Kayla Standish, Gonzaga eliminate Rutgers

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves wondered how

his team would respond to the physical play of Rutgers in the first

round of the NCAA tournament.

He needn't have worried.

Fueled by a boisterous home crowd, 11th-seeded Gonzaga jumped on

No. 6 seed Rutgers early in an 86-73 victory on Saturday. The

Bulldogs led 20-4 after 10 minutes.

"Sometimes we try to outscore people early and get tough

late," Graves said. "Tonight we focused on being tough early."

Rutgers made several comeback efforts in the second half, but

never got close.

"Every time they made a run it seems like we had the answer,"

Graves said. "You get that when you play tough."

Kayla Standish scored 23 points and Haiden Palmer added 21 for

Gonzaga (27-5). Palmer also had four assists and five steals.

"Once in a while she goes 'Dwyane Wade' on us," Graves said.

"She's an amazing player."

Standish said the Zags were helped by the crowd noise.

"It was very loud in there," Standish said. "It only helps

with our momentum."

Erica Wheeler scored 28 points for Rutgers (22-10), which shot

29 percent in the first half to fall behind.

"Their team responded to the crowd," Rutgers' April Sykes

said. "That's the advantage you have playing at home."

Gonzaga got 14 points from Taelor Karr and 13 points and 10

rebounds from Kelly Bowen. The Bulldogs made 9 of 19 3-point

attempts to keep Rutgers at bay in the second half.

Wheeler shot 10 of 22 and made six 3-pointers. Khadijah Rushdan

added 16 points and 11 rebounds for Rutgers.

Down 15 at halftime, the Scarlet Knights' shooting woes

continued early in the second half as Gonzaga built a 48-30 lead.

Both offenses started slow. Rutgers missed its first seven shots

and was scoreless until Rushdan hit two free throws more than 4

minutes in.

The Scarlet Knights had only one field goal in the first 10

minutes as Gonzaga took a 16-point lead behind a pair of 3-pointers

by Karr.

"We weren't making our shots," Sykes said. "The game plan for

us was to score and then get into our press."

Sykes was 1 for 10 in the first half. The Scarlet Knights

settled for too many poor shots early in the game, coach C. Vivian

Stringer said.

"We worked ourselves into such a hole in the first half that it

became difficult in the second half," she said.

Stringer is now 11-3 in NCAA opening-round games at Rutgers.

Stringer said she had trouble communicating with her team

because of the crowd noise.

"It probably looked great on television and it was good for

them," she said of the noise. "We've got to be able to handle


And they couldn't handle all of Gonzaga's scoring options.

"They execute extremely well," Stringer said.