Looking Back (March 10) | San Diego 69, Gonzaga 62
The Madness has officially begun.
On Monday, the University of San Diego men’s basketball team (21-13) broke its streak of 13 straight losses to Gonzaga (25-7), pulling off a stunning 69-62 upset of the Bulldogs in the West Coast Conference Championship game and clinching an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.
It will be the Toreros’ first appearance in the field of 64 since 2003 – when they also had to beat Gonzaga in the conference final to seal their bid – and only the third in program history. These two games mark Gonzaga’s only losses in the WCC Tournament since 1999. The Bulldogs, ranked No. 22 in the nation, are still expected to receive their 10th straight invitation to the NCAA Tournament.
The victory was particularly sweet for first-year head coach Bill Grier, who spent the past 16 as an assistant on Gonzaga’s bench.
USD had a tough road to the WCC final, needing two overtimes to get by Saint Mary’s in the semifinals the night before. But the team showed no signs of fatigue against Gonzaga, out-rebounding the Bulldogs by 13.
Gonzaga had a slight lead in the second half, going up by five with 13:33 left in the game, but the Toreros answered with a 19-4 run and never let the Bulldogs within six points the rest of the way. Sophomore guard De’Jon Jackson led the team with 16 points, more than doubling his average of 7.7 per game on the season.
Looking Ahead (March 14) | Sweet Sixteen: Women’s Basketball VS. Mary Washington
The women’s basketball team heads into its Sweet Sixteen matchup of the NCAA tournament on Saturday with a date against the national power Mary Washington Eagles. While the Jumbos have had the best season in their history, turning in a 25-3 record and earning themselves a No. 18 national ranking, they are still the underdogs against a strong Eagles team.
Mary Washington was ranked No.1 in the preseason polls and stayed there for the first month of the season. The team boasts a 28-2 record on the season and is ranked 13 spots ahead of Tufts at No. 5. And unlike Tufts, the Eagles have experience in the NCAA tournament. They made it to the Sweet Sixteen in 2006, and last year, putting together a 31-3 record, they made it all the way to the Final Four.
While Tufts has relied on the strong play in the paint of Khalilah Ummah, averaging 13.1 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, Mary Washington has its own star at the center position in senior Liz Hickey. Hickey averages 14.6 points and 8.7 rebounds and was one of 10 finalists named for this year’s Jostens Trophy, given to the top student-athlete in NCAA Div. III basketball.
Hickey also has blocked an outrageous 131 shots this year – two more than the entire Tufts team – and holds the NCAA Div. III career blocks record. The Jumbos will have to work around her inside presence if they hope to move on further in the NCAA Tournament.
With a victory, Tufts would move on to Saturday’s Elite Eight.