The Gonzaga women’s season came to end on Monday night as they fell to Oregon State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, 76-70 in a back-and-forth thriller. It was an emotional, tough ending to a season that will be looked back on for the history they made.
Both teams traded blows in the first half. Zykera Rice picked up two early fouls in a very physical first quarter. Gonzaga was able to hold a 15-14 lead after the first 10 minutes thanks to a cold shooting performance from Oregon State and four points each from Jenn and LeeAnne Wirth. The second quarter was more back-and-forth, with Gonzaga using a flurry of mid-range jumpers to keep the lead. Their defense, as usual, was stifling.
Oregon State’s top three scorers were held to 1-for-9 shooting in the first half. As a team, the Beavers shot 33 percent and turned it over six times. Despite Rice only playing four minutes in the first half, hitting zero threes, and giving up nine offensive rebounds, the Bulldogs still held a 34-32 halftime lead.
Rice was able to stay out of foul trouble and pick up a couple big baskets in the third quarter, but it was Smith who picked up her fourth foul late in the quarter. Destiny Slocum heated up for Oregon State, scoring 10 points to give Oregon State a 50-49 lead heading to the fourth. Gonzaga was plagued by turnovers late in the quarter.
Gonzaga used a 6-0 run to re-take the lead early in the fourth. No team held a lead larger than five the entire night (until the end). With the game tied at 59, Mikayla Pivec converted an and-1 to give OSU a three point lead with 2:19 remaining. Pivec was enormous all night for the Beavers, collecting 19 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists. After Smith responded with a bucket of her own, Taya Corosdale hit the biggest shot of the night - a three as the shot clock was winding down to give the Beavers a four point lead with 90 seconds to go. Oregon State would ice the game at the line down the stretch.
Gonzaga fought. This team showed an insane amount of heart and grit. After losing Laura Stockton and Jill Townsend, and battling three players in foul trouble all night, and hitting zero three pointers until the final minute... for them to be in this game, against one of the best programs in the country the last five years on their home court, and have a chance to win, is a testament to how scrappy this team is.
The 2018-19 Gonzaga Bulldogs made history all year long: the highest AP ranking in program history, the best NCAA Tournament seed in program history, a milestone home win over a top 10 team, and a tournament win for a group of seniors that so greatly deserved it. Zykera Rice, Chandler Smith, and Laura Stockton will leave the program after decorated careers. Gonzaga is in a better place today than when they entered the school because of their efforts as players and human beings.
It’s hard to describe if you haven’t been watching or following the team this season, but the last two weeks have been so emotional. These women fought their tails off for their coach, for their fallen teammates, and for each other until the bitter end. There’s no better representation of being a Zag than that.