Gonzaga uses hot shooting to reach Sweet 16 for first time since 2015 topping Utah 77-66


Yvonne Ejim fights off mulitple defenders for a layup

Yvonne Ejim fights off multiple defenders for a layup for Gonzaga.

SPOKANE, Wash. -- — Once Kayleigh Truong, her sister Kaylynne and the rest of Gonzaga's sharp-shooters got hot from the perimeter, there was nothing another starring effort from Utah's Alissa Pili could do to slow down the Zags.

Gonzaga is rolling into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in nearly a decade.

Kayleigh Truong scored 21 points, Yvonne Ejim added 17 points and 13 rebounds, and fourth-seeded Gonzaga advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2015 beating No. 5 seed Utah 77-66 in the second round of the NCAAs on Monday night.

The Zags used a barrage of 3-point shooting in the second and third quarters to overcome an early deficit and advanced to their first regional semifinal in nine years. Gonzaga (32-3) won its 36th consecutive game at home and will face top-seeded Texas in the Portland 4 Regional semifinal on Friday in Portland, Oregon.

“These guys, they set their own goals and they want to break all these records that people at Gonzaga haven't done before and you just have to remind them to check them off little by little," Gonzaga coach Lisa Fortier said. “If you want to do things we haven't done, we got to go one step at a time. They played tough today.”

Gonzaga received contributions from throughout the lineup. Truong and twin sister Kaylynne were on the mark from the perimeter as the Bulldogs hit 12 3-pointers in the first three quarters and led by as many as 21.

Kaylynne Truong added 14 points and Elisa Hollingsworth added 13. The Bulldogs finished 12 of 22 from beyond the 3-point line and took a victory lap through the crammed Kennel Club student section following the victory.

“You got to give them credit for what they do. It's not easy standing the whole game and cheering people on and losing their voices,” Ejim said.

Utah was hoping to return to the regional semifinals after last year when the Utes fell 66-63 to eventual national champion LSU in the Sweet 16.

Pili led Utah (23-11) with 35 points, her fifth 30-point game of the season, in her final game for the Utes. Pili scored the first 10 points of the game for the Utes and closed her career with a 3-pointer with 2 seconds left before having a long hug with Utah coach Lynne Roberts.

“I'm grateful I came to Utah and kind of turned my whole life around," Pili said. “I'm grateful and I'm ready for the future.”

Roberts said the team experienced several racist incidents at the team's first hotel in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, after arriving in the area last Thursday and forced the team to move hotels before their first tournament game on Saturday. Roberts said the incidents left her players shaken.

“We had several instances of some kind of racial hate crimes toward our program and (it was) incredibly upsetting for all of us,” Roberts said. “In our world, in athletics and in university settings, it's shocking. There's so much diversity on a college campus and so you're just not exposed to that very often.”

On the court, Gonzaga trailed by as many as seven early in the second quarter before a barrage of shots started falling.

Gonzaga hit seven of its next eight shots, including five 3-pointers by five different players as part of a 19-3 run. Dasia Young scored on a driving layup with six seconds left in the half to finally end Utah’s drought, but the deficit was 10 at the break.

Gonzaga’s run didn’t stop with the halftime break. The Bulldogs scored the first 11 of the second half, including Kaylynne Truong’s desperation 3 as the shot clock expired and a 3-point play from Hollingsworth to push the lead to 55-34.

“I feel like we made a couple of mental errors there, but they just shot lights out. They didn't miss. They made us pay,” Young said.

Utah rallied to pull within 67-61 with 4:49 left after six straight points from Pili. That was as close as the Utes would get. Utah missed its next five shots, Gonzaga hit five of six free throws and Ejim’s rebound basket with 1:50 left gave the Bulldogs a 74-61 lead.


The Zags lost in the second round in 2022 and 2019 and will play in the regional semifinals for the fifth time in school history. The last time reaching this round, Gonzaga lost to Tennessee in overtime in 2015 in coach Lisa Fortier’s first season.


AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-womens-bracket/ and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness