March 8, 2010
LAS VEGAS, Nev. - The Gonzaga University women's basketball team captured its third West Coast Conference Tournament title in four years with an impressive 76-48 victory over the No. 3 seed Pepperdine University Monday afternoon in front of 3,285 Bulldog strong fans at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. The Bulldogs (27-4), who won their 18th straight contest, claimed the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament with the 28 point victory. Junior Courtney Vandersloot was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player for the second straight year while senior Heather Bowman become the first player in WCC history to be named to the All-Tournament team four-straight years.
"First of all, I do want to congratulate to Julie Rousseau and the Pepperdine team, and I thought they had a great run," stated head coach Kelly Graves after the game. "Really, I thought we were the two best teams, and it proved to be that way at the end. They played hard in the first half and played us very close. But, in the second half we kind of got things rolling, started rebounding better and got our transition going. I have often said that from rebound to finish, this is the fastest team in the country. We did not get a lot of those today, but we got enough to get our tempo going. I thought our defense was terrific again today. It sure makes my job a lot easier when I have these kinds of talented players. There was no way Courtney or Heather was going to let us loose, no matter how close it got."
Vandersloot finished with a game-high 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting, including nailing 3 3-pointers. She added eight assists, seven of which came in the second half, and two rebounds. Bowman, who led the Zags in their semifinal victory over Santa Clara University with 18 points, chipped in 14, had four boards and three assists. Senior Vivian Frieson was also named to the all-tournament squad with a monster performance on the boards; finishing with 12, along with seven points and three assists.
"Around our parts, John Stockton is obviously very popular," explained Graves. "Around our parts we compare Courtney and Heather to the Stockton and Malone. It is one of those things - did Malone make Stockton or did Stockton make Malone? I think they made each other great. It is certainly what you have in Heather and Courtney. They have a connection like I have never seen."
It was another explosive second half that won the contest for the Bulldogs. Leading by eight at half, 34-26, Gonzaga outscored Pepperdine 42 to 22 in the final 20 minutes. The Waves Katie Menton started the half with a 3-pointer to cut the Zags lead to five but Vandersloot answered with a 3-pointer of her own. That 3-pointer made a statement as Gonzaga went on to score 16 of the next 20 points to gain a 17-point advantage in a blink of an eye. As always the well balanced Zag attack saw five different players score during this run, including Bowman and junior Janelle Bekkering who both had two buckets each.
Gonzaga got its lead above 30 with eight minutes to play in the contest and gained its biggest advantage, 31 points, on a 3-pointer by Bekkering which put the score at 76-45 at the 2:44 mark.
"At halftime we reiterated what we wanted to do to start the game," said Graves about his intermission talk to the players. "Pepperdine did a nice job on the boards against us the second time we played them and it was one of those things we wanted to focus on tonight. They did a good job on that in the first half; six or seven of their points came from free throws or second chance points. In the second half we did a nice job on half court defense. We didn't get spread out in the zone as much as we did in the first half. But, there was nothing really magical to what we said at halftime. I would like to say I made some magical adjustment, but I didn't. We decided to trap a little more, but not sure it led to a whole lot."
The Bulldogs did have to starve off a late first half run that saw the Waves turn a GU 14-point advantage to just four points as they rattled off 10-straight points. Pepperdine's Miranda Ayim started the spurt off with a layup at the 7:06 mark and closed out the run with a jumper with 2:33 remaining before halftime to put the score at 28-24.
"We knew in the championship game it was not going to be easy, and no team is going to roll over and quit for us," said Vandersloot. "We knew we needed to keep our composure and get back into our style of play and we will end out on top - which we did."
Besides Vandersloot and Bowman, sophomore Kayla Standish also scored in double figures with 10. Standish added a career-high 14 rebounds to register the games only double-double.
Gonzaga finished the game hitting 47.5 percent (28-of-65) from the floor, was 40.0 percent (6-of-15) beyond the 3-point arc and hit 73.7 percent (14-of-19) at the charity stripe.
The Bulldogs out rebounded the Waves 47-33.
Pepperdine, who is 20-11, was led by Lauren Bell with 16 points and Ayim with 10.
Gonzaga now waits to see who and where it will play in the NCAA Tournament. The women's basketball selection show in set for Monday, March 15 at 4:00 p.m. ET on ESPN.
2010 Zappos.com WCC Basketball Championships All-Tournament Team
Courtney Vandersloot, Gonzaga (Tournament MVP)
Miranda Ayim, Pepperdine
Lauren Bell, Pepperdine
Heather Bowman, Gonzaga
Vivian Frieson, Gonzaga