It was good to read about so many WNBA players taking in women’s basketball’s opening weekend. Legends Tina Thompson and Lisa Leslie were at No. 23 Southern California’s close win against Fresno State on Friday. Back in the day, they helped USC carry a tradition of being a NCAA power out West.
There’s a little California dreaming as Gonzaga and UC Davis look for a little of that shine on Sunday. The Aggies on a different scale as it looks to sweep the Seattle programs with a win at Seattle University at 2 p.m. at Connolly Center. The Zags are playing at Maples Pavilion against No. 5 Stanford at 2 p.m.
Here’s The Mamas & Papas “California Dreaming” to set the mood:
Naturally Stanford is the modern power out West, but Gonzaga is trying to make its way into the picture. In a stat provided by coach Kelly Graves, the Cardinal and Bulldogs are the only schools west of Baylor to advance to the Sweet 16 in back-to-back seasons the past 10 years.
Of course Stanford is looking for its fifth consecutive trip to the Final Four while Gonzaga has steadily improved each season in the tourney, advancing to its first Elite Eight in 2011…losing to Stanford in Spokane.
And that was with PG Courtney Vandersloot, who’s currently playing in Turkey after an All-Star WNBA season. But as this in-depth ESPN article depicts, the Zags shouldn’t be expected to crumble simply because Vandersloot is gone.
Sophomore PG Jazmine Redmon is expected to get the start, getting backcourt help running the team from Kansas State transfer Taelor Karr and freshman Maiki Viela. Yet, the focal point simply shifts to standouts Kayla Standish and Katelan Redmon along with Oregon State transfer Haiden Palmer.
Palmer was thought to be an option at PG, but Graves liked the 5-foot-8 native Californian on the wing. She scored 14 points and had four steals in the Zags’ 101-88 season-opening win against Hofstra on Friday.
“She doesn’t have the mentality to play (point) at the pace,” said Graves recently of Palmer at PG. “She’s an amazing player, I really like her. We want to continue to play fast, it’s kind of our niche, leading the nation in scoring and assist-to-turnover ratio. If it was a slow-down, Haiden could do it. But boy, I like her on that wing. I like the way she can attack the basket.”
Attack is what the Zags (1-0) will need to do if it hopes to end Stanford’s 63-game home winning streak. The Cardinal (1-0) defeated No. 20 Texas 72-59 in its season-opener on Friday, playing without preseason All-America senior Nnemkadi Ogwumike (upper body injury).
Locally, UC Davis is looking to sweep both of Seattle’s Division-I programs, handing Washington a 69-68 loss on Friday. The Aggies used eight three-pointers in the opening half and two driving plays to the hoop in the final 30 seconds to pull the quasi upset.
I mean, the Aggies (1-0) did win the Big West and challenged Stanford in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. Feats the Huskies haven’t achieved since the early 2000s. But UC Davis celebrated as if it had never won a game, so I guess we have to call the solid road win an upset.
The sweep could come at SU on Sunday. The Redhawks (1-0) put away UC Santa Barbara 60-55 behind Oregon State transfer Talisa Rhea’s 20 points and 12 rebounds. SU played solid defense and put on a good show to win its first opener since 2007. That was as a D-II program under ousted coach Dan Kriley.
Seattle U. is 1-2 all-time against UC Davis, losing the past two matchups since SU coach Joan Bonvicini took over the program. Her Redhawks can match the Aggies’ three-point shoot, unlike the Huskies, and have good size inside — although that didn’t matter in the UW game.
Around the Pac-12, Washington State continues its play in No. 12 Penn State’s tourney, losing to the Nittany Lions 72-60 on Friday. The Cougars forced 24 turnovers and sophomore Sage Romberg led with 12 points off the bench.
WSU (0-1) faces UNC Wilmington (0-1) at 11 a.m. on Sunday. It’s the first meeting between the schools, the Seahawks advancing to the WNIT with a 24-9 record. UNC-Wilmington returns two starters from that squad.
Washington (0-1) is idle until hosting SU at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at Hec Ed.