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Gonzaga Chomps Oregon St.

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Bulldogs Bite Beavers In NCAA Tournament

Jamie Weisner put up a game high 24 points, but didn't get as much help as Emma Wolfram, who led Gonzaga with a career high 17, did.
Jamie Weisner put up a game high 24 points, but didn't get as much help as Emma Wolfram, who led Gonzaga with a career high 17, did.
(Photo by Andy Wooldridge)

Gonzaga used a 12-0 run at the end of the game, shutting Oregon St. out for the last 3 1/2 minutes in the process, to pull away for a 76-64 win Sunday afternoon in the second round of the NCAA Women's Basketball tournament.

And the 11th seeded Zags did it on the 3rd seeded Beavers' own floor in Gill Coliseum, to claim their second upset of the weekend, after dumping 6th seed George Washington 82-69 Friday.

The story of the game was the well conceived game plan employed by first year Gonzaga coach Lisa Fortier, and by contrast, several inexplicable moves, or lack thereof, by Oregon St., the most notable was Scott Rueck's decision to sit Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and Media pick for Player of the Year Ruth Hamblin for much of the second half, including most of the stretch run.

A close second could have been abandoning the low-post offense through Hamblin in the second half, which had been almost unstoppable in the first half.

As a result, Hamblin, who had 9 points before the break finished with the same total. Further, the Zags out-boarded the Beavers 37-30, and Hamblin, the tallest player on the floor, when she was on the floor, finished with only 4.

Jamie Weisner, who had a poor outing in Oregon St.'s 74-62 win over South Dakota St. Friday afternoon, scoring only 5 points, and missing on every shot she took from the floor, bounced back in tremendous fashion, with a game high 24 points, including 4 made 3 pointers.

But Sydney Wiese, who led the way to the Beavers' win over the Jackrabbits, with a game high 23 points, was effectively shut down by the Bulldog's double teams, finishing with only 7 points, and just 1 3 pointer, out of the 9 she took.

Wiese ran the point the vast majority of Oregon St.'s possessions, and struggled to create open shots when confronted by Gonzaga's flowing a second defender in her direction.

Why Rueck never tried putting the ball in one of the other guards, with the intent of allowing Wiese to flow away from the ball, and create catch and shoot situations is another of the mysteries of the day.

One thing Oregon St. did do well was come prepared to play, which they have failed to do several times late in the season. The Beavers bolted out to a 9-2 lead not 3 minutes into the game, with Hamblin hitting a pair of layins, including the one below.

Ruth Hamblin

But Gonzaga responded with a 13-3 run, with basket by 5 different Bulldogs, and would never trail again. After missing 4 of their first 5 shots, the Zags proceeded to knock down 13 shots in a row, opening as large as a 7 point lead, when they went up 24-17 midway in the first half, on a basket by Emma Wolfram.

The other problem for the Beavers was another one that appeared late in the season, and no adjustment was made for it.

Stanford's late season win over Oregon St. was built on baskets off of high pick and roll plays, a tactic particularly effective against the Beavers, who essentially do not switch on defenses, and do not have the speed to catch up when cutting under the screen. The Cardinal ran the play in a high-low fashion time and again, and while the Bulldogs exploited the same flaw in a completely different way, using a pick line 12 to 15 feet high, often running off of 2 picks, and then spreading laterally, the effect was the same; open mid-range jumpers aplenty, with options for entry passes to posts coming off the picks.

And Oregon St. got no help from their second unit, especially in their first shift. It was apparent immediately that the starters would have to go extended minutes for the Beavers to be successful, which made the second half substitution pattern all the more inexplicable.

The Beavers battled back within 1 twice before the break, first on another Hamblin basket with 3 1/2 minutes left in the half, and then on a pair of free throws by Weisner.

But both times, Wolfram, who came off the Gonzaga bench for a career high, and team leading 17 points, answered with baskets, and the Bulldogs took a 37-34 lead to the locker room.

Sunny Greinacher

Ali Gibson evened things up with a 3 pointer to start the second half, but Gonzaga's Sunny Greinacher, above, who was held to 4 first half points, put in baskets on the Bulldogs' next 2 possessions.

Gonzaga went on an 8-0 run, capped by back to back baskets by Elle Tinkle, Oregon St. mens' basketball coach Wayne Tinkle's daughter, and Oregon St. went scoreless for 4 1/2 minutes.

During this stretch, Rueck set Deven Hunter, who had 7 first half points, and Hamblin both down, in favor of Samantha Siegner, who promptly picked up her 3rd foul, and Maria Gulich, who played more in the second half than Hamblin.

Hunter, who finished with the game's only double double, 12 points, and a game high 10 rebounds, didn't return until the 12:13 mark, by which time Gonzaga had built an 8 point lead, going up 51-43 on another basket by Wolfram.

Gonzaga took what would be as large a lead as they would hold until the final score, going up 55-43 on Emma Stach's basket with 11 1/2 minutes to go.

Jamie Weisner

Weisner connected on a 3 pointer a minute later to start the Beavers on a comeback, above, starting a 12-3 run that had Oregon St. within 58-55 by the under 8 minute media timeout.

Sydney Wiese

Wiese, above, answered yet another Wolfram basket with her only 3 pointer of the game to pull Oregon St. within 1 point with 5 1/2 minutes to go, and pulled even with 3 1/2 minutes to go on Weisner's 3 pointer.

But the Beavers seemed to have no offensive plan for the final minutes, and Hamblin continued to sit throughout the sequence.

Greinacher got the lead back for Gonzaga, and then Keani Albanez came up with the single biggest play of the game, connecting on a driving layin that barely beat the shot clock by so small a margin that the officials had to review the video of to confirm it was good.

Still, Oregon St. only trailed by 4 points with 1:26 to go, and Hamblin finally checked back in.

Gabriella Hanson then had an uncontested layin on the other end, but left the ball short on the rim, and Greinacher grabbed the rebound.

Rueck sat Hamblin down again, despite not needing to settle for 3s yet, and employed the foul to extend the game strategy, even though he would also leave 2 timeouts on the board.

Gonzaga made 7 of 8 free throws in the final minute, 5 of them by Tinkle, and Oregon St. missed 4 3 pointers, 2 each by Weisner and Wiese, and that made the final 76-64, a double digit loss in front of a huge home crowd that afforded the Pac-12 regular season champions one of the best built in home court advantages possible in the post-season.

It was the highest point total against the Beavers this season, accomplished on the highest shooting percentage allowed by Oregon St., an even 50%, on 29 of 58 from the field by the Bulldogs.

Besides Weisner and Hunter, the only other Beaver in double digits was Gibson, Oregon St.'s only senior, who finished with 10 points as she finished her playing career.

Gonzaga had 4 players in double digits, with Tinkle second behind Wolfran with 14, and 12 points apiece by both Greinacher and Albanez.

Ruth Hamblin

This was how the Pac-12 Player of the Year spent most of the second half, including the stretch run,

The Beavers year is over, after a 27-5 season, which included a 16-2 Pac-12 campaign, but ended with 3 of their losses in their last 5 games, including a first round elimination from the conference tournament.

The Bulldogs, the regular season West Coast Conference champions, improved to 26-7, and head home to Spokane for the Sweet 16. Though not technically home games, they are across town from the Gonzaga campus, and could have been an easy trip for Oregon St. fans, who couldn't have asked for an easier road to surpass last season's second round bow-out of the tournament.

Oregon St. has never advanced to the round of 16 since the tournament expanded past 32 teams.

(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)

Andy_Wooldridge@yahoo.com