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Rough first quarter left Gonzaga women playing catch-up against Oklahoma

UPDATED: Sat., March 18, 2017, 8:37 p.m.

Gonzaga joins powerhouse programs Stanford and Ohio State at this weekend’s Play4Kay Showcase in Las Vegas. (Elaine Thompson / AP)
Gonzaga joins powerhouse programs Stanford and Ohio State at this weekend’s Play4Kay Showcase in Las Vegas. (Elaine Thompson / AP)

SEATTLE – Laura Stockton’s body language said it all.

After another Oklahoma 3-point shot in the first quarter, Gonzaga’s sophomore point guard let her shoulders slump.

“I was frustrated that we were giving them those opportunities to get those,” Stockton said Saturday after GU’s 75-62 first-round NCAA Tournament to the Sooners.

“I was thinking, ‘What can we do to limit them now that they’re so hot?’ ”

Oklahoma finally cooled down – how could they not after hitting 6 of 8 3-pointers in the first quarter? – but the damage was done.

GU trailed by 29-16 after one quarter, by the same margin at halftime and also when the final buzzer went off at Alaska Airlines Arena.

“It was one of the worst defensive quarters we’ve had,” said coach Lisa Fortier, who was analyzing the slow start immediately after the game was over.

The difference in 3-point shooting was there all night – GU was 3 for 18 and Oklahoma hit 10 of 23 – but there were other reasons a three-point OU lead ballooned to 13 in the last 5 minutes of the quarter.

One was Oklahoma’s versatility in the backcourt. As senior forward Kiara Kudron observed, “The players we identified as drivers, they were the ones knocking down shots.”

The biggest was senior Peyton Little, who drilled a trio of 3-pointers in the first quarter to account for 12 points. She finished with a game-high 18.

At that point, Fortier said, “I saw a couple of shoulders drooping,”

Both teams were dealing with long layovers after their conference tournaments, but GU seemed slow to adapt to Oklahoma’s physical play in the early going.

It didn’t help that most of the 50-50 balls – and 50-50 calls – seemed to be going Oklahoma’s way.

At times, the Zags appeared to lose focus on the defensive end.

After giving up three offensive rebounds in the game’s first 2 1/2 minutes, the Zags paid more attention to OU center Vionise Pierre-Louis. That left other players free on the perimeter.

“In other games we had such good team defense and vision, but in this game we kept losing vision, even people we considered drivers,” Kudron said. “That was a difference.”

GU’s choice of defense didn’t matter.

“Most of their 3s came against our man, driving and kicking,” Fortier said. “The zone worked for a while and then they figured it out.

“When you have a night like they have from the perimeter, it’s tough.”


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