Of all the powerhouse men’s and women’s basketball teams that have played at Gonzaga over the years, none has come to Spokane toting the nation’s No. 1 ranking.
That changes today when Gonzaga’s women (6-1) host Stanford (7-0) at 2 p.m. before a sellout crowd of 6,000 at McCarthey Athletic Center. It’s the 11th sellout in the history of the women’s program.
The Cardinal, playing Gonzaga for the fifth time in four seasons, earned the AP No. 1 ranking by knocking off defending national champion Baylor 71-69 in Honolulu on Nov. 16.
“Any detractors of women’s basketball, they should be at this game,” GU coach Kelly Graves said. “Then they have a chance to see what it can really be like.”
Stanford is 4-0 against the Bulldogs, including last season’s 76-61 home win that Gonzaga led 32-31 at halftime. The Cardinal were ranked fifth at the time.
The teams first met in 2009-10, when Stanford waltzed to a 105-74 home victory, scoring 59 points in the first half.
The Cardinal came to Spokane in November 2010, not knowing they would return later that season. Gonzaga outscored Stanford 41-39 in the second half but lost 84-78.
The Bulldogs then won 30 of their next 32 games, including three games in the NCAA tournament, to set up an Elite Eight matchup against Stanford at the Arena. The Cardinal cruised 83-60.
Gonzaga junior guard Jazmine Redmon has played in the last three games against Stanford.
“Stanford’s a great team,” said Redmon, one of GU’s top defenders. “They’re very disciplined. I’ve learned you have to bring your ‘A’ game to play them.”
The Bulldogs have already played seventh-ranked Louisville in a 55-42 setback that was a four-point game with 8 minutes left. GU’s two leading scorers, Haiden Palmer (12.0 ppg) and Keani Albanez (10.1 ppg) didn’t score in the game.
“Because we’re so young now, the consistency that we’ve seen so far this year is in our defense,” Bulldogs freshman guard Elle Tinkle said. “So what we’re really trying to hone in on is just being able to score the ball.”
Gonzaga’s top four scorers are all guards.
“Gonzaga has great perimeter shooters and I think we have really good perimeter shooters, too, so it’ll be a good battle,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said.
GU’s biggest chore will be to stop 6-foot-3 All-America forward Chiney Ogwumike, who leads the team in scoring (20.9 ppg) and rebounding (11.9 rpg). Graves called the junior the best rebounder in the country.
Graves hopes the Bulldogs keep the score close enough that a loud crowd can make a difference down the stretch.
“Sometime the favored team tightens up and it does energize the home team,” Graves said.
GU food drive
Gonzaga University and Campus Kitchen are holding a food drive at the Stanford-Gonzaga women’s game today at the McCarthey Athletic Center, asking fans to donate nonperishable items.
Fans who donate will be entered in a giveaway for an autographed basketball, autographed jersey and ticket package to an upcoming women’s game.
Saturday’s local result
Jamie Lyons and Kendra Lahue combined to score 22 points and the Whitworth Pirates opened Northwest Conference play with a 72-53 victory over the visiting Pacific Lutheran Lutes.
Whitworth (6-1, 1-0) forced Pacific Lutheran (0-4, 0-2) into 22 turnovers.
Samantha Potter led PLU with 20 points and 10 rebounds.