SEATTLE – For Gonzaga’s All-West Coast Conference performers Courtney Vandersloot and Vivian Frieson, playing in the NCAA tournament in Seattle is a double bonus.
Vandersloot was a high school star at Kentwood and Frieson at Garfield.
Those ties helped boost the partisan Bulldog crowd in Saturday night’s 74-59 win over 20th-ranked Xavier, GU’s first win in the NCAA tournament.
And those that missed it were certainly aware of the local standouts, who both had big games.
“When I got to my phone I had like 30 text messages,” Vandersloot said. “I said, ‘OK, I’m not even going to try to respond to everyone but it was cool to see everyone.’ Those who weren’t here just said, ‘I got to see it on TV and I’m just so proud of you, I’m so happy for you.’ It was so cool.”
Frieson had the same response.
“I don’t get very good reception in here but as I walked out to the bus I started getting text after text,” she said after Sunday’s practice. “It was one of those things, you read them all, you appreciate what everyone is saying but you’re so tired, so happy, you can’t focus on texting everybody back. I must have had upward of 30 text messages and about five voice mails.”
She also had messages on her Facebook and MySpace pages.
“There was a lot of support,” Frieson said. “I appreciate it.”
None of the contacts surprised her, if only because her mother has set up “this weird network” to keep friends and family informed.
“Actually I’m not surprised when I hear from anybody any more,” she said. “I kind of expect it.”
Frieson is also hoping it translates into a crowd even bigger for tonight’s 6:30 gameagainst No. 15 Pittsburgh than the 2,853 announced Saturday.
“I hope we get that kind of crowd,” she said. “I think it’s something we deserve. We already have the best fans.”
Pittsburgh was very complimentary toward Gonzaga.
Panthers coach Agnus Berenato’s words could be taken out of context, but it was obvious from the players’ comments the Big East team wasn’t looking down at the West Coast Conference champions.
“I think Gonzaga is a great program,” Berenato said. “They’ve got a really nice little point guard. They have, obviously, a pretty good post. Both of their posts are good.”
As she went on to talk about the way the Bulldogs play, it’s obvious there was no malice intended by the words “nice little” and “pretty good.”
The Panthers stayed to watch Gonzaga after their win over Montana on Saturday.
“I think Gonzaga is a great team,” star guard Shavonte Zellous said. “They like to get the ball up the court and push it in transition. They have a great power forward and a great point guard who runs the team. I think it was a great game for us to watch and to see their style.”
Freshman Pepper Wilson, a 6-6 senior, added: “I really think they have a crafty point guard, a good inside game and some great shooters. They have a lot of energy and they play team defense. I think they’re a really good team and it will be a good matchup.”
Though Oregon, according to sources, has looked at Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves to replace the fired Bev Smith and may ask permission to speak to him when the Bulldogs’ season ends, another source said: “Paul Westhead (former NBA and WNBA coach as well as Loyola Marymount men). Done deal from what I hear, has been for some time now.”
I don’t like spiders and …
After attending the afternoon news conference, Frieson was met outside the locker room by Greg Fortier, an assistant at Whitworth and husband of GU assistant Mispley Frotier. He handed her a cup, saying it was a drink she needed to take.
Seconds later the cup was on the ground and Frieson was shrieking from down the hall as the Bulldog contingent laughed.
“That was cruel,” was all Frieson could say.