Miami and Gonzaga women prepare for showdown
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP)
Offense won't be hard to come by when Miami and Gonzaga square off.
Advancing to the round of 16 may depend though on which team can play better defense when the two high-powered offenses meet in the second round of the NCAA women's basketball tournament on Monday.
''We have to defend,'' Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves said. ''They play good pressure defense.''
Even so, he believes this could be a game where the winner has to score at least 90 points.
''Neither team wants to just outscore the other, but it could be one of those type of games,'' Graves said.
Third-seeded Miami (26-5) ranks sixth in the nation with an average of 76 points per game. Gonzaga (27-5), the 11th seed, is eighth with an average of 75 per game. The winner of this game advances to the round of 16 in Kingston, R.I. Gonzaga went to the Elite Eight last year, while Miami lost in the second round.
The game is on Gonzaga's home floor at the McCarthey Athletic Center, and a packed house dominated by Bulldogs' fans is expected.
Miami coach Katie Meier insisted she prefers that sort of environment to an empty stadium. But playing on an opponents' home floor requires her team to play better, she said.
''We have got to prepare ourselves to be 10 points better than Gonzaga in order to advance,'' Meier said. ''If we don't play a great game tomorrow we will lose.''
Meier didn't think the score would reach the 90s, in part because of her team's tendency to press much of the game.
''This is a fantastic matchup,'' Meier said. ''It's going to be a pleasure for women's basketball fans to see this matchup.''
Miami star Shenise Johnson said that while it might be a battle between a 3 seed and an 11 seed on paper, the game is more of a toss-up.
''This is going to be the game to watch for the entire day,'' Johnson said. ''It's an even matchup.''
Gonzaga beat Rutgers 86-73 in the first round Saturday in the type of physical game they expect against Miami. The Hurricanes blew out Idaho State 70-41.
Miami will be playing again without all-ACC guard Riquna Williams, who did not make the trip to Spokane because of unspecified conduct detrimental to the team. She averaged 16.6 points per game during the season. But Miami does have Johnson, also an all-ACC guard, who scored 20 in the win over Idaho State.
''She is one of the best players I have ever seen,'' Graves said. ''She is not fun to prep for.''
''We're really going to have to put a lot of pressure on her, make sure she's not getting any easy looks,'' said Gonzaga forward Katelan Redmon.
Miami also has 6-foot-6 center Shawnice Wilson, who pulled down 14 rebounds against Idaho State.
''We don't have anybody that matches her size on our team,'' Gonzaga forward Kelly Bowen said. ''She makes all her money on rebounds and putbacks.''
''Boxing her out is a huge key,'' Bowen said.
The Bulldogs counter with 6-foot-3 forward Kayla Standish, who averages 16 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.
''That's going to be a huge part of the ballgame,'' Meier said.
Gonzaga also hosted first and second round games last season and won them both.
Bowen said crowd noise was a factor in Gonzaga's win over Rutgers on Saturday.
''It was really loud and we feed off the crowd's energy,'' Bowen said. ''I love it. But I don't know how it really helps our opponents when they play in a hostile atmosphere like that.''
While Spokane is a long way for Miami players to travel, at least one of the Hurricanes is quite pleased with the location. Sylvia Bullock is from Anchorage, Alaska, and her father was able to come down for the games.
''He is excited to see me play,'' Bullock said. ''I feel like maybe I get a little more hyped when my family is there.''