Many recall the incredible season had by the SFA women’s basketball team in its first year in the WAC.
After going nearly undefeated in WAC play, the Ladyjacks ended the postseason as tournament champions. SFA is looking to repeat this year as they currently sit comfortably atop the conference with an overall record of 12-2.
Not far below the LadyJacks of SFA is GCU. And the Lopes are looking for for a little revenge at home on Saturday.
After ending their 3-game losing streak with a win at home against CBU, the Lopes play host today against the reigning WAC champs.
Both teams have had some excellent play early this season. However, both teams have also had some injury troubles keeping them from meeting their full potential.
A lot of storylines in this one, so let’s get into it.
The most obvious focus of today’s game is the fact that it is a rematch from the championship game of 2022. Last year, SFA took care of business in Vegas, winning 74-57.
It was the second straight that GCU head coach Molly Miller’s Lopes made it all the way to the WAC championship game just to fall and end up in second place. Considering Miller’s impressive history of winning, this is not something she takes lightly, so expect her to have her team come out guns blazing in their opportunity for revenge.
The Injury Bug Strikes Again
Unfortunately, this game doesn’t have the players we expected going into the season. Right before play began, SFA head coach Mark Kellogg informed us that star Ladyjack Zya Nugent would be out for the season. Her absence has certainly hurt their performance. But considering SFA is in first place regardless, it could definitely be worse.
For GCU, Sydney Palma is out indefinitely with a knee injury suffered at Utah Valley last week. Although Palma isn’t the leading scorer, her passing and clutch shooting has been key to the Lopes’ success this year. The former Lancer is averaging 8.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.3 assists while shooting a solid 41 percent from the field.
Like Nugent from SFA, not having Palma on the court really hurts GCU. But, both of these players provide a key bench presence that impacts their teams almost as much as their play.
Perimeter Shots Will Play a Huge Role
Who will hit more shots from the perimeter on Saturday afternoon at GCU Arena? SFA is coming off a Thursday night win in which the Ladyjacks knocked down 15 3-pointers against Utah Tech. GCU hasn’t necessarily shot it well from the perimeter all season. GCU is shooting just 30 percent from distance. SFA is shooting close to 40 percent.
GCU holds teams to 26 percent shooting from the perimeter. SFA holds teams to around 33 percent.
So, something has to give. Who will knock down more perimeter shots? That will determine the outcome in the rematch of the 2022 WAC tournament title game.
Even though it hurts me to say as a Lope, I have to put my money on SFA. Overall, their play has been much more solid this season despite not having Zya Nugent. GCU can be super inconsistent offensively, especially from the free throw line. This is something I expect SFA to take advantage of. It’s a game of runs, and the Ladyjacks really only need one run to take home the win.
I think the only way GCU pulls this one off is if Evan Zars gets her game back. After WAC Player of the Week performances early on this season, she’s been offensively absent for the last several games. Having her back at full strength would definitely be key in getting a win at home against the top team in the conference.