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WHB readers have been aware of the slow rebirth of the San Francisco women’s basketball program under Jennifer Azzi. This year, the tempo of the upwards trend has picked up to include an amazing 4-OT game against Gonzaga… and now a huge 65-57 upset of San Diego that puts the Dons in the finals of the WCC.

After a first half she classified as “awful,” USF women’s basketball coach Jennifer Azzi wondered what message to impart to her players about a 42-29 halftime deficit to San Diego in the West Coast Conference Tournament semifinals.

As is often the case with Azzi, she opted for a positive approach. She told her team to let go of the first half, but pick it up defensively going forward. After allowing the Toreros to shoot 63 percent in the first half, thanks to lots of clean looks, the sixth-seeded Dons held second-seeded USD to 17 percent from the field in the final 20 minutes on the way to a thrilling 65-57 win at the Orleans Arena.

To make the NCAA tourney, they’ll have to defeat BYU (4pm EST – ESPNU), which upset Gonzaga, 61-55.

At halftime of Monday’s West Coast Conference semifinal, prospects for the BYU women’s basketball team looked bleak.

The fifth-seeded Cougars trailed top-seeded Gonzaga by 10, knew they had been swept by the taller, stronger Zags in the regular-season, and realized WCC Player of the Year Morgan Bailey was clearly ailing with a bad back and a balky knee.

Some how, some way, coach Jeff Judkins was able to rally his troops by challenging them to reverse the game’s momentum on the defensive end. 

The MEAC offered an upset of its own, as Howard (4-26) took down South Carolina State (16-12) in the first round of the conference tourney, 70-57.

The Mountain West offered up the Debbie Antonelli special of the night, as San Jose State beat Utah State, 99-85.

You may remember that Lehigh started off the season nice and strong, but then faded a bit. They’re back – and their upset of Army (76-57) puts them in the Patriot finals against American.

 #5 Baylor and #1 UConn held serve to win their conferences (though I wouldn’t want to face USF during March Madness).

Quinnipiac finally dethroned Marist, winning the MAAC championship, 72-61.

For Quinnipiac women’s basketball head coach Tricia Fabbri, losing in the program’s only NCAA Tournament appearance two season’s ago served as motivation.

And after coming up just short last year in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championship’s final game – when the Bobcats lost to Marist – Fabbri’s motivation only got higher.

New Big East finals: DePaul v. Seton Hall. Oughta be good.

Ditto with the goodness in the Summit finals as South Dakota battles South Dakota State, 2pmEST, ESPNU.

More goodness in PA as Penn battles Princeton at the Palestra – 5pmEST, CBSports.

No brainer: Taurasi named to CIF All-Century Winter team

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that looked at mid-season COY candidates in the Big 6, I used my “waiting for the dryer to finish up” time to put together a list for some of the other conference candidates. Feedback welcome:

Ivy: Courtney Banghart/Princeton — I am surprised no ones has snatched her up.

American East: Katie Abrahamson-Henderson, Albany/Kelly Greenberg, Boston University.ln the three years KAH has been there, the Danes have established something, outpacing Hartford. Ditto with BU — lordy, has Greenberg REALLY been their nine years? It’s a dogfight.

A-10: Dayton’s Jim Jabir gets all the attention, and rightly so, but at Fordham, Stephanie Gaitley has more victories this season than the Rams have complied in a decade of games (or so it seems). I was skeered for her when she left Monmouth, but she seems to thrive when challenged.

Horizon: Youngstown State/Bob Boldon. The Penguins have been the laughingstock of the league for years, and not just because of their tuxedos. Have you ever tried to play basketball in a tuxedo? They’re still no Green Bay, but they’re much improved under this second year coach.

MAC: Central Michigan/Sue Guevara seems to have found her home at Central Michigan, and she’s done a great job (especially now that the shady dealings at EMU have been exposed).

NEC: Quinnipiac/Longtime coach Tricia Fabbri has the Bobcats on their longest winning streak in program history.

Mountain West: Fresno State/Raegan Pebely: The Bulldogs lost their coach lost their coach (and we know how THAT turned out), replaced late, and are still nipping at last year’s surprise, San Diego State. Shouldn’t actually be a surprise, Pebely has earned COY honors before.

Southern: Wes Moore and Chattanooga have reestablished the “natural” order, but under Charlotte Smith (yes, THAT Charlotte Smith) Elon has surprised the heck outta folks.

SWAC: Cynthia Cooper returned to the SWAC and has made an immediate impact on Texas Southern. Last year they won a total of 2 conference games. This year, they’re second in the Conference (with the only overall winning record — which ain’t sayin’ much, but it is a winning record.)

Sun Belt: Western Kentucky/Michelle Clark-Heard. Mel’s already mentioned this coach as a Maggie Dixon Rookie Coach of the Year. (Though, considering the record of honorees post-award, you might wanna miss being tapped.)

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