March 6, 2008
Editor's Note: All Gonzaga women’s basketball games in the West Coast Conference Tournament will be broadcast on KGA radio 1510-AM throughout the Inland Northwest. Recaps of all Gonzaga men’s and women’s games can be found at www.gozags.com.
By Dale Goodwin
SAN DIEGO) – Gonzaga basketball fans are enjoying the
San Diego sunshine and temperatures in the mid-60s. But for Bulldog women basketball players, their focus is definitely indoors. Inside the Jenny Craig Pavilion on the
San Diego ’s campus, to be specific, where the temperature is rising as eight West Coast Conference teams tip off their bids for a WCC Tournament title and a berth into the NCAA Tournament.
“The weather’s nice, but we are here on business,” said freshman point guard Courtney Vandersloot, who on Monday was named all-conference and WCC Newcomer of the Year.
The Gonzaga women (22-7, 13-1), who won their fourth-straight WCC regular-season title and are top seed in the tournament, opened against No. 8-seed Pepperdine (10-17, 5-9) today at 2:20 p.m. Sounds good on the surface, but Gonzaga played two close games against the Waves during the regular season, winning both, 68-56 at home and 92-85 at Malibu. Aside from Loyola Marymount, which gave the Zags their only conference loss, the Waves offered the Bulldogs their toughest WCC competition.
Gonzaga Coach Kelly Graves, named WCC Coach of the Year for the fourth time in his past eight seasons here, said his team is ready.
| “This is the most talented team we have had. I had no doubt we would be pretty good defensively. But to get the consistent offensive production that we generated has been a pleasant surprise,”
The Bulldogs’ offense is ranked ninth in the nation in scoring and is led by sophomore Heather Bowman, the WCC Player of the Year and the league’s most prolific scorer, averaging 20 points a game.
“We have a lot of weapons,” Bowman said. “When you add the talent on this team with the potential that this young team has, it is very exciting. And we are motivated to play well for each other. This is a very close team.”
This team includes four freshmen, four sophomores, three juniors and only two seniors.
“This is a unique set of women,” said senior leader Michelle Elliott, who
Graves calls this team’s MVP. “We all get along so well. We click on and off the court. This is like no team I’ve ever played on. I think this gives us an edge.”
“We spend most of our time off the court, together,” Vandersloot said. “And I think the chemistry that we’ve developed shows on the court in how we play.”
If the top seeds in the WCC tournament prevail on Day 1, the semifinals Saturday, March 8, would pit No. 1 GU vs. No. 4 San Diego, on the Toreros’ home court. Of Gonzaga’s seven league rivals,
San Diego is the only team the Zag women have never faced in this tournament, which began in 1994.
Other first-round games today have No. 2 Santa Clara playing No. 7 San Francisco at noon, No. 3 USD playing No. 6 Portland at 6 p.m., and No. 4 LMU playing No. 5 Saint Mary’s at 8:20 p.m. The highest remaining seed will play the lowest remaining seed on Saturday, while the two middle seeds meet in the other semifinal.
Men’s Tournament Notes
The WCC men’s tournament begins Friday, March 7, but their format is different than the women’s. On opening day, No. 5 USF plays No. 8 LMU, and No. 6 Pepperdine takes on No. 7 Portland. On Saturday, March 8, No. 3
San Diego and No. 4 Santa Clara meet Friday’s two winners. On Sunday, March 9, at 6:30 p.m. on ESPN 2, No. 1 Gonzaga will take on the SCU/USF/LMU survivor, and No. 2 Saint Mary’s will meet the other survivor. The championship game is scheduled Monday, 6 p.m. on ESPN.