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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Women’s basketball: Gonzaga’s ‘too long’ break, WSU’s rough start and showdown looms for EWU, Idaho

Coach Lisa Fortier, pictured during a game last November at McCarthey Athletic Center, has guided Gonzaga to a 14-2 record this season.  (Colin Mulvany/The Spokesman-Review)
By Greg Lee The Spokesman-Review

Lisa Fortier isn’t a fan of the West Coast Conference schedule.

The Gonzaga women’s basketball coach doesn’t mince words.

“I don’t like it,” Fortier said after her 18th-ranked Zags opened WCC play last week with a 74-53 win at Portland.

There was no doubt Gonzaga (14-2 overall, 1-0 WCC) needed a break after tackling the fifth-most difficult nonconference schedule in the nation.

The Zags didn’t need two weeks off, though, until their conference opener last Thursday.

“It was too long,” Fortier said.

And they unfortunately were given a first-week bye, meaning they’ll go another week before playing their second conference game.

Making matters worse in Fortier’s eyes is the fact that the Zags’ second bye occurs the final week of conference play.

“I don’t think a team should have the first and last bye, personally,” she said. “If you want to tell the conference that’s what I think, then that’s OK.”

The last bye creates another difficult challenge considering the double bye into the WCC Tournament.

Gonzaga’s final conference game is Feb. 28 at home against Portland, which was picked to finish second behind the Zags.

With this being a leap year, that means Gonzaga could go 11 days before playing in the WCC Tournament semifinals.

And the Zags could go at least another 10 days before playing their opener in the NCAA Tournament.

The Zags’ goal is their deepest run to date in the NCAA.

The thing they’ll have to guard against come early March is rust from inactivity.

“I think it’s a disadvantage and then especially if we end up with the double bye in (Las) Vegas,” Fortier said. “Then we’re in the same situation where we have a two-week layoff and then you have another week off before the NCAA Tournament.”

Rough start

Considering that Washington State was picked to finish fifth in the Pac-12, it’s obvious the Cougars would drop a conference game here and there.

But after being swept in the Bay Area, WSU finds itself on the wrong end of a 0-3 start.

It leaves the Cougars with little wiggle room.

It started in December when WSU fell 60-55 at home against Washington.

That was followed by a 74-65 setback at No. 8 Stanford on Friday and a 73-72 loss at California on Sunday.

Now a team that got out to an 10-1 start has dropped four its past five.

For the Cougars to start turning things around, they’ll have to do so with a road game Sunday at Washington (11-3, 1-2).

WSU captured the Pac-12 Tournament title last March. It may take a similar run for the Cougars to return to the NCAA Tournament.

Cougars coach Kamie Ethridge had this to say to the Associated Press following the loss to Stanford: “Stanford is really good and we just weren’t as good offensively. We just didn’t have enough scoring punch to stay with them in the second half. We made some good plays and kept it close, but we got to be able to score in the 70s and 80s to beat Stanford.”

Still on the road

Eastern Washington won’t make its home Big Sky Conference debut until next week. But the Eagles (12-3, 2-0), picked to win the conference title, can continue their fast start this week.

EWU visits Idaho (9-5, 2-0) on Saturday for a 1 p.m. game.

It’ll be a clash of winning streaks when the teams face off. EWU has won six straight and Idaho has strung together five in a row.

Zags look to extend formula

Gonzaga makes its WCC home debut Thursday when Santa Clara visits The Kennel before San Diego swings by on Saturday.

The Zags have won 26 straight at home – the third-longest streak in the country behind No. 1-ranked South Carolina (47) and No. 25 UNLV (28).

Numbers watch

Fortier is closing in on a milestone.

The Zags’ conference-opening win over Portland last week improved Fortier’s career record to 247-64 in her 10th season as head coach.

Her 250th victory will likely come next week on the road.

Statistical leaders

Gonzaga graduate guard Brynna Maxwell isn’t shooting the same percentage from long range this season as she did last year.

But Maxwell has caught fire after a 6-for-19 start from 3-point range.

She’s made 44 of 106 (41.5%) – 38 of 87 (43.6%) since the fourth game.

Maxwell led the nation much of the season a year ago, finishing second at 48.3%.

Gonzaga senior forward Yvonne Ejim continues to rank second in the nation in field goals made.

Ejim has made 140 of 218 (64.2%), second behind Iowa’s Caitlin Clark, who is well ahead at 173.

Zags guard Kaylynne Truong ranks ninth in the nation in assists per game, averaging 6.0.


Gonzaga moved up to a No. 4 seed in Charlie Creme’s latest bracketology this week. Creme has GU hosting the first and second rounds.

Creme has Gonzaga playing No. 13 seed California Baptist and Eastern Washington staying in Spokane as a No. 12 seed to face No. 5 North Carolina.

Despite being swept last weekend, WSU is still in Creme’s postseason prognostications. As a No. 9 seed, the Cougars would face No. 8 Michigan State at the site of the top-ranked team in the nation, South Carolina.


WSU senior guard Charlisse Leger-Walker’s 20 points against Cal pushed her career points to 1,687 – fourth in WSU history.