KINGSTON, R.I. – During a time out in the final two minutes, you could see it on the faces of the Gonzaga Bulldogs. There were no more scoring runs. There were no more answers.
There was no more time.
But take nothing away from the Zags – they never gave up. They danced hard until the very end.
This was a sweet ride of a season for Gonzaga that started out with so many question marks and only came to an end at the sharp-shooting hands of the elite No. 2-seeded Kentucky Wildcats, who were 12 of 21 from 3-point range and beat the 11th-seeded Bulldogs 79-62 on Sunday night in the Sweet 16 of the women’s NCAA basketball tournament at the University of Rhode Island’s Ryan Center.
“Before the season I just didn’t know who we were or what we would be,” Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves said. “But we were pretty good … I’m just really proud of them. I’m proud of the basketball. But today, Kentucky was better.”
The Wildcats will face top-seeded Connecticut on Tuesday as all of the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds advanced to the tournament’s Elite Eight for the fourth time in history and the first time since 2008. The top eight teams also made the run in 1998 and 2003.
“It usually trends that way, doesn’t it?” Graves said. “In women’s basketball right now you don’t see a ton of upsets. I think it’s changing. I think we’ve broken through. Three Sweet 16’s, including an Elite Eight – that’s something for a school our size and from our conference and we plan on continuing to be here.
“It’s interesting how that worked out – ones and twos should make for a great Elite Eight and a tremendous Final Four.”
It’ll especially work out well for the Wildcats (28-6) – who didn’t have to rely on “40 minutes of dread” from their high-pressure defense on Sunday – if they continue to score so well from long-range.
Keyla Snowden, who finished with 17 points, made 5 of 9 from beyond the arc – including a pair that put an end to Gonzaga’s 14-1 scoring run that brought them within eight points at 59-51 with just under 10 minutes remaining in the second half.
The Zags, who trailed by 21 at one point, had three possessions with a chance to pull even closer, but Haiden Palmer missed on a jumper, Katelan Redmon missed on the front end of a one-and-one from the line and then couldn’t finish a layup on the next chance, and Snowden finally struck with 6:50 left to play.
“We had our chances,” said senior Kelly Bowen, who finished with 11 points and nine rebounds. “We had a chance to get it to six, and it just didn’t happen for us tonight. They were able to hit us right back.”
“But we played to the finish,” said senior Kayla Standish, who led all players with 25 points. “We played hard. When it came down to the stretch we gave it everything, and like Kelly (Bowen) said it just wasn’t happening for us tonight.”
“I’m very proud of what we’ve done,” Standish added.
And after some time passed and the initial shock and the wave of emotions that come with the abrupt end to another sweet season subsided – the pride could still be seen on their faces.