Gonzaga women back atop WCC thanks to road sweep, BYU losses

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As road trips go, it doesn’t get much better than Gonzaga’s excursion last week to Northern California.

Not only did the GU women sweep would-be contenders Pacific and Saint Mary’s, they also moved into sole possession of first place in the West Coast Conference after BYU stumbled twice.

With seven games left in the regular season, the Zags are 21-2 overall and 10-1 in the WCC, one game ahead of BYU.

Even better, they moved up two spots to 13th in this week’s Associated Press poll and to 12th in RPI.

Should they win out, the Zags will be a good bet to host first- and second-round NCAA Tournament games, but March Madness is still a few weeks away.

At ESPN this week, bracketologist Charlie Creme has the Zags penciled in as a No. 5 seed, playing No. 12 James Madison in a first-round game hosted by Iowa State.

Other likely destinations include going to Arizona State as a No. 5 seed or to Oregon State as a six seed. Better yet, win out and they’ll stay in Spokane.

“It is exciting,” senior guard Laura Stockton said before Monday’s practice. “Our goals are still the same. Obviously it’s nice to see, but we try not to think about it.”

That’s easier said than done, considering they have just one game this week, Saturday at ninth-place Portland (10-12 overall, 2-9 in the WCC).

On Monday, coach Lisa Fortier and her staff worked on fine-tuning the “new twists” to our offense.

“And we’re always trying to be a better defensive team,” said Fortier, who noted that Portland’s up-tempo offense presents a unique challenge.

“We’re going to have to figure out how to stop them,” Fortier said.

They have the weapons. GU is doing a lot of things right on defense. They rank 31st out of 349 schools in defending the 3-point shot, as opponents are hitting just 27.6 percent.

GU is 19th in steals, 29th in rebounds and 47th in turnovers given up.

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