Gonzaga uses hot shooting to reach Sweet 16 for first time since 2015, topping Utah 77-66

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Once Kaylee Truong, her sister Kailyn and the rest of Gonzaga's sharp shooters got hot from the perimeter, there was no other heroic effort from Utah State's Alyssa Bailey could do to slow down the Zags.

Gonzaga enters the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in nearly a decade.

Kylie Truong scored 21 points, Yvonne Ejim added 17 points and 13 rebounds, and fourth-seeded Gonzaga advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2015 by defeating No. 5 seed Utah 77-66 in the NCAA second round on Monday night. .

The Zags used a barrage of 3-point shooting in the second and third quarters to overcome the early deficit and advance to their first regional semifinal in nine years. Gonzaga (32-3) won its 36th straight game at home and will face top-seeded Texas in the Portland 4 Regional semifinals on Friday in Portland, Oregon.

“These guys, they've set their own goals and they want to break all these records that people at Gonzaga have never done before and you just have to remind them to check them little by little,” Gonzaga coach Lisa Fortier said. “If you want to do things we haven't done, we have to take it step by step. They played hard today.”

Gonzaga received contributions from all over the lineup. Truong and his twin sister Kaylynne were on the mark from the perimeter as the Bulldogs hit 12 3-pointers in the first three quarters and led by as many as 21.

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Kailyn Truong added 14 points and Alyssa Hollingsworth added 13. The Bulldogs finished 12 of 22 from beyond the three-point line and earned Victory roll through a packed Kennel Club Students divided after winning.

“You have to give them credit for what they do. It's not easy to stand up the whole game and cheer people on and lose their voices,” Ejim said.

Utah was hoping to return to the regional semifinals after last year when the Utes fell 66-63 to eventual national champion LSU in the Sweet 16.

Bailey led Utah (23-11) with 35 points, her fifth 30-point game of the season, in her final game with the Utes. Bailey scored the first 10 points of the game for the Utes and finished off her run with a 3-pointer with two seconds left before having a long embrace with Utah coach Len Roberts.

“I'm grateful I came to Utah and it kind of changed my whole life. I'm grateful and I'm ready for the future,” Bailey said.

Roberts told the team Witnessed several racist incidents At the team's first hotel in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, after arriving in the area last Thursday and forcing the team to change hotels before its first game of the tournament on Saturday. Roberts said the events left her players in shock.

“We have had several instances of some type of racist hate crime toward our program, and it has been very disturbing to all of us,” Roberts said. “In our world, in athletics and in college settings, it's shocking. There's a lot of diversity on campus, so you're not exposed to that very often.”

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On the court, Gonzaga trailed by as many as seven points at the start of the second quarter before a barrage of shots started falling.

Gonzaga hit seven of its next eight shots, including five 3-pointers by five different players as part of a 19-3 run. Dacia Young scored from a corner kick with six seconds left in the first half to finally end Utah's drought, but the lead was 10 at the end of the first half.

Gonzaga's campaign did not stop at the end of the first half. Bulldog record The first 11 of the second halfincluding Kaylynne Truong's desperation 3 as the shot clock expired and Hollingsworth's 3-point play to push the lead to 55-34.

“I feel like we made some mental mistakes there, but they turned the lights out. They didn't miss. They made us pay,” Young said.

Utah went ahead 67-61 with 4:49 left after six straight points from Bailey. This was as close as the Utes would get. Utah missed its next five shots, Gonzaga made five of six free throws, and Ejim's rebound with 1:50 left gave the Bulldogs a 74-61 lead.

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The Zags lost in the second round in 2022 and 2019 and will play in the regional semifinals for the fifth time in school history. The last time it reached this round, Gonzaga lost to Tennessee in overtime in 2015 in coach Lisa Fortier's first season.

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AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-womens-bracket/ And coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness

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