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Gonzaga women to open NCAA tournament as 11 seed in Seattle against Oklahoma

UPDATED: Tue., March 14, 2017, 11:03 a.m.

Sometimes you need a method to survive the madness.

Or just a cell phone.

When their name flashed on the television screen, the Gonzaga women did what every basketball team does: They cheered and they hugged.

Ten seconds later, they looked down at their hands and googled “Oklahoma women’s basketball” on their phones.

The coaches were already out the door of the hospitality room, dashing for their offices to download every scrap of information about the Sooner team they’ll face in a first-round NCAA Tournament game on Saturday in Seattle.

Coach Lisa Fortier promised to work deep into the night.

“I have a venti coffee on my desk, so I’ll be here as long as that will last me,” Fortier said.

There’s hard work ahead as the Zags prepare for sixth-seeded Oklahoma. Fortier already knew that the Sooners are physical, with a balanced scoring lineup that will test the Zags’ team-defense.

However, GU earned a few intangibles on Monday, including that magical 11 seed that’s carried them a long way in recent NCAA Tournaments. Two years ago, in Fortier’s first year as head coach, they beat George Washington and Oregon State to reach the Sweet 16.

“I was just thinking about that,” senior guard Elle Tinkle said with a smile. She and her teammates also considered the joys of a playing only a few hours away from her family in Corvallis, Ore.

Her father, Oregon State men’s coach Wayne Tinkle, has made it to just three games in this, Tinkle’s senior season.

He won’t miss this one.

“My parents texted me to let me know how excited they are,” Tinkle said.

At the same time, guard Chandler Smith, of Brewster, Wash., was thinking about how to scare up some extra tickets.

“I’ll have a lot of people coming,” Smith said.

For sure, the Zags will have a friendly crowd for their 3:30 p.m. game at Alaska Airlines Arena on the campus of the University of Washington. Also, Oklahoma is two time zones away – another plus for the Zags.

“Some people like to say that whenever we play in the state, you’re playing at home,” Fortier said.

In the second game, third-seeded Washington – led by Kelsey Plum, the leading career scorer in NCAA history – will face Big Sky Conference champion Montana State.

The winners will play Monday for a chance to advance to the Oklahoma City regional the following weekend.

“This is fun, and it never gets old,” Fortier said.

It doesn’t hurt that GU (26-6) is peaking at the right. In the West Coast Conference tournament in Las Vegas, they won three games by an average 23 points.

“This is how you want it to happen – you want to play your best right now and we did in Las Vegas,” Fortier said.

Meanwhile, the Sooners are 22-9, but have lost four of their last 10 games. Fortier knew that too, but she’s been through enough wars with teams from the power conferences.

“This is what we’ve been practicing all year for,” Fortier said.