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NCAA WOMEN'S TOURNAMENT

No. 11 Gonzaga women become lowest-seeded team to reach Elite Eight

Gonzaga beats seventh-seeded Louisville, 76-69, for its first women's regional final appearance in school history. Tennessee rallies to beat Ohio State, 85-75. Notre Dame routs Oklahoma, 78-53.

March 26, 2011|Wire reports
  • Gonzaga guard Courtney Vandersloot races upcourt against Louisville as teammate Katelan Redmon follows in the second half Saturday in Spokane, Wash.
Gonzaga guard Courtney Vandersloot races upcourt against Louisville… (Elaine Thompson / Associated…)

Courtney Vandersloot scored 29 points, handed out seven assists and got seven steals to lead 11th-seeded Gonzaga to the Elite Eight for the first time in school history with a 76-69 win over Louisville on Saturday night in the Spokane Regional semifinal of the NCAA women's tournament.

Gonzaga is the lowest-seeded team to advance to a regional final in the history of the women's tournament.

Playing less than two miles from their campus in Spokane, Wash., the Bulldogs (31-4) sent the blood pressure rising for the 10,000 or so hometown fans in attendance after squandering nearly all of a 20-point second half lead.

The Bulldogs will face either top-seeded Stanford or fifth-seeded North Carolina in the regional final Monday night. Gonzaga has a chance to be first school from outside the six major conferences to reach the Final Four since Jackie Stiles led Southwest Missouri State -- now Missouri State -- to the national semifinals in 2001.

Janelle Bekkering came up big in the closing minutes for Gonzaga with eight of her 15 points, including a baseline drive with 4:01 left that broke a nearly five-minute scoreless streak for the Bulldogs. Kelly Bowen added 12 and Katelan Redmon scored 10 for the Bulldogs, who have now won 21 straight games.

Shoni Schimmel led seventh-seeded Louisville (22-13) with 18 points, but didn't find her shot until midway through the second half, missing 12 of her first 13 attempts. Keshia Hines scored a season-high 17, but the Cardinals got just five minutes out of leading scorer Monique Reid, who suffered a right groin strain in the first 90 seconds of the game. She briefly returned in the second half and missed the only shot she took, finishing with two points.

Tennessee 85, Ohio State 75: Coach Pat Summitt lit up her Lady Vols with a halftime rant and their Dayton Regional semifinal game tilted soon after. With Shekinna Stricklen scoring 14 of her 20 points in the second half and touching off a pivotal 11-3 second-half run, the Lady Vols moved into the Elite Eight with a victory over Ohio State at Dayton, Ohio.

"It was about an 8 1/2," Summitt said, rating her halftime speech on a scale where 10 is when the paint peels off the walls. "I wasn't real happy. But that's what you have to do at times. You go into the locker room and get a feel. One thing about this team, they do respond. Sometimes I think they kind of like to hear the coaches going off."

Ohio State (24-10) shot 67% in the opening half. The Buckeyes led by as many as six before settling for a 42-40 lead at halftime.

"For about 33 minutes, we played sound, smart basketball," Buckeyes Coach Jim Foster said. "For about seven minutes, we didn't. And that seven minutes really cost us."

With Tennessee ahead 58-57, Stricklen twice made big plays.

Meighan Simmons added 18 points and Kelley Cain -- inserted into the starting lineup to offset Ohio State's height advantage -- had 16 for Tennessee (34-2).

The Lady Vols advance to play Notre Dame in the regional championship game Monday night, with a trip to the Final Four in Indianapolis on the line.

Notre Dame 78, Oklahoma 53: Brittany Mallory scored season-high 20 points and the second-seeded Irish (29-7) used their go-for-the-ball pressure to break down the Sooners' guard-driven offense, which had only eight field goals and 14 turnovers in the game-turning first half of another regional semifinal at Dayton.

Nicole Griffin scored 18 points for sixth-seeded Oklahoma (23-12), which had 24 turnovers in the game.

"They were really prepared, really physical," Oklahoma guard Whitney Hand said. "I thought we got scatter-brained and tight."

It was the third time in the last four years that the Sooners and Irish met in the tournament. Notre Dame won the first time, 79-75, in the second round in 2008. Oklahoma got the rematch, 77-72, last year in a regional semifinal in Kansas City.

"Last year's game was in the front of my mind the whole 40 minutes," said Notre Dame point guard Skylar Diggins, who had 12 assists.

Notre Dame had a 47-24 edge in rebounding, limiting the Sooners to two offensive rebounds.

The Irish suffered a setback when senior forward Becca Bruszewski twisted her left knee in a pileup under the basket early in the half.

Coach Muffet McGraw said Bruszewski was questionable for the regional final.

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