Gonzaga knocks off sixth-seeded Iowa in NCAA first round

SPOKANE, Wash. -- In its first close game in months, 11th-seeded Gonzaga didn't panic as it traded late leads with sixth-seeded Iowa in an NCAA tournament first-round game.

The Bulldogs trailed at halftime and at various points in the second half, something they didn't experience much as they beat opponents by an average of more than 25 points per game this season.

Courtney Vandersloot scored a career-high 34 points as Gonzaga beat Iowa 92-86 in a game played on the Bulldogs' home court.

"We never thought we were out of it," Vandersloot said.

Gonzaga shot 40 percent in the first half, 57 percent in the second.

"We knew we were not knocking shots down like we usually do," said Vandersloot, a three-time West Coast Conference player of the year. "Our competition in conference was nothing compared to Iowa. All of them, one through five on the court, were skilled basketball players."

Kayla Standish added a career-high 30 points for Gonzaga, 22 in the second half. She made 15 of 20 shots, including 11 of 12 in the second half.

"She's hard to guard," Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said.

She said Standish has "a pretty, pretty jump shot."

Gonzaga (29-4), which advanced to the round of 16 last year, will play UCLA on Monday.

The Hawkeyes (22-9) were not thrilled about playing a team with a worse seed on its home court, where the Bulldogs have won 30 of their last 31 games. The only loss was to Stanford earlier this season.

"Playing them on their home court made them even tougher," said Iowa's Kachine Alexander, who had 18 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.

Jaime Printy led the Hawkeyes with 25 points, while Kelly Krei added 15.

Bluder was diplomatic, calling it "a great environment."

But asked about her team's chances of winning if the game was elsewhere, she said: "I'd say they would have been better on a neutral site."

The Iowa band didn't have any doubts, shouting "neutral site" as the clock wound down.

Gonzaga, the nation's top scoring team at 86 points per game, won its 19th straight. The Bulldogs were 14-0 in the WCC, winning those games by an average of 27 points. Their last loss was Dec. 29 against Notre Dame, and their toughest game since was a 65-59 win over Loyola Marymount in January.

Trailing by seven at halftime, Gonzaga scored the first seven of the second half and tied the game at 44 on Vandersloot's steal and layup.

Iowa went back up 60-55 after a 7-0 run. But a 3-pointer by Gonzaga's Janelle Bekkering tied the score at 60.

The Zags suddenly got hot. Standish made three of Gonzaga's next four baskets as the Bulldogs built a 69-65 lead. Katelan Redmon and Claire Rapp also scored to extend the advantage to 73-65 with 6:22 left.

Morgan Johnson's jumper cut Gonzaga's lead to 83-81 with two minutes to go. Standish answered with a turnaround jumper, and Iowa had to foul trailing by four as time slipped below one minute.

Vandersloot hit six free throws to seal the win. She stole the ball from Printy with 10 seconds left to end Iowa's hopes.

Gonzaga is making its third straight appearance in the tournament. Iowa was coming off a loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament, but had won it previous five games.

Vandersloot leads the nation with 10.2 assists per game, but she had only seven Saturday as she took 23 shots, making 10.

"She got to show the rest of the nation today a lot more about Courtney Vandersloot," Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves said.