ZAGS WIN: Well, the leading PG in Vandersloot may have fouled out, but Frieson has been working on her ball-handling skills and it was her leadership, plus a jumper with 18 seconds left in the game, that sealed the win. Adams missed a 18-footer and the Zags tipped around the rebound to waste the little time left on the clock. As the final buzzer sounded, the Aggies were in pure shock and the Zags were celebrating at halfcourt. Frieson led all scorers with 23 points. She also had nine rebounds, five assists, four blocks, and three steals. Vandersloot had 11 turnovers and six assists for her worst game of the season. She wasn’t happy, but would have forgotten about it if media didn’t ask. “It was so incredible to see everybody else step up,” she said. “They were incredible defenders, but I expected more or myself than that. As a point guard your team is counting on you to do that (handle the pressure). I felt like the world was on my back because I fouled out and my teammates were counting on me to be out there and I couldn’t do anything for them. But everything was just lifted off (when Adams missed). I was so happy and excited. And the thing is, we’re happy to be where we are right now, but we’re not done.”
YOU’RE OUT: Vandersloot fouled Colson and is taking a seat with her fifth foul. Colson made both ensuing FTs. Zags up 70-69 with one minute to play
MS. BIG SHOT: Shives nailed another big-time three-pointer to give the Zags a 70-67 lead with 2:02 remaining in the game. Blair called two quick timeouts to get his team right on offense. It didn’t work with White missing a jumper and Bowman collecting the rebound.
FOUL TROUBLE: The Aggies have built their biggest 65-62 and got Vandersloot into foul trouble, picking up her fourth with 4:05 remaining. But Frieson is still on fire. She nailed a dagger three-pointer with 3:41 on the clock to tie the game at 65 points apiece. There’s 2:53 remaining in the game. Winner advances to the Sweet 16.
BRIEF LEAD: The smaller contingent of Aggies fans roared with Smith hit a three-pointer to give their team a 52-50 lead with 11:47 remaining. It was the first for TAMU in the game. But the maroon-clad fans quickly took a seat when Zags F Standish grabbed a rebound and put it back in while being fouled to tie the game at 52 all. Shives huddled the team together and screamed “Let’s go!” A timeout was called. GU is shooting a paltry 20 percent (3-for-15) in the second half. The Aggies are shooting 50 percent (9-for-18).
RUNNING AGGIES: TAMU is digging deep, put pieced together a 9-2 run on the steals and layins of Colson to pull within 50-49 with 12:37 remaining in the game.
GOING INSIDE: Apparently Frieson was the topic of conversation in the TAMU locker room. ESPN2 has Blair wired and he repeated, “That No. 12 is kicking your butt” to motivate his team. He also told the Aggies that she’s better than any of his own post players. He was still amped when the second half started, getting a tech with 18:55 remaining in the game.
HALFTIME: The Zags put on a show in the opening half, led by Frieson. She displayed a game worthy of WNBA scouting, too. When the Aggies appeared like they were going to get their first lead, trailing 30-29 after a shot by Carter, Bekkering nailed a three-pointer and Frieson hit jumpers and grabbed rebounds to help the team close on a 12-2 run. The highlight was the defensive stance in front of the Zags bench. Standish blocked Carter’s shot and the team didn’t allow the Aggies to get a shot off as time expired. GU leads 42-31 at the break. The halftime stats are pretty even with both teams attempting 31 shots. The difference is the FTs. GU has made seven to the Aggies three. Frieson leads all scorers with 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting. She also has six boards, four assists, two blocks and one steal.
YOU’RE OUT: White was the savior for her team, but a stream of double-dribble calls made Blair put her on the bench with aminute left in the opening half.
PUSH ‘EM BACK: TAMU has pulled out its “pressure” defense. It’s looking a little like knockout the way the Zags are flying to the ground after a hit. The officials have started to call everything — including the ticky-tack stuff — to get the Aggies to play clean, again. The Bulldogs aren’t letting it rattle them too much, though. Despite White driving to the hoop to pull within 30-29, Bekkering nailed a three-pointer to put the Zags up 33-29 with 3:59 on the clock.
MINI BREATHER: The Zags bench, mainly F Kayla Standish, played well for two minutes to give Bowman and Vandersloot a rest. Colson is starting to play better for the Aggies, however, and picked off Vandersloot twice when the Kent product re-entered the game. GU leads 24-19 with 9:28 remaining in the opening half.
GO BLACK: By the way, the Zags are wearing their black road jerseys, a switch from last season when it advanced to the NCAA second-round. The switch, along with confidence, has them playing tough. A needed quality because the refs aren’t calling a thing unless there’s blood — nice. Frieson is playing strong inside and although the Aggies have finally joined the game, GU is still up 16-12 with 11:59 remaining in the opening half. Zags are shooting 40 percent, getting five assists off of six made field goals.
E’NUF!: TAMU coach Gary Blair made a substitution, but couldn’t get his team playing right, calling time with 16:33 remaining in the opening half. The Zags are blocking shots and getting turnovers to build a 9-2 lead. Oh, and Shives hit her first three-point attempt, so it’s going well for the Bulldogs.
BABY BOOM: One thing I’m scared about with this matchup is the health of Gonzaga assistants Lisa Mispley Fortier and Jodie Kaczor Berry. Both are pregnant, which has to be a NCAA record for coaches on one bench. Mispley Fortier is in her 40th week, due any day now. If the game is exciting, she may pop. Kaczor Berry, who’s husband actually lives in Seattle while she works in Spokane, is due in July. Fortier stopped doing some drills due to the pregnancy. “I was still able to guard them (the players during practice) but then I kept getting bigger and I started to slow down,” commented a disappointed Fortier. “So when that happened the girls started backing off and they really started to go out of their way to avoid contact so I had to stop playing.”
Seems like everyone is tapping the other for a feel on the NCAA second-round game between No. 2 seed Texas A&M;(26-7) and seventh-seeded Gonzaga (28-4). The consensus is that if the Aggies win, it’ll be a blowout. If the Zags win, it’ll be close.
The fact that people think Gonzaga has a chance is a positive on its own. TAMU hails from the Big 12 where you play a top-25 teams nearly every night. Six are ranked nationally and the Aggies, ranked ninth in the AP poll, had to beat three in on back-to-back-to-back nights, including previously undefeated Nebraska, to win the conference championship last week.
So the NCAA tourney should be a breeze, right? Not exactly. Texas A&M;called itself sluggish to start the Portland State game, making the first-half more exciting than it probably should have been. The Zags, obviously more talented than the Vikings, have a strong transition game and if the Aggies aren’t ready to run and play tight defense, they could be in trouble.
Zags senior forward Vivian Frieson already stated running will be key in stopping Aggies junior center Danielle Adams, who averages a team-leading 16.3 points off the bench. She has a big build, so may be a little slow, but can shoot the three-pointer and is a pill to stop inside. On her side is senior Tanisha Smith, who is a steal for the WNBA draft if pro teams don’t get hip to her game. Smith can run and pass and shoot and rebound and make a mean scrambled egg, if you like.
OK, I’m not sure about her cooking in the kitchen. But the point is she can heat it up on the court. And should be a key factor to this game.
There was an eerie quiet before the bands started their duel. Both teams looked really focused in pre-game warm-up, not joking and smiling much. The Zags are best when loose, so in anticipation of a good game, let’s hope they’re not tense.
Only way to find out is to play. Let’s get to it with your starting lineups:
F Janell Bekkering
F Vivian Frieson
C Heather Bowman
G Courtney Vandersloot
G Tiffanie Shives
F Tanisha Smith
F Adaora Elonu
C Damitria Buchanan
G Sydney Carter
G Tyra White
Tonight’s officials are Michael Price, Penny Davis, and Maj Forsberg.