The Gonzaga Bulldog’s women’s basketball team has gotten off to a strong start to open the season. The Zags stand at 3-1 with convincing wins over Montana State and Idaho State. The lone loss was a nail-biter in Spokane to the No. 7 Stanford Cardinal, hardly something to hang the head low over.
After nearly a week off, the Zags head to Honolulu to take part in the Rainbow Wahine Showcase, and will rattle off three games in three days over the weekend. Let’s take a quick look at their competition.
Utah Utes, 4-0
The Utes were picked to finished 10th in the Pac 12 preseason poll but have started off the season strong, with wins over Xavier, Saint Mary’s, and Cincinnati. They have a scorers mentality and will be a solid test for the Zags’ defense.
Junior guard Brynna Maxwell, from Gig Harbor, Washington, has been on an absolute tear, averaging 16.3 points per game in just under 20 minutes. She has re-discovered her three-point shot to start the season, shooting a lethal 50 percent (51.7 to be exact) from long range.
She is complimented down low by talented forward freshman Jenna Johnson from Minnesota. The 6’2 Johnson was ranked as the No. 42 player overall by ESPN and the seventh-best forward nationally. She has been everything as advertised for the Utes, averaging 14.5 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.
Utah is a very efficient scoring team. They are ninth in the country in two-point percentage and effective field goal percentage. They’ve been attacking the offensive glass and passing the ball with the best of them. The Zags defense will have to be locked in to come away with a win over their first opponent.
Eastern Illinois, 2-0
The Zags’ next opponent is an exercise in contrasts. Eastern Illinois has some talented scorers in Lariah Washington, Abby Wahl, and Kira Arthofer, and in total have all five starters averaging double-digit points per game. Part of that is because the Panthers pretty much run a seven-women rotation. Each of the starters averages at least 31 minutes.
That might be problematic when you are playing in back-to-back games and then your opponent is the Zags, who empty out the bench with fresh legs multiple times throughout the game. Eastern Illinois will try and grind out a win. They are an aggressive squad on defense, and opponents are averaging 23.5 turnovers per game (albeit, small sample size).
If things get rough for the Zags this tournament, they should be able to leave with a win. The hosting Rainbow Wahine are just not very good this season on both ends of the court. Opponents average 83.8 points per game vs. Hawaii, the eighth-worst mark in the country. In general, the team struggles to score and stop opponents from scoring. On the offensive end, Hawaii has shown adept at getting to the free throw line, but in general, this should not be a game the women drop. Luckily, it is the final of the three games.
As of now, according to GoZags.com, there is not an online stream available for these games, but perhaps that will change. In the meantime, the games will be broadcast over the radio on 790 AM KJRB.
- vs. Utah: Friday, Nov. 26, 2:00 pm PT
- vs. Eastern Illinois, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2:00 pm PT
- vs. Hawaii, Sunday, Nov. 28, 4:30 pm PT