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A couple of nice primetime games last night.

#8 Louisville hung around for a while, but the combo of  Loyd (2opts) and Reimer (8-8 & game changing blocks) plus poor shooting (33%) doomed the Cardinals against #4 Notre Dame. (Great crowd for TV.)

As usual, junior shooting guard Jewell Loyd led the way for Notre Dame, finishing with 20 points and seven rebounds, but this performance was more about guts than flash.

“I think everybody’s going to try to be physical with us,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “That seems to be the game plan. It was a really physical game. That was something you could see we needed to get better at.”

#2 South Carolina v. #6 Tennessee was mighty entertaining – and heartening for the Vols. When South Carolina remember that Izzy was out, they scored. When they didn’t, Tennessee kept it close. It came down to the wire – or, should I say, the endline. Dozier sealed the deal and the Gamecocks, who hadn’t beaten the Lady Vols at home since 1980 and stand 4-47 all-time against them, got the win. (Another great crowd.) Writes Mechelle: 

You hear all kinds of crazy things coming from the stands when you sit on media row. But sometimes, you also hear the absolute truth.

In Monday’s intense, riveting, entertaining, “March-is-right-around-the-corner” game between South Carolina and Tennessee, the Gamecock fans were doing all they could to emotionally power their team to firmly gain the upper hand on the Lady Vols.

Then a fan said, “This is Tennessee. They don’t go away.”

Indeed, even against the No. 2 team in the country, even without their top scorer and rebounder, even with a rotation that realistically went no deeper than six, the Lady Vols pushed South Carolina right to the wire.

But that made the Gamecocks’ 71-66 victory even a little more special. This was a high-level game with a lot on the line: the SEC’s two best teams, both unbeaten in league play, battling it out.

The SEC gave us one upset for the night, as a tight game eventually went to Mississippi, beating #13 Kentucky for the first time in six tries.

“It is a very special victory. It is a program victory,” coach Matt Insell told reporters. “I can’t put into words how satisfying it is to beat a ranked-team like Kentucky. They have had unbelievable wins all year and we beat them by eight. Our team just really went out there and took control.”

Samford gave us the second, as they took down #2 in the Southern Conference, East Tennessee State, 69-46.

“I was really pleased with our preparation,” Samford head coach Mike Morris said. “We have really good young women with good character. And when you have that, you can really challenge them in different ways and their character comes out in their work ethic and how they work through different things. I thought we did a great job of just taking care of the ball tonight. And then, when they made a run, we didn’t fold, and I thought that was big at end of the first half.”

Speaking of the Southern, the conference’s top team, #20 Chattanooga, had its second loosy-goosy game in a row, having to fight off the Mercer Bears, 56-51. The Mocs, who won their 19th SoCo title,  face ETSU next.

#5 Maryland squashed Penn State like a bug, 65-34, and got a nice, shiny Big 10 trophy for their efforts.

I’m really, really proud of this group,” coach Brenda Frese said. “Going into this season there were a lot of unknowns — young team, new conference. To be able to come out and play the way they have in these first 16 games is not easy.”

The NEC got nice and tight as Robert Morris couldn’t shake off its 3-point loss to Bryant and fell to Sacred Heart, 69-60. Bryant and Central Connecticut St. continued their winning ways.

The Central women’s basketball team took control of Monday night’s home game against St. Francis Brooklyn the way it has taken control of most games.

Trailing 16-10 and facing the second-best defense in the Northeast Conference – only Central’s own defense is better – the Blue Devils outscored the Terriers 17-2 over the final 10 minutes of the first half and cruised to a relatively easy victory, 61-43 at Detrick Gymnasium.

Graham offers up a little somethin’ somethin’ on Iowa:

“I feel we have beaten teams that are more talented than we are,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “But because we do those little things better, we have come out on top.”

This is far from the first place wherein it is suggested that what we call chemistry when it comes to sports is much closer to alchemy. It is more magic than science. It can’t be measured. It can’t be quantified. It can’t be tested. Its existence might not be a matter of faith — almost all of us have been part of a workplace, athletic team or club where people got along and have likely experienced the same when such harmony was absent. But its place in the equation of success, whether it resides closer to cause or effect, is entirely a matter of belief. The basic conundrum remains.

Do teams win because they have good chemistry?

Or do teams have good chemistry because they win?

Did you catch this piece on The real Diamond DeShields

The world might never know why Diamond DeShields left the University of North Carolina, but we do know she is ready for a new start at Tennessee.

The 2014 national freshman of the year sat down with espnW recently to discuss her decision to transfer, her relationships with Tar Heels coach Sylvia Hatchell and the Lady Vols’ Pat Summitt and Holly Warlick, and explains why she initially committed to North Carolina.

More than anything, DeShields is eager to bring closure to her decision to transfer to Knoxville. Speculation ran rampant when DeShields left the Tar Heels after her freshman season. 

Oregon State’s gain wasn’t George Fox’s loss:

Kylie Dummer was in tears following her freshman basketball season at Southridge High School in 2010, where the Skyhawks had won their fifth state title in six years.

That was when coach Michael Meek announced to the team he was leaving for a college coaching opportunity at Division III George Fox University in Newberg. The team’s previous coach, Scott Rueck, had left to take the same position at Oregon State – giving Meek an opportunity to bring his success to the collegiate level.

Now in his fifth season leading the Beavers, Rueck has taken that program to new heights. In the same time span, Meek has maintained and built upon the legacy Rueck first created at George Fox.

And in the “no, you really don’t get the idea of ethics”: Riverdale, Smyrna girls basketball teams removed from postseason

The TSSAA removed Riverdale and Smyrna from the high school girls basketball postseason on Monday following a report from a high school referee in charge of their District 7-AAA consolation game held Saturday where he said that both schools “played to lose the game.”

Both Rutherford County schools were placed on restrictive probation by the high school association for the rest of the school year and probation for the 2015-16 school year.

Both schools were fined a total of $1,500 apiece.

In the “we let our play do the talking” news: Neumann-Goretti tops Archbishop Wood for PCL title

FWIW, I’m tossing this out with a h/t to Slam: Filmmakers Seek Crowdfunding for Doc Series on Evolution of Women’s Basketball.

A feature­length documentary, Concrete Rose will use stylized interview portraits of the men and women who are the games trailblazers to tell a universal story about women’s basketball. Thematically organized around on the court play that reflect a wide range of human emotion and experience, the film seeks to reveal a larger more complex portrait of our shared love for basketball.

To be honest, the description is a little fru-fru for me.

In other history news, Ray is Catching up with Carol Blazejowski: Youth basketball, the WNBA, and reflecting on women’s basketball history

The moment stood frozen in time.

“Hi, I’m Carol glad to meet you.”

Over the years I frequently met a new officiating partner in this manner, but this was one of those situations in which I met a former player whose games I covered – a player of legendary proportions whom I virtually idolized for her achievements both on the floor and off of it in the women’s game.

“Hi, I’m Ray nice to meet you,” was the simple response.

Where do you even start when discussing the career of Carol Blazejowski?

On the Aussie front: Canberra Capitals skipper Abby Bishop signs with WNBA side Seattle Storm and

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From Mechelle: Tennessee ready to tip off tourney – Lady Vols help open the games at 11 a.m. ET Saturday (ESPN2/ESPN3.com)

Tennessee coach Pat Summitt got a laugh as ESPN dug up old photos of her playing days at Tennessee-Martin in the 1970s to use during the NCAA tournament selection show. The Skyhawks are in the NCAA field for the first time this year, and their most famous women’s basketball alum is very happy for them.

She doesn’t have to be concerned with making their stay a very short one; UT-Martin is the No. 15 seed in the Philadelphia Regional and faces No. 2 seed Duke in the first round.

Mechelle’s Spokane preview is up.

This year’s NCAA tournament No. 1 seeds established themselves well before Selection Monday. In fact, if you’d been asked to predict them just days after last season’s Final Four, you likely would have come up with this quartet.

Some might have thought UConn would struggle a bit more than the Huskies have in their one-loss season. But certainly no one is surprised that the Huskies, Baylor, Tennessee and Stanford are the top four teams in the NCAA tournament. Although …

Graham has Players to watch

Five who could catch lighting in a bottle

Seedings suggest these players won’t be around for more than one game, but each could make that game one to remember or even prolong her team’s stay.

Also from Graham: Vandersloot stands strong for Zags: Point guard needs 44 points to become first D-I player with 2,000 points, 1,000 assists

For all of her statistical milestones, national accolades and basketball skills, Courtney Vandersloot’s greatest strength as a point guard remains nothing more complicated than her ability to make everyone around her that much better.

But after piloting Gonzaga to the first Sweet 16 appearance in program history last season, she reflected on the postseason run and realized there was one player on the court whose limitations she felt might hold the team back at a time of year when championships are decided. So it was that the best point guard in the country decided there was one more player she could make better.

And even MORE Graham: Green Bay’s season to remember – Phoenix join UConn, Tennessee as teams to enter NCAA tourney with at least 32 wins

It’s the morning of the Horizon League championship game, and the staff and players who comprise one of the most successful programs in women’s basketball are gathered around waffles and eggs at a local restaurant, their blank (and insufficiently caffeinated) expressions serving as placeholders for the emotions the day will bring. It’s quiet enough, in fact, to hear the background music, and Green Bay associate coach Mike Divilbiss perks up when Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” starts to play.

Across from him, junior starter Julie Wojta is unimpressed, or more precisely, unaware of Morrison. Divilbiss tries to give her a hint, offering up “Brown Eyed Girl” as the clue that will unlock the mystery identity.

“Yeah, that doesn’t help,” Wojta responds.

Scott Powers has Long road for DePaul’s Naughton nears end

Deirdre Naughton was laying poolside when her cell phone rang on a Friday in early August. It was the NCAA calling to tell her she had been granted a sixth year of eligibility to play for DePaul women’s basketball team.
Naughton immediately sprung to her feet and jumped around in celebration.

The catch was she couldn’t tell any of her teammates until it was finalized on Monday. Naughton promised she would keep her mouth shut for the weekend.

Not long after she hung up, she called her teammate and close friend Sam Quigley.

“I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but she told me on Friday,” Quigley said, laughing. “I remember her calling me, and I was screaming hysterically. I was probably more excited than she was.”

Skyler Diggins writes: Communication key to handling NCAA hype

Life is all about growth. When you experience things, sometimes you may make mistakes or do some things well, or both. Regardless, there will be an outcome. Whether that outcome is negative or positive, you will have an opportunity to reflect. Take note of the positive things or things that you did well. Then reflect on your mistakes. If you learn from these mistakes and do not make the same ones, you have grown.

I had to learn this in my freshman year of college.

Over at espnW, Angelique Chengelis writes Samford’s stock on the rise

Mike Morris knows the routine.

He calls a recruit and identifies himself as the head coach at Samford, and occasionally there’s a pause.

“They get all excited when they think it’s Stanford,” Morris said, laughing. “I kid around and I’ve said I always wanted to ask [Stanford coach] Tara VanDerveer, ‘Do y’all get that, are you Stanford or Samford?’ just to see if I get a grin out of that.”

Also at espnW, Jane McManus writes: Marist’s Brian Giorgis has the winning formula

Basketball was his first sport. He played as a youth. But after getting a glimpse of his 7-foot counselors at Willis Reed’s basketball camp, Giorgis realized the limits inherent in his 5-foot-9 frame. He decided to coach, but after a difficult season with the baseball team, Giorgis decided he didn’t want to coach boys again. He realized his style just fit better with his girls’ teams.“It wasn’t about style points and who looked better,” Giorgis said. “It was about what they could do to win games.”

Mark Simon does a little research: Stefanie Pemper’s Navy seeks upset  – Mids coach was on Harvard staff when the Crimson knocked off No. 1 Stanford in 1998

Before coming to Navy, Pemper was the coach at Division III Bowdoin College, a liberal arts school in small-town Brunswick, Maine. There she developed a coaching style that emphasized there was more to basketball than what took place on the court. She has brought that to Navy, as well.

At Bowdoin, practices opened with the players talking about the classes they’d been in that day. When the team took an undefeated record into the Division III Final four in 2004, it left campus early so it could spend a day in Colonial Williamsburg on its way to the championship site.

At halftime of one game at Bowdoin, the players got engrossed in conversation and lost track of time and came out of the locker room 30 seconds before the second half was to start. Undaunted, the team suffocated its opponent into 25 percent shooting and won easily.

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