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Which was the theme from last night’s Sun-Mercury game. What on earth is going on with Phoenix? How on earth could the game against a thoroughly depleted Connecticut have been so close? And, really, what amazing heart have the Connecticut players shown this year? No quit. Has anyone done more with less than Donovan? On the bright side: Who are the WNBA front-runners in Breanna Stewart sweepstakes?

Speakin’ of the Merc: Obama Trash-Talks Phoenix Over Beating Chicago Sky in WNBA Finals

Speakin’ of doing more with less: Playoff berth within reach for Vicki Baugh, Shock as Los Angeles Sparks visit

So, tonight the Garden hosts the two top seeds: Minnesota and *gulp* New York. Seems to me the storylines are: Are the Lib legit and are the Lynx Losin’ it?

Considering the Lynx (19-9) will enter Friday’s game at New York with the best record in the league, one could say that their issues are the equivalent of “first-world problems.” But there are reasonable concerns. When a team knows how good it can play and then falls short of that a few times, there is bound to be a little worry.

From the New York Post: Lots at stake when Liberty give MSG possible WNBA Finals preview

Who says Madison Square Garden goes dark in the summer?

On Friday night (7:30; MSG), the Garden will host a possible WNBA Finals preview, when the Eastern Conference-leading Liberty meet the Minnesota Lynx — the top team in the West — in a pivotal game considering how narrow New York’s lead is in the East.

From Doug: New York and Minnesota set for matchup of WNBA Conference leaders

Bill Laimbeer and Cheryl Reeve are downplaying the significance of Friday night’s game between the WNBA’s conference leaders.

As Minnesota’s coach put it, “it’s a chance to add another ‘W’ in the win column. There’s no championship being won. It’s just a chance to get better.”

Laimbeer also said that there’s no added meaning to the game besides a chance to further distance New York from the rest of the East.

“Every game is important this time of year,” the Liberty coach said.

It almost sounds as if the two longtime friends coordinated their answers.

From Hardwood Paroxysm: How the New York Liberty Became the WNBA’s Best Defense

Swish Appeal: What is the secret to the Liberty’s staggering success?

BTW: Be sure to follow  and tonight during vs. , when will be live from MSG.

.com: How Elena Delle Donne’s Spectacular 2015 Season Stacks Up in WNBA History

From USAToday: Meet the secret to Elena Delle Donne’s success

When Cappie Pondexter arrived at the Chicago Sky through an offseason trade, she didn’t only bring a veteran scorer who is deadly when given half a step to drive into the lane. She brought a new element to third-year star Elena Delle Donne’s game: A voice that’s in the WNBA MVP candidate’s ear – all of the time.

The voice is telling her to be there on help-side defense. To get a rebound and go and attack. The voice even provides in-game tips, like telling Delle Donne to use her pull-up jumper when she’s not getting calls at the rim.

From the San Antonio Current: Stars Guard Jia Perkins On Being A Baller – And Pro Mom 

It was clear early on that Jia Perkins would make her life all about basketball.

And after turning into a well-respected player at one the country’s women’s basketball powerhouse college teams, her chances to go pro looked real good.

Then, in her senior year, she got pregnant.

In her mind, the news surely meant that those chances of making it in the Women’s National Basketball League had dramatically dwindled. At best, she thought, she’d have to search out teams later for tryouts.

But it never came to that.

Swish Appeal: A Life Inspired: Jessica Breland’s heart-stirring ascension

ESPN: DeLisha Milton-Jones hits milestone, ready for more and the AJC:Milton-Jones ties mark as Dream win

DeLisha Milton-Jones has seen a lot in her 17 seasons in the WNBA. If the Dream keep playing the way they did in Tuesday’s 71-57 victory over Connecticut, she thinks they can make a push for the playoffs.

“We have the talent, we can score with anybody in this league,” said Jones, who tied Tina Thompson’s record Tuesday with her 496th appearance in a WNBA game. “When we execute our offense and hunker down defensively and execute our game plan, we have a very good chance of putting ourselves in position to have a playoff push.”

Ad on: The Iron Woman

With the exception of time off due to injuries—knee in 2004 and Achilles tendon in 2014—Milton-Jones has been a WNBA mainstay for 16 years.

“It takes a completely dedicated commitment to keeping yourself healthy and staying in optimal shape and having a huge passion to improve upon yourself every off season,” she says. “I don’t know if many people are committed to making that type of sacrifice.

.com: White’s Steady Leadership Guides Fever into WNBA Spotlight

White, who spent five seasons as a Fever player and eight years as a WNBA assistant, is expected to be a solid candidate for league Coach of the Year honors.

“If she’s not, I think people are undervaluing what she’s done here,” said Kelly Krauskopf, the Fever’s president and general manager. “I think what she has done is a phenomenal job for a first-year pro coach with a lot of high expectations.”

Speaking’ with Steph: Dishin & Swishin Podcast: White has Indiana in great position for a deep playoff run

Rob Knox: Chicago Rookie Betnijah Laney Out of Rutgers Enjoys Being a Student of the Game

Today’s Fast Break has their WNBA Hidden Gems: Impact 2nd-Round Picks in 2015

The second round of the WNBA Draft is what separates the die-hards from the casuals. With most of the superstar talent almost certainly off the board by the 13th pick, this is where WNBA GMs show what they’re made of. It’s also where avid fans of both the college and professional game eagerly comb through possible “sleeper picks,” hoping that their team will pick up an overlooked player who will blossom into a star.

There’s good reason for this. Going back as far as 2010, at least three players selected in the second round of each draft are still on a WNBA roster. Of those players, six have become All-Stars, and we’ll likely be seeing a pair of All-WNBA selections in Emma Meesseman and Alex Bentley (2013 draft) sooner rather than later.

While the 2015 WNBA Draft was predicted by analysts to be weaker than some of its predecessors, a case can be made that its talent was simply more spread out. Even though none of this year’s second-round picks have put up eye-popping per-game statistics, several of them have still made valuable contributions in their rookie seasons, and will now look to stick around and establish themselves as household names among the more casual WNBA fans. Let’s take a look at a group of 2015’s second-rounders who’ve made an impact this season.

NCAA:

Happy thoughts in Austin: With former Olympian as new assistant coach, Texas women’s basketball poses serious threat

South Carolina: Sarah Imovbioh wants to be a part of something special at USC

Kevin Slaughter and Will Griffin crossed paths due to basketball and their love for impacting kids in their respective communities. Slaughter, a proud South Philadelphian and former high school basketball standout, has been connected to the sport for years.

Griffin, a West Philadelphia native, is well known throughout the community for his work, specifically at Lea Cultural Recreation Center adjacent to Drexel University’s athletic fields.

Unfortunately, basketball is not the only thing that bonds to the two. Through their own personal encounters with tragedy, Slaughter and Griffin have been inspired to ensure the lives of their relatives are honored, using basketball as the means to celebrate and create awareness.

New Jersey: Life of Nazerah Bugg Remembered through Basketball Tournament

The first annual Nazerah’s Hoop Dreams All Girls Basketball Tournament held over the past weekend at Tyrone Collins Memorial Basketball Courts, concluded with hundreds of spectators.

Nazerah Bugg, 14, was a dedicated basketball player at Kennedy High School that was tragically shot and killed on Sept. 20, 2014 while leaving a local eatery place.

Jamal Ramsey from Nazerah’s Hoop Dreams Foundation stated, “We keep her name alive and do it for the community. This tragic event we turn it into a positive.”

Xavier, Mount St. Joseph to hold Lauren Hill Tipoff Classic

The legacy of Lauren Hill and the fight to raise funds for pediatric cancer will continue with an annual women’s basketball classic at Xavier.

Division I Xavier and Division III Mount St. Joseph will open their respective seasons Nov. 14 at Cintas Center in the first Lauren Hill Tipoff Classic.

Xavier hosts Evansville at 1 p.m. that Saturday, and Mount St. Joseph plays Hiram College 30 minutes after the first game’s conclusion. The doubleheader will be televised on FOX Sports Ohio.

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Xavier women’s hoops coach Amy Waugh resigns

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…we get a women’s basketball double-header on non-cable TV again.

… we get TWO grand games on national TV.

…we get a competitive game between two top-ranked teams.

It was a good day to be a women’s basketball fan (not if you were a UConn fan, though).

The undercard was a fun game between #14 Purdue and #25 Nebraska – two teams that seem to enjoy overtimes.

In the overcard, #5 Notre Dame stormed in to a sold out Gampel and made the #1 Huskies blink. How much, I repeat, how much are we all looking forward to the rematch in South Bend? And how much are we going to miss this NolongerBig East rivalry?

Speaking of the NoLongerBig East, Quigley-less DePaul took it to #11 Louisville and held on for the upset, 86-80.

Speaking of the UsedToBePartOfBig East, West Virginia is not having a great time in the Big 12 — but they did put a scare in to Kansas.

The Hatters moved to 3-0 in the A-Sun.

Presbyterian didn’t let their win over Liberty go to their head —  well, maybe a little bit: They were down 40-19 at the half. But, they move to 4-0 in the Big South with their win over the Fightin’ Camels.

Texas couldn’t take advantage of their rebounding edge, and the Sooners escaped Austin with a win.

Hmmmm… St. Francis (NY) has been epically bad, and yet they defeated perennial NEC favorite Sacred Heart, 56-47.

The other St. Francis (PA) took care of their NEC opener with a win over Bryant, 81-76.

Let’s agree not to discuss the BU/Hartford game, okay?

Dickson went off, as did her fellow Memphis Tigers, and they won 109-68 over Wright State.

Duquesne stumbled at home, as Miami (OH) roared back in the second to take the game. How would you like to be the announcers with these two names: Olowinski (Redhawks) and Agunbiade (Dukes).

The Mocs of Chattanooga are now 3-0 in the Southern.

Coach is leaving you for the WNBA? Makes no nevermind. Seton Hall defeats Pittsburgh, 69-56.

Remember when we used to pay attention to Xavier? Kinda sad.

Remember the Bonnies? It’s been a tough season. They go down to Green Bay, 61-42.

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Because I couldn’t resist sharing this headline: Shorthanded Mules kick off season tonight

In other not so fun news, “Dabnabbit!” Maryland’s Laurin Mincy to miss rest of season

Balance that off with some good news: Xavier’s (HUGE) loss was Washington’s gain: Husky women cruise past Portland for best start in a decade

ESPN Magazine has: Laying down her road – Baylor center Brittney Griner’s game is going to get even better (No idea why they decided to bold the questions — makes them seem more important than the responses.)

BERGERON: There’s also the insinuation that with dunking, with blocks, with playing at a faster speed, that people want the women’s game to look more like the men’s. Is that a fair expectation? Should the WNBA want to look more like the NBA?

GRINER: I’m just glad that we still have a league we can go to. We’re different. You can’t say that we have to play like men because that’s the “right” way to play. I don’t see anything wrong with the way we’re doing it. We’re doing a great job.

Mechelle offers up:  First-year coach, first-time mom – Jennie Baranczyk gave birth to her first son not long after taking over Drake

Drake coach Jennie Baranczyk thought her almost-7-month-old son, Eli, was about to drift off for a morning nap before she went to work. The little guy looked as if he were fading …

 Baranczyk recalled hearing a men’s basketball colleague once say his team reminded him of his infant daughter.

“At the time, I thought, ‘Huh?'” said Baranczyk (pronounced bah-rahn-check), who took over at Drake this spring just before Eli’s birth. “Now, I totally get it. We do something so small, and you just celebrate it like crazy. We take little steps, and you wobble a bit and fall over. But you look at a picture of us from a month or two ago, and we really are different.”

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You stay put: New UM athletic director says Katie Meier gets extension

You’re the new leader of the Musketeers!: Xavier to name Amy Waugh coach (A little different than Mel’s speculation)

You help Geno at USA Training game: Doug Bruno, Corey Gaines, Jennifer Gillom, Marynell Meadors

Congrats to Nan Carney-DeBord, the winningest women’s basketball coach in Ohio Wesleyan University history, will become athletic director at Denison University, her undergraduate alma mater, on July 1.

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Bellarmine Prep star Sarah Hartwell exploring new options

Oliver leaves Red Foxes, will transfer from Marist

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Kevin McGuff named Washington coach

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UCLA fans are surprised and “sick.”

Said one, “We were just at a meet and greet to talk about the renovations (to the arena) and she came in to say how important it was to recruiting….”

It’s probably small comfort that the Bruins tried to keep Nikki:Caldwell Heads To LSU Despite ‘A Very Attractive Multi-Year Offer’ From UCLA

Wonder if the PAC 10 will feel happier if McGuff goes to Washington.

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No thank you

McGuff passes on Badgers’ job

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#3 Baylor, #6 Xavier and #19 Georgetown got wins (though the Hoyas struggled a tad). But the Blue Demons got eaten up at the YUM Center by Louisville. The Cardinals have knocked off five ranked teams this season.

DePaul had company in the upset department: Colorado used 24 points from Brittany Spears to snap an 8-game losing streak against #15 Oklahoma, 73-68.

Over at Fanhouse, Milton Kent looks ahead to the tourney No. 1s.

With roughly three weeks remaining before the field for this year’s NCAA tournament is unveiled, it’s a pretty safe bet that, barring some catastrophe, one part of the women’s basketball committee’s work is largely done, even before the nine members get to Indianapolis.

That is to say, that we pretty much already know who the four No.1 seeds are, and can pretty safely assign them to their regions.

As for the other teams still in the “discussion:”

Toledo escaped with a one-point win over Eastern Michigan to go to 13-1 in the MAC West. Central Michigan (West) and Kent State (East) both got wins to take them to 10-4 in the conference.

It’s interesting at the top in the America East, especially since Binghamton beat BU. Now both teams sit at 11-4 in the conference. UMBC rules the roost, though, at 13-3. Oh, and don’t look now, but Hartford’s lurking at 10-4.

It’weren’t easy, but the Owls beat the Hawks to stay perfect in the A-10. On the horizon looms the clash with the Musketeers. (Feb. 27th, ESPNU, 4pm EST)

Navy’s defeat of American runs the Midshipmen’s record to 9-4 in the Patriot League. They’ve got a shot at the regular season conference title on Saturday.

With their 81-57 win over Air Force, Wyoming looks to run up on TCU and BYUs heels in the Mountain West. By the way, congrats to Dale Ann Meeker, who’s having her Powell High School jersey retired:

The first female athlete to receive a basketball scholarship at the University of Wyoming, Meeker played for the Pokes from 1975-1979. During her senior season, her team earned the Intermountain Conference championship, finishing with a school-record 25 wins and seven losses. That season would stand as the best in school history until surpassed by the 2006-2007 NIT team.

In high school, Meeker was part of the first-ever girls’ basketball team at Powell High School as a freshman. As a junior, she brought home a mythical state title — mythical because Wyoming did not hold an official state championship tournament for girls — while serving as the team captain. One year later, she repeated the feat, again as team captain.


 

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PINK OUT!!!

The WaPo writes that Lynetta Kizer is an energizing presence for the #11 Maryland women’s basketball team. Unfortunately, she couldn’t help the Terps avoid losing their second game in a row, this time to Virginia.

A full house at Michigan State (their first) went home happy as the #13 Spartans defeated Michigan, 69-56.

Fellow-state member Central Michigan snagged their fourth game in a row as they took down Kent State. Kaihla Szunko recorded her 16th double-double of the season.

The Ducks were gloomy, as USC skewered’em.

This is not a fun time to be a Hokie.

Oklahoma notched a win before they flew off to Storrs in anticipation of their Monday night game against #2 UConn (who also won).

Brittney… I mean, #1 Baylor stomped all over the Longhorns in anticipation of their Monday night game against the Aggies. Texas A&M got in the mood by stuffing the Jayhawks, 81-58.

With their win over Loyola (IL), #16 Green Bay remains undefeated in the Horizon.

Xavier’s stays undefeated in the A-10 with their win over Fordham.

Kris at was at the game as Houston surged to 11-0 in C-USA.

Hartford surprised Boston U, 66-59.

West Virginia continued to stumble as the Mountaineers lost to Louisville.

Congrats to Jantel Lavender, who overtook Buckeye great Katie Smith as the Ohio State’s scoring leader. I’m guessing the win over Purdue made her happier.

It wasn’t a waltz, but Stanford did take care of Washington, 62-52.

Ten points also was the difference as UCLA slipped by Oregon State.

Yah, it was another win, but who really thinks Pat’s happy with her #4 Vols?

#21 Miami’s on a roll and this time they rolled over UNC.

Duke took care of BC, Penn State survived Indiana (Lucas went 6-10 on 3’s), wobbly Kentucky squeaked by LSU, but #17 Georgetown couldn’t escape St. John’s.

Jayda has the story of a player who’s not in the game: Seattle U.’s Breanna Salley keeps playing, even if she can’t get on the court

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Meanwhile, away from Huskiemania …

But the supposed “game of the night” that wasn’t played in Connecticut is mostly what we’re going to look at here. It was in Durham, N.C., and No. 3 Duke defeated No. 4 Xavier 46-45.

Clank! Uggh! Yuck!

Yep, that’s two of your top-five teams in the country, folks, committing a crime against offense that could have made people run screaming out of Cameron Indoor Stadium.

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Amber Gray to transfer to Xavier

Amber Gray thought she had her mind made up – she would return to Tennessee on medical scholarship and give up playing basketball. But she couldn’t let go yet of her dream to return to the court and on Thursday the forward from Ohio signed transfer documents to Xavier in Cincinnati.

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