SPOKANE —Kelly Graves figures he might get a few more hours of sleep in the coming days. The Gonzaga coach was hoping it’d be a couple more weeks before he could start catching up on the hours of rest that get lost during the season.
Especially when the scenario was all set up for Gonzaga to make another deep run in the NCAA tournament without having to leave town.
“It’s disappointing. You know, it really is,” Graves said. “I don’t have many hobbies other than going to watch my kids do things. And I unfortunately won’t watch much of our tournament. It’s tough.”
Chelsea Poppens scored 19 points, Hallie Christofferson scored 11 of her 18 in the second half, and fifth-seeded Iowa State ended No. 12 seed Gonzaga’s dominance at home in the NCAA women’s tournament with a 72-60 win over the Bulldogs on Saturday.
Gonzaga went 4-0 the past two seasons playing at the McCarthey Athletic Center during the NCAA tournament in reaching the round of 16 both years. Iowa State (24-8) won thanks to dynamic shooting from behind the 3-point line and an awful shooting performance by the Bulldogs.
Taelor Karr led Gonzaga (27-6) with 15 points, but the Bulldogs shot just 32 percent for the game and only 27 percent in the second half. Haiden Palmer was the only other Gonzaga player in double figures with 14 points, but her 1-of-8 shooting on 3-pointers hurt. She also had 10 steals.
The Cyclones outlasted the Bulldogs despite committing 23 turnovers and having to play before a raucous pro-Gonzaga crowd that crammed nearly every spot in the 6,000-seat arena. They avoided joining Iowa, UCLA, Rutgers and Miami as higher seeded teams who lost to Gonzaga on its home floor in the previous two tournaments.
The Cyclones made up for the turnovers by hitting 3-point shots from deep and challenging the Bulldogs’ shots. Iowa State hit nine 3-pointers, including four in the first half from Williamson. Williamson averaged 8.3 points per game during the regular season, but her outside shooting was critical in opening looks in the interior for the Cyclones.
Williamson’s defense was important also, matched up against Karr most of the game. Karr, the West Coast Conference player of the year, made half of her 10 shots, but struggled to get open looks. Gonzaga shot nearly 43 percent during the regular season, but they were not immune from slumps. The Bulldogs were 1-3 in home games when they failed to shoot at least 35 percent.
Graves was more flustered by the offensive efficiency of the Cyclones. Iowa State shot 52 percent and became the first team this season to top 70 points against Gonzaga.
“Our defense was tested and we didn’t pass the test,” Graves said.
Leading by three at halftime, Iowa State scored the first six points of the second half to take its largest lead at 40-31 with 18 minutes remaining, only to go nearly 6 minutes without making a field goal.
Iowa State committed another five turnovers and missed five consecutive shots before Nikki Moody finally broke the drought with a 3-pointer.
Karr immediately answered on a backdoor cut while being fouled for a three-point play with 12:04 remaining to cut the Cyclones’ lead to 45-42.
Christofferson then hit a 3-pointer, followed by five straight points from Anna Prins and another 3 by Williamson to push the Cyclones’ lead back to nine.