UCLA 75, Gonzaga 89
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP)—This was supposed to be the night that Gonzaga’s high-scoring machine and it’s punchy blond point guard was finally going to be slowed down.
UCLA wouldn’t play at the Bulldogs pace and their trapping, pressure defense surely would at least keep Courtney Vandersloot in check.
Vandersloot? She had other plans, like dominating the final 10 minutes and making sure Gonzaga’s season didn’t end on its home floor.
Vandersloot scored 29 points and had 17 assists, taking over late to help No. 11 seed Gonzaga beat third-seeded UCLA 89-75 on Monday night in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Playing in front of a raucous home crowd, Vandersloot became the first player in Division I history—men or women—to record 2,000 points and 1,000 assists in her career on a breakaway layup with 12:24 left.
And once that benchmark was set, the senior made sure the Bulldogs would be going across town to the Spokane Arena next Saturday night to play in the regional semifinals for the second straight year.
“She just found her rhythm in the second half,” UCLA guard Doreena Campbell said. “She just took over.”
Vandersloot scored 19 of her points in the final 10 minutes after Gonzaga’s Kayla Standish carried the Bulldogs for the first 30 minutes. Standish tied her career high with 30 points, but didn’t score after giving Gonzaga the lead for good on a 3-pointer with 10:22 left.
Standish had done enough making 11 of 14 shots—and 26 of 34 in the first two NCAA games—and grabbing 10 rebounds. It was Vandersloot’s time to shine.
Vandersloot’s 17 assists were one shy of tying the most ever in an NCAA tournament game. She added seven rebounds and darted through UCLA’s pressure trapping defense, imposing the Bulldogs style on a game that was determined largely by the pace.
“I think the pace of the game, Courtney was able to get through their pressure so it’s one of those natural things that just kind of happens,” Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves said.
Darxia Morris led UCLA with 20 points and Jasmine Dixon added 18, but the Bruins (28-5) were bounced in the second round of the tournament for the second straight year, given no favors having to play on Gonzaga’s home floor where the Bulldogs have won 31 of 32 over the past two seasons, the only loss coming to Stanford earlier this year.
UCLA was trying to advance to the round of 16 for the first time since 1999. The Bruins were eliminated in the second round in each of their past two tournament appearances, including an 83-70 loss to Nebraska last year.
Rebekah Gardner added 14 points off the bench, and the Bruins withstood a first-half stretch where Morris and Dixon were both on the bench with foul trouble.
Eventually, the Bruins wore down trying to play at Gonzaga’s rapid pace.
“As the game wore on, they went to what they do best and that’s dribble penetration, mid-range game and getting themselves to the free-throw line,” UCLA coach Nikki Caldwell said.
Gonzaga’s 89 points were the most allowed by UCLA this season and the only team to score more than 70 against the Bruins in regulation.
“I don’t think we came as aggressive as we should have. We broke down in our press a few times,” Morris said. “Gonzaga did a good job. It was the breakdowns that really got to us.”
Many of those breakdowns came late.
Vandersloot followed Standish’s final basket with a 3-pointer at the 9:43 mark, then converted an acrobatic three-point play, scooping in a left-handed shot with her back to the basket with 6:44 left to put the Bulldogs up 70-62.
It was a key moment as UCLA could get no closer than four the rest of the way. Vandersloot hit eight of Gonzaga’s 10 free throws in the final 1:22.
“Kayla carried the weight for a lot of the time and it’s tough to do when she’s being played against big, aggressive posts,” Vandersloot said. “At some point, someone needed to step up with her and go with her.”