No. 18 Gonzaga 82, North Carolina 76
Tiffanie Shives' baseline jumper finally snapped Gonzaga's scoring drought.
Her four 3-pointers that followed broke North Carolina.
``We have so many different weapons and you don't know when you're going to get called on,'' Shives said. ``Everybody was kind of playing their role. It finally got time for me to knock down some shots.''
Scoreless for 31 minutes, Shives scored 14 of her 16 points in a crucial 5-minute stretch of the second half and the seventh-seeded Bulldogs held off No. 10 seed North Carolina for a wild 82-76 win on Saturday night in the first-round of the NCAA women's tournament.
The Bulldogs' reward for winning this track meet and earning their second tournament win in school history is No. 2 seed Texas A&M on Monday night in the second round of the Sacramento region. The two faced off earlier this season in Las Vegas with the Aggies pulling out a 80-76 victory.
But they wouldn't be getting a rematch with the Aggies if not for Shives' hot streak.
``She's different than anybody we have, so when she starts to feel it she's the one player that we like to feed,'' Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves said. ``We have four or five sets in our package that set her up and we were fortunate to run a couple of those tonight.''
Trailing 58-56, Shives hit from the baseline in front of the Gonzaga bench with 8:59 left. But that was just the start for the senior.
She followed with four consecutive 3-pointers as Gonzaga (28-4) surged into the lead for good and extended its win streak to 19 games. Shives came in averaging just 8.1 points, but was a 40 percent 3-pointer shooter during the season.
Katelan Redmon led Gonzaga with 18 points off the bench, including 16 in the first half when the Bulldogs had to rally from an early hole in front of a highly partisan crowd. Vivian Frieson added 16 points and 13 rebounds, and Heather Bowman scored 14.
Chay Shegog led North Carolina (19-12) with 19 points and Laura Broomfield added 16 points and 14 rebounds as the Tar Heels used their superior size advantage to dominate the interior. North Carolina leading scorer Italee Lucas scored 14 of her 16 points in the first half, then sat on the bench for 10 minutes of the second half suffering from cramps in her left calf and coach Sylvia Hatchell's decision to use more size on the floor. Lucas returned in the closing minutes, but was a non-factor.
``We've probably had five or six games this season where we have the lead with a few minutes to go and lost those games. ... A lot of that is inexperience and we'll learn from it and move on and be better next year,'' said Hatchell, who brought North Carolina into the tournament with its lowest seed in school history. ``This is an unusual situation for us. I thought our kids fought hard and competed hard.''
Last year as a No. 12 seed, the Bulldogs used playing in Seattle to their advantage. They picked up their first tournament victory in school history with an upset of fifth-seeded Xavier, then gave fourth-seeded Pittsburgh all it could handle before falling 65-60 in the second round.
This time, the question was how the Zags would react when challenged. The last time Gonzaga was threatened was Feb. 11 at Saint Mary's, a game the Bulldogs won by 10. It was the closest margin of victory during their win streak.
Saturday night, Gonzaga found itself trailing by two and having missed eight straight shots when Shives hit her first basket. She'la White answered with just the Tar Heels' third 3-pointer of the night to push the lead back to four. Redmon scored on a give-and-go drive with Bowman and Shives hit her four consecutive 3s to keep the Zags in front.
While Shives was perfect from the outside, North Carolina kept abusing the middle of Gonzaga's zone defense. Broomfield's three-point play, and a pair of baskets by Shegog kept the Tar Heels within 72-71.
Shegog missed a pair of free throws with 3:51 left that could have given the Tar Heels the lead and Gonzaga answered with Courtney Vandersloot's first points of the second half and two baskets from Frieson for a 78-73 lead.
Vandersloot, the West Coast Conference player of the year, finished with just nine points but 15 assists.
``I was proud of the way we played down the stretch,'' Graves said. ``We haven't had a close game in three months. I know there was some concern ... but I was proud of our team and how they responded.''