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Gonzaga Tops Xavier in NCAA First Round, 74-59

March 21, 2009

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SEATTLE (AP) - Those No. 12 seeds pulling off upsets made their way to the women's NCAA tournament. And it just so happens to be that little Jesuit school from Spokane.

Yep, those Bulldogs are barking again.

Heather Bowman scored 14 of her 23 points in the second half, and 12th-seeded Gonzaga won its first NCAA tournament game in school history with a 74-59 upset of No. 5 seed Xavier in the first-round of the Oklahoma City Regional on Saturday night.

Courtney Vandersloot added 15 points and 11 assists for the West Coast Conference champion Bulldogs (27-6).

Showing the savvy of an experienced tournament team - not one making just their second appearance ever - Gonzaga imposed its pace on Xavier's defense that was sixth best in the country this season allowing just 53 points per game.

The Zags reached that mark on Vivian Frieson's basket with 9:50 left that pushed their lead to 53-43.

Gonzaga never trailed and allowed the Musketeers to pull even only three times in the first half. The Bulldogs pushed ahead by 12 early in the second half on the strength of a 14-4 run sparked by Vandersloot's seven points and then answered every Xavier charge in the closing minutes.

Frieson added 17 points for the Bulldogs.

Gonzaga didn't have any answers for Xavier's massive center Ta'Shia Phillips, who finished with 26 points and 18 rebounds. But the rest of Phillips' supporting cast failed to contribute at key times and the Musketeers couldn't slow Vandersloot constantly forcing the tempo.

Dee Dee Jernigan and Tudy Reed both scored 10 points for Xavier (25-7), but the Musketeers still haven't won an NCAA tournament game since reaching the regional finals in 2001.

Xavier started to build some momentum, cutting Gonzaga's 12-point lead to 60-55 on April Phillips' left-hander on the low block with 5:16 left. Jami Schaefer missed at the other end for the Zags and Ta'Shia Phillips hit a pair of free throws to pull Xavier within three for the first time since 31-28 early in the second half.

But Gonzaga withstood the charge. Janelle Bekkering hit a pair of free throws and Bowman followed Vandersloot's miss to push the Zags lead back to 64-57 with 3:39 left. Frieson then blocked Jerri Taylor's 3-point attempt and the loose ball went out of bounds to the Zags.

Frieson wasn't done, adding a running one-hander with 2 minutes left to push the lead to nine and Bowman added the capper moments later.

Playing basically a home game just 300 miles from their campus in Spokane, the Zags made amends for their first tournament appearance in 2007.