LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Her head was still sore, but Kayleigh Truong was feeling the joy Friday night.
When it mattered most, Truong turned in one of the best games of her career. The junior scored a career-high 20 points along with five rebounds and four assists as Gonzaga pulled away from Nebraska 68-55 in an NCAA Tournament first-round game.
Most of those stats came after she took a hard fall in the second quarter and had to go to the locker room.
“I’ve got a hard head, I think,” Truong said as she rubbed it during a postgame news conference. “It’s amazing that we were able to succeed tonight.”
With the Zags leading 33-30 at halftime, coach Lisa Fortier wasn’t sure if she’d have to rely exclusively on Kayleigh’s sister, Kaylynne.
No way, Kayleigh said emphatically.
Truong came out in the second half by hitting a 3-pointer that sparked a 6-0 run to give the Zags a brief nine-point lead. Nebraska made several small runs, but most were blunted by Truong as she drove the lane, dished off or hit pull-up jumpers from midrange.
That kind of versatility is the forte of Nebraska guard Jaz Shelley, who came into the game averaging 13 points, 6.5 rebounds and five assists.
But as Truong was bringing the ball upcourt midway through the second quarter, Shelley committed a hard foul and both players hit the floor.
Shelley got up after a few seconds, then went to the bench with her second foul. Truong remained on the floor for several minutes before walking to the trainer’s room.
“So when she’s down, there’s always a little bit of a concern, and there’s always a concern that it’s going to be something that’s going to keep her out,” Fortier said.
Later , Truong drove the lane again and was fouled by Shelley. Again the Huskers’ star took a seat and GU built a double-digit lead that held up the rest of the night.
Shelley finished with eight points, two assists and zero rebounds, one of her worst games of the year.
On so many levels, this was one of the best days for Truong. A year ago in her home state of Texas, she missed a crucial 3-point shot in the final 2 minutes as the fifth-seeded Zags were upset by Belmont in the first round.
“There were a lot of emotions, especially coming off a tough loss last year,” Truong said. “We’re hungry.”
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