Standout center figures to be key against Miami and 6-foot-6 center Shawnice Wilson in second-round home game Monday night
SPOKANE — As with any senior facing her last game, Gonzaga women’s basketball star Kayla Standish is amazed at how fast time has passed.
That is until she looks back.
That isn’t easy with another NCAA tournament game looming Monday, but it is that second-round game with Miami that had Standish reflecting on her career.
The 11th-seeded Bulldogs (27-5) face No. 3 Miami (26-6) tonight at McCarthey Athletic Center. Game time on ESPN2 is 6:30.
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The 86-71 upset of sixth-seeded Rutgers on Saturday was the Bulldogs’ fourth straight tournament with at least one win, three times when they were the lower seed.
The Bulldogs started their current run of March Madness at Edmundson Pavilion in 2009.
A shy, 6-foot-3 freshman from Ellensburg was on the bench for the 12th-seeded Bulldogs, watching juniors Heather Bowman and Vivian Friesen do the heavy lifting in a first-round upset of No. 5 Xavier.
Next it was fourth-seeded Pittsburgh, which featured 6-foot-6 freshman Pepper Wilson. Wilson wasn’t much of a statistical factor, with 10 points in 14 minutes, as the Panthers held on for a 65-60 win.
“I remember playing but I definitely didn’t guard her,” Standish said about her six-minute stint. “I was playing outside because my freshman year I was playing a guard.”
Standish is still shy but she’s come a long way, as evident by her back-to-back 30-point games in the first two games of last year’s run to the Elite Eight.
She had 23 points in the win over Rutgers and is going to have to come up big to upend the eighth-ranked Hurricanes, who feature Wilson in the middle who has gone by Shawnice since transferring from Pitt.
“She’s a very physical post player,” Standish said. “She’s very good at passing out of the post and helping her teammates set up for shots. She’s a very good rebounder, just a very good all-around player.”
Wilson said, “It is ironic I’m playing them again. I’m trying to go back to my memory bank to try to remember what my team did to be successful. All I can remember is it was rebounding. Rebounding will be key, especially because they have a great post player, Standish. I know my size is an advantage.”
She had 14 rebounds in 27 minutes against ISU.
When Standish takes the opening tip for the Bulldogs she and teammate Kelly Bowen will break Courtney Vandersloot’s record of 136 career games.
“The time has flown by but it seems like forever ago that Bowman and Viv were here,” she admitted. “It’s a lot different than freshman year because I’m relied upon a lot more. For being our last home game it’s sad but it’s good. I think that drives us to want to play better, to get a W in our last home game.”
Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves said that landing Standish was a milestone because she was the best senior in the state in 2008. However, she didn’t really have the impact of the slightly less-heralded Bowman or Vandersloot, both four-year starters, until she was a junior.
“She took a while to adjust, like most small-town players,” Graves said. “When she became our go-to player inside last year she just flourished.”
Standish scored 17 points per game, earned All-West Coast Conference honors and was selected to the Pan-Am team with teammate Katelan Redmon. This season she earned all-league honors again, averaging 15.8 points and becoming GU’s all-time shot-blocker, currently standing at 174.
The special-education major will delay getting her teaching certificate and Masters until after exhausting all basketball opportunities. She and Redmon have been invited to the WNBA tryout camp and she’s interested in going overseas.
But she doesn’t want to rush things, having learned that time goes by too fast.
“Every year we’ve done something special, we’ve taken it a step further,” she said. “We’ve been lucky enough to play close to home. We find something to make it memorable, big moments from every year that stand out. I think ours is yet to come.”