SEATTLE – Elle Tinkle managed a brave face after her last college basketball game.
Through teary eyes, she patiently explained what went wrong in Gonzaga’s 75-62 NCAA tournament loss to Oklahoma: The brutal start, the poor long-range shooting and the sheer exhaustion induced by all those comebacks.
“We had a lot of players with red faces at the end. We were working hard to cut back into that lead,” Tinkle said. “Everybody gave it their all …”
Then her voice trailed off, a rare occurrence for the talkative Tinkle as she thought of the might-have-beens as 11th-seeded GU twice got within five points in the fourth quarter.
The last one came with 5 minutes, 25 seconds left on a layup by Jill Barta, who finished with 13 points but found the going tough all night against the physical Sooners.
Guard Laura Stockton was optimistic – what other choice was there?
“That had to be the mentality the whole time we were trying to cut into the lead,” said Stockton, who finished with a team-high 14 points along with four assists.
“It wasn’t the first time this season where we’ve had to kind of dig ourselves out of a hole,” Stockton said.
However, sixth-seeded Oklahoma responded emphatically to punch its ticket to the round of 32 on Monday against host Washington.
Peyton Little, a dagger in GU’s side all afternoon with a game-high 18 points, hit a driving layup.
At the other end, GU senior Makenlee Williams missed an open 3-pointer that would have made it a four-point game. Oklahoma (23-9) milked the clock, then got a 3-pointer from Maddie Manning to restore a double-digit lead, 67-57, with 4:19 left.
“Oklahoma’s a tough team, and they’ve come down and hit a tough shot,” Stockton said. “We were trying to get everyone still on the same page and try to get a stop, but that had been the story of the game.”
Gonzaga got back within eight on a layin by Barta and had a chance for more, but the next possession was pure frustration. Every GU cutter was covered and finally Barta had to settle for a long three that was well off the mark.
From there, Oklahoma ran clock and made its foul shots, 19 of 21 for the game.
“It’s never a fun locker room to be in, ever, at the end of the year, but this team has been known for being gritty and fighting,” Fortier said at the end of a 26-7 season.
“However many losses … we’ve fought in all of them, and not every coach can say that. Today Oklahoma was better than us, but we’ll try again next time.”
Oklahoma’s inside strength showed with three offensive fouls in the first 3 minutes, the last one rewarded with a 3-pointer by Gioya Carter that pushed the Sooners’ lead to 10-5.
The Sooners cooled off early in the second quarter, but GU couldn’t capitalize. Halfway through the period, OU managed just two points yet still led 31-21.
Halfway out of that 13-point hole, the Zags fell back into it as OU hit two more long-range shots in the final 2 minutes to go up 39-26 at the break.