Gonzaga reached the women's Sweet 16 for the first time as Vivian Frieson scored with 17.2 seconds left to give the Bulldogs a 72-72 victory over Texas A&M.
After stepping to the microphone with a little beat-box ditty at Sunday’s news conference, Vivian Frieson broke down exactly what she was going to do to help Gonzaga win on Monday.
Then she went out and did it.
Playing on the Edmundson Pavilion court where she had shined for Garfield High, the Seattle native displayed the evolution of her game in leading the seventh-seeded Bulldogs to a 72-71 upset of second-seeded Texas A&M in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.
The second-round victory redeemed a four-point December loss to the Aggies and advanced the Zags to the Sweet 16 for the first time.
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On Saturday in Sacramento, Calif., Gonzaga (29-4) will play the winner of Tuesday’s game between No. 3 seed Xavier and No. 6 Vanderbilt.
“That’s the kind of confidence I have in my team,” said Frieson, who had declared that the Zags would use their transition game and her defense on Aggies star Danielle Adams to wear the center down and deny her the ball inside.
“I know if I say something, they’re going to be there to back me up,” Frieson said of her teammates. “I might say the most off-the-wall thing, but they are going to try their hardest to do it.”
Frieson did her part to back up her proclamations, too.
With 1:21 remaining and the Zags up 70-67, junior point guard Courtney Vandersloot committed her fifth foul trying to defend her counterpart, Sydney Colson. Colson made two free throws and Tanisha Smith drained a jumper to give the Aggies a 71-70 lead with 39 seconds remaining.
“I was praying for the basketball gods to be on our side,” said Vandersloot, who was dipping her head on the bench as the final minute played out.
Frieson gave the Zags a final possession, rebounding a missed jumper by Smith with 37 seconds left. GU coach Kelly Graves called timeout to design a play. And Frieson executed it, taking advantage of a mismatch with a smaller defender to sink a picturesque 12-footer with 18 seconds on the clock.
And on defense, she bodied Adams, a 6-foot-1 post, into a forced, 18-foot miss.
When the final buzzer sounded, Gonzaga players swarmed at center court and celebrated. Texas A&M (26-8) players looked stunned, still crying when they spoke about the game afterward.
“I just shot it, hoping it would go in,” said Adams, who finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds. “They’re a very good team — very athletic and very quick. Like (Aggies) coach (Gary Blair) said, this was the game of the night.”
Down 42-31 at halftime, Texas A&M dug deep to stitch together an 11-2 run early in the second half to take its first lead, 52-50, on a three-pointer by Smith. The Aggies’ biggest lead was three, with 4:06 remaining.
But Frieson and her teammates wouldn’t let go of the game.
“When the final buzzer sounded, I just wanted to run off the court so that the refs couldn’t call it back,” said Frieson, who finished with a game-high 23 points as well as nine rebounds, five assists, four blocks and three steals.
“It feels amazing. I’ve never felt anything like this and I probably said that before last year or when we won state as a high-school player. But there’s nothing like this.”
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org.