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See you February 18th.

Sincerely, UConn

Connecticut walked in to Maples and stomped all over the Cardinal. After an opening few minutes that tempted us with the possibility of an interesting game between the #1 and #2 in the country, UConn’s defense (In particular, Stef Dolson on Chiney– take note, Adams & Courtney) simply shut Stanford down.

The beauty of the Stanford women’s offense is rhythm and preparation. When it works it looks as in sync as the San Antonio Spurs and the Radio City Rockettes. On those days, the Cardinal could be sponsored by Arthur Murray Dance Studios.

When it doesn’t work, when Tara VanDerveer’s team does not connect, does not adjust much on the fly, the result can be as ugly as it is repetitive. And on this Saturday, when UConn executed its defensive game plan as well as Geno Auriemma could ever remember and when Stefanie Dolson demonstrated that to arrive in Storrs means to leave as a smarter, fitter, more determined athlete, the results can be epic.

Writes Michelle:

 As showdowns go, Saturday’s Connecticut-Stanford game at Maples Pavilion was a failure. As a fact-finding mission, it was illuminating.

Geno Auriemma now knows that for as much offensive talent as he has assembled, that for as many nights as his team dances around triple digits, he can lean on defense to win some big games. And he can lean on Stefanie Dolson as hard as he ever has.

He also surely understands, after a shocking 61-35 shellacking of No. 1 Stanford — ending the Cardinal’s 82-game home winning streak and handing Tara VanDerveer the worst home loss of her 26-year tenure on The Farm — that his team is a legitimate challenger, perhaps even the favorite over Baylor, to win the national championship in April.

It wasn’t a particularly elegant offensive display by the Huskies, but it was beautifully balanced, with the home state kid, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis returning to make a statement, in spite of partaking of an IV.

“At halftime we talked about getting her the ball,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “She’s been sick since she left Connecticut, she was in the hospital, she was getting IVs, I don’t know if it was the flu or whatever she (had), but I thought in the second half she really responded.

“That just goes to show you how much she changed in one year, how many more things she can do now than she could last year.”

Other ranked teams were also involved in routs: Baylor over  SE Louisiana, Maryland over Hartford, Notre Dame over Hartford, South Carolina over Western Carolina (how much more attention should we be paying to S.C.?). Oklahoma over Cal-Northridge, and Colorado over New Mexico.

BTW, I see you, Toledo.

In other news, Illinois’ defeat of previously unbeaten Georgia gets them some attention: Matt Bollant out to turn around Illini

…when Illinois offered Bollant the coaching job in Champaign after last season, he felt he couldn’t turn it down. At the moment, Green Bay is a better basketball program than Illinois. It wins more games, plays better basketball and draws more fans. But like many coaches who move from successful mid-majors to middling majors — Indiana’s Curt Miller, Texas’ Karen Aston also among the most recent class — Bollant made his move based on a calculation about the future. No matter how close to perfection Green Bay comes on the court, it is rarely, if ever, going to beat majors off the court.

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The Cardinal and Huskies were preparing for their big showdown. (At least THIS big Card game is on tv! — tho barely – ESPNU.) Michelle writes: 

Two years ago at Maples Pavilion, on a chilly California night just before the turn of the New Year, the building vibrated.

 The Connecticut Huskies came west with a NCAA-record 90-game winning streak and the nation’s best player. 

By the time Stanford ended that streak, leading start to finish in a 71-59 victory, delirious fans roared, former Stanford players were rushing the court, Connecticut players looked a little stunned and a smiling Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer sensibly reminded everyone that it was only December.

Fast forward to 2012 and it’s still only December. But that doesn’t mean Maples won’t vibrate again.

From the Cardinal website: It’s No. 1 vs. No. 2 As Stanford And Connecticut Face Off Saturday: Saturday’s meeting will be the 51st all-time meeting between the nation’s top two teams 

From the Husky website: No. 2 UConn Faces Top-Ranked Stanford on Saturday on ESPNU – Top two teams in the nation tip off at 4 p.m. on December 29 on ESPNU

The No. 2 Connecticut women’s basketball team is set to take on top-ranked Stanford on Saturday at 4 p.m. at a sold out Maples Pavilion in Stanford, Calif.  The top-two showdown will be televised on ESPNU with Dave O’Brien, Doris Burke and Rebecca Lobo on the call. The nation’s best will each put their undefeated records on the line as the Cardinal (11-0) and the Huskies (10-0) both have been perfect coming into Saturday’s game.

In case you were busy before the holidays, and missed this from Graham: Defense helps keep Cardinal No. 1

The week began with Baylor’s case for becoming the fourth school to win back-to-back national championships, and Brittney Griner, Odyssey Sims and the Lady Bears putting on a show in dismantling Tennessee.

It closed with Stanford showing why the road to No. 1 currently runs through the Bay Area.

Cardinal fans and Husky fans are discussing and analyzing and anticipating.

Speaking of anticipating: From Lady Swish, “Let’s the games begin (again)!

OK, folks, break’s over. Hope everyone had a happy holiday and got recharged for the second half of the season. Now let’s get back to work. Here’s a look at each team’s post-Christmas opener:

As the “new” season starts, the Register Guard has a Team-by-team 2013 Pac-12 women’s basketball preview and asks, “Is the league closing in on Stanford?”

The holiday break has opened some space for writers to go beyond “fifteen minutes after it ends” game stories.

From John Cannon at the Frederick News-Post Staff: India Dotson’s Smart head start – India Dotson was supposed to be one of the county’s top girls basketball players this season. Instead, she is already at Monmouth University, taking classes and playing hoops

Freshman India Dotson is the youngest player on the Monmouth University women’s basketball team.

Strange as it sounds, that fact helps explain why her college coach considers her to be so mature.

At 10-fer, Colorado is about to move in to Conference play, and the Buffs know Pac-12 play will be tough

From the New Haven Register’s Chris Hunn: Milford’s Casey Dulin excelling for Marist women’s basketball

For Milford’s Casey Dulin, there’s no place like home.

“She always seems to play well in Connecticut,” said Marist coach Brian Giorgis of his 5-foot-10 combo guard. “She seems to always have great games here. She always gets a lot of fans. It motivates her, it fires her up and she plays well.”

Folks at Duquesne are psyched: Women’s Basketball Receives Votes in Both PollsDukes get votes in AP and Coaches Polls

From the Jackson Free Press’ Torsheta Bowens: Mississippi Women’s Basketball Relies on Key Metro Area Graduates

From Cody Westerlund at the Ames Tribune:

In a season that’s already seen a worrisome injury to a top player (Chelsea Poppens), the emergence of a potential star (Hallie Christofferson) and the transfer of a rotation regular (Emiah Bingley) for Iowa State, Moody has rarely been in the headlines. Her performances have rarely been lost on her coach, though, with good reason: Moody is vitally important because she’s unique on this team.

The NBA has theirs. Now the Cal basketball chimes in. (h/t to Nate) The SF Gate also has this on Cal’s Talia Caldwell

As someone big on goals and plans, Cal basketball player Talia Caldwell knows exactly what she will be doing on a certain spring morning next year:

“I’ll be done May 23rd at 9 a.m.,” she said. “I’ll dance across the stage and get my degree and say ‘sayonara.’ “

It won’t be just any old undergraduate degree, either. After becoming the first Cal women’s basketball player ever admitted to the prestigious Haas School of Business, Caldwell will receive a B.A. in business administration. (Maybe the Lib could hire her?)

Speaking of Nate, more fun from Swish Appeal: Meme/GIF of the Year Candidates for 2012

It’s getting close to the end of the calendar year, since we are all heading to Christmas next Tuesday. Over the course of this year’s open threads and the like, there have been some comments with memes and GIF’s after a play or something to symbolize a theme of the season. So, here are some of the notable ones we saw throughout the year, and more specifically during the WNBA season.

The .com chimes in with their “Tomorrow’s Stars: Christmas Edition:”

The hype surrounding the 2013 WNBA Draft class – which includes three game-changing prospects in Baylor’s Brittney Griner, Delaware’s Elena Delle Donne and Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins, all currently playing for their respective colleges – is at an all-time high as all three have the potential to immediately make a substantial impact on a franchise. Each week, WNBA.com will update you with what each of these players is doing for their respective schools as it’s never to early for WNBA fans to start following some of the future stars of this league.From espnW:

2012: The Year of the Woman, by espnW (feat. Alicia Keys “Girl on Fire”) (Who was the comedienne who said, “What, we only get a year?”)

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her 700th game, does anyone notice?

VanDerveer quietly chalks up milestone

Tara VanDerveer barely had time to soak up her 700th career victory at Stanford before the longtime Cardinal coach was asked whether she’d be sticking around to make a run at 800.”That’s only three years if you can get 30 a year,” VanDerveer said.

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on Tuesday, and The Pink Room is on it: Season 1, Episode 4: Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer’s message to Pat Summitt

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Yup, Michelle, you have been busy.

What Tara Really meant was….on espnW

Stanford-St. John’s Game Story for espnW

Stanford-St. John’s Game story for Pac-10.org

Toni Kokenis feature for Pac-10.org

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of basketball. Tonight’s crew is going to have to pull out the stop to match’em. Mechelle sizes up the games.

Every team except Green Bay that will be playing in the second round of the women’s NCAA tournament Tuesday night has previously been to the Sweet 16. Even though for some of them, it has been a long time.

That includes No. 3 seed Miami, which faces sixth-seeded Oklahoma on Tuesday for a trip to the Dayton Regional semifinals.

About last night:

The Stomp:

#1 Stanford was pushed in the first, but pulled away in the second behind their sister act to take down the #9 Red Storm, 75-49. Writes Michelle Smith:

Connecticut. Tennessee. Duke. Texas. DePaul. Gonzaga. UCLA. Xavier. Rutgers.

All have been to Maples Pavilion in the last four years. None of them have won.

Now add St. John’s to that list.

The Stanford seniors bade farewell to their beloved home court Monday night in impressive style, as the top-seeded Cardinal overcame an early eight-point deficit to blow past ninth-seeded Red Storm, 75-49.

So it’s time for the final tally: 63-0. Kayla Pedersen and Jeanette Pohlen walked off the floor for the last time in their careers never having experienced the disappointment of a home-court loss.

The Semi-Stomp:

#2 Notre Dame took a lead into the half and maintained it through the second half to defeat the #10 Owls, 77-64.

Notre Dame had the impressive NCAA tourney resume.With a dominating inside game Monday night, the Fighting Irish just padded it some more.Their 77-64 victory over Temple advanced the Irish to the regional semifinals for the ninth time, and second in a row.It wasn’t exactly easy as Temple refused to quit, pulling within five points early in the second half and within nine late thanks to a defense that forced 19 turnovers. But when they needed a play, the Irish got it.

Almost a stumble:

It’s not as if #1 Tennessee was totally out of sorts as much as it was that #8 Marquette simply would not stop. Writes Mechelle:

…for a while, it looked like the Golden Eagles just might be able to pull what would have been one of the bigger upsets ever in the women’s NCAA tournament. Not because Marquette isn’t a strong team; the Golden Eagles proved they were. But because Tennessee has been impossible to beat at home in Thompson-Boling Arena in NCAA tournament games.

That record remained intact, but not until after the Orange Nation probably needed to munch on a Tums or two.

It was a tale of halves: the first one went to #6 Penn State, the second to #3 DePaul, as the Blue Demons survived, 75-73. PA native Keisha Hampton’s free throws were the difference. Writes Graham:

The NCAA tournament isn’t sentimental. It’s thrilling precisely because it’s ruthless, an unfeeling entity that exists not to reward the valiant or the deserving but simply the team that scores more points.

If you want a happy ending, you have to go out and write it yourself. And DePaul junior Keisha Hampton wrote one for her seniors Monday night.

#2 Duke was down, then up, then survived as Marist gave’em all they could handle, even after losing their best player to an ankle injury. From DWHoops.com:

Incredibly, Marist’s resolve hardened even further when their star guard Erica Allenspach when down with an injury and did not return. The Red Foxes pushed the lead to 11 on a couple of occasions and still led by 6 late in the game, but Chelsea “The Closer” Gray led the late charge, along with key baskets from Jasmine & Krystal Thomas. The mantra from the players after the game was simply “Survive and advance”. Duke played poorly for much of the game but their experience, toughness and resolve allowed them to ultimately prevail.

#5 Georgia Tech had a slim halftime lead over #4 Ohio State, but Lavender said, “Nope.” (Um, AP editor? How do you let someone get away with a sentence like this: “MaChelle Joseph said when Lavender got untracked, the game shifted.”

“She is the best post player in the country, and one of the top three players,” Joseph said. “She was aggressive in the second half. In the first half, she was a little passive, setting picks outside away from the basket. But then they started getting the ball to her on the block.”

The Trip Ups

#5 North Carolina was up on #4 Kentucky by 10 at the half and won by 12. I don’t know that I’m surprise the Wildcats fell, but I’m slightly surprised it was the Tar Heels who took’em down.

“We just haven’t had a game like that that our team just wouldn’t go to the boards,” Mitchell said. “We just got caught standing in the middle. So we wouldn’t go rebound, jogging back, it was a real uncharacteristic game for us. That’s why I’m so disappointed I could not get the team motivated to play North Carolina.”I thought it was a very pathetic performance in transition. When you let North Carolina get out and go 3-on-1 and you’re just jogging back; lights out, you’re done. It was one of the most disappointing performances I’ve ever seen from our team here at Kentucky.”

The Bruins were up by three over the Bulldogs, but Standish and Vandersloot put down the hammer and pushed #11 Gonzaga to a 89-75 win over #3 UCLA. (Vandersloot became the first player in Division I history — men or women — to record 2,000 points and 1,000 assists in her career.) Write Mechelle:

…no one can argue that Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves has built a terrific program in Spokane, and Vandersloot has been the centerpiece. The senior guard was sensational Monday: 29 points, 17 assists, 7 rebounds, 5 steals. During the game, she scored the 2,000th point of her career. Are you watching, WNBA scouts?

And it’s not too often that a player could score 30 points and be overshadowed by her teammate, but Gonzaga’s Kayla Standish was. Not that she minded.

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the Wall Street Journal’s water with… I dunno, “coverwomen’sbasketball-ade”?

From Sophia Hollander: Is There Life After The Streak? No Longer No. 1, This Humbled UConn Team Must Create a Legacy All Its Own

It didn’t sink in for Kelly Faris until the flurry of desperation fouls in the final seconds of UConn’s 71-59 loss to Stanford last week. Every game of her college career, the Huskies had somehow managed to find a way to win. But all of a sudden it became clear: This time they wouldn’t.

“Then it was kind of like, ‘Well, this is really unfortunate because we just threw it away, completely,'” said Ms. Faris, who scored a career-high 19 points.

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