Ejim

Sophomore Yvonne Ejim (15) attempts a layup against the Bengals defense in GU's 69-39 victory in The Kennel.

Having a solid group of reserves is common for a team at the collegiate level. However, the ability to substitute multiple starting-caliber players from the bench is a premium few coaches get to enjoy. 

One of those lucky coaches is Lisa Fortier, head coach of the Gonzaga University women’s basketball team.

It was the midway point of the first quarter in Thursday’s game against Idaho State University and GU didn’t have 10 points on the board. Seeing her team was in need of an energy boost, Fortier called upon one of her most productive bench players, sophomore forward Yvonne Ejim. 

Less than a minute after entering the game, Ejim got the ball on the right elbow, drove to the basket, spun and finished over a defender. A few plays later, Ejim stole the ball from Idaho State senior guard Callie Bourne and scored on a fast break layup. 

Aside from being a prolific scorer, Ejim is also a capable playmaker. Late in the first quarter, Ejim went up for a layup, but in mid-air she dropped a pass off to senior forward Melody Kempton, who scored and drew a foul. 

Ejim would finish the game with 10 points and three rebounds across 20 minutes.

The spark Ejim provided off the bench helped lift GU to a 69-39 win, but she wasn’t the only non-starter to excel against Idaho State. 

Junior guard Kaylynne Truong led GU with 11 points and three assists despite not starting. 

“Bringing in players like Kaylynne Truong and Yvonne Ejim off the bench is a luxury that most people don’t have,” Fortier said. “And coaches are looking to bring in energy, a lot of times we were able to bring in energy and scoring and passing and rebounding and defense with those two alone.”

GU’s bench outscored its starters 37-32, something Fortier was happy to see in the post-game statsheet.  

“37 Points off the bench is quite a few, but it’s nice to see all of them, almost all of them scored,” Foriter said. “[The players] just fill their roles and the depth that we have is going to help us down the line always this good.”

GU’s deep roster should come in handy when defending champion No. 7 Stanford University (2-1) rolls into town on Sunday.

The Zags should have their hands full with Stanford junior guard Haley Jones, who’s averaging 13.7 points and 7.3 rebounds a game. In Stanford’s last game, a 77-55 win over the University of Portland, Jones had 17 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists. It marked Stanford’s first trouble double in almost 20 years.

According to senior wing Abby O’Connor, the team’s excited to play such a high-level opponent.  

“I think these next few days of practice are going to be high focused, and we know they’re going to be a really good team, but so are we so I think everyone’s just super excited and will be locked in and ready to go,” O’Connor said. 

Redshirt guard Cierra Walker believes defeating Stanford will require a strong defensive performance. 

“I think if we can just keep people in front of us, you know, keeping our traps going, hands up in the presses," Walker said. "I think that’s going to help us be really successful on Sunday.”

GU then travels to Hawaii for the Rainbow Wahine Showcase that features the University of Utah, Eastern Illinois University and the University of Hawaiʻi after Thanksgiving from Nov. 26 to Nov. 28.

Henry Krueger is a staff writer. Follow him on Twitter: @henrykrveger.

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