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#17 Gonzaga WBB Head to the Bay for the Weekend

can the Bulldogs put the clamps down like they did in Spokane?

Gonzaga Women’s Basketball will look to continue their strong start in conference play tonight as they take on the Santa Clara Broncos for the second time in as many weeks. The match will be shown on ESPN+ and it starts at 7pm EST.

Since the last matchup between these two teams, both have played three games. Gonzaga squared off against USD, LMU, and St. Mary’s and looked strong in all of them on their way to an average scoring margin of 24 points. Meanwhile, Santa Clara lost on the road to Portland 73-63 before traveling home to defeat Pepperdine and USF.

In the two games last week, Gonzaga looked quite good as they blitzed both opponents early to take double digit leads heading into the half and held the edge in scoring in all but one of the eight quarters.

That’s not to say all was perfect as the Zags struggled to knock down their 3s against LMU, 4-14, but were able to bounce back nicely against St. Mary’s by going 14-31 behind Kaylynne Truong’s 7-14 three point shooting that propelled her to a season high 25 points and the third highest of her career. Additionally, in the LMU matchup, the team committed 16 turnovers, which is four points higher than their season average and nearly one of the highest amount the team has totaled this season. However, finding items to complain about regarding this team’s play gets harder and harder as the season progresses.

Individually, the players had some pretty great performances. Yvonne Ejim scored a combined 46 points on 19-26 shooting while also grabbing 17 rebounds, 4 blocks, and 4 steals in just 52 minutes. On top of her rocking three point shooting performance against St. Mary’s, Kaylynne doled out 16 assists with just 7 turnovers while also adding 4 steals last week. Eliza Hollingsworth may not have shot the ball particularly well, just 5-19, but she contributed in other ways with her 15 rebounds, 4 assists, and only 1 turnover. Brynna Maxwell may not have posted amazing scoring numbers, 11 points against LMU and 14 against St. Mary’s, but she shot the ball with great efficiency from deep as she went 2-4 and 3-5 respectively.

The bench looks to be stepping up as well as they scored 14 and 13 points against LMU and St. Mary’s with Bree Salenbien leading the way in both games with 6 and 5 points on an efficient 4-7 shooting across those games while also grabbing 6 rebounds. I talked earlier in the year about wanting more bench contributions so I’m really liking the evolution seen since the start of conference play.

The only player who you could really say struggled last week has to be Kaylynne Truong as she was pretty much responsible for the team’s lowest three point shooting mark on the season against LMU by going just 1-6, but to focus on that game blinds us to her solid performance against St. Mary’s where she scored 10 points on 3-5 shooting to go along with 5 assists, 2 steals, and just 1 turnover.

In the last matchup against Santa Clara, the Broncos struggled at the McCarthy Center as they posted their lowest scoring total of the season with just 49 points and abysmal 33% overall. When looking at the numbers from their loss against Portland a week ago, the biggest thing that stands out was their inability to knock down their three pointers (7-22), which was certainly seen against Gonzaga (7-24). For a team so dependent on the deep ball, about one third of their points come from beyond the arc, they will have to hit from downtown if the team has any chance tonight.

Another reason for Gonzaga’s dominance in Spokane against the Broncos was the inability for Tess Heal to find the type of success she’s had in her first two years of college ball. Her 10 points against the Bulldogs was the lowest total she’s posted this season outside of a throwaway game against non-D1 Menlo. If Gonzaga can contain her and her 18 points per game to a similar degree as before, I really can’t see the Broncos taking the upset, even if her teammates knock down their three pointers, since Tess has led the team in scoring in all but 5 of the team’s 20 contests this year. The other two players to take the cake include Olivia Pollerd and Marya Hudgins with only the former having a 20+ point performance thus far.

I also want to take a moment to share some things outside of this matchup including:

  • Gonzaga being named as the NCAA Team of the Week, which is great but begs the question: how does this not correlate to an increase in their AP or Coaches Poll ranking?
  • Coach Lisa Fortier being named as a top 10 candidate for the 2024 Kathy Delaney-Smith Coach of the Year Award, which recognizes the best coaches across the 26 “Mid Major” conferences.
  • Coach Lisa Fortier getting her 250th win in her career, all with Gonzaga, as the team defeated St. Mary’s. Across her ten year career, she possess a 250-61 (.803) record.
  • Yvonne Ejim being named as a top 10 candidate for the 2024 Katrina McClain Award, which recognizes the best power forwards across the nation.
  • Kaylynne Truong making Gonzaga history by becoming the all-time leader in games played for the University

What a team. No words can really describe how cool things are in Zag-land.

Given that the past couple of Thursday games have featured both Men’s and Women’s team tipping off at the same times, I’m excited to hunker down tonight and watch both teams play back-back. I hope I’m not the only one so hit the comments below during the game to contribute to the open thread!