No. 23 Iowa St. 72, Gonzaga 60
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP)
Kelly Graves figures he might get a few more hours of sleep in the coming days. The Gonzaga coach was hoping it'd be a couple more weeks before he could start catching up on the hours of rest that gets lost during the season.
Especially when the scenario was all set up for Gonzaga to make another deep run in the NCAA tournament without having to leave town.
''It's disappointing. You know, it really is,'' Graves said. ''I don't have many hobbies other than going to watch my kids do things. And I unfortunately won't watch much of our tournament. It's tough.''
Chelsea Poppens scored 19 points, Hallie Christofferson scored 11 of her 18 in the second half, and fifth-seeded Iowa State ended No. 12 seed Gonzaga's dominance at home in the NCAA women's tournament with a 72-60 win over the Bulldogs on Saturday.
Gonzaga went 4-0 the past two seasons playing on its home floor at the McCarthey Athletic Center during the NCAAs in reaching the round of 16 both years. Iowa State (24-8) solved beating the Bulldogs thanks to dynamic shooting from behind the 3-point line and an awful shooting performance by the Bulldogs.
Taelor Karr led Gonzaga (27-6) with 15 points, but the Bulldogs shot just 32 percent for the game and only 27 percent in the second half. Haiden Palmer was the only other Gonzaga player in double figures with 14 points, but was just 1 of 8 on 3s. She did have 10 steals.
''I liked our looks tonight. I thought we had some pretty good looks and we had some good second shot looks in the paint, one of those things, the pressure of the moment, perhaps,'' Graves said. ''But when you're playing teams like Iowa State or anybody in the NCAA tournament, those things can't happen. You have to step up and make shots and make plays.''
The Cyclones outlasted the Bulldogs despite committing 23 turnovers and having to play before a raucous pro-Gonzaga crowd that crammed nearly every spot of the 6,000-seat arena. They avoided joining Iowa, UCLA, Rutgers and Miami as higher seeded teams who lost to Gonzaga on its home floor in the previous two tournaments.
The Cyclones made up for the turnovers by hitting 3s from deep and challenging Gonzaga's shots. Iowa State hit nine 3-pointers, including four in the first half from Williamson. Williamson averaged just 8.3 points per game during the regular season, but her outside shooting was critical in opening looks on the interior for the Cyclones.
''You turn the ball over 23 times on the road, usually don't win those games,'' Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. ''But we defended well as we have been. We shot free throws well as we have been. We made some shots at right times and it was a very difficult environment.''
Williamson's defense was important also, matched up against Karr most of the game. Karr, the West Coast Conference player of the year, finished 5 of 10 shooting, but struggled to get open looks. Gonzaga was a nearly 43 percent shooting team during the regular season, but they were not immune from slumps. Four times during the regular season, the Bulldogs failed to shoot at least 35 percent at home. They were 1-3 in those games.
Graves was more flustered by the offensive efficiency of the Cyclones. Iowa State shot 52 percent and became the first team this season to top 70 points on the Bulldogs.
''Our defense was tested and we didn't past the test,'' Graves said.
Leading by three at halftime, Iowa State scored the first six points of the second half to take its largest lead at 40-31 with 18 minutes remaining, only to go nearly 6 minutes without making a field goal. Iowa State committed another five turnovers and missed five straight shots before Nikki Moody finally broke the drought with a 3-pointer. Karr immediately answered on a backdoor cut while being fouled for a three-point play with 12:04 left to cut the Cyclones lead to 45-42.
Out of a timeout, Christofferson hit a corner 3-pointer, followed by five straight points from Anna Prins and another 3 by Williamson to push the Cyclones lead back to nine. Poppens then scored in the paint, and after a Gonzaga turnover, Poppens scored off a rebound for a 60-49 lead with 7:45 left.
The Bulldogs had one final run left, pulling within 62-57 with 2:52 left after a pair of free throws from Shaniqua Nilles. Following a shot clock violation by Iowa State, Nilles had an open 3 rim off and Christofferson hit a pair of free throws with 1:37 left to push the lead back to seven. Iowa State was a perfect 10 of 10 at the free throw line in the final minutes.
''I think we played well, played hard, tough,'' Karr said. ''We played pretty physical considering with how big they are, but they just hit big shots, so give them a lot of credit.''