GU women's basketball vs. Arkansas Little Rock

Gonzaga defeated Arkansas Little Rock by 17 points in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. 

CORVALLIS, Oregon – After a win in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday, fifth-seeded Gonzaga (29-4, 16-2 West Coast Conference) swiftly shifted its sights to Round of 32 opponent, Oregon State (25-7, 14-4 Pac 12).

Head coach Lisa Fortier and her staff sat courtside following GU’s 68-51 victory over Arkansas Little Rock as the regional’s host and No. 4 seed, OSU Beavers, were taken to overtime by No. 13 Boise State before pulling out an 80-75 victory.

“They’re tough, they have a really good team,” junior guard Jessie Loera said. “Watching yesterday’s game was crazy, we didn’t know who we were going to get.”

During Saturday's game, OSU shot well below its season average 3-point percentage, missed 11 free throws and turned the ball over 18 times, but the Beavers still prevailed.

“Every game that you play in the tournament, the teams get more versatile, bigger and more well-rounded,” head coach Lisa Fortier said. “So, this is just the next step for us and hopefully we will show up ready to defend and play with the same energy we did yesterday.”

The Beavers play a similar brand of basketball to GU’s conference foe, BYU, a team which the Zags struggled against in 2019.

OSU, like BYU, shoots an abundance of 3-pointers, boasting the fourth-highest 3-point percentage in the nation, and relies on a four-guard starting lineup to fuel its success.

“We’ve practiced against it, so that is nice for us,” Fortier said. “Our plan has not been to give up the 3-point shot against BYU. These guys shoot the ball just as well and that is not going to be the game plan tomorrow.”

GU will be tasked with stopping two of the nation’s best guards in junior Mikayla Pivec and redshirt sophomore Destiny Slocum, both of whom earned All-Pac 12 honors and were All-American finalists.

Slocum is also a finalist for the National Point Guard of the Year Award amongst other seasonal awards.

“The overall theme on [Slocum] is containment and active pressure will be helpful and critical to slow her down as best we can,” Fortier said. “She is a tremendous player and you have to keep her under wraps otherwise you’re in for a world of hurt.”

The Beaver duo spearheads the scoring, as both average more than 15 points per game on an OSU team that tallies 76 points per game while limiting teams to just 61 points on average.

Along with combatting the opponent on the court, the Zags will hear from a rowdy pro-Beaver crowd inside Gill Coliseum, where OSU has lost just one game this season.

“For me personally, it fuels the fire when people are cheering against you," sophomore Jenn Wirth said. "It makes you want to prove them wrong and work even harder to keep them quiet."

The last time the Zags played OSU was also in a round of 32 game when, as an 11 seed, GU beat the Beavers 76-64 in Corvallis during the 2015 NCAA Tournament.

“I remember it being a battle,” Fortier said. “You think [about] the depth of that [GU] team and the variety of ways which we could score baskets and it's very similar to this team.”

In previous showdowns with Pac-12 opponents this season, GU has seen success, defeating then-No. 7 Stanford and Washington State in back-to-back games in early December.

The Bulldogs and Beavers tip off at 6 p.m. on Monday inside Gill Coliseum in Corvallis. The game will be televised on ESPN.

“Today, we had a really good practice and we are ready to go,” Loera said. “We are excited.”

Ian Davis-Leonard is a sports editor. Follow him on Twitter: @IanDavisLeonard. 

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