The Courtney Vandersloot Era ended with a standing ovation, a wry smile and a wave to the 11,646 fans who filled Spokane Arena and were...
SPOKANE — The Courtney Vandersloot Era ended with a standing ovation, a wry smile and a wave to the 11,646 fans who filled Spokane Arena and were hoping for so much more.
Despite a heroic effort from the superstar point guard, Gonzaga, the lowest seed to ever make an Elite Eight, was no match for Stanford’s size Monday night. The top-seeded Cardinal laid an 83-60 whipping on the 11th-seeded Bulldogs in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament Spokane Regional final.
“They’re just a better team than us,” Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves said.
“We’re not there yet. We would have had to play a perfect game. It’s not to say that on any given night we couldn’t play with a team like that, but they would have to be a little off.”
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And Stanford (33-2) was anything but off in running its winning streak to 27 heading into its fourth straight Final Four in Indianapolis next weekend.
The Cardinal shot an insane 64.5 percent in the first half and only another stunning effort by Vandersloot kept the Bulldogs (31-5) within shouting distance. The senior from Kentwood High School in Covington had 21 of her 25 points by halftime.
Shortly after a 9-0 Stanford spurt made it 22-12, Vandersloot scored 18 straight points for the Bulldogs. And the Cardinal still led 47-38 at the break.
“We felt pretty good at halftime,” Gonzaga senior Janelle Bekkering said. “We knew that we’re a team that can make a comeback. We showed that in the previous (tournament) games.”
Then the roof caved in, despite the best effort of the pro-Zags crowd.
Stanford, led by sisters Nnemkadi and Chiney Ogwumike, opened the second half with a 14-2 run. Vandersloot had Gonzaga’s basket — her last — while the sisters combined for a dozen points. That 61-40 lead with little more than 13 minutes left effectively ended any doubt about the outcome.
Gonzaga, which matched the Cardinal on the boards in an early-season six-point loss, got pounded 29-12 on the glass in the second half and 49-25 for the game.
“They’re so strong and they’re so athletic,” said Gonzaga’s 6-foot-2 post, Ellensburg’s Kayla Standish. “You body them up and they’re going around you. Their inside (game) really hurt us.”
Nnemkadi Ogwumike, a 6-2 junior and the regional tournament MVP, led the Cardinals with 23 points and 11 rebounds, Chiney Ogwumike, a 6-3 freshman, had 18 points and 15 rebounds, and 6-4 senior Kayla Pedersen, also an all-tournament pick, had 23 and 11.
For good measure, 6-foot senior point guard Jeanette Pohlen, who came into the game mired in a horrendous shooting slump, added 17 points for the Cardinal, hitting 5 of 8 three-point attempts.
“I just said to her, ‘You need to take open shots, period,’ ” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. ” ‘If nothing else, you got people in there to rebound, so if you miss, so what.’ “
But for all of that, it was Stanford’s shift to a zone that did the Bulldogs in.
“Courtney Vandersloot, the basket got really big for her,” VanDerveer said. “That happened once to me in my whole life. She’s just a great shooter and we had to do something different.”
Stanford went to a zone defense in the second half, Vandersloot lost her effectiveness and the Bulldogs only 23.5 percent the rest of the way. Vandersloot made 1 of 7 second-half shots after going 7 of 11 with three three-pointers before halftime.
“I wasn’t getting the shot attempts,” she said. “They’re long in there … they’re able to cover a lot of ground with that zone. It’s tough.”
Vandersloot finished with 25 points and nine assists, giving her 117 and 40 in four tournament games.
“I didn’t do a good job as a coach,” Graves said. “We do some things and we tried everything we do against a zone … how many times did we miss (shots) we typically make? Tonight we didn’t. You’ve got to credit (the Cardinal).
“Those hands come up a little bit faster and they’re a little bit longer and I think we lost some confidence. This is a game you have to be confident.”
Standish finished with 17 points, finishing 7 of 16 after making her first four shots. Katelan Redmon scored 13 on 6-of-21 shooting for the Bulldogs.
|Out with a bang|
|Gonzaga senior Courtney Vandersloot averaged 29.25 points in four NCAA tournament games.|
|March 19||Gonzaga 92, Iowa 86||34|
|March 21||Gonzaga 89, UCLA 75||29|
|March 26||Gonzaga 76, Louisville 69||29|
|March 28||Stanford 83, Gonzaga 60||25|