No. 11 seed 1 of 5 teams to win on home court Monday

It was as if Gonzaga's Courtney Vandersloot wanted to put a highlight reel of her entire career into one basketball game. A contest that would be her last on her home court at the McCarthey Athletic Center, but not her last in a Bulldogs uniform.

That's because No. 11 seed Gonzaga, for the second season in a row, will be going to the Sweet 16 -- thanks to a great point guard, a very strong team … and some good fortune with geography.

The Bulldogs beat No. 3 seed UCLA 89-75 Monday in Spokane, Wash., taking advantage of being at home to knock off the Pac-10's Bruins.

Being at home was also a big help to Dayton No. 1 seed Tennessee and Philadelphia No. 2 seed Duke; both were pushed Monday in the second round but survived.

Tennessee, after a first-round romp over Stetson, got all it could handle from eighth-seeded Marquette. The Golden Eagles' senior guard tandem of Angel Robinson and Tatiyiana McMorris had not played in an NCAA tournament before this year, but they certainly made the most of the opportunity.

McMorris hit the winning shot in a first-round victory against Texas. Then against Tennessee, Robinson and McMorris combined for 34 points in a 79-70 loss to Tennessee.

Meanwhile, Duke had an even closer call than that against No. 10 seed Marist at Cameron Indoor Stadium, winning 71-66. The Red Foxes were in control much of the game, despite the loss of senior guard Erica Allenspach in the first half to an ankle sprain. But eventually, the Blue Devils rallied, and Duke fans breathed a sigh of relief when the Red Foxes' potential game-tying 3-pointer didn't go.

Duke will next face DePaul, one of two Big East teams to advance to the Sweet 16 Monday; five others will try to do that Tuesday. The Philly No. 3 seed Blue Demons were almost tripped up on sixth-seeded Penn State's home court, but rallied for a 75-73 Dayton No. 2 Notre Dame beat Temple 77-64.

Home was sweet for Dayton No. 4 seed Ohio State, which beat Georgia Tech 67-60 and faces Tennessee next, and Spokane No. 1 seed Stanford, which beat No. 8 St. John's 75-49 and finished its fourth consecutive season with a perfect mark at Maples Pavilion.

Stanford senior starters Kayla Pedersen and Jeanette Pohlen concluded their Cardinal careers 63-0 at home, and but now go to a regional where another team is the hometown favorite.

That's Gonzaga. The Bulldogs will have the support of the entire city with them -- including Gonzaga alum John Stockton, who was in attendance Monday appreciating the skills of a fellow point guard -- as they play in the upcoming regional at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena.

The setup of predetermined sites for the first and second rounds of the NCAA women's tournament means that sometimes, a worse-seeded team gets a home-court advantage over a team with a better seed because it submitted a winning bid to host.

The Bulldogs will face either No. 2 seed Xavier -- the team they lost to last year in the Sweet 16 -- or seventh-seeded Louisville. Both play Tuesday in Cincinnati. Stanford faces fifth-seeded North Carolina in the other Spokane semifinal Saturday.

Would No. 11 Gonzaga have defeated sixth-seeded Iowa in the first round or UCLA in the second on a neutral court? Hard to say, but the Bulldogs did make the Sweet 16 away from home last year. Of course, then Gonzaga had a home-state advantage -- the subregional was played across the state in Seattle -- and defeated No. 2 seed Texas A&M in the 2010 second round.

But no one can argue that Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves has built a terrific program in Spokane, and Vandersloot has been the centerpiece. The senior guard was sensational Monday: 29 points, 17 assists, 7 rebounds, 5 steals. During the game, she scored the 2,000th point of her career. Are you watching, WNBA scouts? You know you need point guards in the league.

It's not too often that a player could score 30 points and be overshadowed by her teammate, but Gonzaga's Kayla Standish was. Not that she minded.

UCLA is a very good defensive team, but it didn't look so against the high-octane offense of Gonzaga, which shot 55.8 percent from the field. It was an unfortunate break in a good season for UCLA to have to play on Gonzaga's home court in the second round. Last season, the Bruins fell in the NCAA second round to No. 1 seed Nebraska on a neutral court.

UCLA's loss -- combined with the first-round exit of Arizona State -- leaves Stanford as the last Pac-10 team standing in the 2011 tournament. The Cardinal, going for their fourth consecutive Final Four, are still considered the Spokane Regional favorite.

But the idea that the Bulldogs are really underdogs? They sure aren't looking like it.

Posted by imran Tuesday, March 22, 2011


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