Middle Tennessee 85, Gonzaga 46

Saturday, March 17th 2007, 9:42 pm

By: News On 6

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) _ Middle Tennessee flashed, trapped and ran like crazy.

Gonzaga never had a chance in its NCAA tournament debut.

Chrissy Givens moved up yet another spot on the school's scoring list with 24 points, and the 5th-seeded Blue Raiders easily kept the nation's-longest winning streak alive at 27 games with an 85-46 victory in the first round Saturday night.

It had to be one of the most impressive defensive displays of the day _ and Middle Tennessee is on to the second round of the Dayton Regional on Monday night looking for the school's first trip to the round of 16.

Michelle Elliott scored 17 points and Katy Ridenour added 10 in her final college game, but the overmatched Zags (24-10) committed a season-high 37 turnovers and went nearly 11 minutes without a field goal in the 1st half when the Blue Raiders (30-3) began their rout. The Bulldogs never quit hustling, hitting 7 of their initial 11 shots in the 2nd half after making only 6-total shots in the opening 20 minutes.

Middle Tennessee, the Sun Belt Conference champion making its fourth straight NCAA appearance, finally drew well after facing ranked teams in North Carolina, North Carolina State and Utah in its previous three openers. The Blue Raiders shot 48% and haven't lost since Nov. 26 at then-No. 4 Tennessee, 88-64.

Amber Holt added 23 points, 6-rebounds and 4-steals and Starr Orr had 10 points and 6-boards for the Blue Raiders, whose seeding matched the best in school history also given to the 1985 team that lost in the first round to Western Kentucky.

Givens, a senior guard, earned conference player of the year honors for the second straight season as well as being named the league's top defender again, moved into 5th place on the school's career scoring list and climbed to 3rd for assists after dishing out 4-assists. She also had 5-rebounds and 5-of her team's 17 steals.

The 12th-seeded Zags missed 7-shots during their 1st-half drought and had 14 turnovers in the span. They gave up 43 points off turnovers for the game.

Krystle Horton added 14 points, 7-rebounds, 4-steals and 3-assists for the Blue Raiders, who flustered Gonzaga out of the gate with multiple smothering full-court presses.

Middle Tennessee crashed the boards hard to create extra chances and used a 16-2 run to turn a 13-8 lead into a 29-10 advantage on the way to a 24-point halftime cushion, and the Blue Raiders only built on that after the break.

For Gonzaga, the West Coast Conference champion, getting here was something to celebrate. The men's team put the tiny Spokane, Wash., school on the map in the late '90s but the women Zags had missed several opportunities in recent seasons to follow suit.

They were favored in 2005 but lost in the WCC tournament final to Santa Clara, failing to earn the league's automatic bid after a perfect 14-0 run through the conference.

Their men's team also lost in the first round Thursday against Indiana.

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