SPOKANE, Wash. — In a back-and-forth game, Gonzaga was the last team standing.
Stand-ISH, to be more accurate.
Kayla Standish hit 11 of 12 shots from the field in the second half, and her 30 points nicely supplemented Courtney Vandersloot’s 34 as 20th-ranked Gonzaga outraced No. 25 Iowa, 92-86, in a first-round NCAA women’s basketball tournament dandy in front of a capacity crowd of 6,000 Saturday afternoon at McCarthey Athletic Center.
“I don’t know what most people thought, but I thought that was a great basketball game,” said Gonzaga Coach Kelly Graves. “I don’t care what level or what gender you’re talking about. That was good basketball.”
In the tournament’s lone game featuring two ranked teams, Gonzaga (29-4) made the game’s final surge — an 18-5 salvo that transformed a 60-55 Iowa lead into a 73-65 Bulldogs advantage with 6:30 to go.
The Hawkeyes (22-9) got within two points twice, the last on Morgan Johnson’s baseline shot that made it 83-81 with 1:55 left.
But the Bulldogs made enough plays — and Vandersloot made enough free throws — to thwart the Hawkeyes’ hopes.
“We were just trading baskets there at the end,” said Iowa’s Jaime Printy, who scored 25 points and became the 29th Iowa player to score 1,000 in her career. She has 1,021 with two seasons down, two to go.
Vandersloot now needs 10 points to become the first Division-I women’s basketball player to record 2,000 points and 1,000 assists in her career.
She’s got at least one more game to get there. Gonzaga faces No. 8 UCLA or Montana in the second round at 8:30 (Iowa time) Monday night.
The Bulldogs prevailed despite the Hawkeyes’ school-record 13 3-pointers in 29 attempts.
In the end, that didn’t stand up to Standish’s exploits. The post stepped away from the basket for most of her shots, scoring 22 points in the second half.
“Morgan Johnson is a big shot-blocker, and I was conscious of that,” Standish said. “I tried to pull her away from the basket.”
The Hawkeyes made 7 of 14 shots from long range on their way to a 44-37 halftime lead. But within 2:10 of the start of the second half, the lead was gone.
Vandersloot’s steal and layup tied the game at 44-all, then Standish’s basket put the Bulldogs in front, 48-47.
Iowa recovered for a while, and Kachine Alexander’s basket gave the Hawkeyes a 60-55 advantage.
Again, Gonzaga fought back. Standish’s baseline shot gave the Bulldogs the lead for good, 67-65.
Alexander finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds, her 10th double-double of the season and the 34th of her career. She was one assist shy of a triple-double.
Kelly Krei scored 15 points, Johnson added 10 points and nine boards.
Alexander drew defensive duty on Vandersloot.
“She’s a good guard,” Alexander said. “She looks for her teammates. Today, she was looking for her shot, too.”
Vandersloot made all 11 of her free throw attempts.
Since the brackets were released Monday, the Hawkeyes bemoaned the fact that they — as a higher seeded team (Iowa was No. 6, Gonzaga was No. 11) — had to play in a hostile environment.
“I would say we probably would have had a better chance on a neutral site. Yes,” said Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder. “We had a good season, a very good season. But you always remember the last one. And that’s unfortunate.”
The game was Gonzaga’s first close test in more than two months. The Bulldogs passed it.
“The conference we play in (the West Coast) is nothing compared to Iowa,” Vandersloot said. “All five of their players are skilled. We were ready for them. We knew we weren’t going to roll them like we were able to roll in our conference.”