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….aaaaand dance by the light of the moon!”

It took a buzzer beater by Stephanie Reid, but for the first time in Buffalo history, the program has won a MAC championship and earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

UB Women’s Basketball wasn’t supposed to here, at least not with this group of women.

After going from one of the deepest frontcourts in the conference in January 2015 to one of the youngest teams in the country by October 2016, the Bulls weren’t supposed to advance to the MAC Semifinal for the second straight year and third time in school history.

Even after upsetting them twice in the regular season, the eighth-seeded UB wasn’t supposed to beat frontrunner Ohio, sitting on a bye in the quarterfinal.

In today’s 88-87 win over fifth-seeded Akron, who beat Buffalo twice in the regular season, the Bulls weren’t supposed to hang with the Zips’ desired pace and outside shooting. They weren’t supposed to hit the half within two – or the final quarter within a single – possessions after Akron came out blazing from three. (The Zips would finish with 15 made threes). And they certainly weren’t supposed to survive losing sophomore point guard Stephanie Reid to her fifth foul midway through the third quarter.

But the Bulls hit plenty of shots…

Others singing, “Do ya, do ya, do ya wanna dance?”

Hawai’i, representing the Big West. The last time the Wahine went dancin’ it was 1998 and they were “Gettin’ Jiggy wit It” and Will Smith. Senior Ashleigh Karaitiana was four.

“It was all part of the process,” Karaitiana said. “Not just for this year, but the last four years. This is what we worked for, and I’m really proud of the outcome.”

Karaitiana was named tournament MVP after averaging 15 points per game. She shot 6 of 13 from the field to help second-seeded Hawaii earn a measure of redemption after losing the Big West title game last year.

“We were in this game last year and got the result we didn’t want,” she said. “We came into this game more prepared and knowing what we need to do and took care of it on the floor tonight.”

Alabama State, representing the SWAC. No surprise, for a conference that had a three-way tie in the regular season, the final game was edgy affair.
“We knew it was going to be a war,” said Lady Hornets coach Freda Freeman-Jackson, who became the first SWAC coach to lead a team to consecutive tournament titles. “Southern is always a championship-caliber team. We knew we had our work cut out.
Idaho, representing the Big Sky. In the first “all-Idaho” finals, the Vandals got a battle from upstart Idaho State, then dug deep.

Before the hugs, before the smiles and cries, and before the trophy-hoisting, picture-posing and net-cutting, the Idaho women’s basketball team had to come to a realization: This could be the end. 

Trailing Idaho State by three at halftime Saturday in the Big Sky Conference tournament title game, the Vandals understood they were 20 minutes away from falling short of their season-long championship aspirations.

The seniors didn’t want their collegiate careers to end. The freshmen didn’t want their magical debut season to conclude with heartbreak. The coaches didn’t want the work their players put in all year to not pay dividends the way it had in the past.

North Carolina A&T, representing the MEAC. The Aggies handled Coppin State to earn their first championship in seven years, the first for fourth-year coach Tarrell Robinson.

Aprill McRae and Christina decided to transfer from VCU because they believed head coach Tarrell Robinson’s vision for winning a championship at North Carolina A&T State University. Dana Brown had the same aspirations when she transferred from UNC Wilmington.

Courtney Powell decided to play one more season of college basketball as a graduate transfer for the same reason. Perhaps the most inspiring story comes from fifth=year guard Adriana Nazario’s decision to play one more year – despite having graduated and despite having knee problems – in an effort to give this whole winning a championship thing one more try. Their decisions paid off.

James Madison, representing the Colonial. For the third-straight year, the Dukes earned the conference championship (and name collectors, here’s one for ya: Jazmon Gwathmey)

JMU (27-5) will bring a 20-game winning streak into the NCAA Tournament. The run includes three wins over the Dragons (19-13), who were looking for their first league title since 2009.

Gwathmey, the CAA Player of the Year, made half of her 18 shots, collected four rebounds and, at the end, absorbed a meaningful hug from her appreciative coach.

“A very special moment,” Brooks said.
“It meant a lot because this is what we work for,” Gwathmey said. “It’s definitely the way you want to go out your senior year, especially winning three in a row.”
New Mexico State, representing the WAC. Payback was on the mind of the Aggies as they routed Rio Grande Valley, 80-53.

It’s the program’s first ever back-to-back conference tournament titles, fourth NCAA Tournament bid and the first consecutive NCAA Tournament bids since 1987 and 1988.

“Going into this game, they kind of ruined our Senior Night,” said senior Sasha Weber, who was named tournament MVP. “Personally, that was a little bit of fuel for me. I know Shanice (Davis) and Abby (Scott) too being seniors. And they snapped our undefeated streak. Especially getting down at 20 at home, we knew coming into this game, a championship game, we had to start off strong and keep up the intensity up.”

Army, representing the Patriot. MVP Kelsey Minato‘s 25  helped propel the Black Knights to win number 29 and send the team back to the NCAA tourney.

“This group of young ladies has just accomplished so much with 99 wins over four years at this level is incredible and they just continue to do what it takes,” Magarity said. “Janae McNeal and the junior class with Aliyah Murray and the Morris twins [Destinee and Daizjah], as well, and I consider my coaching staff the best in America. It’s the best coaching staff I’ve ever had and I’ve had some pretty good coaches.”

He also couldn’t have had many better players than Mina1q. The senior guard – Army’s all-time leading scorer – served in her customary role of scoring when the team needed it most. She scored half of her team’s 20 first-quarter points, including a jumper to conclude the period. By game’s end, she had scored a game-high 25 points, including 4 of 8 from beyond the 3-point line.

Middle Tennessee State, representing the C-USA. The Blue Raiders ended ODU’s great run with a confident 70-54 win.

“Sometimes I get caught up in watching them play, instead of coaching them,” Insell said. “They are such a joy to watch, and a lot of people didn’t give us the credit we deserved.”

The second-seeded Blue Raiders (24-8) have won six straight and 15 of their last 16 games, and the conference championship in two of the last three seasons.

 Troy, representing Sun Belt. Known for their offense, Troy’s win came down to… defense. In the last 20 seconds, a score by Ashley Beverly Kelley followed by a win-saving block by Caitlyn Ramirez –  capped the journey of a program’s revival.

Head coach Chanda Rigby inherited a two-win program in 2012, and now just four years later the Troy women’s basketball team is the 2016 Sun Belt Tournament Champions after a 61-60 over Little Rock at Lakefront Arena on Saturday.

Troy will make the second NCAA Tournament appearance in program history, and its first since 1997.

 “Our overall goal and theme was faith, faith was our motto,” Rigby said.  “I felt more out of sync and more out of the groove in this game than probably any game we’ve played the second half of the year.  It was a bad feeling, but the faith – we just kept saying to keep it close.

 “And of course, what happened at the end was nothing that the coaches called.  I believe it was Ashley Beverly Kelley’s faith in the end that she could get the ball in her hands and pull us ahead, and I think faith is what made Caitlyn go up for the blocked shot that sealed it in the end.

Other results:
I TOLD you the Horizon was going to be interesting. In the semis, Northern Kentucky took Green Bay to two overtimes before falling 80-78.
In the Southland, Sam Houston 14-17, 7-11) upset  Northwestern State (19-11, 13-5), 78-71.
As their similar records might have predicted, the Missouri State and Drake game was a back-and-forth affair. The Bears pulled away in the fourth to secure the 65-61 win.

Sunday games (DID YOU SPRING AHEAD?) that will secure the final guaranteed spots in the Tournament:

Southland: Central Arkansas v. Sam Houston State, 12:30PM. The Sugar Bears are the heavy favorite, but we’ve see what THAT means this tourney season…

A-Sun: Florida Gulf Coast v. Jacksonville, 2PM – ESPN3. Yes, the Eagles are the cream of the conference, but Jacksonville’s been making some noise.

Big South: Liberty v. UNC Asheville, 2PM. Liberty has been the traditional power in the conference, but the Bulldogs have undergone a huge transformation under coach Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick (3 years ago = 2 wins).

NEC: Robert Morris v. Sacred Heart, 3PM. Under (retiring) coach Sal Buscaglia, the Colonials have fought their way to the final and, to be honest, I haven’t really noticed how strong the Stags have been in conference play this year.

MVC: Missouri State v. Northern Iowa, 3PM. This ought to be a great match up between teams with similar records. They split their regular season games. (BTW, UNI’s Tanya Warren should be on AD’s “poachable” list… and in case you’ve missed it, “Hello, coach Kellie Harper!”)

Horizon: Green Bay v Milwaukee, 1PM. Year after year, teams come at the Phoenix, and year after year they get turned back. Last time these two teams met, it was a 23-point loss for the Panthers.

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you should have been watching the Dukes v. the Colonials

Welcome back JJ!! It’s not quite Willis Reed-esque – she actually made an impact on the court (10 points, 15 rebounds,six blocks) – but what a lift for George Washington to have Jonquel Jones return for the A-10 Championship game. The Colonials brought a smothering defense to the fourth quarter and shut down Duquesne, earning the 63-60 win. Kudos to coach Tsipis and his “other” players for keeping the team on track in Jones’ absence. With a healthy Jones? Hmmm….

As for the rest…

Mercer tried to crawl back in the fourth, but Chattanooga was too much for them. Mocs over the Bears 65-57. It’s their fourth SoCon title in a row. Keep an eye on both these teams next year – especially Mercer –  there was only one senior on the court.

#2 Notre Dame earned its third consecutive ACC championship, getting an early lead on Syracuse and then moving on to a 11pt win. Next!

#3 South Carolina handled #16 Mississippi State, 66-52, to earn their second straight SEC title.

Don’t let the fourth quarter fool ya: The Ruth was on fire… and #8 Oregon State absolutely decimated #12 UCLA and claimed its 1st Pac 12 title.

#5 Maryland won its second connective Big 10 title by 16.

In the Big 12 semis it was #4 Baylor by 27 and #6 Texas by 16.

The AAC semis had #1 UConn by 47 and #20 USF by 18. Note/Flashback: Good to see Jim Clark back in the women’s basketball fold: AAC semifinals sees predictable results as UConn, USF advance

Sheer artistry. UConn in March (& April) over the last four years is just basketball at its best. Play after “Wow!” play. Defensive rotations that are smooth, switching and smothering an opponent. This year the Huskies feature a defense with 6-4 Katie Lou Samuelson at the top of the arc, and 6-5 Breanna Stewart blocking shots in the paint.

The opening minutes of Sunday’s American Athletic Tournament semifinal game were not quite perfect. UConn actually turned the ball over on its first possession. The Huskies followed that with nine buckets on the next nine possessions.

On edit: To be clear, I’m not dismissing the quality of the play by the victors. I just want to highlight that there are a big handful of teams giving it their all – and playing quality ball – outside of ESPN’s view. Take a moment to read about ’em. Or, if you’re in the area, catch a game.

On tap tomorrow:

MAAC final. It’s a Marist-free affair as Quinnipiac goes up against Iona.

WCC semis: If you’re in Las Vegas….  Santa Clara v. BYU and St. Mary’s v. San Francisco. It would be kinda cool if it was coach Payne v. coach Azzi. Talk about program builders!

Summit semis: Congrats, Omaha! In your first conference tourney, you took down the 3rd seed, IUPUI. Lucky you (that’s NY sarcasm), you’ve got the Wabbits next. In the other bracket, it’s South Dakota v. Oral Roberts.

AAC: #UConn v. #20 USF. The Bulls are playing the Huskies for the third time this season. If Kitija Laksa, conference Freshman of the Year, can’t return from her high ankle sprain, it’s tough to see a different result.

Big 12: #4 Baylor v. #6 Texas. Last time, the Bears mauled the Longhorns by 26. The previous time, by 13. Has Texas gotten tougher?

Looking ahead:

Ivy: Tuesday features Princeton v. Penn for a trip to the Big Dance. We’ve had our eye on this game since for.ev.er.

America East: We’ll have to wait until Friday for the 1/2 matchup between Albany and Maine. The Black Bears got a battle from Stony Brook, while Shareesha Richards led the Great Danes to a 36pt wins. Richards’ 33-point performance helped break her own Albany single-season scoring record of 694 points set last season. Richards is averaging 23.5 points per game.

Podcast alert: Army’s Kelsey Minato and West Viriginia’s Bria Holmes are two seniors leading the way to postseason success

First, Minato returns for her second appearance on the podcast; her first was a freshman when she left the California sun for upstate New York, following a family history of military experience. Fast forward four years, and Minato is now the leading scorer in the history of the Patriot League, breaking Molly Creamer’s record last night. On senior night, Minato became the first active player in Army West Point women’s basketball history to have her number retired and raised to the rafters.

The Black Knights finished the regular season 26-2, tied with Bucknell for top spot in the Patriot League and the top seed in the conference tournament due to tie-breakers. That means they will host all of their tournament games, where they are 14-0 for the season. They are a senior heavy team, and have been to either the WNIT or NCAA tournament each year of their careers.

You’re out (Dawley).

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So, yeah, many of the conference tournaments have started, but I honestly didn’t think I’d have to worry about the first rounds…

“DOH!” says the Ohio Valley. Murray State straight up stuns #1 Tennessee-Martin. How big an upset? The Pacers are 11-16 (7-9) and the Skyhawks are 21-8 (14-2). The Skyhawks just played Murray State to close out the season and beat them by 21. SIEU must be thinkin’ “We don’t screw up, we get into the NCAA.” Of course, Belmont might be thinkin’ the exact same thing.

Fly, Eagles, fly: FGCU leads mid-major rankings into the postseason

If mid-major teams often play with the freedom of nothing to lose in the NCAA tournament, perhaps it’s because they already survived the part of the season when there was everything to lose. With NCAA at-large bids rarely a certainty, a season’s worth of good work can vanish within a few bad minutes in a conference tournament. But with automatic bids soon up for grabs, here is a final look at the rankings.

Wow, being a Clemson Tiger these days must be disheartening. 0-for in conference play.

You stay (Boyle), you go (Butts). This could be a busy list.

Oh, this could get ugly right quick: FIU women’s basketball coach suspended after alleged sexual misconduct

Crap: Theriot Will not Return for HuskersTheriot’s career had great moments, but also disappointment

The Nebraska women’s basketball team returns to Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis this week for the Big Ten Conference Tournament, site of one of the great moments in the career of Rachel Theriot.

In 2014, Theriot helped lead the Huskers to the Big Ten Tournament championship, the program’s first title in their new league. Theriot was tournament MVP.

Theriot won’t be able to play in Thursday’s game against Rutgers. The senior point guard had surgery on her foot on Monday. That ends a career filled with lots of great games, but also disappointment, as her junior and senior seasons were each cut short because of injury.

So, I’m pleased that coach Dave Magarity is part of the WBCA’s “COY Region/Nominee” process. But, I’d like to mention that Army (26-2, 17-1) has had a (rather recent) tradition of winning. Bucknell, now 23-6, (17-1), not so much…

“It feels good to get a piece of a championship,” said fourth-year Bucknell head coach Aaron Roussell. “This team has been through so much, and for it to result in a banner in the rafters is very rewarding. I’ve been told Army is one of the better teams in the history of the Patriot League, so for us to match them at 17-1 is an incredible accomplishment.”

Bucknell’s run through the league schedule started with an eight-game winning streak, including a victory over Army West Point. The Bison’s lone loss came to the Black Knights and has been followed by their current nine-game winning streak that they will take into the postseason. The streak is tied for the longest in program history.

Woot! to the NCAA’s “Team of the Week:”

Fresh off of claiming the school’s third Conference USA regular season title in program history (2008, 2012 and 2016), the UTEP Miners continue to impress as the calendar turns to March. UTEP clinched the title on Feb. 27 when they outlasted Charlotte, 94-91, in double overtime in front of a roaring 4,012 fans at the Don Haskins Center.

UTEP, 25-2 overall and 16-1 in Conference USA play, matched school and league records for single-season Conference USA victories this year. The Miners also concluded the home portion of their schedule at a flawless 16-0, marking the second undefeated home campaign (14-0) in program history.

Speaking of the Miners: UTEP star Turner overcomes struggle and thrives

Growing up in the hardscrabble parts of Dallas, Turner spent some nights on a floor in an apartment with six of her siblings, some at houses of various coaches looking out for her. Some days she ate better than others. Those days, she didn’t pass out in a gym. Some days she did pass out in the gym. Going to practice hungry was common.

Turner learned the rules of the street.

“I saw shootings, killings,” Turner said. “You hear shots and you get down on the ground, protect yourself. I saw lots of drugs, weed, cocaine, prostitution. Not a lot of girls I went to school with went on to college. I wanted to break that cycle; I didn’t want that to be my story.”

But there’s another part to this: Turner isn’t running from anything.

Speaking of players overcoming:

This year has not been what anyone expects of Iowa State, least of all the Cyclones themselves. This is a proud and distinguished program that’s used to the postseason; Iowa State has gone to the NCAA tournament 16 of the past 19 seasons, including the past nine years in a row.

But the Cyclones finished the regular season Tuesday at 13-16 overall after an 82-57 loss to West Virginia.

So why did it still seem like such an uplifting night in Ames, Iowa?

Because Iowa State guard Seanna Johnson was back on the court, after a very emotionally difficult past 10 days in what’s been a challenging season for the Cyclones. Johnson had missed the previous two games while at home in Minnesota with her family after her father, Curtis Johnson, suffered a stroke on Feb. 20.

Speaking of really good players: Courtney Williams worked hard to become one of game’s top players

You’ve heard the story before, countless times. It’s about the high school standout who comes to college and becomes perplexed and frustrated that what once came pretty easily had become challenging.

Common as the scenario is, it’s still a major hurdle to clear for every player who encounters it. But if she does, it’s a process she never forgets.

South Florida senior guard Courtney Williams can attest to this. She has become one of the top players in college, and is looking forward to a professional career. But she had to go through that “what I am doing wrong?” phase at one point, too.

Ladies, start your engines! UConn ready to raise the bar even higher in postseason

The undefeated Huskies are like a standout Broadway troupe that has been doing the same show for a while. They have all their lines memorized and know every mark they must hit. So how, when you’ve been essentially nailing it again and again, do you still find another gear?

That’s really the “secret” of championship teams, isn’t it? Even when they appear to be at their best, there’s somewhere else to climb.

“Back in the day, we used to say, there’s regular-season Shea Ralph, and there’s tournament Shea,” Auriemma said of the former Huskies star and current UConn assistant coach who was the most outstanding player of the 2000 Women’s Final Four. “And those are two different things. And we like to think that our team is the same way.

Ya-da-UConn “undefeated” Ya-da-UConn “national champions” Ya-da… NOT UConn?      Johnson County women’s basketball team shooting for perfect season: Defending NJCAA Division II champs are 30-0 entering postseason

The Johnson County Community College women’s basketball program earned its bona fides long ago and its second national championship last season. The Cavaliers are accustomed to winning.

So when coach Ben Conrad says: “It is surprising we haven’t gotten beat. That’s not normal,” it’s apparent something is up.

JCCC begins postseason play Tuesday with a 30-0 record, the first time the Cavaliers have finished the regular season undefeated. All but two of those wins have come by double digits. Most of those double-digit wins have been margins rarely seen outside of video games.

Looking ahead, Charlie says: NCAA’s final reveal holds small clues for Selection Monday

Mechelle, who’s been writing up a storm, notes: Bubble teams look to make big noise during Championship Week

In the five major conferences — which accounted for five automatic and 27 at-large NCAA berths last year — there are some bubble guppies and bubble sharks. The guppies don’t have much NCAA tournament history, while the sharks do — but as the “bubble” part of their description suggests, both are in precarious positions in regard to this year’s tournament.

Let’s take a quick look around the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC as they get set to face off for conference supremacy and automatic tickets to the Big Dance.

Check out the ‘Around the Rim’: Championship Week Preview podcast with Chiney and LaChina

During the first half, the two are joined by Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame coach Lin Dunn to discuss if UConn’s recent slow starts should be concerning, SMU coach Rhonda Rompola’s retirement and her comments on “players’ entitlement” and front-runners for the national coach of the year award.

In the second half of the show, the duo chat with espnW’s bracketology expert Charlie Creme who breaks down the significance of the upcoming conference tournaments and sheds light on which teams could make a case for a tournament bid this weekend.

Connecticut’s WNBA Team Is More (and Less) Tied to UConn Than You Might Think

…as UConn continues its skyward trajectory under head coach Geno Auriemma, the Sun look toward the 2016 season — the WNBA’s 20th — facing an uphill climb, and a clear goal to strengthen its place in the state’s women’s basketball market after a run of disappointing seasons.

The best way to do that? Win.

“For us, it’s going to come down to: how do we legitimize ourselves?” said Chris Sienko, the Sun’s vice president and general manager. “People know who we are. We’ve done great things. We have to win a championship. I think that’s when people start putting us in the same conversation with UConn.”

Hello, Prez! Atlanta Dream names Theresa Wenzel new president

WATN? Jessica Davenport: A Global Basketball Journey Close To Home

One Last Time: Q&A with WNBA star, Olympian and author Tamika Catchings

In her new book, “Catch A Star: Shining through Adversity to Become a Champion,” co-written by Ken Petersen, she details her life as the daughter of professional basketball player Harvey Catchings, how she adapted to her hearing impairment as a child, how she sought refuge in sports and how the joys and sorrows molded her into the person she is today. At the recent USA Basketball national team training camp in Storrs, Connecticut, Catchings spoke to espnW about the book and why she wrote it.

Thanks for the story, Sally: Going on offense vs. Down syndrome: Most people saw limits for Frankie Antonelli. Parents Frank and Debbie saw potential.

They had counted with an unthinking confidence on having healthy kids, maybe even a team roster’s worth. She played basketball at North Carolina State before becoming a sportscaster, and he hit .400 for the Columbia University baseball team before making a career in elite sports management, and they hoped to add some quality little strivers to the general population. Their first child was an easy birth, and they were so confident of their second that she played nine holes of golf the day he was born. Then he came out scrunched up with the cord around his neck, and holes in his heart.

The doctors spoke in dead-end terms, even the ones who tried to be positive. Though it was 1997 and not the Victorian Age, one said, “Don’t let anybody tell you to institutionalize him.” Statistics showed most Down syndrome children would not see 50.

He won’t develop properly, they said, or play games like other children. “I can’t tell you how many times I heard the words can’t and won’t,” Debbie says. Defeatist words. They seemed to apply as much to her, as to him. You can’t have a career with a disabled child. You won’t be able to work.

But the Antonellis were athletes, and athletes don’t deal in can’t and won’t. They deal in can, and will.

Eighteen years later, Frankie Antonelli is a junior in high school with sparkling eyes, and a well-defined V shape from fitness training. “Hi, I’m Frankie, I’m a celebrity,” he says, wise-guy-like as he introduces himself to a reporter. With a motor-speech impediment that doesn’t dull his meaning, he proceeds to argue with some spirit that he’s the best basketball player in the Antonelli Driveway Series.

Video: Coordinator of Pac-12 women’s basketball officiating Violet Palmer reflects on a pioneering career

Congrats to Brenda VanLengen, winner of the 2016 WBCA Mel Greenberg Media Award.

On a dabnabbit, but congrats note, WHB fave Jim Massie is closing up shop at the Columbus Dispatch. Hopefully he’s at the top of the Mel list next year.

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Army’s Kelsey Minato becomes first active cadet to have jersey retired

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On cue, the LIU moves to 4-5 in the NEC with a win over Fairleigh Dickinson, 65-62.

In their first meeting, Bucknell hosted Army and beat’em by 10. In the West Point rematch, the Black Knights pulled away in the fourth for a 5-point win. With both teams at 8-1 in the conference, there’s no margin for error in the race to the Patriot League title.

Okay, then. With their first victory in 11 tries against Stetson, Jacksonville moves to 6-0 in the A-Sun and is tied with Florida Gulf Coast in the A-Sun. Guess who the Dolphins get to play on the 4th…in Naples? And host on the 10th…in Jacksonville.

Looking to keep everyone in the Horizon honest, Northern Kentucky takes down the Penguins, 88-77. A little sting to the win: former YSU guard, Shar’Rae Davis who finished the half with a total of 12 points off the bench. She was one of three players who didn’t receive scholarship renewals in 2014,

*no jinx, no jinx* UNC Asheville is now 9-2 in the Big South.

*WHB talked cr@p about us. Let’s show her!* Rutgers starts ugly but finishes strong against Nebraska, earning a 66-55 win.

*continued jinx?* UT Rio Grande lost – but it was to WAC top dog, New Mexico State.

The Miners are still perfect in C-USA play (9-0), but after Marshall, Western Kentucky (8-1) (who lost to MTSU) looms, Feb. 6th. MTSU (7-2), which has had some “stuff” going on this year, lost to UTEP 84-73 earlier this season, but doesn’t get a rematch.

Fresno State (ummm… shout out to the Bee: ““I just feel like we know how to come back,” senior co-captain Toni Smith said in a phone interview after the game.) and Colorado State have unblemished Mountain West records – will that last until March 1st, when they get to face off against each other?

Squeak! Ohio moved to 9-0 in the MAC with a one-point win over Ball State, 68-67.

Hmmmm… the Bulldogs are struggling, yes, but I’m sure San Francisco is enjoying beating Gonzaga.

On a day when USF honored its 1996 Sweet 16 team, the 2015-16 San Francisco women’s basketball team made a place for themselves in program history as well. The Dons scored the first bucket of the game and never trailed to earn a big 71-52 win over the Bulldogs at War Memorial Gym at the Sobrato Center on Saturday afternoon.

The victory was their first win over the 11-time WCC defending champions since a West Coast Conference tournament win on March 2, 2006. The 19-point deficit is also the largest loss of the season for Gonzaga, who lost to Stanford 65-48 on Nov. 15 during non-conference action.

Gotta love in-state games: Bobcats knock off Lady Griz

A year ago this month, the Montana State women’s basketball team crumbled and lost its composure in a 62-48 loss to Montana that sent the Bobcats to 1-4 in conference, searching for answers.

A year later, it seems like the Bobcats of head coach Tricia Binford have all the right ones.

Ooooooooh, De-bbie: Eastern Kentucky over Morehead State, 100-93; Eastern Washington over Sacramento State, 100-83.

What to look for Sunday:

#12 Kentucky at Florida – will the Wildcats bounce back, or with the Gators camp.

St. John’s at #23 DePaul. The Blue Demons have been up and down… and the Red Storm has been knocking at the door of the polls.

UNC at NC State. A missing coach adds intrigue to the 101st edition of this in-state rivalry.

St. Louis at George Washington. The Billikens (7-1) are SO much better.… but the Colonials are undefeated (8-0) in conference….

Alabama at Tennessee. One would thing the Tide would be just what the doctor ordered for the Vols…. but remember, they gave TAMU a scare.

#13 Mississippi State at Arkansas. The Razorbacks have been snacking on ranked teams. How focused will the Bulldogs be after their big win over Tennessee?

#2 South Carolina at Texas A&M (ESPN2). It’s never fun to play against the 12th man.

It’s likely that #14 Louisville will stay hot against Wake Forest... so I can’t help but look ahead to Feb 7th when they face Notre Dame.

BTW, in Division II news:

McKendree University men’s basketball coach Harry Statham posted his 1,098th career victory Thursday night, matching Pat Summitt’s mark for the most at a four-year school.

Statham is in his 50th season at the Division II college. He guided the Bearcats past Wisconsin-Parkside 92-85 on the court named in his honor.

The 78-year-old Statham has a career record of 1,098-474. He can top Summitt’s record Saturday when McKendree hosts Lewis. (Didn’t)

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#2 team scores 7 in ten minutes. 57 in forty.
#10 team scores 8 in ten minutes. 51 in forty.

#8 team scores 62 in forty.

#11 team scores 61 in forty.

#12 team scores 4 in ten minutes. 36 in forty.
#20 team scores 8 in ten minutes. 56 in forty.

Thank you Notre Dame, DePaul, UConn, South Florida, West Virginia… and, as always, Sacramento State (25 threes, anyone?).

Honestly! I thought the rule changes were supposed to HELP the scoring. Instead, I’m having Nike commercial flashbacks. “Momma can’t help your jump shot.”

In other games:

Army keeps pace with Bucknell. *Graham? Michelle? Someone take notice of the Bison!

Bryant (6-0) claims the top spot in the NEC.

UTEP (6-0) still perfect in C-USA. So’s Western Kentucky (7-0), which got the program’s first triple-double from Kendall Noble. Speaking of poachable coaches (Michelle Clark-Heard), have you been following Sue’s interviews with coaches?

And repeat: In the MAC, it was the Ohio Bobcats (7-0) over Northern Illinois. Ball State is now 6-1 in conference play.

It was tough, but Green Bay’s in-conference record stayed unblemished, courtesy of a  63-58 win over Wright State.

“They have the best payers — that always helps. The year we beat them, we had the best players. I think this year, it’s really, really close. Time will tell,” [WSU coach Mike] Bradbury said.

Arkansas State moves to 8-0 in the Sun Belt (a program best).

“It is a really good road win and this just caps off a really good stretch of four games in eight days,” A-State head coach Brian Boyer said. “I just told the players that they played really well during this stretch and they have just saved the best performance for last.”

Abilene Christian is now 7-0 in the Southland as junior guard Alexis Mason is tearin’ it up.

New Mexico State continues to roll in the WAC, taking down Bakersfield in front of a record-breaking 5,034 fans.

After an ugly third quarter, Washington roared back to take down Washington State, 69-63.

Perfect no more: The Teddy Bears lose to East Tennessee State.

WHB jinx anyone? UT Rio Grand Valley falls to Seattle, 74-71 and UC Santa Barbara falls to UC Riverside, 92-81.

Called the fun: Nebraska over Michigan, 93 – 81.

Michigan women’s basketball had no answer for Jessica Shepard on Sunday as Nebraska’s standout freshman beat up on the Wolverines. 

The 6-foot-4 Shepard scored 35 points and grabbed 20 rebounds to lead the Cornhuskers past Michigan, 93-81, at Crisler Center.

Asked the questions and the teams responded: Indiana over Northwestern, 91-84.

Ahead of Sunday’s game, Teri Moren said a Big Ten road win would help further change the culture of Indiana women’s basketball.

The Hoosiers came away with their moment, a 91-84 win at No. 20 Northwestern. Ahead by five at the half, but falling behind by seven going into the fourth, IU (12-8, 4-4 Big Ten) outscored the Wildcats 33-19 in the fourth quarter.

In the battle of the A10 bigs, it was Duquesne snapped St. Bonaventure‘s 16-game winning streak, 74-62.

Here’s hoping tonight’s game have us singing, “Score, score, score! How do you like it? How do you like it?

Welcome to the neighborhood, Coach Neighbors: Washington enters Top 25 for 1st time since ’03

In other news:

Cool: Missouri’s average home attendance surges into top half of SEC.

Yes: Ohio State winning despite lack of size

“Our chemistry is pretty great,” senior guard Ameryst Alston said. “Like I’ve said before, that’s how it should be. We’ve got a lot of different players that can score. So it makes us hard to guard.”

The Buckeyes (14-4, 6-1) have used their versatility to forge a first-place tie with Maryland in the Big Ten standings. They lead the conference and are third in the nation in scoring at 87 points per game. They do this efficiently despite having only one starter taller than the 5-foot-9 Alston.

The lack of size often shows up in rebounding statistics, but Ohio State has won 10 of its past 11 games against mostly bigger teams.

Charlie’s got his latest bracket and is Trying to make sense of topsy-turvy SEC

Thank goodness for South Carolina. Otherwise there would be no figuring out the SEC.

The Gamecocks moved to 7-0 with Sunday’s slugfest of a road victory over Mississippi State. After that, the conference is a cluster of teams virtually indistinguishable by record and performance. After the Gamecocks, each of the SEC’s other 13 teams has at least two conference wins. No one has more than four. Everyone has at least two losses but no more than five. Georgia is tied for last place, yet is a mere 2½ games out of second place, and the Lady Dogs are included in this week’s projected NCAA tournament field.

Cleanse your palate with a little USA Basketball news: Familiar faces dot U.S. women’s basketball finalists

The pursuit of a sixth consecutive gold medal for the United States women’s basketball team will be in familiar hands come August at the Rio Olympics. On Monday, the list of the 25 finalists for the 12-member squad was released by USA Basketball.

There were no surprises; the group has both longtime veterans of international play and the top college senior in the country, UConn’s Breanna Stewart. Ten players in the finalist pool have previously won Olympic gold, including three-time Olympic champions Diana TaurasiTamika Catchings (1st women to receive National Civil Rights Museum Sports Legacy Award) and Sue Bird (Role Model of the Year)

New York Values: Madison Square Garden Company partnership with Resorts World Casino includes deal to make casino sponsor of Liberty Pride Month

One cost of bigotry? Survey: Religious objections law cost millions

Indiana may have lost as much as $60 million in hotel profits, tax revenue and other economic benefits when a dozen groups decided against hosting conventions in Indianapolis last year due at least in part to the controversy surrounding the state’s religious objections law.

A document prepared by the tourism group Visit Indy shows that the 12 out-of-state groups were surveyed and all said that the state’s controversial law played a role in their decision to hold their events elsewhere. The document was obtained by The Associated Press ahead of its formal release Thursday.

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And, if you’re one of the folks running around in it, “Please be safe, please be safe, please be safe!” Or, perhaps a better warning: “Don’t be THAT idiot.”

For instance, those involved with the MSU/Maryland game which was postponed because of snowstorm

YEAH!!! Graham is writing about Kelsey!!! Minato is hoops’ best senior who won’t play professionally

That career continues when Army and Navy play in Madison Square Garden on Saturday. As the 10-year anniversaries of both Army’s first NCAA tournament appearance and former Army coach Maggie Dixon’s death at 28 years old approach this spring — two events inexorably bonded by the respective joy and sorrow they engendered and the brief time that separated them — what Minato has accomplished is a new chapter in the story.

What Dixon envisioned, Minato embodies.

The only team in the Patriot League to beat Army this season, Bucknell did so at home earlier this month only after enduring Minato’s 35 points on 16-of-26 shooting. After that game, the team’s second win in seven tries against Minato, Bucknell coach Aaron Roussell listened to people offer congratulations for a strategy as bold and daring as to allow Minato her shots and instead focus defensive attention on stopping her mortal teammates.

Jinx? Mechelle writes about Coach Vic Schaefer builds Bulldogs into national contender (and then, Barbee helps Georgia upset No. 10 Mississippi State 47-43)

When Schaefer got the Bulldogs job, the player who would turn out to score more points than any girl in Mississippi state high school history — 5,745 — was a prep sophomore: Victoria Vivians, a 6-foot-1 guard from Carthage.

“The first call I made was to her high school coach,” Schaefer said. “We worked our tails off in recruiting her because we knew the importance of keeping her here. Obviously, it’s been big for us. It’s a special time to have a kid like her on our basketball team.”

What the Bulldogs are still trying to establish this season, though, is that they are a consistently solid offensive team around Vivians too. In her second collegiate season, she is averaging a team-best 17.6 points per game for No. 10 Mississippi State.

Speaking of offense: Fast-Paced Offense Leads OSU Women’s Basketball Team Resurgence

SB: As Thomas said, you have played the four Final Four teams from last year. You lost to three of them. Is there a worry that you’re a good program but not an elite program at this point?

KM: Well. I’m at first I think you’ve got to play those teams to see where you are. And when I came here I knew we had a lot of work to to go to build the program and part of that wanted to be aggressive scheduling. And so you know, I like the fact that we kind of measured ourselves against the best we know where we have to to get better.

They got off to a fast start – and Cheryl takes note: 

Like many teams on the rise, Santa Clara continues to be a major work in progress, even during midseason. The Broncos have not had a winning season in seven years. They earned less than 12 wins in five of those years.

This season, the team added seven new players including junior forward Lori Parkinson, a transfer from Southern Utah and the team’s top rebounder, freshman guard Savanna Hanson who leads the Broncos in assists and made three-pointers, and senior forward Devin Hudson who led the team in scoring vs. Stanford.

“Honestly we’re just trying to get better every day, so we’re excited about the fact that we’re actually getting better as a ball club. We have seven new players, it has just taken a while to get everybody on the same page, but we’re excited about where we are.”

More reading: Tamika Catchings on a Lifetime of Hoops, and the Legacy She’ll Leave

When Tamika Catchings was a little girl, she was sitting with her dad and noticed the scar on his leg. So she asked him, “Well, what happened to you?”

Harvey Catchings, a former NBA player, told her that he walked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Jackson, Mississippi, as a young teenager. Harvey had grown up in that southern city, and here were his neighbors gathered by the thousands to march with King. He was injured when the large throng of marchers swelled and he passed a parked car that had a broken piece of chrome sticking out. His own father wasn’t far behind and helped him move to the sidewalk and clean the wound.

It was a day that forever made a mark, inside and out.

“That was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever experienced,” Harvey said.

Graham rights about Three new teams who entered mid-major rankings

Believe it or not, we are running out of mid-major rankings. Only two more check-ins remain before conference tournaments will end the subjective portion of the season and settle which teams will get a chance to play David, or occasionally under-seeded Goliath, in the NCAA tournament.

And we haven’t even had a chance yet to talk about Albany’s perennially underrated Shereesha Richards, St. Bonaventure again punching above its weight (or at least its enrollment) and the pipeline apparently linking Colorado State to basketball courts across Scandinavia.

There are so many stories left to tell as the final month of the regular season approaches.

By the way, Doug asked, “Where have the great mid-major teams gone?

Coach Aaron Johnston’s team’s only other losses came to then-No. 6 Maryland, by seven points, and Green Bay by one.

“The margin of error for mid-majors is so small,” Johnston said. “We played Maryland and Notre Dame close this year, beat DePaul who’s ranked and lose by one to Green Bay. Unfortunately one loss gets us out of people’s minds.”

LadySwish responded

Mid-major implies there’s a second tier of teams, an “everybody else” of women’s basketball lumped together outside of the Power 5 conference. They are the Power 5 because of football; nobody grouped them as such having to do with anything related to women’s basketball.

All the teams in the sport are playing the same sport, vying for the same trophy. But the NCAA committee and the media who vote in the poll rarely treat them as such.

Alabama, Wake Forest, Boston College, Pitt, Illinois — are these teams better than, say, South Dakota State, James Madison, Duquesne, George Washington, Green Bay, Florida Gulf Coast or Gonzaga?

More stuff: Washington’s Chantel Osahor makes her Husky women’s basketball teammates better

From Seton Hall to the WNBA

What are some of your most memorable experiences as an athletic trainer working in the WNBA?

Laura London: As a female athlete growing up in the ’90s, I remember when the WNBA was formed. Being able to work with the New York Liberty absolutely has been an all-around memorable experience. Walking out of the tunnel and stepping onto the court for my first time at Madison Square Garden, “The World’s Most Famous Arena,” was a wonderful moment as a sports fan. As a newly certified athletic trainer (ATC), being able to join an efficient and effective professional sports medicine team was a major milestone for me. Having that team be led by Laura Ramus, PT, ATC, a female athletic trainer and physical therapist, was an added bonus that has been career-shaping and inspirational.

Curt Miller Seeks to “Establish a Culture” with Young Connecticut Sun

Curt Miller may not have set out to be a pioneer, but when he accepted the job as the Connecticut Sun’s new head coach, that’s just what he became. By virtue of the move, Miller is now the first publicly gay man to be the head coach of an American professional sports team.

It’s just the latest step in an impressive coaching journey that has spanned 20-plus years in both the collegiate and professional ranks. In 13 years as a head coach at the collegiate level, Miller compiled a 290-124 record, won five MAC regular season and conference tournament championships with Bowling Green, and also lead the Falcons to the Sweet Sixteen in 2007. Last year he joined Brian Agler’s staff as an assistant coach out in Los Angeles with the Sparks. Now, after being hired in December, he’s the head coach of the Connecticut Sun.

Sky player Allie Quigley’s close call with Turkish bombing shows risks of playing overseas

Two blocks away was too close for Allie Quigley.

When a suicide bomber attacked Istanbul’s main tourist district last week, killing 10 Germans and wounding 15 others, the explosion rattled the Sky guard like nothing she had ever experienced.

Yah, they stopped that: IHSAA cancels seasons for Pike, Ben Davis varsity girls basketball teams after fight

Podcast: Dishin & Swishin 1/09/16 Podcast: Channeling John Wooden? Cori Close has UCLA climbing the polls

For the first podcast of the year, Dishin & Swishin looks out West where the Pac-12 currently has the best RPI of any conference in the country. This week’s polls rankings, with Stanford ( No. 9/13), Oregon State (No. 11/12), Arizona State (No. 14/14), UCLA (No. 15/21), and California (No. 21/RV), show the respect the conference is getting nationally.

One of the most interesting of those teams is UCLA, where Cori Close’s Bruins are 11-3. The three losses are a three-point loss to second-ranked South Carolina, an overtime loss to third-ranked Notre Dame, and a thrilling double overtime loss to California.

Reviewing…the situation…

Tough sledding for Cal in the Pac-12. Ditto for Colorado.

Hofstra and James Madison are 5-1 in the CAA

George Washington has moved to 7-0 in the A-10. Keep an eye on Jones’ shoulder….

It’s been a tough year. Wichita State got its first win in the MVC.

Makin’ Debbie happy: #7 Ohio State over Michigan, 97-93.

The SEC is South Carolina... and everyone else, as #9 Kentucky gets upset by Ole Miss.

Ragin’ Cajuns are 6-1 in the Sun Belt.

Yah, UTEP is diggin’ in the C-USA.

Hello, Teddy Bears! They take down Chattanooga and move to 4-0 in the Southern.  “The loss was the Mocs’ first in league play since January 2012 at Elon, snapping a 52-game conference win streak.”

Ruff! Albany is now 6-0 in the American East.

Strong start to stumbling in the ACC: Virginia Tech (2-3) and BC (1-4)… BTW, North Carolina (2-4) lost to Wake Forest (1-4). Speaking of which: Transfers leave ACC women’s basketball feeling growing pains

“We’re a young league right now,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “When you look at this senior class, you’re not looking at a lot of WNBA draft picks in the senior class. When you look at the freshmen and sophomores, you’ve got loads of talent in the conference.”

The ACC arguably has been hit harder by transfers than any major conference.

Abilene Christian is still rolling through the Southland.

San Diego and BYU are lookin’ like the top dogs in the ever-interesting WCC. St. Mary’s one-point win over Gonzaga (3 Ls in a row) keeps everyone nice and tight.

The South Dakota teams are headed for a showdown – both are 5-1 in the Summit… as is Oral Roberts.

Hey! That snuck up on me: UT Rio Grand is 5-0 in the WAC. This didn’t sneak up on me: New Mexico State has the same conference record.

This could be fun: Eastern Washington (6-0) gives Montana State (6-1) their first loss in the Big Sky.

Don’t wanna jinx’em, but the Gauchos handed UC-Davis their first conference loss, and are now 4-1 in the Big West.

Games to keep you entertained if you’re snowbound:

Oklahoma v. Texas – how do these teams play the game after a “recovery win”?

ESPN 3: The Zips face the Chippewas at 1PM EST

FS1: Interesting test? Baylor v. Iowa, 1:30 EST

The Bonnies (6-2) v. the Dukes (7-1), 2PM EST

EPSN3: Horizon bragging rights: Green Bay v. Wright State, 2PM. (BTW: Congrats to Raider Kim Demmings, who set the all-time career scoring record in Horizon League women’s basketball history

Montana State visits the Vandals, 5PM EST.

The Battle of the Washingtons, 5PM EST.

UC Riverside v. UC Santa Barbara, 10PM EST.

SUNDAY

ESPN 3: The Battle of the Floridas – Miami v. Florida State, 1PM EST

SECN: Florida v. Missouri, 2PM EST

This one feels like it could be fun: Michigan v. Nebraska, 2pm EST.

ESPN3: It doesn’t have the usual national draw, but it’s always a fun rivalry: Duke v. UNC, 3PM EST.

Despite everything, the Heels were giving virtually everyone a tough game, and they came from behind to upset Syracuse. However, that was when they had McDaniel in the frontcourt. Even though she wasn’t close to being in shape, her sheer talent and size made a big difference for UNC. When she went down, the Heels lost by double digits to Miami (understandable) and Wake Forest (far less so — this was Wake’s first league win). Not only is McDaniel’s talent irreplaceable, it means the Heels have only six scholarship players available. Right now, they are desperate for any kind of wins.

It’s odd to set up this game with so little at stake in terms of national or even league ramifications for both teams. If Duke had lost to Clemson or Wake Forest prior to this game, it would have been the first time ever that the two teams met with losing league records. As it stands, this is the first time since 1993 that neither team has been ranked going into their rivalry showdown. That said, this game should be fiercely contested, though not necessarily a thing of beauty.

ESPN2: Will South Carolina give Mississippi State their first home loss? 5PM.

Indiana v. Northwestern. One team is trying to make its mark, the other team is trying to make up its mind. 5pm EST.

Stanford v. UCLA. This. Is. Not. Even. Streamed? 9PM EST.

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they must play the rest of their games with their shoes tied together…

@NDsidMasters: During pregame radio interview, Coach McGraw announced Taya Reimer has left @ndwbbfor balance of 2015-16 season for personal reasons.

But never fear, Muffet is here:

It’s been almost 15 years since the University of Notre Dame women’s basketball team won its first — and so far only — national championship, and began a journey that has cemented the Irish as one of the most respected programs in the country. The number of All-Americans who don the blue and gold jersey has become constant. Loyal fans still pack into Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center to cheer on their favorite squad. The wins continue to accumulate.

And leading the way is Notre Dame’s Karen and Kevin Keyes Family Head Women’s Basketball Coach Muffet McGraw, who still paces the sideline and stomps her high heels to get her team’s attention during games. But plenty has changed — and some hasn’t — in that decade and a half. Universal changes to women’s basketball itself and personal changes for McGraw that have molded her ability to coach on and off the court.

“I think overall there have been a lot of great changes to women’s basketball, and we’re heading in a really good direction,” McGraw says. “At least here we’re heading in a good direction.”

Of course, she probably felt a little different near the end of the #18 DePaul game, having watched her team squander a huge lead. Yes, they won, but this will not be a comfortable season… though it might be one of her best coaching jobs.

#1 UConn rolled through Colgate, and then used a series of runs to take down #11 Florida State. “Under-appreciated” will become an overused word when it comes to UConn’s Tuck – but I can’t imagine opposition coaches feel that way about her. Certainly, Auriemma doesn’t: ‘She’s pretty special’

Gotta love in-state games: Cyclone Comeback Topples No. 23 Iowa, 69-66

Speaking of in-state games, weird: Analyst: ‘Quite unusual’ for UK defectors to be behind bench

Perhaps television analyst Brenda VanLengen summed up best what many fans were thinking as they watched Kentucky top Louisville on Thursday night.

“This is quite a surprise honestly,” the ESPN play-by-play announcer said just before halftime as the cameras zoomed in on two specific fans among the 14,425 at Rupp Arena.

Didn’t distract the Wildcats, though, as they took it to struggling (Walz: Cards women have talent, not work ethic) Louisville, 72-54. Graham says that With big win over Louisville, Kentucky quiets any talk of a crisis in Lexington. I say, it’s still early in the season…

Speaking of the “defectors,” the Hilltoppers get a nice pickup: Former Kentucky guard Kyvin Goodin-Rogers transferring to Western Kentucky

Texas Tech is continuing its rise from the ashes, defeating the not-to-be-triffled-with Vandals, 78-62.

Sigh. BU is still 0-fer.

Ummm… things are NOT good in the land of the Hartford Hawks. BC humbled them, 62-28.

Good: Texas ramps up efforts to sell women’s team to fans

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: How much does San Diego State miss Beth Burns.

You know, UNC Asheville has been pretty awful for a while… and I don’t want to jinx them, but…. they were 6-1 for the first time in 31 years. And now they’re 7-1. AND they have a junior named Knuckles. What’s not to love?

Winning is important, but so is handling the expectations of the coaching staff and not getting too caught up in the early season success.

“The thing I’m most proud of with this team is their commitment to the process,” Kirkpatrick said. “I really think they’ve bought into treating each game separately and getting better with every opportunity.”

Super congrats to Army’s Kelsey Minato. In their win over NJIT, she became the first Army women’s player to reach the 2,000-point milestone. The 8-1 Black Knights look particularly fierce this season – might they return to the Big Dance for the third time since that fateful 2005-06 season? (watch this space for more on that team.)

Speaking of Army….#5 Maryland is 10-0, but Syracuse is the only ranked team they’ve faced. Looking forward to see how they hold up against UConn in the Maggie Dixon Classic at the Garden Monday, December 28th. (This year, I have 189 folks joining me! Come visit sections 10, 11, 12 if you want to say hi. I’ll be the shy, quiet, demure one… not!)

“Ruff!” says Gonzaga to Dayton, “we should be the top-dog in the mid-majors.”

Banham gets some love from the Star Tribune: 

Banham was 107 points shy of the record when she collapsed at the end of a fast-break layup on Dec. 10, 2014, in Grand Forks, N.D. She had torn her ACL and suffered a partial tear of her MCL, forcing her to spend the next three months watching from the bench as the Gophers returned to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009.

 

That gave her plenty of incentive for a rehabilitation period she described as the hardest thing she ever has done. Her doctors followed a strict, cautious timetable, prohibiting her from jogging until three months post-surgery and forbidding any basketball activities for seven months. As she healed, she worked with the Gophers’ new strength coach, Ralph Petrella, and began reshaping her diet.

Good to hear: Texas A&M’s Jordan Jones rebounding well after injury

Gary Blair’s plan early in the season was to lighten the load for senior point guard Jordan Jones, who was coming off knee surgery. But when the Texas A&M women’s basketball team played at 14th-ranked Duke in the second week of the season, the Aggie head coach leaned on Jones for 41 minutes to pull out a 72-66 overtime victory.

“She had played 15 minutes in her first game, 22 in her second game, and she just came in [at Duke] and kept going,” Blair said. “I did not want to play her that many minutes just coming off of that ACL, but she is the heart and soul of our team.”

BTW: That’s 700 for Mr. Blair.

Dishin & Swishin 12/10/15 Podcast: Miami leads group of upstarts changing the guard in the ACC

Notre Dame, Duke, North Carolina, Louisville are the teams we expect to be at the top of the ACC every year. In the last couple of years Florida State became a regular to the discussion too. This year? It is early, but Miami at 10-0, Virginia Tech at 8-1, and Boston College at 7-1 are crashing the party.

One of the reasons Missouri is 9-0: they generating more steals, fast-break chances

If the Lady Vols seeking to reverse tailspin on the road, their performance against a short-handed, shadow-of-its-former-self Wichita State can’t be seen as a good sign. Next up: Stanford (who must deal with Texas) followed by Oregon State. Seatbelt time, y’all.

Speaking of the Beavers: Weisner in a groove offensively

Jamie Weisner entered last Thursday’s game at Marquette hitting 60 percent of her 3-point attempts through the season’s first five games.

But Weisner, No. 7 Oregon State’s senior sharpshooter and leading scorer, for some reason couldn’t find the range against the quick and aggressive Golden Eagles.

She missed all seven of her attempts.

Earlier in her career, that may have led to a bit of frustration for Weisner.

But last Thursday, she wasn’t fazed.

The New York Times: A Life on the Move Molds a U.C.L.A. Basketball Star

Home for Nirra Fields these days is a room in a five-bedroom suite on the U.C.L.A. campus. It is not luxurious: Fields has decorated it with basketball and family pictures, and she shares a common space and a single bathroom with four other students. But the space is clean, and it is organized, and — this is most important — it is all hers.

After the route Fields took to get to it, that is enough.

Ah, high school:

Louisiana: Mothers of Salmen High School girls basketball players who were kicked off team make emotional appeal to School Board

Pittsburgh: West Jefferson Hills school board retains controversial girls basketball coach

Mississippi: Parent puts girls basketball coach in hospital

Seattle: Review of Bishop Blanchet football, girls basketball confirms recruiting violations, self-imposed penalties

Not high school:

Hello, Nancy Lieberman: Sacramento Kings assistant coach nails backward one-handed half-court shot

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Bad news for Liberty fans: Epiphanny Prince has surgery for torn ACL

Hmmmm…. Goldstein resigns from WNBA players union

“I’m very passionate about player rights and, having worked at the MLBPA, was excited to see how I could advance the causes of this union,” Goldstein said. “I think we’ve made some good strides. But as things transpired during my tenure, it seemed there might not be a shared vision of how to continue moving this union forward. So I decided to step aside.

Natalie Achonwa has never been so busy.

The Canadian forward is a promising newcomer for Dike Basket Napoli in Italy’s Serie A1, latest stop in a roundabout basketball career that’s yielded two gold medals and brought her within one game of the WNBA title. It’s Achonwa’s first season of overseas basketball and the start of a brand new, round-the-clock cycle in her pro career – WNBA and international duty with Canada in the summer, Euroleague in the winter.

“That is reality for us. Playing overseas is how we make a living,” says Achonwa. “Whether we are going into a qualifier summer, a World Championship summer, or an Olympic summer, it is what we have to do.

When she gets back home, she better study the rule book: New rules changes for the 2016 WNBA season announced

NCAA:

From Graham: Dayton rules the Mid-Majors (but will they stay there after the loss of Kelley Austria?), followed by the Wabbits and Tigers and…lookee! The Army Knights.

Army probably isn’t a program that can compete at this level on a regular basis, but this shapes up as a once-in-a-long-time kind of season. The three most important players are seniors who have started most or all of their time in the program: Kelsey Minato, Aimee Oertner and Jean Parker. And Minato can play on any court against anyone. In going to Duke and closing within four late in the fourth quarter or beating an Albany team on the cusp of these rankings, Army played the kind of defining games it simply didn’t have on the schedule en route to 23 wins a season ago.

The Women’s Mid-Major poll has a different top three: Gonzaga, Princeton, Green Bay.

LadySwish has Gimme Five (or six): the state’s top teams (Dec. 8)

Resounding road victories at Penn State and at Tennessee sent an emphatic message, particularly from a Tech team that had stumbled badly at Georgetown (73-56 losers) in its only previous road contest. While the win over the Lady Vols generated the headlines – and understandably so – in some ways we were even more impressed with what happened in State College, Pa. Tech seized control early, held it together during a Nittany Lions’ second-half run then used back-to-back 3-pointers from Hannah Young and Vanessa Panousis to snap a 44-44 tie and re-assert command. Tough stuff, particularly in the other team’s building. Of course, they don’t hand out trophies for what teams do in December, and the Hokies still have some things to clean up (23 turnovers vs. Penn State; 10-20 FT shooting at Tennessee). But as we sit here today, this looks like a team that can compete for a spot in the top half of the powerful ACC.

Penguins…lose!

Hello, Washington State – they take down Gonzaga, 55-48. The 8-1 Cougars are off to their best start since (fakers) Milli Vanilli’s “Blame it On the Rain” was atop the charts. Next up: The Gaels.

Nice win for San Francisco over Long Beach, 66-52. Take a moment to check in with coach Azzi.

Speaking of coaches trying to turn a program around, I’m noticing that Erik Johnson has Boston College off to a 7-1 start.

So far so good for Georgia, who stand a 8-1, having passed their first test. Speaking of tests: Point guard Marjorie Butler is redefining “student-athlete”

The Georgia Bulldogs came home last week from a Thanksgiving tournament in Southern California on an overnight flight that got them there early Monday morning. After landing, everyone headed home or to class except senior point guard Marjorie Butler.

She stayed at the airport to catch another flight – to Virginia, to interview for medical school. After that, she flew to Tennessee for another interview with a school the following day.

Wednesday night, Butler put in 7 points, dished 5 assists and grabbed 4 rebounds in Georgia’s home win over Mercer.

Extra air miles aside, it was a pretty typical week for the 22-year-old starter, who will graduate next spring with two degrees before beginning her quest to be an orthopedic doctor.

Oregon’s rising: Mark Campbell’s tireless approach helping Oregon women’s basketball turn corner

Louisville’s recovering: Psychology keeps Cards women ‘above the line’

Cortnee Walton acknowledges that not everyone believes in the benefits of sports psychology, but the Louisville women’s basketball veteran does, and she credits it for the Cardinals’ recent bounce back from a 1-4 start.

U of L topped then-No. 19 Michigan State last week before routing Valparaiso on Saturday, victories that set up Walton and company with some momentum heading into Thursday’s game at No. 8 Kentucky.

Break my record? I’ll come to your party: Banham to be Honored.

Prior to tipoff against Memphis on Saturday, the Gopher women’s basketball program will recognize Rachel Banham for breaking the Minnesota career scoring record. Former record holder Lindsay Whalen will be part of the ceremony. The game will begin at 2 p.m. at Williams Arena.

Banham passed Whalen’s total of 2,285 points during the Gophers’ game against Auburn in Puerto Rico. She has tallied 2,349 points entering the matchup with the Tigers.

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The 9th annual Maggie Dixon Classic (has it really been that long?) was another great event. First, and foremost, it’s an opportunity to remind ourselves exactly who was Maggie was and the powerful impact she made in such a brief time.

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“In a house of leaders, she stood out.”

– Army Superintendent Lt. Gen. William J. Lennox Jr.

 

I became aware of Army women’s basketball after they played UConn on December 31st, 2005. Back then, the Huskies were broadcast on CPTV, and the broadcast team of Bob Picozzi and Megan Pattyson made a effort to speak to the opposition’s coaches about their program and share that with viewers. I was intrigued by what I heard and, in what became an ongoing effort to diversify my women’s basketball awareness, I started following the team. As they started winning, so did others.

From Ira Berkow: West Point Is Standing at Attention for Army Women’s Coach

Dixon, who credits her assistant Dave Magarity with easing the transition, was named Patriot League coach of the year. Now Army, seeded 15th, is preparing to face second-seeded Tennessee on Sunday in Norfolk, Va. On Friday, Jamie Dixon and Pittsburgh will face Kent State in the first round of the men’s N.C.A.A. tournament.

Part of the interview process at Army had Dixon meeting with the team. ”It was lunchtime, and they had just come in from formation, wearing their blue-and-gray uniforms, and a few of them had sabers dangling at their sides,” Dixon recalled recently. ”It was very impressive. Then one of the women proceeded to open her cellophane-wrapped sandwich with the saber. I was taken aback for a moment, but then she, and the others, laughed. I thought, ‘I just might like this place.’ ”

From Adrian Wojnarowski, March 17, 2006: Army coach is just like her team: tough when it counts

There were a lot of people thinking that, at 28 years old, she was looking for trouble. Deep down, she believed something else. Yes, she was sold on the possibilities of West Point. Mostly, she was sold on herself.

“I thought this was an opportunity of a lifetime, but people wondered, how are you going to recruit there?” Dixon says. “How will you do it? To me, this is an institution that just has so much to offer.”

Five months and 20 victories later, it’s strange how the perspective of coaching women’s basketball at the United States Military Academy changes as you’re sitting on the shoulders of the Long Gray Line, bobbing in the air at Christl Arena after the Patriot League Championship game, a scene unlike anything ever witnessed in West Point basketball.

Why did she take this job?

From the AP, I’m guessing Doug, April 6, 2006: Army enjoying newfound fame

Army’s women’s basketball team is becoming quite the craze as the huge underdogs prepare to meet Tennessee in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Not only at West Point, where the players and coach Maggie Dixon were carried off the court by cadets after winning the Patriot League tournament to earn their first NCAA berth, but seemingly everywhere they go these days.

At a restaurant in Virginia on Friday night, fans yelled “Go Army” as the team shuffled in. Supporters honk, yell and wave from cars when they see the team outside.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” Megan Vrabel said Saturday. “Absolutely amazing.”

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And then, suddenly, horribly: Maggie Dixon, Army Women’s Basketball Coach, Is Dead at 28

From Adrian, April 17th: Dixon’s death cuts short a championship-caliber life

Maggie Dixon had been a storybook coach of the storybook season, hired from DePaul just days before the start of preseason practice, winning 20 games and making her brother and her the first siblings ever to make the NCAA Tournaments together as coaches. “This is such a great story,” she said that day in the hotel suite.

And without warning — without anything but the cruelest of fates — the Dixon family was back together on Thursday at the Westchester Medical Center where the most vicious of nightmares was unfolding. Maggie Dixon, 28, suffered an arrhythmia heart episode on Wednesday at West Point, leaving her in critical condition in the hospital’s intensive care unit.

Thursday night, she died at age 28.

Maggie’s death sent shockwaves of grief across the West Point campus and through the ranks of women’s basketball who’d so embraced her and the women she coached. But years later, her influence was still being felt as ESPN’s Elizabeth Merrill chronicled in 2011: Maggie Dixon still revered for her impact – Five years after her death, the Army coach continues to touch peoples’ lives

Mallette, a captain on Maggie’s one-and-only team at Army, is married now and lives in Albany, N.Y., where she’s finishing up her first year of law school. She’s the only one from the 2005-06 squad not on active duty, long ago forced into a medical discharge. Her bad back allowed her one of the closest views to Coach Dixon, which is the only name they call her to this day. Coach Dixon saw how much Mallette loved the game, how much she was hurting. She let her play sparingly — enough to feel part of the team — and the rest of the time, Mallette sat beside her to watch and learn. They were all so young. Maggie was only six years older than Mallette, kind of like a big sister or a cool aunt.

“She’s somebody you meet for five minutes and feel like you have a best friend forever,” Mallette says. “She had that aura about her. You got drawn in, and you didn’t want to let go.”

This is a story about a woman who died too young, but still has been able to influence so many, even five years after her death. People like Mallette, who, despite her doubts, still picked up that phone and called the California area code to Dixon’s parents. Would they remember her? Would they approve of her request?

Read Merrill’s piece, and you’ll realize how extraordinary Maggie’s family is. Consider all they’ve done since their daughter/sister’s death: Maggie’s Legacy

Since then, Jamie, their sister Julie Dixon Silva and parents Marge and Jimmy Dixon established the Maggie Dixon Foundation, which works to promote women’s collegiate basketball and “to bring awareness to sudden cardiac arrest among young people, especially athletes.” The Foundation hosts the Maggie Dixon Classic, which began at West Point and is now conducted annually at Madison Square Garden. “We wanted it to be the premier women’s basketball event in the country, and it quickly became that,” says Jamie.

They also host the Maggie Dixon Heart Health Fair. “Once we established the Maggie Dixon Classic and had a venue, we quickly recognized we should create a heart health fair. We saw an opportunity to promote heart health (diet and exercise), heart screening and SCA awareness, including CPR-AED training.”

If you feel moved to do so, I invite you to donate in support of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation.

I can’t imagine their pain will ever go away, and yet every year they show up to an event that can only remind them of their loss. And every year they are gracious and generous to those they know and total strangers who reach out to them. I should know, because I had a chance to speak briefly with Maggie’s sister, Julie.

This year’s Classic not only honored Maggie’s legacy, but women’s basketball past – a game with a direct link to UConn’s head coach. From Doug, Maggie Dixon Classic honors history of women’s hoops at MSG

Geno Auriemma fondly remembers one of his first trips to Madison Square Garden when he was an assistant at Saint Joseph’s.

He was given $20 to take the train to New York from Philadelphia and scout Immaculata and Queens College. The two schools were the powers in women’s basketball at the time. Only a few years earlier, those two schools played in the first women’s game at MSG in 1975 in front of nearly 12,000 fans.

That game was part of a men’s-women’s doubleheader on Feb. 22. Most of the fans had left the building by the half of the men’s game between Fairfield and UMass having seen the thrilling 65-61 win by Immaculata.

As for the games played yesterday, UConn v. St. John’s was the “featured” matchup, but I very much enjoyed the Immaculata v. Queens College game. It reminded me that, Division I, II, III, NAIA, or Junior College, there are women who play college basketball with passion and skill.

Appropriately enough, the IU/QC game report from Queenie: Maggie Dixon Classic: Rowland powers Queens in historic rematch. No, there were no nuns with buckets, but here was a fabulous, joyous moment:
There will never be anything not awesome about dancing nuns in college sweatshirts.
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Lots of people there for both teams, and I loved it. There’s something subconsciously dissonant about nuns wearing college sweatshirts with their coifs, but it’s a good kind of dissonance. (After the second game, I saw some of them being taken on a tour of the Garden. Strangely adorable.)
At halftime of the game, the members of the Queens and Immaculata teams who played in first women’s basketball game at Madison Square Garden in 1975 were honored (Again, thank you Harvey, for the lovely article). It was incredibly moving to watch Olympian Gail Marquis (1976), Queens College coach Lucille Kyvallos, former WNBA presidency Donna Orender and their friends-teammates-supporters walk the red carpet and be celebrated.

If ever there was a link between the formative past of women’s college basketball and its fanciful present, it was when the teams from Connecticut and Immaculata came together Sunday between games of the Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden.

Immaculata had just been defeated by Queens, 76-60, in a 40-years-later rematch between the teams that played the first women’s college game at the Garden in February 1975. Connecticut, the dominant team of its time and the holder of a record nine national championships, was about to run its record to 12-1 by handling stubborn St. John’s, 70-54.

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Stewart is especially long and elastic, an athletic wonder who has made an impression on Lucille Kyvallos, the coach of Queens in the 1975 Garden game, which Immaculata won.

At 82, Kyvallos flew in from Florida to reunite with several of her former players, who were introduced at halftime of the morning opener. She said she was avid viewer of the women’s game on television, especially of Connecticut and Stewart.

“She’s so long,” Kyvallos said. “She does things we couldn’t imagine women doing when I was coaching.”

More on the Husky/Red Storm game:
“We’ve been incredibly fortunate to play in the Martin Luther King game for it seems like the last 20 years and the Jimmy V Classic, too. Both are huge, very important. But this game is more personal for me because I knew Maggie and I know her family.”
The 9th annual Maggie Dixon Classic was full of complementing images and emotions: Young Division I athletes, on scholarships that came about because of Title IX, competing with the promise of professional careers as a possibility. Young Division II and III athletes competing because they love the game and understand the immeasurable benefits of being part of a team. Women, forty years their senior, watching the results of a future the only glimpsed when Patsy Mink, Edith Green, Birch Bayh and all of those who fought (and continue to fight) to pass and uphold the federal statute prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded schools.
But it will always be rooted in Maggie’s story. From Brian Koonz: When the message is bigger than the game, Post
There are moments in sports when the message, and very often the messenger, are bigger than the game.
 
Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden was one of those moments.
 
Except for No. 2 UConn’s predictable 70-54 victory over St. John’s in the Maggie Dixon Classic, this day was all about the unexpected.
 
Next year will be the 10th anniversary of Dixon’s death, a weeping, black armband for women’s college basketball. The game still mourns Dixon, the Army coach who climbed a stepladder at West Point and cut down a comet, all the way to the program’s first NCAA tournament berth.

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If they want a chance to go dancing, they have to win:

CAA: No surprise James Madison is in the Finals, but their opponent is (somewhat surprising): the Blue Hens.

Discussing UD’s youth, Martin said, “This team has come so far this season. We’re so young and I’m so proud of these kids as they’ve grown so much in the past few months. Nobody thought Delaware would be sitting in this position right now. We’ve climbed the mountain all year long of people not believing in us and now we have a job to finish.”

Southland: Northwestern State (Lady) Demons v. the Stephen F. Austin Ladyjacks. (Sounds like a CW show) The teams split the regular season, each winning at home by double digits.

Horizon: #1 Green Bay will face off against #2 Wright State.

NEC: Upstart Robert Morris and their star from Greece, Artemis Spanou, will try and overcome St. Francis (PA), who’ve had a less than .500 season, but made the finals after an epic triple-overtime win over Sacred Heart and a tight win over Mount St. Mary’s. Thank goodness there are a couple of days between games.

MVC: The Shockers have righted their ship —  if they sail by 5th seed Drake their season will continue. But don’t take the Bulldogs lightly – they rallied to take down top-seed Indiana State.

A-SUN: This seems to be the game of the day. 26-6, 16-2) Stetson faces off against (25-7, 17-1) FGCU.  Will the Eagles fans show?

As for those Dancers:

Ball State couldn’t sustain the magic, nor stop 5th years senior Rachel Tecca (30-12). So, after 40 years, it’s the Zips who earns their first MAC trip to the NCAAs.

“This group of seniors is very, very special,” said Kest, in her eighth season at the school. “They believed in us when we recruited them. It’s not easy to come into a program that has had some losing seasons and to take a chance on us. It’s easy to go to a school that already has been successful and already has fans.”

The Zips tied the program record for single-season victories, which was set in 2012-2013.

Prairie View A&M DID sustain the magic, upsetting SWAC #2 seed, Texas Southern, earning their fourth consecutive championship title and sending a 14-17 team onto the dance floor. 

Washington added 20 points in the winning effort, which capped a season-long turnaround after the Lady Panthers lost their first 11 games under first-year coach Dawn Brown.

“I just let them know that you can’t let Texas Southern take this moment from you,” Brown said she told her team. “Since 2011, this is what Prairie View A&M University does. You see our best basketball in March.”

The third time was almost the charm for Coppin State, but Hampton prevailed in the MEAC championship game — by three points.

“When I woke up this morning,” Hamilton said, “I said to myself, I had to be a point guard today. We needed everybody in order to win. I actually wanted to play a part in the championship.”

Hamilton’s fingerprints were all over the title game, with a game-high 20 points, seven rebounds, three assists and a couple of blocks.

“She was overdue,” HU coach David Six said. “Nikki’s a big-time player — first-team all-conference. She’s been in these situations before. I’m glad she’s on my team and she was able to make some clutch shots for us.”

Sun Belt: A lot has happened to the Hilltopper program since they sent Shea Mahoney to the New York Liberty – and some of it not good. Different story yesterday as Western Kentucky came back from 14 down against Arkansas State to earn a berth to the NCAA tournament. And the video of the coaches celebrating is worth a thousand words.

Middle Tennessee State left no doubt as to who rules the C-USA, rolling over Southern Mississippi. 84-55.

“I feel like Middle Tennessee is one of the top 20 programs in the country,” Blue Raiders coach Rick Insell said. “We’re not the best program in the country, but we’re in the top 20, and we’re there every year.

“We’re real proud of what our program stands for. The basketball gurus know about Middle Tennessee, and they know that Middle Tennessee is a tough, tough team.”

Patriot: Army entered the NCAA tournament on the shoulders of Kelsey Minato, who scored 31 points to lead the Black Knights over a resilient Holy Cross, 68-58.

 “We had the great equalizer,” Magarity said of his sophomore guard. “She’s an incredible player and as special a player as I’ve ever coached in my 32 years as a head coach.

Mountain West: Fresno State knocked off top seed Colorado State, 77-68, and earned its fourth consecutive conference championship.

“I think (tournament experience) does help a lot, especially when teams go on runs,” Farley said. “If you’re not experienced, you can get really frazzled in that type of situation. Us being more experienced, we learned to accept the runs and not freak out, if that makes sense. It definitely did help us today.”

Big West: It’s been 23 years, and this is only the second time the Cal State Northridge team has gone dancing, this time by virtue of their 15-point win over Cal Poly.

“Every day is a championship day for us,” Matadors coach Jason Flowers said. “The intensity never drops off, whether it’s a shootaround or weights or conditioning. These young women have prepared for this moment for the past two or three years. I was interested to see how they would respond to being on the big stage. They woke up this morning in great spirits, they were really relaxed and I just stayed out of their way and they worked their tails off.”

North Dakota left no doubt as to who was going to earn the Big Sky bid to the NCAA, handily beating Robin Selvig’s Montana, 72-55.

The win was historic for UND (22-9). The Green and White will play in the Big Dance for the first time in program history.

“Credit Montana, a very well-coached team that battled,” North Dakota coach Travis Brewster said. “But it’s an exciting experience for these players to get a chance to play in the NCAA tournament and to do it in front of our fans was awesome. It’s a pretty unique honor and takes a special group.”

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a little buried with all the NCAA tourney news, so I‘m pulling it out to give it a fair shot.

Mallette, a captain on Maggie’s one-and-only team at Army, is married now and lives in Albany, N.Y., where she’s finishing up her first year of law school. She’s the only one from the 2005-06 squad not on active duty, long ago forced into a medical discharge. Her bad back allowed her one of the closest views to Coach Dixon, which is the only name they call her to this day. Coach Dixon saw how much Mallette loved the game, how much she was hurting. She let her play sparingly — enough to feel part of the team — and the rest of the time, Mallette sat beside her to watch and learn. They were all so young. Maggie was only six years older than Mallette, kind of like a big sister or a cool aunt.

“She’s somebody you meet for five minutes and feel like you have a best friend forever,” Mallette says. “She had that aura about her. You got drawn in, and you didn’t want to let go.”

This is a story about a woman who died too young, but still has been able to influence so many, even five years after her death. People like Mallette, who, despite her doubts, still picked up that phone and called the California area code to Dixon’s parents. Would they remember her? Would they approve of her request?

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