Diggins, Goodrich in spotlight in Norfolk Regional

Point guards are taking center stage at the Norfolk Regional of
the women’s NCAA tournament.

Skylar Diggins of top-seeded Notre Dame leads the way, but
she’ll be facing off against 5-foot-4 speed demon Angel Goodrich,
who helped make Kansas just the second No. 12 seed to ever get this
far in the women’s tournament.

”It’s a marquee matchup,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said.
”It will be exciting.”

The other matchup has Lindsay Moore coming off a 20-point,
10-assist effort that led Nebraska past Texas A&M on the Aggies
home floor, and Duke countering with the rookie in the group in
Alexis Jones, whose nine games at the point include three that made
her the ACC tournament MVP.

Jones took over the job when All-American Chelsea Gray
dislocated her right kneecap in February.

”What a nice luxury to lose someone of Chelsea’s caliber and
sub in another high school All-American,” said Nebraska coach
Connie Yori, whose team has reached the round of 16 for just the
second time.

The star of the show, though, figures to be Diggins, she of the
trademark white headband, 16.8 scoring average, 5.9 assists per
game and court sense that has helped the Fighting Irish (33-1)
reach the national title game the past two seasons.

Two years ago, they lost 76-70 to Texas A&M. Last year, they
fell to Baylor, 80-61.

”Kalia Turner and I, we understand that this is our last
go-round,” Diggins said, speaking also of her co-captain, the only
other senior on the Fighting Irish roster. ”In that sense, we are
anxious.”

McGraw senses a difference between this team and the last
two.

”There is a tremendous sense of urgency starting with Skylar
and our seniors because this is the last chance for them,” the
coach, who won the 2001 national championship, said. ”Definitely I
think the sense of urgency they feel is greater now.”

Diggins said she has watched Goodrich’s career progress, and
adds, ”I am a fan.”

But when the ball goes up on Sunday at Old Dominion’s Constant
Center, it’s business.

”For me, I’m not worried about what she is doing,” Diggins
said of her counterpart, who is 5 inches shorter. ”It’s about
executing scout defense and our offensive plan versus them. If I do
my job, then she didn’t do hers.”

In many ways, Goodrich already has done her job at Kansas
(20-13). The Jayhawks had only reached the regional round twice in
their history when she arrived, and now have done it in the last
two seasons. Only San Francisco, in 1996, has come this far as a
No. 12 seed since the women’s tournament went to a seeding format
in 1994.

”I have been at Kansas for a while and just leaving a legacy, I
think that’s what we all wanted to do is come here and make a
difference at Kansas, and I feel we’ve done that as a group,”
Goodrich said.

At Nebraska (25-8), Moore has been part of both trips to the
regionals for the Cornhuskers, and while Jones moved into a new
spot at an established elite program at Duke (32-2), the way she
has filled in for Gray has been eye-catching.

She averaged 17.7 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds in the ACC
tournament, shooting 60 percent (21 of 35) from the field, and had
24 points, eight rebounds and four steals in the championship
game.

Once a quiet observer of Gray, Jones has grown into her
role.

”She has come out of her shell,” fellow guard Tricia Liston
said. ”She is talking, she’s yelling on thye court, demanding of
us, but (she) is not trying to be Chelsea. She is still her own
player.”

One key for the Cornhuskers, Moore said, is not getting psyched
out by Duke’s resume. The Blue Devils have reached regional play
for the 15th time in 16 years, have won their regional semifinal
game in 11 of those years, played for two national championships
and in four Final Fours.

”We understand that they’re a big name, but we have been
playing successfully and having a good run,” she said. ”So we
just need to make sure we stay focused on the things that we’ve
done up to this point and not necessarily psych ourselves out
against a big name like that. Just play Nebraska basketball.”

Her coach, like all the others in the regional, trusts that her
point guard can make it happen.

”She is a kid who does not like to lose,” Yori said. ”It
doesn’t matter if we are playing a shooting game in practice,
five-on-five, game time, or monopoly. She does not like to
lose.”

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