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(Hello Houston, site of so many Liberty heartbreaks… at least your airport has free wifi! And at least we were able to find a hotel for our unexpected overnight due to bad weather.)

So, to the big news: Blue Devils/Buffalo roots (tinged with a little Hotlanta) bring Lisa Borders to the presidency. Mechelle says, Lisa Borders’ biggest challenge: Proper exposure for WNBA

She’s 58 and a part of the Baby Boomer generation that lived its entire young adulthood before social media. The players in her league are late Generation Xers and Millennials. The oldest of the active WNBA players have no memory of a world before Title IX; the youngest have no recollection of a world without the WNBA.

Even so, the main question WNBA players, coaches and fans of all generations ask is the same: How can the league be better marketed? No one is looking for NBA-type exposure, of course. But can the WNBA, or at the very least a few of its more prominent players, break through to the mainstream?

From the Times: By Hiring Lisa M. Borders, W.N.B.A. Gets a Leader Who Follows the Game

“Sometimes I’m literally screaming at players to box out, move their feet or drive the lane,” she said by telephone. “And I’m asking, ‘Whose man is that?’ ” She added, “I’m the No. 1 fan.”

Borders is essentially looking for more fans like herself as the W.N.B.A. heads into its 20th season in May. Average attendance peaked well above predictions at 10,864 in the league’s second season, but it fell last season to 7,318 a game, a record low. Viewership on ESPN and ESPN2 tumbled 15 percent last season and declined 21 percent during the finals, which were on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC.

In the other news: Just what you expect from the WCC: 40-foot jumper by Lexi Rydalch secures BYU’s improbable 65-62 win over San Francisco. Then, of course, San Francisco takes down San Diego.

Top Dogs: UAlbany women’s basketball defeats New Hampshire in front of 3,016 fans

Not so fast: The Q overcomes deficit, tops MAAC-leading Iona

Post-game unpicking: Maryland women’s basketball learning hard lessons from turnovers. Still learning, as they had 24 in their win over Northwestern.

Resurgence: Multi-threat Utes aiming for surprise postseason berth

Anyone else impressed with the noise Oklahoma State is making late this season?

And what about their in-state rivals, #21 Oklahoma taking down #6 Texas, 74-56.

#16 Florida can’t make up its mind who it wants to be, falling to Auburn 80-58.

Coaches across sports consistently preach about the importance of a renewed focus in games following losses.

Florida, however, did a poor job of taking that wisdom to heart on Sunday.

In their worst loss of the season, the No. 16 Gators were defeated 80-58 on the road to unranked Auburn.

The same might might be said for #17 Michigan State, who got schooled by Nebraska, 73-66.

Sunday provided another example of the ever-changing emotions of a college basketball season.

On Thursday, Nebraska got drilled 110-73 at Minnesota in one of the worst losses in program history. Nebraska coach Connie Yori said in that game the Huskers looked like they didn’t want to be there.

Three days later, Nebraska got its best win of the season, defeating No. 17 Michigan State 73-66 in front of a season-best crowd of 8,338 at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Told you about this game: Maine tipped Albany, 65-53.

There was a distinct postseason atmosphere at the Cross Insurance Center on Sunday afternoon.

And the University of Maine women’s basketball team gave a playoff-caliber performance for a crowd of 3,231 at the Cross Insurance Center. 

Coach Richard Barron’s Black Bears played suffocating interior defense, limiting two-time conference player of the year Shereesha Richards to eight points while grinding out a 65-53 America East victory.

Huge win for UNC-Asheville as they win their re-match with Liberty, 56-51, claiming sole possession of first place in the Big South and clinching its first 20-win season since 2006-07.

Huge upset, as UMass earned its first A-10 victory by taking down the Bonnies, 69-60.

Almost as big: Though senior forward Nathalie Fontaine became only the second Cardinal in program history to reach the 2000th career point after scoring 28 points,  Ball State stumbled in the MAC, falling to Kent State, 59-50. Meanwhile, Ohio and Central Michigan look to be on a collision course.

Okay, so I’ve been keeping my eye on Wake Forest, and what do they go and do? Beat Duke, 64-58.

In what was the worst loss of the entire McCallie era, Duke had its 44-game win streak against Wake Forest snapped, 64-58. Pick a Duke problem and it showed up in this game. Being outrebounded by a smaller team? Check. Giving up easy looks on the perimeter? Check. Inexplicable scoring droughts? Check. Missed free throws? Yup. The fact that it came against a team that has been an ACC doormat for a long time, one that Duke beat handily earlier in the year, is an indicator that the program is very much at a tipping point this year.

Boink! Canisius took advantage of a nightmare 3rd quarter by Marist to squeak out a 2-point win, 71-69.

Nice: Greenland has built storied girls basketball program

Sporting a black Greenland Lady Pirates pullover, greatness encircles him. High on the gymnasium walls, Kelly green and white banners detail the school’s dominance in girls basketball for the past 15 years. Hardware from the program’s six state championships since 1999 stuff the trophy cases in the foyer.

Barton said while the winning is nice, that’s not his ultimate goal as a coach and leader of one of Northwest Arkansas’ most successful girls basketball programs. Success to him goes beyond the hardwood court.

“Winning, developing habits, being a strong personality, that’s all part of it,” Barton said. “But for them to tell me I’ve made a difference in their lives, man, that’s everything.”

Nice: Miami’s Octavia Blue to have her jersey retired

North of the Border: Canada’s women’s basketball team ready for high Olympic expectations

And South of the Border I’m seeing this:

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And this!
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Honestly, why do you bother? You get a UConn game on your channel, thousands of Husky fans realize you exist and desperately look for you… and then you bring out Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) – someone who 1) Doesn’t do his homework (ummm, have you checked out how many upsets happened in the last week?) 2) Doesn’t know his facts (ummm, have you checked out UConn’s SOS?) 3) and DISRESPECTS the women’s game… *smh, surprised that Swin didn’t smack HIS head*

Doug, honey, if you’re worried about a sport that is diluted, where folks don’t play competitive games and is parity-free, let me quote a wise observer from Miami who suggests you check out college football: “Alabama and their ilk go 13-1 outscoring their opponents 2.3 to 1. They just beat the #3 ranked team 38-0. At least women’s basketball is a little competitive!”

Not quite yet: #6 Baylor rumbled in to Longhorn territory, grabbed an early lead an never let go, sending #4 Texas to its first loss of the season.

The Texas women’s basketball team lost on Sunday.

On the court. In the press conference. Inside their minds. Everywhere it counts.

Except in the Erwin Center stands, where 8,996 fans — the largest crowd of the season — convened to watch the fourth-ranked Longhorns’ breakthrough moment this season.

But that moment didn’t come.

ACK! #15 TAMU had overtime against #2 South Carolina in its sight, courtesy of a spectacular pass/lay in and then… brain freeze: foul the inbounder and Sessions seals a one-point win for the Gamecocks. Staley speaks.

Too muchToo much firepower: #5 Ohio State gave Purdue its first in-conference loss, 90-70.

“We started the game with a much better sense of urgency,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said. “We talked about it. We were going to need it. Purdue is a really good team. If we didn’t show up today, it wasn’t going to go our way.”

Not this game: #8 Maryland poured it on in the first half against Northwestern and never looked back.

Not pretty, but we’ll take it: #9 Kentucky over Auburn, 54-47.

Perhaps Kentucky fans should start sending Sonya Murray some residential listings in the Lexington area.

With her mom in Memorial Coliseum on Sunday, Taylor Murray had career highs in points and steals and helped lead the No. 9 Cats to a 54-47 victory over Auburn.

“She has next-level speed that is unlike most people on the floor,” UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said of the freshman guard. “That’s a great weapon for us.

12 straight: #10 Arizona State used strong first and third quarters to show Utah the door, 80-60. Nice piece on Utes coach Lynne Roberts.

As much as Lynne Roberts loved sports as a youngster, Don Roberts never expected his only daughter to make a living in athletics.

“She was always a very strong person, had a lot of personality and a lot of drive,” he said. “But she was always going into science. There was never an idea of being a coach. It was never talked about.”

A lot of local women’s basketball fans are grateful that somewhere in her college basketball career, her passion to compete and her ability to teach persuaded the history major to pursue a career in a much misunderstood and often maligned profession.

Those most grateful for her choice are likely the Utah players who are exceeding the expectations of almost everyone — except their first-year coach.

0-29 no more: Beavers over Trees. #12 Oregon State got the win over #11 Stanford on the merits of a comeback. Feels like OSU is learning from its games… and if Sydney Wiese can return….

#16 Florida State kept the Panthers defeated in the ACC, 66-55.

So, yah, this Pac12 is a thing: #17 UCLA escapes Washington State, 75-73.

See above, as #25 USC didn’t escape Kelsey Plum and her 32 points. Washington wins, 69-60.

There wasn’t anything anyone could do to stop this second-half comeback.

After an abysmal first half, which preceded a “crazy” halftime outburst from typically mellow coach Mike Neighbors, the Washington women’s basketball team rallied to beat No. 25 USC, 69-60, Sunday afternoon to complete a weekend sweep of the ranked L.A. schools at home.

 The Huskies (14-4) have won three in a row and sit in third place in the Pac-12 at 5-2. This week, they could also find themselves ranked in The Associated Press poll for the first time since 2003. 

It was close early, but then the #19 Bulls pulled away from the Pirates, 75-54.

Is the SEC allergic to scoring? #20 Florida had to rally with 20 in the 4th to defeat LSU, 53-45.

Make that 200: Katie Meier and #21 Miami get the win over UNC, 76-61, to reach the win milestone. Rats: Xylina McDaniel, a four-year starter for North Carolina, will miss the rest of the season because of an ACL.

Bounce back: #22 Duke made sure they didn’t lose two games in a row, and BC stays winless in the ACC, 71-51.

“I think that the team is beginning to understand what it takes to prepare and to really get themselves in a good space in which to play. The team was very fun to coach today because there was activity everywhere,” McCallie said. “You love it if you have to turn down instead of turn up. If anything today, I was turning down things and that makes for a really good team performance.”

Moore, Moore, Moore: Mariya, that is. It took all of Moore’s 31 points to help #23 #23 Louisville escape the Wolf Pack, 92-90.

“It’s a win. Now, am I pleased? No,” said Cardinals coach Jeff Walz. “We got extremely lucky. In my opinion, we got out-played. NC State deserved to win that game, but unfortunately for them and fortunately for us, we had a few bounces at the end that went our way.”

Hog Heaven: That’s three wins over Top 25 teams in 10 days for Arkansas.

Albany and Stony Brook still share the America East top spot (1/21, y’all). Speaking of Albany: Shereesha Richards’ next stop likely to be WNBA

The Bonnies.

“You see what our players have been doing on the floor, but what most didn’t see is all the time they put in during the spring, summer and fall,” Crowley said of his team. “Now they’re being rewarded for it. There’s a long way to go and we try to stay focused on what’s next. If you don’t do that in this league, things can go away quickly.”

GW over the Dukes: 

George Washington 6-foot-4 forward Jonquel Jones led all players with 23 points, 18 rebounds and 7 blocks, giving the Dukes fits down low.

“In my 19 years of Division I, she’s got to be one of the 10 or 12 best players,” Burt said.

Farleigh Dickinson (2-3) went on a tear in the second half, giving Robert Morris (4-1) their first NEC defeat.

“It certainly was a disappointing effort on our part,” Robert Morris coach Sal Buscaglia said. “All the credit has to go to Fairleigh Dickinson. They played harder over the 40 minutes, and when we tied the game in the second half, they responded and we didn’t.

In a Big South show down, it was Gardner-Webb squeaking out a 2-point win over UNC Asheville, 58-56. Of note: the Bulldogs were missing two starters (center K.J. Weaver and point guard Ja’Da Brayboy)

Chattanooga is feeling right at home in the Southern.

It was, no surprise, a tough one, but Ohio managed to squeak out a 2-pt OT win over Central Michigan, 86-84, thanks to Kiyanna Black’s career high 39.

Troy is looking strong in the Sun Belt. Congrats to senior guard Ashley Beverly Kelley, whose current career total (1,621) is the most by a player in Troy’s 23-year Division I history. I might mention that coach Chanda Rigby seems poachable…. The program won just two games in 2011-12, the season prior to Rigby’s arrival, and has most recently won 20 games in 2014-15.

No jinx, please, but that is three wins in the Big West for Santa Barbara.

Congrats! EKU to honor women’s basketball great Lisa Goodin and first NCAA tournament team. Goodin is in the Indiana Basketball HOF. At EKU

Goodin, who played for Eastern from 1980 to 1984, is the all-time leading scorer in EKU women’s basketball history with 1,920 career points. The guard from Austin, Indiana is second in program history in field goals made, free throws made and free throw percentage (87.4 percent).  She is fifth in assists (374) and 10th in steals (182).

A sharpshooter with consistent accuracy, she led the NCAA in free throw percentage as both a freshman (.897) and junior (.910).

Stop this: Fight involving players and fans halts girls basketball game in Indiana

It’s been a while since it felt like a coach’s job was in the balance before a game. Elzy tries to calm fans:

“The fans were disappointed that we lost (to Arkansas),” Elzy said. “We were disappointed as well. We have a responsibility to uphold the legacy and play the Lady Vol way, which we did not against Arkansas. I know for the fans, right now, it seems like it’s over. It’s not over. It’s a long year.”

Elzy urged Tennessee fans not to panic despite the disappointing loss to the Razorbacks.

OT: Listening to John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey spin discs on Radio Deluxe is musical heaven.

 

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Still noticing the Tribe’s record. Sure, we’ll learn a lot when they face VCU Monday and then leap into conference play…. BUT, they’re 8-1 under third-year coach Ed Swanson, equalling the best start in program history.

The same commentary goes for the Thundering Herd.  Their only loss is to West Virginia, by 6. I’m looking at their game against Western Kentucky as a good test.

Rinse, repeat and insert the UNC-Ashville Bulldogs. They have been SO bad… Now look at what folks are writing about 4th year coach Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick’s team: 

Last season, the ninth win for the UNC Asheville women’s basketball team didn’t come until the 30th game.

What a difference a season makes.

On Friday before an Education Day crowd of 1,705, the Bulldogs improved to 9-1, matching the 1984-’85 Asheville team for the best start in school history with an 84-71 victory over a solid Furman team.

How nice to be able to ask, “Might they challenge Stanford-slayer Gardner-Webb for the Big South?

I see you, no longer undefeated UTEP. Looks like the Miners have regained their moxie.

And I see you, too, Santa Clara: coach JR Payne has them on their longest winning streak since 2005-06, folks. (Dani California, flashback.)

Yes, USC-West is undefeated. Let’s see what happens when they play Albany on the 20th and UCLA on the 30th, shall we??? (Not to mention Oregon State on January 2nd.)

Speaking of the Beavers: OSU women’s basketball: No. 7 Beavers expect best shot from No. 14 Tennessee and Oregon State Beavers ready for clash with traditional power Tennessee

“We will learn exactly where we’re at on Saturday and where we need to go as we continue to prepare for conference,” coach Scott Rueck said. “So from that standpoint, it’s the biggest test that we’ve had so far.”

Too much offense: Princeton got rolled by the Buckeyes, 90-70.

Ohio State married a wicked pace to a sizzling 57.6 percent shooting night and ran laps around the stunned Princeton Tigers, winning 90-70 in Value City Arena on Friday night.

“That’s probably as good a game as we’ve played in a while,” coach Kevin McGuff said. “I thought our kids did a great job of executing the game plan. On offense, we played with a great pace and really shared the ball to get great shots.

Yes, we noticed: Anigwe off to impressive start for Cal women’s basketball

“After she committed to us, she improved leaps and bounds,” Gottlieb said. “She’s gone from a post player we wanted with a lot of potential to the clear cut best freshman in the country. I knew she’d contribute right away, but her ability to score at this level consistently is beyond what I expected.”

A little something from Graham: Duke’s Azurá Stevens becoming a big riddle for opponents

Few basketball players see the court quite like Azurá Stevens, but many younger siblings can identify with her lifelong plight in games of one-on-one against an older sibling. No matter how much she grew or her skills developed, her older sister stayed one step ahead of her with that maddening back-you-down, pump-fake craftiness that seems a birthright of those born first.

Hello, Hurricanes: 

Somewhat lost in the excitement of football coach Mark Richt’s hiring and the bustle of the holiday season is a significant development in University of Miami athletics: Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams are ranked in the Top 25.

The men are ranked 15th heading into Saturday’s 2 p.m. home game against College of Charleston. The women are 10-0 and ranked 23rd as they prepare to play No. 4 Baylor, which is 11-0, on Saturday night in Winter Park at the Florida Sunshine Classic.

Goodbye, Sue Bird?

Sue Bird knows the time has come after three Olympic gold medals, two WNBA titles and at least eight surgeries.

“I’m at the end of my career,” the 35-year-old point guard said last month. “This is more than likely going to be my last Olympics. When you get older, you start looking back on your career more and you want to leave some sort of legacy and to be a fourth time Olympic gold medalist wouldn’t be so bad.”

There was a time when Bird didn’t seem so sure about the Rio Games.

 

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The players:

WNBA Draft: Remembering the Day My Life Changed (Tina Thompson)

Miami Hurricanes women ready for WNBA Draft — The Hurricanes’ Shenise Johnson and Riquna Williams are expected to go early in the WNBA Draft, which will be held Monday.

Wojta could be first Green Bay player drafted by WNBA and UWGB’s Wojta attending WNBA draft

Nneka Ogwumike prepares for WNBA draft

2012 WNBA Pre-Draft Conference Call: Draft Prospects (Hayes, Ogwumike, Peters, Prahalis)

The coaches:

2012 WNBA Pre-Draft Conference Call: WNBA Coaches (Reeve, Agler, Kloppenburg)

The talking heads:

2012 WNBA Pre-Draft Conference Call: ESPN Analysts (Lobo, Peck)

2012 WNBA Mock Draft: Nnemkadi Ogwumike and Early Picks Sure to Become Stars

This Year’s WNBA Draft Lacking In High-Impact Players

After Nneka, draft full of questions

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Per the twitter-sphere: Miami senior (and AA nominee) “Riquna Williams is not here in Spokane with Miami due to conduct detrimental to the team”

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Specifically, the injuries and suspensions that might have spelled disaster. Yet, writes Mechelle, this season, when other teams are using injuries as an explanation for their poor season, Duke keeps overcoming setbacks

Friday morning, I listed some of the candidates for the coach of the year … but, of course, there are always others who deserve mentioning. One, in fact, got a big victory Friday night.

Duke maintained its mastery over Miami, and in the process earned the No. 1 seed in the ACC tournament and at least a share of the league’s regular-season championship.

The No. 7 Blue Devils’ 74-64 victory over the No. 5 Hurricanes moved Duke’s all-time record over Miami to 9-0. And Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie did it with a team that doesn’t really look like what she was hoping/expecting it to when the school year began.

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They’re banged up, they’re tired, they’re “in the groove” in a way that could easily become “going through the motions until the conference tournament injects some excitement” way.

Which may explain why Providence was within 10 of Notre Dame at the half, why Louisville went to OT and why Missouri almost got its first Big 12 win of the season.

As March Madness nears, all sorts of different tests loom:

From the Baylor Lariat: Daunting Stillwater showdown awaits Lady Bears

From the Kansan: Women’s basketball must step up to replace injured Davis

From the Daily Lobo: Recovered bench ups morale

From the State Press: ASU women’s basketball nursing injuries

From the Grand Forks Herald: Roebuck gets win in his final regular-season home game

From the Statesman Journal: Beavers are exceeding expectations with Rueck

From the Yale Daily News: Gobrecht coaches to 500th win

From the Miami Herald: Miami Hurricanes women’s basketball team is doing big things by going small

From the Salina Journal: BiCenter court to carry name of former coach Budke

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