Gonzaga does it again: into the Sweet 16

March, 21, 2011
03/21/11
8:49
PM ET

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.

Mechelle Voepel joined ESPN.com in 1996 and covers women's college hoops, the WNBA, the LPGA, and additional collegiate sports for espnW.

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