Portland shocks Gonzaga to win women’s WCC championship, earn automatic bid to NCAA Tournament

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Two weeks ago, the Portland Pilots went into Gonzaga and lost to the West Coast Conference leaders by 50 points in Spokane, 90-40.

With a chance for revenge in the conference championship game, Portland completely flipped the script, upsetting the Bulldogs 67-66 and earning the WCC’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season. The Pilots were 20.5-point underdogs (per Bet MGM) but put together their best performance of the season to win their ticket to the Big Dance.

Gonzaga entered the final on a 24-game win streak, in search of a victorious capper to their undefeated conference season. Only one team had even played the Bulldogs within 15 points during WCC play, and they had already dispatched Pacific during the conference semifinals. What should have been a coronation turned into a nightmare, as the best 3-point shooting team in the country (40.4 percent for the season) made only 5-of-20 looks from distance while Portland hit a series of big shots to take control in the fourth quarter.

Kennedy Dickie put the Pilots up five with 5:34 to play on a wing 3-pointer that bounced off the glass, complete with a Jordan shrug after the ball went in. Then, Emme Shearer hit the eventual game winner from the opposite wing with 1:39 to play. On Gonzaga’s final possession, the Bulldogs fittingly missed a 3-pointer, sealing the victory for Portland.

Gonzaga was a top-16 seed in the latest NCAA bracket reveal (No. 15 overall) and may have lost out on a hosting opportunity with the defeat to a team that began Tuesday ranked 108th in the NET. Notre Dame, the champions of the ACC, will certainly leapfrog the Bulldogs on Selection Sunday. The Bulldogs will have to hope that upset losses in the conference tournament for Oklahoma and Indiana push one of those two teams down instead of Gonzaga falling out of the top 16.

Meanwhile, the Pilots had zero chance of making the Tournament as an at-large team and burst the bubble of another program. In The Athletic’s latest Bracket Watch, Texas A&M, Arizona, Columbia and Miami were the last four in. Three of those teams have already concluded their conference tournaments, but the Lions will play in the Ivy League championship this weekend. They’ll have an opportunity to secure an automatic bid while the other three sweat out Sunday’s reveal with one less spot available on the bubble.

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(Photo: Kyle Terada / USA Today)

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