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So, THAT’s not how the Sparks and Lynx wanted to get out of the post-Olympics gate….

LA went up to Seattle and got squeezed by the Storm, 79-72. Stewie struggled, but Bird picked up the slack, hitting 5-7 from behind the arc.

“It’s surprising because we didn’t have the best offensive night. It was all about defense for us,” said guard Jewell Loyd, who finished with 15 points, seven assists and five steals with just one turnover.

Nneka continued her hot play, but it wasn’t enough.

“I think we sat around for six weeks and everybody told us how good we were and I think we softened up,” said Sparks Head Coach Brian Agler.

Maybe Excelle should play the lotto (Connecticut Sun: a team on the rise, playoffs in sight) ’cause the Lynx got stymied by the Sun (and Moore’s foul trouble)  in Connecticut, 84-80.

“We have to grind,” Sun coach Curt Miller said. “We don’t out talent anyone. There’s a reason that four of those players (on the Lynx) are on the Olympic team. We aren’t going to out-talent anyone in this league, but we have to out work and out tough.”

No one on the Lynx is pointing to the Olympics as an excuse:

“In the end, it’s probably a wash,” said Reeve, when asked before the Lynx’s 84-80 loss to the Sun if fatigue or lack of sharpness would prevail. “Any advantage they may have from being off, full-rested, maybe honing some skills, the group that was over in Rio is in game shape and has that rhythm of playing a game. That’s something you can’t simulate when you’re off.

In San Antonio, the Liberty kept their focus and dispatched the Stars, 84-77, thanks to the sweetness that is (MIP) Sugar. Hello, playoffs!

Elena Delle Donne brought the 34-point boom to Chicago as the Sky took down Atlanta, 90-82.

“We took care of the basketball, and I think the key was we married that to good offensive execution and attacked and got to the free throw line,” said Sky coach Pokey Chatman. “I think that comfort allowed us to weather the storm when we were down by seven and then up by eight. 

“It was nice to see that, and we’ll need it as we head on to Dallas.”

Speaking of Dallas, the eternal Pierson’s 23 (and 4000th) couldn’t help the Wings against Penny “sore throat” Taylor and the rest of the Merc.

Phoenix Mercury players won a combined four medals at the Rio Olympics, and more importantly, may have found the defense and chemistry that was missing before the Olympic break.

Despite falling behind by 11 early against Dallas on Friday night, the Mercury hammered the Wings 98-72 before 11,396 at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Phoenix’s most one-sided win of the season came against a team it went 0-3 against pre-Rio, including a triple overtime loss June 18 after leading 75-59 going into the fourth quarter.

Washington Post: Mystics and WNBA are back from Olympic break, but LaToya Sanders got no rest

Aussie, Aussie, ello! Mystics Sign Leilani Mitchell as Bria Hartley starts planning for a munchkin.

Slam Online: WATCH: WNBA Super20

The historic 20th WNBA season has been one for the record books. The Lynx and Sparks got off to a blazing hot start, the W has faced controversy for trying to police its players and the basketball has never been better.

With all the talent and storylines around the League, the final part of the regular season and the playoffs provide a guaranteed storybook ending.

Get hype for the rest of the 2016 campaign, picking up again tonight, with the video above, featuring highlights from the first part of the summer.

Also: Nike & WNBA Star Elena Delle Donne Donate Sneakers To Delaware Newborns

Meanwhile:

Doug Bruno savors experience with USA women’s basketball team

Baylor women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey donates to Louisiana hometown in wake of flooding

Vermont women’s basketball cancels game at UNC over transgender bathroom law

“The decision to cancel to our Dec. 28 women’s basketball game at North Carolina was made as a result of concerns over the HB2 law, which prevents transgender people from using government-run bathrooms based on their gender identity,” University of Vermont athletic director Jeff Schulman said Wednesday. “We strive very hard to create an inclusive climate for our students and staff in which they all can feel safe, respected, and valued. It would be hard to fulfill these obligations while competing in a state with this law, which is contrary to our values as an athletic department and university.”

WATN? Rodrigo is new grad assistant for Georgia basketball

WATN? Mo’ne Davis shifts her drive to the basketball court: The Little League World Series pioneer two years later

Davis, 15, is heading into her sophomore year of high school at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy. She dreams of a career in the WNBA, and she knows the journey begins with the process of college recruitment. That’s why Davis has made the decision to forgo high school basketball this season – after representing her school as an eighth-grader and a freshman – and exclusively play AAU with the Philly Triple Threat team, where she can go head to head with the best talent in the nation.

“I made the decision because it was time to start getting out there in front of college coaches and showing my improvement over the next two years,” Davis said.

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the MSG employee (and her fabulous family) who offered me a seat with her “group” so that I could be near the two South Korean students who I escorted to their first Liberty game. She’s a two-time cancer survivor, with three young children who are GREAT company. So. Much. Fun. And so much generosity of spirit. A classic WNBA experience.

Of course, it helped that the Liberty won. Not to be a party pooper, but when it takes the ferocious effort of the soon-to-be-retiring Swin to inspire your team to to a close win over a struggling team... I’m not impressed.

On the flip side, a shout out to the “Not in MY house” Dream who stopped the Sparks.  With authority. Admit it – you lost money on that bet.

“We just wanted it,” McCoughtry said. “I told the team this was the game that could be the turnaround for our season. If we can beat them, we can beat anybody in this league. I hope the girls take this win and build their confidence so we can contend in this league and do some damage.”

Sucky Sancho news, though.

In case you haven’t notices, Elena is DAMN good. Delle Donne Brings Versatility To Life In MVP-Caliber Performance

As the Sky make their push for the playoffs over the last dozen games, they’ll need EDD at her MVP-best. Which is right where she was on Sunday in Seattle. 

Delle Donne poured in 35 points on a neat 14-for-24 shooting, grabbed 11 rebounds, and drained the game-winning three right over Breanna Stewart’s outstretched arm with just one second remaining.

For the geeks amongst us: Free Basketball: Analyzing The Historic Number Of WNBA Overtime Games

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But I gotta say, with all the hate and horror this past week, I have to wonder about Skylar’s tweet:

Some of the comments I heard from the fans last night disgusted me. Completely unnecessary and nothing to do with ball.

Not. Okay. SO not okay.

Speaking of NOT OKAYBrittney Griner Responds To Happy Father’s Day Trolls On Twitter

Speaking of ALSO NOT OKAY: Who the hell writes your headlines AP/ESPN? This is what you produce after a three-overtime game? Wings beat Mercury in 3OT in first game between Brittney Griner and Glory Johnson since divorce Take a moment sports and copy editors and look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Who do I work for, a sports site or a gossip rag?”

Now, about that triple-OT game. It was a doozy – with lot of basketball drama. From Swish Appeal: 

Phoenix head coach Sandy Brondello was quick to give Dallas credit for their resilience.

“We just didn’t have the energy, we built that seven-point lead, and we got some wide open three’s and we just broke down,” Brondello said. “This (Dallas) is a team that has a lot of confidence; Skylar Diggins got back into the flow of her game. We were on our back foot, obviously, foul trouble hurt us – when Diana went out.”

From Jeff Metcalfe: 

The Mercury (4-8) dropped the second of back-to-back games after losing Friday in Los Angeles and fall to four games under .500 for the third time.

“We let it slip away,” said Taylor, who scored 21 points. Taylor said she did not commit a foul with 15.5 seconds left but was told by the official “that he thought I wanted to foul. But I didn’t. It was a game we had control of but had too many mistakes and too many breakdowns. We have to take a look at ourselves and try and turn it around.”

BTW @WNBA – any way you can contact google and inform them that the Shock are no longer the Shock?

Dream: Carla Cortijo embraces role as WNBA’s only Puerto Rican-born player

Yes! LeBron, Russell Westbrook praise WNBA in new ad set to debut Monday night and Hell, yes! WNBA’s Nneka Ogwumike shot the ball 20 times in a game and didn’t miss

Cool: Sports Humanitarian finalists: Brent Burns, Tina Charles, Carlos Dunlap, Chris Paul

Fever: USC’s Mitchell thriving in WNBA

“I think this put me in the best situation, honestly,” said Mitchell. “I use it as motivation just because I felt I could have been a higher draft pick. But, at the end of the day, I knew I was going to make the most out of any opportunity I had and I had to put my best foot forward.”

Yes, yes, how soon does June 21st get here!?!??!?!? WNBA Power Rankings: Minnesota Lynx, LA Sparks Continue Early Dominance From Michelle: 

Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve looked around after practice and saw nearly 50 members of the media there to greet her and her Lynx players to talk about being on the cusp of the best start in WNBA history.

“There are a lot of people here, something must be going on,” Reeve said with a chuckle.

That good humor is hard-earned, as Minnesota has stormed out to a 10-0 record to open the season, matching the best start in WNBA history.

LaChina’s Podcast: 

On this week’s “Around the Rim,” women’s basketball analyst LaChina Robinson covers the Lynx’s historic start to the WNBA season and speaks with two of the game’s brightest stars — Sky rookie Imani Boyette and three-time WNBA champion and Mercury guard Diana Taurasi.

Flashback time: Twenty years later, a look back at WNBA’s first game

“All those games I’d watched as a kid, the Celtics-Lakers games, it was in that building, on that court,” said Lobo, who finished the first game with 16 points and six rebounds. “It was that same kind of atmosphere in terms of a lot of fans there, TV cameras right there. It felt big.

“The game itself I remember us winning, which was important. But there was just so much around it that is even a bigger memory to me than some of the things that happened on the court.”

AdiosFormer UConn star Swin Cash on WNBA farewell tour and Retiring Swin Cash trying to stay in the moment in final WNBA season

And yes, I know they’re doing a “Top 20 of the last 20 (WNBA 20th Season Celebration Will Honor 20 Greatest Players),” and Mel’s asked for your input (WNBA Top 20 All-Time Players: The Guru Offers You the Chance to be His Committee but all those lists do is start arguments vs. discussions of the game. Me? I’d rather they just put in them in (reverse) alphabetical order…

Babcock McGraw: Parker, Catchings among 20 best players in WNBA’s 20-year history

International: China, France, Spain and Turkey clinch women’s basketball places at Rio 2016

Geno Auriemma getting ready for run with U.S. women’s national team

BTW: Coming to New York for the USA National team game on July 31st? Gimme a holler – maybe we can meet for dinner afterward? (And if you want to avoid ticket fees, I can pick up seats for you too – womenshoopsblog@gmail.com

Also: It’s to early to plan for FIBA 2018/Spain… but it sure ain’t too early to start saving for the trip….hint, hint, hint.

NCAA: 

Goodbye/hello: St. Bonaventure women’s basketball Miranda Drummond transfers to Syracuse

Goodbye? Morgan State reassigns women’s basketball coach Donald Beasley

Oregon Ducks women’s basketball coach Kelly Graves excited about incoming recruiting class

Coach Jeff Mittie seeks faster pace from K-State women’s basketball team

Congrats:

The 1991-92 and 1992-93 Arkansas Tech University women’s basketball teams have been selected for induction into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.
 
The Golden Suns of the early 1990s are the only four-year college basketball teams from the State of Arkansas to ever win back-to-back national championships.

Another Library addition: Fight! Fight!: Discovering Your Inner Strength When Blindsided by Life and Q&A with women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell

Less than a month after being inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in September 2013, UNC women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. Her new book, “Fight! Fight!: Discovering Your Inner Strength When Blindsided by Life,” details her battle and eventual triumph disease. 

High School: Two girls’ basketball players in Ky. sue coach for bullying, intimidation

Two graduating seniors are now suing their prep basketball coach, accusing him of bullying, abuse and intimidation.

Four months after finishing their Muhlenberg County (Greenville, Ky.) girls’ basketball careers, Makayla Sampson and Kerra Vincent are seeking disciplinary measures against Lady Mustangs coach Mike Harper as well as compensation for the injuries and resulting medical treatment they say he forced them to play through, according to WBKO-TV.

Ball: Women’s rec basketball gets a starring role in new Pistol Shrimps documentary

The pistol shrimp is a ferocious creature the size of a human finger, armed with a deadly, oversized claw that functions like a handgun, sending tiny air bullets speeding at 60-plus miles per hour toward its victim. These Pistol Shrimps are 13 women on a rec league basketball team in Los Angeles. They, too, are fierce. They’re funny. They have their own dance team. And last season, they almost went undefeated. So, so close.

The Shrimps’ chase to the L.A. City Municipal Women’s Basketball League division championship provides the backdrop for a new documentary, “The Pistol Shrimps,” which introduces viewers to the most famous women’s intramural team in the world, and is only tangentially about the game of basketball.

“From the outside, we look like an unassuming basketball team,” says singer/songwriter/point guard Jesse Thomas, No. 99 on the Pistol Shrimps. “But after you watch the movie, you realize there’s a lot more going on than just basketball. It’s inspirational.”

From Deadline: ‘The Pistol Shrimps’ Tribeca Trailer: These Women Are Ballers On And Off The Court

Warning to haters from Pistol Shrimp baller Aubrey Plaza, just in time for the NBA Playoffs: “You’re either with us or you’re against us — and God help you if you’re against us because we will dunk on your ass so hard!” Here’s a first look at The Pistol Shrimps, a docu-take on the basketball collective made up of actresses, comics and attitude. Shocked — shocked! — to learn that there were no women’s leagues in Los Angeles, they formed their own, and a hard-fouling, trash-spewing semi-juggernaut was born.

 

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Welp – I guess the cream of the West showed the Challengers of the East, huh?

Fare-the-well:  Inside The W with Michelle Smith

Swin Cash was on a conference call for the WNBA on Monday morning, talking with reporters in conjunction with Tuesday night’s nationally televised game between the Sparks and Liberty, which is an anniversary rematch of the first-ever WNBA game back in 1997.

She was, as always, a passionate, eloquent advocate for the league, a veteran spokeswoman for her team, and as it turns out, a soon-to-be-retiree.

Cash announced Tuesday morning via a personal essay for The Players Tribune that she will be ending her decorated WNBA career at the end of the 2016 season.

Social Reaction: Swin Cash’s Retirement

Film Room: Running Down a Dream

Candace Parker Provides Perfect Spark

Crap: Chicago Sky loses guard Laney to season-ending knee injury –

WATN? WNBA star Nicole (Ohlde) Johnson: Never give up

NCAA

“In the recent months, there have been accusations and false attacks made of my character and coaching,” Swoopes said in a statement released by a public relations firm. “I stand proudly in my values, actions and intent of representing the best interests for students — as athletes, but more importantly as individuals.

High/Middle School

Thank you : Master at his Craft: Longtime Collinsville Middle School girls basketball coach retires

After 30 years and more than 600 victories as a girls basketball coach at Collinsville Middle School, formerly North Junior High, Greg Craft is calling it a career.

Craft, 55, retired in May as a science teacher and coach. More than anything, he will miss the relationships he’s built with players during the last three decades, and it’s that aspect of retirement that has Craft not ready to completely say good-bye.

WBHOF

June Courteau first heard an official’s whistle while growing up in Minnesota, specifically when she exceeded the three-dribble limit during a high school physical education class. Her reaction was swift and pointed.

“I told the teacher ‘that’s stupid,’ ” she said.

Courteau undoubtedly has been on the other side of such a comment. She has 45 years worth of experience in officiating. She worked for decades on the court in the heat of the moment. She now oversees such work as the NCAA coordinator of officials.

It’s hard to separate Natalie Williams the basketball star from her volleyball alter ego. This weekend’s festivities in Knoxville will constitute a supreme effort in that regard.
Since she was on a basketball scholarship at UCLA, Williams considered herself to be a volleyball walk-on. She was a four-time All-American walk-on (1989-1992) who helped lead the Bruins to volleyball national championships in 1990 and 1991. She was the first woman to receive All-American honors in both sports in the same school year (1992-93).

Sherri Coale, in her own words
Summitt’s stand re-launched OU women’s basketball, and ignited a Hall of Fame coaching career
Friends and Foes: Conradt, Sharp Reflect on Coale
Sherri Coale has been model of consistency at Oklahoma

The AAU girls basketball tournaments that span age groups and take place throughout the country serve to promote the sport. They also honor and preserve the legacy of Bill Tipps.Eddie Clinton is involved with the AAU program in West Tennessee and benefitted from Tipps’ assistance as the organization’s national chair. Clinton saw firsthand Tipps’ people skills and diligence in action. “It was a labor of love for Bill,” Clinton said. “Whatever it took to build girls basketball, he wanted to do. Girls basketball would not be what it is today without Bill Tipps.

“We’re girls and we just want to have fun,” said 90-year-old Mary Wersells, the first girls’ basketball coach at Simeon High School as she reflected on the history of the sport.

Nearly four decades ago, Title IX was enforced which prohibited discrimination against female athletes. This opened the doors for pioneers in Chicago like Wersells and 81-year-old Narcissa Roberts, who became the first girls’ basketball coach at Corliss High School in 1973.

INTERNATIONAL
Library Additions: 
Rise and Fire by Shawn Fury. Writes Shawn:
The book basically traces the jump shot’s influence on the game from the time of its introduction to today’s dominance of the 3-pointer. But along the way I take a lot of detours and one chapter focuses on the 1968 Iowa girls title game. It featured the shooting exploits of Jeanette Olson and Denise Long. I write about both players and that famous game and then of course about Denise being drafted by the Warriors. It was my editor’s favorite chapter in the book and several reviews have noted it, including the Washington Post’s.

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It’s almost as hot as L.A. and Minnesota are… yup, counting down to June 21st.

Meanwhile, folks in Chicago and Phoenix are scratching their heads.

Excelle: What’s wrong with the Phoenix Mercury?

Prior to the season, the Phoenix Mercury were favorites to take home the 2016 WNBA Championship. The majority of the league’s general managers picked Phoenix to win it all in their annual survey. Multiple Associated Press voters and some betting sites also favored the Mercury. But not two weeks later, the team is 0-4 and playing the worst defense in the WNBA. So, what happened?

It’s important to note that we’re just four games into the season, so hitting the panic button would be premature. Two of Phoenix’s losses were at the hands of the Minnesota Lynx, the defending champions. The other two were tight games against solid teams. Things could turn around quickly, but not without addressing some red flags.

Meanwhile…

SlamOnline: Q+A: Imani Boyette – With patience and hard work, Chicago’s rookie center is staying ready for when her number is called.

One record-setter salutes another – Pro from Don Lugo congratulates athlete who took her place in book

“My dad sent me this article and the photo and it said you broke my record,” Ms. Taurasi told Ana during their meeting on the court. “That’s good, records are meant to be broken.”

Their meeting was video taped, and was part of a 90-second video shown to the 10,000-plus fans in attendance that night during a time out.

Star Tribune: Lynx aim to stay undefeated vs. familiar foe

Moving on up: Unbeaten Sparks 2nd in AP WNBA power poll and WNBA: The Los Angeles Sparks Will Fly

Jeff Jacobs: Chiney And Nneka Ogwumike Foes On Court, Sisters Off

They went to dinner together Wednesday night. And when this game had ended, Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike walked off the court together, arms wrapped around each other’s shoulder.

After the 77-72 loss to the unbeaten Los Angeles Sparks, a heartened rookie Sun coach Curt Miller would say he felt his team had “grown up” Thursday night at Mohegan Sun Arena. The coming schedule, of course, will prove Miller correct or not.

This much is certain. Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike have grown up together and will never grow apart. Sisters forever.

Rolling Stone: Elena Delle Donne’s Silent Supremacy

Amsterdam Times: Liberty drop two overtime games (Yah, we know. Sigh)

Billboard: Ballin’ Out Podcast: Fat Joe & the WNBA’s Breanna Stewart on How They Came ‘All the Way Up’

ESPN: WNBA veteran DeLisha Milton-Jones wants to go out on own terms

After another “Year of Women’s Sports” is it any surprise we get this from the Times? Pro Basketball|After Two Decades, WNBA Still Struggling for Relevance or AJC’s Is WNBA’s expectation for success just a dream?

Then there’s MSR: Youngsters inspired by WNBA trailblazers

These are the post-1997 players. These women hoopsters saw first-hand America’s longest running and most successful women’s pro basketball league as it moved from the drawing board to reality. As youngsters they could finally join their male counterparts and dream about something that many pre-WNBA generation players could only do abroad — one day playing pro ball in the States.

“The first time I thought about it, I was in fourth grade,” said Morgan Tuck, a rookie with Connecticut.

Dallas rookie Aerial Powers noted, “I can’t remember a specific moment [when she thought about playing professionally], but I do remember the Lisa Leslie dunk and her putting her hands up to the crowd.”

NCAA

Welp: Ole Miss self-imposes postseason ban for women’s basketball; reduced scholarships in football

Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie battles on and off the court

This was planned as the story of a 50-year-old coach who uses her celebrity to help raise awareness and funds to combat a deadly disease that haunts her life and scarred her body. The fact her 2016 team failed to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time in her nine-year tenure, the first time at Duke since 1994, only made it a more compelling tale of struggle and challenge.

But things have a way of turning out differently than we expect.

Hello: Hartford Hires Kim McNeill As Women’s Basketball Coach

Not too surprising, considering her record: Alabama A&M University: Head coach Semeka Randall resigns

Bye/Hello: Syracuse Women’s Basketball: Florida Guard Isis Young to Transfer to Orange

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Thank goodness.

An ugly, cranky start by the Merc gave Maya Moore the Lynx a nice lead. And then then Penny Taylor in the fourth quarter happened. And then… Bonner missed a FT, Maya didn’t, Diana missed a three and Big Syl grabbed the rebound. Lynx go to 4-0, Mercury fall to 0-4.

From Richard at WNBAlien: WNBA and the Pick+Roll, and introducing the W Dozen

Eleven days into the WNBA season, it’s a little early to be drawing any real conclusions (although the ‘Minnesota good’, ‘San Antonio bad’, and ‘What the hell is going on in Phoenix?’ hot-takes are already emerging). So we’re going to take a look at one of the key building-blocks of virtually every modern offense in professional basketball. The pick-and-roll – or even just the pick – is an incredibly simple concept. You put a teammate in the way of your defender, and then force the defense to deal with the problems that creates.

From Excelle: How New York Liberty are remaking their small forward position

The New York Liberty play a throwback style of basketball. Defense and rebounding are priorities 1A and 1B. While other teams move towards smaller fours that can spread the floor, head coach Bill Laimbeer’s squad often plays two traditional bigs together. The Lib will bog teams down to a crawl and punish them in the low post. It’s been a fun and successful brand of ball, and it hasn’t taken away from the more modern aspects of New York’s game. 

This season, the Liberty have scoffed at playing traditional small forwards, opting instead for smaller players who perform despite not fitting the mold.

Connecticut: Slow Start, Too Many Fouls, Mar Beginning Of Miller’s First Season With Sun

Because of the monthlong Olympic break in August, the WNBA season lasts into September so a few missteps in May aren’t going to make a team panic.

Still, the start of season is a critical time for the Connecticut Sun. New coach Curt Miller is trying to install his system and bring a new culture to the franchise. It would be better for all concerned if some positive reinforcement was available early to help the process.

SlamOnline.com: Q+A: Nneka Ogwumike – The fifth-year Sparks forward dishes on L.A.’s hot start.

From Paul Doyle at the Hartford Courant: Dolson Spreads Word On Her Identity, And WNBA’s

About 90 minutes before the Connecticut Sun‘s home opener, Morgan Tuck walked past a cluster of reporters surrounding Washington Mystics center Stefanie Dolson.

“Oh my God, Stefanie Dolson!” Tuck yelled.

Without missing a beat, Dolson replied.

“Oh my God, Morgan Tuck!” she said.

Then it was back answering questions, seamlessly and smiling. Dolson, who left UConn for the WNBA two years ago, is still the same quick-witted, breezy personality who became a fan favorite during her time in Storrs.

From Cosmopolitan: How WNBA Player Imani Boyette Beat the Odds — and Her Depression

From the Fever: Wheelin’ Around: Erica Wheeler’s Journey to the WNBA

NCAA

From the Tennessean’s: Joe Rexrode: Vanderbilt’s Stephanie White — worth the wait

White is the head coach of the WNBA’s Indiana Fever and will remain so through a season that could realistically end in the Finals in mid-October (she led the Fever to the Finals a year ago as a rookie head coach). She might take full command of her first Vandy team less than a month before it starts the 2016-17 season.

That’s not ideal. But if White is what Vanderbilt thinks she is, what her resume and command of a room suggest she is, it’s meaningless. It’s the delayed flight to start a vacation that you’re already laughing about at the end of the vacation.

More on White from the AP’s Teresa Walker: Stephanie White ready to speed up Vanderbilt as new coach

And more on the ‘Around the Rim’ podcast: Meeting expectations

On the latest edition of “Around The Rim,” 2005 WNBA champion Ticha Penicheiro joins women’s basketball analyst LaChina Robinson as special guest host.

The two discuss the Sparks’ dominant win over the Sky, why the Mercury continue to struggle, whether or not teams are exceeding or falling below expectations and which players that usually fly under the radar are playing surprisingly well.

Plus, Hall of Fame coach Lin Dunn stops in to discuss Stephanie White’s end-of-the-season departure to coach at Vanderbilt, her decision to exit retirement and return to coaching at Kentucky and much more.

Speaking of Dunn: Kentucky’s new assistant coaches have strong bonds, common goal

It’s a word rolled out with regularity by head coaches to describe their team and coaching staff: family.

The three new assistant coaches hired by embattled Kentucky women’s basketball coach Matthew Mitchell certainly gave off that familial vibe when they met with the media for the first time Wednesday.

The newest hire, Hall of Famer Lin Dunn, said she thinks of her new boss “almost like a son” before giving a sideways glance and a smirk.

“Not a grandson, but a son,” quipped the 69-year-old, who has won more than 500 games at the college, professional and international levels.

International

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“Weeeee are the Champions.” (What, too soon?) Lynx’s ‘fast start’ overwhelm Sky in Delle Donne’s returnFowles scores 24 against former team; Lynx beat Sky 97-80In First Game Against Former Team, Sylvia Fowles Joins Elite Company

Elena Delle Donne may be the face of the Sky. But when it comes to the franchise’s voice, that is all Cappie Pondexter.Chicago Sun-Times: Pondexter lends voice, veteran leadership to Sky

 The 10-year veteran has no trouble being the Sky’s resident vocal leader, but after a disappointing loss in last season’s WNBA Eastern Conference semifinals, Pondexter is done mincing words.

Make no mistake. This is Tamika Catchings’ team.

It is also Marissa Coleman’s team, and Shenise Johnson’s team, and Erlana Larkins’ team … and who knew it could be Erica Wheeler’s team while she fills in for point guard Briann January?

“It could be anybody’s night on any given night,” Coleman said.

That was never more true of the Indiana Fever than on Wednesday night.

Three of the first four possessions for the Washington Mystics in their game against the Dallas Wings on Wednesday night resulted in turnovers. The other produced a missed layup. Coach Mike Thibault was, to say the least, displeased.

The frustration didn’t end with just his players though. The officiating also provoked Thibault’s ire to the point he walked past halfcourt at Verizon Center midway through the first quarter and shouted to referee Sue Blauch: “Give me a technical now.”

 Phew! Sun get first win of season, 72-68 at Stars and Bone spurs Sun past San Antonio.
It’s gonna be tough in San Antonio this year….

While the world rightfully continues to go bonkers over “Hamilton,” I’ve recently found myself pleasantly lost in the past with another Broadway smash hit. The nearly 40-year-old — can it be? — “Annie.”

This was prompted by my nephew playing Oliver Warbucks in his high school’s production. It reminded me of how great a musical this is, even when performed by theater novices (including, in this case, a Harlequin Great Dane named Waffle in the role of Sandy.)

Now, just hang with me; we’re getting to the WNBA, with its 20th season just launched.

 

If Candace Parker was looking to make a point, she made it all right. Thirty-four times, in fact.

The question isn’t whether Parker was trying to make a statement Sunday with her 34-point effort in Los Angeles’ 96-66 win over Seattle at Staples Center. The question is, which statement was it?

Was it a message to USA Basketball that despite not being selected to the 2016 U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team that she is still on a short list of best players in the world?

Was it a reminder to the WNBA that the two-time MVP is as dangerous as ever and prepared to dish it out over an entire season after taking half of last season off?

WNBA STAR TINA CHARLES ON HOW STRONG, SUPPORTIVE WOMEN HELPED HER SUCCEED

Why are you excited to participate in She’s On Point?

For me, a lot of it was about giving back to Karen Pedrosa [who was the park manager at the time]. She was always keeping Roberto Clemente open late so we were able to scrimmage against the guys. She would travel with us to the AAU [Amateur Athletic Union] games. She’s just an awesome individual. She’s the Deputy Chief of Bronx Recreation now, and it’s a testament to the impact she’s had on the community.

UConn women’s basketball legend Bird wants to end career on her terms

When she re-signed with Seattle in the offseason, Bird made certain she had a multi-year deal. She didn’t want her contract status to determine when the final year of her career arrives.

“Truthfully, the way I view it is a one-year plan. Everybody has their own (way). Tamika Catchings is an example of somebody who announced her retirement early. Then Ray Allen is somebody I communicate with and he is somebody that never announced it. Just stopped. But that was what was right for him,” Bird said.

“I think every player when it comes to their retirement only knows how they are going to feel and how they want to do it. And right now what is working for me in my own little mind is a one-year plan.

LaChina and Carolyn Podcast: We’re Back…For The WNBA

From Charles Hallman: A ‘simple’ job: Marketing the WNBA 

Last Saturday night, after she handed the Minnesota Lynx players and coaches their 2015 championship rings, Borders worked the “room” where nearly 10,000 people were in attendance for the team’s season opener. Madame President earlier told the MSR, “I am the number-one salesperson for the WNBA. That is absolutely true.”

She heads a league that is celebrating 20 years, but to too many eyes — media, Joe Rockhead males and others — it has been 19 years too long. “We are 20 years old, which is remarkable by any standard,” continued Borders. “But we are just getting started. We’re young and nimble.”

The president and this reporter briefly touched upon several topics:

USA Today’s Nina Mandell: Retired WNBA star Katie Smith wants to leave lasting legacy on women’s game as a coach

Long before Katie Smith, a 17-year veteran of the WNBA, knew she was going to become a coach there was no shortage of coaches who told her she would join their ranks one day.

“I’ll say it right in front of her,” Mystics coach Mike Thibault said, walking by Smith as his team prepared to play the New York Liberty, where Smith was promoted to associate head coach this season. “I told her she was going to be a coach and she said no. Years ago when I coached USA Basketball, I said, ‘You know you’re going to end up being a coach.’”

Smith replied that she was going to go to dental school or do something else, but Thibault wouldn’t listen. 

NCAA

NCAA.com Rules group pleased with state of the game

[Use of technology and other] areas the Women’s Basketball Rules Committee will continue to study and discuss include:

  • Widening of the lane from 12 feet to 16 feet.
  • Moving the restricted-area arc to 4 feet from 3 feet.
  • Moving the 3-point line from 20 feet, 9 inches to the international distance of 22-1.
  • Deterring players from faking fouls. A warning would be issued on the first offense, followed by a technical foul on subsequent offenses.
  • In free throw situations, teams would be allowed to substitute only before or after the foul shots are taken. There would be no substitutions allowed in between the two or three free throws.

You stay put: Scott Rueck signed a two-year contract extension

WATN? Langston University hires Elaine Powell to replace Cheryl Miller as head coach

LADY VOLS ADD JUCO STAR – London Native Cheridene Green Becomes Lady Vols’ First International Signee . This calls for a flashback: Junior Colleges: Where Opportunities Knock – November 2007

Last season Shannon Bobbitt (Trinity Valley Community College) and Alberta Auguste (Central Florida Community College) became the University of Tennessee’s first junior college signees since – well most couldn’t remember when last it happened. (1977, by the way.) How’d it work out? Just ask Middle Tennessee State coach Rick Insell.

“First time ever Pat took two [Junior College] kids and what happens? She wins a National Championship. Did those kids play a major part in them winning that? Absolutely. Would she have won it without them? Who knows?”

“But she won it with them.”

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but I’m a little worried about the Lib’s tall folks.

Tina looks fantabulous, but where is Kiah? Sugar is already making a bid for the “Most Improved” as Old Big Easters will recognize the form they’re seeing on the court (and, do you remember her Player’s Tribune piece?). Intrigued to see how our elder guards contribute – really want an announcer to get the chance to say Z-to-Z for the nice give-and go. The Dallas visitors say Skylar is day-to-day, but even without her, the Wings are proving that they’re not going to be a pushover this year. Looking forward to see what happens for the newly-transfered franchise. Home wins, I hope.

Swish Appeal: ‘Pinch of Sugar’ goes a long way in Liberty victory

Queenie:

Dallas really misses Skylar Diggins. They really don’t have a consistent second option without her. Without her, Plenette Pierson and Odyssey Sims were both forcing the issue a lot, especially in the first half. Diggins tried to give it a go in warm-ups, but that knee is still braced, and she was walking very gingerly. She would have been at maybe quarter speed if she’d had to play, and I don’t think she was very happy about it; when she came out of the tunnel, she was with the trainer and there was a virtual thundercloud over her head. (It also really doesn’t help their rotation.)

On the West Coast, Los Angeles picked up where it left off last year… as did, unfortunately,  Seattle. Behind Parker’s 34, the Sparks easily handled the Storm. L.A. Times … dabnabbit! You use the AP report!!?!?! And oh, snap, the Sparks aren’t in your header or your dropdown menu. So. Not. Cool. At least Mechelle wrote somethin’

There were five No. 1 picks on the floor at Staples Center on Sunday, all of whom could tell you their own stories of what it means to them to be in that club.

When the game was over, 2008’s top pick — the Los Angeles Sparks’ Candace Parker — had the biggest day and her team got exactly the start it wanted: a dominant, 96-66 victory over the Seattle Storm.

There actually were some positives for the Storm, particularly regarding two of their No. 1 picks who look to be the foundation of a bright future: 2016 top pick Breanna Stewart, in her pro debut, had 23 points, while 2015 top pick Jewell Loyd, last season’s rookie of the year, had 20.

Swish Appeal: Candace Parker’s Sparkling performace engulfs Storm

Sue: Parker, Stewart both shine in Sparks dominating opening win

Hoopfeed: Candace Parker spoils debut of Breanna Stewart with 34-point explosion as Sparks beat Storm 96-66

The local paper hasn’t stopped paying attention: Breanna Stewart makes WNBA debut, experiences something new: Losing

Did you catch this from Stewie? Day One, Again.

Downtime? I have none. Just the way I like it.

Last week I was in Seattle trying to figure out if I could pull off the trip back to Connecticut for graduation. My new teammates asking, “What time do you have to be there?” Meanwhile I’m thinking, What if I get there and they forget to call my name? But being able to graduate in person from an institution like UConn, in front of a community that gave you so much, is an opportunity you can’t pass up. I made it, and squeezed in a visit to the White House with my UConn teammates; it was worth it.

Swin back in?

From Mike DiMauro at the Day: Motto for new-look Sun: Humble, but hungry

Kelsey Bone, center for the Connecticut Sun and never a candidate to mince words, offers the following overview of the 2016 season:

“We gotta make the damn playoffs,” she said, alluding to a locale that has eluded the franchise since (gulp) 2012.

Diana Taurasi learned a lot by watching her Phoenix Mercury teammates, at least when she wasn’t yelling at her monitor.

“I turned into that fan. ‘Why aren’t we rebounding? Why aren’t we executing down the stretch?,’ ” she told Excelle Sports Saturday at shootaround, prior to the Mercury’s season-opener 95-76 loss to the Minnesota Lynx.

Watching was the only thing Taurasi could do following her choice to skip the 2015 season, a move that reverberated fiercely within the WNBA community; Taurasi had won her third championship with Phoenix and her second Finals MVP award the year before.

On Saturday night, Taurasi could call herself a player again, competing against the Minnesota Lynx at Target Center, a venue where fans generally love to hate anything that has to do with purple and orange, especially the player wearing the No. 3 jersey. In Minnesota’s lean years,

If you haven’t purchased ESPN the Magazine, might recommend you get out and do so. WNBA oral history: Moving the ball forward

DAVID STERN WALKED down the hallway of the NBA offices in Manhattan and paused as he approached Val Ackerman’s office.

The then-NBA commissioner poked his head in the doorway.

“This would be a summer league, right?” Stern asked.

“Yeah,” Ackerman recalls saying, “that’s the plan.”

THE WNBA WASN’T launched by one landmark meeting. Rather, it evolved from a series of brainstorms, serendipitous circumstances and casual conversations: It was the right people working together at the right time. The NBA had reached a zenith of popularity and marketability in the early 1990s thanks to megastars such as Michael Jordan and collaborations with other organizations, such as USA Basketball. All of that delivered the Dream Team for the 1992 Olympics.

 Great job by Delle Donne (and, I’m assuming, a little assist from the Sky PR folks) – she’s been all.over.Chicago.In Chicago Magazine: The New Superstar in Town

In the glittering heart of Gotham, at a swank TriBeCa gala fit for a tuxedoed Bruce Wayne, a newly minted superhero soars toward an unseen basketball hoop, a flaring silk of blond hair trailing like a cape.

A few feet away, in heels and a form-hugging gown, a very tall blond woman who more than passingly resembles the leaping figure mulls the Marvel poster like a patron at a gallery, examining the main image of the subject cradling a basketball like a deity palming a planet, her hair swept back like Athena.

A small grin, then a full-on smile blossoms as she reads the character’s name.

“I hadn’t seen this,” she says to a friend. “Pretty cool, huh? Full-Court Goddess. I’ll take that.”

Speaking of which, fingers crossed: Sky’s Elena Delle Donne practices, expected to play Wednesday

About friggin’ time. From Excelle: WNBA.com dramatically expands stat, historical video offerings

This doesn’t suck: ESPN posts highest WNBA overnight rating for a regular-season game since 2011

A little college:  

With rumors circling about an extension, On the Banks writes: C. Vivian Stringer’s Impact Upon Women’s Basketball is Legendary

From the Sentinel: Next recruiting class crucial to Lady Vols’ future

Bye: Nebraska sharpshooter Natalie Romeo to transfer to UW women’s basketball team

Romeo leaves Nebraska after the abrupt resignation last month of Huskers coach Connie Yori over allegations that the coach mistreated players. Romeo has denied those claims.

“It was pretty difficult there,” she said. “I just think it’s the best thing for me to move on.”

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Congrats: Lori Blade going into Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame

In 22 seasons, 14 at Edwardsville and eight at Carrollton, Blade has a career coaching record of 624-83. She won her 600th career game with a 51-22 victory over Belleville West on Dec. 10.

In the 14 seasons at EHS, Blade has helped the Tigers to 13 regional titles, 11 sectional titles and seven straight Southwestern Conference championships. Edwardsville has played in the super-sectional round 11 of the last 13 years.

Thanks: Slater helped push growth of girls basketball

Even in retirement, basketball is never far away from Larry Slater.

He can watch his daughters Jeanice and Terrie coach the sport he grew up loving. He can see his granddaughters play the game that changed his life.

It’s a long way from the days when Slater was trying to find a way to get girls involved in the recreation basketball program in Hartselle.

 

Cool: Main Line Girls Basketball Association’s Tigers meet former Mighty Mac Judy Martelli

NCAA

You stay put: UTC Hoops: Jim Foster Receives Contract Extension

Welcome back: Jamie Carey returns to Women’s Basketball as familiar teacher, leader

Louisville: Walz Reviews Women’s Basketball Season

Kentucky: Q&A: Barnhart discusses issues within women’s basketball program

Why are so many leaving the Kentucky women’s basketball program?

Black Bear coaching pipeline returns? UMaine women’s basketball associate head coach to take Presbyterian job

Bye? Badgers women’s basketball: 2016 recruit from Milwaukee changes her mind

Bye: Fowler leaves ISU women’s basketball

Wowza: Duke star Azurá Stevens transferring to UConn

Tada! South Dakota introduces Plitzuweit as new women’s basketball coach

Hello: Todd Starkey named Kent State women’s basketball coach

Hello: Seattle University hires Suzy Barcomb as women’s basketball coach

Nebraska: Basketball has always been a way of life for Amy Williams

Utah women’s basketball: Surprise first year under Roberts builds Utes’ ambition

Arizona women’s basketball head coach Adia Barnes steps into rebuilding stage

So, about those stories that UNCWB is being set up as the fall guy….

New UNC Allegations Focus on Women’s Basketball
New UNC Notice of Allegations focuses on women’s basketball – USA TODAY
How UNC men’s basketball, football could avoid punishment from NCAA – CBSSports.com
Five questions (and answers) about UNC’s amended notice of allegations – Greensboro News & Record

WNBA – hard to believe preseason starts TOMORROW!

Don’t have a team? Spend less $2o bucks and get one! (I’m looking at you, every single coach of a player who got drafted or you think should have been drafted. We all know coach McGraw’s signed up.)

WNBA League Pass (Formerly LiveAccess) is now available for $16.99. Use the code ‘WNBA20’ for a $2 discount. Free trial is May 14-17.

New WNBA president Lisa Borders wants to fill seats with fans as passionate as she is

First call might be to Jerian Grant: “Get With the Program” Why I Watch Women’s Basketball

But worse than all of that, the respect isn’t always there. Coming from such a close relationship with the women’s team in college, I wasn’t used to hearing people put down the women’s game.

You see the disrespect in how people dismiss women’s basketball as “boring.”

You see it in your Instagram feeds and Twitter mentions, where comments about women’s basketball players get really ugly.

The stereotypes, the put-downs, the jokes. We’ve all heard them.

This culture of disrespect fuels the perception that the WNBA game is somehow inferior to the NBA game.

After four years of sharing friendships, memories and the same court with the women’s team at Notre Dame, to hear those stereotypes and see that culture was upsetting.

Newsday: Liberty optimistic it can continue its recent success

Q&A with Dallas Wings General Manager Greg Bibb

WNBA: FGCU’s Knight soaking up Sparks training camp

Former Gophers star Rachel Banham gets ‘green light’ in first WNBA camp

Storm guard Jewell Loyd intends to play without fear in her 2nd WNBA season

Jude Schimmel gets her shot in WNBA camp

Imani Boyette Follows in Mother’s Footsteps, Finds Perfect Fit in Chicago

Chicago Sky Tamera Young uses basketball to empower youth

Chiney Ogwmike pleased to be back with Connecticut Sun

New Sun Coach Curt Miller Ready To Get Going – His Way

Oregon Women’s Basketball: Jillian Alleyne and Kelly Graves talk WNBA Draft

Nice: WNBA’s Connecticut Sun Reaches Agreement with Fox 61 and WCCT to Televise Seven Games

Rookie Breanna Stewart embraces pressure to elevate Storm

Moriah Jefferson’s New Coach Very Confident In UConn Star’s Abilities

Newest Spark Talia Walton Is Out To Prove Her Doubters Wrong

Seven things to expect in the Fever’s upcoming season

Tamika: The Last “First” Day

As I laid in bed this morning I couldn’t go back to sleep. This is officially my final “First Day” of training camp. It’s crazy to think of the emotions that swirled through my head the first time I watched a WNBA game, to the that night I got drafted, then the first time I set foot in Indianapolis, the first time that I got announced on the court after sitting out the first year… the first time I scored, the first time I won an award… just so many firsts and even more memories.

Flashback: WNBA player recall Prince’s invite to Paisley Park and The story behind Prince’s private party for Minnesota’s WNBA team

WNBA Star Chamique Holdsclaw: From A Virtuoso On The Court To A Champion For Mental Health

USA Basketball

Auriemma likes experienced U.S. Olympic roster

BTW, if you think only women’s sports writers are the only one subjected to #morethanmean, you might want to have a chat with fans and players…

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WHO LET THE DOGS OUT!”

Okay. I’m done. But wow. Something the Prez and I have in common!

Upsets

#12 Albany stuns #5 Florida in comeback NCAA tourney win

The mini-dynasty being built by Katie Abrahamson-Henderson at University of Albany was missing just one thing: a NCAA tournament victory.

No longer.

Times Union:

Down by as many as 16 points and with their star player fouling out with 6:18 remaining, UAlbany rallied to stun Florida 61-59 Friday afternoon in an NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament first-round game at the Carrier Dome.

Portland Press Herald: Carter helps Albany secure upset

Imani Tate and the Albany Great Danes weren’t going to have senior Shereesha Richards’ record-setting career end while sitting on the bench.

And not even an official’s scoring error that gave Florida an extra point was going to stop them.

#10 St. Bonaventure over #7 Oklahoma State, 65-54.

Tulsa World: OSU falls to plucky St. Bonaventure

Time and time again Friday night, the Oklahoma State women’s basketball team made a run at St. Bonaventure in their first-round Women’s NCAA Tournament game at Gill Coliseum.

Each time, the Bonnies had an answer.

The State/AP:

St. Bonaventure didn’t know whether it would be invited to the NCAA Tournament when the field was announced, and chances seemed slim.

On Friday, the Bonnies showed they belonged.

#9 Auburn over #8 St. John’s, 68-57.

Al.com: Freshman Janiah McKay guides Auburn into 2nd round of NCAA Tournament

Behind a career night from Janiah McKay, Auburn advanced to the Round of 32 at the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Friday with a 68-57 win over St. John’s in Waco, Texas.

McKay, a freshman point guard, poured in a career-high 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting and dished out three assists for the Tigers in the win.

Defense leads Auburn women to NCAA Tournament win over St. John’s

A fantastic defensive start for the Auburn women held up for the remainder of the evening, and it has them bound for the second round.

The ninth-seeded Tigers gave up just six points in the first quarter and Auburn’s patent defensive press forced 25 turnovers to frustrate No. 8 seed St. John’s, ultimately to the tune of a 68-57 win in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Friday at the Ferrell Center.

#9 Kansas State over #8 George Washington, 56-51.

The State/AP

Kansas State second-year coach Jeff Mittie entered the year hoping to move the program forward. He and the Wildcats took a big step in that direction Friday with their first NCAA Tournament in four years.

Close: 

#7 Tennessee over #10 Green Bay, 59-53. It took a second half surge to secure the win.

#6 West Virginia over #11 Princeton, 74-65.

#5 Mississippi State over #12 Chattanooga, 60-50.

A good showing

#4 Michigan State over Belmont, 74-60.

Not so close

A horrible first quarter doomed the Black Knights. #4 Syracuse over #13 Army, 73-56.

Not close

Raining threes, #6 Depaul floated over #11 JMU by 30.

Did they play the full fourth? #2 Arizona State over #15 New Mexico State by 22.

Nice first quarter…#3 Ohio State over #14 Buffalo by 19.

At least for a game, life without injured senior guard Ameryst Alston worked out well for Ohio State in the opening round of the NCAA tournament on Friday at St. John Arena.

The third-seeded Buckeyes ended the first quarter with a 22-1 run and powered past 14th-seeded Buffalo 88-69 to advance to a second round matchup Sunday against sixth-seeded West Virginia.

#3 Louisville over #14 Central Arkansas, 87-60. Great first quarter for the Sugar Bears, not so good second.

Really not close:

#2 Oregon State over #15 Troy by 42.

#1 Baylor over #16 Idaho State by 3o.

#1 South Carolina over #16 Jacksonville by 36.

Charlie’s Quick Dish: Five observations from opening day

Games I’ve got my eye on tomorrow:

Duquesne/Seton Hall
Purdue/Oklahoma
South Dakota State/Miami
Colorado State/South Florida

WNIT

Utah (Pac12) runs over Montana State (Big Sky), 95-61.

FGCU (A-Sun) soars over Bethune-Cookman (MEAC), 78-51.

Temple (American) snufs out Drexel (A-10), 74-66.

Quinnipiac (MAAC) mauls Maine, 90-44, for their first post-season win in program history.

Fresno State (MW) over Santa Clara (WCC), 59-53.

Some fun games tomorrow:

TCU v. Eastern Michigan, 8pm EST
Drake v. Northern Iowa, 8pm EST
IUPUI v. San Diego, 7pm EST
Villanova v. Hofstra, 6pm EST
Michigan v. Bucknell, 2pm EST

UCLA women’s basketball Coach Cori Close learned from a legend, John Wooden

Cori Close played basketball for UC Santa Barbara and was an assistant coach for 18 years at three different universities before taking over as UCLA‘s coach in 2011.

But her roots at UCLA run deep and are personal.

UCLA was her first stop as an assistant, and it was there she met John Wooden, who became a mentor and confidant.

Awful Announcing: ESPN BROADCASTING GAMES REMOTELY SENDS A BAD MESSAGE FOR NCAA WOMEN’S TOURNAMENT COVERAGE

ESPN (and other sports networks) have been broadcasting more and more sporting contests from the studio rather than sending announcers to game sites.  This has become an increasingly popular trend for the networks to save every penny they can while the price of poker goes up, up, and up thanks to soaring rights fees.  While this has traditionally been done with international soccer over the years, we’ve seen it happen with much more frequency for college basketball and college football recently.

This is NOT just the women’s NCAA tourney. If you haven’t been paying attention to ESPN’s irrational exuberance you’ve missed a big story.

From the NY Times: Changing the Rules of the Women’s Game, With the Hope of Altering the Interest Level

Last spring in Indianapolis, the N.C.A.A. women’s basketball rules committee focused on ways to increase the sport’s appeal.

The major changes approved at the meeting provided a face-lift this season. Notably, the two 20-minute halves were changed to four 10-minute quarters in an attempt to improve the flow and quality of games.

Then in January, the W.N.B.A. revamped its playoff system, eliminating conference alignments and creating single-game eliminations through the first two rounds.

Women’s basketball is entering a pivotal time to entice a national audience.

Nylon Calculus: Visualizing WNBA history

Yesterday, at FiveThirtyEight, I waded into the discussion about a gender gap in basketball analytics with a report on the scarcity and fragility of data in women’s college basketball. I received a lot of comments about how the lack of public data in women’s basketball, both college and the NBA, is a reflection of a lack of demand. The argument was that if there was an audience for the data than leagues and media companies would provide it for their fans and customers.

Frankly, I think that perception is backwards. An increase in data sparks curiosity and drives demand.

BTW – Data fuels the fantasy leagues. (Something the W needs to have, because it fuels interest in the ENTIRE league).

No. Why WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne wants to lower the rims from 10 feet

From the .com: Senior Watch: Top WNBA Draft Prospects in the NCAA Tournament

Hello! LA Sparks hire Flint native Tonya Edwards as assistant coach

Whoa. Sanchez out as UNM Lobos women’s basketball coach

Following up on some high school news: Rutgers Prep has arrived as a true state power

The Rutgers Prep School girls basketball program is no stranger to success, having won 10 state Prep B titles and five Somerset County Tournament championships during head coach Mary Klinger’s 32 years at the helm, a run that’s earned her 519 career victories. But when the decision was made for the Argonauts to join the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association prior to the 2013-14 season, perhaps the biggest draw was the opportunity for the tiny Franklin Township school to show the rest of the state that Rutgers Prep was perfectly capable of running with the big dogs.

Less than three years later, with the program’s first sectional and group titles already in hand, the Argonauts have not only proven that fact, but thanks to a special group of players who have progressed as individual athletes and teammates, Rutgers Prep is well within striking distance of the state’s most prestigious hoops prize.

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“So what’d I miss?

A little Fresno, Frisco, Flooding and Fever threw me off my game this week. Wheeee!

Some interesting, interesting stuff happening on the boards. Obviously, the folks who say there are no upsets in women’s basketball are looking more and more like the uniformed idjits they are. That being said, if some of the upsets aren’t setting of alarm bells in the Athletic Director’s offices, I’d be disappointed… but not surprised.

Let us count the upsets – and note how many unranked teams were involved:

Indiana over #18 Michigan State, 81-65. Lesson: It would be nice if local papers paid attention to Moren’s team:

“As I expressed to our players tonight, I hope this win gives them a dose of confidence,” head coach Teri Moren said. “And they believe when they communicate, when they stay connected defensively, when they hit shots—they’re going to be in the game and win a lot of ball games. That’s my hope that this win gives our kids a shot in the arm that they can play with the best teams in the Big Ten…I’m just really, really proud.”

Northwestern over #5 Ohio State, 86-82. Lesson: You’ve got to play four quarter, youngsters.

Northwestern brought Ohio State back to earth on Thursday night in Evanston, Ill., with a thud that sent ripples around Lake Michigan.

The Wildcats jumped to a 48-30 halftime lead and withstood a late comeback by the fifth-ranked Buckeyes to hand them an 86-82 defeat at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

The loss snapped an eight-game winning streak for the Buckeyes (12-4, 4-1) and knocked them out of a tie with Purdue for the Big Ten lead.

Arkansas over #13 Tennessee, 64-59. Lesson:  Whatever the upheavals outlined by Mechelle, it’s fair to point a finger at Holly.

Let’s be clear…this was a bad team at 7-10.

And with the No. 146 ranked defense, No. 155 in field goal percentage defense, Tennessee responded with another atrocious shooting night.

The Vols shot worse than 35 percent from the field and below 30 percent from beyond the arc. In general women’s basketball, that’s okay.

But it’s not okay when you’re Tennessee and you have the talent. While there’s only one senior starter, there are two three-year players and another four-year player in the lineup. So the excuses are running thin, and Warlick’s misuse of her team’s strengths is evident.

Georgia over #20 Florida, 71-61. Lesson: Nice time to get your first SEC win, coach Taylor. (Gotta fix the Georgia page, though. A.nnoy.ing!

NC State over #22 Duke, 65-62. Lesson: There may be some changes in the ACC: The win improved the Wolfpack to 13-5 and more importantly 4-1 in ACC play, while Duke fell to 12-6 and 1-3.

2015-16 has been a record-setting season to date for Duke Women’s Basketball, in all the worst possible ways. Duke lost to an unranked opponent at home for the first time since 2002 (when an Iciss Tillis flub at the end of the Duke Classic championship game led to an overtime loss to South Carolina). Tonight the Blue Devils lost to the Wolfpack Women in Cameron for the first time since 1996, when Chasity Melvin led her team to a win. In this contest, NC State rode a 30-11 edge in points off turnovers to edge Duke, 65-62. This loss will no doubt drop #22 Duke (12-6, 1-3 ACC) out of the rankings for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.

Washington over #17 UCLA, 64-56. Lesson: The Pac12 teams are like the Old Big East teams: Not to be dismissed.

[Talia] Walton’s performance Friday night — 22 points and six rebounds in 39 minutes — went a long way toward helping legitimize the Huskies’ hopes of reaching the NCAA tournament for a second consecutive season. The win was the first for UW (13-4, 4-2 Pac-12) against a ranked opponent this season.

“When she plays like this,” Plum said, “we can beat anyone.”

Washington State over #25 USC, 73-61. Lesson: Pac12 means No. games. off.

“We just lost our focus,” head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke said. “We didn’t come out ready to play and they outplayed us. They hustled more and just played better than us.”

Oklahoma State over #14 Oklahoma, 73-42. Lesson: Who knows WHAT is going on in Stillwater? The Cowgirls just came off a 47-44 loss to Kansas. Perhaps all games should be listed as “Bedlam” games?

#24 Missouri over #7 Mississippi State, 88-54. Lesson: Get out fast.

Missouri’s hot start was a stark contrast compared to its two other games this season against ranked opponents. The Tigers trailed Tennessee 24-11 less than 10 minutes into a 71-55 loss on Jan. 4 and trailed South Carolina 25-10 just more than 13 minutes into Sunday’s 83-58 loss.

Thursday’s result could prove to be a big one for a Missouri team seeking its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2006.

With conference play in full swing, here are some teams deserving of your attention:

Albany (45-0) sits atop the America East and Shereesha Richards broke the 2,000-point milestone. They play Stony Brook (4-0) on the 21st. When is someone going to poach coach Abrahamson-Henderson?

Bucknell is making a run at the Patriot League title. With their win over Colgate, the Bison start 6-0 in league play for the first time since the 1999-2000 season, remain all alone in first place in the Patriot League, win its sixth straight game, the longest streak of the Roussell era and the program’s longest streak since 2006-07 and Improve to 61-47 in Aaron Roussell’s four years as head coach. I’ve got my eyes looking forward to their game against Army, Jan 30th.

St. Bonaventure (5-0). Couple of years ago they were darlings, then they had a tough year. Now, hello! 

This year’s Atlantic 10 preseason polls didn’t think much of St. Bonaventure University. The guys picked 8th.

“Eighth is the second highest we’ve been picked in my nine years here so we looked at it as a compliment,” said St. Bonaventure Head Men’s Basketball Coach Mark Schmidt.

The ladies’ team picked 9th.

Senior forward Katie Healy said, “Nobody saw what we put in this summer, all the work, all the hours we put in. Both teams, now in first place and combined, are 25-5 to start the year. That’s never happened before.”

While it might be the guys’ best start in 16 years, for the ladies, it’s their best start ever.

The Bonnies other A-10 compatriots are no slouches. Duquesne who, for the first time in program history, was ranked in the USA Today/Coaches Top 25 Poll, will take their 15-game winning to ESPNU (Sue Bird & Melissa Lee on the call) on Sunday. They’ll face George Washington, who has won nine in a row. (Speaking of poachable coaches…Tsipis)

Ohio – the 3-time MAC champs are looking for a fourth title. In a matchup of two poachable coaches (Bolden & Verdi), the Bobcats defeated their 2015 MAC Tournament Championship game opponent, Eastern Michigan, 71-64.

Abilene Christian (4-0) continues to win in the Southland.

Colorado State (4-0) has already defeated San Jose State. Fresno State (4-0) defeated them today. They don’t play each other until March 1st. Who scheduled only one regular season game between these two teams?

Swoopes, there it is: Chicago (Loyola) is 4-0 in the MVC.

Purdue (5-0). We’ve been calling their name. Let’s see what they’ve got: OSU tomorrow.

Green Bay (5-0) faces Wright State (4-0) on the 23rd. Winner stays #1 in the Horizon. Loser may have to wait for the rematch end of February.

Montana State (5-0). Maybe John Stockton is a good assistant coach, huh? They play 4-0 Eastern Washington on the 21st.

Sienna (7-0) in the MAAC and its best start in 14 years. But, don’t get to cocky – and never count the Foxes out. Marist they held on to give Iona its first conference loss, 62-61.

Western Kentucky (5-0) continues its resurgence under coach Michelle Clark-Heard (poachable!).

The WCC!!! 5-1, 5-1, 5-1, 4-2. ’nuff said.

I’m keeping an eye on the NBE.  While it’s been tough times for Seton Hall, St. John’s and Xavier are on a roll.

Is it too early to suggest Muffet McGraw as COY? Her competition, if the continue to improve, would be Louisville’s Walz. Both are, is sports-speak, “coachin’ their team up.

Did I jinx the Tribe?

Just sayin’ – Utah is 4-1 in the PAC 12.

Upcoming games to keep an eye on:

The aforementioned George Washington v. Duquesne.

The oft mentioned #4 Texas v. #6 Baylor, 3:30 on ESPN2.

South Carolina is 4-0 in the wacky SEC. They’ll face TAMU at 1:30 on ESPN2

Purdue at #5 Ohio State, 2pm.

#23 Louisville v. North Carolina State – who keeps up their momentum?

#24 Missouri v. Arkansas…. see above.

#17 UCLA v. Washington State. Does WSU continue to show how dicey the Pac12 is?

Speaking of: #11 Stanford v. #10 Oregon State. 

#22 Duke v. Boston College. How do the Blue Devils react?

#10 Arizona v. Utah. How legit are the Utes?

MLK Day

#13 Tennessee v. #3 Notre Dame, 7pm ESPN2. Will the Vols’ good game-bad game-good game pattern continue?

In other news:

Florida: UF women’s basketball surging thanks to talent infusion

Snap: Jackie Young breaks Indiana girls basketball scoring record

Through four seasons on the floor, Princeton girls basketball star Jackie Young has attacked the opposition and record books, steadily climbing up the scoring charts.

Now she’s in the record books.

A large crowd gathered Thursday night to see Young make history, including two players from the 1976 undefeated Hoosiers basketball team. 

A free throw late in the fourth quarter of the game against Wood Memorial landed her one point ahead of former record-holder Shanna Zolman.

Aztec girls basketball team aiming for championship, community revival

Most of the awards that decorate the glass cases at Aztec High School’s gymnasium have something to do with football.

The Tigers are best known for being able to push a pigskin ball down a football field but in the last year or so, they’ve had to make room for a new group of athletes that the school just wasn’t used to.

Over the last several years, the Aztec High School girls’ basketball team has emerged from the bottom of the local basketball barrel and into the spotlight.

Their newfound success is something Aztec junior Kairai George isn’t used to.

Congrats! West Bridgewater girls basketball coach notches 600th win

Congrats! DePaul’s Doug Bruno gets 600th win

Former WNBA President Orender gives insight into gender in sports

Candace Parker interview: ‘The hardest thing I’ve had to overcome…’

Hello: Wings Star Skylar Diggins Makes Surprise Appearance at High School in Dallas

GW basketball’s rebounding machine could score big in WNBA draft

Breanna Stewart Watch: Top Prospects Raising Her Game Even Higher as a Senior

Countdown to the WNBA Draft: No. 17 Kahleah Copper

Paul Nilsen’s Women’s Basketball Worldwide Looking forward to 2016 with relish

 

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After that “instant classic,” the Liberty are in D.C. needing a win over the Mystics to extend their season. From the Suffolk Times: Sugar: An ingredient of success

The mid-season return of veteran guard Epiphanny Prince from overseas has reduced Rodgers’ minutes this year, but the Suffolk standout has been an undeniably significant contributor to the Liberty’s success.

“It’s been great,” Rodgers said. “To be honest, I’ve just been living in the moment. It’s always good to make history at a franchise, because they’ll remember this for a long time. So, like I said, I’ve just been living in the moment, appreciating the fact of just being here, just being thankful.”

From bulletsforever:

1. Knock the Libs out of the gym early 

There’s no need for me to talk about stats on this one. But if the Mystics can overwhelm New York from the start along with hometown support, that could very well be the push needed.

In 2013, the Mystics defeated the Atlanta Dream in Game 1 of their playoff series on the road. That gave fans a lot of optimism for Game 2 at the Verizon Center for an elimination game on September 21, 2013. But they came out totally flat in the first quarter and shot 25 percent from the field en route to a 63-45 loss.

In Tulsa, the short-handed Shock kept it close early, but Phoenix Griner made sure they ended their residency in Tulsa on a loss.

Watching Saturday’s night’s WNBA playoff doubleheader, I couldn’t help but think of the differing fates of two franchises and their cities.

Indiana beat Chicago 89-82 to extend their series to a deciding third game Monday in the Windy City. Tulsa, however, was not able to do the same against Phoenix. The defending champion Mercury won 91-67 and move on to the Western Conference finals, where they await the Minnesota-Los Angeles winner.

Now next season, the Shock will pack up and go to Dallas, or more specifically, Arlington, Texas. You could tell how much the Shock players deeply appreciated the loyal fans who kept showing up at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, this season even after they knew the team would be theirs only a little longer.

Catch and her Collaborators were on point during a delightful back-and-forth game against Chicago.

“One of the things you have to continue to do against a team like Chicago is try to keep them off balance because they are so good,” Fever coach Stephanie White said. “They get a bead on you, and they exploit you. I thought our players did a good job of changing defenses and changing schemes, and executing those schemes.”

L.A. will see if they can push Minnesota to a Game Three.

Arena logistics aside, the main challenge for the Sparks will be slowing down Lynx forward Maya Moore, who put up a playoff career-high 33 points to go with five rebounds and four steals in Minnesota’s Game 1 victory. She and guard Seimone Augustus combined to score 50 of the team’s 67 points. Earlier in the week, Ogwumike predicted that the key to the Sparks’ success would be how they responded to Minnesota’s offensive attack.

“Our defense is really what’s going to hold our team together,” she said.

BTW, Mechelle sent out an encouraging tweet:

 16 hours ago:Had good conversation w/ NBA exec re: open letter to Adam Silver. Think we understand where each other is coming from, want best for WNBA.

Conversation! We LIKE conversation! Action is better, though…

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BG and Glory was, “At least the authorities took it seriously.” ’cause like some readers, I had a flashback to Rosalind Ross.

The ESPNers wrote eloquently about the “other” things that came to mind: An espnW email chain about the Brittney Griner arrest

When news broke on Thursday that Brittney Griner and her fiancée, Glory Johnson, had been arrested for a domestic incident, it sparked the following thoughtful exchange among several espnW writers about the various complicated tentacles to the story.

How do you cover such a complex issue — breaking news about domestic violence between two women who are both active athletes, are stars of their respective teams and are engaged to each other?

The headlines also prompted other folks to speak. From Arizona: Alesha Durfee, Associate Professor and Graduate Director of Women and Gender Studies at ASU’s School of Social Transformation, Talks About Domestic Violence Among Women

In other W news:

Sweet turnout for basketball star Stefanie Dolson’s visit home

“It was over the top to get to meet Stefanie,” said Catie O’Connor, a fourth-grader at Goshen Intermediate School. “She was so nice. It was really special, it was awesome. It means the world to me. I really look up to her. I’m very excited.”

Dolson, a Minisink Valley graduate who won two national championships at the University of Connecticut and now plays for the Washington Mystics in the WNBA, spent more than two hours meeting with fans at Family Farm. At one point, a long line formed outside the building. According to Family Farm co-owner Jean Halahan, about 500 people showed up to meet the personable Dolson.

Post Draft News:
Liberty makes superb additions on WNBA Draft Day

It was supposed to be an unremarkable draft for the New York Liberty, which traded its first-round pick to the Connecticut Sun in last year’s deal for center Tina Charles, but coach Bill Laimbeer had some surprises. The Liberty traded guard-forward Alex Montgomery to the San Antonio Stars for the ninth pick, with which they chose Brittany Boyd, a tenacious point guard from the University of California who modeled her game after Cappie Pondexter.

Boyd, who played in the 2013 Maggie Dixon Classic in Madison Square Garden, said she loved the energy of the arena. If called upon, she’s ready to be the Liberty’s floor general.


Pitt’s Brianna Kiesel ready for her journey in WNBA

Welch Prepares for Transition to WNBA After a stellar career as a team leader for the Gamecocks

Blake Dietrick, Wellesley native, takes shot at WNBA

Butler High grad Cierra Burdick’s WNBA dream comes true

A little podcast: Dishin & Swishin 4/23/15 Podcast: Stephanie White takes the helm in Indiana, previews the season

WATN? Ticha Penicheiro: Former NBA and WNBA greats put on clinic for Cuban basketball players

and WNBA legend Ruth Riley looking to leave positive impact on Filipino kids.

Ruth also had something to say about how “bad” Connecticut is for the game: UConn raises women’s basketball in US, says former WNBA star

For former WNBA star Ruth Riley, the dominance of University of Connecticut in women’s college basketball does not present a problem.

It’s the catalyst that should raise the bar for the sport in the United States.

“You respect your opponent and you respect the fact that you know it’s an incredible program,” Riley, who won Olympic Gold in the Athens Games in 2004, said Thursday afternoon at Marriott Hotel.

Another WATN? Former Tech and WNBA player Alicia Thompson to be named Lubbock High’s girls basketball coach

On the college front, some disconcerting news, but not totally surprising if you’ve read some of the surrounding area’s message boards:

From a mother’s perspective: The WSU women’s basketball allegations

Former Wichita State players and parents are speaking out about the allegations that Coach Jody Adams and her coaching staff have mentally and verbally abused players in the program. The mother of a former player that transferred said these allegations are nothing new.

She also said that what brings it to life now is the fact that there are four transfers and two of them are starters.

“We’ve voiced concerns for a while now. There have been groups of players that have gone in together. I know several parents that have written letters and have had meetings.”


Eric Sexton issues statement on Jody Adams allegations

Former WSU players speak out on abuse allegations

Former players talk about allegations against WSU women’s basketball – KSN-TV

More Chiney! My Message To My Younger Self (UNFILTERED | CHINEY OGWUMIKE #3)

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Just in case you missed it: Basketball – Semi Final and Final Medal Matches | Full Replay | Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games

USA Semi-Final game against Hungary starts at the 5 minute mark.
Gold Medal Game against Netherlands starts at the 3 Hour 04 minute mark.

Speaking of USA basketball, the pool of candidates for the National Team is an embarrassment of riches: 

The old saying that you can’t have too much of a good thing is, in fact, true. But it doesn’t always make things easy.

Consider the talent pool for the U.S. women’s national team in basketball. There’s not just a lot of “good” there, but a lot of “great.”

One of the dilemmas that USA Basketball faces is how to fine-tune the makeup of the squad going into major international competitions such as the upcoming FIBA World Championship.

No matter which 12 women are picked for the final roster, the Americans will be the favorite to win the gold medal in Turkey. But how does USA Basketball make tough calls about potentially adding younger players to the team?

From Kate: Why Dolan Shouldn’t Fire Laimbeer.

Laimbeer was not hired to guide a mediocre roster. He was hired to first help shape, then eventually motivate (his strength) a roster equipped to win a title. Truth is, that previous version of the Liberty was built for playoff appearances and early playoff exits — not championships, not even close. Everyone within the franchise knew the truth, and everyone around the league knew it too. Since the moment Laimbeer walked in the door, the Liberty have been plotting for future domination. Sometimes you have to get worse before you get better, which is exactly the space in which New York finds itself right now.

Well, right there — that’s your first mistake: assuming Dolan gives a flying hoot about the Liberty.

Second: You mention Essence as a floor balancer who, truly, wasn’t 100%, (but will she ever be) but who is she “balancing” against. You don’t mention Cappie? Has she been traded?

Third: “..a couple of smooth-shooting guards” playing for NY in 2016? Any idea how we’re going to get them, what with no draft picks and to trade bait? (Yes, maybe there’s interest in an east coast/west coast exchange… but how likely that?)

Fourth: You need a “conductor to harness the power.” So this means Cruz is not our point guard in two years? Who is?

Fifth: “gather complementary pieces — the rebounder, the lockdown defender, the banger — en route.” Anyone you have in mind? And again, we get them how?

Sixth: “This means one of the first pieces New York must secure is a center who can bang, who can take the defensive pressure off Charles.” Am I repeating myself? Name me any candidates that are available?

Finally – no, I don’t think Laimbeer should go. But projecting the Lib turnaround by 2016 is goofy. Yes, it’s hard to build a team around a center (power forward, if you’d like), but NY is currently made up of “old” and serviceable. There ain’t no Ford, Smith, or Nolan in the wings to rescue us. The team needs a complete overhaul…and that’s going to take a little longer than we’re going to like….

From Nate: After the Phoenix Mercury ended the L.A. Sparks’ season in the first round of the WNBA Playoffs for the second consecutive year – this time handing the Sparks a blowout loss at home – it’s painfully obvious that they need to make changes this offseason.

Back before the 2012 draft, I wrote that Nneka Ogwumike was the obvious pick for the L.A. Sparks but that maybe they’d consider a trade because she wouldn’t fit that roster as long as Candace Parker was there too. But ultimately, as I would later write before the 2013 season, that’s just the kind of situation where you take the best player available and figure everything out later.

Well, it’s now “later”. And the Sparks are well past the somewhat benign point of being at a “crossroads”.

A little belated, but congrats to Skylar, Sandy and Brittney.

And speaking of congrats: From Scot Gleeson at USA Today: Newly engaged Brittney Griner takes control of her life

Brittney Griner blushes and lets out an infectious smile when asked about her recent proposal to fellow WNBA player Glory Johnson.

“Yes, I put a ring on it,” Griner says.

The 6-8 women’s basketball star is used to the spotlight for her uncanny athleticism with the Phoenix Mercury on the court and her candid personality off it. Now, Griner says, it’s all “falling into place.”

As Phoenix and Minnesota get ready to rumble, Mechelle has 5 questions for West finals

Now we have a marquee matchup of two teams that each have won two WNBA titles. And between the Lynx (Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus, Janel McCarville) and the Mercury (Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner), there are five former No. 1 overall draft picks.

There also are two players who’ve been the WNBA’s MVP: Moore, who won the award this year, and Taurasi, who did so in 2009. Taurasi was runner-up to Moore this season.

Kent Youngblood says Reeve feels good about Lynx headed into Phoenix series

“It’s a cohesive group,” she said. “I think the chemistry has really grown. Having Rebekkah [Brunson] back and Seimone [Augustus] back in the fold for the last few games. You guys all worried about the way we finished the season. But we knew we were making some progress.’’

Also from Kent: Lynx-Mercury series offers intriguing matchups

The formula is basic, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. When it comes to winning in the playoffs — no matter the opponent — the Lynx have to be efficient on offense and defend well.

Of course that’s easier said than done when it comes to playing the Phoenix Mercury. The two teams will begin their best-of-three Western Conference finals Friday in Phoenix. They are the top two teams in the league in wins, points scored, point differential, field-goal percentage and offensive efficiency.

From Ryan Scott at Insight News: The hard road to a Lynx dynasty

The Lynx and Phoenix Mercury are on a collision course for the WNBA ages. And to put it concisely, Mercury stars Brittney Griner and Diana Taurasi, “ain’t nothin’ nice.” At 6’8″ and boasting the leagues’ first highlight reel of dunks, Griner is a basketball nightmare similar to Wilt Chamberlain or Shaquille O’Neal in the men’s game. And though the adjectives and statistics for Griner can be rattled on for several pages, it is the cold-blooded Taurasi that should strike the greater fears in the Lynx.

Mechelle also had a little something to say about Delle Donne.

For most of June and July, she was forced to watch the Sky struggle without her. She played just four games during those two months. She missed the WNBA All-Star Game. She couldn’t be sure when she would be able to return to action.

All that backstory makes what happened Tuesday night in Atlanta even more remarkable. We didn’t just see one of the more clutch climbs out of a deep hole in WNBA playoff history. We saw it done by a player and a team whose season has been the very definition of resilience.

About that game… Kris Willis notes: The Atlanta Dream saw a 20 point lead slip away in a heartbreaking 81-80 loss to the Chicago Sky 

And yes, it was the biggest fourth-quarter comeback in WNBA playoff history.

“It was just a resilient effort by my team. Obviously, Atlanta owned us for much of the game,” Sky coach Pokey Chatman said. “They were having our way us in terms of points in the paint. Everything was not in our favor, but we stayed the course, and when it got late it became time for players to make plays, my big-time player [Delle Donne] stepped up.”

From the Chicago Tribune: Delle Donne’s basket with 8.2 seconds left wins series for Sky

I think we were playing to win,” Lyttle said. “We just stopped executing, and all of a sudden it was a one-point lead and we wondered, ‘How did that happen?'”

From Jayda: VIDEO: Elena Delle Donne, Courtney Vandersloot advance to conference Finals

You knew it was going to happen. Elena Delle Donne is too incredible of a talent to not wash over a game like a tidal wave in attempt to lead her Chicago to a win. But, as Atlanta coachMichael Cooper said afterward, she could do her damage — which she did Tuesday — and the Dream could’ve still won.

Instead, Atlanta PG Jasmine Thomas missed two free-throws with 17.3 seconds left in a decisive Game 3 playoff matchup against Chicago.

Also from Jayda: Storm 2014 Exit Interviews: Angel Robinson left an impression

And, yep! WNBA star Swin Cash part of historic all-female sports show

In college news:

Cal adds some coaches: Devanei Hampton and Sweets Underwood

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DOWN goes L.A. Yikes. As Phoenix moves on, you have to wonder, “Who’s going to come in and get all that Cali talent on track?”

Whoops! Chicago got seriously Angel-fied and the Dream live to fight another day. (Hello, Old Big East!)

We don’t really need a reminder that Angel McCoughtry can completely take over not just playoff games but entire series. Because we’ve seen it happen enough in recent years. Nonetheless, Sunday’s game was indeed another example of how dominant McCoughtry can be on both ends of the court.

And that’s what the Atlanta Dream absolutely needed her to be in order for their season to continue.

On a night of the WNBA playoffs when a more recent No. 1 draft pick — Phoenix’s Brittney Griner (2013) — threw down a dunk and was unstoppable in ending Los Angeles’ season, McCoughtry’s arsenal was even a little more impressive.

And, btw – I have 155 folks joining me for the Maggie Dixon Classic. There’s still time to sign up, if you want to come with: womenshoopsblog @ gmail.com

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but one has to wonder, “Why does the GM still have a job?” Followed by, “Wait, you think she’s going to do a better job?”

Mechelle breaks the news.

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Great news. From Mechelle:

Hearing that the Sparks are staying in Los Angeles and have big-time ownership had to have come as a huge relief to WNBA fans, especially those who’ve backed the purple and gold for any of the past 17 years.

Now the good news needs to be followed by good moves. And good vibes — the kind that have to be re-established with the Sparks’ faithful. For the past month, the franchise’s fans have been worrying and waiting, not sure of anything that was happening with the team.

But with word that the Sparks have been purchased by a group headed by Mark Walter, who is Guggenheim Partners CEO, and Lakers legend Magic Johnson, the WNBA couldn’t be making a more welcomed announcement.

Shout out of happiness to the best LA fan ever – Marie. Can’t wait to shout “BEAT LA!” in the Garden next summer.

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Well, crap….

Tough day for Candace. And the League: Sparks owner ends involvement with team; WNBA looking for new owner

Asked if the Sparks would field a team for the 2014 season, or if the franchise would fold, Richie repeatedly said that several entities have expressed an interest in owning a WNBA team and the league is exploring those options regarding the Sparks.

The Sparks’ front-office staff, including General Manager Penny Toler and President Vincent Malcolm, have been laid off. Sparks Coach Carol Ross and her staff have also lost their jobs.

The Times obtained a copy of an email that was sent by Malcolm to team employees on Tuesday: “… we regret to inform you that effective December 31, 2013 you no longer will be employed by the Los Angeles Sparks.”

 

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why. Every time I thought, “well, that’s the game,” the players said, “Nope!”

I certainly enjoyed watching the Kentucky/Baylor game on my ‘puter as I cooked up some serious chili. Not sure the men’s teams waiting for the game to conclude were too thrilled. But really, it was Calipari’s fault. And, as Mechelle noted

So what happened? A “Twilight Zone/Outer Limits/X-Files” kind of game. I was worried there wouldn’t be enough scoring? I might as well have been worried that Robinson Cano wasn’t going to get enough money.

Kentucky 133, Baylor 130, four overtimes. And the number of people who looked at this score and said, “Holy (blank)!” That would be a lot more than 263, which as the combined score was the most points ever in a Division I women’s hoops game.

This proves it: Everything is bigger in Texas.

There were other games this past weekend, and don’t let the final scores fool ya — some were nice and close through the first half. Which doesn’t mean a lot to the losing team, but it does suggest the winners need to not be let off the “so, how good are you?” hook.

Cal over Pacific.

Texas A&M over Washington.

Gonzaga over Ohio State (I TOLD you the Buckeyes were a tough out.)

Tennessee over Texas.

Purdue over IPFW.

South Carolina over Charlotte.

Penn State over Georgetown – and they needed all of Maggie’s 2000th point.s.

Iowa State over CS Fullerton (thanks, Hallie.)

Nice win for Auburn over St. John’s.

Eastern Michigan is still loss-free.

Ditto for San Diego.

Ditto with Notre Dame, who stomped all over UCLA.

Duke is still undefeated (#500 for McCallie) as the Blue Devils sorta handled Oklahoma in a game that saw defense prohibited in the second half (and some gimpiness).

They’re not as strong as they usually are, but it’s still important to ‘ware the ‘wabbits – as the Phoenix discovered. BTW, nice story: UWGB freshman Buck’s drive inspires Native Americans

There are not a lot of players like University of Wisconsin-Green Bay freshman Tesha Buck playing basketball at the NCAA Division I level.

A little more than a decade ago, there were none.

Buck is a Native American who already has overcome long odds to reach this point in her career.

In the most recent NCAA race and ethnicity report from the 2011-12 season, there were 10,151 male and female basketball players in Division I. Just 25 of them — 21 women and four men — were Native American/Alaskan Native.

In 2000, there were no Native American/Alaskan Native female basketball players. In 2008, there was one.

Not my fault – Fordham deals Holy Cross their first loss of the season.

So, I’m not saying ‘ware the Sun Devils yet — though that win over UNC was nice — but it did take them an OT to take down Long Beach State. I guess we’ll get a better sense of who they are after they work through Syracuse-Cal-Stanford-Colorado.

126 points!

Okay, is Michigan State down or is it Virginia Tech that is up?

Yes, it was against UMass-Lowell, but when was the last time Seton Hall scored 97pts?

Not my fault, neither: ‘nova earns its first loss at the hand of St. Joseph’s.

Phew! (Or I would have had to deny blame again): BYU squeaked by Creighton, 52-51.

No squeaking involved, as UTEP continued to roll.

Yah, they’re still undefeated, but let’s see what happens when Arkansas meets South Carolina four games from now.

Yup, Wisconsin’s improved.

So, how glad are the 1-8 Seahawks that they let Cynthia Cooper go?

Yes, there have been some major injuries, but boy is Hartford not enjoying their season so far.

*all sing* “What a difference a coach makes….” The Penguins are 1-6.

From Michelle Smith: Cards move on without Slaughter- Jeff Walz, Louisville making adjustments after losing senior guard for the season

Slaughter collapsed on the bench last Tuesday during the Cardinals’ game against Missouri State. The clot was discovered in follow-up examinations. Walz said Monday that doctors believe the clot was not related to her collapse, but was discovered during the subsequent evaluation. The collapse, doctors believe, was caused by a “cardiac event” and Slaughter is still being evaluated. In the meantime, Slaughter has begun to take blood thinners, the treatment expected to last six or seven months.

“They don’t know if the clot was there before or after,” Walz said. “But they are two separate incidents. They are still trying to determined what caused the cardiac event.”

Writes Graham of this past week’s events: Cats, Cards cap strange week in Commonwealth

Expressing that magnanimity that perhaps comes with a second-half comeback in front of a full house in your arena, Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell heaped praise on Louisville counterpart Jeff Walz after last Sunday’s rivalry game, and then offered what surely seemed a benediction without any hint of foreboding.

 “It’s a good time for basketball in the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” Mitchell said.

Little did he know he was also about to play his part in what proved to be the strangest of weeks for women’s basketball in the Bluegrass State, one that turned the basketball court into something of a refuge for Louisville in the aftermath of Antonita Slaughter’s collapse and subsequent season-ending diagnosis of blood clots, and a labyrinth impossible to escape for Kentucky in a four-overtime game against Baylor.

So where does basketball in the Commonwealth stand a week later?

A little W info, as James over at Swish Appeal is talking to the Dream’s new head coach Michael Cooper on the hiring process, what makes a championship team, and Running With The Dream

Full Court has a nice coaching/coast bookend: Team turnarounds are Carol Ross’s coaching calling card

The plain-spoken Southerner is popular with players, fans and the press alike. Her coaching philosphy is built around heavy doses of the basics — hard work, discpline and defense, defense, defense. “I would hope that any team that I have the opportunity to influence – and that will be the Sparks now – that they are going to play very hard, they’re going to play for each other, and they’re going to play with a lot of enthusiasm and passion,” Ross told Full Court when she took over the reins in LA. “I can tell you that whoever is … wearing the Sparks uniform, they will play hard, and they will play with great passion and they’re going to compete very hard every night.”

Surprise! WNBA’s No. 4 pick in 2013 draft, Tayler Hill, expecting first child

Who’s got next (from Nate): Five seniors off to strong starts

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’cause that’s what game threes should be!

Atlanta v. Mystics @ 8pm. Sparks v. Mercury @ 10pm.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution couldn’t be bothered. (Probably recovering from the Falcons’ meltdown.)

From Roman at the WaPo: Washington Mystics must rebound in Game 3 of WNBA Eastern Conference semifnals (sic)

Small pockets of boos could be heard circulating through Verizon Center during the third quarter of the Washington Mystics’ 63-45 loss to the Atlanta Dream on Saturday night. The jeers began when the Dream, leading by 16, pulled down four offensive rebounds on one possession, the last leading to an Erika de Souza layup that gave Atlanta its largest lead.

That possession was a microcosm of the Mystics’ problems during Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Dream had more second-chance opportunities (18 offensive boards) than Washington and made 11 more field goals to send the series back to Atlanta for a decisive Game 3 on Monday night. The quick turnaround affords the Mystics little time for self-reflection — and even less time to rediscover the offensive identity they need to keep the season alive.

Melissa writes: Sparks, Phoenix brace for deciding game of series

Parker said that after Thursday’s 86-75 Game 1 loss at home, the Sparks made some major adjustments. They didn’t have much to do with basketball though.

“We just changed our mind-set more than we changed our play,” Parker said.

From Odeen: Phoenix Mercury focus on execution for decisive Game 3 against Los Angeles Sparks

“I thought the ball wound up in one person’s hands too long,” Mercury coach Russ Pennell said after Saturday’s loss. “The shot clock is so short. If you hang on to it too long, you are going to wind up taking a marginal shot. And I think (Saturday night), we took a lot of marginal shots, and we need to get that corrected before (Monday night), for sure.

“We did some things that were not really characteristic, I think, of this team. Bottom line is, we just didn’t get it done, and we have to try to correct it before we play again.”

Who ya got?

In those other games: Yup: Catchings, Fever overwhelm Sky Indiana advances to Eastern Conference finals to play either Atlanta or Washington

Sometimes, Indiana rookie guard Layshia Clarendon suddenly will remember that her down-to-earth, low-key, friendly teammate is actually a very big deal.

 “I see the way people cheer for her, the way the other team reacts when they announce her name,” Clarendon said. “And I think, ‘Oh, my gosh, that’s right. This is the Tamika Catchings, three-time gold medalist, awesome community leader.’ They are those ‘oh wow’ moments. But she makes you feel like she’s just another person.”

Of course, Catchings isn’t just another player. She is a future Hall of Famer, someone who is at least in the MVP discussion every WNBA season. And in the Fever’s Eastern Conference first-round series victory over Chicago, Catchings displayed her usual relentlessness. She was the best player on the court.

Nice to have the MIP on your team, too: Zellous’ play helps fill Douglas void – Guard’s offensive improvement paying dividends for Indiana Fever

From Mark Ambrogl: Why the Indiana Fever are on the verge of another title run (or maybe not)

From Philip Hersh

“We know how to play basketball,” said Sky guard Courtney Vandersloot, who spent several minutes after the game with her head buried under a towel. “We have enough experience and talent and skill in this room to win games in the playoffs.”

It went missing in both playoff games.

“In the end, it always comes down to toughness — rebounds, loose balls, deflections,” Chatman said. “It starts in the fight areas. You’ve just got to have some dog in you. You’ve just got to get it done.”

Nate explains How the Minnesota Lynx swept the Seattle Storm (Though it t’weren’t as easy as they might have thought it would be)

Clay offers Analysis: A tale of two series

From Jayda: Storm ousted from playoffs – Tina Thompson ends her career trying hard to extend Seattle’s season

Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best” blared from the speakers as the announced crowd of 3,457 chanted “Thank You Tina” until she exited the court. Thompson, a 6-foot-2 power forward, finished with 13 points and nine rebounds. She announced in May she would retire from the WNBA after this season.

“I can walk away and feel OK with how we finished because we gave as much as we possibly could,” Thompson said Sunday. “I’ve always wanted to retire from the game and not the game retire from me. So, when I leave on my own terms, it’s a lot easier to settle with.”

From Jim Caple: Tina Thompson retires on her terms

After Minnesota beat the Seattle Storm 58-55 Sunday afternoon, the Lynx asked the league’s all-time scoring leader if she would honor them by posing for a team photo with them. This is not the way teams generally celebrate sweeping a first-round playoff series. But then, teams don’t usually end opponent’s careers that are as old as the very league in which they play.

“It was a bigger-than-basketball moment,” Lynx forward Maya Moore said. “We have so much respect for her, and we just battled it out with her. And we just wanted to get a picture. ‘Hey Tina, can we get a picture?’ It was really kind of childlike and beautiful. And she was great. She said, ‘Go ahead and win the whole thing guys.”’

Yes, I sense the irony: Minnesota Public Radio has a link to some great game shots.

Jayda redux: End of Tina Thompson’s career is end of an era for WNBA

“The WNBA is the best-kept secret in the world in a sense that in every single season that I’ve been a part of, this product has been amazing and the level of competition has been very high,” she said to Storm teammates, Tulsa Shock players and a crowd of 8,978. “You guys are the future of the WNBA. Continue to work and play as hard as you do.”

It’s one of those scary moments to which parents can relate. At some point, you have to let go of your baby in order for it to flourish. Now Thompson, 38, embarks on the final days of her career beginning with a first-round playoff game Friday at Minnesota.

Thank you Tina. May joy follow you the rest of your days.

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So much for “home court advantage,” huh.

Angel started slowly, Erika never got started, and there was a whole lotta Latta. Suddenly, BOOM!, the Mystics are a win away from playing for the Eastern Conference Championship. Yup, Washington Mystics’ Mike Thibault finds coaching home in WNBA

The league, this team — he’s never envisioned it as a last-ditch stop on the circuit.

“I want to be here,” said Thibault, who became the WNBA’s leader in career coaching wins this past July. “I get up every day and I enjoy coaching here.”

Candace Parker enjoyed the MVP trophy for the first half, but when Nneka went to the bench with foul trouble, it was Taurasi-time. Understandably, Melissa sounds a little peeved – Sparks don’t win any awards in Game 1 loss to Mercury

At least Thursday began as a good day for Sparks forward Candace Parker.

The WNBA announced that she won the most-valuable-player award in the early evening. It was downhill from there, as the Sparks lost, 86-75, to the Phoenix Mercury in Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs at Staples Center later that night.

So much for a celebration.

“We let it slip away,” Parker said after scoring a team-high 28 points and grabbing eight rebounds.

Sue and a fellow WNBA addict, have some long Contemplations on the Sparks’ first-round loss to Phoenix

If Griner can figure out how to play without fouling, things could get interesting as the game moves to the Land of the Bun. ’cause hell already froze over: Look who’s liking the W!

We saw the best women’s player of all time, Diana Taurasi, who is absolutely brilliant and killed the Sparks in the second half as I repeatedly told my daughter (who loves basketball) to watch her command of the court, watch how hard she tried on every play and watch all the subtle things she was doing.

Continuing the day’s theme, Rookie of the Year Delle Donne did all she could, but Defensive Player of the Year Fowles, (Brin January? Really, ESPN Highlight guy?) along with the rest of her team, forgot to bring it. Indiana schooled playoff rooks and now look who’s eyeing the next round? (Nate’s not surprised)

Fowles was asked how it felt to be in the playoffs after five seasons of futility.

Her answer was a prolonged shriek of joy.

“Those five years we struggled are a blur now,” Fowles said.

A Sky season that included first place in the Eastern Conference could look the same way in the future if the team cannot beat fourth-place Indiana, the worst shooting team in the WNBA at 39 percent.

And the Sky are in grave danger of having that happen losing the opener of the best-of-three series 85-72 at Allstate Arena. against a Fever team for which 82 points had been the regular-season high.

I will be really sad for the Sky fans and franchise if Chicago can’t bring a third game home.

It was close through the first quarter, then there were back-to-back steals capped by free throws, and the Lynx were off and running. And then Seattle said, “Not so fast.” And then the Lynx said, “Yes, that fast” and, as Tim’s headline reads, the Minnesota Lynx avert the WNBA’s upset-special trend

“It was a trend that we were focused on bucking,” Reeve said. “I told the team, ‘Big dummies, the home teams.’ It was great fuel for us. It won’t be easy. If you think it is going to be easy, we are going to get beat.

“We had three examples of games that if you don’t come to play (you will get beat). Seattle, quite frankly, played harder than us (at times in the early going). Seattle played with a tremendous sense of urgency.”

And yes, Tom, perhaps the Dominant Lynx make it hard not to look ahead, but you know what they say about eggs and counting…

Adi Nelson at USA Today give the Warrior Princes her due: WNBA’s first ever pick Tina Thompson finishes with style

“I’m not retiring because I can’t play basketball; I’m retiring because I don’t want to play basketball,” Thompson said. “I’m just tired. My approach (was to play) until I stop having the same feelings and passions.”

Ah, memories – Rebkell puts together a great Tina tribute.

Speaking of memories:

In case you hadn’t noticed, the WNBA CBA set to expire on Sept. 30 before playoffs end. Wheeeee!

And lucky us, Mechelle had some extra time: Thinking of Billie Jean and the (ongoing) battle

A headline on The Kansas City Times front page the morning after King’s victory trumpeted: “Male chauvinism stamped out in three sets.”

However, inside the paper, a story on a Carnegie Commission of Higher Education report said more women graduated from high school than men, received better grades in college and applied themselves as diligently to their work – yet did not achieve anything near parity with men in rank and salary. The commission concluded that women were “the largest unused supply of superior intelligence in the United States.”

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*lifts head up from the start of the new school year*

Tonight on the Deuce, we get Washington v. Atlanta (congrats, Coach T!), followed by Phoenix v. L.A.

Discuss:

Mechelle: Mystics ride momentum into playoffs – Washington seeks first playoff win since 2002

It was three years ago — although it might seem like a lifetime to Mystics fans — that Washington and Atlanta met in the first round of the WNBA playoffs.

The Mystics had finished first in the Eastern Conference for the first time in 2010, while the Dream were fourth. But Atlanta swept Washington 2-0, Mystics coach Julie Plank and general manager Angela Taylor both departed (with some acrimony) after the season, and Washington won a combined 11 games over the next two seasons under coach/GM Trudi Lacey.

OK, just try to put that all out of your minds, Mystics fans. This season was a fresh start under veteran coach Mike Thibault.

The WaPo brings back Gene: Washington Mystics hope to continue recent strong play in WNBA playoffs

After directing a cultural shift within the organization during the regular season, first-yearWashington Mystics Coach Mike Thibault’s rebuilding project moves into Phase 2 on Thursday night when his club faces the Atlanta Dream in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Mystics (17-17) are the No. 3 seed following a season in which they more than tripled their win total from last year. They are making their first playoff appearance since 2010.

From WNBAlien: 2013 WNBA Playoff Previews: Eastern Conference First Round – Atlanta Dream vs. Washington Mystics

These teams finished tied with .500 records in the Eastern Conference, but arrived there by very different routes. Washington were a ‘win two here, lose three there’ kind of team all season long. They’d fight out a few results, then lose their way for a while, then remember what they needed to do to win games again. Just to make it this far has to be considered a success for Mike Thibault and his squad, considering the disastrous couple of years under Trudi Lacey that preceded this season. Meanwhile, Atlanta started the year 10-1, and then dropped into something resembling freefall. For those of you who can do basic math, you’ll be able to calculate that they went 7-16 over the remainder of the season. Injuries hit them hard, and it was a struggle to overcome them enough to regain real form in the second half of the year – plus not everyone is back. Both these teams are somehow predictably unpredictable, which makes foretelling how their series is going to play out rather tricky.

From Bob Corwin at Full Court: ATL vs. WAS playoff preview: Can the Dream put the pieces back together in postseason?

On paper, this series should be easy to call. Look at the Dream roster: It has more world class players and thus should be expected to win. However, the games are not played on paper and the subplots in this series could make it much more competitive and interesting than a casual fan might anticipate.

In spite of what pundits predict, the WNBA narrative often does not behave according to the script laid out for it.

Michelle: Stars, offenses take center stage – Best-of-three series opens in Los Angeles on Thursday

With a pair of high-scoring, star-studded teams, this might be the best first-round matchup of the WNBA postseason. The two teams, which haven’t met in the playoffs since 2009, split the season series after Los Angeles closed the regular season with a 34-point win over the depleted Mercury on Sunday.

And more Michelle: Sparks look to step it up in playoffs

 There’s an edge to the playoff conversation in the Sparks locker room.

Hunger, no doubt about it. But the Sparks don’t necessarily feel like they’ve played their best basketball yet.

And they’re impatient to get to that level.

“There are a lot of areas where we still need to improve,” coach Carol Ross said.

From Clay at Full Court: LA vs. PHX playoff preview: Can the Mercury pull it together for the postseason?

It comes down to this: Did Phoenix have time to put the pieces of the puzzle together despite the injuries and the coaching change?

If so, the Mercury have lots of weapons, and enough firepower to give anyone trouble. The timetable, though, was a little rushed, and if the team hasn’t completely gelled, it could be a rough postseason ride — as was indicated in the 89-55 pounding the Mercury took by the Sparks to close the season on Sunday.

No surprise, the ‘Kellians have some issues with that last observation, so they discuss it with Clay.

From Melissa at the LA Times (finally!) Sparks’ Candace Parker aims to go the distance in postseason this time

During a recent Sparks practice, Candace Parker paused the scrimmage three times to give her teammates instructions on defense.

She wasn’t going to allow the Sparks to make any mistakes before they begin their best-of-three first-round playoff series against Phoenix on Thursday at Staples Center (7 p.m.; TV: ESPN2).

“It certainly helps when the face of your franchise is locked in, because it makes it a lot easier for everyone to get in there as well,” Sparks Coach Carol Ross said.

The Sparks haven’t won a WNBA championship since winning titles in 2001 and 2002. The drought seems endless to Parker, who was selected by the Sparks as the top overall pick in the 2008 draft.

From Odeen at Arizona Central: Whether shooting or passing, Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi makes her point(s) (take that, .com dude)

No other player in the league affects her team’s scoring output more than the Mercury’s Diana Taurasi. Whether she puts the ball in the basket or helps a teammate do it, Taurasi influences the scoreboard as much as the person who pushes the button to change it.

This season, Taurasi scored 20.3 points and recorded 6.2 assists per game. Both averages were second-highest in the league. The assists average is a career high.

For Taurasi, accumulating a high assist average is simple.

“When you have DB (DeWanna Bonner), Penny (Taylor), (Candice) Dupree, BG (Brittney Griner),” Taurasi said, “if you don’t average six (assists per game), you suck.”

Odeen also offers up: Phoenix Mercury hitting stride as playoffs begin

“As a unit, I definitely think so,” forward Penny Taylor said. “We’ve made adjustments and, obviously, we have everyone healthy. We have had everyone out there for a couple of games. In implementing a lot of things that we’re doing, especially in the defensive end, I feel like everyone is getting it together.”

Ummm…. Yummy? Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner taste test: Bacon

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Suddenly Minnesota looks a mess... and, so, I’m thinking “BAIL ON YOUR PREDICTION, you coward, IT’S GOING TO BE L.A. and Atlanta!!”

But then Chicago manages to survive the Mystics (‘ello ‘elle!), and the L.A. gets STOMPED by Spare Parts ‘ompsons.

And no, I don’t want to talk about Phoenix escaping the Cambage Shock. (What’s the record for double-doubles pts/assists in a season?)

And in “Honestly? Wasn’t a moratorium declared on this stuff?” news Hightower, Faris Sidelined By Injuries

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drop me a note, ‘kay?

I mean, geez:

Spare Parts Seattle (‘ello LJ!) takes down Will This Road Trip Ever End Indiana.

“(Tina’s) play tonight is just inspiring,” Storm coach Brian Agler said. “If you can’t sit there and think about what she’s getting done at her age – the minutes she’s playing, hitting big shots, making big plays and guarding one of the better players in the league in (Tamika) Catchings, it’s hard not to really compete when you’re on the floor with her.”

Spare Parts (2) San Antonio takes down Not Quite New Look Phoenix.

“(Robinson is) just evolving into a player this year with the loss of Becky (Hammon) and Sophia (Young) where we have got to play through her,” Hughes said. “And playing through her takes different forms. It takes scoring, but it also takes her facility to set up people and that arc that she is working on was really important today.”

Coach of the Year Candidate Washington smoosh the This Wasn’t the Season Bill was Hoping For New York.

Hey, at least we held off the collapse until the fourth quarter.

Tierra Ruffin-Pratt looked like she heard the scurrilous rumors that her classmates had passed her in the rookie rankings, and was determined to take back her place as the most surprising success of the class of 2013. She shook Katie Smith off her on defense repeatedly to get open jumpers, and she was fighting for rebounds every chance she got. She was very physical, and paid the price for it.. (Katie got in a pretty good hit on her, too. Katie is a Bad Girl, after all.) Kia Vaughn (who actually started the second half) threw her body around like nobody’s business, setting screens and picks and boxing out viciously. We kept throwing her passes. She doesn’t even go here anymore! She was strong on the inside. Tayler Hill played briefly, and it was amusing to watch the young Buckeye going up against the old Buckeye when she was matched with Katie Smith, but amusement value was all she provided. Nadirah McKenith looked solid but unremarkable. Emma Meesseman went hard after the ball, but her judgment was not always the best. She’ll learn. And she’ll be scary when she does.

Lose by a Little Get Revenge by a  Lot Atlanta stomps Can’t Quite Get it Together Connecticut.

Tall Person In the Middle Tulsa trumps Tall Person Missing in the Middle Minnesota. In Minnesota.

Liz Cambage had 27 points and eight rebounds as the Shock broke a 14-game losing streak against the Lynx and posted the biggest franchise win – home or away – since moving to Tulsa in 2010. 

“I think it signifies a real sign of growth for this team,” said guard Candice Wiggins, a five-year Lynx standout before coming to Tulsa in an offseason trade.

Yup, the next few weeks will be miiiiighty interesting. LA is looming (Sue Favor sends this link: Red hot Sparks put away injury-depleted Fever, 94-72), Atlanta is dreaming a Lyttle, and the #3 and #4 spots are up for grabs in both conferences. Read all about it at L’Alien!

A little high school history out of Bradenton, Florida: Southeast’s first girls basketball state champions stand alone

Those Lady Noles were an up-tempo team that epitomized the run-and-gun label and trapped all over the court. In a victory over Bayshore, Southeast scored 106 points. They had speed and athleticism and a big front line.

“We pressed the heck out of people and ran kind of a like a run-and-jump defense,” says Smith, who now works in the medical profession as a salesperson. “Olivia was an amazing person, and our inside force and could move well. Her sister (Christella) came off the bench, and she was big. Loretta was amazingly fast, smart and sassy. She was gifted, and Coach Narbut made us special.”

Sad news out of Georgia: Pat Rivers, the first girls basketball coach to bring a state title to Augusta, died Saturday morning.

“She pushed us a lot. She motivated us. She made us work harder,” said Natasha Reid, captain of the 1997 team who now works as a special education teacher at East Central Regional Hospital.

“I tried to be laid back, but she pushed me to be a leader. I didn’t see that back then. I’m glad she did.”

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The U-19 is still looking for a challenge: US 103, Mali 26; US 103,  China 56. Today they face the Netherlands, Tuesday it’s Canada and Wednesday it’s France. Look for the semi’s to be streamed on July 27th via FIBATV.

Meanwhile,  the elders were making memories at World University Games

What did Nebraska’s Jordan Hooper miss out on while she was in Kazan, Russia, playing for the United States women’s basketball team at the World University Games?

* A couple of Husker summer practices.

* The baseball All-Star Game.

* “Sharknado” on SyFy.

She spent more than 30 hours on airplanes (each way), learned to like — sort of — Russian food, and found it wasn’t a problem playing in front of the opposing crowd in the championship game because, well, she couldn’t understand a word the fans were saying.

A health(ier) Indiana is a hungry Indiana.

New York doesn’t want to see the Sky any more with or without an injured or not injured Big Syl.

The Merc didn’t want to see Sammy anymore (and some suggested waiving her was an affirmation of an alarming trend in the world of basketball ), but Trader Bill is interested: New York Liberty sign Long Island’s Samantha Prahalis to a 7-day contract.

Speaking of bigs: Glory and Liz are rocking the Shock, who’ve won three in a row. From Tulsa World photographer Mike Simons:

“She can’t cover you Liz!”

That is what I heard several times from the crowd at the Tulsa Shock game against the Atlanta Dream. It seemed to be true as Elizabeth Cambage seemed to do whatever she pleased on the floor during their game against the Atlanta Dream. She finished with 23 points and 15 rebounds in their 90-63 victory over Atlanta.

I, like other newspaper photographers, spend a lot of time at sporting events. It is fun, and rare, when you see someone rise above the rest and get into the zone as I have heard it called. I saw it in the Cotton Bowl as Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel dismantled Oklahoma’s defense. I saw it as I covered NBA basketball player O.J. Mayo in high school. There have been others, and there will be others. It was exciting to watch it yesterday with Cambage.

And yes, if Seattle continues to miss out on upset opportunities, maybe Tulsa will make the playoffs. Though San Antonio is still proving to be stubborn.

If and when Griner gets healthy and Gaines figures out to how to use her on offense, the Merc might really threaten Minnesota. As it is, this time Moore was just enough to help the Lynx survive.

WNBA’s Zoll-Norman shares message: Be yourself

She doesn’t even like the term “coming out” because hers was not some great revelation and had nothing to do with the timing of other pro athletes like Jason Collins and fellow WNBA player Brittney Griner who recently spoke out about being gay.

“There’s no secret,” Zoll-Norman said. “The interview kind of took a turn. It was really supposed to be about going to the pride parade and me being in it representing the Sky organization, which is an amazing thing. I had never been in a pride parade before and it kind of turned out to be that it was a ‘coming out.’ I don’t really like that term because if I was straight I wouldn’t have to come out and say I was straight. I don’t think that has anything to do with me as a basketball player.

“It turned out that it was an inspiration for some people, which I can appreciate, and I’m glad that it was. I just hope that everybody knows that they can be themselves.”

Purdue is down one: Sophomore Taylor Manuel will transfer from Purdue

Loss in West Virginia and Tennessee:

No player in the history of West Virginia high school girls basketball ever has or ever will be able to match the impact Mary Ostrowski had on the sport.

A standout at Parkersburg Catholic, Ostrowski-who lost her long battle with cancer on Friday at age 51-was the pioneer, the trailblazer, the player who set the standards for all others.

She was West Virginia girls basketball’s first superstar, winning the state player of the year award the first three seasons, while leading Catholic to 88 straight wins and two state championships.

Obviously, she was an extremely gifted player. But what set her apart from others who also fell into that category was her work ethic, which was legendary.

The news is getting worse out of Oakland: Players’ shocking allegations against former NCAA women’s basketball coach: As many as 15 former players and others close to the Oakland University women’s basketball program allege Beckie Francis fixated on their weight, pushed her religious views and used intimidation.  

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excited about the present AND future of the WNBA: Los Angeles v. Phoenix. Diana v. Candace. Great crowd. Lots of scoring. Great skills on display, tempered by a soupçon of crankiness.

Granted, it was late for the East Coasters, but it sure was worth staying up for:

And, while part of me agrees with Lobo’s assessment of Taurasi’s tendency to get cranky, I appreciate how unapologetic she is about it. Her post-game comments remind me of this fabulous Nike promo:

Of course, Diana will have to pay careful attention to scheduling her next T – ’cause she’ll miss the following game.

Oh, yah, and the WNBA all-stars were announced. Did you get the email?  (more…)

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coach Coale: 

Today has been ridiculous. We had a meeting this morning at 10:30 a.m. before practice, then we had shootaround at noon … then we packed our bags so that they could be loaded on the truck at 6 p.m. … then we left for the gym at 7 p.m. … and we’re at the airport now and it’s 2:45 a.m. Somewhere in the middle of all that we played really well and won a gold medal at the World University Games.

Our team played our best game together at the most important time. We shared the ball on offense, we ran in transition, and we got down and guarded a Russian squad that can shred you if you’re not all on the same page. We defended their ball screens and adjusted to their adjustments while flooding the paint and daring them to launch three’s. And we had a counterpunch for every punch they threw. That’s what great players do on big, bright stages.

Meanwhile, Carl Ademac is aware that, playing for the U19 team, Another title is within Stewart’s reach. Stewart is also offering content to Syracuse.com : Breanna Stewart Diary: Team USA wins tournament, explores Canary Islands, tries water sports

Former Cicero-North Syracuse star and current Connecticut sensation Breanna Stewart is participating in another summer of USA Basketball, an annual tradition with her that dates to 2009. This year, Stewart is headed with her USA teammates to the FIBA U19 World Championship in Lithuania, scheduled for July 18-28.

We’ve engaged Stewart to write diaries in the past, but this summer we thought it might be fun to chronicle how 12 gifted basketball players spend their free time while practicing and playing internationally. Here’s the second excerpt in Stewart’s latest summer diary (She’s supplying the Instagram photos and videos):

Paul Nielson is Looking forward to some fabulous fun in Lithuania (lucky dog!)

Watching youth basketball is a serious buzz at any time as far as I am concerned. Seeing young players cutting their teeth in their national team colours for a few years before they fight to make it with the seniors on the big stage is just wonderful.It is particularly interesting because bodies are still growing, attitudes are still being shaped and of course, skills and know-how are in their respective infancy.

To be able to get a close look at these talents not only on the court, but also looking at how they interact with the tournament environment generally, is genuinely humbling for me because there will be many great talents and athletes on display.

From Aaron Lommers at the Herald Net: Who’s the top rookie in the WNBA? Storm players share their thoughts on league’s first-year players

Speaking of rookies, from Melissa at the Los Angeles Times: WNBA’s Brittney Griner has learned to rise above it all

In her short time in the league, Griner has become a celebrity. The first openly gay athlete to sign with Nike, she can’t go anywhere without being approached by fans seeking her autograph, she said.

But the memories of being bullied by peers while she was growing up still haunt her. Griner remembers those who refused to believe she was a girl and those who questioned her sexual orientation. Others groped her and taunted her verbally, she said.

Zack at Swish Appeal says Rookies help put Mystics back above .500 but the Truthtella wonders: Are the Mystics really rebuilding?

Can a team claim itself to be in rebuilding mode when

  • not one of its current starters has less than six years of WNBA experience?
  • two of them (Currie and Snow) are at least 30 years old?
  • all but one current starter played in Washington last year?
  • the decision was made to hire the all-time winningest head coach in WNBA history? 

Ray Floriani writes Indiana Fever rookie Layshia Clarendon making progress in her rookie year

Philly’s CBS station notices Temple Product Dupree Still A WNBA Standout

Dupree is in her 8th season in the league, her fourth in Phoenix, after being drafted in the first round by Chicago back in 2006.

“Still haven’t met my major goal, which is to win a WNBA championship, but the last seven years have been amazing,” Dupree told KYW Newsradio recently. “I’d take this any day over a regular 9-to-5 (job). Been a lot of fun and hopefully I have a few years left in me.”

Kyle Ratke, Web Editorial Associate at the Lynx site notices Whalen’s recent scoring surge: Stepping Up For Seimone. At the Pioneer Press, Bruce Brothers chimes in with: Janel McCarville starting to play like her old self

Two seasons away from the WNBA, plus a disagreement with a team overseas, had left her pro basketball future in limbo.

McCarville, 30, was at home in Stevens Point, Wis., when the Lynx acquired her rights in March. She started the 2012-13 season playing in Turkey but left her team in January because she wasn’t getting paid, she said. When the Lynx called, she was overweight and out of shape and returning to what she considered the unlikeliest spot for her to ever play again.

Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve mentioned early this season that the former University of Minnesota star’s head had to be spinning because of all the changes.

Goody Goodrich: Behind Angel and a red-hot Riquna, the Shock defeated the Storm handily.

A lot of missed shots for the Dream meant a lot of rebounds… but LA was playing at home, and everyone else picked up the slack as Candace had an off scoring night.

Walk down memory lane as pilight reviews The worst trades in WNBA history

During the Sparks-Shock game last night, Rebecca Lobo suggested the trade that brought Kristi Toliver to Los Angeles was one of the most one sided in league history. Bad trades have been subject for debate among WNBA fans since Mikiko Hagiwara was traded to the Mercury in 1997. I even blogged on it myself back when WNBA.com was sponsoring fan blogs and Kristi Toliver was just the hero of the Final Four. Let’s update things and see where the Toliver trade ranks and see if any other recent trades are as bad or worse. Here are the top 10 worst trades in WNBA history:

Do svidaniya, Sveta: Abrosimova retiring

The http://www.lovewomensbasketball.com site found an interview to championat.com in which former UConn star Svetlana Abrosimova said she is ending her playing career as she embarks on the next stage of her basketball career which could include being named the Russian Basketball Federation President.

Nice: Charles Honored With Margo Dydek Award

The Connecticut Sun recognized Tina Charles as its 2013 Woman of Inspiration, honoring her with the second annual Margo Dydek Award prior to tipoff of the game against the Chicago Sky on July 12th at Mohegan Sun Arena. 

The reigning WNBA MVP, Charles was selected for this award because of her remarkable generosity and tireless efforts to help those in need. Charles follows Rebecca Lobo, who received the inaugural Margo Dydek Award last August. She received a donation of $1,000 from the Connecticut Sun Foundation. 

“Margo was a special person who was known as much for her open spirit as she was for her talent on the basketball court,” Connecticut Sun Vice President and General Manager Chris Sienko said of Dydek, who died unexpectedly at the age of 37 following a heart attack on May 27, 2011. “In that sense, she has a great deal in common with Tina, who embodies so much of what Margo was about.”

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Atlanta Dream Forward Sancho Lyttle Undergoes Successful Surgery, Will Miss 6-8 Weeks.

Speaking of “littles,” after the WUG’s littles did a superb job against the Russian’s bigs and won gold, it’s now the young’uns turn: USA U19 Women conduct first practice in Lithuania.

WATN? Former Purdue star Katie Gearlds takes 1st head coaching job at Marian University

Ouch: Diggins.

More ouch: Griner.

Jayda talks to da Rooth: WNBA Talk: Atlanta Dream’s Ruth Riley

Mechelle on the impact of Harding and Toliver on L.A.’s backcourt

Los Angeles guard Kristi Toliver always has had that one particular grin on court that makes me think of a little kid who just grabbed two extra cookies when nobody was watching.

It’s not obnoxious or mocking or dastardly. It’s just … well, I guess you could call it mildly, mischievously gleeful. Like, “Ha! Threaded that pass!” or “Hee hee! Nailed that shot!”

Whenever Toliver was having a good time on the court, you could tell. Conversely, when she was not happy, that was pretty obvious, too. But the even-keeled Kristi — the one who has become more and more reliable for her competitive consistency, whether her shots are dropping — actually is a regular presence these days.

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The US WOMEN are rollin’ at the WUG — though a 30-pt win wasn’t a breeze against Sweden.

“Our defense in the second half was much better than it was in the first,” said USA head coach Sherri Coale(University of Oklahoma). “We kept the ball in front and forced them into taking contested shots. We did a much better job on the defensive glass. They are a tremendous offensive rebounding team and go at it very hard. If you can block them out, then you have an advantage in transition on the other end. That was what we were able to do in the second half.”

Reminder: ESPNU will air the USA’s semifinal game at the following dates & times: July 13 @ 1 pm ET || July 13 @ 10 pm ET || July 14 @ 5 am ET || July 14 @ 11 am ET. If they make the Gold Medal game: ESPNU: July 15 @ 1:30 pm ET || July 15 @ 9 pm ET || July 16 @ 8 am ET

It wasn’t easy, but Whalen and Wright led Lynx past Indiana

It was easy, as Candace Parker’s 30 points helped the Sparks get first road win

Alaska’s greatest women’s basketball player finally steps off court at age 31

Ryan Larsen has been named head coach at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.

High school basketball has its issues: Prep Charter girls’ basketball team to surrender titles

And its ambassadors: Beloved Trenton Central High School girls basketball coach continues free summer camp despite funding cuts

As the girls basketball coach at Trenton Central High School, Reginald K. Murray may hold the record for most wins in girls’ basketball in Mercer County and serve as a major speaker for national coaching conventions, but right then, the girls in his free summer camp needed to get their footwork down.

Inside a sweltering gym at the school last month, Murray pushed the young athletes, who ranged in age from high-schoolers down to fourth-graders, through agility drills before moving onto the next exercise.

The sessions known as Hell Week went on for five days before Murray picked teams for tournament play.

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Or, in this case, Chicago’s peril, ’cause yes, the WHBCurse seems to have come to roost in Chicago as the Sky lost Big Syl, then lost a lead, and then lost the game to the Storm. Oops.

With Sky center Sylvia Fowles out with an ankle injury, the Storm could put a lot of focus on defending Delle Donne. Seattle did that well, holding her to a season-low 12 points on 3-of-13 shooting. Sky guard Epiphanny Prince also felt the effects of the Seattle defense, going 3 of 9 from the field for 12 points.

The Storm were able to keep Delle Donne and Prince off-balance from the field without sending them to the line all that much. That was key, as they are exceptional free throw shooters, both better than 90 percent from the line this season.

Home sweet home, huh? While coach Ross is lobbying for all the playoff games to be held at Staples, (tsk, tsk LA Times) the Lynx are wondering “Wha Happen?”

14 NY turnovers lead to 21 Merc points…. and another Phoenix win.

For much of the Mercury’s season, it’s been Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner. Brittney Griner and Diana Taurasi.

The talk has been about them off the court. So has the focus on it.

But don’t forget, the Mercury also have Candice Dupree, a three-time All-Star and DeWanna Bonner, who was second in the league in scoring last season.

The two made sure people remembered Tuesday night, scoring 20 points and grabbing seven rebounds apiece, in leading the Mercury to a 94-87 win over the New York Liberty.

A poor shooting Tulsa (even with Liz back) was just what the doctor ordered for Connecticut.

Any inspiration is happily accepted amid a losing streak, a three-week, four-game odyssey for the Connecticut Sun by Tuesday night. Which is why even though Sydney Carter, the little guard who did, posted more impressive numbers, her teammates chose to focus on the “two” under the category of “blocked shots.”

“Two blocked shots for Sydney Carter!” injured Sun guard Renee Montgomery said in the relieved locker room, perusing the post game stat sheet. “Dead serious.”

And, in case you didn’t catch my sarcasm yesterday: From the Day’s Mike DiMauro: ‘Three to See’ is generating interest among WNBA’s fans

A more cynical sort might dismiss Connecticut’s distaste for “three to see” by reasoning that none of the three hail from UConn, thus creating haughty disapproval. Maybe others here who have obtained a more global view could tolerate “three to see” if it didn’t have a flavor-of-the-month feel and if similar effort went into marketing those who came before them (Diana, Maya, Candace, etc.)

No matter our opinion about the “three to see,” though, we here in our state should be the first to admit that any marketing plan that moves the needle, especially outside Connecticut, is good for the game we love.

So now we propose the following question:

What if “three to see” is actually working?

“To wit”, as the All-Star Voting early tallies comes in, look who’s leading: EDD

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