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’cause it’s the most wonderful time of the yeeeeeeear… Take a deep breath, y’all, shut the door and pull up a chair ’cause you’ve got a lot of reading to do!

First things first: WNIT!!
Saturday, April 2  |  3 p.m. ET / 2 p.m. CT
CBS Sports Network – Thad Anderson (play-by-play) and Chiney Ogwumike (analyst)

The finals are set and it pits two programs who’ve got something to prove (to the selection committee): South Dakota v. Florida Gulf Coast University.

The Coyotes earned a birth by throughly handling Oregon, 88-54.

DakotaDome’s long goodbye as a basketball facility will now officially be talked about for a very long time. The old gal just doesn’t want to give up on roundball just yet. USD will now play the winner of Michigan vs. Florida Gulf Coast on Saturday accompanied by a crowd expected to be bigger than Wednesday’s.

“Even when we were just warming up at 60 minutes (before the game), the people were filling in,” said Kelly Stewart, who was one of six Coyotes who hit double-figures. “Then every time we came out of the locker room there was more people. And finally, when we were about to do the starting lineups, I looked up and I got a huge smile on my face. Everyone was smiling.”

The Eagles took on Michigan in from of a record crowd, and came away with the 71-61 win.

“It was a great defensive effort against a great offensive team,” said head coach Karl Smesko. “Now we’re excited to get to play for the WNIT Championship. The crowd was exceptional tonight. It was a huge advantage for us to have it here with that type of atmosphere. I’m sure it’s the type of game that these players will remember for a long time.”

FYI: WNIT NOTES

-Minnesota’s Rachel Banham scored 48 points on March 16 to lead the Gophers to an 87-80 win over Milwaukee in Round 1. That set a Postseason WNIT record for most points in a game, surpassing Tamika Whitmore of Memphis (45 against Arkansas State, 1999). 

-Sharnae Lamar of Northern Iowa dished out 15 assists to set a single-game WNIT record in the team’s 64-58 victory over Drake, 64-58. 

-The 2016 title game between South Dakota and Florida Gulf Coast is the second time since 1998 that two mid-major programs have played for the Postseason crown. In 2004, Creighton beat UNLV for the title.

-Before 2016, there have been 13 mid-major teams to reach the Postseason WNIT championship game. The six mid-major champions are Creighton (2004), Missouri State (2005), Wyoming (2007), South Florida (2009), Toledo (2011) and Drexel (2013).

About that stuff happening in Indianapolis: FREE Women’s Final Four Activities

General:

Indianapolis set to be center of women’s basketball world

All of the women’s basketball world will descend on Indianapolis this weekend in a celebration of the sport.

For the first time in NCAA history the Division I, II and III women’s titles will be decided on the same court.

“We can’t wait for the 2016 championship games in Indianapolis,” NCAA vice president for women’s basketball Anucha Browne said.

Celebrating 35 Years of NCAA Women’s Basketball

Beth Mowins to replace Dave O’Brien as announcer in Final Four, first-time all-female crew for ESPN at event

Women’s basketball | Final Four: Three first-timers crash party with UConn

Meet the Women’s Final Four

Audio: ‘Around the Rim’: Final Four preview

Audio: Kara Lawson with SI’s Richard Deitsch

Audio: Sue Bird talks about the low pay for women’s professional basketball in the United States on this edition of our Keeping Score with Rick Horrow audio podcast

Audio: HBO and The Ringer’s Bill Simmons is joined by Diana Taurasi to discuss her WNBA return from Russia, UConn’s dominance (6:00), the stupidity of lowering the rims (13:00), GSW’s selflessness (16:30), playing pickup with Westbrook and Draymond (21:00), and the struggling Lakers and D’Angelo Russell (30:00).

Audio: Special Dishin & Swishin Podcast: “Ambassador” Tamika Catchings welcomes the WBB world to Indy

Audio: Dishin & Swishin 3/31/16 Podcast: Doug Bruno is back to break down the 2016 Final Four

Women’s NCAA tournament: Four keys to the Final Four

Women’s Final Four: Can Anyone Stop UConn?

At Women’s Final Four, male-coached teams not a bad thing

These Are The Last Three Teams That Have A Chance To Beat UConn

SNYDER: UConn overshadows parity among other women’s basketball teams

VanDerveer: UConn’s rule isn’t bad for the sport — but next year it could be

Jeff Jacobs: In Women’s Final Four, It’s The Men Who Beat The Odds

Jeff Jacobs: Think UConn’s Geno Auriemma Is A Rock? You Should Meet His Wife

Pac-12 Feature: From ground floor to Final Four

My turn: JUST CATCH UP

Washington:

How UW’s and OSU’s Final Four run is a breakthrough for Pac-12 women’s basketball

Pac-12 Feature: From ground floor to Final Four

7 things to know about Washington Huskies (Syracuse women’s basketball Final Four foe)

Meet the Final Four-bound UW Huskies women’s basketball team

Washington’s jump shooter doesn’t jump

HUSKIES WOMEN: Masters of the Unexpected

Four knee surgeries later, UW’s Walton unfazed by doubts

Mike Neighbors: From Blockbuster To The Final Four

Oregon State

Five questions for Beavers-Huskies

Washington and Oregon State new faces in Final Four

New to following Oregon State women’s basketball? Here’s a crash course on the Beavers

Oregon State Beavers women’s basketball blending intensity, playfulness during Final Four run

Final Four newcomer Oregon State scrappy on defense

Watch: Gary Andersen and Pat Casey on Oregon State

OSU dreams big, embraces Final Four berth

Watch: Oregon State women’s basketball Final Four appearance called ‘incredibly miraculous’

Can Oregon State Shock The World?

Rueck’s Beavers have big fans in OSU’s 1963 Final Four team

OSU has unfinished business in Final Four

Aki Hill and the bliss of the Final Four

Open tryouts to the Final Four: Oregon State’s dramatic rise

Syracuse:

Syracuse’s Hillsman, Read preparing carefully for Washington

Syracuse women’s basketball guard Alexis Peterson brims with confidence

Keep shooting: Syracuse women’s basketball senior Brianna Butler does what she’s told

Turning point for Syracuse women’s basketball this season began with a loss

Kayla Alexander: Syracuse Orange Nation on Cloud Nine

Syracuse women’s basketball center Briana Day: Bigger foes aren’t going to push me around

Go Orange! Syracuse men’s, women’s basketball teams head to Final Four

Connecticut:

Is UConn’s sustained dominance bad for women’s basketball?

UConn may be the greatest college basketball dynasty ever

Geno Auriemma: Having to defend success ‘makes no sense’

Geno: Ignore UConn Women If You Want, ‘But Don’t Demean Those Who Appreciate It’ –

Why the dominance of the U-Conn. women’s team should be embraced

UConn’s opponents need to step up their game

Jeff Otterbein: UConn Women Simply The Best, Just Watch And Learn To Live With It

Here are a few additional assignments for sports columnist

Fans appreciate greatness, even when the games aren’t close

Fans don’t agree with columnist who says Huskies are killing the game

UConn Women’s Basketball Team Confronts Consequences Of Being ‘Too Good’

UConn too good? Quit the whining, beat ’em!

Respect the Women!

Be Great. Don’t Apologize.

UConn women don’t find winning boring

UConn women should be respected

UConn can join a pair of 4-peat pioneers in women’s basketball

Connecticut poised to make history again

UConn making something hard look easy

Huskies closer to place no team has ever been

Freshmen provide Huskies with needed backup help

UConn freshmen stepping up in NCAA Tournament

Samuelson’s family is UConn women’s basketball’s family, too

Women’s basketball: Connecticut’s Breanna Stewart leads a star-studded Final Four

Other basketball news:

Rachel for threeeeee: Banham edges Smith in 3-point championship

Brava: Jennifer Azzi comes out as gay, announces marriage to her USF assistant coach

“I, too, lived a long time not being 100 percent honest,” Azzi said. “Kind of the don’t-ask-don’t-tell kinda of thing. And it’s so stupid. I don’t know why we do that, but we do that. I’m a college coach. Is it going to hurt me with recruiting? What are people going to think? And you are constantly worrying about those things.

Supporters laud Jennifer Azzi for her bravery – but you can read the fear…

New women’s basketball coach Kenny Brooks raves about recruiting potential at Virginia Tech

Jonathan Tsipis’ plan to grow Badgers women’s basketball attendance starts with being visible –

New UW women’s basketball coach wants to keep state’s best players

Tsipis tasked with turning tide for women’s hoops

Wisconsin Women’s Basketball: Tsipis’ energy stands out during initial meeting with team

Bradbury named UNM women basketball head coach

KSU Women’s Basketball Coach Agnus Berenato

Kim Rosamond named Tennessee Tech women’s basketball head coach

Finally poached: UCF announces Katie Abrahamson-Henderson as head coach of women’s basketball

Former UConn players apply Auriemma lessons as coaches

Bye: Jatarie White to transfer from USC women’s basketball program

Bye: Two leave Duke women’s basketball team

WNBA:

Updownup-down… honestly, I think the NBA should raise their rim. It’s ridiculous how easy it is for the giants who play the game to score…

Army brass supports Minato in WNBA bid

Jennifer Gish: The next goal for UAlbany’s Shereesha Richards — the WNBA

Lindsay Whalen Joins Timberwolves’ Broadcast Booth

Deep Diving WNBA Data — Griner’s Paint Defense

WNBA Award Accuracy by Win Shares

Girls Sports Month: Candace Parker on what drives her, dunking and being a mom

WNBA Reveals New Apparel Items Celebrating Landmark 20th Season

The Legend of Lauren Jackson

Cool: Boomers And Fire GMs Head To WNBA Again

Following on from a successful visit last year to work alongside management at the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA, the off-court leaders at the Deakin Melbourne Boomers and JCU Townsville Fire will again embrace a fact-finding mission in Los Angeles and Phoenix this June, this time taking in eight sporting events in 10 nights.

WNBA star Chamique Holdsclaw “hitting game-winning shots” on and off the court

In case you missed it: Blake Griffin’s ‘Broad City’ appearance included a discussion about the WNBA

OT, but not really: Nike responds to U.S. national team jersey controversy

The sportswear behemoth that has outfitted the national team program for decades has been hit especially hard on two issues.

First, with the women’s jerseys, the low-cut neckline has been called unnecessarily sexualizing by some fans, and simply inconvenient anatomically for others whose body shapes aren’t the same as the widely used industry standard.

Second, with the men’s jerseys, you can’t buy one emblazoned with the three stars that represent the World Cups won by the women’s team. There are plenty of men who support Jill Ellis’ reigning champions just as much as they support Jurgen Klinsmann’s collection of question marks.

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So, yah, you (and the rest of the world) didn’t have this Final Four penciled in ANYwhere. (OK, maybe EIGHT of you did. Showoffs.) How. Cool. Is. That?

FWIW: Interesting a game at Bridgeport – the UConn fans were more nervous than the two teams. It was a fine, rough-and-tumble game… and a far cry from the rout of last year. Kudos to Aston/Texas for learning and growing from that not-so-fun experience. That being said, every time the Longhorns inched closer, the Huskies nailed a three, and so punched their ticket to Indy.

Favorite moment of the Bridgeport regional (in two parts): 1) Seeing Holly Rowe on the sidelines again 2) watching the camera guy assigned to her taking a selfie with her.

Was on the train home tracking the Oregon State/Baylor game. Can we get a measurement on the distance Kim’s jacket traveled? Can we get a temperature on the ice in Sydney Wiese’s veins?

Movin’ on

Tim Booth, AP: Washington and Oregon State new faces in Final Four

For three decades, any chatter about women’s basketball on the West Coast has usually started and ended with Stanford.

While the Cardinal are still among the elite programs in the country – as evidenced by their run to the Elite Eight – it’s Oregon State and Washington that are headed to the Final Four in Indianapolis and providing validation that women’s basketball out West is more than just what is happening at Stanford.

”We’re all seeing how good the Pac-12 is. It surprises me a bit how surprised I think people are across the country,” Oregon State coach Scott Rueck said over the weekend. ”You listen to just the general narrative of the Pac-12 and people are surprised, surprised Washington could beat Maryland. We’re not. We’ve played against them.”

Graham: Trio of Final Four debutants face tallest of tasks

Goliath is coming to a place so steeped in the legend of David that someone made a movie about it.

Even so, it will take more than running the picket fence of “Hoosiers” fame, Hollywood’s version of slinging a stone, to stop this Connecticut women’s basketball team in its pursuit of perfection — yet again.

Mechelle: UConn is advancing women’s basketball — not killing it

Town crier on the state of collegiate women’s basketball, based on reading a few headlines, in …

2016: “UConn is dominant! There’s no parity! Is the sport growing?

2006: “Finally, a Women’s Final Four without UConn or Tennessee! Just the second time that’s happened in 12 years! Is the sport growing?”

1996: “The exact same teams — Tennessee, UConn, Stanford and Georgia — are in Women’s Final Four as last year! Is the sport growing?”

1986: “Texas is dominant! The Longhorns go undefeated to win the NCAA title. Is the sport growing?

1976: “Delta State is dominant! Two AIAW titles in a row, and they’ll probably win next year too. Is the sport growing?”

1966: “Nashville Business College is dominant! Five AAU titles in a row, with no signs of stopping. Is the sport growing?

And with that, we wrap up 50 years of a sport. Pretty much tells the whole story, right? Yeah … not exactly. 

Mechelle: Rueck builds Beavers into national contender

She stood on the line with seven seconds left in the game, and a chance to give Oregon State a three-point lead against Baylor. Beavers junior guard Sydney Wiese wasn’t thinking about the fact that she’d missed one of two free throws 26 seconds earlier. Nor was she saying to herself, “This is for the Final Four. You absolutely MUST make these.”

Instead, the word that went through Wiese’s mind was this: driveway.

In case you missed it: Collier is UW women’s basketball team’s inspiration

Katie Collier loves her long blonde hair. Of course, when Collier learned she had contracted a form of cancer, the first question she posed to doctors had nothing to do with the possibility of losing her hair during chemotherapy.

“That was my second question!” Collier recalled with one of her frequent laughs.

Collier’s first question was a tad more serious: “Am I going to die?”

Five years after doctors told she would never play basketball again because of leukemia, and four years after her first season of college basketball was delayed a year by major knee surgery, Collier is the starting center for the Washington Huskies.

Shaq cheers for ‘niece’ on Syracuse women’s basketball team heading to Final Four

Lee Michaelson has a longform piece on the Beavers: Oregon State’s first-ever trip to the Final Four is “pinch me stuff,” Beavers top Baylor in Elite Eight and head to Indy

 “This is pinch me stuff; there are no other words for it,” said Oregon State head coach Scott Rueck as his second-seeded Beavers advanced to the first Final Four in school history after upsetting top-seeded Baylor, 60-57, to win the Elite Eight in the Dallas Regional on Monday night at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

Someone had better notify the Indianapolis Newcomers Club:  The Beavers now head to Indiana, where they will join two other Final Four debutantes, fourth-seeded Syracuse and seventh-seeded Washington, along with the overwhelming favorite and overall top seed in the tournament, reigning champion University of Connecticut, in the national semifinals on Sunday, April 3.

Elizabeth Merrill has a longform piece on Stewart: Being Breanna Stewart

Maybe Stewart is too close to fully appreciate it right now. On the surface, she is perfect. She is so good and does things so effortlessly that sometimes it looks as if she’s not trying hard enough.

Auriemma, in fact, believes she’s not trying hard enough. He’s always on her about her defense. It’s been that way for four years. If she were an infant learning to speak, she’d swear that “Stewie, Get In Your Stance” was her name.

That’s what actually led to her recent icy spell with Auriemma. Around midseason, she gave up three straight baskets to a player who Auriemma claims was at least 4 inches shorter than Stewart. The game, mind you, was a blowout.

That doesn’t matter, he says. “You can either go through life now and say, ‘Well, we won by 40,’ or you can say every night, ‘I owe it to myself and to all these people who are coming here and my teammates and everybody to live up to my expectations.’

Check out Lessons From Layshia: Tournament Time Double Standard

Now, I get it. UConn has been dominant. Historically, women’s basketball has lacked parity. But this was a #1 vs #16 seed matchup. This is exactly what is supposed to happen, which is why we care about upsets, it strays from the norm.

I looked but I couldn’t find anyone saying the same after #1 Kansas beat #16 Austin Peay 105-79 or #1 Oregon beat #16 Holy Cross 91-52. It wasn’t a story. It was predictable. Everyone moved on.

But maybe the most upsetting about this narrative being pushed is that there’s been a ton of upsets for the women this year. In the same way it started out as the year of the 12 seeds on the men’s side, it mirrored that on the women’s side.

WNIT!

Semis are set, and they oughta be doozies

Wednesday, 8pm, ESPN3: Oregon v. South Dakota IN Vermillion

 A ‘unique opportunity.’

That was the main theme for the University of South Dakota women’s basketball team on Tuesday, a day after the Coyotes learned they would be hosting a high-major team in the WNIT.

That’s right, Oregon will be playing at the DakotaDome tonight (Wednesday) in the 7 p.m. semifinals.

It’s certainly not the first high-major team to play in Vermillion, but it’s one of the most notable.

Thursday, 8om, ESPN2: Michigan v. FGCU IN Fort Meyers

The Florida Gulf Coast University women’s basketball has made no secret about its motivation this postseason.

FGCU felt spurned by the NCAA tournament selection committee. As a result, the Eagles are taking their frustration out on the rest of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament.

In other news:

Bye: UK women’s basketball’s Ivana Jakubcova decides to transfer

Bye: Joan Bonvicini resigns as coach of Seattle

Hello: Kansas top scorer Lauren Aldridge transfers to Missouri

Hello: Alabama lands transfer from UT Martin, three-time OVC Freshman of the Week DaiJia Ruffin

Hello: South Dakota State lands transfer from Iowa, forward Tagyn Larson

Congrats: Georgia’s Joni Taylor named 2016 Spalding Maggie Dixon NCAA Division I Rookie Coach of the Year

Congrats: Columbia University Hires Megan Griffith ’07CC As Head Women’s Basketball Coach

Congrats: Badgers sports: Board of Regents set to approve contracts for Tony Granato, Jonathan Tsipis

Congrats: Payne Named Colorado Women’s Basketball Coach

Congrats: Kenny Brooks Will Lead Tech’s Women’s Basketball Program

Congrats: Colgate Athletics has named Bill Cleary to its head women’s basketball coaching position.

Dicey: Vanderbilt’s Melanie Balcomb faces ‘evaluation process’

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it gives us a chance to see how the “middle/top teams” across conferences match up – especially in the later rounds.

So far:

American (Tulane) over SEC (Alabama), 53-52

Big 10 (Michigan) over Horizon (Wright State), 81-53. Rachel’s 48 is a new post-season WNIT record.

Big 10 (Minnesota) over Horizon (Milwaukee), 80-87.

Summit (South Dakota) over Big East (Creighton), 74-68.

A ton of interesting games on tonight.

That “other” tournament:

New YorkUAlbany women’s basketball prepared for NCAA Tournament

There will be no chitchat from the UAlbany women’s basketball team during the pregame meal at the NCAA Tournament in Syracuse. That’s not how coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson runs her team. She says she handles her basketball program like a business. So a gathering other teams might use to celebrate and relax she considers a working dinner.

Scouting reports come complete with a cover page announcing the team’s philosophy going into that game. For Duke in last year’s tournament it was: “fight and toughness”; for University of North Carolina in 2013: “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog.” 

Later this week, the pregame meal will be served up with a quiz, as always. Each Great Dane is asked to recite details from the player she has been assigned to scout.

New YorkObama picks UAlbany women’s basketball to win NCAA Tournament opener

TexasBaylor women more than Nina and Niya with Alexis healthy

“Our duo has turned into a trio,” said three-time All-Big 12 forward Nina Davis, who with national assists leader Niya Johnson helped the Lady Bears reach regional finals the past two seasons.

And a pretty good trio with former Duke transfer Jones healthy and getting ready for her first NCAA game with top-seeded Baylor after being the MVP of the Big 12 Tournament that the Lady Bears won for the sixth consecutive season.

VirginiaJMU women arrive in Louisville for NCAA tournament

The JMU women’s basketball team got one step closer to its NCAA tip-off

It was all smiles as the team hopped on the bus to catch their flight to Louisville on Wednesday morning. The Dukes then practiced at Bellarmine University shortly after arriving in the city where they’ll begin their tournament run.

This is the team’s third straight year in the NCAA tournament. The players said this year they are determined to bring a win back to Harrisonburg.

OregonBeavers ready to take care of unfinished business

Pennsylvania: 10th-seeded Quakers look to upset No. 7 Washington

The Quakers fought tooth and nail to emerge victorious from a historically competitive Ivy League. Now they need to get through the rest — and the best — of the nation.

Michigan: Michigan State’s star insists she isn’t thinking about WNBA

 Aerial Powers is arguably the best to play women’s college basketball at Michigan State.

Powers is five points from becoming the school’s all-time leading scorer, and 13 points shy of surpassing her own single-season scoring mark. She is the only player in program history to be All-Big Ten three times.

The redshirt junior so talented she might be starting her final run with the Spartans in the NCAA Tournament.

MarylandIn season of change, Maryland returns to NCAAs as No. 2 seed

Regardless of how Maryland fares in the NCAA Tournament, this squad will always be remembered by coach Brenda Frese for its ability to shine in the face of adversity.

ConnecticutAfter Much-Needed Rest, Huskies Itching To Get Back At It

Audio: ‘Around the Rim’: Lexington Region Breakdown and Dallas Region Breakdown

BTW: A shout out to Debbie Antonelli and Beth Mowins for all the hard work they put in laying the foundation for LaChina’s podcasts via “Shootaround with Beth and Debbie.” If you’ll remember, Debbie and Beth started their podcast independently, went over to the WBCA, then brought their work over to ESPN. SO – thank you to them and CLICK on LaChina and company to show ESPN you’re interested.

Where’s Jude and Shoni? Get ready for the Apache Youth Explosion Conference

Congrats!

Suzy Batkovic has been named the 2015/16 Wattle Valley WNBL Most Valuable Player after another dominant season in the front court for the JCU Townsville Fire.

Following a three-peat of MVP awards from 2012-14, Batkovic has made history with her fourth award, equalling Lauren Jackson in first place on the all-time WNBL MVP list.

Speaking of Australians: Bank Spirit star Kelsey Griffin will bypass the 2016 Women’s National Basketball Association season in an attempt to win Australian Opals selection.

Ooooooo, history! Photo Vault: Women’s basketball had long journey.  Of course, what I know is that the “source” is abouteducation.com but the actual source is the timeline I put together way back in 2004. But, hey, as long as folks are recognizing history….

 

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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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Congrats to St. Francis – Brooklyn, who defeated Robert Morris on their way to their first NEC title and their first trip to the Dance. They did it with three wins on the road and dead-eye shooting.

Sarah Benedetti led the Terriers with 29 points, including five 3-pointers. Jaymee Veney and Eilidh Simpson added 14 points each.

The fifth-seeded Terriers defeated No. 4 seed Sacred Heart then top-seeded Central Connecticut in double-overtime of the semifinal game before finishing off No. 3 seed Robert Morris.

“I’ve always loved the underdog story and I think this is the definition of a pure underdog,” Benedetti said. “It just feels awesome.”

Houston Baptist couldn’t pull off the next huge upset, so Northwestern State is in the Tournament again.

“I don’t know if we can put that into words,” Northwestern State co-coach Brooke Stoehr said of going to the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back years. “I know how I felt last year, and it was pure elation. I’m not stunned by what this group has done but just amazed. Their character and resiliency has been unbelievable.”

It took overtime, but Green Bay finally subdued the Wright State Raiders to make it to the NCAA – and get a smidge of revenge for last year’s loss to WSU.

A year after watching Wright State have the celebration honors on the same Kress Events Center court, UWGB gained sweet revenge in a thriller of a Horizon League tournament championship.

The top-seeded Phoenix overcame a 12-point deficit in the first half and secured a spot in the NCAA tournament by outlasting the Raiders 86-77 in overtime before a boisterous crowd of 2,214.

“It’s almost a relief, but I think our kids really wanted it badly,” said Borseth, his newly issued hat snug on his head.

Wichita State earned their third straight Missouri Valley conference title by defeating Missouri State 60-43.

Michaela Dapprich is at it again.

The Wichita State forward continued her usual late-season surge with 24 points as the Shockers beat Missouri State 85-71 on Sunday for their third straight Missouri Valley title and another trip to the NCAA tournament.

Alex Harden led top-seeded Wichita State (29-4) with 27 points. Jamillah Bonner added 18 points, Kelsey Jacobs had 10 to help the Shockers win their 12th straight game.

“I’ve just been feeling strong,” she said. “I’d like to say I wait until the end of every season to play my best, but it just happens that way. Everything falls into place toward the end.”

Florida Gulf Coast built a nice lead in the first half, then kept Northern Kentucky at bay on their way to the A-Sun Conference title.

“The most exciting part of coaching, for a coach, is to see their team celebrate,” Smesko said, after his Eagles (30-2) won their 25th consecutive game. “So when the buzzer sounds, and to see them all go to midcourt and have the type of enthusiasm for their accomplishment, that’s definitely the highlight of coaching.”

Every tape session at FGCU the past several weeks has star

A mid-game blackout couldn’t distract James Madison – and they needed their total focus to defeat the upset-minded Pride.

“The thing I’m most proud of is that we did it with a different cast of characters,” coach Kenny Brooks said. “It’s not like we had one superstar come through who just really sparked our program over a short period of time. We’ve had five different Players of the Year.”

The latest is Precious Hall, the 2015 CAA Player of the Year who entered the title game with a 20.9 scoring average and was coming off two straight 19-point performances.

In this one, the junior guard made one basket and scored nine points with six turnovers in 33 minutes.

“Precious will admit she didn’t play as well as usual, but the other kids stepped up,” Brooks said.

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(inspired by this past season, and a brief twitter exchange with @ladyswish) Some names to jot down when you’re pondering your next women’s basketball coach – be it for next year, or in three years. And, as I read some of these bios, it simply reinforces the connection between point guards and coaching.

Katie Abrahamson-Henderson – Albany. She’s only been there for 5 years, and accomplished a ton! Four straight league titles, anyone?

Jody Adams – Wichita State. Coach Adams, now  in her 7th year, has transformed the program. When when she took over in 2008, the Shockers had recorded 11 wins in the previous seaon.  WSU just won their third MVC conference title in a row and, with a team so young, it’s hard not to imagine there’s not more success in their future.

Jennifer Azzi – San Francisco. The revival of the Dons has been well chronicled at the WHB. Don’t know if Azzi would be interested in attempting to “rebuild” another program. I’m sure her current gig has been exhausting. But, a program that’s settle and needs a spark? Maybe.

Cedric Baker  – Savannah State. It’s been a long 12 seasons, but they won their first MEAC title this year.

Courtney Banghart – Princeton. She’s young. She’s smart. She just went undefeated and has earned her program a ton of attention. Who knows if she wants to leave the Ivy, but wow, what potential.

Laura Beeman – Hawai’i – The Wahine was a hot mess. Now, after three year’s of Beeman, not so much.

Bob Boldon – Ohio. First the Penguins. Then the Bobcats. Bob is a builder.

Anthony Bozzella – Seton Hall. Wherever he goes – LIU, Iona, Seton Hall – he turns programs around.

Kenny Brooks – James Madison University. In his 13th year, all he does is coach teams that win. They just earned their fourth CAA title in six years.

Michelle Clark-Heard – Western Kentucky. The ‘toppers just won the C-USA conference title and this year marked the first time WKU has been ranked in 17 years.  Shouldn’t be a surprise, considering that, in her first year Clark-Heard helped WKU to a 13-win improvement over the 2011-12 season output. It was the largest in Sun Belt Conference history, as WKU turned a 9-21 mark into a 22-11 record.

Brittney Ezell  – East Tennessee State University. In only her second year at the program, ETSU was picked for a bottom finish in a conference preseason poll. Instead, the Lady Bucs finished second to UT-Chattanooga and scared the you-know-what out of Mocs in the So-Con tourney.

Tricia Fabrini – Quinnipiac. Since the Bobcats moved up into the Division I ranks, they’ve shown they belonged – be it in the NEC or the MAAC. It’s been a 20 year journey, but maybe she could be tempted by another position?

Donna Finnie – Houston Baptist – It’s way early in her career with HBU, but consider what the Scotland native has already accomplished:

As Donna Finnie begins her second year as head coach in 2014-15, the HBU women’s basketball program looks to soar to new heights after a record-breaking inaugural season in the Southland Conference. In Finnie’s first year at the helm of the program, the team made huge strides both on and off the court. The Huskies won 12 games, the most since HBU began the transition to NCAA Division I in 2007. The Huskies also boasted the highest RPI in program history (251); a significant improvement from the 2012-13 campaign. Offensively the team exploded to produce one of the most efficient scoring attacks in the nation.

On this year, from WHB: The Huskies (15-17) were the 8th seed in the Southland and yet made it to the finals.

Cindy Fisher – San Diego. In her 10 year tenure, Fisher has moved the Toreros into the “often win” column.

Megan Gebbia – American. In only her second year, Gebbia took her team to their first Patriot League Championship.

Kellie Jolly Harper – Missouri State. Seems to me Harper was the sacrificial “next coach” at North Carolina State. She handled a no-win situation with grace, but couldn’t move the program forward. She’s having better fortunes at Missouri State, where she’s revivng the profile of a program that sailed to the stratosphere behind Jackie Stiles.

Yvonne Sanchez – New Mexico. She’s rebuilt a program that fell rather precipitously after coach Flanagan retired. Her first few years were not particularly encouraging, but this year has been different – even after she had to dismiss the team’s captain and center. The Mountain West predicted UNM to finish ninth in the conference, after finishing in ninth place a year ago, but they made it to the conference finals. She has not gotten a contract extension (yet). Folks I spoke to while I was in Albuquerque said the admin wanted more butts in the seats.

Karl Smesko – Florida Gulf Coast. Since joining Division I, all the Eagles have done is terrorize the A-Sun.

Brooke and Scott Stoehr – Northwestern State. Hired in 2012 to revive the Demons’ program that had won just six games the year before, the Stoehrs have done just that. The Demons just won the conference tournament title and earned their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance in the school’s history.

Jonathan Tsipis – George Washington. – In 2012, Tsipis took over a program that had won 25 wins over three seasons. WHB’s has been tracking the return of the Colonials to the top-25 all season long.

Kevin McMillan – Tennessee Martin – Six years ago, McMillan inheirited a team that went 2-27. Now, the Skyhawks have repeatedly ruled the roost in the OVC.

Amy Williams – South Dakota. Not easy to win in the Summitt, with in-state rival ‘wabbits lurking, but she has.

Ryun Williams – Colorado State. Left South Dakota and, in three years, has turned around a Colorado State program that had a decade of poor results. The #1 seed in the Mountain West was upset in the conference tourney, but I expect they’ll be back.

I’m sure there are plenty of other folks out there, ready to move up, including assistants that I know nothing about…. So, who else would you put on this list? womenshoopsblog @ gmail.com.

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Or, in this case, you’d have to say, “An Instagram is.

On a night of upsets and close calls, one would be hard=pressed to rank the “biggest” upset.

In a year of promise thwarted by injuries, it’s hard to vote against NC State taking down #10 Duke with authority, 72-59. From Mechelle:

No offense to Duke, but on this weekend, most of the women’s basketball world becomes part of Wolfpack Nation.

The annual Play 4 Kay weekend, of course, is in tribute to longtime NC State coach Kay Yow, who died in 2009 but lives on in the hearts of all who knew her. And you can be sure that the way the Wolfpack played Sunday in their 72-59 upset of No. 10 Duke would have a big smile on Yow’s face.

Not just because it was a win against one of NC State’s nearby rivals. But also because it showed the resilience of this season’s Wolfpack squad, which lost so much to graduation from last season’s NCAA tournament team.

Then again, don’t overlook Michigan State’s 10-pt win over #19 Rutgers, 60-50. The Spartans haven’t had a season to write home about, but Rutgers offense has sputtered since its early promise. MSU sophomore Aerial Powers set a single-season marks for points and double-doubles in victory over Scarlet Knights.

But wait, there’s more: Hofstra eked out a one-point win over de facto Conference Queens #23 James Madison. AT JMU.

“I wouldn’t say we had [the game] at hand, but I thought we had a chance to win,” Brooks said. “For that, I’m very proud of the kids. I’m very proud because they fought.”

According to Mickens, this game was far from a “wake-up call.” It was a loss to learn from and an opportunity to get better.

“I don’t believe in wake-up calls personally,” Mickens said. “It’s a humbling loss. It shows that we’re not invincible. But hey, it’s definitely a motivating loss.”

Certainly the Seawolves deserve a shout out for toppling Conference Big Dog Albany, 68-64. 

Last season, the Stony Brook women’s basketball team halted Albany’s conference-record 38-game America East winning streak. 

In front of 1,098 fans Sunday afternoon at Island Federal Credit Union Arena, the streak snappers struck again when Stony Brook took down Albany, 68-64, putting an end to the Great Danes’ 30-game conference road winning streak. Sabre Proctor led all scorers with 21 points, including 17 in the second half, on her Senior Day.

Clearly, defense was optional as the Buckeyes obliterated #13 Iowa, 100-82. Gosh, it’s fun to read Jim Massie’s stuff.  (Why hasn’t he been awarded the WBCA’s Mel Greenberg Media Award?)

Ohio State tied a scarlet ribbon around a signature win for its postseason resume last night in its final regular-season game at Value City Arena.

The Buckeyes scored 55 points in the second half and roared past 13th-ranked Iowa 100-82 in a Big Ten game in front of a crowd of 6,471.

The victory avenged a 73-65 loss in Iowa City on Feb. 5 and kept Ohio State (19-9, 11-5) in a tie for fourth place in the conference with Minnesota with two games remaining in the season.

And then, for sheer inter-state-conference rivalry sake, how about Cal over #18 Stanford, 63-53. On Senior Day. The Bears were just returning the favor the Cardinal gave’em a game ago. And ended the Cardinal 14-year run as Pac 10-12 champs.

Sun Belt upstart, Troy, takes down AR-Little Rock, 65-62.

“We really didn’t play like underdogs today, even when we were down by 10 points,” Troy head coach Chanda Rigby said.  “At that time my first inclination is to get in that frantic pressing mode, but we stayed back and played our zone defense, kept our gameplan and stayed in control.  The maturity of our team was a big difference in this game.”

Whoopsie! Charlotte knocks off Southern Miss, 83-72.

A “Yah, you won the Conference again, but wait until the conference tournament” win: Pacific over Gonzaga (the Zags first WCC loss), 71-59.

Some near misses:

#17 North Carolina over Miami by one. Make. Your. Free Throws.

Old Dominion over LaTech by one.

New Mexico State over Grand Canyon by one, clinching a share of the WAC title for the first time since 1995.

Ball State over Northern Illinois by one.

#14 Mississippi State over Alabama by two.

Seton Hall over Villanova by two, courtesy of a last second basket by senior Ka-Deidre Simmons From Steve Politi: 

Ka-Deidre Simmons thinks about the moment every day and wonders how she’ll react. Will she leap for joy? Will she start to cry? Will she play it cool like so many athletes do when their school pops up in the bracket during the NCAA Tournament selection show. 

She has no idea. She only knows that this moment — when the words “SETON HALL” finally appear in the field in three weeks — will be even sweeter because of her decision to stick it out in South Orange.

Hawai’i over UC Davis by two. The Wahine’s 19 wins is the most since 2001-02, when they won 23.

#12 Arizona State over USC by three — in TWO OTs.

“I’m so proud of this team,” Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne said. “When Kelsey was out, it was like ‘Wow.’ Our bench has stepped up and people stepped up. It’s only going to make us better, obviously, for March, because we should be getting Kelsey back, hopefully, maybe this week.”

Northwestern over Wisconsin by three — in one OT. The win propelled the Wildcats into the polls for the first time in 19 years.

American over Army by three.

 A win against Navy on Wednesday in Annapolis would secure the Patriot League regular season title for the Eagles.

“They’ve always been a tight group. I love their camaraderie and how they really care about one another,” second-year Eagles coach Megan Gebbia said. “But I think it’s been our defense. That’s the biggest change that we’ve made. I think it’s that end of the floor and just shooting with confidence.”

Bryant over Robert Morris by three.

Western Kentucky over Middle State Tennessee by three. The Toppers hadn’t beaten the Blue Raiders in Bowling Green since 2008.

“I know 19 turnovers is the difference in the ballgame,” MTSU coach Rick Insell said. “We didn’t take care of the ball. (We) did a very poor job.

“(Western Kentucky) did a very good job.”

After an incredibly ugly first half, #20 Chattanooga over Samford by 7.

Wichita State over Southern Illinois by eight.

In other games:

How happy is FSU that Romero got to play this year? VERY happy.

In one of the best all-around performances in school history, Florida State sophomore point guard Leticia Romero recorded the program’s second-ever triple-double with 19 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists as FSU defeated Boston College, 86-68, on Sunday afternoon at the Conte Forum.

What happened to Pittsburgh’s offense in the second half? Up 41-35 in the first, they only scored 13 in the second, losing to #25 Syracuse, 68-54.

Speaking of offensive offense – Debbie Antonelli better shield her eyes: Georgia only scored 28 points. Auburn only scored 44. I think they should be forced to replay that game until they get it right.

And let us not discuss the 36-32 Presbyterian earned. In overtime. Gak!

Debbie would have enjoyed this one: Minnesota over Michigan in double overtime, 91-88 . Zahui B only went for 27 points and 27 rebounds. Slacker.

Amanda Zahui B. should be the last women’s basketball player to wear No. 32 at Minnesota.

Call it insane to say a redshirt sophomore’s number should be retired when her career ends, but in two years, the decision to retire her number won’t even be arguable.

The month of February produced some unbelievable moments for the Swedish export.

Wowza – push-me/pull-you Washingtons: First Washington State pokes Washington in the eye, 83-72 . Then Washington kicks State in the shin, 83-43.

Nobody knows who UMass-Lowell is (and their first-year coach Jenerrie Harris, ex-Navy staff member). Even ESPN doesn’t have a page for them. But the River Hawks DID take down UNH, 70-65, so someone better pay attention soon.

The UMass Lowell women’s basketball team really should start campaigning for more games at the Tsongas Center. 

The River Hawks have certainly looked quite comfortable under the bright lights of the 6,111-seat arena in 2014-15. 

Playing at the Tsongas for the third time this season on Saturday, UMass Lowell delivered an inspired performance and remained poised down the stretch against one of the America East Conference’s upper-echelon teams. 

That’s five conference crowns in a row by Baylor.

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The PAC 12 is the most interesting power conference (ya, the B12 is kinda fun, and the SEC sure was — before all of those devastating injuries.)

Arizona State stakes a claim to “we’re better than the competition we’ve plowed through on our way to a #10 ranking” by taking down #12 Stanford, 53-52. It wasn’t a particularly elegant game, but it did give the Sun Devils their first sweep of the Cardinal since 1984.

“Beating Stanford is just such a mental hurdle for our team,” Moos said. “When you can finally overcome beating Stanford, that’s when you know your team has reached mental toughness.”

Washington, who’s been on the edge of upsetting folks, did it against #7 Oregon State, 76-67.

“It’ll hit us tomorrow how big of a deal it was,” Washington coach Mike Neighbors said. “Right now it’s just good we bounced back from a tough two-game road swing.”

The Beavers were down a player, Gabby Hanson.

“Gabby’s our best perimeter defender and if you had to miss one game in the conference, this was not the one I would choose,” Rueck said. “Washington’s strength is their perimeter so we certainly missed her. I thought we played with a lot of heart tonight. We competed, it just wasn’t our night.”

Speaking of upsets, Cornell does it again: Penn loses first game at Palestra in over a year

Penn (11-7, 2-2 Ivy) struggled once again on offense, and Cornell (13-6, 4-1 Ivy) took great care of the ball to keep the Quakers from making up for it defensively. Penn turned it over 14 times and was only able to force the visitors into five miscues. 

“It just goes to show you how much they had control of this game,” coach Mike McLaughlin said of Cornell’s ball control. “We have to cause a little more havoc on defense. We gave up too many shots at the basket, there were too many breakdowns – mental breakdowns.”

Next up for Cornell: undefeated Princeton.

Minus their leading scorer (ankle), #19 Nebraska couldn’t overcome #21 Rutgers. It was old school Scarlet Knights, winning ugly, 46-43. While it won’t win any style points, it was the 177th win in the B1G Ten for coach C. Vivian Stringer, making her the winningest in the conference.

“I was shocked when they talked about it,” Stringer said after the game. “I didn’t even know anything about that…I was just trying to get through this game.”

Finally got that “mini-signature win, though it was also pretty style-free:” #25 Syracuse over #13 North Carolina, 61-56.

The two teams combined to go 13-for-55 from the 3-point line and Syracuse pulled out the win after only shooting 27 percent from the field.

Shhh… that’s New Mexico State at 7-0 in the WAC. There’s a familiar name coaching the Aggies: Mark Trakh is in his fourth year.

Okay, it wasn’t anything to write home about, but it’s nice the getting back into the rankings didn’t freak the Colonials out: George Washington wins 52-35 over Davidson. Didja see the article in the Times about the University?

OUCH: Wright State stomped all over the Penguins, 92-55 to earn a little revenge. Nice news on senior Courtney Boyd:

Boyd has faced tragedy, injuries and adversity over the last few years at Wright State. On Thursday, she showed signs of a comeback. 

WOWZA: It took three overtimes, but we got a Debbie Antonelli Special: New Orleans with the upset over McNeese State, 90-86. When the two teams played each other on the 31st, the Cowgirls won 82-58.

“We made a few adjustments in practice and many people did not understand the first time why we played zone. When we played McNeese the first time we forgot our rotations. We were ready tonight. Their words coming were We can and we will,” said Coach Keeshawn Davenport.

Well, lookee here: like the Pac-12, C-USA has got some competition at the top. Southern Miss takes down Middle Tennessee State in OT, 70-65.

Southern Miss enjoys the underdog label.

Especially against MTSU. The Lady Eagles knocked off the Lady Raiders for the second time this season — and the third time since MTSU joined Conference USA last season — with a 70-65 overtime win Thursday at Reed Green Coliseum.

For the third time in three weeks, Southern Miss’ women’s basketball team beat the league’s first-place team, sandwiching a win over Western Kentucky with the victories over MTSU.

Western Kentucky will face the Blue Raiders on the 21st. After that, it’s a race to the Conference Championship.

The West Coast Conference is still a three way battle between Gonzaga, BYU (win #300 for coach Judkins) and St. Mary’s… with San Diego knocking on the door. Gonzaga faces all three in the last three weeks of the regular season. St. Mary’s next faces feisty Pacific and their equally feisty point guard.

Think she’s too short, isn’t quick enough or can’t shoot.

Kristina Johnson would like nothing more than prove you wrong.

Though often the shortest player on the court, the 5-foot-5 senior point guard has contributed to the Pacific basketball team in ways that sometimes can’t be measured. Johnson brings controled fury and a team-first attitude to the Tigers, who host Saint Mary’s in an important West Coast Conference game at 2 p.m. today at Spanos Center.

See – there is no WBH curse! William & Mary (4-6, CAA) takes Drexel (8-2) into overtime… and comes away with the win, 72-68.

For the second straight game the William and Mary women’s basketball team prevailed in a double-overtime, dropping Drexel 72-68 in two extra sessions in Philadelphia on Friday night. Senior Jazmen Boone led five Tribe players in double-figures with a game-high 16 points. With the win, the Tribe, which won its fourth straight game, moved its record to 11-11, 5-6 in Colonial Athletic Association play, while the Dragons fall to 14-8, 8-3 in league action.

Wait. Maybe there is… the Salukis (5-5, Missouri Valley) take down Drake,  81-76. (They lost to the Bulldogs 81-66 in their previous matchup.)

 It was scene that hasn’t been witnessed at the SIU Arena for a long time — especially where women’s basketball is involved.

Dyana Pierre picked up teammate Rishonda Napier and carried her off the floor (Great photo -WHB) after the Salukis upset Drake 81-76. Napier scored 30 points as the Saluki women handed the Bulldogs their first conference loss of the year.

The victory was the twelfth of the year for the Salukis. SIU won just five games last year.

High Point stumbled against Presbyterian, 78-59, and are now three games behind Liberty in the Big South.

Upcoming games of interest:

SIUE women’s basketball at UT Martin. The Cougars, who earned their 9th straight, are 9-1 in the Ohio Valley. The Skyhawks are 10-0 in the OVC. A win today would make a program record conference start.

Rivalry rematch: FGCU v. Stetson.

The Atlantic Sun Conference believes its two flagship women’s basketball programs – FGCU and Stetson – have their best chance to make the NCAA tournament in the same season for the first time ever.

Both teams, of course, would much prefer to be the automatic qualifier.

In-state rivalry: Western Michigan v. Central Michigan.

Youth has not been a major characteristic of the Central Michigan University women’s basketball team in recent seasons.

Many of the teams that have played in the maroon and gold have featured a class of seniors blazing a trail for the freshmen to follow in the seasons to come. 

For this season’s freshmen, it is a different story.

Service rivalry: Army v. Navy.

Sunday games of interest:

A-10 rivals: Dayton v. #24 George Washington.

In-state rivalry: #20 Texas v. #3 Baylor.

In-state rivalry: Miami v. #9 FSU.

Wednesday marks the Women’s Sports Foundation’s 29th annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day, and Florida State has several reasons to celebrate.

The last two years have seen an unprecedented run of success for FSU’s women’s programs. That includes a national championship for soccer, a best-ever regular season for volleyball, a Women’s College World Series appearance for softball and a current Top-10 ranking for basketball.

CAA rivals: Drexel v. James Madison. Coach Kenny Brooks just won his 300th.

America East old v. new: Hartford v. Maine.

Maine is currently riding its longest winning streak since it strung together 13-straight during the 2004-05 campaign. The Black Bears are coming off their biggest win of the year as they defeated the current #1 team in the conference, UAlbany, by a score of 52-44 back on Feb. 1. UAlbany, who leads the league in scoring (67.4 ppg) were held to its lowest total of the year in the loss to Maine. The win snapped a 10-game losing skid against the Great Danes dating back to 2010. 

SEC rivals: #17 Mississippi State v. #14 Texas A&M.

Big 10 rivals: #5 Maryland v. #19 Nebraska.

Though she’s 13 years retired, Maryland women’s basketball players call her “Coach.” At 70, Chris Weller still attends the games and even some workouts of the team she ran for 27 years.

Once, last year, she addressed the Terps after practice.

“I wanted them to know about the legacy we’ve followed,” said Brenda Frese, her successor.

The players got an earful.

She’s back: Versyp reinstates Moore

Foreign Flashback: Abrosimova Brought Magic To Storrs

Now back in Moscow, busier than ever, Svetlana Abrosimova remains a social media maven. She checks in with the world as often as time allows.

So it did not surprise her to learn that Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, the precocious three-point shooter from California, was about to knock her off the list of UConn’s Top 10 career scorers. She’d been reading about it and knew it was coming. .

And for those who remember the unique relationship Abrosimova still shares with Geno Auriemma, hearing that her congratulations to Mosqueda-Lewis was accompanied with a customary dig at her former UConn coach does not surprise.

“I could have scored a lot more if coach Auriemma didn’t make me play defense all the time,” Abrosimova tweeted.

Dueling Delphi’s: From Harvey Araton at the NY Times: Diana Taurasi Can Rest Easy, but W.N.B.A. Can’t

Taurasi’s decision was also an unavoidable commentary on the state of the professional game in the United States, just now short of two decades old, not far removed from its developmental cradle. The growth of the W.N.B.A. notwithstanding, its long-term forecast remains partly cloudy and it may never provide a lucrative, full-time living for its talent.

From Patricia Babcock McGraw: Taurasi’s decision to skip season isn’t a WNBA death sentence

When push comes to shove for aging WNBA stars, their overseas careers might get the push, and the WNBA might get the shove.

Doomsayers are predicting, well, doom for the WNBA, a mass exodus of its stars. Especially now that Taurasi has officially opened this can of worms.

But here’s what the WNBA has going for it: Loyalty. History. Location.

In other W news:

Delle Donne feeling good after “crazy” 2014 season

At Wednesday’s launch of their 10th anniversary celebrations, Elena Delle Donne showed why she’s been made the face of the Sky franchise. She was outgoing in her interactions with the 150 or so girls there for a sports expo, mingled easily with media and dignitaries and spoke strongly about the Sky’s present, future and what the franchise means for the Chicago sports landscape.

It was clear that the offseason has been good for Delle Donne after a 2014 season that was memorable for a lot of negative reasons.

Nothing like stoking an inter-city rivalry: 

Shavonte Zellous signed with Turkish basketball team Fenerbahce on Friday.

Zellous played last season for rival Galatasary, leading that team to the championship in both the domestic and Euroleague. She has been embroiled in a salary dispute for the past few months with that club.

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A last look at the biggest questions – NCAA tournament bracket will be unveiled on ESPN/WatchESPN at 7 ET Monday

Not a lot of “questions” coming out of yesterday’s fun final day for the 2014 regulars season.

OPA! Young (international) players brought it from both teams, but  senior Spanou really “filled it uuup”  against St. Francis (PA) to help lead Robert Morris to the NEC championship.

“It’s the perfect ending for our senior year,” Spanou said after being chosen the tournament MVP. “We wanted this since we came here as freshmen … I’m just really happy and really proud of the team. We overcome some tough stuff. We got the ring.”

Saddled with three fouls in the first half, Wright State’s Kim Demmings came out in the second half like a fearless house-afire. Teamed with Tay’ler Mingo, and a defense that forced steal after steal after steal (the Raiders forced 24) and did what they’d never done before: Win on Green Bay’s home court. Which also meant the go to the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history.

“It feels good, it’s obviously a feeling we’ve never had, so I don’t know how the ride back’s going to after a win,” said Wright State coach Mike Bradbury. “Probably better than the loss.”

James Madison made quick work of the Blue Hens on their way to the CAA championship. Lady Swish called this coach Kenny Brooks’ best JMU team – even better than the Dawn Evans era. Looking forward to seeing what they can do in the tournament.

“Their rebounding and our turnovers killed us,” Delaware head coach Martin said. “We rushed a lot on offense, and that’s because we were anxious and in a hurry. But even more important than that were their second-chance opportunities. They rebound the ball so well. They always have. They’ve got a tremendously athletic team and they get to the boards quicker than anybody in the CAA, and we didn’t put a body on them like we were going to have to.”

Fierce defense (they held the Lumberjacks to 32% shooting) and an unusual partnership produced great results for the Demons:

Two years ago, Northwestern State was 6-23 and brought in co-head coaches Brooke and Scott Stoehr to try to turn around the program.

The husband and wife team needed just two years to see results.

Chelsea Rogers scored 16 points Sunday and Northwestern State pulled away in the second half for a 62-44 victory over Stephen F. Austin in the Southland Conference championship, earning the Demons’ first trip to the NCAA tournament since 2004.

 Their dominant win over Drake means Wichita State is goin’ dancin’ – and so is their coach, Jody Adams:

Her slick disco-like gyrations brought a scream of delight from the players. “I only do it after championships,” Adams said. “It’s got to be for something special.”

“It was better the way she did it last year,” Alex Harden said. “But at least we made her do it again this time.”

I called it, if I do say so myself. Great game between two fierce rivals and, as it should be, it took overtime to separate the two: FGCU edged Stetson by two to with the Atlantic Sun title and an automatic bid to the tourney:

We’re there,” Smesko said. “And we’re going to prepare to win. We’re not going there being happy with the fact that we got there. We plan on representing the A-Sun and FGCU really well.”

Both have the same record, and it would be nice if the Committee could find a way to honor the Hatters’ season instead of offering a token tip o’ the hat to some “Big” conference team.

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WNIT: OSU women end tragic season with championship

Oklahoma State won the WNIT Championship Saturday afternoon with a 75-68 victory over James Madison. But the moments that really matter happened after the Cowgirls clinched the win.

A season that will forever be linked to the tragedy of the November plane crash that killed coach Kurt Budke, assistant Miranda Serna and program supporters Olin and Paula Branstetter culminated nearly five months later with celebration.

With hugs. With tears of joy. With smiles.

“It was like that fairy-tale ending for us,” Young said.

Also from Gina: Morning After Blog: Breaking down Oklahoma State’s WNIT run

Yesterday’s WNIT championship win for the Oklahoma State women’s basketball team was about so much more than basketball, and I wrote it as such in my story in Sunday’s Oklahoman.

But understandably lost in the shuffle of such an emotional win–and journey–was just how well the Cowgirls played during the WNIT. So let’s look purely at basketball for a bit and break down this postseason run for the Cowgirls.

From John Klein at the Tulsa World: Cowgirls’ emotional season has a happy ending

Littell said he couldn’t keep thinking about his friends and family throughout Saturday’s game.

“It’s been a long, tough year,” said Littell.

Budke’s wife Shelley continued to sit in her regular seats up behind OSU’s bench the entire season.

She got to help cut down the nets after the WNIT Championship Game.

“That was really special,” said Littell. “She’s a special lady.

“She’s been a rock for us all season.”

From the AP: Oklahoma State ends tragic season with WNIT title

From Chase Glorfeld at the Idaho State Journal: Oklahoma State women get Hollywood ending

Stories of “tragedy to triumph” are maniacally over-used in Hollywood and mainstream media and frankly have lessened the impact and importance of tragic occasions that occur in our own lives.

 But on Saturday, something that transcends while at the same time defines that cliché took place in Stillwater, Okla.
I really don’t know if such a terrible story when it started in November could have had much better of an ending than what happened in Stillwater on Saturday afternoon. The wife of late head coach Kurt Budke, Shelley, provided the final snip of the WNIT nets and the Cowgirls reigned victorious.

From Mechelle: From tragedy to triumph – Oklahoma State beats James Madison for the WNIT championship

At Big 12 media day last October, Kurt Budke sounded like he almost couldn’t wait to be at the same event a year in the future. He was excited about the young talent on his Oklahoma State team and felt sure that the players’ growth potential was very, very strong.

That’s the image I will always keep in my mind of Budke: smiling and looking ahead.

Saturday, on the same Gallagher-Iba court where Budke and his assistant, Miranda Serna, were eulogized last November after their deaths in a plane crash, those left behind had as happy an ending to the season as they could have hoped for after their devastating loss.

It couldn’t have been an easy game for either team to play, so I don’t want James Madison’s effort in the WNIT, and during the season as a whole, get lost in the shuffle. Said coach Kenny Brooks post-game:

I thought it was a hard-fought game. I thought both teams played hard. I thought (OSU) played better than we did for longer stretches, therefore, when you come to a venue like this and a situation a like this, you can’t have lulls. We had some lulls, and I thought that was the big difference, but give them credit. (Toni) Young is probably the best center we’ve played against all year. She was tremendous inside and athletic, and (Tiffany) Bias was probably the best point guard we’ve played against all year. Those two I thought were the biggest factors, and we just couldn’t contain them when we needed to. That group, they’ve done a very special thing for this program at Oklahoma State and we tip our hat to them. We just didn’t have our best game.”

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