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

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

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

Make no mistake. This is Tamika Catchings’ team.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The president and this reporter briefly touched upon several topics:

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

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

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

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

NCAA

NCAA.com Rules group pleased with state of the game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But she won it with them.”

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

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

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

Queenie:

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

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

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

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

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

Swish Appeal: Candace Parker’s Sparkling performace engulfs Storm

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

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

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

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

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

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

Swin back in?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A little college:  

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

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

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

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

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

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…’cause it’s never too early to look towards 2017 (yes, I’ve already made hotel reservations – hasn’t everyone?), Marc Tracy at the Times: Mighty UConn Faces a Future of Rising Powers

Take a peek at the 10 all-Americans selected this season by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association. UConn’s Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck each made the cut.

But Stewart and Jefferson are seniors, and Tuck, a redshirt junior, announced Wednesday that she will join them in the W.N.B.A. draft (where they may well comprise the top three picks).

By contrast, all-Americans likely to return include Baylor’s Nina Davis, a onetime Big 12 player of the year; the big scorers Kelsey Plum, of Washington, and Kelsey Mitchell, of Ohio State; and South Carolina’s A’ja Wilson, who is just a sophomore.

Folks are already discussing next year’s top 10.

Yes, they made the WNIT finals, but FGCU women’s basketball roster facing big makeover

Four years after replacing a massively sized, massively successful senior class with an even larger group of newcomers, the FGCU women’s basketball team now is repeating the process.

The unknown is great.

Maryland Basketball: Kaila Charles gives hope for Lady Terps’ future

Maryland should have high hopes for the future of the women’s basketball program. 

Next year, the Lady Terps will welcome in the No. 1 recruiting class in the country. It’s a class that features three McDonald’s All-Americans and one of the players that has the potential to make a great impact to an already talented Maryland team.

Yes, UConn’s losing three seniors, but don’t count’em out yet. Jim Fuller at the New Haven Register writes: Stewart worked to leave UConn women’s program prepared for future

Knowing the pressure that awaits the returning players with herself and fellow All-Americans Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck graduation, Stewart has offered some guidance. Whether it was taking Katie Lou Samuelson out for dinner when Stewart thought Samuelson hit the proverbial wall or cracking jokes to Napheesa Collier during the stretching portion of the warmups before the national championship game, Stewart took the responsibility of bringing along the younger Huskies to heart.

Graham offers up: Sophomore Kia Nurse holds the cards for UConn

Four national championships in four seasons. It is one of those feats that can be matched but never bested, Connecticut seniors Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck as secure in that legacy as a golfer who wins four majors in a calendar year.

Unless …

With two championships in her first two seasons, Kia Nurse is halfway to matching that haul. Granted, halfway is a long way from the whole way, but when it comes to tiebreakers, Nurse earned an unbeatable one almost a year ago on a basketball court in Toronto.

Also: Returning UConn players say they’re ready to take baton

Freshman Katie Lou Samuelson said the team has heard the critics say that without the three seniors, the gap will close between UConn — which beat teams by nearly 40 points a game — and programs such as Baylor, Notre Dame and South Carolina.

She said they’ll use that as motivation.

“We kind of want to prove to everyone that we can still do it, and I think all us are going to be ready when that time comes,” she said.

Howard Megdal: How Geno Auriemma still gets excited for next year

…it is through that lens, accomplishment as a subset of personal journey, that leaves Auriemma excited for what comes next. He said that until he and associate head coach Chris Dailey come to the decision that they can’t “get the kids to where they need to go”, he wants to keep coaching. He doesn’t usually get to think much about his championships because there’s always so much to do. He revealed that conversations about next year had already begun—Gabby Williams was in his office discussing how she needed to get better to compensate for the lost greats. Next year, Auriemma said, is never far from their minds. He doesn’t make it sound like such a bad thing.

“These three leaving, the rest of the players coming back are in for a rude awakening,” Auriemma said. “But you can’t disregard what all this, the impact that it has on the players coming back. And it will last for a while. But then obviously it will—they’ll have to earn it like these other guys.

From John Walters, Newsweek: FOUR SPORTSWRITERS HAVE DECADES OF EXPERIENCE WITH UCONN COACH GENO AURIEMMA

To cover UConn on a daily basis affords these writers unfettered access to the John Wooden of women’s basketball without having to combat, for most of the season, the incursions of big-time media outlets (even if ESPN headquarters in Bristol is just 45 miles west). “It doesn’t matter if you’re from The New York Times or from the JI [Adamec’s paper], Geno treats everyone the same,” says Adamec. “The first time I showed up to a practice, he approached me and said, ‘You made it all the way from Vernon [another tiny eastern Connecticut hamlet]?’ As if to congratulate me for finding them.”

The banter, over the years, has led to a rapport that has laid the foundation for a trust and candor between both parties that is rare if not unique in sports. For years Geno would host a Final Four party on the eve of the national championship game—even in the years UConn was playing—to which media were also invited. “At the 2000 Final Four party in Philadelphia, I brought my wife, whom Geno had never met,” says Jacobs. “He gave her a hug and said, ‘Your husband’s an asshole.’ She replied, ‘I know.’”

Hello again, Lindsay Kramer at Syracuse.com: Quentin Hillsman plans on staying in charge of Syracuse women’s basketball

The breakout star of the 2016 NCAA women’s basketball tournament wasn’t a player.

It was Syracuse University coach Quentin Hillsman.

Hillsman has been highly regarded in coaching circles during his decade of running the Orange, as evidenced by the steady stream of compliments from opposing coaches in SU’s streak to the national title game Tuesday night in Indianapolis.

An encouraging word: Bonvicini to Barnes: Go for it.

Winner. That’s the first word that comes to mind for Joan Bonvicini when speaking of her former star Adia Barnes.

“Adia’s the kind of person that you never want to say you can’t do something.” 

Not so encouraging words out of Nebraska: Yori resigns following athletic department investigation | Women’s Basketball

Hmph. I know there are some head coach openings, but….Lady Vols, associate coach Kyra Elzy agree to part ways

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FIRST, it’s the WNIT

Great crowd came out to support (CUSA) UTEP and the Miners did not disappoint. Their 79-71, over (Big 12) TCU sets up a quarterfinal game against Oregon.

For 11 scary minutes Thursday night, a red-hot TCU team looked as though it might run the UTEP women’s basketball team right out of the Don Haskins Center in the third round of the WNIT.

There were two groups of people who had no intention of letting that happen: the Miner players and 7,024 screaming fans.

The Owls (American) topped the Bobcats (MAC), 75-61. Michigan is up next for Temple.

It was a bitter taste, once again for the Bobcats. 

Ohio didn’t anticipate the outcome of its postseason. It didn’t expect to lose to Buffalo in the Mid-American Conference Tournament. It didn’t expect to play in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT). It didn’t expect to make it to the Sweet Sixteen round of the WNIT. 

And going into today, Ohio didn’t expect to lose to Temple, 75-61. But Thursday night in Philadelphia, the Bobcats did.

Northern Iowa (MVC) and South Dakota (Summit)  battled quarter to quarter. It was the Coyotes who grabbed the 1-point win, 51-50. They await the winners of the Hilltoppers/Billikens game.

The theory being thrown around in the University of South Dakota locker room on Thursday night was that the DakotaDome does not want to see these ladies leave the house just yet.

On Sunday night the Coyote women’s basketball team will play what is technically the fourth last basketball game in DakotaDome history this season. It is so because USD defeated Northern Iowa 51-50 to move into the quarterfinals of the WNIT.

The Coyotes added UNI to a list that included Creighton and Minnesota with a victory that had 14 lead changes. The increasingly rare movements on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter were fueled almost exclusively by scrappiness and a fully engaged home crowd.

NCAA: Wow, those blowouts on the men’s side really hurt the game…

SI Richard’s picks: Women’s NCAA tournament Sweet 16 preview & picks

We have reached the Sweet 16 stage of the women’s tournament, and predictably, all of the No. 1 seeds remain alive. But the opening rounds did see a pair of No. 2s—Maryland and Arizona State—get knocked off on their home courts by plucky No. 7 seeds (Washington and Tennessee). The conferences expected to do well have been successful: The Pac-12, the No. 1 RPI conference all season, has four teams (Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, Washington) in the Sweet 16 for the first time in tournament history. The SEC, the No. 2 RPI conference, also has four teams alive, including Kentucky, Mississippi State, South Carolina and Tennessee. Three teams (Florida State, Notre Dame and Syracuse) represent the ACC (No. 4 RPI). The pre-tournament prediction of all four No. 1 seeds landing in Indianapolis stands, but let’s take a look at the upcoming games.

UConn Isn’t The Only Storyline; Assessing The Women’s Bracket And Sweet 16

Bad timing: You’ve got to give Texas A&M coach Gary Blair credit. He could have taken the easy way out and not suspended senior forward Courtney Williams, A&M’s second-leading scorer, and reserve guard Shlonte Allen for an undisclosed violation of team rules the day of the Aggies’ first-round game against Missouri State. They remained suspended and the Aggies lost 74-56 on Monday to Florida State.

Syracuse v. South Carolina

SU must prepare for South Carolina’s Dawn Staley effect

She’s very much aware of life’s little blessings, but there is a huge one out there … and Tammi Reiss is only too happy to acknowledge it.

“I’m just going to say this now because our kids have no idea,” she declared earlier this week. “But as far as Dawn goes, thank God she won’t be on the court. Thank God she’s not playing.”Nurse In A Good Place At The Right Time For Huskies By Rich Elliott

Reiss, the Syracuse University assistant — the one with the hair and the wardrobe, which makes her distinguishable from her boss, Quentin Hillsman, who only has the wardrobe — was speaking of Dawn Staley.

Or, as Reiss describes her, “The greatest point guard of all time. Period.”

Dawn Staley credits Syracuse women’s basketball coach for ‘staying the course’

Staley, an all-time great player at Virginia, credited him for taking a more long-lasting approach toward improvement instead of looking for quick fixes.

“I think for anyone that’s playing this game the sky is the limit. When you do things the right way, you open up doors that historically were closed to the upper echelon of programs,” said Staley, in her eighth season at South Carolina. “I think Q’s done a great job at staying the course. And that’s what you must do.

Syracuse women’s basketball writing own story, but what ending awaits?

Unflappable South Carolina will feel the heat of Syracuse women’s basketball press

2. Washington v. Kentucky

Kentucky will have its hands full with Washington’s Kelsey Plum

Not once this season has Kelsey Plum been held to single digits.

It’s rare that the nation’s third-leading scorer has even been held in the teens.

Opponent after opponent has tried — and failed — to stop Washington’s 5-foot-8 junior scoring dynamo.

3. Stanford v. Notre Dame

Notre Dame, Stanford women facing off in Sweet 16 again

Notre Dame and Stanford aren’t looking at Friday’s game as a rematch, even though they’re meeting in an NCAA women’s regional semifinal for the second straight season.

 Both teams say their rosters have changed since their last matchup, making it hard to read too much into Notre Dame’s 81-60 victory in the 2015 Oklahoma City Regional semifinal. They’ll meet again Friday in the Lexington Regional semifinal. 

“I think we’re both kind of two different teams,” Notre Dame guard Lindsay Allen said.

Numbers tell story of Notre Dame’s hoops journey

Numbers can portray a telling — even compelling story.

And looking at the numbers, the Notre Dame women’s basketball team should be considered a heavy favorite to win this weekend’s NCAA regional at Lexington, Ky.

 Notre Dame presents major obstacle for Stanford women in Sweet 16

If UConn didn’t exist, maybe the women’s college basketball world would be wondering: Can anybody stop Notre Dame?

The past two seasons, the Irish lost in the NCAA final to the Huskies, and most observers expect the same matchup in this year’s championship game in Indianapolis. The Irish, who won the national title in 2001, also reached the final in 2011 and ’12, losing to Texas A&M and Baylor, respectively.

 Fourth-seeded Stanford would love to throw a wrench into the works for the top-seeded Irish when they meet Friday night in the Lexington, Ky., Regional semifinals.

 Australian basketballer Alanna Smith out for NCAA Tournament success with Stanford

Pac-12 living up to its billing in NCAA women’s tournament

Throughout the season, the metrics kept saying the Pac-12 Conference was the best in the country.

When it came time to back it up in the NCAA Tournament, the Pac-12 delivered. 

Pac-12 teams will make up 25 percent of the Sweet 16 when the women’s regional semifinals get started Friday. No. 2 seed Oregon State, No. 3 seed UCLA, No. 4 seed Stanford and No. 7 seed Washington all advanced through the first weekend of the tournament, giving the Pac-12 four teams in the final 16 for the first time in conference history. The league had never advanced more than three teams beyond the first weekend.

4. Tennessee v. Ohio State

AP: Tennessee-Ohio St. Preview

The Lady Vols plan to throw different defensive looks at Mitchell and guard her ”by committee,” coach Holly Warlick said.

”If she gets close to the bench, I’m going to maybe trip her, I’m not sure,” she said, smiling. ”No, I watched her in high school. She’s got a great gift. She knows the game. The ball is a part of her hand. I haven’t seen too many, male or female, come around like her.”

Women’s basketball | Cait Craft’s injury forces Buckeyes to adjust

Another body blow took the breath away from the Ohio State women’s basketball team on the eve of their NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 matchup tonight against Tennessee.

Senior guard Cait Craft suffered a broken left hand in practice this week, which ended her career with the third-seeded and already short-handed Buckeyes.

“Freak thing,” coach Kevin McGuff said. “I really feel badly for her. She is such a great kid, and as a senior, she has put so much into getting us to this point it’s really disappointing for her that she can’t play. It’s a tough break, but it’s ‘next-person-up.’ ”

Ohio State is last Big Ten team standing

Guarding Mitchell will be a full-time, full-team job

Tennessee didn’t need a detailed scouting report to reveal the biggest problem Ohio State will present in Friday night’s Sweet 16 of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament. It’s as obvious as Kelsey Mitchell’s stat line.

The Buckeyes 5-foot-8 sophomore guard is averaging 26.3 points per game, has made 40.3 percent of her 308 3-point attempts and has hit 84.6 percent of her free throws.

The stat line becomes even more troublesome for Tennessee when it checks the rearview mirror. As well as its defense has played overall this season, it has been victimized by outstanding individual performances in a number of its losses.

5. Texas v. UCLA

No. 3 UCLA Faces No. 2 Texas

Imani Boyette, Tina Thompson have helped each other blossom this year

Tina Thompson considers Imani Boyette one of the most complex basketball players she has ever met.

Thompson, the former WNBA star who’s in her first season as a Texas assistant coach, casts a large shadow, even over Boyette, the Longhorns’ 6-foot-7 center. In turn, Boyette admits she challenges any coach aspiring to teach her the game. Yet their bond is sealed with mutual respect.

Pac-12 Postseason Storylines: Teams in Sweet 16 mindset

6. Florida State v. Baylor

 Florida State women look to make good on president’s pick

FSU women’s basketball heads to Dallas for Sweet 16 date with Baylor

There’s a different vibe surrounding Florida State’s women’s basketball team.

Head coach Sue Semrau knows it.

The Seminoles (25-7) went into College Station, Texas, and – after shaking off some rust against Middle Tennessee – dominated host Texas A&M in a 74-56 second-round victory. Semrau said she saw a new fire in the eyes of her players when the Seminoles hammered the Aggies.

Baylor knows it won’t be easy, but Bears have motto to motivate getting past Elite Eight

The green wristbands have become a standard wardrobe accessory for the Baylor women’s basketball team.

“Eight is Not Enough” reads the team motto selected by coach Kim Mulkey, a pointed, painful reminder of consecutive NCAA tournament losses in the regional finals, a.k.a. the Elite Eight.

Lady Bears’ success against ranked rivals helps pursuit of championship

7. DePaul v. Oregon State

OSU women’s basketball: Beavers turn attention to DePaul

Sneak peek at DePaul, Oregon State’s Sweet 16 opponent

DePaul travels to Dallas to face Oregon State in Sweet Sixteen

DePaul takes aim at elusive Elite Eight berth

If his career ended today, Doug Bruno would still go down as one of the greatest women’s basketball coaches of all time.

Since he was named head coach at his alma mater in 1976, Bruno has led DePaul to 21 NCAA tournament appearances, including 14 in a row.

On Sunday, the Blue Demons earned a spot in the Sweet Sixteen for just the fourth time in program history after upsetting Louisville 73-72 on their home court.

It’s an enormous feat, but one more win would mark an historic occasion – DePaul’s first ever berth in the Elite Eight.

8. Connecticut v. Mississippi State

MSU next in line to challenge UConn’s 71-game streak

COLUMN: Mississippi State women face unstoppable UConn

Basketball Hall of Fame coach Van Chancellor drawls on and on in superlatives when asked about Geno Auriemma and his Connecticut women’s basketball juggernaut.

Hey, Van, is UConn the most dominant team in sports today?

“Ain’t no question about it,” Chancellor says, by telephone from his Houston home. “There’s nobody else today to compare ’em to. I’d have to go back to the 1927 New York Yankees or John Wooden’s great men’s team at UCLA. That’s how good they are. They are so much better than everyone else in the sport.

The Lady Bulldogs of Mississippi State will take on three time defending champion UCONN in the round of sixteen.

Bulldogs to Face Juggernaut Connecticut in the Sweet Sixteen

Nurse In A Good Place At The Right Time For Huskies

Sophomore guard Kia Nurse underwent her own battle last month. Her focus was not in the right place in a team-first system. It was on scoring. And when she suffered through a scoreless outing at Tulane Feb. 3, her reaction was unexpected for a player wearing a UConn uniform.

“We’re trying to teach our players to kind of act your age,’’ UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “Like when you’re 15 don’t walk around and act like you’re 20. And when you’re 20 don’t act like you’re 15. So in that Tulane game she acted like a junior high kid. It was embarrassing. Because she shot the ball poorly she became a mess on the bench and everybody saw it. It’s not how you act at Connecticut. And I think it hit her pretty good.’’

Why UCONN Is Most Underappreciated Team In Sports 

The best thing going in basketball isn’t North Carolina or Kansas or Virginia or Michigan State. It’s not even Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors, at least for the next couple of weeks.

I’ve lost you already, haven’t I? You’re thinking this must be a joke. Or maybe it’s a trick question.

What could possibly be better than all of that?

How about this: A team that’s too good for its own good. A team so untouchable that we take its success for granted.  A team that has no peer or rival, which ends up making it less interesting to the masses.

The Women’s Beat with Bob Joyce: Sweet 16 To Bridgeport

WNBA: Skylar Diggins talks recovery from injury, move to Dallas in Twitter Q&A

Women’s Basketball History! Denver producing documentary on Wayland Baptist’s women’s basketball team

The legendary women’s basketball team at Wayland Baptist University in Plainview, Texas, is the focus of a documentary film being produced in Denver. And the Flying Queens are candidates for team induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, with voting Friday and an announcement to be made at the Final Four next week.

Alice “Cookie” Barron and Kaye Garms, teammates with the Flying Queens at a time when they were on their way to a 131-game winning streak, are ecstatic over learning their place as pioneers in women’s basketball hasn’t been forgotten.

“It’s wonderful that they are looking back into the history of women’s college basketball,” Barron said.

Not off topic: The NBA Needs to Move the 2017 All-Star Game From Charlotte. Now. Commissioner Adam Silver has a chance to lead on challenging an ugly piece of discriminatory legislation. Judging by his own words, it’s past time for him to do so.

The 2017 NBA All-Star Game is due to be held in Charlotte, North Carolina. Silver should announce as soon as possible that this game needs to be moved unless the state legislature overturns its new law set to go in effect April 1 “blocking local governments from passing anti-discrimination rules to grant protections to gay and transgender people.”

The law was passed as a direct response to the City of Charlotte for passing an ordinance to protect gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people from being discriminated against by businesses. Outrageously, the North Carolina legislature scheduled an extraordinary special session—the first time they have done so in 35 years—to annul the Charlotte ordinance before it went into effect. It’s remarkable how quickly lawmakers leap to actually do their jobs when the work involves stripping people of their rights. It is also stunning how all of the Dixie paeans to local control and states’ rights go out the window when it comes to issues such as these.

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How much fun was THAT?

Upset 1: DePaul over Louisville, 73-72

Graham: Bruno ball does it again as DePaul reaches another Sweet 16 and  How DePaul knocked out third-seeded Louisville

DePaul wasn’t sure where it was going on the first possession of a second-round game against Louisville, confusion on the tip resulting in an over-and-back violation, but the Blue Demons know where they’re going now. The Sweet 16 awaits after a 73-72 win.

The Blue Demons found their bearings and roared to another hot first half in the tournament, then held on for dear life against the Cardinals and most of a crowd of 7,515 in the KFC Yum! Center.

Swish Appeal: 

“We’re not sitting completely engaged in the process, as I always tell them. You can’t cheat it.” Coach Walz discussed his team’s performance, “You cheat the process, you’re going to get beat. It might work for you for a while, but eventually it’s going to catch up with you. And that’s really what took place tonight.”

Jonathan Lintner: ‘50-50 call’ dooms U of L in DePaul defeat and  Cards’ comeback comes up short against DePaul

Louisville women’s basketball coach Jeff Walz presented his team two options heading into Sunday: Play better defense and move on to the Sweet 16, or pack up this season and start immediately working for the next.

The No. 3 seed Cardinals received the message too late in the going to salvage their NCAA tournament run…

Josh Abner, AP: DePaul beats Louisville 73-72 behind January’s 25 points

Jessica January’s strong start put her team ahead but it was her last point that sent DePaul to the Sweet 16.

Upset 2: Mississippi State over Michigan State
Michael Bonner, Lansing State Journal: Season ends in agony for MSU women

 A contest that included 51 fouls ended with an official review. Just not the review Michigan State desired.

The officials met at the scorer’s table as Mississippi State’s band played its fight song after a 74-72 victory in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Spartans laid sprawled across the court in the disappointment of defeat.

Tommy Lopez, AP/WCBI.com: Mississippi State Women’s Basketball On To Sweet 16 After Win Over Michigan State

Mississippi State’s Breanna Richardson had made a grand total of two 3-pointers this season before catching a pass and launching a 20-footer in the most important minute of her team’s most important game.

There was never any hesitation. It looked good the entire way.

It went in.

And it was the defining play in fifth-seeded Mississippi State’s victory over No. 4 seed Michigan State.

Lady Bulldogs knock off Michigan State 74-72 in the second round of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.

“I couldn’t be prouder today,” Mississippi State women’s head basketball coach Vic Schaefer. “We played a heck of a basketball game against an unbelievable opponent, Michigan State. They are a tremendous basketball team, well coached. They are resilient and tough. “I say all of that and our kids were a little bit more. I couldn’t be prouder of the toughness our kids showed today.”

Upset 3: Tennessee over Arizona State. A Phoenix Grows In Arizona?

Or, as Dan Fleser writes:

Tennessee blossomed in the desert Sunday night.

The Lady Vols summoned their best team effort of the season. They looked nothing like a No. 7 seed in a 75-64 NCAA tournament victory over No. 2 seed Arizona State at Wells Fargo Arena.

Diamond DeShields scored a game-high 24 points for Tennessee (21-13), which shot 51.8 percent from the floor (29-for-56) and never trailed after the first quarter.

Mechelle: 

A little less than a month after it looked as if Tennessee’s season was going down in infamy — with the possibility of the Lady Vols not making the NCAA tournament for the first time — they are instead headed back to the NCAA tournament’s Sweet 16.

Tennessee has experienced a lot of lows in 2015-16, so the Lady Vols had to relish Sunday’s 75-64 upset of No. 2 seed Arizona State on the Sun Devils’ home court at Wells Fargo Arena.

Swish Appeal: Victory is Sweet (16): Deshields, Tennessee knockout ASU

Scott Mammoser, Examiner: Tennessee wins grueling NCAA second round game at Arizona State

For the 34th time in the 35-year history of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship, the Sweet 16 will include the Tennessee Lady Volunteers. Coming in as the underdog, the seventh-seeded Lady Vols (21-13) won at second-seeded Arizona State (26-7) in the second round Sunday, 75-64, behind Diamond DeShields’ 24 points.

“Any time we had any kind of miscue, they took advantage of it in any way,” said ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne, whose team fell to Florida State in the Sweet 16 in 2015. “We did not play our best basketball. It was a great challenge and a fun game.”

No upset (but you were thinking it): Ohio State over West Virginia, 88-81

Mechelle: How Kelsey Mitchell went wild to lift Ohio State

Ohio State made it to the Sweet 16 for the eighth time in program history, but it took a huge effort from the Buckeyes sophomore guard Kelsey Mitchell. No surprise there: She specializes in that.

Mitchell scored 45 points as the No. 3 seed Buckeyes held off No. 6 seed West Virginia 88-81. It was the fourth-highest total in an NCAA tournament women’s game, following Drake’s Lorri Bauman with 50 in the 1982 Elite Eight, Texas Tech’s Sheryl Swoopes with 47 in the 1993 championship game, and Stanford’s Jayne Appel’s 46 in the 2009 regional final.

Eleven Warriors: 

Ohio State has a special basketball player that many are taking for granted. Sophomore Kelsey Mitchell is rewriting the Buckeye record books and somehow flying a bit under the radar on the greater OSU sports landscape.

It would be a lie to say Mitchell is doing it quietly, as she is quite well known by those who follow women’s hoops. But, compared to the big revenue sports, Mitchell’s media footprint isn’t nearly what her talents merit.

The Lantern: Ohio State women’s basketball capitalizes on West Virginia’s mistakes, punches ticket to Sweet 16

The Ohio State women’s basketball team nearly limped into the NCAA tournament following a pair of excruciating end-of-the-season overtime losses, a semifinal exit from the Big Ten tournament and an untimely injury to senior guard Ameryst Alston.

The odds of advancing deep in the NCAA tournament are usually unfavorable to teams that have problems pile up in March, but the Buckeyes have been resilient despite facing adversity. On Sunday afternoon at St. John Arena, the pressure was at its peak with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line.

Despite a back-and-forth struggle with sixth-seeded West Virginia, the Mountaineers eventually fell victim to their plethora of turnovers, with the 27th and final one pounding the nail in their coffin.

Kelsey Mitchell’s 45 points lead Ohio State to first Sweet 16 since 2011

Mitchell’s 45 points lift Buckeyes past error-prone West Virginia

“It’s hard to guard somebody when they keep coming at you,” said WVU coach Mike Carey. “It puts a lot of pressure on the referee because she comes right at you. I don’t know what you’re supposed to do as a defensive player. I don’t know, just stop? Hopefully they charge, but I don’t know what you’re supposed to do.

“We can’t let people go to the line 22 times. I’m not saying they were bad calls, I’m not saying that. It’s just tough to defend when someone comes straight at you off a drive.”

Can’t retire yet Jim Massie.

As seeded: Syracuse over Albany

Lindsay Kramer, Syracuse.com: Syracuse women’s basketball beats Albany to earn trip to NCAA Tournament Sweet 16

The Syracuse University women’s basketball team is going to its first NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 in program history.

Syracuse (27-7) punched that ticket with a 76-59 win over Albany in a Sioux Falls Regional second-round game in the Carrier Dome.

Brittney Sykes led the way for SU with 24 while Alexis Peterson had 22.

TWC News: UAlbany Women’s Basketball Ends NCAA Tournament Run with Loss to Syracuse

“A lot of people didn’t believe we would make it this far,” senior Shereesha Richards said. “And we have we beat the odds. And it’s sad that we lost but we have accomplished so much this year and there’s more positive to look on then there is negative.”

Albany Times Union: UAlbany women’s season ends with 76-59 NCAA loss at Syracuse

The magical season for the University at Albany women’s basketball team has ended, and with it the careers of seniors Shereesha Richards and Erin Coughlin.

Syracuse overcame a sluggish start and forced UAlbany into 23 turnovers Sunday afternoon en route to a 76-59 victory over the Great Danes in a second-round game of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament in front of 3,832 at the Carrier Dome.

As seeded: Oregon State over St. Bonaventure, 69-40 (though the first half was if-ish for the Beavers).

Gina Mizell, Oregoninan: Oregon State cruises past St. Bonaventure 69-40 to advance to Sweet 16

It was over when: The Beavers scored the first seven points of the third quarter to quickly push its lead to 38-21. That only foreshadowed the dominant period to come for OSU, outscoring the Bonnies 21-4 as its advantage grew to as many as 27 points when freshman reserve Taylor Kalmer drilled a three-pointer in the final minute of the period.

Gary Horowitz, Statesman-Journal: OSU seniors secure Sweet 16 berth in final home game and Oregon State women heading to Sweet 16

“What a night,” OSU coach Scott Rueck said. “We’ve been waiting for this and for the opportunity. I’m so proud of this team. I couldn’t be happier for them.”

The memory of a painful second-round loss to Gonzaga at Gill last season was a source of motivation for OSU the entire season.

“It feels better this year for sure,” said senior guard Jamie Weisner, who scored a game-high 23 points. “I think last year at this time I was in the locker room crying. It was over.

Building the Dam: Oregon State Rolls On To Sweet 16

It was a grind early, as Oregon State shot terribly to start the game, making only 4 of their first 15 shots, including missing 7 in a row at one point, and though the Beavers never trailed, they only opened a 5 point, 13-8 lead when Marie Gulich got a put back basket at the buzzer.

But there were 2 key takeaways from the early going. Oregon State got balance, with points from 4 starters, Ruth Hamblin, Gabriella Hanson, Sidney Wiese, and Jamie Weisner in their first 4 baskets. It was an indication of the balance that would strain St. Bonaventure all evening.

Swish Appeal: Weisner’s ‘enormous presence’ looms large for OSU

Takin’ Care of Business!

Baylor stomped all over Auburn.

Stephen Hawkins, AP: Baylor women rout Auburn to make another Sweet 16

With Nina Davis open in the middle, everything went just as planned for the Baylor women. and they are going to the NCAA Sweet 16 for the eighth year in a row.

Davis scored a season high-matching 30 points, and freshman post Kalani Brown had 16 points as the Lady Bears beat the Auburn press all night while avoiding being trapped in an 84-52 victory Sunday.

WacoTrib: Lady Bears ease by Auburn

Matthew Stevens, Montgomery Advertiser: Unbearable! Baylor dominates Auburn 84-52 in NCAA Tournament

Baylor didn’t waste any time in ending all hope for an Auburn upset Sunday night.

The top seeded Lady Bears scored 19 of the first 21 points as Auburn lost 84-52 in a 2016 NCAA Tournament second round game at the Ferrell Center. The loss represented the largest margin of defeat for Auburn throughout the entire 2015-16 season.

South Carolina stomped all over Kansas State.

David Cloninger, The State: Mitchell super as Gamecocks beat Kansas State, head to Sweet 16

Didn’t think she’d leave that red cape home this time of year, did you? 

As she has throughout her career, South Carolina’s Tiffany Mitchell saved the Gamecocks’ day in a 73-47 rout of Kansas State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday. 

The one they call “Superwoman” took over when SEC Player of the Year A’ja Wilson was on the bench with two quick fouls in the first quarter, scoring 16 first-half points and directing USC once more into the Sweet 16.

One by one, South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley took her five seniors out for rim-rattling ovations from a crowd of 10,048.

“Because we’re playing our best basketball,” Staley said Sunday night after a 73-47 rout of Kansas State in a second-round NCAA Tournament game, “we afforded ourselves the chance to be able to salute and honor our seniors in that manner.”

We knew it was going to be a long shot. South Carolina came into this one with one loss all season, to top-ranked UConn (a game they lost by only 12 points). The Lady Gamecocks are GOOD, talented and well coached. And, thanks to NCAA venue procedure for women’s basketball, they even get to play at home. So the deck was already stacked.

That K-State was only down by five at the end of the first quarter was actually fairly impressive.

WNIT:

Ohio (MAC) over Virginia Tech (ACC), 64-57… reminder, the Bobcats won the regular season title…and this is their second WNIT win. Ever.

Virginia (ACC) over (and at) Rutgers (Big 10), 71-55. Pretty disappointing post-game comment from coach Stringer: “We should’ve just taken a forfeit.” Virginia highlights:

Temple (American) over (and at) Quinnipiac (MAAC), 64-62.

South Dakota (Summit) over (and at)  Banham Minnesota (Big 10), 101-89…reminder, the Coyotes won the regular season title.

 It’s a well-known fact that Rachel Banham has had one of the best careers that you can have, and that she alone can cause problems, but South Dakota wanted to prove that they were a formidable force, too.

They did just that, and now the Coyotes have a chance to get some revenge for an early-season loss against Northern Iowa.

Monday Games:

6:30: Indiana v. Notre Dame – Ready or not, Indiana gets shot at Notre Dame
6:30: Washington v. Maryland – Maryland, Washington: Opposites attract in 2nd round women’s matchup
6:30: Oklahoma v. Kentucky – Previewing the Sooners’ NCAA Tournament game vs. Kentucky
6:30: Florida State v. Texas A&M – Texas A&M’s Howard and FSU’s Thomas key in 2nd round matchup

9:00: UConn v. Duquesne – Duquesne coach Burt says key is not to let UConn ‘dominate your soul’,
9:00: Missouri v. Texas – Texas Aims to Climb Missouri’s Tall Wall
9:00: South Florida v. UCLA – UCLA women must slow down South Florida’s Courtney Williams in second round
9:00: South Dakota State v. Stanford – Michelle: Jackrabbits jump at chance to battle Stanford for Sweet 16 spot

Tulane v. Georgia Tech, 7PM
Wake Forest v. Florida Gulf Coast, 7PM
Ball State v. Saint Louis, 8PM
Tennessee-Martin v. Western Kentucky, 8PM
Arkansas State v. UTEP, 9PM
Utah v. Gonzaga, 9PM
Fresno State v. Oregon, 9PM

In other news:

WATN? Former WNBA Ball Handling Queen Shannon Bobbitt coming to town

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL HISTORY

I know about Ora Mae Washington… but too many people do not. Thank you to Steven J. Niven at The Root for doing some much needed research and laying out some of her story. Queen of the Courts: How Ora Washington Helped Philly ‘Forget the Depression’ 

Philadelphians had little to cheer about in the winter of 1932. Over 250,000 people—a quarter of the workforce—were unemployed, many more were working part time, and thousands had lost their savings with the collapse of several banks. For black Philadelphians, the Great Depression was even worse. Only 13 percent enjoyed full-time employment, 45 percent were unemployed and 42 percent worked only part time. More than one-third of black families were on poor relief, and in one African-American neighborhood, two-thirds of the homes had no indoor plumbing and half had no central heating

But that February and March of 1932, amid the economic gloom and real suffering, black Philadelphians were gripped by a basketball tournament to determine the best African-American women’s team in the city, as well as the nation. The local black newspaper perhaps exaggerated in promising the matchup between the Germantown Hornets and the Philadelphia Tribunes would make the city “forget the Depression,” but the same ad was surely correct in describing the series as a battle between “two of the greatest girl players in the world”: Inez Patterson of the Tribunes and Ora Washington of the Hornets.

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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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