December 5, 2020 

WCC check-in: BYU’s Gonzales picks up where she left off, Zags grind against top competition

Plus, a laundry list of COVID cancellations, and how Saint Mary's has fared after its star player opted out

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The BYU women’s basketball team huddles up during a practice at the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah. (Photo: BYU Women’s Basketball via Twitter)

It’s hard not to think about the “what ifs” of BYU’s 2019-20 season, which saw it finish a relatively (relatively!) disappointing third in West Coast Conference play and lose its first game of the WCC Tournament.

The biggest of all, perhaps, is what if the Cougars had had Shaylee Gonzales at their disposal?

Losing the defending WCC Newcomer of the Year to an ACL tear just before her sophomore season meant losing their top scorer, assister and among their best defensive players, too, as she racked up team second-bests in rebounds and steals. It’s not as if the Cougars did badly without her — it’s just so clear how much higher their ceiling was with her.

Luckily, Gonzales is back with BYU this season and immediately reminded everyone what she can do when she dropped 30 points against LSU in their opening game last Friday. It was her highest point total since a 32-point game against Stanford in the second round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament — the last game she played before her injury.

In a good look for the team, too, Gonzales was one of four Cougars in double figures, a group that included recently-eligible Salt Lake CC transfer Lauren Gustin, who also pulled down 14 rebounds. Picked to finish behind Gonzaga in the preseason poll, the Cougars are well on their way toward bouncing back and becoming a solid title contender once more.

For her efforts, which also included a five-point, six-rebound outing in a loss to Washington, Gonzales was named the first WCC Player of the Week of the season. It’s the second of her career, and more likely than not, the second of many, considering she’s only in her second season of play.

But individual accolades are one thing. Getting BYU back to the top of the WCC, a spot they occupied Gonzales’ freshman year, is another.

“None of these preseason polls matter. I look at it as a goal,” Gonzales said prior to the season. “I’m excited, and I can’t wait to get back with my team, and look to beat that preseason ranking. We’re No. 2, and we really want to be No. 1.”

Around the WCC

  • Conference-favorite Gonzaga started its season 1-1 with a close loss to No. 1 South Carolina and a hard-fought win against South Dakota at the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic. Jill Townsend, who earlier this month became the first Bulldog ever to be named to the preseason Naismith Trophy Watch List, averaged 17.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and four assists across the pair of games.

  • Saint Mary’s junior wing Sam Simons, a 2020-21 preseason all-conference pick and the team’s top scorer in 2019-20, has opted out of the season due to COVID-19 concerns. The Gaels are so far 0-3 without her, with losses to VCU, Stephen F. Austin and Arizona State at the Global Sports & Events Tipoff. But Finau Tonga provided a bright spot, averaging 11 points and 7.5 rebounds in their first two games on her way to being named WCC Freshman of the Week.

  • Defending WCC Tournament champion Portland won its opener at Seattle U behind Alex Fowler’s 17 points and 17 rebounds. Four other Pilots scored in double figures, including Pepperdine transfer Rose Pflug and freshman Emme Shearer. Down starter Haylee Andrews, the Pilots fell to No. 9 Oregon on Monday.

  • San Francisco has been getting big production from redshirt freshman Ioanna Krimili — the team’s leading scorer a season ago before going down with an injury in her ninth game — who’s averaging 24.5 points in the Dons’ first two games. She had 27 against No. 17 Oregon State on Thursday, a game USF led at halftime but couldn’t finish.

  • Currently using just a seven-player rotation, Loyola Marymount lost big against USC in its opener, but defeated UC Irvine at home Thursday night. In a very big “welcome to college,” freshman Nicole Rodriguez played all but one minute across the two games, averaging 6.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and five assists.

See complete results from the WCC’s first week here.

Multiple cancellations spoil opening week

  • Pacific’s opening games against Stanford and Fresno State were canceled due to a member of the program testing positive for COVID-19. The Tigers’ first game is now set for Dec. 13 at San José State.

  • The COVID-related shutdown of sports in Santa Clara County affects a trio of Division I teams, including Santa Clara, though the Broncos had already been in a 14-day quarantine since Nov. 24 due to a positive test. Their non-conference schedule currently contains one game, Dec. 14 at Cal Poly.

  • Due to a positive test among the UC Santa Barbara coaching staff, San Diego’s opening-weekend game against the program was canceled. The Toreros host San Diego State on Saturday.

  • Pepperdine saw a late postponement affect its Sunday opener against UCLA after a member of the program tested positive for COVID-19. Though it was later determined to be a false positive, its next scheduled game was against UCSB, who as noted above is currently paused. The Waves’ next scheduled game is Saturday, Dec. 5 against the NAIA’s Westmont.

  • All four games scheduled for Dec. 1 and 2 were canceled, including the Santa Clara and Pacific games noted above as well as San Francisco vs. San José State (no reason given, but it was the Dons’ second canceled game) and BYU vs. Dixie State (COVID protocols on DSU’s side).

Upcoming games (subject to change, because 2020)

The below list contains only teams’ very next game over the next week. The complete schedule can be found here.

Saturday, Dec. 5

Sunday, Dec. 6

  • Portland vs. Seattle U, 12 p.m. PT (NBC Sports Northwest, live stream)

  • Gonzaga at South Dakota State, 12 p.m. PT (live stream)

Monday, Dec. 7

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