Stanford women overmatch Gonzaga in NCAA first round win

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Stanford women overmatch Gonzaga in NCAA first round win
Stanford guard Kiana Williams (23) takes a 3-point shot against Gonzaga during the first half of a first-round game in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament in Stanford, Calif., Saturday, March 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Alanna Smith scored 20 points, freshman Kiana Williams made a sensational women’s NCAA Tournament debut, and No. 4 seed Stanford beat cold-shooting Gonzaga 82-68 in the first round of the Lexington Regional on Saturday.

Williams scored 21 points and calmly pushed the pace on offense as the Cardinal created opportunities in transition. Early in the third, she stole the ball from Gonzaga’s Emma Stach and drove it the length of the court for a layup.

Stanford (23-10) used a 9-0 run late in the third to pull away and overcame a tough shooting performance by Brittany McPhee, who had 11 points on 4-for-12 shooting. She also contributed 11 rebounds, six assists and a pair of steals.

McPhee missed nine games earlier in the season with a foot injury and the Cardinal played perhaps the toughest schedule in Hall of Fame coach Tara VanDerveer’s 32 seasons on The Farm.

Stanford will face Florida Gulf Coast on Monday after the 12th-seeded Eagles (31-4) beat No. 5 seed Missouri 80-70 in Saturday’s first game. VanDerveer will face Eagles coach Karl Smesko after VanDerveer won her 900th career game against him at Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, in November 2013.

Jill Barta scored 21 points for the Zags (27-6), coming off their second consecutive West Coast Conference tournament title.

Stanford had plenty of motivation aside from protecting its home court and continuing a special season for seniors like McPhee and Kaylee Johnson, who had three blocked shots. Gonzaga won here at Maples Pavilion in the West Coast powers’ last meeting, on Nov. 18, 2016 — the Zags’ lone victory over nine games in the series.

Stanford used a 10-2 run midway through the second quarter to build a 32-20 lead and Gonzaga was overmatched the rest of the way. That allowed VanDerveer to rest her regulars down the stretch and give the backups some key tournament minutes.

BIG PICTURE

Gonzaga: Gonzaga forced 18 turnovers. … The Zags are 2-3 in the NCAA tournament under fourth-year coach Lisa Fortier. That included a Sweet 16 run in 2015. … John Stockton’s daughter, Laura, had 14 points and four assists with her famous father in attendance.

Stanford: Smith had four of Stanford’s eight blocks. … DiJonai Carrington had 11 points, five rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block in 19 key minutes off the bench. … The Cardinal have a 31-4 NCAA record on their home court in Maples Pavilion. … The arena briefly went silent at the 9:31 mark of the first quarter when Marta Sniezek went down grabbing at her middle. She was OK but then took another hard hit from Stockton late. … Jennifer Azzi, VanDerveer’s first major recruit, sat behind the Stanford bench while Stanford football coach David Shaw was behind a baseline.

STANFORD CAN RELATE

When No. 1 Virginia went down to little-known University of Maryland-Baltimore County in the first round of the men’s tournament Friday night, VanDerveer could relate.

It was 20 years ago when top-seeded Stanford lost to 16th-seeded Harvard, the only time a 16 seed had beaten a No. 1 previously before the Cavaliers fell and ruined brackets everywhere.

“Coach Bennett and his team should be exceedingly proud of their season. One game doesn’t define them. For me what was most painful was watching both Kristin (Folkl) and Vanessa (Nygaard) go down with ACL injuries. The experience really taught me to enjoy each day! If we are the only two coaches to ever experience the loss I am honored to be in his company!” VanDerveer said. “Coach Bennett is a class act. He will only get better. Pain is a great motivator!”

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