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March 23, 2009 at 6:30 PM

No. 4 Pitt versus No. 12 Gonzaga game thread

PITT WINS: Bekkering made a youthful move, collecting a steal and trying to go solo down court to make what might have been a game-deciding layin with 20 seconds remaining. She later missed a potential tying three-pointer and Pitt made their free throws to win 65-60 in the Seattle sub-regional. They’ll face the Oklahoma-Georgia Tech winner in the Oklahoma City regional this weekend. Zellous was the leading scorer with 24 points while Vandersloot had 18 and a career-high five steals. The Zags were also 16 of 16 from the free throw line.
BACK-N-FORTH: Folks are on their feet as Zellous and Vandersloot start to take over the game. A three-pointer by Stewart made the score 57-56 with 2:51 remaining in the game.
GETTING BOARD: The Zags are evening up the rebounding disparity, trailing that category 35-34 to keep Pitt from getting second-chance shots. That’s preserving their 52-51 lead with 3:58 remaining in the game. It feels like Pitt could burst, but they seem to be breaking down like Xavier on Saturday — surprised this no-name school from Eastern Washington is bringing it.
MEDIC: Zellous is going to need some serious ice after this game. I can’t even count how many spills to the court the lean baller has taken. She was just fouled hard, again, by the Zags and made the ensuing free throws to tie the score at 47 points apiece.
RISKY MOVE: Zellous complained to officials to “call it both ways” but was tagged for her third foul. Berenato kept her in the game, though. Zags lead 35-33 with 14:49 remaining.
FIGHT!: I thought it would be Vandersloot rattled by the guards, but after Frieson blocked a Pitt shot, it was Scott who came back down with a hard foul on Bekkering, trying to block her junk. Only Bekkering popped up and was going to get in Scott’s face. They had to be separated by officials and were both awarded techs. Zags lead 31-29 with 17:07 remaining in the game.
AH, OFFENSE: The teams are a combined 3 of 3 from the field to open the second half, including Zellous’ three-pointer, so the offense is warming up.
SPOTTED: Washington AD Scott Woodward is here and so Frieson’s former Garfield high school coach Joyce Walker. Thought Gov. Christine Gregoire would be here since she was in Seattle for some afternoon appearances and is a women’s basketball fan, but the disappointing Huskies loss over the weekend must have been enough for her.
HALFTIME: Well, it’s not like Pitt is playing another second-half only game. They came out with a lot more muster than on Saturday, but the difference is Zellous is 1 of 6 from the field. And although the Panthers are getting the ball inside to Wilson ( 3 of 3), they aren’t containing Vandersloot’s passing. The Kent product looks like the roadrunner, picking off two passes, sprinting to setup three assists, and scoring seven points. But the Zags need Bowman to show up. She’s looking soft inside and is 2 of 9 from the field. Pitt is shooting 32.1 percent from the field compared to the Zags’ 29 percent. The Panthers are killing on the boards 21-17, but the Bulldogs are 8-0 in fast-break points.
GREAT FINISH: The last three-minutes of the opening half should tell you all you need to know about Gonzaga. Down eight, Vandersloot picked off a pass for a fast-break layin. Bowman (who isn’t getting much help from officials) finally drew a foul to get to the line for two points. Vandersloot worked the offense to find her big, Bowman, inside for a layin. And then, when you thought the Zags were done with their flurry, Vandersloot’s uncanny court vision came into play again, anticipating a Pitt pass to get the steal, which teammate Bekkering laid shortly before the buzzer. Whew! Tie score at the half at 24 points apiece. In all, it was a 8-0 run by Gonzaga.
ADDING FLAVOR: OK, Wilson is slow. Seriously, when the ball goes inside to her, it’s the game stops. The problem is, it looks like it stops for everyone but her. She’s a smart big that keeps the ball above her head and simply eases it into the basket. The Zags can’t compete because they can’t get up there. With Xavier’s Ta’Shia Phillips on Saturday, Phillips was jazzy in the paint, which Bowman could contend with. Zags really need to work on getting Wilson out of the game. Pitt leads 20-16 with 6:00 remaining in the half.
ICE COLD: Zellous is off. She’s rising above everyone and even getting some open looks that she doesn’t have to create, but is missing them all. She’s 1 of 6 from the field and in a tug-of-war styled game, Pitt is clinging to a 18-16 lead. The Panthers even look like they’re heaving, but both like to run.
TIGHT GAME: Bowman is having trouble getting her shot off and that’s going to hurt down the stretch. The Panthers were able to get back into the game with Wilson on the bench, getting scoring from Chelsea Cole inside. An old-school three-point play by Vandersloot is keeping the Zags ahead 12-10 with 11:59 remaining. It’s an interior battle though that the Bulldogs probably won’t win. They’re doubling Zellous outside, however, and have lured the star into two fouls and 1 of 3 shooting.
HEY ESPN!: You’ve got the score wrong on your site. Pitt is actually down 9-5.
GETTING CHIPPY: It’s rare not to see Zellous smiling, but she does complain to the refs about calls and has started to that early tonight. Pitt has picked up three fouls to the Zags’ one, which is giving the Bulldogs a little motivation. It’s tough for them to get a shot off against the Panthers defense, however the Zags are 1 of 5 from the field but lead 5-2 with 15:38 remaining.
HERE’S A TIP: Frieson (6-feet) took the tip against Wilson (6-6), she didn’t have a chance. Coach Kelly Graves had to practice again to try to duplicate the size Pitt has inside. Score is even at 2 points apiece with 18:23 remaining in the opening half. The Zags have forced one turnover.
No. 4 seed Pitt coach Agnus Berenato said she’s not into labels. She doesn’t wear them and said she doesn’t care if No. 12 seed Gonzaga is tagged a “mid-major,” from what she saw on Saturday, they’re a solid team. That’s why it’s not understandable why many don’t give the Zags a chance in this matchup.
Gonzaga could be on the cusp of being like Baylor about seven years ago or even Pitt three years ago when it made its first NCAA tourney appearance and has reached the Sweet 16 the past two. No one really looked at them as being much, but with former baylor star Sophia Young (San Antonio Silver Stars), they were able to build to eventually win a NCAA championship and are still a contending team.
For the Zags, it all starts with a win to advance to the Sweet 16 to garner some notoriety. It’ll be interesting to see if the Zags can pull if off. So, let’s get to it with your starting lineups:
F Vivian Frieson
F Jami Schaefer
C Heather Bowman
G Janelle Bekkering
G Courtney Vandersloot
F Sophronia Sallard
F Shayla Scott
C Pepper Wilson
G Shavonte Zellous
G Xenia Stewart
Tonight’s officials are Michael Price, Gator Parrish, and Shelly Nakasone.



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