Truong leads Gonzaga women to 68-55 win over Nebraska

LOUISVILLE, KY (AP) — Kayleigh Truong scored a career-high 20 points to lead Gonzaga to a 68-55 victory over Nebraska in the first round of women’s NCAA Tournament on Friday.

Truong, a junior guard, scored 15 of her points in the second half, and those came after she landed awkwardly in a second quarter collision with Nebraska’s Jaz Shelley. That caused her to miss the final five minutes of the first half.

She made up for it in good time, though, as she scored the first two baskets of the second half.

“I got a little dizzy hitting my head on the floor,” said Truong, who hit on 8-of-15 shots. “Still a little dizzy, but I have a hard head.”

Gonzaga (27-6) never looked back from there. The Bulldogs, in winning their sixth straight, led by as much as 68-52 in the waning minutes of the contest.

Truong and the rest of the Bulldogs saw Friday’s game as a chance to redeem themselves after bowing out in the first-round last season to a 12th-seeded Belmont squad. That loss felt like a “low blow,” coach Lisa Fortier said.

“Today we were trying to be steady,” she said. “I know it was bubbling below. They were very excited.”

Nebraska (24-9), the eighth-seed, started strong, jumping out to an 11-6 lead midway through the first quarter. However, the Bulldogs defense settled in and slowed down a Husker offense that entered the tournament with the nation’s eighth-best scoring average (78.5 ppg).

Truong said it was important to keep them from getting into a flow.

“We locked in our defense,” she said. “We played great team defense. We didn’t leave anybody on an island, stuck together and had each other’s back.”

While Nebraska couldn’t dictate the tempo, Gonzaga controlled the boards. In winning their sixth straight, the Bulldogs, who came into Friday’s contest with the country’s sixth-best rebounding margin (10.3 per game), outrebounded the Huskers 40-33.

“They were incredibly physical. We were rushing shots, taking shots we don’t take,” Nebraska coach Amy Williams said.

A 7-0 run midway through the second quarter gave Gonzaga a 30-24 lead. The Bulldogs would take a 33-30 advantage into halftime and would extend that through the second half.

“Their press slowed us down just enough to take us out of what we like to do,” said Nebraska’s Sam Haiby, who led the Huskers with a season-high 20 points.

Melody Kempton and Yvonne Ejim added 14 each for Gonzaga, which shot 46.4%. Shelley finished with 11 for Nebraska, which struggled to shoot 32.1%.

Gonzaga will face the winner of top-seed Louisville and Albany on Sunday.

BIG PICTURE

Gonzaga: Defense wins championships. On this six-game run, the West Coast Conference tournament champs have limited opponents to 40% shooting or worse in each game. If they’re to make it to Wichita for the Sweet 16, they’ll likely need one more game just like that.

Nebraska: The Huskers lost their second straight to end their season. They found themselves frustrated by a Gonzaga defense that denied them good looks. The 32.1% shooting was the Huskers’ second-worst performance of the season.

Nebraska, though, had only one graduate player and no seniors on the squad, giving Williams optimism for next season.

“I told our team bottle up that pain, bottle that up, use that as fuel for fire,” she said.

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More AP coverage of March Madness: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top2

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