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WCC Women's Basketball Championships Semifinal Recaps

March 7, 2010

LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Top seeded Gonzaga and #3 seeded Pepperdine earned wins in the semifinals and will face off tomorrow at noon for the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Gonzaga defeated #8 Santa Clara, 87-47, ending the Broncos run through the WCC Tournament, which included two upsets to reach the semifinals. The Waves downed #2 Saint Mary's, 62-56, to earn a spot in the championship game. Tomorrow's women's championship game will be broadcast nationally on ESPNU.

#1 GONZAGA 87
#8 SANTA CLARA - 47

The No. 17/17 Gonzaga University women's basketball team, the top seed in the West Coast Conference Tournament, got the ball rolling with an 87-47 victory over the No. 8 seed Santa Clara University in the semifinal game Sunday morning at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nev. The Zags, who received a two-game bye in to the semifinal by winning the WCC regular season, has now won 17 games in the row and are 26-4 overall.

Santa Clara, who was the surprise of the tournament upsetting the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds to get to the semifinals, closed out the year at 5-26.

"I am proud of our team today," stated head coach Kelly Graves. "It took us a while to get it rolling but once we cranked it up on defense things started happening. When we get our offense going off our defense we can be pretty good. That's when we are at our best."

Having not played in nearly a week, it took the Bulldogs a few minutes to settle their nerves. On the other end, the Broncos, riding an emotional high for their back-to-back victories in the tourney, were intense and aggressive in the opening moments. What ensued was a close battle between the two schools for the first nine minutes of the contest. But with the score 13-12 at the 11:38 mark, advantage Gonzaga, something in the Zags clicked and they went on a tear. A short 8-0 run that saw senior Heather Bowman score six points, pushed GU's advantage to 21-12 at 8:31. Alyssa Shoji quieted the Gonzaga heavy crowd with a 3-pointer, but the Zags once again ran away with a 21-2 spurt that pushed their lead to 22 points at 41-19. Six different players scored during this time, with junior Courtney Vandersloot contributing seven points.

A crucial element of the first half was Bronco leading scorer Lena Gipson, a force who had registered double-doubles in the previous two contents, but had to sit at 8:43 after being handed her third foul of the contest.Nine total Zags scored in the first half for Gonzaga, who went into the locker room up 46-23. Bowman and senior Vivian Frieson lead the way with eight points apiece. Vandersloot added seven points and three assists. The Bulldogs finished the half hitting 50.0 percent (20-of-40) from the floor, including 50.0 percent beyond the 3-point arc (3-of-6) and sank 3-of-4 at the charity stripe.

The Bulldogs held the Broncos to 33.3 percent shooting in the opening 20, hitting just 8-of-24 from the field. Santa Clara also turned the ball over 13 times, with Gonzaga capitalizing with 19 points off the Broncos miscues.

Gonzaga continued to roll in the second half, pushing its lead above 30 just four minutes into the final half on a tip in by Bowman. The Bulldogs got the score above 40 with 10 minutes left after an old fashion play by Vandersloot put the score at 74-32. The Zags largest lead of the contest came at the 2:06 mark when sophomore Kayla Standish hit two free throws to make it a 44 point edge at 85-51.

All 15 players saw action for Gonzaga, with 12 players scoring, including four in double-figures. Bowman led the way with 18 points, while Frieson added 12, and Vandersloot and junior Janelle Bekkering chipped in 10 each. Vandersloot had eight assists and three steals, while Standish was the high rebounder with 11.

The Zags finished the contest shooting 48.1 percent (38-of-79) from the floor and out rebounded SCU 41-34.

"It was a good first game; everybody got a taste of the tournament so that was very nice to see," stated Graves. "We have had great senior leadership this year and they have done a great job of getting themselves and the team to just focus on the game ahead of them."

Santa Clara was forced to turn the ball over 32 times in the game with 16 Gonzaga steals and 43 points off the turnovers.

The Broncos, who shot just 36.0 percent (18-of-50) were led by Maggie Goldenberger with 14 points. Gipson, who fouled out at the 14:58 mark of the second half when Bowman took a charge, finished with just four points.

Gonzaga now waits who it will play in the WCC Tournament final. The contest is set for Monday at Noon and can be seen on ESPNU. The Bulldogs opponent with be either No. 2 seed Saint Mary's College or No. 3 seed Pepperdine University.

#3 PEPPERDINE - 62
#2 SAINT MARY'S - 56

The Pepperdine women's basketball team will play for the West Coast Conference championship and a spot in the NCAA Tournament after upsetting Saint Mary's, 62-56, in the semifinals on Sunday afternoon at the Orleans Arena.The third-seeded Waves (20-10) will next play top-seeded and 17th-ranked Gonzaga (26-4) on Monday at noon in the championship game, which will be shown live on ESPNU. Wave Casts subscribers can also listen to Al Epstein's broadcast at www.pepperdinesports.com.

Pepperdine lost both regular-season meetings to the second-seeded Gaels (21-9), but a 20-2 second-half run erased a nine-point deficit and put the Waves ahead to stay.

"We found some things in us that we have been struggling with all year long just in terms of our confidence," said Pepperdine Coach Julie Rousseau, who reached the 20-win mark for the first time. "We just praise God for allowing us to fight through it and get through. I am totally proud of our women. I think each person that came in did a great job. We are excited to move on and be in the championship game."

Despite battling foul trouble in the second half, senior center Miranda Ayim (London, Ontario, Canada/Saunders Secondary) led four Pepperdine players that reached double-figures with 13 points. Saint Mary's cut the Waves' lead down to two points in the final minute, but Ayim sank a game-clinching jump shot with 17.5 seconds left.

"It was all about our hard work throughout the game," Ayim said. "I was struggling a little bit shooting but I saw my other teammates making their shots so I felt like I had to put mine in too."

Sophomore guard Lauren Bell (San Bruno, Calif./Sacred Heart Cathedral) had 12 points, nine rebounds and five assists, sophomore guard Katie Menton (Coarsegold, Calif./Yosemite HS) made three three-pointers and scored 11 points and sophomore guard Jazmine Jackson (Oakland, Calif./Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep) went 9-for-10 from the foul line en route to 11 points.

The Gaels' enjoyed a 40.7%-35.5% shooting edge, but the Waves forced twice as many turnovers as they committed (20 to 10). Louella Tomlinson led Saint Mary's with 18 points, 14 rebounds and six blocked shots, but was held to seven points after halftime.

Jackson scored the first two points of the game with a driving basket, and the Waves then took a series of one-point leads, last at 9-8 after a three-pointer by Bell with 15:35 to play in the half. Saint Mary's would score the next eight points, however, to grab a 16-9 lead with 12:55 left. The Gaels would take their largest lead of the half at eight points at 26-18 with 5:10 remaining.

Like they did on Friday in the quarterfinals vs. Loyola Marymount, the Waves had a strong finish to the first half. Saint Mary's didn't score again, while Jackson made four free throws and Ayim sank two jumpers, evening up the halftime score at 26-26.

Though the Waves shot just 27.3% in the first half to 44.0% by the Gaels, Pepperdine was able to keep things even by forcing 13 turnovers and committing only four.

Ayim hit a jump shot to start the second half, giving the Waves their first lead (28-26) since early in the first half. An offensive rebound and putback by sophomore center Alex Jarrell (Shelbyville, Tenn./Shelbyville Central HS) later put Pepperdine in front 30-29 with 18:18 left.

The Gaels scored 10 straight points to go up by nine at 39-30 with 16:15 left, but the Waves came back with 10 consecutive points of their own to retake the lead at 40-39 with 13 1/2 minutes left. Bell started the run with a three-pointer and ended it with two free throws.

After a Saint Mary's basket, Pepperdine extended its run to 20-2 with another 10 unanswered points. Menton sank a three-pointer and hit a baseline jumper during the spurt, which stretched Pepperdine's lead to 50-41 with a little less than 10 minutes to play.

"I had to call time out to jolt our kids and tell them that this is what we had talked about and told them we weren't going to let this happen," said Rousseau about falling behind at 39-30. "I was quoting scriptures and you should have heard me. Really, I just challenged our kids and told them this is not who we are and this is not what we worked for. We must respond, and they did."

The Waves still led by nine at 56-47 after Bell hit a running jumper to beat the shot clock with 5:05 remaining. It was then the Gaels' turn to make a run, as they scored nine of the next 11 points, closing the gap to 58-56 with 37 seconds left.

With the shot clock running down, Ayim swished a 16-foot jumper from near the foul line, pushing Pepperdine's lead back up to 60-56 with 17.5 seconds left. Saint Mary's misfired on its last shot, and Jackson ended the scoring with two free throws.

Pepperdine will be appearing in its sixth WCC championship game and first since 2006, when Rousseau's squad upset top-seeded Santa Clara to earn the league's bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Waves are 3-2 in WCC Tournament finals.

The Waves lost twice to the Bulldogs by wide margins earlier this year, but as they did with the Gaels, they will be looking for a different outcome in the third meeting.

"Every time we have played them we have not played well, and it's going to take every bit of mental toughness and belief in ourselves that we can get the job done," Rousseau said. "We know how great a team Gonzaga is and our work is cut out for us. We are excited to be in the championship game. That was our goal. We're excited about being here and hopefully our kids will come out and play their hearts out."