No. 12 Kentucky 79, Gonzaga 62
Three straight trips to the round of 16. A total of 115 wins for
the senior class, including eight in the NCAA tournament for a
school that had never won even one before.
Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves was having a hard time feeling down
about the loss.
”I’m not too emotional right now, just because I’m so proud of
this team,” he said Sunday night after Kentucky beat the Bulldogs
79-62 to advance to the Kingston Regional final. ”We did a lot
this year. They came together and got us a couple of wins in the
NCAA tournament, but Kentucky is a better basketball team right
Gonzaga’s success in the men’s basketball tournament long ago
lifted it out of the realm of plucky upstart. But the women are
proving to be just as formidable. With 115 wins in the past four
years, the Bulldogs rank up there with powerhouses Baylor,
Connecticut, Duke and Stanford.
”That’s pretty good company to be in,” Graves said. ”And I’m
proud of that.”
Keyla Snowden made five 3-pointers, coming back off the bench to
hit a pair that squelched Gonzaga’s last charge and gave Kentucky a
spot in the regional final against top-seeded Connecticut. The
Huskies beat Penn State 77-59 earlier Sunday.
”Keyla has been playing with a sense of purpose that you like
to see a senior playing with,” Wildcats coach Matthew Mitchell
said. ”She’s a really talented shooter, but she has been competing
at both ends of the floor like a person on a mission who wants to
get to the Final Four.”
Snowden scored 17 points, going 5 of 9 from 3-point range, and
Samarie Walker scored 16 with 12 rebounds for No. 2 seed Kentucky
(28-6). It’s the second trip to the regional finals for the
Wildcats in three years.
”I was just glad that I could be the spark for my team,” said
Snowden, who was 2 for 8 from the floor in the first half after
going 1 for 6 from 3-point range in the second round against
Wisconsin-Green Bay. ”Just seeing one fall, I knew that the rest
Kayla Standish had 25 points, Kelly Bowen scored 11 with nine
rebounds and Katelan Redmon had 10 and seven for No. 11 seed
Gonzaga (28-6). The Bulldogs had beaten Rutgers and Miami to reach
the round of 16 for the third consecutive year.
”I’m very proud of what we’ve done, the obstacles we’ve
overcome,” Standish said. ”Our senior leadership stepped up this
year. Our team is awesome, our coaches are awesome. I’m upset we
lost, but more upset I won’t put on a Gonzaga jersey again.”
Snowden hit a 3-pointer to give the Wildcats a 58-37 lead with
14 minutes to play. But on Kentucky’s next possession she turned
over the ball, and Mitchell worried that the energy she was
expending on defense might be hurting her at the other end.
Snowden went to the bench, and she rested for most of the next 4
minutes as the Bulldogs scored 14 out of 15 points to cut the
deficit to eight.
Graves reminded his team that Kentucky blew a 17-point lead in
the second round against Green Bay.
”We brought that up. We used anything we could to motivate
us,” Graves said. ”We just wanted to cut into, cut into, cut into
it. We had the chance down eight at the free throw line and we
unfortunately didn’t convert those. We got a stop, then we had
another chance to cut it to six and it didn’t happen. … We just
came up short.”
Three times Gonzaga had the ball with a chance to further trim
the deficit and couldn’t do so. And when Snowden came back into the
game, she was ready.
One 3-pointer made it an 11-point game. Another extended the
lead to 14. She added a 2-pointer with 3:09 left to give the
Wildcats a 19-point lead, and by that time it was over.
”It was a tough run to absorb,” Mitchell said. ”I was
prepared to go the distance. I was prepared to grind it out and win
by one if we had to. I thought we were OK. It wasn’t the greatest;
I wish we hadn’t lost the lead. But it all worked out.”
What had been a decent crowd for the early game between local
favorite Connecticut and Penn State dwindled to just a few hundred
when Kentucky took a 43-28 lead into the half. And just a few
hundred fans remained when the Wildcats band played ”My Old
Kentucky Home” after the final buzzer.
Kentucky led the entire game to move within one of win placing
both its men’s and women’s teams in the Final Four. A’dia Mathies,
the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, went 3 for 4 from
3-point range and added seven assists. Kastine Evans grabbed 10
rebounds for the Wildcats and Bria Goss had 10 points.
The Zags’ trip to Rhode Island won’t go to waste: The players –
none of whom had ever been to the state – said they planned to dip
their toes in the Atlantic Ocean before heading home.