CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) — Katie Campbell had 15 points, hitting five 3-pointers, and fifth-seeded Gonzaga downed No. 12 seed Little Rock 68-51 on Saturday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Zykera Rice added 18 points and six rebounds for the Bulldogs (29-4), who advance to play the winner of Saturday’s later game between No. 13 seed Boise State and host Oregon State, the fourth seed.
Tori Lasker led the Trojans (21-10) with 16 points. The loss snapped a six-game winning streak for the Sun Belt tournament champions.
Gonzaga, ranked No. 16 in the AP’s final Top 25 of the season, led by as many as 21 points in the first half and cruised to the win.
The Bulldogs were shaken in the West Coast Conference tournament, losing senior starter Laura Stockton and reserve guard Jill Townsend to season-ending injuries. Stockton, the daughter of Gonzaga great John Stockton, was on the bench in street clothes for Saturday’s game, a brace on her left leg.
In the fourth quarter of the team’s 82-68 loss to BYU in the WCC tournament final, Zags coach Lisa Fortier left to join her brother in the hospital. He later died of complications from muscular dystrophy.
Despite the conference tournament loss, the fifth seed is the highest in Gonzaga history and the selection committee kept the Bulldogs close to home.
Jessie Loera started at point guard for Stockton against the Trojans.
Gonzaga has made the field at the NCAA Tournament 11 times, including the past two seasons. The Bulldogs’ best finish was an Elite Eight appearance in 2011. They’ve made the round of 16 four times.
Little Rock won the Sun Belt tourney title game over South Alabama 57-56 for its second straight conference championship.
The Trojans had been to the NCAA Tournament six times since 2010, and they’ve won twice, including an upset of Texas A&M in the tournament opener in 2015.
Gonzaga jumped out to an early 16-0 over Little Rock, which had five turnovers in the span. Little Rock’s first basket came on a layup from Ronjanae DeGray with 3:05 left in the first quarter.
Ronjanae DeGray is the team’s leading scorer, averaging 14.6 points and 6.9 rebounds going into Saturday’s game. She finished with six points and seven rebounds.
The Bulldogs led 21-2 going into the second quarter and the rout appeared to be on, but Little Rick pulled within 29-20 on Terrion Moore’s jumper. Gonzaga led 32-20 at the half.
Lasker got the Trojans within single digits again with a layup that closed the gap to 42-33 in the third quarter.
The winners of Saturday’s games at Gill Coliseum will play Monday for a chance to advance to the Sweet 16 in Albany, New York.
Little Rock: The Trojans have never faced an opponent from the West Coast Conference, let alone the Zags. ... In the regular season, the Trojans had a nine-game winning streak between Jan. 12 and Feb. 14.
Gonzaga: It was the second time the Zags have played tournament games in Corvallis. Back in 2015, as the 11th seed, they beat George Washington and upset the Beavers to advance to the Sweet 16, where they lost to Tennessee.
MESSAGE: Stockton wrote a letter to her team about what her basketball career has meant to her as the Bulldogs prepared to play in the tournament without her.
“You have always been more than just a sport. You’ve taught me the importance of hard work. You’ve pushed me past my limits and shown me that with hard work and toughness there is no ceiling. You’ve given me lifelong friendships and shown me that as a woman I can be strong, confident and empowered,” Stockton wrote.
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