SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Gonzaga Bulldogs may have survived Xavier’s 1-2 punch of 6-foot-6 Ta’Shia Phillips and 6-5Amber Harris, but not the knockout punch of a freshman.
Katie Rutan scored 15 points, hitting four 3-pointers, as a perfect complement to the Twin Towers’ 36 points and 24 rebounds as the third-seeded Musketeers turned back seventh-seeded Gonzaga 74-56 in the Sweet 16 game Saturday night at Arco Arena.
Xavier (30-3), which has won 21 straight, moves on to play top-seeded Stanford (34-1), which thundered Georgia 73-36 for its 25th straight win, Monday night in the Sacramento Regional Final.
Gonzaga (29-5) entered the game with a 20-game winning streak.
The Bulldogs knew Phillips, who had 26 points and 18 rebounds when these teams met in the first round of the NCAA tournament last year, and she came through with 22 points and 14 rebounds.
Harris wasn’t much of a surprise, as a two-time All-Atlantic-10 player before a knee injury sidelined her last season. She showed off with 14 points, including a pair of 3s, and 10 rebounds.
But it was Rutan, who was a known marksman, that hurt the most, because a freshman with NBA range is an unfair advantage with Phillips and Harris.
It didn’t seem like much, but there was a stretch when it seemed GU did too much thinking instead of what came natural.
It was during that time, when baskets were hard to come by, when they may have been peeking at the towering opposition.
Gonzaga was battling the tall and talented Musketeers to a standstill when the drought hit.
After Janelle Bekkering’s free throw tied the game at 29 – 4:57 before the half – the Bulldogs went 1 for 10 from the field. They only trailed 32-31 because Xavier had a string of four turnovers.
The second half was a different matter as Harris sparked a 9-0 run with a fastbreak layup and her second 3-pointer for a 41-31 lead. GU’s Katelan Redmon scored on an inbounds play at 16:38. The usually efficient GU offense started the second half 1 of 6, which made them 2 of 16 in a 9:40 span.
Gonzaga had a spurt or two, but Xavier had too many confident weapons and pulled away.
Redmon led GU with 14 points. Heather Bowman, GU’s all-time leading scorer, ended her career with 12 and Tiffanie Shives had 11. Courtney Vandersloot had 11 assists, five steals and seven boards.