Playing before a partisan, green-clad crowd, the University of Oregon women’s basketball team may have been aided by a case of home cooking Saturday at the Spokane Arena.
“It was my cooking that helped them win,” joked TaLesha Roberson, the mother of Oregon forward and former Gonzaga Prep star Oti Gildon. “They ate it up like a team of football players.”
Gildon, who tallied 10 points and seven rebounds in the Ducks’ 83-69 win over Central Michigan in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA women’s tournament Saturday, had her entire team over for a meal at her family’s Spokane home Friday evening.
There was quite the spread, too, even a day late due to mechanical delays.
“Ribs, pork and beans, chicken and hamburgers. Polish sausages, baked beans, potato salad, peach cobbler, cheesecake,” Roberson said. “And they took plenty to their hotel.”
Gildon’s family had prepared the sizable feast for Thursday, but because of plane troubles in Eugene, the food couldn’t be served until the team arrived Friday night.
Roberson said Gildon’s 3-year-old brother eagerly awaited the arrival of the team bus Thursday and cried when he was informed the team wouldn’t be coming until the following day.
She said the family began to prepare months ago for the Ducks advancing to the Sweet 16 and being placed in the Spokane region of the tournament. On Saturday, the family took up a chunk of a large pro-Oregon section at the Spokane Arena.
Gildon’s high school teammate, Laura Stockton, and her father John Stockton, were among the Duck supporters. Stockton and Gildon helped Gonzaga Prep capture a pair of state titles.
Of the more than 5,000 fans at Saturday’s regional semifinal, more than half donned Oregon’s bright green and yellow. Many locals also came to support Oregon head coach Kelly Graves, the erstwhile Gonzaga coach who led the Bulldogs to Elite 8 appearance in 2011.
“Eugene came to Spokane and turned up,” Roberson said.
“It’s always good to hear familiar voices cheering you and your team on,” said Gildon, playing 460 miles from Oregon’s campus.
Oregon (33-4) will face Notre Dame (32-3) on Monday at the Spokane Arena in the Elite 8.
Oregon associate head coach Mark Campbell – a Mount Vernon, Washington, native and former St. Mary’s College assistant – said he couldn’t think of a better out-of-state city for his squad to play for a trip to the Final Four.
“This is a community that really appreciates basketball, men’s and women’s, at the highest level, Campbell said. “When we knew there was an opportunity to potentially play here, we knew that this community would support us, with what (Graves) did here and having Oti.
“It’s awesome. It’s a home environment for us.”
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