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Gonzaga women face Tar Heels

It’s the kind of matchups teams like Gonzaga crave - a name program on a neutral court.

That’s the first take on the Bulldogs’ NCAA Tourmanet bracket, a chance to play North Carolina.

But wait, Gonzaga is the higher seed, the Tar Heels having stumbled in the second half of the seed are were definitely a bubble team, landing a 10 seed to face No. 7 Gonzaga.

But wait some more, the game is in Seattle Saturday night and there’s a good chance, especially with the Gonzaga men getting shipped to Buffalo, N.Y., for a Friday game, the women will feel like they’re playing a home game. They definitely excited about it. The unedited story I filed for tomorrow’s paper is below.

Eastern Washington (19-11) plays at Oregon (16-15) on Thursday in the WNIT. The two teams met in Eugene the first week of the season with the Ducks rolling 86-48. Oregon’s coach is Paul Westhead, who coached in the NBA and WNBA as well as the high-flying Loyola Marymount teams of Hank Gathers-Bo Kimble fame.

Eastern women fall

The magic ended for Eastern Washington as sixth-seeded Montana State pulled away in the closing minutes to defeat the Eagles in the Big Sky Conference Tournament semifinals at Reese Court on Friday.

Mike Vlahovich’s unedited game story is below.

However, the season isn’t over as the Eagles head off to the WNIT, pairings to be announced after the NCAA pairings Monday night.

The season did come to an end for Idaho in a tough loss to in the WAC semifinals to league-champion Fresno State. Vandal coach Jon Newlee got into a little trouble with the league for his comments after the game.

WAC commissioner Karl Benson announced that Newlee has been publicly reprimanded for violating the WAC’s sportsmanship code. During the postgame press conference, Newlee extensively criticized the officiating of the game won by Fresno State, 80-66.  In doing so, Newlee violated the WAC’s sportsmanship code and any further violations of the code may result in a minimum of a one-game suspension.

 

EWU to face MSU

It’s a good thing we told you in the advance the Big Sky Conference women’s basketball court at Eastern Washington’s Reese Court was all about parity or you might think the first day was full of upsets with the No. 6 and No. 5 seeds winning. What was upsetting is they won big, No. 6 Montana State 89-66 over No. 3 Sacramento State and No. 5 Portland State 75-61 over No. 4 Idaho State.

Today’s schedule has PSU against No. 2 Montana at 3:30 and MSU against No. 1 EWU at 6. We have a quick look at the Eagle matchup below.

In other news, Washington State lost by two to Arizona at the Pac-10 Tournament (look for Vince Grippi’s post shortly) and last night Idaho won it’s WAC opener and faces league champion Fresno State on Friday. 

A short bracketology update: ESPN has Gonzaga as a No. 7 at Notre Dame against Middle Tennessee, which thundered the Zags in their first NCAA Tournament in 2007, College RPI has them as an 8 in Minneapolis against North Carolina; both those have EWU/Big Sky as a 16 at Stanford; and Realtime RPI has GU as a 5 in Austin against Bowling Green with EWU as a 15 in Tempe against Notre Dame.

Special news from EWU women

Attention shifts away from Gonzaga, safely in the NCAA Tournament, to the hopes of Eastern Washington, Idaho and Washington State, who play in league tournaments this week.

The Eagles have the best shot as Big Sky Conference champion and host for the league tournament, which begins Thursday at Reese Court.

But while we managed to touch bases with Cougar coach June Daugherty, our attention in the basketball notebook this week goes beyond the court, posted below along with a lot of notes that basically have no chance to make it into the paper. I also need to correct yesterday’s post, it was Brianne Ryan who earned co-Defensive Player of the Year honors and she was the third Eagle to win that, joining Michelle Demetruk in 2003 and Joanna Chadd in 2006.

Washington State freshmen KiKi Moore and Carly Noyes were recognized in the first Pac-10 media post-season voting.

Finally, while the Zags went down a spot in the AP Poll, they moved up to 15th in the ESPN/Coaches Poll.

Piper is Big Sky MVP

Eastern Washington junior Julie Piper is the Big Sky Conference Player of the Week, which came out shortly before the league announced the 6-2 junior from Roseburg, Ore., was the league MVP.  The Eagles have never had a league MVP before and haven’t had a first-team pick since 2006. Kyla Evans, a junior from Brewster, made the second team and sophomore Brianna Russell is co-Defensive Player of the Year, another Eagle first. (Tonya Schnibbe, a senior at Weber State out of University High School, is honorable mention.)

You can bet you last dollar Eastern’s Wendy Schuller will be named Coach of the Year tomorrow.

The Eagles are host to the Big Sky Tournament beginning Thursday. Ticket information and pairings are here.

Gonzaga easily won the WCC championship and finds out in a week where it will be for the NCAA Tournament.  Courtney Vandersloot repeated as the tournament MVP - and gets some kind words from the Nebraska point guard on The Seattle Times blog - and Heather Bowman becomes the first four-time all-tournament pick, and is joined by Vivian Frieson.

The Zags dropped a spot to 18th in the AP poll, (my vote below) Texas moved past them after a pair of wins. It’s too hard to argue, the Big 12 has seven teams in the Top 25 and behind unbeaten Nebraska they’re beating up each other and two of them have beaten the Zags, Baylor and Texas A&M.

On the broadcast the women’s game it was suggested the Bulldogs could get a four-seed. ESPN has them now at a No. 6, going to Cincinnati to face NC State with a possible second matchup with Xavier, last year’s first-round victim (but much stronger this year). That’s in the Sacramento Region with Stanford No. 1 (which would draw EWU/Big Sky champion first)  and Charlie Creme says the four one-seeds are set with UConn, Stanford, Nebraska and Tennessee, with all but Tennessee still facing league tournamaments. If the Zags were to get to a four, or even a five, there’s a good chance they would go to Seattle.

Realtime RPI has GU as a six facing Boston College in Berkeley. That’s in the Dayton Regional with Nebraska No. 1. Geogetown would be the likely second-round foe. College RPI has the Zags at 9 facing North Carolina in the KC regional with Nebraska No. 1.

 

Bulldogs earn third tourney title in four years

Gonzaga has another string of school and WCC firsts after throttling Pepperdine 76-48 in the WCC women’s tournament title game Monday. Those are detailed below in my unedited game story.

Kloke 2nd team All-WAC

A busy day for women’s basektball. In an effort to get more recogniton, most conferences play their league tournaments a week before the men so some of the biggest leagues wrap up today and get television exposure. That includes the SEC with Tennessee facing Kentucky in about 90 minutes on ESPN 2 before the Gonzaga men’s game.

Gonzaga had an easy time in its WCC semifinal, being handled on Sportslink by Jim Meehan, but we have plenty of other news.

Rachel Kloke is the only Idaho Vandal recognized in the All-WAC honors, making second team. The awards are listed below. The Vandals are the fourth seed in the WAC tournament in Reno and play No. 5 New Mexico State at Wednesday afternoon. A win would send them into the semifinals against the 1-8 winner, probably league champion Fresno State, Friday afternoon.

The Cougars finish the regular season today, Pac-10 honors should be released Tuesday, I just filed my media vote. Big Sky coaches have a conference call tomorrow but I would guess the release could be coming on Tuesday.

By the way, Eastern Washington (as well as Gonzaga) are assured of post-season play because the WNIT does take league champions if they don’t win their conference tournament. GU, unbeaten in league, is close to a lock for the NCAA berth, and could still get an at-large, though projections suggest that is not a given. EWU has beaten every team in the league but still lost to four teams in the tournament (sweeping only Montana State).

Will be back later when I file my Top 25 vote to link to news that comes along.

Bulldogs take command in first half

After a sluggish start, Gonzaga broke away with a 28-5 burst to take a commanding 46-23 halftime lead. Those 28 points came in a 7:30-minute flurry, fueled by Santa Clara turnovers.

At one point, Gonzaga’s two leading scorers, Courtney Vandersloot and Heather Bowman, were 0 of 6 as the Broncos kept it close through the first nine minutes. But Bowman got rolling with a post-up layin and Vandersloot broke loose for seven points, four rebounds and three assists. Bowman finished the half with 8 points. Vivian Frieson had eight points, four rebounds and two steals.

GU piled up an 19-2 advantage in points off turnovers and 14-4 edge in second-chance points. Santa Clara’s Lena Gipson, who came in averaging 12.5 points, was held scoreless and picked up her third foul with 8:48 left.

Gonzaga made 5 of its first 16 shots, but finished the half 20 of 40.

Back after the game.

More on Gonzaga’s semifinal matchups

The second half of the Portland-San Diego men’s game just started (Pilots 39-28 at the time of this post), so I thought I’d go ahead and post this look ahead to Gonzaga’s assignments Sunday at the West Coast Conference tournaments.

Before we get to that, here’s an article on ex-Zag Jeff Brown’s induction into the WCC Hall of Honor on Saturday morning.

Read on.

EWU women play like champs

Eastern Washington played like Big Sky champions Saturday afternoon, turning back Portland State 78-68. The game story is below.

Now the Eagles await the Big Sky tournament, which begins Thursday in Cheney. The Eagles have a bye until Friday.

Thursday, March 11

3:30 p.m. :: No. 3 Sacramento State (15-14, 10-6 BSC) vs. No. 6 Montana State (16-13, 9-7 BSC)

6:00 p.m. :: No. 4 Idaho State (15-14, 10-6 BSC) vs. No. 5 Portland State (15-14, 9-7 BSC)

Friday, March 12

3:30 p.m. :: No. 2 Montana (15-13, 10-6 BSC) vs. highest remaining seed

6:00 p.m. :: No. 1 Eastern Washington (19-10, 12-4 BSC) vs. lowest remaining seed

Saturday, March 13

2:05 p.m. :: Championship game

 

In other news, Jen Mountain’s eighth-seeded Santa Clara Broncos pulled off a second-shocker at the WCC tournament and their reward is a game against Gonzaga at 11 a.m. Sunday in Las Vegas. The Zags won the regular-season games by 38 and 33. The other side of the bracket held true with No. 3 Pepperdine facing No. 2 Saint Mary’s.

Angie Bjorklund hit 4 3’s as Tennessee advanced to the SEC championship game.

The Cougars finish the regular season tomorrow against last-place Oregon State and, if I’m not mistaken, could play the Huskies in the Pac-10 tournament next weekend.

Idaho closes the regular-season tonight.

Back when possible.

GU women will face Santa Clara

I’ve arrived in Las Vegas — I know this because the wireless is finally free and I stood next to Penn on the tram ride to baggage claim. The man is a small forward, a good 6-foot-6 (no wonder Teller looks so short). They have a show tonight at the Rio.

The show continues at the WCC men’s and women’s tournaments at the Orleans Arena. And so do the surprises, at least on the women’s side. No. 8-seeded Santa Clara pulled its second upset in as many days, storming past No. 4 Portland 74-61 in the quarterfinals. The Broncos came into the tournament 3-26, but they’ve pulled off two straight wins, Saturday’s fueled by a 43-25 advantage in the seconnd half..

Santa Clara, coached by ex-Zag player and assistant coach Jennifer Mountain, advances to take on top-seeded Gonzaga in the semifinals Sunday. I arrived at the Orleans with about 1:15 left in the second half of the SCU-Portland game, but I caught GU coach Kelly Graves before he departed to conduct a late afternoon practice.

I’ll have more later tonight on the women’s and men’s matchups tomorrow. GU’s men await the winner of No. 5 Loyola Marymount-No. 4 San Francisco. That game tips at 6 p.m.

Eagles win title; Cougs come back

Eastern Washington won the Big Sky championship, its first, without taking the the court and Washington State shut-down high-flying Oregon and came back to win its third Pac-10 game with one of its biggest rallies ever.

GU men, women prep for WCC tourneys

I filed separate previews for Gonzaga’s men’s and women’s teams as they get ready to travel to Las Vegas this weekend for the WCC tournaments. Read on for those unedited articles. I’ll have an update Saturday night when GU’s semifinal matchups are finalized.

Also, here’s a link to a GU Roundtable segment (click on GU roundtable under recent audio) on KGA 1510. I sat down earlier today with KGA’s Toby Howell, GU radio analyst and ex-Zag Richard Fox and Max from Slipperstillfits.com for a lengthy discussion on Gonzaga basketball.

Gonzaga perfect, EWU closer to title

Plenty of women’s basketball news and we’ll try to get to it all before the hockey game starts.

Gonzaga became the first school to have a pair of perfect WCC seasons by destroying San Francisco today. Along the way, Courtney Vandersloot set the league record for assists in a season and, I think, she may have set the school record for career steals. There will be plenty more to read about Vandersloot because she should be named the league MVP on Monday.

Eastern Washington clinched a tie for its first Big Sky title with a win at Weber State on Friday. Three teams were tied for second but Portland State was eliminated by a loss at tonight’s opponent Idaho State and Montana was eliminated when Montana State defeated the Grizzlies in Missoula for the first time since Robin Selvig began coaching UM a lifetime ago. The Eagles failed to win the out-right title, falling at Idaho State while Sacramento State, still two games behind, pulled out a four-point win at Northern Colorado.

Idaho reached .500 in the WAC with a win at Utah State but the Cougars still can’t beat the Huskies.

Honors for Vandersloot, Bjorklund

Some national recognition for a couple of female basketball players today - Gonzaga’s Courtney Vandersloot is one of eight finalists for the Nancy Lieberman Award as the top point guard in the country and Tennessee’s Angie Bjorklund (U-Hi) is a first-team Academic All-American. Also, Gonzaga is now No. 20 in the ESPN poll.

Women have productive weekend

A pretty good weekend for women’s basketball in our area, UPDATED.

Gonzaga clinched its sixth-straight WCC title and the top seed for the tournament with two dominating defensive games, sending their seniors out in style. Columist John Blanchette stopped by on Senior Day, with the third-largest crowd in history, more than 4,800, were on hand to send off three players, including local star Heather Bowman (above in a Dan Pelle picture, with a photo gallary of Bowman’s career). The Zags also moved into the Top 20 (my vote below) in the AP Top 25. Courtney Vandersloot is the WCC Player of the Week for the second straight week and fourth time this season.

Eastern Washington clinched its first berth in the Big Sky tourney after a three-year absence by beating Northern Colorado and Northern Arizona and can win its first-ever league title (and host the tournament) by winning two of its final three games.

Washington State had a significant win at USC before losing at UCLA; undermanned Idaho continues to scratch and claw its way to wins; and Whitworth secures the third seed for its league playoffs.

GU women win sixth straight title

The Gonzaga seniors, led by prolific senior Heather Bowman who was profiled in today’s paper, exited McCarthey Athletic Center in style, dismantling Pepperdine 87-45 before 4,829 fans, the third largest-ever.

The story of the Zags clinching a share of their sixth-straight WCC title is below.

Also of note, Eastern Washington earned a berth in the Big Sky Tournament with a win over Northern Colorado Friday night and the Eagles got a little more breathing room atop the league standings when Sacramento State earned its first-ever league win over Montana Saturday afternoon. There will be more in a future post.

 

Bulldogs, Cougars win

Only three times this three times this year had Gonzaga scored 70 points or less and won until Thursday night when the Bulldogs defense smothered Loyola Marymount for 73-40 win.

Even more amazing is it has been 16 years since Washington State won back-to-back conference games. The Cougars broke that skid by ending an 18-game losing streak to USC by beating the Trojans in Los Angeles for the first time in more than a decade.

Read about the Cougars here and here the Bulldogs below.

More women’s basketball news

Where does the time go? Arrived at work bent on getting the news out and got involved writing a story. Mix in spin class and suddenly I’m behind again.

Today’s women’s basketball notebook focused on another Eastern Washington senior, Nicole Scott (pictured above battling Gonzaga’s Heather Bowman), as the Eagles close in on their first berth in the Big Sky Tournament since her arrival. We also checked in with Montana freshman Katie Baker (Lake City), who was making a bid for Big Sky Freshman of the Year when she blew out a knee - at EWU early last month.

We ran out of room so we saved our update on Tennessee junior Angie Bjorklund (U-Hi) for tomorrow (if space allows), posted below, along with some other notes.

Women’s basketball notes

A ton of basketball notes, expected coming back from furlough, but you’ll have to wait for some, although there is plenty below.

GU, EWU women Seattle bound?

Before furlough hits, a couple of notes to leave you with.

ESPN’s Charlie Creme has his bracket and analysis. You’ve got to love it because both Gonzaga and Eastern Washington are ticketed for Seattle. GU as a 10 vs. No. 7 Wisconsin, EWU as a 15 against No. 2 Oklahoma State. Seattle can only hope to get a draw like that. For those fondly recalling last year, Graham Hays looks at Xavier, the team Gonzaga beat in the first round last year.

Thursday is my last day before going dark, I’ll try to put something together to get you through. I will be absolutely forbidden to work. The only thing that will get done is my commitment to Top 25 voting.

Whitworth’s Pilkinton ignores pain

Whitworth senior Cassie Pilkinton (pictured above, taken by Kirk Hirota) is the subject of this week’s women’s basketball notebook. It appears below in a longer version with more notes than will ever make Wednesday’s newspaper.

The only other news is Gonzaga creeping up to 26th in the ESPN/Coaches poll. On that subject, I stumbled into a bracket prediction that gave the Zags a No. 9 seed, facing Michigan at Knoxville with Tennessee a possible second-round opponent. EWU, as the Big Sky leader/representative was a No. 15 headed to Minneapolis to face Ohio State.

GU women ranked

Gonzaga women’s basketball team moved into the Associated Press Top 25 for the second time in school history. The Bulldogs are ranked 24th. Gonzaga was ranked at the tail end of the 2005 for two weeks, coming in at No. 25 and moving up to 24 before losing in the West Coast Conference Tournament.

Bowman gets record, Zags roll

It was a big day for the Gonzaga women’s basketball team and a bigger day for Heather Bowman, who became the Bulldogs’ all-time leading scorer. Meanwhile the Zags had a splendid second half to beat San Francisco 93-53 in a game that was interesting for 25 minutes.

The unedited game story is below. In other news, Portland State ended Eastern Washington’s run and Portland turned back Santa Clara. In both games, local products led the way. Kelli Valentine (Mead) had 16 for PSU, with Lexi Bishop (Shadle Park) also scoring in double figures, while Tara Cronin (Gonzaga Prep) paced Portland with 17.

Huskies, again

Washington managed to survive, in overtime, to beat Washington State for the 29th straight time in women’s basketball, despite a spirited crowd of 2,065 at Friel Court. The unedited game story follows.

Bulldogs roll

The Gonzaga women had no problems on Thursday night with Santa Clara, other than missing a few layups. Heather Bowman is five points shy of the school scoring record. I don’t know if it says more about Gonzaga or the other West Coast Conference teams when a lead can be 30 before the league’s all-time leading scorer gets to double figures and a dozen-points-a-game scorer (Katelan Redmon) can sit out with a minor injury. We’ll slip over the San Francisco game to watch Bowman add another record to her growing list. Tip-off is 2 p.m. Saturday.

Tonight it’s Washington at Washington State, FSN at 5 p.m. The only other news comes out of Tennessee, where Spokane native Angie Bjorklund broke out of her shooting slump in a big way.

Cougar women prepare for Huskies

The women’s basketball notebook (below) takes a quick look at Washington State with the Huskies visiting Pullman for a televised game on Friday.

Eastern’s Kyla Evans is the Big Sky Player of the Week and Gonzaga’s Courtney Vandersloot was recognized by the West Coast Conference.

Eastern’s turn in the spotlight

Taking a basketball break between figure skating stories I surfed over to ESPN and saw Charlie Creme’s bracketology and story. Holy smoke, Eastern Washington is in the field. Holy smoke, I forgot to blog my women’s notebook, with the Eagles, unbeaten in Big Sky Conference play, as the lead.

Bowman honored

I knew keeping up with the women’s basketball blog was going to be difficult with all figure skating all the time, but I can’t blame that on me being remiss. No, Friday night a virus ravaged my computer and I was lucky I was able to handle figure skating duties on Saturday. Providing any blog info was out of the question.

I picked up a new computer today and I am without contacts, book marks, any of the stuff that makes doing my job smoother. However, I know the readers won’t be denied, so here we go.

Starting off, congratulations to Heather Bowman, the WCC’s all-time leading scorer, which earned her her 10th Player of the Week honor, and to Eastern Washington, sitting first in the Big Sky Conference.

Gonzaga rolls; EWU alone in first

Another romp for the Gonzaga women, the unedited game story appears below.

Meanwhile, Eastern Washington takes over sole possession of first in the Big Sky Conference; Washington State lost at No. 2 Stanford, and Idaho lost at Hawaii late Wednesday

There were some upsets in the Top 25, but not Tennessee, thanks to Angie Bjorklund, who overcame a tough not shooting with the game-winning layup. She talks about it and gets a pat on the back from her coach - quotes at the bottom.