No. 11 GU women to play Rutgers in NCAA’s

Zags Renew Rivalry With UW

Gonzaga University’s women’s basketball team drew the No. 11 seed against No. 6 Rutgers University for Saturday’s NCAA Tournament First Round game at 1:15 p.m. at the McCarthey Athletic Center.

The other half of the Spokane bracket has No. 3 seed University of Miami facing No. 14 seed Idaho State University, those teams playing 30 minutes following the conclusion of the Gonzaga-Rutgers match-up. Saturday’s winners meet Monday with a trip to Kingston, R.I., and a spot in the regionals awaiting the survivor March 25-27 at the University of Rhode Island.

The Bulldogs, who received an at-large berth after falling to BYU in the Zappos.com West Coast Conference Basketball Championships title game, were guaranteed to play at home for the second straight season as a First/Second Round host if selected.

Gonzaga finished the season 26-5 overall and 14-2 in the West Coast Conference in capturing an eighth-straight WCC regular-season crown. The Bulldogs are making their fourth straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament and their fifth overall since 2007. Last year’s team advanced to the Elite Eight after the 2010 squad advanced to the Sweet Sixteen.

Rutgers brings a 22-9 overall record and was ranked 24 th in the latest Associated Press Top 25 and 20 th in the ESPN/USA Today rankings. The Scarlet Knights went 10-6 in the BIG EAST standings, tied for sixth in the regular season and earned a first-round bye into the BIG EAST Tournament. Rutgers defeated Marquette University 52-43 in its BIG EAST opener and was eliminated by the University of Connecticut 49-34.

The Scarlet Knights won the 800 th game in program history this season and collected 20 wins for the ninth time in 10 years. They are coached by the legendary C. Vivian Stringer in her 41 st season on the sidelines and her 17 th season at Rutgers. She was the first coach in men’s or women’s basketball history to take three different schools to the Final Four (Cheyney in 1982, Iowa in 1993 and Rutgers, in 2000 and again in 2007). Her career record is 885-317.

Senior guard Khadijah Rushdan was an All-BIG EAST first-team selection, averaging 13.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg and 3.2 assists/game. The 5-9 product of Wilmington, Del., became the second player in Rutgers history to score 1,000 points, grab 500 rebounds and dish out 400 assists. She is as Naismith Player of the Year candidate, is on the State Farm Wade Award Watch List and is a USBWA Player of the Year candidate.

Senior guard/forward April Sykes also earned All-BIG EAST first-team honors, matching Rushdan for the team scoring lead at 13.0 ppg. A 6-footer from Starkville, Miss., she averaged 5.5 rpg.

Monique Oliver, a 6-2 junior forward from Las Vegas, Nev., was an honorable mention selection. She averaged 11.8 ppg, a team-leading 7.4 rpg and had 57 blocked shots to pace the squad.

Betnijah Laney, a 6-0 guard from Clayton, Del., was named to the All-Freshman team after averaging 6.1 ppg and 3.9 rpg while starting 11 of 31 appearances.

The third-seeded Hurricanes of Miami are 24-5 overall after going 14-2 in the ACC and finishing second behind 15-1 Duke University. Miami fell to Wake Forest University in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals. Senior guards Shenise Johnson (16.8 ppg) and  Riquna Williams (16.6 ppg) are John R. Wooden Award finalists.

Idaho State comes to Spokane as Big Sky Conference champions. The Bengals are paced by senior guard Chelsea Pickering (12.1 ppg), and junior guard Kaela Oakes (11.6 ppg) and junior forward Ashleigh Vella (11.2 ppg). Pickering and Oakes were named All-Big Sky Conference first team while received an honorable mention nod. ISU is 24-7 overall and won the Big Sky regular-season title with a 14-2 record.