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WNITCoyotes over Eagles, 71-65

The Florida Gulf Coast University women’s basketball team relied on its seniors, shooting and swagger during its energetic postseason run.

But in the WNIT championship game, FGCU ran into a team just as experienced, just as offensively gifted and with just as big a chip on its shoulders. And this time it was the Eagles’ opponent that was spurred by a wild home crowd.

Coyotes claim WNIT championship

Saturday was a special day for the University of South Dakota.

In front of a capacity crowd of 7,415 at the DakotaDome, the South Dakota women’s basketball team closed out its final game in the 37-year old facility in historic fashion.

Daily Republic Editorial Board: OUR VIEW: SD’s success in women’s basketball tough to ignore

Collectively, the accomplishments of South Dakota State, the University of South Dakota and the successful hosting of major postseason games are all really impressive for our state.

Nationwide, there is a lot of room to help the popularity of women’s basketball grow. But we hope NCAA officials realize that our state can make a strong influence on that.

The successes this year are just too hard to ignore.

A little south of them, more folks are playing basketball…

Gene Wang, Washington Post: Look past U-Conn., and women’s Final Four is full of surprises

With the Syracuse women’s basketball team having reached uncharted territory in the Final Four, Coach Quentin Hillsman couldn’t help but recall how his early years contributed to his professional development.

He grew up in suburban Washington, where his high school coach, Aaron Holder, showed how to build a champion from scratch at Forestville. In 1985, Hillsman’s freshman year, the Knights won the Maryland Class B title three years after the school opened its doors for the first time.

“Forestville High School was a special, special place, and Aaron Holder really instilled in me doing things the right way, being a hard worker, and was responsible for me becoming a basketball player and becoming a good coach,” said Hillsman, 45, the first African American male head coach to the reach the women’s Final Four. “What he’s done for me has been so big. That’s where it started with me.”

John Kekis, AP: Syracuse women reach for new heights

Charlie: Alexis Peterson’s confidence, competitiveness drive Syracuse

When Syracuse point guard Alexis Peterson talks about filling the lane, she might not be talking about basketball.

“I love to bowl,” Peterson said Saturday. “I have my own ball, my own bag, my own shoes, my own towel. I am a great bowler.”

Paul Shepherd, Newsday: Syracuse women looking to get takeaways from Washington

The Syracuse and Washington women’s basketball teams have faced each other just one time.

Who knew in November that the 66-62 Syracuse win in the South Point Thanksgiving Shootout in Las Vegas would be a preview of their second matchup in the same season?

 

Paul Doyle, : For Morgan Valley, Long Trip From UConn Back To Final Four

Early in her coaching career, Morgan Valley faced a dilemma.

The Vermont native and UConn graduate had coached at Holy Cross and New Hampshire. She had an opportunity to pursue a job at Towson University in Maryland, but it would be far from her New England roots.

She sought the advice of UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey, a mentor.

“CD said you can’t be afraid to move around if this is what you want to do,” said Valley, now in her first year at the University of Washington. “That’s kind of been my attitude.”

Nice to be in Indy so we can get some of David Woods’ writing: What do Chantel Osahor and Steph Curry have in common?

In summer basketball, Kelsey Plum’s team once played against Chantel Osahor, her future Washington Huskies teammate. Plum’s coach told the team to drop into the paint against Osahor, a 6-2 post player who surely would not shoot from outside.

Osahor stayed out there and never left her feet. Her left-handed set shot is a throwback to the 1930s.

“Whack, whack, whack. First three shots of the game. Nailed them,” Plum recalled. “I said, ‘Coach, we should get up on her, right?’ We lost by like 30, and she kicked my butt. Definitely made an impression.”

And more David: The remarkable parallels between UConn and Oregon State

Graham: Jefferson as key to UConn’s success as anyone

In one sense, Moriah Jefferson is a curious candidate to embody why the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team continues to make and accumulate history at a pace unlike almost anything else in sports.

As a recruit, readying to speak in person with Geno Auriemma for the first time, Jefferson listened as friends asked if she was nervous about the encounter. It struck her as an odd question. She was just going to be talking to someone about basketball, a sport she had played her whole waking life, minus perhaps two weeks many years earlier when she quit in protest after her dad told her she couldn’t play in leagues against boys any longer. 

These folks are good: WBCA All-Americans: UConn’s Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson, Morgan Tuck; South Carolina’s A’ja Wilson; South Florida’s Courtney Williams; Oregon State’s Jamie Weisner; Ohio State’s Kelsey Mitchell; Baylor’s Nina Davis; Notre Dame’s Brianna Turner; Washington’s Kelsey Plum.

Wade Trophy: Breanna Stewart (also AP Player of the Year.)

WBCA Defensive Player of the Year: Moriah Jefferson

AP Coach of the Year: Geno Auriemma

Jim Fuller, New Haven Register: Emotional day as UConn players, coaches are honored

A little more than three hours after exuberantly cheering as three of their teammates walked onto the Bankers Life Fieldhouse court as members of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s All-American team, the Huskies sat in stunned silence as their wise-cracking quote machine of a head coach ran out of one-liners to deliver and words to utter.

Graham: Auriemma brought to tears on eve of Final Four

The weekend might prove Connecticut is invincible in the moment, but the coach who built the dynasty seems painfully aware that there is no such thing as immortality in sports.

“The longer I’m at this, the more I’m starting to understand it might not happen again,” Auriemma said. “And you really need to appreciate what these people do every day, to make it work.”

Kevin Baxter, LA Times: Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma keeps making a case to be considered the greatest basketball coach

VIDEO: Previewing Oregon State-Connecticut with Doris Burke of ESPN

From Excelle Sports: The Canadian guide to defeating Breanna Stewart and Moriah Jefferson

You’ve heard it countless times by now—Connecticut hasn’t lost since November 18, 2014, an 88-86 defeat to Stanford.

But Breanna Stewart and Moriah Jefferson, the two best players for the Huskies, did suffer a loss this past summer while playing for the United States in the Pan Am Games, an 81-73 defeat to Canada.

The parallels and overlaps from that game to this one are nearly endless. The two best players for Oregon State, center Ruth Hamblin and guard Jamie Weisner, are both Canadian national team players (though neither played in that game). And Oregon State coach Scott Rueck served as an assistant for the U.S. during the Pan Am tournament.

Blue Star Media: Women’s Final Four upstarts relish unlikely journeys

Jamie Weisner had no good reason to hear out to first-year Oregon State coach Scott Rueck when he made his first recruiting visit to her home on Valentine’s Day, 2011, when she was a junior in high school.

Most of the other Pac 12 schools were already interested in the fine-shooting guard with plenty of swagger. So where some local schools near her home in Clarkston, Wash., and a few more in the Midwest.

Oregon State was mired in the depths of the Pac 12. After inheriting two scholarship players following a wave of defections and the firing of his predecessor, Rueck held tryouts to fill a roster, adding soccer and volleyball players to get to 11.

The Beavers were in the midst of what would become a 9-21 season, with only two wins in conference play.

Yet Weisner not only listened to Rueck, she followed him to Corvallis.

Take 2: UW Huskies’ astonishing run helps editor rediscover his love for women’s hoops

Michelle Smith: Kelsey Plum learned to lead, and wins followed

Mechelle: Right place, right time for Washington coach Mike Neighbors

At the center of it is a man who lives with heart issues that, before he turned 30, made him take stock of everything he knew about life. “I was not a very independent thinker,” Neighbors said. “I had a heart attack at 29. It was an eye-opening moment that your life’s really, really short.”

He evaluated himself and everything around him. He recognized he wasn’t a very fast or comprehensive reader, and immediately set about changing that. He left teaching and coaching at the high school level to go into college coaching, despite it initially being a drastic pay cut. He began to write down his philosophies on living and working, then passed them around for people to read.

Seattle Times: How UW’s Talia Walton draws strength from mother’s battle with liver cancer.

Graham: The combination that could crack UConn code

Jamie Weisner and Sydney Wiese helped lead Oregon State from the bottom of Division I to the top of the mountain, only to find a volcano beneath their feet.

A volcano from the otherwise rolling hills of New England that erupted 120 of the past 121 times it rumbled.

Top shot blockers Breanna Stewart, Ruth Hamblin will square off in semifinals

Harvey, NY Times: UConn’s Seniors Are 2 Wins From a Feat Never Accomplished

Mechelle: Unfazed and focused UConn blocks out the noise

Beware of the bubble! No, not the usual bubble referred to in the NCAA tournament. But the UConn bubble. It is made of some very powerful stuff. No women’s basketball team has more outside “noise” to deal with, yet nobody deals with it better.

Whether it’s praise or criticism — and UConn has been so consistently great, sometimes the praise actually sounds like criticism — it seems to have no effect on the undefeated Huskies, who are seeking to become the first women’s basketball team to win four consecutive NCAA titles.

Breanna Stewart’s teammate: ‘People don’t get to see how fun she is’

BTW: UConn Vs. WNBA Team? Don’t Go There, Say Lobo, Lawson, Burke

Don’t forget, Monday’s games… Meet the Alaska Anchorage Hoosiers

Alaska Anchorage’s Seawolves are about as “Hoosiers” as you can get, considering their campus is more than 3,000 miles from Indiana.

The 33-year-old women’s basketball coach, Ryan McCarthy, loves the movie and fulfilled a lifelong goal Friday — he shot a jumper at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The men’s record-holder for scoring average, the Seawolves’  Jesse Jackson, is from Indianapolis. A former basketball coach and athletic director, Harry Larrabee, is from Shelbyville. Basketball icon Oscar Robertson is the great-great-uncle of Anchorage women’s  guard Kiki Robertson.

And you thought the rural domicile of Hickory’s “Shooter” Flatch was in a remote location?

 

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brought some interesting games. But first, did you catch ESPN’s Top Basketball Moment of 2015?

And Babcock McGraw: Celebrating 2015’s best women’s sports stories?

Now, about those games…

Looking at the Maryland game tape for ways to beat the Huskies? Might have to burn it. The UConn-Cinncinatti game saw Georgetown transfer/Big East Freshman of the Year Natalie Butler finally make her debut…and it was pretty.

Speaking of Maryland in the paint: Brionna Jones led the initially sluggish Terps over Illinois. Perhaps it was a little UConn hangover plus banner distraction?  Ten years later, Maryland celebrates its 2006 women’s basketball national champions. That was a fun game to be in the arena…

I said it might be interesting: Missing point guard Niya Johnson, #4 Baylor fell apart offensively, and Oklahoma State took advantage. 

It’s great Notre Dame has Turner back – she was the difference against a feisty Georgia Tech team, earning McGraw her 799th win.

#20 USF couldn’t score enough against #8 Mississippi State, but a final quarter drought by the Bulldogs sure made it interesting.

USC-West faced its first real test of the season against #21 UCLA, and kept it close all game. But the Bruins prevailed, handing the Trojans their first loss.

#22 Miami opened the ACC strong – looking forward to their game against #15 FSU on the 24th.

Hello, 12-1 Duquesne.

Hello, 10-1 Army. Army West Point’s Kelsey Minato became “the first women’s basketball player at the academy to reach 2,000 career points and is just one of three women’s players to reach the feat in Patriot League history.”

Because it’s still new: Hello, (8-5, 1-0 in the Summit) Omaha.

Hello, 12-1 Virginia Tech. “No one’s been paying attention to us,” Coach Dennis Wolff said, “so please don’t jinx us.” (Sorry, that’s what we do at the WHB!) B.C., Louisville and Syracuse are up next.

Speaking of Louisville: Boom, they pull it together and take down a suddenly wobbly #15 Florida State, 79-69.

This one sounded like it would have made Debbie happy: A strong final quarter helped #8 Ohio State over #24 Michigan State, 85-80.

Surprise! A young pup and a Connecticut transfer helped (6-6) Penn State roar back to stun #14 Northwestern, 79-72.

Close: North Carolina escaped the Maine Bears by one, courtesy of Watt’s 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Also close: Purdue escaped Michigan by two, thanks to Morrissette’s three.

See above: Seton Hall escaped Creighton by four. The New Big East is looking interesting…

Speaking of interesting! Luck folks who watch the WCC. It’s going to be another slugfest. BYU dumped St. Mary’s, Gonzaga dumped San Francisco.

I see you, Green Bay, Wright State and Youngstown State…but I’ll pay more attention when you start playing each other.

Yes, Jeff, Pac-12 women’s basketball is loaded with top teams

Sure: U women’s basketball is fashionable choice

For a fan base hungry for a winner while the big two sports have struggled, the mostly homegrown Missouri women’s basketball team has arrived just in time.

“It’s definitely got a different feel. There is a buzz,” Pingeton said. “We’ve got so many local kids on our team that are really talented. We’ve got a pretty darn good group of girls that suit up and put that jersey on. We’ve had some good success in the nonconference — certainly aware of how tough it’s going to get — and I think we play a fun, exciting style and we’re winning.”

Games to keep an eye on:

Today:
Ohio State v. Marylandnoon! I hate noon games.

TCU (9-3) v. Kansas Sate (10-2). Just want folks to pay attention.

Marshall (10-1) v. Western Kentucky (9-2). Just giving the Herd some well-deserved attention as they face the Hilltoppers.

Oklahoma State (11-1) v. Iowa State (9-3). Can the Cowgirls build on a big win?

Abilene Christian (9-2) v. Central Arkansas (10-1). Just paying attention.

Santa Clara (12-2) v. Gonzaga (11-4).St. Mary’s (10-4) v. San Diego (12-1). It’s the WCC. ’nuff said.

Oregon (11-0) v #21 UCLA (9-3). Can the Bruins ding another undefeated?

#19 Cal v. #17 Arizona State. Fun in the sun.

#10 Oregon State v. USC-West. Another test for the Trojans.

Sunday:
#8 Mississippi v. Florida (12-1). What kind of bite do the Gators have?

#12 Duke v. Syracuse. So, what is happening with the Blue Devils?

Boston College (11-1) v. Virginia Tech (12-1). A battle of two under-the-radar teams.

James Madison v. William & Mary. A game that will help the Tribe see how far they’ve come.

Nebraska v. #14 Northwestern. The Wildcats need to bounce back.

#18 Oklahoma v. #4 Baylor. How quickly can the Bears regroup?

Georgia v. #16 Texas A&M. How legit are this year’s Dawgs?

#25 DePaul v. St. John’s. The Red Storm has been quietly rising.

In other news:

Like NDSU football, Ada-Borup girls basketball creates a winning culture:

But quietly—about a 60-minute drive from Fargo-Moorhead in Norman County of Minnesota—the Ada-Borup High School girls basketball program has created its own buzz. That’s why Dave Smart’s Cougars have been named The Forum’s sports story of the year.

Jewell Loyd enjoys success as WNBA rookie, proves critics wrong

“When I made my choice to leave school and go pro, a lot of people had doubts. Some even said I wasn’t ready or strong enough to compete at this level,” Loyd said. “Winning that award validated my choice. I’m really not a big fan of trying to prove people wrong, I just focus on what I need to do, but I was proud to say that I did.”

WNBA star Tamika Catchings gives back along with Allstate’s WBCA Good Works team

With Hall Of Fame Nomination, Sheryl Swoopes’ Unique Career Is Recogized

No, not THAT California: It’s a new year for California women’s basketball

In her fifth season as a head coach in college basketball, Jess Strom knows the final practices before winter break can be tough. Especially after a loss. To your biggest rival. 

But that’s why Strom was pleasantly surprised by the response from her California team after its 78-72 loss Dec. 16 at IUP. Then again, maybe that’s a natural reaction for the the defending NCAA Division II champion Vulcans — not that Strom necessarily wants to make that connection.

Encouraging: Olympics still in Tolo’s grasp after knee reconstruction

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Some more stuff on tonight’s game.

UConn vs. Notre Dame the premier rivalry in women’s basketball, Tampa Bay Times
NCAA women’s basketball final: It’s not your mother’s rivalry, Tampa Bay Times

Tonight, Notre Dame (36-2) and UConn (37-1) meet for the second straight year in the women’s national championship game. UConn is in the title game for the fifth time in the past seven seasons, seeking its 10th overall title.

“It’s super exciting,” said Turner, a Notre Dame freshman from Pearland, Texas, who watched UConn defeat Notre Dame on TV last year. “I grew up seeing the Final Fours. I went to the Final Four in San Antonio a couple of years ago, and I was thinking, ‘Wow this is awesome. I want to be able to do that.’ That’s one of the reasons I came to Notre Dame, to be able to compete in Final Fours. This is what I wanted my whole life.”

For the multiple All-Americans who will take the floor tonight at Amalie Arena, this is the rivalry they’ve grown up with — or helped develop.

This Year, Geno, Muffet Show Admiration On Eve Of Title Game, Courant
NCAA Title Game Capsule: Notre Dame Vs. UConn, Courant

UConn women imagine trading places with coaches, Channel 8
Notre Dame Coach Says Familiarity With UConn Will Help In Title Game, Courant

“This one’s definitely different,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said Monday of this national championship game. “We started the season and looked at what we lost, so to say we’ve come a long way is an understatement. I’m proud of where we got to.

On Eve Of Final Game, Mosqueda-Lewis Reflects On A Great Ride, Courant
Sharpshooter Tuck on way to becoming latest UConn superstar, Tampa Tribune
UConn’s Morgan Tuck talented but unheralded, Tampa Bay Times

Moriah Jefferson, ESPN VIdeo w/LaChina
Breanna Stewart, UConn on brink of third title in a row, USA Today
UConn’s Stewart and Notre Dame’s Loyd have emerged as leaders, Register

A year ago it all seemed so simple for sophomore sensations Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd.

The presence of senior leaders and All-Americans resulted in the resident superstars being the recipients of everything their veteran teammates brought to the floor.

When times got tough, Stewart could look to Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley to do all the heavy lifting. Loyd relied heavily on the experience, counsel and talents of Kayla McBride and Natalie Achonwa.

When they step onto Amalie Arena for tonight’s national-championship rematch (8:44 p.m., ESPN), they will do so as not only the nation’s top two players but a pair of All-Americans who made the transition from productive underclassman to team leader.

Turner could be difference this time for Notre Dame, Tampa Tribune

Underdog Notre Dame has chance to be remembered, ND Insider

Four consecutive Final Four tries to win a women’s basketball national championship.

Four straight disappointments — for a variety of reasons.

Why should No. 5 be different for Notre Dame?

Tonight’s challenge against big, bad, bully Connecticut is right in Muffet McGraw’s wheelhouse.

Auriemma, 9-0 In Title Games, Enjoys It While It Lasts, Courant
Geno Auriemma’s legacy stands on its own, Tampa Tribune

Notes: A different kind of Final Four for Notre Dame, Tampa Tribune
At UConn, Lessons to Respect the Past, NY Times

Today, none of the current UConn players can remember a time when the program’s expectation was not a national title. Auriemma’s first title, in 1995, actually predates the births of some of his current freshmen.

The UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey makes her current student-athletes learn about the players who have come before them. Dailey, who has sat by Auriemma on the bench since he took the job 30 years ago, speaks of the past generation of Huskies as if they were fallen soldiers who deserve respect, honor and remembrance.

UConn aims for 10th national title, Boston Globe
The UConn standard, NCAA.com
The Huskies Are Better Than The Wildcats Ever Hoped To Be, FiveThirtyEight.com

Women’s NCAA championship: Who has the edge?, Columbia Daily Herald
Five questions before UConn – Notre Dame: Can the Irish stop the Huskies?, SI

4. How does UConn stop Notre Dame?

UConn is not a great defensive team and at times they have to hide average defenders such as Mosqueda-Lewis and reserve guard Saniya Chong. Some of their guards get beat off the dribble but they have shot blockers such as Stewart to bail them out.  

UConn assistant coach Shea Ralph is in charge of the scouting Notre Dame, an assignment she’s had since she joined the staff in 2008. She knows that Notre Dame will get off a lot of shots but where the game will be won for UConn is how tough the Huskies make those shots. “It’s fun to watch them play, I must tell you,” Ralph said of the Irish. “They are smart, well coached, and I see tons of similarities with us. We both have Princeton-style type of offensives and the kids who make reads and come off screens as opposed to running plays whereas other teams you are scouting a play.”

For Inspiration, Notre Dame Can Look to 2001 and Niele Ivey, NY Times

Ball in the air. Game on the line. Season on the brink.

Strangely enough, Niele Ivey did not have a Katie Douglas flashback to 2001, did not feel that old, familiar dread of a championship dream floating toward the rim, a balloon still with the possibility of being burst.

Notre Dame gets another crack at dethroning the UConn dynasty, Notre Dame Insider

When Auriemma and his Huskies talk women’s teams, Notre Dame is generally at the head of the discussion. Indeed, you can make a good argument that the rivalry between the two schools has become the No. 1 in the game.

There’s mutual respect among the players, starting with first team All-Americans Breanna Stewart of UConn and Jewell Loyd of Notre Dame.

And, of course, there’s mutual respect between the coaches, Auriemma and Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw.

If anyone can beat mighty UConn, it may be Notre Dame, NY Newsday

“They’re a lot like us, and I think that’s why they have had success against us,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said Sunday night. “So we give them problems like other teams in the country don’t, and they give us problems like other teams in the country don’t. So Tuesday night is not going to be any fun, believe me. I’m glad we’re playing in that game, but it’s not going to be any fun.”

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Game 1: If you want a win, send a Cable

It was ugly, then it was maddening, and ultimately it was heartbreaking – unless, of course, you’re an Irish fan. Wrote Jonathan Czupryn of the NY Times (thanks again, Knicks, for losing. Keep it up!)

South Carolina, which entered Sunday’s national semifinals with the 11th-ranked scoring defense in Division I, forced Notre Dame to play in the mud, slowing the game with gritty defense and stifling ball pressure.

Unfortunately for the Gamecocks, Coach Muffet McGraw and the Fighting Irish adapted to Coach Dawn Staley’s game plan as effectively as they conformed to Florida’s 80-degree weather.

Women’s Final Four: Notre Dame edges South Carolina in thriller, Tampa Tribune

On Sunday, senior Madison Cable, who had yet to score and attempted only four shots, scored the go-ahead basket with 16 seconds left after rebounding a missed shot by Jewell Loyd under the basket and putting back up nearly uncontested.

“I think it was a good time to get my two points for the game,” Cable said.

David Cloninger: 

There was no panic.

When Aleighsa Welch put back Tiffany Mitchell’s missed 3-pointer with 72 seconds remaining in Sunday’s national semifinal, South Carolina led for the first time all night. The Gamecocks were going to do it again – snatch victory from defeat – and they were going to Tuesday’s national championship game. It was scripted.

Notre Dame changed the ending.

Irish eyes smiling after this victory, Tampa Tribune

Think it didn’t matter? South Carolina players dropped to their knees or lay on the court when it was done. And the tears came. The Gamecocks were in the first Final Four in school history. It mattered. Dawn Staley’s team kept fighting back all night and grabbed its first lead, 65-64, with a little more than a minute left. The dream lived.

And now it had died.

Maloof: ND’s Loyd comes up big in crunch time, NCAA.com
Young frontcourt leads Irish back to title game, Michelle Smith, ESPN

“I think a lot of people coming in said we couldn’t handle their frontcourt and I think we did a really good job of it,” Turner said. “We just tried to battle the whole game and not let up.”

Turner and Reimer fueled Notre Dame’s offense in the first half, going a combined 8-for-11 from the floor for 20 points and eight rebounds. 

Notre Dame Shatters South Carolina’s Title Dreams, Courant
Cable’s putback puts Irish back into title game, ESPN
College women’s basketball: Unlikely hero lifts Notre Dame to national final, Duluth News Tribune
Notre Dame squeaks by South Carolina to secure spot in NCAA title game, ND Insider

Thanks to one of the most improbable finishes in program history Sunday night, Notre Dame’s women’s basketball team gets a shot at powerful No. 1 Connecticut in Tuesday’s NCAA Championship Game.

With freshman forward Brianna Turner, the team’s best shot-blocker and rebounder, fouling out with 3:11 remaining in regulation, with point guard Lindsay Allen – the MVP of the Oklahoma City Regional with a 25.5 scoring average – held scoreless and fouling out with 1:39 remaining, and with the team trailing for the first time with 1:12 left while in the midst of a 7:35 scoreless string, things couldn’t have looked bleaker for No. 2 Notre Dame against third-ranked South Carolina in Sunday’s first semifinal at Amalie Arena.

Or brighter, if you consider Notre Dame’s point of view.

Notre Dame Defeats South Carolina In NCAA Women’s Final Four, NPR
Farnum-Patronis: Gamecocks’ rally comes up just short
Notre Dame survives South Carolina rally to advance to title game, FullCourt.com
Gamecocks use loss as learning experience, ESPN
Cloninger Soundoff: Staley’s program built to endure, Go Gamecocks

For Gamecock fans, team still the ‘One’, Go Gamecocks
Video: Emotional Tiffany Mitchell on USC seniors’ impact, Go Gamecocks
Garnett and Black Attack

The South Carolina women went to Tampa looking to make history. They came up a bit short, but it wasn’t for lack of talent, or effort. Rather, an excellent Notre Dame team went toe-to-toe with the Gamecocks, and the Irish caught one extra break to grab a 66-65 win and eliminate South Carolina from the NCAA Tournament.

In-depth recap of Notre Dame’s victory over South Carolina, Swish Appeal

USC dribbled to the frontcourt and called timeout, but it seemed everyone in the building knew what would happen.

“We thought that Mitchell would get the ball and there would probably be a ball screen,” McGraw said postgame. Brian McCormick (also writing for Swish Appeal) sat next to me and said before the play that USC would set a high ball screen for Stewart. Steve Spurrier, Darius Rucker, and the rest of Hootie & The Blowfish knew USC would set a high ball screen for Stewart.

But ND hedged hard and beautifully, got a deflection, and forced an off-balance heave from near the hash mark by Stewart that wasn’t close when the buzzer sounded.

Game 2: Speed kills Turtles

Folks who follow the game know how devastating the cool and composed Morgan Tuck can be. The red-shirt sophomore seems to thrive on the big stage. Yesterday, when UConn’s A-game was not on tap, Tuck brought her All-American-To-Be into play to power the Huskies to a spirit crushing victory. Wrote Harvey Araton in the NYT:

Already trailing by 47-33, the Terrapins found a rare open shooter, guard Laurin Mincy, in the left corner. As Mincy set her feet and was about to launch from behind the 3-point line, the 6-foot-4 junior forward Breanna Stewart lunged with her long arms from what had seemed to be a safe distance away.

Stewart, recently named the Associated Press player of the year, deflected the shot. The freshman Kia Nurse caught the air ball, dribbled out of the pack and found a streaking Morgan Tuck filling the left lane. Tuck, a bruising 6-2 forward who missed last season with a knee injury, handled Nurse’s pass in stride, then made a gorgeous touch pass to Stewart, hustling back into the play, for a layup.

There was still 17 minutes 50 seconds left in the game, but it was all over except for the shouting, and the tabulating.

More on the game:

Maloof: Secret weapon Tuck leads UConn rout of Terps
UConn’s Tuck making most of return to court, ESPN
UConn Beats Maryland, Plays Notre Dame In National Title Game, Courant
UConn’s Kia Nurse Doesn’t Let Big Stage Rattle Her, Courant

Huskies Happy With Same Old Story, Courant
Huskies roll over Maryland, reach title game, Register
UConn easily dispatches Maryland, vies for third straight title, Tampa Bay Times
Women’s Final Four: UConn rolls into another title game, Tampa Tribune

When it was still a competitive game Sunday night, the Amalie Arena videoboard showed the familiar grin of actor Tom Cruise, who purchased a suite so his kids could watch the Women’s Final Four.

Appropriately, this was Mission: Impossible.

It was Maryland’s turn to take a crack at the top-ranked Connecticut Huskies. The Terrapins tried to run with UConn. It worked for a while.

And then …

This basketball game will self-destruct in five minutes.

Story just beginning for Maryland sophomores, ESPN

You heard it here first: at the Final Four two years from now, in 2017, the Terrapins could walk away with the title. That’s how good this team’s trio of sophomores — Brionna Jones, Lexie Brown and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough — are. (Also relevant: UConn star Breanna Stewart, who scored 25 points on Sunday and is going for her third title in three years, graduates the year before.)

Photos: Final Four: UConn Women Vs. Maryland, Courant

And prepping for the Finals:

UConn Vs. N.D. Perfect Ending For Tournament, Jeff Jacobs, Courant

Notre Dame is the only team in the nation that can score enough points to have any chance to beat UConn on Tuesday night. So for those outside the borders of a tiny New England state, getting Notre Dame into the national championship game is needed. Badly needed.

Yet inside the Connecticut border, there is a need, too. Or maybe a “want” is a better word. Look, South Carolina, with Dawn Staley and her program, is on an unmistakable rise. Although the Gamecocks’ first appearance in a national title game would have made for something new, something different, they proved unready when it mattered most Sunday night against the Irish in the Final Four to take that final step.

NCAA women: UConn to face Notre Dame in final, Tampa Tribune
Auriemma and McGraw’s rivalry, ESPN
Huskies, Irish set up title game rematch, Mechelle, ESPN

In a season in which there really were some unexpected thrills and surprises, the last chapter will be written again by two old reliables: UConn and Notre Dame.

It won’t be a meeting of two undefeated teams like last year’s NCAA title game, which was won by the Huskies 79-58 over the Irish. But it will be oh-so-familiar to women’s basketball fans, who’ve definitely seen this movie before. And its sequel. And the sequel to the sequel, etc.

UConn and Notre Dame to meet again for women’s national title, SI

And in the more future: Women’s issues could take center stage at future Final Fours

 When the NCAA Women’s Final Four returns here in 2019, the Tampa Bay area could find itself the epicenter of a wide-ranging forum on the most compelling issues that affect women.

If Anucha Browne sees her dream become reality, the annual championship event in women’s college basketball will also serve as a dynamic force to empower student-athletes and lure national women’s groups into the host city for networking and discussion.

“That has been my vision,’’ said Browne, a former standout basketball player at Northwestern who currently serves as the NCAA’s vice president of women’s basketball championships. “This is the premier women’s athletic event in the world, a celebration of women at the top of their sport. The next step is: how do you use this event as a platform to bring women together to discuss women’s issues?’’

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How about Notre Dame-shocker Miami at #16 Duke? Tough news for the Hurricanes, though, as they learned starter Laura Quevedo has returned home to Spain.

This could be UConn’s biggest in-conference challenge: Hosting USF.

Epps scored 20 to help #10 Kentucky to a victory in their first game after losing Thompson. Now they go into the Pete Maravich center and face an LSU team boosted by the return of Ballard.

#11 Texas A&M has had a wiggly season and Ole Miss has had a growing season. What will happen when they meet?

Monday gives us #21 Oklahoma State trying to recover from being stuffed by West Virginia. They go up against Oklahoma, who’s basking in their upset of Texas.

Who doesn’t love a good in-state rivalry? #4 Texas v. #3 Baylor.

The top of the PAC 12 is a feisty bunch (witness Washington State pushing #9 Oregon State). Wonder what we’ll find out about #14 Arizona State when they face #13 Stanford.

ESPN gives us a chance to watch Turner v. Harrison (otherwise know as #7 Notre Dame v. #6 Tennessee) at 7PM EST.

Did the arrival of a new year reveal what Notre Dame is not? Or what it is not yet?

If the second Thursday of the calendar year inspired doubts as to the former, Brianna Turner swatted at least some of them away on the third Thursday.

After a week lived out of character, defeat on the court entangled with drama and a potential departure off it, the Fighting Irish played the roles in which we have grown accustomed to seeing them Thursday night. On the road against a quality opponent that played with passion if not always precision, No. 7 Notre Dame beat No. 12 North Carolina 89-79. Down by double digits early, up by double digits in the middle and in a one-possession game late, the defending ACC champions avoided a second conference loss.

With a renewal of its rivalry against Tennessee awaiting on Big Monday (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET), Notre Dame perhaps also lowered eyebrows across the country that had been raised by its travails.

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but a bunch of other folks sure as heck did: Tennessee vs. Connecticut 20-year Anniversary

From Mechelle: One game grew into a phenomenon – First UConn-Tennessee meeting was touchstone for one of greatest rivalries

The series lasted for 22 games, including four matchups for the NCAA title (all won by UConn) and two others in the national semifinals (split by the teams). Former Tennessee coach Pat Summitt called a halt to the regular-season series after the 2007 season, and the programs have yet to meet again in the NCAA tournament.

Loyalists on both sides — and the rest of us who just watched and chronicled the spectacle — haven’t completely stopped talking about UConn-Tennessee ever since.

Now, though, rather than exhaustively exploring the entire series — which stands at UConn 13, Tennessee 9 — or the tangled, endlessly debated intrigue of why it ended, let’s look instead at what isn’t in dispute: How important to women’s basketball it was that the rivalry started.

From Jim Fuller at the New Haven Register: Jen Rizzotti reflects on UConn’s historic win over Tennessee

“It has become pretty apparent since that game how important it was with the rivalry with UConn and Tennessee,” said Rizzotti, now in her 16th season as the head coach at Hartford. “But it’s also the attention that is being given to women’s basketball because of that game, the tradition of having a great women’s basketball game on Martin Luther King Day. I think we all get it now. But leading up to that game, it was just a chance for us, with a little chip on our shoulder, to show we were better than maybe they thought we were. We were good enough to compete at that level and beat a team like Tennessee.”

It’s a lesson Texas is learning. First they lose to ISU, and then they get stomped by the “what’s going on with them?” Sooners. Suddenly, the Longhorns are 2-2 in the Big 12 and Oklahoma is a 4-0. Yes, Baylor looks like the class of the 12, but keep on eye on Pebley’s Horned Frogs (Oklahoma’s next opponent.).

And THIS is why I couldn’t jump in whole hog with the Mississippi State folks: The #15 Bulldogs lose their first game to Vanderbilt, and then follow that with a double-overtime loss to “Oiy, we were having a season to forget until the indefinitely suspended Danielle Ballard returned” LSU, 71-69.

#3 Baylor looked at giant-slayer Iowa State and went, “Meh.”

Oklahoma State’s Liz Donohoe hit 1,500.

Liberty’s undefeated in the Big South and High Point only has one conference loss... to the Flames. Rematch on  January 31st.

Yah, I know Texas Tech is 12-4, but we know what tends to happen when you pad your stats with cupcakes… Next up is #4 Texas.

#4 Louisville is 16-1, but their play (and their schedule, so far) doesn’t fill me with confidence. Does it you?

The MAC hosted the Debbie Antonelli Special: Akron and Toledo went at it tooth and nail, with the Zips winning 102-101.

I said Lehigh would have to go through American … and they didn’t. AU is now 5-0 in the Patriot and the Mountain Hawks are 2-2.

Just sayin’ – it should NOT take you an overtime to reach a 44-42 conclusion. Nor should a regular game end 41-38.

They aren’t what they have been, but the Great Danes still atop the American East (and coach Abrahamsson-Henderson earned her 200th victory). AND they’ve already beaten their competition, the NH Wildcats. Rematch on Feb. 4th.

So Conference USA looks to be having an interesting year. Perennial power Middle Tennessee fell (again) (at home) to Southern Miss in OT (77-75)  and Western Kentucky is 4-0 within the conference. Mark your calendars: the Toppers face USM on Jan 31st and MTSU on Feb. 21st. BTW, next up for the Blue Raiders? Summitt’s Techsters.

The first-year Lousiana Tech women’s basketball coach was born here. He went to high school here. He went to college here. He even married his high school sweetheart, who – to no one’s surprise – is from Tennessee.

So when the 24-year-old takes the court Saturday as a head coach for the first time in the same state where he grew up and that his mother – former University of Tennessee coach Pat Summitt – racked up more than 1,000 wins and eight national championships in, he should feel right at home.

Both Fordham and George Washington are undefeated within the A-10. They don’t meet until Feb. 21st, but the Rams shouldn’t overlook their next opponent, VCU (3-1 in-conference.). BTW, congrats to Kimberly Beck and nice of WaPo to notice the Colonials: Jonquel Jones has GW women’s basketball team plotting return to NCAA tournament

Jonquel Jones returned to the Washington area because she wanted to play college basketball in a winning environment. In her first full season since transferring to George Washington, she is helping restore one.

Freshman in Name Only Brianna Turner’s 29 points and 18 rebounds powered #7 Notre Dame over #12 UNC, 89-79. A better showing for the Tar Heels in the wake of McDaniel’s season-ending injury.

Pittsburgh wasn’t able to build on its stunning of UNC and fell to #2o Florida State, 58-43.

BOOM, Ole Miss takes down #18 Georgia, 55-52.

Yes, #23 Minnesota is a lovely surprise this year – especially after losing Banham. And yes, I still think Ohio State is going to be scary next year.

The Blue Hens surprised Hofstra, handing the Pride their first in-conference loss, 64-53.

Man, the WCC looks like it’s going to be fun.

Long Beach State is having a season to remember. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when the 49ers meet Cal State Fullerton on Jan. 31st.

The Gazette’s Mike Hlas notes: Iowa women’s basketball team wins, entertains – Hawkeyes are 40-12 since start of last season

This isn’t exactly a news bulletin, but Lisa Bluder is getting it done at Iowa.

Bluder has been the Hawkeyes’ women’s basketball coach for 15 years, and her teams of the last two seasons have been as good as any she’s had at Iowa. They may be her best.

Yikes: 74-year-old man accused of stalking UCF women’s basketball coach

Hmmmmm: Calif. HS girls basketball coach suspended after 161-2 victory

Congrats: Kingsway girls basketball coach Karyn Pickard has Dragons on track after 300th win

BTW: A note from AP’s Doug on the Arizona/ASU “error:” It was fixed once it was noticed — and it wasn’t a “not knowing the difference” mistake.  The voter actually had Arizona State in their poll originally, but there was a cut and paste error.

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Lehigh traveled to Arizona State and earned its first loss, 81-61.

ASU continued it’s undefeated-slaying by taking down Northwestern, 88-75.

The Penguins lose! After a rough start, Pittsburgh seems to have found it’s sea legs.

It took two overtimes, but Indiana State (10-1) handed St. John’s their first loss, 73.67. ISU’s record send me to their websitet, because I remember a while back they were very good… and then something mysterious happened and their coach was dismissed. Much not-good followed. Good started when coach Joey Wells entered the scene four years ago. How cool to know that Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir has landed there as a Graduate Manager (she finished her career there)!

As for the still undefeateds: I’m still looking at #21 Mississippi State and #15 Georgia with a jaundiced eye. They face each other on Jan 2nd.

In what one hopes for in the match up between two undefeated teams: #3 Texas and #4 Texas A&M, the Longhorns captured the victory with a last-second Davenport layup. How fun will in-state THIS rivalry be over the years!!

Speaking of in-state rivalries: South Dakota over North Dakota, 86-81. Off topic – I’ve not been to either state… and boy, is the mid-June birding festival in Carrington, ND is soooooo tempting. But, I might be conferencing in New Orleans… sigh. ;-)

Akron is 10-0.

#16 (and climbing) Oregon State. They’re at Tennessee on the 28th.

Princeton. Honesty, if they stay focused and injury-free, an undefeated regular season should be in the bag. If the can get a high seed in the tourney, they might move into the next round. BUT, they need to beef up their out-of-conference schedule. Unless folks are afeared of them….

#1 South Carolina. Looking at their schedule I see #12 Kentucky on the Jan. 11th… #5 TAMU on Jan. 26th…. but isn’t everyone looking towards their game at UConn on Feb. 9th?

As I called it, Stanford v. Tennessee was ugly. Graham seems optimistic about the future of the Vols (Better defense, Harrison’s return boost Lady Vols), but I’m not convinced. And Stanford is looking mighty shaky, aren’t they? When you need 30 from Samuelson to overcome 4-7 UC Davis…. Doug talks PAC12: Oregon State rises in AP women’s poll.

Is #17 Rutgers reverting to type? 66 v. Iona (a win.) Still no Laney.

#8 Baylor spotted #18 Michigan State a nice lead at half time, then quickly reeled the Spartans in, clamped down on defense and pulled away for the 19pt victory.

Not a huge win, but for someone who seems to be painstakingly building a program, San Francisco over San Jose State, 77-62, is something Azzi must be proud of. Junior Taylor Proctor earned West Coast Conference Player of the Week honors – the first Don do earn in-season mention in two years.

Speaking of painstakingly building a program, I’m guessing Patty Coyle knew what she was taking on when she stepped into the head coach position at St. Peter’s, but 0-9′s still gotta hurt.

Yup, I’m paying attention to Tsipis’ George Washington team, who defeated Saint Mary’s, 70-52. The Gaels aren’t quite the force they’ve been in the past, but when was the last time folks could think encouraging thoughts ’bout GW? Baby steps, y’all, baby steps.

Yes, they’re missing Goss, but to fall to #13 Duke, 89-68? Makes you go “hmmm” about the Wildcats.

You know, even in a “down” year, Marist is a force to be respected. The Red Foxes took down the Wabbits, 82-64.

Good news for the #5 Irish: Turner is back. Not so good news: they needed all of her 19ptsp to take down (3-7) Saint Joseph’s. 

Debbie Antonelli Special: Penn State v. South Florida. After the first half, tied 37-37. After the second half, tied 77-77. After one OT, the Bulls come away with the win, 90-87.

Debbie Antonelli Special, Part 2: (No overtime needed) #23 Iowa over 5-6 Drake, 100-98. (24 points in the last 65 seconds!) Guess we need to keep an eye on Bulldog sophomore Lizzy Wendell, huh. (41pts)

Debbie Antonelli, Special Part 3 includes some usual suspects: San Jose State 102, Sacramento State, 94.

Kudos to Cynthia Cooper and her team for not bowing under the challenges they’ve faced this year. West Coast USC has a lot of fight in them – as #19 Oklahoma State found out, though the Cowgirls escaped with a 66-62 win. Looking to the Trojans’ future, they will absorb UConn transfer Sadie Edwards and Alabama transfer Kaneisha Horn.

Speaking of teams that haven’t given up. Ohio State seriously stomped #21 West Virginia. This is a weirdly iffish Mountaineer team. They “let” the Buckeyes’ Kelsey Mitchell score 39pts in 27 minutes.

Got to see UCLA in person v. #2 Connecticut. The score says “rout” but man, the Bruins play hard and have some players. Looking forward to watching them grow.

So, I find this score interesting, how about you? Kennesaw State 61, Xavier 60.

Remember when I was wondering what happened to Florida (and Vandy and LSU)? Well, they faced Eastern Washington from the Big Sky and got schooled, 67-56.

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