In an exciting game between two perimeter-oriented teams, it was ultimately the interior play of Kayla Standish that helped Gonzaga to a 92-86 win over the Iowa Hawkeyes.
"We weren't able to do anything to stop Standish," said Iowa coach Lisa Bluder. "She was excellent in there."
After being saddled with foul trouble in the first half, Standish exploded for 22 second half points to finish with a career-high 30 points. For the most part, it was exactly the type of performance one might expect from Standish - getting short jumpers off curls, turnaround jumpers against shorter opponents and jumpers from the wing. But after Iowa's 6-foot-5 sophomore Morgan Johnson picked up her fourth foul in the second half, Standish really took over.
"Kayla's one of those players who once she gets it going she's really difficult to defend just because once she gets the perimeter part of her game - the step out, the good jump shot - she can play with the back to the basket," Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves said after the game. "Johnson got in a little bit of foul trouble, so at that point we tried to get the ball to [Standish] to either get her in some more foul trouble or get her out of the game. And I think what that did is kinda got Kayla going a little bit."
However, while Standish's performance stood out, Gonzaga's dominance in the post from across the roster was what made the difference in the game. With six second half rebounds, Gonzaga beat Iowa on the offensive boards 38 percent to 18 percent, led by Claire Raap's four along with three from Standish, who finished with a total of seven rebounds.
In addition to Standish's outstanding play in the post, Gonzaga got a career-high 34 points from point guard Courtney Vandersloot who added seven rebounds and seven assists as well. Jamie Printy kept Iowa in the game with 25 points and 5-for-11 3-point shooting, but ultimately the combination of Vandersloot's aggression driving to the basket and the team's interior rebounding won the game for Gonzaga.
In a way, it was definitely unfortunate that a solid Iowa team was forced to play Gonzaga on their home court in the first round of the tournament. But any gripes aside, it was an exciting, well-played game.
"I think our fans today showed why they're just tremendous fans," said Graves. "They gave us a lot of support...Our players late in the game - we didn't give 'em a ton of rest in the second half - there was a lot of adrenaline running through those bodies. And a lot of that energy came from the fans. And I think because of the great atmosphere it helped both teams play well.
"That really was a great basketball game; I don't care at what level, what gender. That was just great basketball."