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Zags Fall In Early Hole, Drop NCAA Tournament Contest To Middle Tennessee

March 17, 2007

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) - Middle Tennessee's stifling press and uptempo offense proved proved too much for Gonzaga in the teams' NCAA Tournament opening round matchup Saturday.

Chrissy Givens moved up yet another spot on the school's scoring list with 24 points, and the fifth-seeded Blue Raiders kept the nation's-longest winning streak alive at 27 games with an 85-46 victory in the first round Saturday night.

It had to be one of the most impressive defensive displays of the day - and Middle Tennessee is on to the second round of the Dayton Regional on Monday night looking for the school's first trip to the round of 16.

Michelle Elliott scored 17 points and Katy Ridenour added 10 in her final college game, but the Zags (24-10) committed a season-high 37 turnovers and went nearly 11 minutes without a field goal in the first half when the Blue Raiders (30-3) began to build their lead. The Bulldogs never quit hustling, hitting 7 of their initial 11 shots in the second half after making only six total shots in the opening 20 minutes.

Middle Tennessee, the Sun Belt Conference champion making its fourth straight NCAA appearance, finally drew well after facing ranked teams in North Carolina, North Carolina State and Utah in its previous three openers. The Blue Raiders shot 48 percent and haven't lost since Nov. 26 at then-No. 4 Tennessee, 88-64.

Amber Holt added 23 points, six rebounds and four steals and Starr Orr had 10 points and six boards for the Blue Raiders, whose seeding matched the best in school history also given to the 1985 team that lost in the first round to Western Kentucky.

Givens, a senior guard, earned conference player of the year honors for the second straight season as well as being named the league's top defender again, moved into fifth place on the school's career scoring list and climbed to third for assists after dishing out four assists. She also had five rebounds and five of her team's 17 steals.

The 12th-seeded Zags missed seven shots during their first-half drought and had 14 turnovers in the span. They gave up 43 points off turnovers for the game.

Krystle Horton added 14 points, seven rebounds, four steals and three assists for the Blue Raiders, who flustered Gonzaga out of the gate with multiple smothering full-court presses.

Middle Tennessee crashed the boards hard to create extra chances and used a 16-2 run to turn a 13-8 lead into a 29-10 advantage on the way to a 24-point halftime cushion, and the Blue Raiders only built on that after the break.

For Gonzaga, the West Coast Conference champion, getting here was something to celebrate. The men's team put the tiny Spokane, Wash., school on the map in the late '90s but the women Zags had missed several opportunities in recent seasons to follow suit.

They were favored in 2005 but lost in the WCC tournament final to Santa Clara, failing to earn the league's automatic bid after a perfect 14-0 run through the conference.

Their men's team also lost in the first round Thursday against Indiana.