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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.

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Bob Corwin offers his 1st impressions from opening weekend

Having followed the league since inception, I decided to watch the six WNBA openers and write down some first impressions (many to be proven wrong) from these games.

A WNBA season is a combination of a soap opera and a marathon.  Information can be hard to come by as players listed as “day to day” can, in reality, be out a month.  What impression you get today, particularly very early in a season, may be viewed as very wrong by the next week.

For young players, announcers tend to cling to how the player was as a collegian, especially if she had “rep” at that level.  Above all else, be cautious not to draw too much from a game or two.  Again think marathon, not sprint!

How about this? Draymond Green says he learns more from watching the WNBA than the NBA

In between the time he works on his game, Green also finds time to relax. Of course, Green chooses to chill out by watching basketball, mostly the WNBA.

“In the NBA there’s always a guy who is only around because he can jump,” Greentold Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins in a wide-ranging profile. “He doesn’t have a clue about the fundamentals. I learn more from the WNBA. They know how to dribble, how to pivot, how to use the shot fake.”

Lindsay Gibbs @ Excelle: Washington Mystics point guard Natasha Cloud is finding her voice

In the lead-up to the launch of the WNBA’s 20th season, Washington Mystics’ coach Mike Thibault repeated a few loud and clear messages to his young team: take ownership of the game, get rebounds, play until the whistle, and, above all else, communicate on the court.

The latter message was particularly directed at point guard Natasha Cloud, the Mystics’ second-round pick of the 2015 draft.

From the .com (and points for coming up with a snazzy title, “Web Editorial Associate”): Practice Report | The Importance of the Second Unit

One of the big reasons why the Lynx were able to pull away and maintain a nice lead after that first quarter was the play of their second unit.

“Coach talked about really trying to elevate the second-team’s play in order so there’s not a drop off when anybody comes out from the first unit,” Janel McCarville said. “We had a great first game against Phoenix, it wasn’t much of a drop off at all. Today in practice it was a little bit of a drop off with all of us out there together (the second unit). I don’t think we have the cohesiveness that the first-team has. Hopefully within the next couple of weeks we’ll come together as a second-squad and pick it up in practice and it’ll carry over into games.”

Paging Ms. Whalen: Minnesota’s Hometown Heroes

Seattle Times: Stewart set for big WNBA step

Swish Appeal’s Power Rankings

Barbara Barker: How the WNBA ‘changed everything’ for girls in first 20 years

“Symbolically, you have all these women who are role modes for young girls to be able to look up to and say, ‘Those people look like me. They are stars. They have money and a career. I want that too,’” said Mary Joe Kane, the director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota. “If you aren’t playing basketball, you can take pride that someone who looks like you can achieve at the highest levels.

“Achievement and performance in America, it’s hard to top that right. For your girls to see that, it sends a very powerful message.”

The league opened its 20th season this weekend with more media coverage than I personally can remember seeing before. It’s an anniversary year, sure, but also I think most people didn’t expect the NBA’s sister league to come this far or last this long. Take a look at the women’s soccer professional league, which has had three different iterations, the most recent of which is only four years old.

Not only that, but the WNBA is now also filled with a number of household names – not just one or two token players used in Under Armour campaigns and Lean In ads. This is a competitive league with players comparable to their male counterparts in both ability and in some cases name recognition.

The concept of ability has come into contention while I’ve written this article, but I think it comes down to how you define it. Personally, I don’t think ability means how often or ferociously you can dunk. When I think of how able a person is to play basketball, I think of the sport as a whole.

Wait, they heard and acted? WNBA to offer advanced box scores after each game.

Cool. Now… about that hideous website, might I make a suggestion? Set up a “So you think you can code” competition working with suggestions from fans. Anything folks came up with would be better than the hot mess we’re slogging through today.

From Mel: Guru’s Addendum and Context to ESPN Magazine’s Story on Founding and Growing the WNBA

In reading Mechelle Voepel’s very fine piece with voices on the creation and development on the WNBA the Guru’s memory was jogged to some of the discussions people had with him prior to rolling out the league.
Also clues exist from comments in the narrative to recent discussions so here is a combo of Guru comments, some recollections, and further interpretations.
We begin right from the top with this comment in the piece from Adam Silver, NBA Commissioner. To avoid confusion in the thread, Guru will be in front of items that are his remarks, etc.

NCAA

Bonjour: Mickie DeMoss Joins Lady Tiger Basketball Staff

Au Revoir: Kentucky’s Mitchell tweets letter to fans denying rumored ‘scandal’ as UK resignation letters, personnel file offer little insight into women’s basketball turmoil and  Chanin Scott gets her release and opens recruiting process

The Minnesota Athletics Department may be a mess, but the  Gophers women’s teams have no shortage of star power

By the time she took the mound for her 24th inning pitched in two days, Sara Groenewegen’s right arm was running on fumes. Nearly 400 pitches in the Big Ten softball tournament — 395 to be exact — tested her physical limits.

**

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 Her display of individual domination was not uncommon for Gophers women’s sports this school year. Those who didn’t pay close enough attention, myself included, missed one heck of a show.

Nine Gophers women athletes in seven sports rank among the best nationally in their respective sports.

Any Olympics is special and Rio 2016 could be incredibly so, on the simple basis that some of the biggest names in the women’s game are ready to step out at the event for the first time.

Ahead of what promises to be a spectacular showcase of women’s ball, I have had some real fun drawing up a list of 12 players from around the globe who are likely to tread their first ever Olympic boards.

Random thought about the Zika virus: has anyone thought about all the non-athletes working the Rio Olympics?

 

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Why, yes, it is, and I believe it’s the Cal Bears who are singing it! (Or, maybe it’s “Started From the Bottom”)

From Elliott: Cal women’s basketball team reaches its first Final Four

These Cal Bears just don’t quit.

Cal reached its first Final Four in history Monday night with another overtime victory — this time a 65-62 thriller over Georgia in front of a crowd of 5,863 at Spokane Arena.

The Bears (32-3) will play either Tennessee or Louisville in the national semifinals Sunday at New Orleans Arena.

Don’t count out Cal to reach the finale April 9. Not with a senior-led roster buoyed by gritty guard Layshia Clarendon, who had 25 points, including five in overtime, against the Lady Bulldogs.

From the AP:

 California coach Lindsay Gottlieb was in elementary school the last time a West Coast women’s basketball program not named Stanford reached the Final Four.

Gottlieb understood the drought and the difficulty in getting to the national semifinals. That’s partly why the grin on her face was so wide Monday night when Cal finally snapped that 25-year streak, sending the Golden Bears to New Orleans for the Final Four.

“These kids are brought in,” Gottlieb said. “So many things go into it and then you have to get a little lucky and then things have to go right, so I’m really conscious of this is special.”

From the Daily Californian:

All year long, head coach Lindsay Gottlieb wanted the Cal women’s basketball team to be recognized as an elite team. On Monday night at Spokane, Wash., the team took one step further in solidifying its rising recognition.

Seung Lee adds: A new era begins for California basketball

Breathe it in. Soak it up. Because, possibly, you’ll never see anything quite like this.

For the first 36 minutes against Georgia Monday night, the Cal women’s basketball team did not play Cal basketball. Star forward Gennifer Brandon couldn’t make a single shot. The offense was stuffed by Georgia’s zone defense.

Then it all just clicked at the most pivotal time.

From the Spokesman Review: Gritty Bears in Final Four

The University of California women’s basketball team didn’t expect anything less than a tug-of-war Monday night.

Earning its first trip to an NCAA Final Four couldn’t have been more difficult. And, in the end, more rewarding.

From David Lassen at the Alumni Report: Clarendon, Cal reach Final Four

Layshia Clarendon (San Bernardino Cajon) scored a game-high 25 points and Cal survived its second overtime game of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, beating Georgia 65-62 in Spokane, Wash., on Monday to advance to the Women’s Final Four in New Orleans.

Writes Michelle:

There might not be a cooler customer left in this NCAA tournament than the Cal senior with the sweet jumper. She is a patch of still water, an island of poise and surety.

Even her coach follows her lead.

“That kid is something special,” Lindsay Gottlieb said. “To have a guard like Layshia, who can look at her teammates and say, ‘It’s going to be OK,’ who handles the pressure she handles … there’s no question, you don’t get this far without a player like that.”

How far exactly? To New Orleans.

More praise from the AP: Cal senior Layshia Clarendon comes up clutch in leading Golden Bears to Final Four

Layshia Clarendon was smiling when California was trailing, was smiling when leading the Golden Bears rally, and couldn’t wipe the smile from her face after leading her team to its first Final Four.

“This is why you play basketball, for these big moments. Really enjoy them and just relish them,” Clarendon said.

What’s the Bear’s Winning Formula?, asks Cathy Cockrell, Aim high, don’t forget to dance

Gottlieb: I see it as my mission to take Cal basketball to the next level, and make this one of the premier programs in the country. There’s a lot of ways to do that. Obviously you have to put great players on the floor, and run great plays.

But I feel like there’s a shift going on in women’s basketball, where many of the pioneers of the game are getting close to retiring. So there’s an opportunity to help shape what this program looks like going forward.

But, there’s also the other side of winning:

Georgia seniors Jasmine Hassell and Jasmine James arrived at the interview room of the Spokane Arena with reddened, tear-filled eyes that told the story of their final college basketball game more than any stats sheet ever could.

Only minutes removed from a 65-62 overtime loss to California, Hassell and James tried to explain their emotions after the Lady Bulldogs blew a 10-point lead in the second half and fell one win short of the Final Four in the NCAA tournament.

Said coach Landers:

“I think, for the most part, this was a game that played out somewhat the way we thought it would,” UGA coach Andy Landers said. “We felt it was very important to get back in transition, that it was very important to keep the ball out of the lane, and to rebound the ball defensively, and when we were doing those things well, we were in a good position. When we broke down defensively and allowed that penetration and allowed them to rebound the ball on offense, we got in trouble. They’re a very good basketball team and have a lot of nice pieces. They made more plays than we did, and they deserve to win the game.”

There was another game last night and someone is singing “Aerosmith” (for the sixth time in row), ’cause what happened to the Wildcats was simple: A dreadful 9 minutes:

Connecticut whipped us in every way imaginable,” Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said. “It was a rough 40 minutes for us tonight and they had a lot to do with that. They’re a very good team and I thought their players played extremely hard. We congratulate them.

Kevin Duffy: UConn fulfills obligation 6 years running, Post
Rich Elliott: Freshman Stewart earning raves, Post

UConn Puts The Hammer Down, Earns Sixth Straight Trip To Final Four, Courant
Jeff Jacobs: Baylor’s Loss Could Be UConn’s Gain, Courant

Huskies reach record sixth straight Final Four with rout of Kentucky, Register
Mike DiMauro: UConn women headed to Final Four for record sixth straight time, Register

Narratives change in sports much like cabbies in Manhattan: quickly, sometimes astonishingly and occasionally without much warning.

And so we present the UConn women, the belles of wouldas, shouldas and couldas all season, the owners of all the forlorn looks three weeks ago after another brutal loss to Notre Dame.

Could this have been the same group awash in utter joy Monday night?

Huskies advance to Final Four, Daily Campus

UConn 83, Kentucky 53, ESPN

“It definitely doesn’t get old,” UConn senior Kelly Faris said. “Each year is different, special in its own way. This is our last go-around, we want to go out with a bang. I’m fortunate to be part of this program where we make it every year. We never are satisfied until we get to that final game.”

Stewart leads way for UConn, ESPN

In one corner of Connecticut’s locker room, senior Heather Buck played a game of UNO with three teammates. The players were still wearing their uniforms, legs crossed, each holding a handful of cards, occupying themselves as they’ve learned to do.

Across the room, a ring of media encircled freshman Breanna Stewart, the reporters peppering her with questions about her 21-point performance, about how it feels to help the Huskies advance to the Final Four — their sixth consecutive — next weekend in New Orleans.

Between these two groups wandered some familiar faces — guard Caroline Doty, forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, center Stefanie Dolson — who were eating chicken fingers and teasing Stewart, happily distracting their younger teammate by occasionally calling out things such as, “Breanna is the best player ever!” and “We’re no good! We can’t talk!

Connecticut women roll to 83-53 win over Kentucky in Elite Eight, Lexington Herald Leader
UConn ends Kentucky’s bid once again, Lexington Herald Leader

Last season, Connecticut’s big run came midway through the second half, but this season it came early and often, including a 26-3 spree to end the first half and any hope of a Kentucky comeback at Webster Bank Arena in front of 8,594.

In that span, Kentucky managed just one basket, a banked in three-pointer by little-used reserve Jelleah Sidney, in the final 10 minutes of the first half. UK missed 13 shots in that second part of the second half.

Mark Story: UK women hit a class ceiling in effort to make Final Four, Lexington Herald Leader

So, now the questions start.

Any talk that Mitchell “can’t win the big one” is wildly premature. In its now three Elite Eight losses on his watch, Kentucky has faced opponents that were seeded higher and had more talent than the Cats.

However, it is hard not to wonder if the style of play that has turned UK into a consistent NCAA round of eight team might need to be tweaked a bit for Kentucky to take the proverbial next step. Can a team as reliant on full-court defensive pressure and points off turnovers as Kentucky break through against teams as skilled as UConn?

Finally (and Diggins can blame GH if things don’t go the way she wants tonight), Graham has: Five who got the last laugh

He or she who laughs last, gets closer to New Orleans. Maybe that’s not exactly how the phrase goes, but the second week of the NCAA tournament served as an opportunity for players, coaches and even conferences to make a point.

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Now that Baylor is gone and everybody’s brackets have gone boom! (except for Mom and Dad Cardinals), Fagan has Elite Eight: Five points to ponder

She also says Kentucky ready for UConn rematch

Kentucky says it isn’t scared of Connecticut — not at all.

On Monday night, we’ll discover whether that’s empty rhetoric or reality, but the Wildcats were emphatic Sunday afternoon about how unafraid they are to face top-seeded UConn, arguably the greatest program in women’s college basketball history. In this way, Kentucky is borrowing a page from Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins, who told reporters earlier this year, “I think a lot of people are afraid of the name on the front of the jersey, and I don’t think we are anymore.”

From Full Court, A’Dia Mathies and Kentucky are “focusing on what we need to do”

Doug at the AP has a UConn/KY preview

Matthew Mitchell is trying to build Kentucky into a women’s basketball power. Getting to the Final Four for the first time will be a huge step in reaching that goal.

Mitchell’s team is one victory away, and Connecticut stands in the way for the second straight season. The two teams played last year and UConn came away with a 15-point victory. They’ll meet again Monday night in the Bridgeport regional final.

UK women: ‘We beat ourselves’ vs. UConn last year, Lexington Herald Leader
Mark Story: ‘Bigs’ will determine Kentucky’s fate versus UConn, Lexington Herald Leader
Auriemma heaps praise on UK’s Mitchell, Lexington Herald Leader
Kentucky worked to put time on their side, Louisville Courier Journal
The clock is ticking for Kentucky, Post

The biggest theme in the UConn Horde coverage is injuries — especially to Dolson, who is very hobbled.

Dolson is laughing in the face of pain, Hour
Despite injuries, UConn one win from Final Four goal, Post
UConn In A Good Spot, But It Hasn’t Come Without Pain, Courant

Huskies can make record sixth straight Final Four appearance with win over Kentucky, Register
Bria Hartley will square off against good friend Jennifer O’Neill of Kentucky, Register

One last test for Huskies, Day
Huskies set to battle Wildcats for another Final Four berth, Hour

Out west, Michelle has Georgia, Cal seniors still being tested

Ask Andy Landers about his senior class and then get ready. He’s about to start telling the story about a program that wasn’t what it once was and how one of the game’s legendary coaches planned to get it back.

“Let’s set the stage,” Landers says, as he begins the tale of a senior class, five kids who came into his program four years ago and needed a history lesson. So Landers gave it to them.

“High school kids don’t really know a lot about what they are signing up for,” Landers said. “They don’t understand that it’s a big-time commitment if you are going to win, if you are going to be the best you can be. So the first thing we wanted to do was educate them.”

At the Advocate, Scott Rabalais says

Andy Landers pulled no punches. The Georgia coach never does.

Georgia women’s basketball, in his estimation, was broken. Not shattered — the Lady Bulldogs were still reaching the NCAA tournament every year and occasionally making a run.

But nothing as deep as Georgia’s five Women’s Final Fours, the most recent one in 1999, or its previous trip to the Elite Eight against LSU in 2004.

That began to change when his current seniors were freshmen. And that team will square off with California in Monday’s Spokane Regional final.

The APs Tim Booth offers up Georgia women’s basketball to take on California in tonight’s Spokane Regional final

Thanks for sharing Killion’s piece: Cal women’s bond forged from tragedies

The summer after her sophomore year, Eliza Pierre was full of information from her African American studies classes at Cal. Then 20, she came home to Southern California for a visit and shared the sobering facts she had learned about young black men in America – statistics about the homicide rate, gun violence and incarceration.

She warned her 22-year old brother, Wilson, to be careful and joked with her mother that they needed to keep an eye on him.

That was the last time Pierre saw Wilson. He was gunned down at a party a few weeks later and died at the hospital.

Pierre is one of three members of Cal’s basketball team whose lives have been changed by homicide. Gennifer Brandon’s father was shot and killed by police when she was 6 – mistaken for an armed-robbery suspect. Tierra Rogers’ father was shot to death on a San Francisco street corner during halftime of one of her high school games.

One basketball team. Three players. Three tragedies.

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so I guess that means #1 Stanford didn’t go down to #4 Georgia, 61-59.

Chiney did everything she was supposed-expected to, but the rest of her teammates couldn’t make shots. It also hurt that Greenfield went to the bench with a sprained finger, but honestly, the loss wasn’t a HUGE surprise:

Somehow the shock of seeing Stanford’s run of five straight trips to the Final Four come to a premature end, didn’t carry the same sting.

Along with the sense of disappointment came perspective for what the top-seeded Cardinal accomplished.

“I think the reason that I’m not going ballistic right now is like we’re 33-3,” Stanford star Chiney Ogwumike said. “That was a huge achievement for our program.”

Still, it’s surprising that for the first time since 2007, Stanford won’t be playing for a spot in the Final Four.

That’s because Andy’s team did what it needed to do to advance to the Elite 8 for the first time since 2004.

“The senior class … this is our fourth NCAA tournament, and we have been to three Sweet 16s,” guard Jasmine James said. “So to finally make the next step and go to the Elite Eight and now to be going into another game to try to compete to go to the Final Four is definitely back to where Georgia basketball needs to be – trying to compete for a national champion

Smith also offered up some quick analysis of the game.

From Full Court: Jasmine James guides Bulldogs to upset of No. 1 seed Stanford

With her team clinging to a two-point lead with just 23 seconds to play, Georgia senior point guard Jasmine James headed to the foul line for two crucial free throws. Well, almost.

James cast a look to her left, toward the first rows of the stands, mere feet beyond the sideline.

There sat her parents — Greg and Janine — who’d flown almost six hours and endured a lengthy layover to watch their daughter in the regional semifinal against No. 1-seeded Stanford.

They will face the Cal Bears, who find themselves in their first Elite 8 after defeating the upstart Tigers.

The sum of LSU coach Nikki Caldwell’s fears about the Golden Bears came true in the game’s final 20 minutes. And as quick as you could say “transition basket,” the Lady Tigers’ season was over.

“We really tried to establish an inside attack and put the ball inside quite a bit,” Caldwell said. “I thought (Cal guard Brittany) Boyd really took it upon herself to push the tempo, which really got their transition game going. And that gave them some easier looks.”

Writes Elliott Almond:

This time Cal made its free throws, and the Golden Bears are headed into uncharted territory.

Second-seeded Cal broke open a close game in the final six minutes Saturday night in a 73-63 victory over Louisiana State to reach its first Elite Eight in school history in front of a crowd of 6,146 at Spokane Arena.

That Bay Area showdown local women’s basketball fans wanted? Not happening.

The Bears (31-3) will face Georgia on Monday after the Lady Bulldogs upset top-seeded Stanford in the other regional semifinal.

“We’re kind of in awe of this whole thing,” coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “We were us in the second half. I’m excited more people are seeing what I already know.”

Michelle Smith adds:

As Georgia celebrated its 61-59 upset of top-seeded Stanford, the chant began from the corner with the Georgia pep band.

“S-E-C, S-E-C.” Pretty soon, the LSU band, seated in the opposite corner of the gym, joined in.

But Cal spoiled the sing-a-long.

The Bears, willing to play as aggressively and as physically as any team in the SEC, completed the power shift in the Pac-12 on Saturday by defeating LSU 73-63 in the Spokane Regional nightcap, punching their ticket to their first Elite Eight.

So while Stanford, the team that has always stood in line in front of Cal, takes an early flight home Sunday morning, the Bears play on. How’s that for a changing of the guard?

I’m not quite buying the implications of the phrase “changing of the guard,” but the Pac12 sure has gotten more interesting.

Michelle offered up some instant analysis of the Stanford-Georiga game and the Cal-LSU game.

BTW, if you can get behind the pay wall, you  can read Ann Killion’s lovely piece:  Why Lindsay Gottlieb has Cal women’s hoops in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen Elite Eight 

Elena Delle Donne was magnificent against the Wildcats, and Martin’s adjustments in the second half — daring to go man-to-man, urging her players to crash the boards — almost got her Hens an enormous upset. But Delaware could quite get out of the hole they dug. Writes the News Journal’s Kevin Tresolini:

Down 14 at halftime Saturday, Delaware drew considerable confidence from what had become its not-so-secret weapon in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament – the second-half comeback.

Delaware had rallied from seven down at halftime against West Virginia and eight behind after 20 minutes against North Carolina at the Carpenter Center to win in the first two rounds.

“We wanted to go down with a fight if we were going to go down,” Elena Delle Donne said. “Even at half, we didn’t think we were going down.”

The Hens played better defense in the second half, but writes Fagan:

The pace was, in fact, brutal. Delaware was expending so much energy just getting the ball up the floor and getting a shot off without a turnover that little was left for other crucial things like closing out on outside shooters and boxing out on defense. Because of this, each time the Blue Hens pulled within striking distance — like late in the second half when they cut Kentucky’s lead to two — the Wildcats would fly down court and force a foul or whip the ball around and get an open look. Then they would set up their full-court press and make things difficult for Delaware, often forcing a turnover. (The Blue Hens turned over the ball 19 times.)

The key was that, when the rest of the Hens began to rise to the occasion, so did Kentucky’s “no-names.”  Especially Kastine Evans who nailed a killer 3-pointer with 2:21 remaining to all but seal the game.

“Kastine has no fear,” said Mathies. “She hustles on every play. We ran a play and the play is designed for anyone that gets open. She got open off the stagger screen and she made it. That shows how confident she is in herself and we’re glad she took the three and made it.”

Added coach Mitchell

“We’re extremely excited to win. We beat a very good team in Delaware. I’m so proud of our team, of finding a way to advance to the next round.”

Kentucky will face a familiar foe, and they think they might finally have enough to get past UConn

They will face Connecticut because, while Dolson gamely & gimpily fought to play 26 minutes and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis scared the you-know-what outta UConn fans by going down with what looked to be an ankle injury (no, that wasn’t responsible for her going 1-6 from 3, her shot was off and rushed. “I guess it would have been worse if they were all air balls, said an honest KML), it was the freshmen (Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck combined for 35 points and one turnover) who stepped up to guide the Huskies to a 76-50 win over Maryland:
Jefferson, Stewart and Tuck did not consider themselves to be freshmen. They considered themselves as impact players. Their intentions were to come in and play a definitive role on a team with national championship aspirations.For months their plan did not completely come together. No matter how relentless UConn assistant coach Shea Ralph was with Jefferson or no matter how relentless associate head coach Chris Dailey and assistant coach Marisa Moseley were with Stewart and Tuck, there were questions whether they were getting through, whether the players were making any progress.

As it turns out, it was all a part of the process.

While the frosh finally “showed up”, UConn’s defense has been a consistent. Said coach Frese:

“I said the other day Connecticut can make really good teams look really bad, and that was on full display today. Obviously we really struggled against their defense. They made it very difficult. They were quicker to loose balls. I thought they were aggressive with their rebounding, but just disappointed overall in how we played.”

It’s likely the Huskies will have to lean heavily on their youngsters if they want to defeat Kentucky. That might be okay. Writes Mike DiMauro: Watch ‘Stewie’ and you see Elena

It was either fitting, or ironic, that two games ended with two standing ovations for two such similar players. Elena Delle Donne and Breanna Stewart. Except that maybe – probably, even – nobody in women’s basketball has them occupying the same airspace.

Delle Donne’s college career ended Saturday at Webster Bank Arena in the Sweet 16, succumbing to Kentucky and Kastine Evans’ killer three late in the game. When it ended, a UConn crowd gave Delle Donne a standing ovation, prompting a tweet from Elena after the game saluting UConn’s “classy fans.”

Stewart’s college career, meanwhile, accelerated into the passing lane a few hours later, helping the Huskies reach the Elite Eight for the eighth straight season. “Stewie,” as her teammates call her, was magnificent: 17 points, eight rebounds, a 3-pointer and four blocks.

From Mechelle: Win or lose, it really has all worked out

Let’s face it: Not many kids have the chance to play for UConn, which has won seven NCAA titles. Fewer still get that opportunity, then decide to walk away from it. Which Walker did, after appearing in 17 games for the Huskies in the 2010-11 season before transferring to Kentucky, and Delle Donne did after leaving Storrs before ever playing for them. 

But it has all worked out for Delle Donne, for Walker, for UConn and for women’s college hoops.

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Check out Full Court, ’cause how did we miss THIS?

Best Dancer

University of Kentucky head coach Matthew Mitchell – The dancing prowess of Matthew Mitchell has reached epic proportions.  For the third year in a row the head coach has performed a dance during the Wildcats’ Midnight Madness festivities.  It started three years ago with the “Dougie”; last year he did a Michael Jackson tribute; and this year Mitchell performed an M.C. Hammer dance.  It takes a lot of guts and a good sense of humor for a six-foot-five dude to put on parachute pants and a zebra print jacket.  Watch for yourself.

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at an awkward start time…

6pmEST on ESPN2, Kentucky gets the honor of being the first to test NCAA champ Baylor. Yeah?

Baylor is facing a team Tuesday that reminds Mulkey of Texas A&M. Coach Matthew Mitchell’s Wildcats always want to play a very, very up-tempo style and disrupt opponents with their speed and physicality.

“Kentucky’s fast pace — that is their identity,” Mulkey said. “But Kentucky plays a full-court game. They like to press you and create turnovers. They play a lot of players. …

“Our identity is going to be inside out — we’re always going to have post players. It’s going to be a heck of a basketball game early in the season. I don’t mean it’s going to be pretty … we’re both going to be playing hard.”

A victory — heck, even a stubborn showing — would go a long way to prove that, as Michelle writes, the Wildcats are ready to reach next level

There’s a glass-enclosed trophy case next to the Kentucky women’s basketball office. In the middle, a big blue pedestal with the UK logo on it and a small sign on top mark the unused space that reads “Reserved for the National Championship.”

Downstairs, next to the team locker room, a large banner by the door displays the logo for the 2013 Women’s Final Four in New Orleans. Get the hint? It’s not that subtle.

The AP’s Gary Graves writes:

Kentucky coach Matt Mitchell believes that if his sixth-ranked Wildcats want to be the best team they have to play the best.

Right now that is No. 1 Baylor and senior Brittney Griner.

The Wildcats will get their shot against the Bears on Tuesday on the defending national champions’ home court in Waco, Texas.

From Steve Jones at the Courier-Journal: Kentucky women’s basketball team faces big test against No. 1 Baylor

 

More from other folks:

Fresh off her key performance aboard a big boat, Graham says, “Irish need big season from Achonwa

For those who pay attention to such stuff, interesting things going on in the Land of Louisville recruiting. Which is an excuse to check in with the Cardinal Couple: (Gather around the laptop and join us for another edition of the Sandy Walker 40-yard dash through Cardinal women’s athletics. A guaranteed good time for all…except for UK fans.) It is Tuesday, Sooooooooo It must be Laundry Day

Mel writes: Penn Almost Mightier Than Cavaliers of Virginia

Yes Virginia. There is a Penn.

And on Monday the Quakers nearly pulled one of the all-time upsets in the history of the program as well as the Big Five women when coach Mike McLaughlin’s group took a commanding lead over the Cavaliers at The Palestra only to fall in the final minutes 68-65 in the second game of the season for both schools.

“It’s disappointing because it could have been a signature win for the program,” McLaughlin said afterwards. “They looked Virginia right in the eye, and I thought we were the better team tonight.”

‘Cause it’s never too late: Did you catch the Dishin & Swishin 11/08/12 Podcast: A Roundtable Preview of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Season The roundtable participants are:

  • AP women’s basketball senior writer, Doug Feinberg
  • Television commentator, LaChina Robinson
  • espnW writer, Michelle Smith
  • Coach and commentator, Christy Winters Scott
  • Television commentator Brooke Weisbrod makes her roundtable debut

Old news, but Chris at the Houston Roundball Review tells us Bridgeport, CT was selected as the new regional site for 2013 NCAA tournament

A little WNBA stuff: Maya (undefended) Scores 60Tina Charles wants WNBA title and President Laurel Richie faces some WNBA questions from Kate, who has never been a fan of the League, but doesn’t really give any answers.

Thanks, Laurel, that’s what WNBA fans want — smoke and mirrors.

From Mechelle’s Thursday chat:

Wallace: Should the WNBA league front office encourage Shelia Johnson to sell the Mystics?

Mechelle Voepel: Well, Monumental Sports Group owns the Mystics, with Sheila Johnson as managing partner. And I think we all have our frustrations about the way the Mystics have been run. I don’t know at this point what direction that franchise is headed. There’s been a lot of speculation, of course. What I do think, though, is that the WNBA front office is *not* proactive in providing much guidance to troubled franchises. Laurel Richie was hired because of her expertise in marketing, but I don’t know how much guidance or advice she can give the Mystics on how to make better personnel decisions. I guess she could advise them on how better to deal with and communicate with their own fans. But I don’t think those conversations happen quite the way some of us might wish they did between the league office and franchises.

Jayda offers an ode to a friend lost: A personal goodbye for a longtime Seattle Storm fan and friend

I hope this is appropriate. It’s not exactly the type of thing you call a grieving family to discuss. But because she’s one of my biggest fans, this is the only way I can say goodbye.

Karen Marie Rolstad died at 11:11 am on Sunday. She was originally diagnosed with endometrial cancer in April and due to other complications that diminished her health, she chose to die under the Death with Dignity Law in Washington state at the age of 74. She was surrounded by family and friends and is survived by her partner Jan of 38 years and their retired show dogs Mario and Tomas.

Karen is the reason I advise young journalists to respond to their readers.

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