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Gonzaga women take down George Washington in first round

Bulldogs advance in NCAA tournament to face host Oregon State on Sunday

UPDATED: Fri., March 20, 2015

CORVALLIS, Ore. – With George Washington storming back within six points and the shot clock winding down Friday night, Gonzaga forward Sunny Greinacher didn’t think. She let it fly. The ball went through net with 3:15 left to play and the 3-pointer turned to be the game-winner as No. 11 seed Gonzaga upset No. 6 seed George Washington 82-69 in the first round of the women’s NCAA tournament. “I loved the way we battled,” Zags coach Lisa Fortier said. “I’m very happy with our performance.” Gonzaga (25-7) now plays No.3 seed and host Oregon State (27-4) at 4 p.m. Sunday in Gill Coliseum. The Beavers advanced after beating No. 14 seed South Dakota State 74-62 earlier Friday. But on Friday night, two senior Bulldogs led the way. Greinacher and guard Keani Albanez both scored 19 points and the team held No. 19 George Washington (29-4) to its second-worst shooting night of the season at 29.3 percent. But no points were bigger than Greinacher’s dagger of a 3-pointer, only second one she’s made all season. “The reason I made that 3 was because I didn’t think too much,” Greinacher said. “I just knew the shot clock was winding down.” George Washington coach Jonathan Tsipsis knew that Greinacher was only 1 of 6 from the 3-point line coming into the game. “That Greinacher 3 was huge. It was a senior stepping up to make a play,” Tsipsis said. “I thought we had the momentum and that pushed it back to nine (points).” Even after Greinacher’s 3-pointer, the Colonials fought back within seven points after Hannah Schaible hit a layup with 59 seconds left to make it 74-67. However, Albanez, Greinacher, Shaniqua Nilles and Emma Wolfram then went 9 for 9 from the free-throw line to ice the victory. “Stepping up under pressure situations and knocking down free throws is really important,” Fortier said. “If we don’t make those then our strategy may not have worked.” Gonzaga shot 42.3 percent from the floor, including 9 of 18 from the 3-point arc. George Washington, which has the best rebound margin in the nation, won the battle of the boards 51-39 and the Colonials also outscored Gonzaga 23-9 in second-chance points. But Gonzaga converted 19 turnovers by the Colonials into 27 points. And, the defense held leading scorers Jonquel Jones and Caira Washington to 16 combined, about 12 points below their combined average. Jones finished with 14 rebounds, seven on the offensive glass. “It was just a game where we didn’t control the things we needed to, to win it,” said Jones, who was the Atlantic 10 player of the year. “Hats off to Gonzaga.” Fortier said the game plan was to make sure that more than one defender responded every time Jones, Washington or back-up post Kelli Prange got the ball. Both Jones and Washington got into foul trouble, which forced Tsipsis to sit them for several minutes. “We needed to play good team defense,” Fortier said. “And for the most part, they stepped up.” Schaible and Prange led the Colonials with 13 points each. Shannon Cranshaw and Jones both scored 11 points and Brianna Cummings nine. For Gonzaga, Elle Tinkle overcame some early misses to score 11 points and 6-foot-5 Emma Wolfram came off the bench to score 10 points, grab seven rebounds and block three shots. Gonzaga started the game with hot shooting and raced to a 9-2 lead. Albanez only missed one shot from the floor and led all scorers with 12 points as the Bulldogs led 40-25 at the break. The Colonials never led, but they got with six points twice before Greinacher’s big shot put the game out of reach. Fortier said she knew Greinacher could make the 3-pointer despite her only trying a handful of those shots during the season. “I thought, ‘Thank goodness she got it off before the shot clock,’” Fortier said. “I was happy it wasn’t a turnover.” Now Gonzaga has one more practice before taking on Oregon State, the Pac-12 regular-season champion. Asked if she’s going to take more 3-point shots against the Beavers, Greinacher smiled and replied: “I’m not going to think about it.”
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