Life in the NCAA tournament without Courtney Vandersloot is still good for Gonzaga
Kayla Standish scored 23 points and Haiden Palmer added 21 as 11th-seeded Gonzaga (27-5) beat Rutgers 86-73 on Saturday in a first-round game played before a big home crowd.
Last year, with Vandersloot leading the way, Gonzaga won the first two games on its home floor and advanced to the round of eight.
Standish scored 30 points in each of those games last year, and is now taking a lead role for the Zags.
Erica Wheeler scored 28 points for sixth-seeded Rutgers (22-10), which shot 29 percent in the first half to fall behind. The Scarlet Knights finished the game shooting 41 percent, thanks to a late surge.
Gonzaga got 14 points from Taelor Karr and 13 points and 10 rebounds from Kelly Bowen. The Bulldogs made 9-of-19 3-point attempts to keep Rutgers at bay in the second half.
Wheeler made 10-of-22 shots and six 3-pointers to lead all scorers. Khadijah Rushdan added 16 points and 11 rebounds for Rutgers. Monique Oliver scored 12 for the Scarlet Knights.
Down 15 at halftime, Rutgers' shooting woes continued early in the second as Gonzaga built a 48-30 lead. Rutgers started to make baskets after that, but couldn't make up ground on Gonzaga.
After Rutgers closed within 12, a 3-pointer by Jazmine Redmon at the shot clock buzzer gave Gonzaga a 57-42 lead with 11:20 left in the game.
Rutgers made another run, closing to 69-59 with 3:30 left. But Gonzaga ran time off the clock and used free throws to keep the lead.
Both offenses started slow. Rutgers missed its first seven shots and was scoreless until Rushdan hit two free throws with 15:35 left in the first to cut Gonzaga's lead to 4-2.
Rutgers missed 11 of its first 12 shots as Gonzaga built a 13-4 lead. The Scarlet Knights had only one field goal in the first 10 minutes as Gonzaga took a 20-4 lead behind a pair of 3-pointers by Karr.
Then Rutgers started to connect, with Wheeler hitting a 3-pointer to cap an 8-0 run that brought Rutgers within 20-12. Gonzaga responded with an 8-2 run for a 28-14 lead with 5:14 left.
The Zags led 38-23 at halftime, holding Rutgers to 29 percent shooting while making 43 percent of their own shots. Rutgers star April Sykes was 1-for-10 in the first half.
Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer is now 11-3 in NCAA opening round games at Rutgers.