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WNITCoyotes over Eagles, 71-65

The Florida Gulf Coast University women’s basketball team relied on its seniors, shooting and swagger during its energetic postseason run.

But in the WNIT championship game, FGCU ran into a team just as experienced, just as offensively gifted and with just as big a chip on its shoulders. And this time it was the Eagles’ opponent that was spurred by a wild home crowd.

Coyotes claim WNIT championship

Saturday was a special day for the University of South Dakota.

In front of a capacity crowd of 7,415 at the DakotaDome, the South Dakota women’s basketball team closed out its final game in the 37-year old facility in historic fashion.

Daily Republic Editorial Board: OUR VIEW: SD’s success in women’s basketball tough to ignore

Collectively, the accomplishments of South Dakota State, the University of South Dakota and the successful hosting of major postseason games are all really impressive for our state.

Nationwide, there is a lot of room to help the popularity of women’s basketball grow. But we hope NCAA officials realize that our state can make a strong influence on that.

The successes this year are just too hard to ignore.

A little south of them, more folks are playing basketball…

Gene Wang, Washington Post: Look past U-Conn., and women’s Final Four is full of surprises

With the Syracuse women’s basketball team having reached uncharted territory in the Final Four, Coach Quentin Hillsman couldn’t help but recall how his early years contributed to his professional development.

He grew up in suburban Washington, where his high school coach, Aaron Holder, showed how to build a champion from scratch at Forestville. In 1985, Hillsman’s freshman year, the Knights won the Maryland Class B title three years after the school opened its doors for the first time.

“Forestville High School was a special, special place, and Aaron Holder really instilled in me doing things the right way, being a hard worker, and was responsible for me becoming a basketball player and becoming a good coach,” said Hillsman, 45, the first African American male head coach to the reach the women’s Final Four. “What he’s done for me has been so big. That’s where it started with me.”

John Kekis, AP: Syracuse women reach for new heights

Charlie: Alexis Peterson’s confidence, competitiveness drive Syracuse

When Syracuse point guard Alexis Peterson talks about filling the lane, she might not be talking about basketball.

“I love to bowl,” Peterson said Saturday. “I have my own ball, my own bag, my own shoes, my own towel. I am a great bowler.”

Paul Shepherd, Newsday: Syracuse women looking to get takeaways from Washington

The Syracuse and Washington women’s basketball teams have faced each other just one time.

Who knew in November that the 66-62 Syracuse win in the South Point Thanksgiving Shootout in Las Vegas would be a preview of their second matchup in the same season?

 

Paul Doyle, : For Morgan Valley, Long Trip From UConn Back To Final Four

Early in her coaching career, Morgan Valley faced a dilemma.

The Vermont native and UConn graduate had coached at Holy Cross and New Hampshire. She had an opportunity to pursue a job at Towson University in Maryland, but it would be far from her New England roots.

She sought the advice of UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey, a mentor.

“CD said you can’t be afraid to move around if this is what you want to do,” said Valley, now in her first year at the University of Washington. “That’s kind of been my attitude.”

Nice to be in Indy so we can get some of David Woods’ writing: What do Chantel Osahor and Steph Curry have in common?

In summer basketball, Kelsey Plum’s team once played against Chantel Osahor, her future Washington Huskies teammate. Plum’s coach told the team to drop into the paint against Osahor, a 6-2 post player who surely would not shoot from outside.

Osahor stayed out there and never left her feet. Her left-handed set shot is a throwback to the 1930s.

“Whack, whack, whack. First three shots of the game. Nailed them,” Plum recalled. “I said, ‘Coach, we should get up on her, right?’ We lost by like 30, and she kicked my butt. Definitely made an impression.”

And more David: The remarkable parallels between UConn and Oregon State

Graham: Jefferson as key to UConn’s success as anyone

In one sense, Moriah Jefferson is a curious candidate to embody why the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team continues to make and accumulate history at a pace unlike almost anything else in sports.

As a recruit, readying to speak in person with Geno Auriemma for the first time, Jefferson listened as friends asked if she was nervous about the encounter. It struck her as an odd question. She was just going to be talking to someone about basketball, a sport she had played her whole waking life, minus perhaps two weeks many years earlier when she quit in protest after her dad told her she couldn’t play in leagues against boys any longer. 

These folks are good: WBCA All-Americans: UConn’s Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson, Morgan Tuck; South Carolina’s A’ja Wilson; South Florida’s Courtney Williams; Oregon State’s Jamie Weisner; Ohio State’s Kelsey Mitchell; Baylor’s Nina Davis; Notre Dame’s Brianna Turner; Washington’s Kelsey Plum.

Wade Trophy: Breanna Stewart (also AP Player of the Year.)

WBCA Defensive Player of the Year: Moriah Jefferson

AP Coach of the Year: Geno Auriemma

Jim Fuller, New Haven Register: Emotional day as UConn players, coaches are honored

A little more than three hours after exuberantly cheering as three of their teammates walked onto the Bankers Life Fieldhouse court as members of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s All-American team, the Huskies sat in stunned silence as their wise-cracking quote machine of a head coach ran out of one-liners to deliver and words to utter.

Graham: Auriemma brought to tears on eve of Final Four

The weekend might prove Connecticut is invincible in the moment, but the coach who built the dynasty seems painfully aware that there is no such thing as immortality in sports.

“The longer I’m at this, the more I’m starting to understand it might not happen again,” Auriemma said. “And you really need to appreciate what these people do every day, to make it work.”

Kevin Baxter, LA Times: Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma keeps making a case to be considered the greatest basketball coach

VIDEO: Previewing Oregon State-Connecticut with Doris Burke of ESPN

From Excelle Sports: The Canadian guide to defeating Breanna Stewart and Moriah Jefferson

You’ve heard it countless times by now—Connecticut hasn’t lost since November 18, 2014, an 88-86 defeat to Stanford.

But Breanna Stewart and Moriah Jefferson, the two best players for the Huskies, did suffer a loss this past summer while playing for the United States in the Pan Am Games, an 81-73 defeat to Canada.

The parallels and overlaps from that game to this one are nearly endless. The two best players for Oregon State, center Ruth Hamblin and guard Jamie Weisner, are both Canadian national team players (though neither played in that game). And Oregon State coach Scott Rueck served as an assistant for the U.S. during the Pan Am tournament.

Blue Star Media: Women’s Final Four upstarts relish unlikely journeys

Jamie Weisner had no good reason to hear out to first-year Oregon State coach Scott Rueck when he made his first recruiting visit to her home on Valentine’s Day, 2011, when she was a junior in high school.

Most of the other Pac 12 schools were already interested in the fine-shooting guard with plenty of swagger. So where some local schools near her home in Clarkston, Wash., and a few more in the Midwest.

Oregon State was mired in the depths of the Pac 12. After inheriting two scholarship players following a wave of defections and the firing of his predecessor, Rueck held tryouts to fill a roster, adding soccer and volleyball players to get to 11.

The Beavers were in the midst of what would become a 9-21 season, with only two wins in conference play.

Yet Weisner not only listened to Rueck, she followed him to Corvallis.

Take 2: UW Huskies’ astonishing run helps editor rediscover his love for women’s hoops

Michelle Smith: Kelsey Plum learned to lead, and wins followed

Mechelle: Right place, right time for Washington coach Mike Neighbors

At the center of it is a man who lives with heart issues that, before he turned 30, made him take stock of everything he knew about life. “I was not a very independent thinker,” Neighbors said. “I had a heart attack at 29. It was an eye-opening moment that your life’s really, really short.”

He evaluated himself and everything around him. He recognized he wasn’t a very fast or comprehensive reader, and immediately set about changing that. He left teaching and coaching at the high school level to go into college coaching, despite it initially being a drastic pay cut. He began to write down his philosophies on living and working, then passed them around for people to read.

Seattle Times: How UW’s Talia Walton draws strength from mother’s battle with liver cancer.

Graham: The combination that could crack UConn code

Jamie Weisner and Sydney Wiese helped lead Oregon State from the bottom of Division I to the top of the mountain, only to find a volcano beneath their feet.

A volcano from the otherwise rolling hills of New England that erupted 120 of the past 121 times it rumbled.

Top shot blockers Breanna Stewart, Ruth Hamblin will square off in semifinals

Harvey, NY Times: UConn’s Seniors Are 2 Wins From a Feat Never Accomplished

Mechelle: Unfazed and focused UConn blocks out the noise

Beware of the bubble! No, not the usual bubble referred to in the NCAA tournament. But the UConn bubble. It is made of some very powerful stuff. No women’s basketball team has more outside “noise” to deal with, yet nobody deals with it better.

Whether it’s praise or criticism — and UConn has been so consistently great, sometimes the praise actually sounds like criticism — it seems to have no effect on the undefeated Huskies, who are seeking to become the first women’s basketball team to win four consecutive NCAA titles.

Breanna Stewart’s teammate: ‘People don’t get to see how fun she is’

BTW: UConn Vs. WNBA Team? Don’t Go There, Say Lobo, Lawson, Burke

Don’t forget, Monday’s games… Meet the Alaska Anchorage Hoosiers

Alaska Anchorage’s Seawolves are about as “Hoosiers” as you can get, considering their campus is more than 3,000 miles from Indiana.

The 33-year-old women’s basketball coach, Ryan McCarthy, loves the movie and fulfilled a lifelong goal Friday — he shot a jumper at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The men’s record-holder for scoring average, the Seawolves’  Jesse Jackson, is from Indianapolis. A former basketball coach and athletic director, Harry Larrabee, is from Shelbyville. Basketball icon Oscar Robertson is the great-great-uncle of Anchorage women’s  guard Kiki Robertson.

And you thought the rural domicile of Hickory’s “Shooter” Flatch was in a remote location?

 

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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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I’m no bracket expert, so I’ll defer to Charlie who, in the end, defers to the Selection Committee… but DePaul’s loss popped a couple of bubbles and so, methinks, did the Dons stunning upset of BYU. “No. 6 seed San Francisco rallied from a 15-point first-quarter deficit, took its first lead with 17.2 seconds left and held on to knock off the Cougars, 70-68.

“Wow. What a game. Our team fought so hard tonight,” said USF coach Jennifer Azzi. “BYU’s an incredible program, an amazing team. When you get down 10-0 you go, ‘Oh no.’”

Not that Azzi was necessarily surprised by what her team was able to do.

“You do have to have luck to get to this point,” she said. “This is what we’ve wanted for years. So I don’t think any of us are actually shocked by it because it’s been what we’ve been working towards. But certainly, the stars have to be aligned.”

Longtime readers of the WHB know we’ve been tracking Jennifer Azzi’s effort to rebuild the San Francisco program. Clearly, the Dons have gotten better under her leadership… but the WCC is (as ye longtime readers know) no joke. There’s Gonzaga, then BYU, then Saint Mary’s and now Santa Clara… so breaking into the NCAA is bloody challenging. But, her team met the challenge and are going dancin’ for the first time since 1997.

Remember what was happening in 1997? Spice Girls, Boyz II Men, Toni Braxton and Elton John… and the WNBA. Which means Kurt Kragthorpe can write: an Ex-Utah Starzz guard outwits BYU’s Judkins in WCC final

The former point guard for the Utah Starzz of the WNBA outcoached ex-Utah Jazz forward Jeff Judkins at the end of a game that left Azzi “absolutely, honestly, speechless right now,” she said.

The Dons took down each of the WCC’s top three seeds in reverse order — and less spectacular fashion as they went along, actually. USF’s run began with Taylor Proctor’s banked-in 3-pointer to force overtime against San Diego, then the Dons topped Saint Mary’s and BYU by two points each.

Summit Final: It was a tight battle between the South Dakotas. In the end the Jackrabbits upset the Coyotes, 61-55. That’s SDSU’s 7th trip to the NCAA in the last 8 years. BTW: A total of 8,647 fans packed the Denny Sanford Premier Center on Tuesday afternoon, setting a record for a women’s Summit League championship.

Ivy: Penn, on Princeton’s home court, claimed their spot in this year’s Big Dance.

The Princeton women’s basketball team has lost seven Ivy League games in the last seven seasons. Penn won its second Ivy title in three seasons Wednesday night at Jadwin Gym, beating the Tigers, 62-60, in a game the Quakers led from late in the first quarter until the final two minutes. Penn gave up the lead for exactly 15 seconds, got it back on a three-point play from Anna Ross, the most skilled player on the court, and held it to the wire.

“As I just told my players you don’t get these opportunities too many times in sports to celebrate something like this,” Penn coach Mike McLaughlin said. “I just talked about some space being at the Palestra for them.”

Big East Final: I know the ESPN blurb says “St. John’s wins Big East title for 1st time since ’88” and it’s great for the Red Storm and New York basketball… but the headline is a bit disingenuous, dontcha think? (Yes, I’m still bitter the Old Big East is gone.) BUT, kudos to Creighton and congrats to St. John’s – ya took down the top dog and then earned a spot at in the Dance.

Big 12 Final: So, how good is Baylor lookin’? Ask Kim.

“Honestly, we’ve been playing pretty good, and I wish we could just keep playing,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “You hate to stop and take a break, for fear that you can’t get back to where you just finished these last two or three weeks, because we’ve really played good basketball.”

Alexis Jones, who scored 16 points for the Lady Bears, was named the tournament’s most outstanding player after averaging 15.7 points and 7.7 assists in three games. Beatrice Mompremier scored 15 points, and Niya Johnson added 11 for Baylor (33-1), which swept the conference’s regular-season and tournament titles for the sixth consecutive year.

American Final: Stompity, stomp, stomp by UConn.

“If we play defense the way we played it tonight, we’re always going to have a chance,” Auriemma said. “Then how much we win by depends on how many shots go in for us.”

The shots were going in for Samuelson in the second quarter and she finished with 13 points and seven rebounds. Freshman nights like this make UConn fans dream that, yes, Samuelson has what it takes to be the next great player. “Stewy is obviously a lot more gifted, she can do so many more things,” Auriemma said. “But Lou has a different way of doing kind of the same things. The thing I like is if you challenge Lou really, really hard she responds. Those are the ones who usually turn out to be really good players, the ones who early on when you get after them they don’t wilt. They come of stronger.”

Oh, boy, opponents must love reading they have to look forward to.

Mechelle writes about those top four seeds: 

There are seasons when conference tournaments add some intrigue — if not downright doubt — about the projected No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament. But this was not one of those years.

For all practical purposes, UConn, South Carolina, Notre Dame and Baylor had their top seeds wrapped up for the Big Dance even before any of them tipped off in their respective league tournaments.

But there might have been just a little uncertainty raised about how they would play in the NCAA tournament if one of them had looked a little shaky these past few days. That didn’t happen.

In progress conference tourneys had a couple of early upsets:

C-USA– First Round: North Texas (11-18, 5-13), who got our attention early in the season, faltered down the home stretch. That stop them from taking down Florida Atlantic (14-16, 6-12), 79-74. It’s the program’s first post-season win since 2011-12.

“I’m ecstatic to get a good team win,” head coach Jalie Mitchell said. “If you look at the stat sheet, it’s pretty balanced and everybody stepped up and did something to help us advance. Everything that we did helped us to get to this point”

C-USA – First Round: There’s lots of really upsetting news swirling around Florida International (5-25, 2-16). But, under interim head coach Tiara Malcom, the managed to pull it together and surprise Texas San Antonio (10-19, 6-12), 61-56.

Tomorrow games:

NEC Semis: Hello, old friend! Bryant v. Robert Morris; Sacred Heart v. St. Francis (PA)

Mountain West Semi: New Mexico v. #22 Colorado State

A-Sun Semis: FGCU v. old rival Stetson; upstart Jacksonville State v. South Carolina Upstate

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So, yeah, many of the conference tournaments have started, but I honestly didn’t think I’d have to worry about the first rounds…

“DOH!” says the Ohio Valley. Murray State straight up stuns #1 Tennessee-Martin. How big an upset? The Pacers are 11-16 (7-9) and the Skyhawks are 21-8 (14-2). The Skyhawks just played Murray State to close out the season and beat them by 21. SIEU must be thinkin’ “We don’t screw up, we get into the NCAA.” Of course, Belmont might be thinkin’ the exact same thing.

Fly, Eagles, fly: FGCU leads mid-major rankings into the postseason

If mid-major teams often play with the freedom of nothing to lose in the NCAA tournament, perhaps it’s because they already survived the part of the season when there was everything to lose. With NCAA at-large bids rarely a certainty, a season’s worth of good work can vanish within a few bad minutes in a conference tournament. But with automatic bids soon up for grabs, here is a final look at the rankings.

Wow, being a Clemson Tiger these days must be disheartening. 0-for in conference play.

You stay (Boyle), you go (Butts). This could be a busy list.

Oh, this could get ugly right quick: FIU women’s basketball coach suspended after alleged sexual misconduct

Crap: Theriot Will not Return for HuskersTheriot’s career had great moments, but also disappointment

The Nebraska women’s basketball team returns to Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis this week for the Big Ten Conference Tournament, site of one of the great moments in the career of Rachel Theriot.

In 2014, Theriot helped lead the Huskers to the Big Ten Tournament championship, the program’s first title in their new league. Theriot was tournament MVP.

Theriot won’t be able to play in Thursday’s game against Rutgers. The senior point guard had surgery on her foot on Monday. That ends a career filled with lots of great games, but also disappointment, as her junior and senior seasons were each cut short because of injury.

So, I’m pleased that coach Dave Magarity is part of the WBCA’s “COY Region/Nominee” process. But, I’d like to mention that Army (26-2, 17-1) has had a (rather recent) tradition of winning. Bucknell, now 23-6, (17-1), not so much…

“It feels good to get a piece of a championship,” said fourth-year Bucknell head coach Aaron Roussell. “This team has been through so much, and for it to result in a banner in the rafters is very rewarding. I’ve been told Army is one of the better teams in the history of the Patriot League, so for us to match them at 17-1 is an incredible accomplishment.”

Bucknell’s run through the league schedule started with an eight-game winning streak, including a victory over Army West Point. The Bison’s lone loss came to the Black Knights and has been followed by their current nine-game winning streak that they will take into the postseason. The streak is tied for the longest in program history.

Woot! to the NCAA’s “Team of the Week:”

Fresh off of claiming the school’s third Conference USA regular season title in program history (2008, 2012 and 2016), the UTEP Miners continue to impress as the calendar turns to March. UTEP clinched the title on Feb. 27 when they outlasted Charlotte, 94-91, in double overtime in front of a roaring 4,012 fans at the Don Haskins Center.

UTEP, 25-2 overall and 16-1 in Conference USA play, matched school and league records for single-season Conference USA victories this year. The Miners also concluded the home portion of their schedule at a flawless 16-0, marking the second undefeated home campaign (14-0) in program history.

Speaking of the Miners: UTEP star Turner overcomes struggle and thrives

Growing up in the hardscrabble parts of Dallas, Turner spent some nights on a floor in an apartment with six of her siblings, some at houses of various coaches looking out for her. Some days she ate better than others. Those days, she didn’t pass out in a gym. Some days she did pass out in the gym. Going to practice hungry was common.

Turner learned the rules of the street.

“I saw shootings, killings,” Turner said. “You hear shots and you get down on the ground, protect yourself. I saw lots of drugs, weed, cocaine, prostitution. Not a lot of girls I went to school with went on to college. I wanted to break that cycle; I didn’t want that to be my story.”

But there’s another part to this: Turner isn’t running from anything.

Speaking of players overcoming:

This year has not been what anyone expects of Iowa State, least of all the Cyclones themselves. This is a proud and distinguished program that’s used to the postseason; Iowa State has gone to the NCAA tournament 16 of the past 19 seasons, including the past nine years in a row.

But the Cyclones finished the regular season Tuesday at 13-16 overall after an 82-57 loss to West Virginia.

So why did it still seem like such an uplifting night in Ames, Iowa?

Because Iowa State guard Seanna Johnson was back on the court, after a very emotionally difficult past 10 days in what’s been a challenging season for the Cyclones. Johnson had missed the previous two games while at home in Minnesota with her family after her father, Curtis Johnson, suffered a stroke on Feb. 20.

Speaking of really good players: Courtney Williams worked hard to become one of game’s top players

You’ve heard the story before, countless times. It’s about the high school standout who comes to college and becomes perplexed and frustrated that what once came pretty easily had become challenging.

Common as the scenario is, it’s still a major hurdle to clear for every player who encounters it. But if she does, it’s a process she never forgets.

South Florida senior guard Courtney Williams can attest to this. She has become one of the top players in college, and is looking forward to a professional career. But she had to go through that “what I am doing wrong?” phase at one point, too.

Ladies, start your engines! UConn ready to raise the bar even higher in postseason

The undefeated Huskies are like a standout Broadway troupe that has been doing the same show for a while. They have all their lines memorized and know every mark they must hit. So how, when you’ve been essentially nailing it again and again, do you still find another gear?

That’s really the “secret” of championship teams, isn’t it? Even when they appear to be at their best, there’s somewhere else to climb.

“Back in the day, we used to say, there’s regular-season Shea Ralph, and there’s tournament Shea,” Auriemma said of the former Huskies star and current UConn assistant coach who was the most outstanding player of the 2000 Women’s Final Four. “And those are two different things. And we like to think that our team is the same way.

Ya-da-UConn “undefeated” Ya-da-UConn “national champions” Ya-da… NOT UConn?      Johnson County women’s basketball team shooting for perfect season: Defending NJCAA Division II champs are 30-0 entering postseason

The Johnson County Community College women’s basketball program earned its bona fides long ago and its second national championship last season. The Cavaliers are accustomed to winning.

So when coach Ben Conrad says: “It is surprising we haven’t gotten beat. That’s not normal,” it’s apparent something is up.

JCCC begins postseason play Tuesday with a 30-0 record, the first time the Cavaliers have finished the regular season undefeated. All but two of those wins have come by double digits. Most of those double-digit wins have been margins rarely seen outside of video games.

Looking ahead, Charlie says: NCAA’s final reveal holds small clues for Selection Monday

Mechelle, who’s been writing up a storm, notes: Bubble teams look to make big noise during Championship Week

In the five major conferences — which accounted for five automatic and 27 at-large NCAA berths last year — there are some bubble guppies and bubble sharks. The guppies don’t have much NCAA tournament history, while the sharks do — but as the “bubble” part of their description suggests, both are in precarious positions in regard to this year’s tournament.

Let’s take a quick look around the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC as they get set to face off for conference supremacy and automatic tickets to the Big Dance.

Check out the ‘Around the Rim’: Championship Week Preview podcast with Chiney and LaChina

During the first half, the two are joined by Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame coach Lin Dunn to discuss if UConn’s recent slow starts should be concerning, SMU coach Rhonda Rompola’s retirement and her comments on “players’ entitlement” and front-runners for the national coach of the year award.

In the second half of the show, the duo chat with espnW’s bracketology expert Charlie Creme who breaks down the significance of the upcoming conference tournaments and sheds light on which teams could make a case for a tournament bid this weekend.

Connecticut’s WNBA Team Is More (and Less) Tied to UConn Than You Might Think

…as UConn continues its skyward trajectory under head coach Geno Auriemma, the Sun look toward the 2016 season — the WNBA’s 20th — facing an uphill climb, and a clear goal to strengthen its place in the state’s women’s basketball market after a run of disappointing seasons.

The best way to do that? Win.

“For us, it’s going to come down to: how do we legitimize ourselves?” said Chris Sienko, the Sun’s vice president and general manager. “People know who we are. We’ve done great things. We have to win a championship. I think that’s when people start putting us in the same conversation with UConn.”

Hello, Prez! Atlanta Dream names Theresa Wenzel new president

WATN? Jessica Davenport: A Global Basketball Journey Close To Home

One Last Time: Q&A with WNBA star, Olympian and author Tamika Catchings

In her new book, “Catch A Star: Shining through Adversity to Become a Champion,” co-written by Ken Petersen, she details her life as the daughter of professional basketball player Harvey Catchings, how she adapted to her hearing impairment as a child, how she sought refuge in sports and how the joys and sorrows molded her into the person she is today. At the recent USA Basketball national team training camp in Storrs, Connecticut, Catchings spoke to espnW about the book and why she wrote it.

Thanks for the story, Sally: Going on offense vs. Down syndrome: Most people saw limits for Frankie Antonelli. Parents Frank and Debbie saw potential.

They had counted with an unthinking confidence on having healthy kids, maybe even a team roster’s worth. She played basketball at North Carolina State before becoming a sportscaster, and he hit .400 for the Columbia University baseball team before making a career in elite sports management, and they hoped to add some quality little strivers to the general population. Their first child was an easy birth, and they were so confident of their second that she played nine holes of golf the day he was born. Then he came out scrunched up with the cord around his neck, and holes in his heart.

The doctors spoke in dead-end terms, even the ones who tried to be positive. Though it was 1997 and not the Victorian Age, one said, “Don’t let anybody tell you to institutionalize him.” Statistics showed most Down syndrome children would not see 50.

He won’t develop properly, they said, or play games like other children. “I can’t tell you how many times I heard the words can’t and won’t,” Debbie says. Defeatist words. They seemed to apply as much to her, as to him. You can’t have a career with a disabled child. You won’t be able to work.

But the Antonellis were athletes, and athletes don’t deal in can’t and won’t. They deal in can, and will.

Eighteen years later, Frankie Antonelli is a junior in high school with sparkling eyes, and a well-defined V shape from fitness training. “Hi, I’m Frankie, I’m a celebrity,” he says, wise-guy-like as he introduces himself to a reporter. With a motor-speech impediment that doesn’t dull his meaning, he proceeds to argue with some spirit that he’s the best basketball player in the Antonelli Driveway Series.

Video: Coordinator of Pac-12 women’s basketball officiating Violet Palmer reflects on a pioneering career

Congrats to Brenda VanLengen, winner of the 2016 WBCA Mel Greenberg Media Award.

On a dabnabbit, but congrats note, WHB fave Jim Massie is closing up shop at the Columbus Dispatch. Hopefully he’s at the top of the Mel list next year.

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Score! Scoring 60 points still seems surreal to Gophers guard Rachel Banham (Speaking of surreal: Kobe Bryant congratulates UMN’s Rachel Banham for her 60-point game). Yah, it took double OT, but wowza. The Star Tribune says: Appreciate the Gophers’ Rachel Banham while you still can

Said Stollings:

“I think one of the big things is we only have three home games left, and we have one of the most special players to ever wear a Minnesota uniform in Rachel Banham. I think people shouldn’t miss an opportunity to see her in one of these final three home games. She’s a rarity. Players like her don’t come around that often.”

Yes, I mentioned Charlotte Smith’s Elon, and they won, so that means they escaped the WHB jinx…. but what’s with 66 total points in a double-OT game? Oh. I see – a Top 10 on Sports Center

A strong final quarter helped Notre Dame escape Louisville, 66-61.

Three freshmen and a pair of sophomores had the floor Sunday when, near the end of the first half, 13,847 at the KFC Yum! Center rose to their collective feet.

Louisville’s women’s basketball team upped its lead to nine points on No. 3 Notre Dame, the surest sign yet during a lengthy winning streak the Cardinals are a budding national power.

Talented yet inexperienced, however, youth showed itself down the stretch of a 66-61 Irish win.

Well, the MVC is going to be tight. Drake knocks off Missouri State to squeak into the top spot. Don’t look now, but Loyola (CHI) is still a contender.

A feeble final quarter doomed Tennessee against TAMU. It allowed the Aggies to get to overtime and grab a win, 76-71. More importantly: Jordan Jones released from hospital, X-Rays and CT scan results normal

The Crimson tied it up against the Tigers and sent their game to OT… but couldn’t topple Princeton, 92-83.

DUCK(s) upset the Huskies courtesy of a 35-point fourth quarter (seems to be going around).

Ouch (if you’re USC): A three-point play with 1.9 seconds left gave #8 Arizona State a win over USC, 69-68.

St. John’s won the Tri-State Battle over Seton Hall, 72-64.

George Washington is still missing Jonquel Jones (5th game)… but they’re back to their winning ways.

Defense was optional in the Maryland v. Ohio State, which made it wicked fun. The Buckeyes scored more, so they’re now atop the Big Ten.

Ohio State fans looking for March basketball, you have a team.

It’s a confident, up-tempo team on the attack with a dynamic one-two scoring punch and multiple options on the inside and perimeter who can score when defenses focus on stars Kelsey Mitchell and Ameryst Alston. 

It’s a swarming defensive pressure team that can slap on a press and maintain it, forcing opponents to play their game at their speed (smaller and faster) even when that opponent is a top-10 mainstay and one of the best rebounding teams in the country.

It’s the best team in the Big Ten, no doubt.

Double boink: St. Francis (PA) makes sure Bryant loses two in a row, 85-72.

Make that TWO IN A ROW: Norfolk State over Maryland Eastern Shore, 74-63.

Wow: Howard (4-18, 2-7) stuns MEAC leading Hampton in OT, 83-77.

Interesting: Manhattan beat Marist (who was missing sixth-year senior Tori Jarosz), 64-59.

Surprise! 

Bobbie Kelsey created something of an Internet firestorm a couple weeks ago when she went on a little rant about her University of Wisconsin women’s basketball team’s need to get its collective butts in the gym to work on its shooting.

While that postgame monologue after a loss at Nebraska attracted widespread attention, it was a variation on a theme that has been consistent throughout Kelsey’s five years at UW.

And Monday night, it appeared to finally pay some dividends as the Badgers snapped a seven-game losing streak with a 64-57 Big Ten Conference victory over Purdue before a crowd of 3,149 at the Kohl Center.

So, yeah, there was this game in Columbia….

UConn coach Gene [Hello, autocorrect?] Auriemma smiled at his three senior starters, savoring the latest virtuoso performance on the big stage by Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck and Moriah Jefferson — and fretting about their departure next season.

“I carry five cellphones now with all the coaches who want to schedule us next year when these guys leave,” Auriemma said Monday night.

Count South Carolina coach Dawn Staley among them after Stewart, Tuck and Jefferson combined for 53 points in No. 1 UConn’s 66-54 blowout of the second-ranked Gamecocks.
Garnet and Black Attack: Gamecocks fall 66-54
Hartford Courant: UConn Women 66, South Carolina 54: Happy Geno Means Happy Huskies; Other Things Learned
New Haven Regiser: Big 3 lead No. 1 UConn past No. 2 South Carolina
New Britain Herald: UConn women’s basketball quiets South Carolina for easy win
Hartford Courant: Jeff Jacobs: Huskies’ Road Show Is A Beauty To Behold
Hartford Courant: UConn Women’s Notebook: Geno Has Great Admiration For Dawn Staley
UConn Daily Campus: Women’s Basketball: Huskies shine under bright South Carolina lights

Those who call it “boring” get schooled: Breanna Stewart’s shot at history

Yea! IU GLBT Alumni Association to host annual Pride Day in support of IU women’s basketball

Congrats! Hope women’s basketball gives coach Brian Morehouse 500th career win

Congrats! Tom Shirley wins 700th career game as women’s basketball defeats Dominican (N.Y.) 59-54

In W news:

Keep up with who’s going where and when…you can count down the W draft or get update on free agency at Today’s Fastbreak.

Congrats! Former Lee’s Summit star Danielle Adams chosen to NJCAA women’s basketball hall of fame

Say it ain’t so! Aussie star Taylor set for WNBA swansong

WATN? Simone Edwards: Simone4children Foundation Needs Base

“In Hermitage, I got a building put up there for the homework programme. It was running and everyone was working. It’s a place where we had our homework programme, fed families, gave back-to-school supplies, tried to create scholarships and focused on self-esteem building. But what we do is mostly focus on education, but now it (building) is damaged,” said Edwards.

“Last year, I went down there, and some of the bad men broke the lock off the door, stole furniture, the stove and damaged the windows. The homework programme is continuing in the church, but the last I heard is that the new pastor wanted it off the property,” she told The Gleaner.

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Notre Dame v. Louisville, 2pm ESPN2. Lobo: U of L women ‘absolutely’ could top Irish

“It’s kind of been fun watching them reach what people kind of expected from them on the outside early in the year,” Lobo said of U of L. “They’re just coming together. Young team – Coach Walz, I think it takes some time to learn his system, especially on the defensive end. But they’ve turned into a team that’s really fun to watch.

TAMU v. Tennessee, 4pm ESPN.

Yesterday:

Nice program win for Temple as they upset ranked conference-mate #19 USF with a 24-10 fourth quarter surge.

A put-back from senior Erica Covile with one second on the clock gave the Temple women’s basketball team a 68-66 upset victory over #19/17 USF on Saturday afternoon at the Liacouras Center. The win was the program’s first over a nationally-ranked opponent since February 25, 2009 when the Owls topped #13 Xavier, 74-65. The Owls move into sole posession of second place in The American with a 9-2 conference mark, 15-7 overall. The Bulls dip to 16-6, 9-3 in conference play.

Green Bay has turned back all comers, but the teams chasing them keep on wackin’ each other on the head: Detroit takes down the Penguins, 69-68, on a(nother) last second shot.

The Patriot looks more and more like it’s going to be a great showdown between Bucknell and Army.

Looking at the America East and seeing the Feb. 14th game between Albany (congrats to Shereesha Richards, the all-time leading scorer in school history) and Maine as a fun day to be a basketball fan.

Gotta love me some inter-conference rivalry. Down 16, Robert Morris made sure that Bryant didn’t sail through the NEC unscathed.

I warned ya! The Hatters take down Jacksonville, 66-61.

Ooooo! Debbie, did you catch this great match up? Montana State outlasted Sacramento State, 116-99. That’s the most points the Bobcats have scored. Speaking of the Bobcats, wonder how the team will be impacted by the firing of the AD.

Doink! BYU says, “Back, you Gaels, BACK!” and sends Saint Mary’s to a 65-44 loss,65-44 loss, securing sole possession of the top spot in the WCC.

“I’m really proud of the girls,” BYU head coach Jeff Judkins said. “I think this was one of the best games we played all year, and the win is a huge victory for our program. We started the game strong and made a great effort defensively, especially in the first quarter. Our defense really set the tone for the rest of the game. We had incredible play from our guards. Kenzi, Lexi and Kylie all played wonderfully, and really let their shots come to them.”

San Diego lurks at 11-2 in the conference.

Colorado State is now at 10-0 in the Mountain West… and Fresno State is at 9-1.

Honestly, kids, if you’re going to go three overtimes, you really should have accumulated more than 66 points for the win. (Morgan State over Savannah State).

Bowling Green had a great third quarter...but Central Michigan punched back with a better fourth. Chips win at the buzzer, 76-75, and move to 9-2 in the MAC.

C-USA’s going to be fun: the two top teams went at it, and UTEP emerged victorious, outscoring the Hilltoppers by 10 in the final quarter.

So, the Big South is no longer a walk in the park: UNC-Asheville is now 11-2 in conference, Gardner-Webb is finding its sea legs and, of course, there’s Liberty.

It was iffish in the beginning, but Abilene Christian gathered themselves for a final push to earn a win against Southeastern Louisiana.

Yup, I see you, Central Arkansas, now 9-1 in the Southland.

And that’s Arkansas State undefeated in Sunbelt Conference play. The Red Wolves are 12-0 in Sun Belt play for the first time in school history and extended its school-record home winning streak to 22.

Mine! Tennessee-Martin is not going to give the OVC to SIU-Edwardsville (yet?). Skyhawks win, 85-79, with a fourth quarter comeback.

FINALLY! And what a way to do it: Norfolk State earned its first win of the season… in DOUBLE overtime. (Air Force – your turn.)

For a team that has faced more than its share of adversity all year, what was a little more on Saturday?

The Spartan women’s basketball team lost a seven-point lead with three minutes left in regulation and had five players, including a trio of starters, foul out. But none of it was enough to prevent NSU from earning its first victory of the year, a 110-108 marathon win in double overtime over Howard at Burr Gymnasium.

 

Monday

#5 Maryland v. Ohio State, 9pm ESPN2

About that “other game” on Monday, NutsandBolts’ Jeffrey Newholm:

Yes, South Carolina has arrived as a national power in women’s basketball. Monday evening the #1 ranked Huskies, winners of 59 games in a row, will come to Colonial Life Arena in Columbia in the Gamecock’s first ever sold out game at the 18,000 seat venue. It’s the biggest home game in the history of USC, also undefeated and the #2 team in the country. The Super Bowl may be Sunday but die-hard women’s basketball fans may be looking forward to this game even more. As I usually do for big game previews, I’ll look at this game from every angle, then pick a winner.

From Sue/Jim Clark: No. 1 Connecticut vs. No. 2 South Carolina: Geno Auriemma says he just wants a good game

Auriemma was effusive in his praise of the Gamecocks and their ascendance to the top of women’s basketball. His focus, however, was on All-American senior Tiffany Mitchell.

“Any time you start a program going in the right direction, you can point to why,” Auriemma said. “I think everybody pointed to the A’ja Wilson signing at South Carolina as being a significant milestone, but they wouldn’t be in a position to sign somebody like A’ja Wilson if Tiffany Mitchell hadn’t already been there and done what she’s done and how she’s done it.”

And more:

Auriemma Sees Post Play Edge For South Carolina, Courant

UConn’s next great rival? Maybe South Carolina, if the Gamecocks can topple No. 1, Charleston Post and Courier

Mitchell in, Dozier out for Gamecocks’ clash with top-ranked UConn, Post and Courier

Gamecocks trying to emulate top dogs, The State

Injured South Carolina’s Mitchell Expects to Play vs. UConn, AP article from WLTX

Michaux: South Carolina says it’s ready for UConn, The Augusta Chronicle

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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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since a tall, young woman streaked across women’s basketball and swept so many up in her story.

As Maryland and UConn prepare to face off at the Garden’s Maggie Dixon Classic, I thought I’d take a moment to recall what made Maggie so classic.

Dixon first came to my attention on December 31st, 2005, when Army played #8 UConn at the Hartford Civic Center. Under the guidance of their new coach, the Black Knights made the first half interesting against a Husky team that included Ann Strother, Barbara Turner and a couple of freshmen: Tina Charles and Renee Montgomery. As was my wont, I tended to follow teams that played UConn and, because of some of the pre-game discussions amongst the media personas, I became intrigued by this story unfolding in upstate New York.

Dixon, who’d been an assistant at DePaul under Doug Bruno, had been hired 11 days before the start of the 2005–2006 season. Much to everyone’s surprise, she led Army to a 20–11 record, won the Patriot League in a memorable game, and earned the first NCAA tournament appearance for any Army basketball team. First her team, then the cadets at West Point, and then the women’s basketball world embraced her.

ncw_mdixts_300.jpg

And then, inexplicably and heartbreakingly, she was gone.

Her story was well chronicled:

November, 2005:

“I am extremely honored to be given the opportunity to coach at West Point and to be able to work with the quality of individuals that are in our program,” Dixon said at the time of her hiring. “I’m very excited about coming to a program that has a foundation for success already in place, and I look forward to the challenges of bringing that success to another level.”

March 15th, 2006: West Point Is Standing at Attention for Army Women’s Coach

When Army was 5-7, Jamie Dixon said, he told his sister, “Don’t despair, look on the positive side.” She did just that. After Army lost to Connecticut by 29 points, which followed a 17-point loss to Baylor, she told her players, “We’re just in the spot where we want to be.”

She said she received some quizzical looks. “But I said, ‘Look, we’ve played some of the toughest teams in the country — UConn, Baylor, Princeton — and we’ve played well, even though we lost,’ ” she said. ” ‘We’re just coming together as a team. We’re learning to play with each other. We’re gaining confidence.’ “

Then she told them what she has told them during timeouts in games in which they were behind, about overcoming obstacles: ” ‘You guys have gone through so much just being cadets, you’ve overcome so much in the program here, you can come back from 12 points down with 12 minutes to go, too,’ ” she said. ” ‘Let’s just start with cutting the lead to 8 points with 8 minutes to go.’

And they did.

March 16, 2006: Dixon siblings make NCAA tourney history

Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon is taking his Panthers to the men’s tournament for a third straight year. Not to be outdone, little sister Maggie led Army to its first bid in the women’s field, six months after getting her first head coaching job.

“What can I tell you? It’s beyond belief,” said their proud father, Jim Dixon. “It’s a wonderful, wonderful thing.”

Historical, too. The Dixons are believed to be the first brother and sister to coach in the Division-I tournament in the same year.

“It was never determined, ‘This is what you’re going to do, be the first brother and sister in the NCAA tournament,'” Jim Dixon said. “You never thought about those implications. But since this is what we’ve got, we’ll take it.”

March 17, 2006: Army coach is just like her team: tough when it counts

“I thought this was an opportunity of a lifetime, but people wondered, how are you going to recruit there?” Dixon says. “How will you do it? To me, this is an institution that just has so much to offer.”

Five months and 20 victories later, it’s strange how the perspective of coaching women’s basketball at the United States Military Academy changes as you’re sitting on the shoulders of the Long Gray Line, bobbing in the air at Christl Arena after the Patriot League Championship game, a scene unlike anything ever witnessed in West Point basketball.

Why did she take this job?

For that experience, she would tell you, but she’d be lying. So much, so fast at West Point was beyond her wildest dreams.

April 8th, 2006: Coach’s death shocks cadets at West Point

“She just came here this year but we all loved her, especially whenever she came on stage for announcements and thanked the corps and made us feel we helped them win,” said Cadet Greg Shaw, a 21-year-old junior from Montgomery, Ala.

Mr. Shaw, who sometimes traveled with the team as a member of the pep band, said Ms. Dixon was kind, energetic and grateful to supporters.

April 8th, 2006: Army mourns its Cinderella women’s hoops coach, dead at 28

“Maggie has been a credit to herself and to the mission of the U.S.
Military Academy,” he said. “Her presence here enriched the lives of
everyone. I will never forget the image of the cadets carrying her on
their shoulders as they celebrated the team’s Patriot League
championship.”

“That lasting image will stay on everyone’s mind,” Beretta said. “She
was riding the shoulders of the cadets with a big smile on her face.
Anyone who knows Maggie, if you look at her face, she was happier about what that meant for West Point than for herself.”

April 8, 2006: Dixon, a Guiding Light for Many Sudden Death at 28 Stund Valley Family, Army Friends

Young, tall and striking, high heels seemed altogether unnecessary for Maggie Dixon. 

While Dixon’s collection of some 50-odd pair of heels, from black pumps to fire engine-red boots, were the envy of the young women she coached, the men who cared for the basketball courts would cringe every time they would see Dixon stalking the sidelines, knowing she was leaving imprints on the wood floor. 

As word of Dixon’s sudden death began to circulate Friday, it didn’t take long to realize that the 28-year-old North Hollywood native and head coach at Army made an impression with more than her shoes. 

No matter whom she came in touch with over the years teammates, classmates, coaches, administrators, Army grunts or Valley girls she left a mark with her personality and passion. 

April 8th, 2006: A Final Salute

Death is no stranger here. It is the United States Military Academy, Army for the less formal. The chapels here, for Catholics, for Jews, for Protestants, are used often to mark the deaths of young soldiers, male and female.

But even so, on a cold and rainy spring Friday, more than 670 packed the 550-seat Chapel of the Most Holy Trinity, which sits on a bluff overlooking the Hudson River. Mourners attending this memorial service had come to cry for and laugh about, to praise and honor Maggie Dixon, 28, not a soldier, a coach.

April 10, 2006: Remembering Army’s Coach

Even though I’’d never met coach Dixon and only watched her and her Army team once or twice on TV this season, I can’’t get her death or her life out of my mind. By all accounts, Maggie Dixon was remarkable young woman, funny, compassionate and wise beyond her 28 years. She was also without question on the verge of a great career coaching. It didn’’t take very long, even watching on TV to know there was something truly special and unique about coach Dixon and the way she energized the entire Army athletics community.

April 11, 2006: Coach touched core of cadets 

His plane had just arrived Monday afternoon in Van Nuys, Calif., a city and landscape so different from West Point, N.Y. An atmosphere so opposite of the stringent United States Military Academy. 

But Kevin Anderson,  Army’s athletic director, knew this was the area that Maggie Dixon called home. That today at St. Charles Church in North Hollywood, Calif., he and an army of family and friends say final goodbyes to Dixon. 

This reassuring Army women’s basketball coach died Thursday from an arrhythmic episode caused by an enlarged heart and a defective valve. No warning. No clue. Just dead – shocking Army and the world of sports – at age 28. 

“Maggie and I had become pretty close,” Anderson  said via telephone from the Van Nuys airport. “I thought I was starting to get a little better with all of this. And then I read so many e-mails on the flight out here from people who did not know her, people who do not know us at Army. People who understood our pain. People who have been following her story. Our story.” 

What a fairy tale.

April 15th, 2006: West Point burial locks in Dixon’s legacy at Army

“What Maggie Dixon accomplished here in six and a half months,” said Patrick Finnegan, Brigadier General and West Point Dean, “some people won’t accomplish in a lifetime.”

They’ll never look at women the same way here; that’s what Maggie’s brother, Jamie, said as he stood near the empty silver and black hearse from the William F. Hogan Funeral Home. Jamie is the big-time men’s coach at the University of Pittsburgh. He knows people who didn’t even realize women attended West Point.

They realize it now. They saw the clips of Dixon leading her Army team to the Patriot League championship, leading the academy on its first trip to the NCAA Tournament. They saw the clips of Army football players in fatigues storming the court as if they were taking a hill behind enemy lines, and throwing Dixon onto their shoulders for the kind of ride Bob Knight and Mike Krzyzewski never got at West Point.

April 17th, 2006: Dixon’s death cuts short a championship-caliber life

Maggie Dixon had been a storybook coach of the storybook season, hired from DePaul just days before the start of preseason practice, winning 20 games and making her brother and her the first siblings ever to make the NCAA Tournaments together as coaches. “This is such a great story,” she said that day in the hotel suite.

And without warning — without anything but the cruelest of fates — the Dixon family was back together on Thursday at the Westchester Medical Center where the most vicious of nightmares was unfolding. Maggie Dixon, 28, suffered an arrhythmia heart episode on Wednesday at West Point, leaving her in critical condition in the hospital’s intensive care unit.

May, 2006: Maggie Dixon

I didn’t know Dixon, but like a lot of other West Point grads I followed the whole, sad saga of her death as best as I could on the West Point Web site, ESPN, etc. 

In these days death is a fact of life for the cadets and faculty at West Point. That same week a young captain (and pilot of an Apache gunship) was killed in Iraq. 

Somehow though, Maggie Dixon’s death was even more tragic, if that can be. After all, the military academy is in the business of training young men and women to lead our soldiers into harm’s way. But a basketball coach – and one who wasn’t much older than her players and in her first year as a head coach? It shows us how life can be totally unpredictable (and unfair). 

The superintendent said she stood out as a leader in “a house of leaders” and that she left behind 20 more “Maggies.” One of her favorite comments to her players was “Adversity, ladies, learn to deal with it.” From their comments at her funeral and memorial services, she has made a lasting impression on all of them that they will carry for the rest of their lives – not a bad thing for someone starting a military career.

October, 2006: They’re playing for Maggie — Dixon’s presence hovers over Army women

Sometimes Margaree “Redd” King thinks her former Army basketball coach is going to walk through the door at any moment. Six months after Maggie Dixon died from heart failure at 28, the disbelief lingers. 

“I feel like she’s off on a recruiting visit or something,” says King, a junior guard.

To various degrees, the players are still struggling with the loss of the vibrant woman who guided Army to its first Division I NCAA Tournament and changed their lives immeasurably during her short time on campus.

October 20, 2006: Army Women’s Team Trying to Move Forward

On a rainy September day, coach Dave Magarity invited the Army women’s basketball team to his house — the one that used to belong to Maggie Dixon.

He wanted to be sure the players felt comfortable with him living in the home where they’d spent countless hours with their former coach, friend and mentor, who died April 6 after suffering heart arrhythmia at the age of 28.

To help ease their pain, Magarity took a suggestion from his wife, Rita —  an impromptu backyard memorial service.

 

November 13, 2006: In Classic Style, Army Pays Tribute to Dixon

In six short months Maggie Dixon taught these young women – who will go on to bigger and better things than basketball – how to spread their wings and fly.

Jim Dixon looked at a picture of his daughter calling out a play and said, “She had such beautiful hands.” Then in a moment of grief, he asked, as any father would: “Why did they have to take her?” No one can answer that question.

All we do know is that Maggie was needed here, and so deeply loved here.

January, 2007: For Pitt coach Jamie Dixon, the loss of his sister Maggie makes Chicago visit trying

The photo of Dixon being carried off the floor by jubilant Army players and fans was one of last spring’s most poignant images.

Meanwhile, older brother Jamie, in his third year as Pitt’s head coach, was compiling a 25-8 record and earning a third straight NCAA tournament berth for the Panthers. The Dixons were believed to be the first brother-sister tandem to take teams to the tournament in the same season.

Maggie Dixon was a visible presence behind the Pitt bench during the Big East tournament title game with Syracuse, her palpable nervousness a testament to family bonds. The term “feel-good story” was invoked more than once.

November 21, 2009: The Maggie Dixon Story: An Inspiring Legacy

Doug Bruno was getting fired up about an evening with the guys on a spring-fever kind of Friday night in May of 2000 when Blair Banwart hollered into the DePaul locker room: “Coach, there are a couple of tall girls that look like players standing at center court and they are asking to see you.”

Recruits, thought Bruno, and the nationally renowned women’s basketball coach finished his shower and quickly got dressed.

Little did Bruno suspect he was about to embark on a most amazing life experience as he walked out to the old Alumni Hall gym.

Instead of encountering prospects, Bruno would meet for the first time an extraordinary young lady named Maggie Dixon, who had driven all the way from North Hollywood, Calif. with a friend to join the Blue Demons’ coaching staff.

It was as if the 22-year-old Dixon—made up of equal parts moxie and charisma—was planning to shake Bruno’s hand, give him a resume and ask: “When do I start?”

October 2, 2009: Maggie Dixon’s legacy lives on

Every day, Pitt basketball coach Jamie Dixon is reminded of his late sister, Maggie, who died 3 1⁄2 years ago of a heart arrhythmia at age 28. 

“It’s constant,” Dixon said earlier this week, as he was driving through Texas on a recruiting trip. “Every day, something or somebody will remind me.” 

And that evokes conflicting emotions. 

“It’s sad but inspiring at the same time,” Dixon said. “I’ve resigned myself to knowing that is how it’s going to be, and that’s a good thing. Her death continues to provide inspiration to people.” 

Proof of that will be on display 1-4 p.m. Saturday at the Petersen Events Center, in the form of the Maggie Dixon Heart Health Fair, which, for the first time, will be part of Pitt’s annual basketball Fan Fest. 

December 18, 2010: More than four years after Maggie Dixon’s death, basketball classic helps healing

There are certain times when Jamie Dixon feels the past five years have gone by quicker than he could have imagined. And then there are other times where the loss of his sister Maggie lingers in a mix of pain and confusion.

“In some ways it’s moved quickly, and in some ways it’s moved very slowly,” the Pittsburgh men’s basketball coach said last week by phone.

But despite the pain, this is a weekend he looks forward to. 

With the fifth annual Maggie Dixon Classic tipping off this afternoon at Madison Square Garden, Dixon knows his sister’s memory lives on through the excitement and attention the in-season tournament in her honor has generated since she died suddenly in April 2006 of an arrhythmia from a previously undiagnosed heart condition. 

April 8th, 2011: Maggie Dixon still revered for her impact

Micky Mallette hesitated to dial the number and ask. It was good news, which is something all of them could use, but who knew how Maggie Dixon’s parents would react?

Jimmy and Marge Dixon had 28 years with their youngest girl Maggie; Mallette and the Army women’s basketball team had only six months. But when the cadets huddled together for one last time, Maggie told them this: that it was the best time of her life. The team made pancakes together, danced and bowled and laughed. They took the United States Military Academy to its first NCAA tournament in basketball, and along the way, Maggie splashed pastels into a camouflaged world. And then she was gone.

But, as the ’62 West Point grad said – she left she left behind 20 more “Maggies.” Which made me wonder, “Where are they now?”

With a little help from google and some input from the West Point media folks,  I can offer you some information on some of the cadets/players Maggie worked with:

Class of 2006

Ashley Magnani
Currently: Deputy Project Manager at CACI International Inc, Washington D.C. Metro AreaMilitary

Previous: 1ABCT, 3ID, 1HBCT, 3ID, Fort Stewart, GA

Micky Mallette
As of 2010: Mallette, a captain on Maggie’s one-and-only team at Army, is married now and lives in Albany, N.Y., where she’s finishing up her first year of law school. She’s the only one from the 2005-06 squad not on active duty, long ago forced into a medical discharge. Her bad back allowed her one of the closest views to Coach Dixon, which is the only name they call her to this day. 

Adrienne Payne
As of 2007

At Stanford, the performance of Brooke Smith will be vital to the NCAA Tournament hopes of the Cardinal.

And in Baqubah, 30 miles north of Baghdad, in the playoffs of a makeshift league of soldiers of the 215th Battalion Support Brigade, 2nd Lt. Adrienne Payne will be expected to provide floor leadership by the Bravo Company Pitbulls.

The Pitbulls lost a playoff-tuneup game Monday night to the always-tough Charlie Company Witchdoctors, but in your bracket for the Camp Warhorse playoffs, you have to ink in the Pitbulls to go all the way. People who know Payne will caution you not to bet against her. They say she’s a leader.

Besides, Payne has her good buddy rooting for her.

“I opened my e-mail this morning to find a note from Brooke,” Payne said Tuesday via e-mail. “It definitely brought a smile to my face.”

Payne will try to catch news of Smith and Stanford via ESPN in the mess hall. In Army’s 2006 media guide, Payne names her favorite basketball player: “Brooke Smith.”

Megan Vrabel
Current: Director, Imaging On Call, Greater Los Angeles Area

Previous: Served as an Officer in the U.S. Army for 5 years. Received MBA from Saint Joseph’s University in August of 2014.

Class of 2007

Jillian Busch
As of 2010: 1st Lt. Jillian Busch, of Fort Hood, Texas, to Capt. Brian Bourque, of Fort Bragg, N.C. The couple met while serving in Iraq in June 2008. Jillian is serving as the brigade ground maintenance officer in the 4th Combat Aviation Brigade. She will start her Captain’s Career Course in June at Fort Lee in Richmond, Va.

Joanne Carelus
Currently: Human Resources Professional, New York area

Previous: US Army, Combined Arms Unit, 3rd Infantry Division

Jen Hansen

Class of 2008

Erin Begonia
Currently: stationed in Germany as a Telecom Systems Engineer, transitioning out of the Army in January of 2016

Previous: Graduated from in 2007 with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Systems Management. Upon commissioning as a 2LT, was branched in the Chemical Corps. In 2010, she was selected by the FA24 branch. Telecommunications Systems Engineering (FA 24) provides the Army with a core of professional telecommunications systems engineers, who engineer, design, develop, install, implement, integrate, test, accept, and upgrade tactical, strategic, and sustaining base wired and wireless telecommunications systems and networks enterprise-wide at all levels of the GIG (terrestrial, air, and satellite) in support of Army, Joint, interagency, and multinational operations worldwide.

Cara Enright
Currently: General Mills/Yoplait- Logistics

Previous: US Army, 2014, including Ft. Bragg, NC. Planned, coordinated, and resourced operations and training for Air Defense Battalion of 700+ personnel. Directly supervised 25 personnel.

Margaree King
Currently: Stationed at Fort Campbell KY as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Officer. CPT.

Natalie Schmidt

Stefanie Stone
Currently: Stationed at West Point working in Department of Military Instruction. CPT.

Previous: Graduated from two of the most sought after and prided Air Defense Schools in the Air Defense Artillery branch: Air Defense Artillery Fire Control Officer Course and the Patriot Top Gun Course. The Air Defense Artillery Fire Control Officer course qualifies an Officer to conduct duties in a branch qualifying position at the Brigade Level. The Patriot Top Gun Course is designed to populate Patriot and Air and Missile Defense (AMD) units and selected AMD staffs with at least one individual with a “graduate level degree” in AMD Operations and Defense Planning. The Patriot Top Gun course typically has a 33% graduation rate. Stefanie was one of four personnel that graduated out of twelve students.

Anna Wilson
Currently: Financial Advisor at First Command Financial Services

Class of 2009

Sarah Anderson

Megan Ennenga
Currently: Company Commander for a Military Police Company at Camp Walker Korea. CPT.

Megan Evans
Currently: Company Commander for a Military Police Company at Ft. Riley KS

Alex McGuire
Currently: Assistant Professor of Military Science at University of Wisconsin Stevens Point

Courtney Wright
As of 2010: Disarmed bombs in Afghanistan

And so now we come to tomorrow’s Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden (it’s on ESPN2 @ 8:30). I invite you to celebrate the athletes on the court as well as the athletes and coach who made such an impact.

And, if you feel inspired, donate: Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation: Maggie’s Legacy

The Dixon family made a firm decision. They would remember Maggie by honoring her passion—women’s collegiate basketball and their new cause—heart health issues, including sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). “We decided we would do everything we could to educate ourselves about sudden cardiac arrest, and then educate others,” says Jamie.

 

 

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