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Gonzaga women 12th in latest AP poll; in line for 3 seed in NCAA Tournament

Gonzaga’s Lisa Fortier cuts down the net after winning another West Coast Conference women’s basketball championship. The Bulldogs’ coach is in the running for her fifth coach-of-the-year honors in the past six seasons. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga’s Lisa Fortier cuts down the net after winning another West Coast Conference women’s basketball championship. The Bulldogs’ coach is in the running for her fifth coach-of-the-year honors in the past six seasons. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

With a week off until their next game, the Gonzaga women really do have some time to rest on their laurels. And those laurels are quite impressive.

With the regular season complete, the Zags are a program-best 28-2, and go into next week’s West Coast Conference Tournament on a five-game winning streak.

They also got a bonus Monday night, when the latest NCAA bracket reveal projected them as a No. 3 seed, hosting first- and second-round NCAA Tournament games.

They’re also ranked 12th in the nation this week, dropping one spot Monday despite a 14-point win at Portland on Saturday.

That win capped a 17-1 season in the WCC, which the Zags won by four games over San Diego and BYU.

They also defended their WCC regular-season title, thanks to some impressive defense.

GU finished the regular season ranked second in scoring defense, giving up 51.3 points per game. Only Princeton, playing in the lightly regarded Ivy League, is better.

Sixteen times this year, the Zags held opponents to 50 points or less, emphatically answering one of coach Lisa Fortier’s biggest questions after the graduation of stellar defenders Zykera Rice and Laura Stockton.

“We’re just really buying into the positioning and defending as a team,” Fortier said. “I think this group does a really good job of having each others’ back in a variety of places and ways, and defense is the place where that is showing up.”

Opponents are shooting just 34.8% from the field and 26.9% from long range, which puts GU in the top 20 nationally in both categories. GU also ranks high in rebound margin (plus 6.9, to rank 30th) and steals (271, to rank 52nd).

It all adds up to a stellar record that’s bettered by only teams in Division 1: top-ranked South Carolina and No. 2 Baylor.

Next up are the WCC’s postseason awards, which will be given out Tuesday. Since taking over the program, Fortier has won Coach of the Year four times out of five and is still among the favorites.

Junior guard Jill Townsend is in the mix for Player of the Year.

Gonzaga’s next game is Monday at noon at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, where the Zags will play in the semifinals against an opponent to be determined on Saturday.

On Gonzaga’s side of the bracket, No. 8 seed Santa Clara faces No. 9 seed USF on Thursday. The winner plays No. 5 Pacific on Friday, and the winner of that contest will play No. 4 Portland on Saturday.

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