Courtesy Gonzaga Athletics
SEATTLE — The No. 6 seed Oklahoma Sooners came out to a roaring start against the No. 11 Gonzaga Bulldogs in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday on the campus of the University of Washington. The Sooners led 29-16 after one, but Gonzaga trimmed the lead to five twice late in the fourth quarter, but OU moved on with the 75-62 win.
Oklahoma hit six 3-pointers and scored 29 points in the first quarter, a season-high in points for the opening 10 minutes. Laura Stockton led Gonzaga with 14 points and Jill Barta added 13 in the game. In her final game for Gonzaga, Elle Tinkle scored 11 points and grabbed six rebounds, to go with two assists. Stockton finished with four dimes and three steals to lead the team, in her first NCAA Tournament game. In her final game with the Bulldogs, Kiara Kudron had nine points and eight rebounds.
“I am so proud of our team for fighting, which is what I’ve always said,” Gonzaga head coach Lisa Fortier said. “However many losses, seven losses, we’ve fought in all of them, and not every coach can say that.”
GU got on the board two minutes into the first quarter after Stockton swiped an errant pass and went the distance. The Sooners hit two threes but a jumper from Tinkle and layup from Stockton, followed by a three from Emma Stach, made it 12-10 Sooners midway through the first. Another three for OU made it 15-10 at the first media timeout at 4:42. Two more threes from OU made it 21-12 at the 3:25 mark. The Sooners shot six-of-eight from three in the quarter and led 29-16 after one. Stockton scored eight first-quarter points for GU and Emma Wolfram grabbed four rebounds. GU was six-of-19 from the field.
Zykera Rice opened second-quarter scoring with a jumper from the elbow two minutes in. A transition jumper from Stach cut it to 29-21 at the six-minute mark. Jill Barta converted a three-point play through major contact to get Gonzaga to trailing 31-24 with 4:34 left in the quarter. The teams traded baskets as just four points were scored for over three minutes before OU nailed a three. Another late three from the Sooners kept them up 13 at the half, 39-26. OU finished eight-for-15 from three in the half and GU was one-for-nine. The Zags led on the glass, 26-23, and had 11 offensive rebounds, including seven total rebounds from Wolfram. Stockton finished with 10 first-half points and Stach added five. Stockton added three assists and Barta had four points and five rebounds. OU blocked seven shots in the half, but GU had four steals, two by Stockton.
Four minutes into the third quarter Barta found her first three and Stockton hit a jumper as OU led 45-33. Kudron finished inside to make it 51-41 with three minutes left in the quarter. Stach hit free throws to keep it at 10 then took an offensive foul. The foul became a flagrant one, and a Chandler Smith free throw to cut it to nine, the first deficit under 10 in the half. OU led 53-44 at the end of three, as GU cut four off the lead and Barta had five in the period for nine in the game to that point.
Tinkle beat OU backdoor with a dime from Kudron two minutes into the fourth quarter and Stockton went the distance after a steal as GU made it, 57-50 with 7:27 to play, forcing an Oklahoma timeout. Tinkle sliced to the basket to make the lead five, but OU scored a three-point play to respond. Makenlee Williams got it back with a three, and the teams traded baskets. OU rattled off five-straight points to go back up 10, 67-57, with four minutes left. A great find from Stockton to Barta got it back under 10, OU choose to start using more clock, and two minutes later Barta’s three rattled in and out. OU iced the game at the line from there with some timely extra possessions.
Oklahoma, averaging just over six made 3-pointers per game on the season, hit six 3s in the first quarter and eight in the first half. Stach scored seven for GU and Wolfram led with nine rebounds in the game. Vionise Pierre-Louis had 17 points, nine rebounds, and nine blocked shots for OU. The Zags outrebounded OU 44-35 and held a 32-24 points in the paint advantage. GU led in assists 13-10 and shot 34 percent from the field, while OU shot 43 percent from the field and from three.
Appearing in their eighth tournament in nine years, and ninth overall, Gonzaga ends the season 26-7 with the West Coast Conference Regular-Season and Tournament Championships in the trophy case. GU seniors Tinkle, Kudron, and Williams depart, and GU returns three starters and 10 letter-winners next season.