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Gonzaga women’s basketball knows it has ‘less room for error’ on road trip to Santa Clara, San Francisco

UPDATED: Wed., Feb. 20, 2019, 6:47 p.m.

Gonzaga coach Lisa Fortier instructs her team during last Saturday’s game against BYU  in the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga coach Lisa Fortier instructs her team during last Saturday’s game against BYU in the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Expect a bit more urgency this week from the Gonzaga women – and not only because they’re coming off a loss.

The Zags are 23-3 overall and ranked 15th in the nation, but at 12-2 are just one-half game ahead of BYU in the West Coast Conference race going into the last road trip of the regular season.

“It’s a little more exciting now, with a little less room for error,” GU coach Lisa Fortier said. “This is going to test our competitiveness.”

Santa Clara did exactly that in the teams’ first meeting on Jan. 26 in the Kennel. The Broncos eventually fell 78-61, but they made Gonzaga earn it.

“An ugly win is still a win,” senior forward Zykera Rice said after a rough contest that included a 22-for-25 day at the foul line for the Zags.

GU trailed for much of the first half, eked out a 36-33 halftime lead and didn’t put the Broncos away until midway through the fourth quarter.

“They’re tough,” Fortier said.

Santa Clara is 11-14 overall and just 4-10 in the WCC, but is coming off a win Saturday at fifth-place Pacific.

GU has won five straight and 25 of the last 27 over the Broncos, who took back-to-back games during the Zags’ injury-riddled 2015-16 season.

Expect senior guard Laura Stockton to move alone into third place on Gonzaga’s career assist list. Stockton is tied at 439 with Amy Simpson, who played from 1982-86.

The Zags’ all-time leader is Courtney Vandersloot (1,118 from 2007-11) and the runner-up is Shannon Mathews (600 from 2002-05).

The Bulldogs lead the WCC in scoring defense (57.5 ppg, 36th nationally), scoring margin (plus-16.5, 15th nationally) and rebounding defense (30.6 rpg).

Gonzaga has limited Santa Clara to 48.8 points per contest in the past five games.

The Broncos are getting double-digit scoring from Tia Hay (15.3 ppg) and Ashlyn Herlihy (14.1 ppg), who also leads the team in rebounds with an average of 7.5.

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