SPOKANE, Wash. – Two Pacific-12 Conference members, two Big 10 Conference schools, and the Preseason Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT) highlight the 2013-14 Gonzaga University women’s basketball non-conference slate, as released by Bulldog head coach Kelly Graves Monday.
“We have put together another challenging schedule,” explained Graves, who begins his 14th year at the helm in 2013-14. “Our goal each year is to play as tough a schedule as we can to ready us for conference play; this year is no exception. We have a great team, so we want to play the best.”
The Bulldogs begin the new season participating in the Preseason Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT) for the first time in school history.
“I think the WNIT will be one of the best tournaments in women’s basketball this season,” stated Graves. “This will be an early season test for us, to see how good we are.”
The Zags are guaranteed to play at least three games and open the tournament hosting the University of Idaho –one of 10 schools participating that made the NCAA Tournament a season ago – Friday, Nov. 8.
Depending on the outcome of its opening game, GU will then either play the University of Tennessee-Martin or Georgia State University, Sunday, Nov. 10. Tennessee-Martin returns two players who ended the 2012-13 campaign in the top 10 for scoring. Jasmine Newsome (22.6 points per game) and Heather Butler (22.4 points per game) led the Skyhawks to an NCAA Tournament berth. Georgia State finished last year with a 13-16 overall mark and a 5-13 record in the Sun Belt Conference.
The semifinals for the WNIT will be Thursday, Nov. 14 and the championship is set for Sunday, Nov. 17. Teams that lose in the first two rounds will play consolation games on the second weekend, Nov. 15-16. The championship game will be televised live on the CBS Sports Network.
After completion of the Preseason WNIT, Gonzaga will host four-straight games.
The Bulldogs open the multi-game homestand with Eastern Washington University on Wednesday, Nov. 20. Gonzaga then hosts Patriot League member Colgate University, Saturday, Nov. 30, followed by Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference member and first-time opponent Fairfield University, Monday, Dec. 2. The stretch closes with Big Sky Conference school Portland State University Friday, Dec. 6.
It is then a tough stretch to close out non-conference for the Zags and they hit the road for four of their final five games.
Big 10 Conference institutions Ohio State University and the University of Wisconsin start the final non-conference journey for GU. The Bulldogs will play at Ohio State for the first time in school history Sunday, Dec. 8 and play at Wisconsin, also for the first time in school history, Tuesday, Dec. 10.
Gonzaga heads to California to battle Pacific-12 Conference powerhouse Stanford University, Saturday, Dec. 14. The Cardinal reached the Sweet Sixteen a season ago.
The Bulldogs then return home to host UC Riverside, Monday, Dec. 16 before driving to Pullman, Wash., for a matchup with Pac-12 member Washington State University, Saturday, Dec. 21.
“The later portion of our schedule allows us a real chance to test ourselves,” explained Graves. “College basketball on the road can be tough, so we are going to need great leadership from our seniors.”
West Coast Conference Tournament Most Valuable Player Haiden Palmer, West Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year Jazmine Redmon and steady reserve Stephanie Golden make up the senior class for the Zags. The seniors are three of the 11 returnees for Gonzaga in 2013-14.