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Monday, March 21, 2011
Gonzaga does it again: into the Sweet 16


It was as if Gonzaga's Courtney Vandersloot wanted to put a highlight reel of her entire career into one basketball game. A contest that would be her last on her home court at the McCarthey Athletic Center, but not her last in a Bulldogs uniform.

That's because No. 11 seed Gonzaga, for the second season in a row, will be going to the Sweet 16 -- thanks to a great point guard, a very strong team … and some good fortune with geography.

The Bulldogs beat No. 3 seed UCLA 89-75 Monday in Spokane, Wash., taking advantage of being at home to knock off the Pac-10's Bruins. The setup of predetermined sites for the first and second rounds of the NCAA women's tournament means that sometimes, a worse-seeded team gets a home-court advantage over a team with a better seed because it submitted a winning bid to host.

Would No. 11 Gonzaga have defeated sixth-seeded Iowa in the first round or UCLA in the second on a neutral court? Hard to say, but the Bulldogs did make the Sweet 16 away from home last year. Of course, then Gonzaga had a home-state advantage -- the subregional was played across the state in Seattle -- and defeated No. 2 seed Texas A&M in the 2010 second round.

But no one can argue that Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves has built a terrific program in Spokane, and Vandersloot has been the centerpiece. The senior guard was sensational Monday: 29 points, 17 assists, 7 rebounds, 5 steals. During the game, she scored the 2,000th point of her career. Are you watching, WNBA scouts?

And it's not too often that a player could score 30 points and be overshadowed by her teammate, but Gonzaga's Kayla Standish was. Not that she minded.

UCLA is a very good defensive team, but it didn't look so against the high-octane offense of Gonzaga, which shot 55.8 percent from the field.

Now the Bulldogs will have the support of the entire city with them -- including Gonzaga alum John Stockton, who was in attendance Monday appreciating the skills of a fellow point guard -- as they play in the upcoming regional at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena.

The Bulldogs will face either No. 2 seed Xavier -- the team they lost to last year in the Sweet 16 -- or seventh-seeded Louisville.

And the idea that the Bulldogs are underdogs? They sure aren't looking like it.