It’s very difficult for most teams to enter the Associated Press Top 25 after losing, especially for a midmajor team this early in the season.
Gonzaga women’s basketball is not like most teams. Despite a heartbreaking 76-70 loss in overtime to No. 3 Stanford in Palo Alto, California, the Zags cemented their place amongst the nation’s best. The voters took notice. GU clocked in at No. 23 in the country, its first time in the Associated Press Top 25 this season.
“These games are harder,” women’s head coach Lisa Fortier told The Spokesman-Review. “When you play a top team and get blown out, at the end of the day you can say ‘we’re not as good as they are.’
“But losing by a few … you second-guess everything, and so do the players,” she added. “Looking back, we didn’t play that well. To think we almost beat Stanford and we didn’t play that well.”
In a foul-heavy, grind-it-out game against the Cardinal, the Bulldogs nearly pulled off a repeat performance of last year’s upset in Spokane. Both teams felt equally-matched despite the disparity in rankings, with 18 lead changes and 14 ties throughout. In the end, with two GU starters fouling out and an off shooting night from key players, the Cardinal became too much for the Zags to overcome.
"We're disappointed; we know how good they are and we know we're a good team too," Fortier said after the game. "We talked a lot about winning the possession game because Stanford is so efficient. …We wanted to be decisive. We out-rebounded them by one and we had one fewer turnovers, but that wasn't enough.”
The Zags have a home matchup with Eastern Washington on Friday before they head to Florida for the Gulf Coast Showcase over Thanksgiving break.
On the men’s side, so far so good — despite a flurry of shakeups in the top 10, the Zags stayed put at No. 8, with a host of potential and upcoming opponents surrounding them on all sides.
University of North Carolina, set to face GU in Spokane Dec. 18 with the added possibility of an earlier matchup in the Battle 4 Atlantis finals, came in at No. 5. The Oregon Ducks and Seton Hall Pirates, both potential second-round matchups in Nassau, are Nos. 11 and 13, respectively. The Ducks recently defeated a James Wiseman-led Memphis team in Portland and the Pirates fell to No. 3 Michigan State in a close game. Two PAC-12 teams the Zags will face in December, Arizona and Washington, are ranked Nos. 14 and 25.
The Zags’ West Coast Conference archrival Saint Mary’s dropped out of the rankings after an upset loss to Winthrop at home last week, plunging from No. 18 to fourth on the receiving-votes list with 55.
GU will play Cal State Bakersfield at home Saturday in its final game before kicking off the action in the Bahamas, where they will first play against Southern Mississippi on Wednesday.