Sweetness turns sour for Gonzaga

Sacramento - This time, there would be no upset when the Zags and Musketeers hooked up in the NCAA women's basketball tournament.

Seventh-seeded Gonzaga couldn’t stay with Xavier in the second half Saturday night as the third-seeded Musketeers pulled away for a 74-56 victory in the semifinals of the Sacramento Regional in Arco Arena.

Ta’Shia Phillips had 22 points and 14 rebounds, and Katie Rutan added 15 points as Xavier rumbled into its first NCAA tournament regional final in nine years with its 21st straight victory.

Amber Harris had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the imposing Musketeers (30-3), who broke free of the Zags early in the second half of a game that ended after 1:30 a.m. back home in Cincinnati.

Xavier’s punishing low-post tandem of the 6-foot-6 Phillips and the 6-5 Harris was just too tall and too tough for Gonzaga (29-5), which had its own 20-game winning streak snapped at the close of the most successful season in school history.

So Gonzaga fell short of coach Kelly Graves’ season-long goal of making it to the final eight.

But the Bulldogs came pretty close, especially for a school that had never won a game in the women’s NCAA tournament before upsetting Xavier in the first round last season.

Xavier advances to Monday’s regional final against top seed Stanford, which destroyed Georgia earlier Saturday, 73-36.

Gonzaga finished off a brilliant season on a disappointing note. The Bulldogs overwhelmed the West Coast Conference yet again, winning the regular-season and tournament championships, before tripling the school’s NCAA win total with victories over North Carolina and Texas A&M last week in Seattle.

But Phillips and Harris, who are both a few inches taller than anybody from Gonzaga, were just too much to handle for the Bulldogs, who won last year’s March matchup, 74-59.