Notre Dame-Gonzaga women's game features marquee point guards
When No. 16 Notre Dame plays Gonzaga on Wednesday, it will pit two of the country's top point guards — Skylar Diggins and Courtney Vandersloot.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Holiday Hoops Classic @ KeyArena, Notre Dame vs. Gonzaga, 4:30 p.m.; Loyola Marymount vs. Seattle U. women, 7 p.m.
Coach Muffet McGraw was walking across the Notre Dame campus last summer when a phone call stopped her in her tracks.
She had been named to the 2011 Women's Basketball Hall of Fame class.
"I was completely caught off guard," said McGraw, who was about to meet her husband for dinner when she got the call.
"It was a real emotional moment for me. I went over and hugged my husband and said, 'You're not going to believe it.' We both got a little teary."
In 24 seasons at Notre Dame, McGraw has seen many changes in the women's game, from recruiting to a new generation of talented players. She won an NCAA championship in 2001, developed nine All-Americans, and watched 21 players continue professionally in the WNBA or overseas.
But one thing is still lacking: exposure.
And when her 16th-ranked Fighting Irish (9-3) face Gonzaga (10-3) at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday to open Seattle University's inaugural Holiday Hoops Classic at KeyArena, McGraw points to a great matchup that deserves more attention. Two of the nation's top point guards face off in Notre Dame sophomore Skylar Diggins and Gonzaga senior Courtney Vandersloot, who starred at Kentwood High in Covington.
"It's a marquee-type of matchup and it's a shame it's not on TV because I think the nation would enjoy seeing those two go at each other," said McGraw, 55. "Courtney's just a phenomenal passer. You can get caught ball-watching when she's out there. We're just trying to figure out a way to play good defense, and that's been a struggle for us at times."
Diggins and Vandersloot first met at the U.S. Olympic Trials when the former was in high school.
Notre Dame will be without freshman reserve Kayla McBride, who injured her right knee at practice Tuesday. But the Irish have plenty of options for Diggins to pass to — like Natalie Novosel (15.4 points) and Devereaux Peters (9.2).
The Zags are just as lethal with their up-tempo game, tying Notre Dame for ninth in the nation in scoring (84.4 points). Vandersloot leads nation in assists (9.6) while teammate Katelan Redmond is No. 24 in scoring (19.0).
"We both like to run, very similar," said Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves, in his 11th season. "It's going to be a heck of a matchup between two great point guards."
Seattle U. (4-9) and Loyola Marymount (5-7) round out the four-team field and meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The tournament is the brainchild of SU athletic director Bill Hogan, who always wanted to have a post-Christmas tournament with Catholic schools.
Next year it'll be a traditional tournament format with an actual winner. This season, after the Zags play the Irish, they'll play SU at 7 p.m. Thursday.
• Point guard Nichole Jackson has transferred from Portland State to Seattle University. The former Auburn Riverside High state champion will not be eligible to play until next season due to NCAA transfer rules.