College Sports

Big day for Zags standout

LAS VEGAS - On the same day she was voted the best small player in women's college basketball, Courtney Vandersloot came up huge for Gonzaga.

Vandersloot led 20th-ranked Gonzaga to a 72-46 romp over Saint Mary’s in the championship game of the West Coast Conference tournament Monday.

Vandersloot, a senior point guard out of Kentwood High School, led all players with 18 points and 16 assists at the Orleans Arena. The assists equaled Vandersloot’s career high and broke the tournament record of 14 assists she had Sunday against Portland.

“She’s the best point guard in the country,” Saint Mary’s coach Paul Thomas said. “If I had to make a team right now, I would start with her.”

“I would, too,” Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves said.

Need a jumper from downtown? Done. A no-look pass for an easy basket? Done. A steal? Take a charge? A daredevil drive through heavy traffic?

Done, done and done.

“It’s amazing what she does on a night-in, night-out basis,” Graves said. “We see it all the time, but it was great that the national television audience could see what we know.”

The championship was the third in a row for Gonzaga. Not at all coincidentally, Vandersloot has been voted the WCC’s Most Outstanding Player and the WCC tournament’s Most Valuable Player each of those years.

Vandersloot, who leads NCAA Division I with 10.2 assists per game and leads the WCC with 18.6 points per game, won the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award which goes to the best female college player 5-foot-8 or under.

“I do have to share this award with my teammates, coaches and Gonzaga,” the 5-8 Vandersloot said, “as I wouldn’t be the player I am today without them.”

Gonzaga (28-4) has won 18 consecutive games, and 36 in a row against WCC rivals. The Bulldogs advance to the NCAA tournament for the third consecutive year, likely opening at home March 19 against an opponent to be determined.

Monday’s crowd of 3,747 overwhelmingly Gonzaza supporters set a tournament record. Vandersloot was joined on the all-tournament team by teammate Kayla Standish and Portland’s ReZina TecleMariam, a Bellarmine Prep graduate.

Vandersloot and former Washington Husky Katelan Redmon (17 points) took over Monday’s game after the top-seeded Bulldogs had a rare slow start. Gonzaga led 28-20 after holding second-seeded Saint Mary’s (19-12) to one field goal in nearly 12 minutes to close out the first half.

Forward Danielle Mauldin led the Gaels with 19 points and 10 rebounds off the bench.