2001 NCAA Women's Tourney
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See ya later

Washington upsets No. 3 seed Florida 86-75

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Posted: Sunday March 18, 2001 11:00 PM
Updated: Sunday March 18, 2001 11:52 PM

  Washington advanced to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 1995. AP

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Two losses at the end of the regular season sent Washington on a 3,000-mile trip that few teams could expect to survive.

Talk about making the best of it.

The Huskies kept alive their long and unlikely adventure in the NCAA tournament Sunday night, thanks to good shooting and a clutch 14-point effort from freshman Andrea Lalum in an 86-75 upset victory over Florida.

"We were willing to go anywhere, just as long as we got picked," senior guard Megan Franza said, relaying the team's mindset after losses to UCLA and Southern California. "When we found out it was Florida, we actually got excited instead of upset, because of the sunshine."

Actually, it rained all day Sunday in Gainesville -- but maybe that's why the Huskies (21-9) looked right at home.

They made their first six shots, shot 49 percent from the field and hit all but seven of their 34 free throws in a near wire-to-wire victory over the third-seeded Gators (24-6).

Freshman Giuliana Mendiola led Washington with 18 points, but nobody came through bigger than Lalum, who hit two 3-pointers to open the game, then made four key baskets down the stretch to help hold off a strong Florida rally.

"To have that kind of talent and poise in March from a freshman -- I'm proud of her," Franza said.

At the final buzzer, a few of the Washington faithful who made the long trip raced out of the stands and jumped up and down with the Huskies -- right on the menacing Gators logo painted at midcourt.

Washington made it to the round of 16 for the first time since 1995, not bad for a team that finished 8-22 last year and was picked to finish in the bottom half of the Pac-10. The Huskies continue play in the West Regional much closer to home -- in Spokane, Wash., against the winner of Monday's game between Stanford and Oklahoma.

"It would have been a real disappointment to have the Sweet 16 regional in our backyard and not be in it," Franza said.

Instead, it was Florida feeling the disappointment.

The Gators matched the program record for victories this season, but joined Georgia as the second Southeastern Conference team that couldn't advance out of a subregional on its home court.

"Losing is hard, it's hard for athletes and coaches because we're competitive by nature," Florida coach Carol Ross said. "But the hardest thing is looking in their eyes in that locker room. Because it's really not about losing, it's about something really special coming to an end."

Brandi McCain led the Gators with 23 points, but shot just 8-for-29 (7-for-26 from 3-point range) as part of the team's awful 34 percent shooting night. By the time McCain got hot, midway through the second half, Florida trailed by 19.

"When you get shots that you want and you get people shooting them that you want, that's really all you can ask," Ross said.

This game had none of the drama of Friday night, when Huskies guard Loree Payne hit a jumper at the buzzer to lift her team to a thrilling 67-65 victory over Old Dominion.

Trailing 62-43, McCain hit three 3-pointers and center Vanessa Hayden scored nine points as part of a 26-11 run that pulled the Gators within four. But Lalum kept answering during that stretch, keeping the Huskies in the lead.

After pulling within four at 73-69, Florida missed five straight shots, and started sending the Huskies to the foul line, where they hit 11 of 15 down the stretch.

Thus marked a sudden and unexpected end to basketball season at Florida, where the women joined the men, who lost earlier in the day to Temple.


 
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