “They weren’t making perimeter shots. We kept letting them get to the basket. That was a challenge.”
Kaylynne Truong led Gonzaga with 19 points and three assists. Twin sister Kayleigh Truong added 14 points and three assists, Eliza Hollingsworth had 14 points and eight rebounds, and Maxwell scored 11 points.
“I thought our team did well without (Ejim),” Fortier said. “We know we’re capable of a lot. She happens to score the most points on our team, but we have a lot of talented players and really good depth.”
Huijbens appreciated getting the start for Ejim. Her mother was visiting from the Netherlands.
“The timing couldn’t have been better,” Huijbens said.
“This team is really unique in the fact that one person doesn’t do it all,” Hollingsworth said. “(Yvonne) is our leading scorer and rebounder, but it doesn’t mean that when she’s not here we don’t perform or succeed. We wanted to play for her and be her through us.”
The Zags will spend a little time Friday moving the ball faster and reversing it around the perimeter without Ejim.
“We got a little stagnant with the ball,” Fortier said. “We picked it up and (Kaylynne) hit a couple 3s. That was when we got the ball moving.
The Zags host Loyola Marymount at 2 p.m. Saturday. Gonzaga beat LMU 72-48 in mid-January.