Undefeated no more, Clair Watkins, Louisiana Tech, Pac-10

Texas A&M brought Nebraska’s undefeated season to an end tonight. I’m really bummed. I like the Huskers, and I’m a sucker for those “Cinderella” stories.

The loss shows just how difficult it is to maintain a perfect record. But who knows – maybe Nebraska feels some pressure taken off now.

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This story makes me really happy: Clair Watkins, the North Carolina teen who was rejected by Duke after verbally committing a year earlier, has found a new college. She’ll be going to Vanderbilt next year, and this year has turned out allright for her.

“I bounced back, though, and the whole team was supportive and I’m in a much better place now. I’m excited.”

And now, her senior year can end really well.

Watkins, a 6-foot-4 center, is playing her best basketball of the season. Today at 5 p.m., she can help Butler (24-4) win its first N.C. 4A state championship. The Bulldogs will play Morrisville Green Hope (31-0) at N.C. State.

I really hope her team won tonight.

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I remember the last time Louisiana Tech was sent home early from the NCAA Tournament. I can still see the picture in my head of Cheryl Ford crying as she walked off court in 2003.

For the first time since then, Tech will be back at the Tournament. They beat Fresno State tonight for the Western Athletic Conference title. I must admit, I’m surprised at that win.

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UCLA won the dogfight with UCLA for the right to play Stanford tomorrow in the Pac-10 Tournament final. I wasn’t there in person – only via the texts of one of my kids. So I’ll let UCLA alum Patrick Meighan do the game report:

First of all, it was a great win for the Bruins, and $c deserves credit. If they get a ticket to The Dance, I really think that they could win a game (but probably not two, since they’ll likely get a low seed and be stuck facing a juggernaut in the second round). Ashley Corral is nails. I hate $c just on principle, but she’s very, very hard not to like. And the team as a whole played us really tough tonight, limited our offensive rebounds (11 today, same as $c, which is only about 60% as many as we usually pull down), and the trojans also took very good care of the basketball (only 12 turnovers… we usually force about twice as many). Put-backs and points off turnovers have been our offensive bread and butter this season, so if a team can minimize those two things (as $c did this evening), we lose a lot of what makes us go and we really have to grind it out for points.

Grinding it out is exactly what we did, though. All in all (and apologies in advance for the cliche), it just kinda seemed like we wanted it more. From my seat in Galen, it just really felt like the Bruin players wanted it more than $c’s did… and so did the Bruin coaches, the Bruin fans, the Bruin band. I don’t know, maybe it was just where I was sitting.

BTW, I assume y’all noticed Coach Neuheisel in the stands. That was cool, but I thought it was even neater to see Erica Gomez in Galen (I was sitting just a few seats away from her). She’s still one of my all time favorites.

Okay, let’s talk about tomorrow’s game. I, for one, desperately hope that Erika Tukiainen is 100%. As much as I love Mariah Williams (and I do), she just can’t hit a shot to save her life right now. As already mentioned, we tend to labor in a half-court setting, even under ideal circumstances. Trying to score points in the half-court with a non-shooting point guard is just that much more difficult.

I’m a hopeless optimist, but I recognize that this’ll be an incredibly tough matchup for us. Our starters played a lot of minutes today and burned a lot of emotional juice (’cause we badly wanted this W), while Stanford’s headliners got plenty of rest in their laugher against Cal. As such, if we’re gonna compete against the Cardinal, we’re pretty much gonna have to do it on adrenaline and grit. It might take a miracle. But if (IF!) we can manage to get the W, it’d give our program a serious, marquee win this season (one we don’t currently have to our name… we’re 0-3 against teams in the RPi Top-25 ). I reckon a victory over #2 Stanford would give the Tournament Committee decent cause to seed us as high as 4th, while a loss may send us as far down as 6th or even 7th.

Patrick, email me at: hoopism@yahoo.com, will ya?

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Stanford’s Jayne Appel is the Pac-10’s scholar athlete of the year. Congrats to her.

6 COMMENTS

  1. wow! 6'4" and she's going to vandy? melanie must be ecstatic, she's used to her centers being under 6'. šŸ™‚

    she's going to get some really great coaching from melanie, who's one of the top coaches around.

    scullyfu

  2. as a team, the bruins are horrendous free throw shooters. nikki better make that a priority for next year.

    congrats on the repeat win over the trojans!

    scullyfu

  3. "as a team, the bruins are horrendous free throw shooters. nikki better make that a priority for next year."

    Believe it or not, they actually improved over the second half of the conference season, before taking a huge step back in yesterday's Semis. Before Darxia yesterday, I'd never seen a PG miss all three free throws on a fouled 3 point shot.

    As someone pointed out somewhere else, though, Darxia was probably seriously winded at that point, 'cause she'd played almost the entire 2nd half without a blow.

    Patrick Meighan
    UCLA Class of '95

  4. Mind if I post a comment about the Pac-10
    Tourney Finals, Sue?

    My daughter (age 4 1/2), my son (age 2 months) and I were at Galen today in hopes that a miracle could happen, but what can you say? There was just no miracle to be had today.

    Stanford is just too big, too good, with too many weapons. Unless one of our shooters gets red hot from the outside (and at 2 for 14 from 3-point range, that clearly didn't happen today), we just don't have enough legitimate scoring threats to really hang with the Cardinal. Plus, we weren't really playing Bruin ball today anyway. 3 trey attempts from Jasmine and Markel and who-knows-how-many mid-range attempts from those two? That's not what got us to the Pac-10 Tourney Finals. Partly that was a function of Stanford's size intimidating us a bit, and partly that's a function of our players realizing that we were just not getting any respect from the refs when we drove inside.

    Not that it would've mattered anyway. It wasn't about the refs, it wasn't about our effort, it wasn't about the coaching, or our shooting, or anything else beyond the simple fact that Stanford has a better basketball team than we do right now. Truthfully, it's probably the only squad in the nation at this point that can stop UConn from smashing Coach Wooden's record for consecutive Ws. So for this upcoming NCAA Tournament at least, consider me a Cardinal fan.

    I thought that the UCLA fans acquitted themselves well in Galen today. Given how much Stanford controlled this game from the very tip, I thought we Bruin supporters hung in there just fine with the Stanford faithful. So congrats to the Bruin fans for representing. Congrats to Jasmine Dixon for making the All-Tourney team. Congrats to the whole Bruin squad for making it to Sunday afternoon. And congrats to Stanford for taking care of business.

    Let's cross our fingers for a decent seed tomorrow,

    Patrick Meighan
    UCLA Class of '95

  5. I know this comment is late…but my comment relates to this story: my daughter is in the recruiting process. She gets her share of college letters and all. But, there was one letter that stood out of her pile. It was a regular size envelope but it was thick. It was addressed to my daughter but, it did not have a return address. Inside the envelope was a copy of the article regarding the courtship of Clair Watkins and Duke and how it ended badly. There was another sheet that had 3 questions typed on it: 1. How could you trust, or even consider a coaching staff that would do this to a student athlete? 2. What would you do? 3. How could you ever trust them?
    Is this a way to scare us from Duke? How could anyone know if Duke was on my daughters list if she never put out a list.
    I wanted to see if anyone else recieved a letter like this before. This is new to me, have you heard of this happening before. I would truly appreciate you comment on this. Thanks.

  6. Wow, anonymous, that's kinda creepy. I mean, I think the sender meant well. But how did they get your daughter's address? I've not heard of anything being done like that before, but if I do I'll post it here.

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