Saturday, March 25, 2017

Another grip of news

NCAA Tournament team news:

UCLA is ready for UConn in the Sweet 16.

UConn’s success recipe is run, run, and run more.

Maryland is riding the rails to the regional.

The Terps are fueled by regret as they head into tomorrow’s game.

Oregon State has been winning with grit and experience.

South Carolina stands in the way for Quinnipiac.

Unspoiled by success, the Gamecocks keep striving.

Texas makes their first trip to Lexington since 1986.

NCAA Tournament player news:

It all starts with point guard Jordin Canada for UCLA.

How Washington’s Kelsey Plum took over college basketball.

Plum and Chantel Osahor: how we do it in the Pacific Northwest.

How Plum and Oregon State’s Sydney Wiese transformed their programs.

Baylor’s Lauren Cox has juggled type I diabetes in her first year at Baylor.

UConn’s Natalie Butler is looking to make her mark during the Tournament.

Allisha Gray’s injury stressed South Carolina fans, but not her.

The NCAA will honor last year’s Team USA gold medalists during the Final Four.

NCAA Tournament coach news:

UCLA coach Cori Close spent time learning from UConn.

John Wooden and Geno Auriemma are Close’s mentors.

College team news:

What’s next for Middle Tennessee’s 10 returnees?

After a championship season, Gonzaga looks for more next year.

There’s a culture change happening at Virginia Tech.

Cal’s ride ended in the NCAA Tournament.

College player news:

Incoming freshman Anastasia Hayes is ready to make an impact at Tennessee.

The curtain has closed on the career of Middle Tennessee’s Ty Petty.

Sophomore forward Brenna Wise is leaving Pitt.

New Mexico’s Hannah Sjerven is transferring to South Dakota.

College coach news:

Sources say Florida has offered Becky Hammon the head coach job.

Iowa State has extended coach Bill Fennelly’s contract through 2022.

The game:

Fourteen women’s hoops fans share why they love the game.

Women are stealing the show during March Madness, but the NCAA continues to neglect them.

UConn’s dynasty reveals the sexism in March Madness.

An SI writer has seen the light about the beauty of women’s basketball.

International news:

Turkish women’s hoops has made a mark despite their proximity to war.

A close and competitive Texas-NC State game ends with a charging call, and that’s OK

Ariel Atkins, center, and the rest of the Longhorns exult after their win over NC State Sunday. Photo courtesy of Texas Athletics.
Ariel Atkins, center, and the rest of the Longhorns exult after their win over NC State Sunday. Photo courtesy of Texas Athletics.

Texas and North Carolina State played one of the most exciting games of the second round of the NCAA tournament last Sunday. The game featured just four lead changes and two ties, but each team had dominant runs during the first three quarters. The fourth was a close, back-and-forth affair that featured a last-minute charging foul that cancelled a go-ahead bucket by NC State, and allowed Texas to win the game at the free throw line.

The game showcased the Wolfpack’s senior guards, Miah Spencer and Dominique Wilson, who scored 58 of their 80 points. It also highlighted the future of Texas basketball with crucial play by two freshmen: forward Joyner Holmes and guard Alicia Sutton.

Spencer’s play was relentless, and she broke down the Longhorn defense repeatedly to tally 31 points for the game. Holmes, a highly-gifted player who has come on strong at the end of the season, dominated the last few minutes of the game and saved the win with her tenacious rebounding, scoring, and defense.

So did ESPN studio analyst Rebecca Lobo focus on Spencer’s outstanding night and the sadness of the loss? The promise shown by the play of the young Texas team? Neither one.

Instead, Lobo chose to second-guess the officials about that charge call with eight seconds left that erased Wilson’s go-ahead bucket. ESPN’s Brooke Weisbrod, the color commentator actually present at the game and sitting 45 feet from the call, immediately said, “That’s a good call.” Ten minutes later and  1,700 miles away and from Austin in Bristol, Connecticut, Lobo knew better.

“That’s a no-call,” she declared.

She gave no reason why she thought it should be a no-call, which of all the possible foul options made the least sense. Wilson was driving to the basket, the 6-3 Holmes stepped in the way, and the 5-8 Wilson completely flattened her. How can that possibly not be a foul on someone?

Of course, what Lobo meant was, “Officials should not make calls in the last eight seconds of a game.” This widely-held belief is completely ridiculous. A no-call is still a call. One of the teams is affected. Not calling this charge probably would have taken the game from Texas. Calling it allowed them to seize the win. The officials did their job, which is to enforce the rules of basketball. Why should officials change what they call based on the clock? How does that make sense?

It doesn’t make sense. But Lobo engaged in an unfortunate style of commentary that we hear all too often from her, and from Carolyn Peck, and from Doris Burke: sophomoric second-guessing of officials, or coaches, or even the decisions on the court of players who are, after all, 21 year old (or younger) kids.

This use of the power of the microphone to imply “I know better than … whoever” is unworthy of these announcers, who collectively and individually are basketball experts. Worse, in this instance, it robbed Spencer of national recognition of her brilliance in her last college game. It robbed Texas of national recognition that, after failing to finish four close games in the last two weeks of the season, they rose to the occasion in the NCAA tournament and did close out this very tight game. It robbed Holmes of the breakout game that may well define her next three years with the Longhorns, which are likely to end with All-American honors. And, it robbed the viewers of the insights into the actual play that Lobo does so well when she focuses us on the game.

And for what? Some small ego boost for knowing better? Lobo doesn’t need that: she was an All-American and NCAA National Champion. Carolyn Peck (who was not part of this broadcast) doesn’t need to engage in similar second-guessing: she is one of just six coaches since 1995 not named Geno Auriemma to win a National Championship. The block-charge is one of the toughest calls in basketball, and inevitably, someone is unhappy with them. Please, do not engage in the blame-the-officials game as if you were the ugly parent in the stands of a high school game.

Undoubtedly, these officials called a lot of fouls. They called nine offensive fouls in the game, seven of them against Texas. They called 52 fouls in all. Four NC State players (and one Texas player) fouled out. Almost nobody enjoys a game with 52 fouls called. Those fouls, however, owed as much to the failure of the players  to adjust to the officiating as it did to the officials making frequent, but consistent calls. Each of the fouls were fouls. This crew called them, 27 on NC State (19 Texas points) and 25 on Texas (26 NC State points). Get over it, and tell us what the teams did to secure (or miss) a victory.

Ariel Atkins charges into Jennifer Mathurin. ESPN photo.
Ariel Atkins charges into Jennifer Mathurin. ESPN photo.

The photo on the left shows Texas guard Ariel Atkins running into NC State’s Jennifer Mathurin at 6:03 in the first quarter. It was called a charge. The photo on the right shows NC State’s Wilson running into Texas’ Holmes at 0:08 in the fourth period. This was the charge call Lobo wanted the officials to ignore. Although one was at the top of the key, and one was in the paint, the position of the defender was nearly identical (actually, Holmes much more clearly had both feet planted), and the call by the officials was completely consistent. And not based upon the clock. As it should be.

So please, ESPN, tell your announcers to cut it out. Sure, if a call is truly horrible, make a note of it. But on close calls, the announcer is usually 45 feet (or 1700 miles) away, with a single angle, and frankly, they have no clue whether the officials are right. So. Just. Be. Quiet.

NC State's Dominique Wilson runs into Texas' Joyner Holmes with eight seconds left, which resulted in a controversial charging call. ESPN photo.
NC State’s Dominique Wilson runs into Texas’ Joyner Holmes with eight seconds left, which resulted in a controversial charging call. ESPN photo.

Former Georgia coach (and ESPN employee) Andy Landers said it best, referring to Lobo’s kvetching about the late-game charge. “She is the biggest whiner I’ve ever seen.”

Back to the game:

Texas jumped out to a dominating 28-15 lead at the end of the first quarter. NC State went scoreless for three minutes as Texas opened up a lead. The Wolfpack roared back on both sides of the ball in the second period behind Spencer. The Longhorns went cold in the second, scoring just nine points, including a four minute scoring drought of their own.  The score at the half was Texas 37, NC State 36.

In the third period the Wolfpack erased the deficit and led by eight points during much of the period. The weight continued to be on Spencer and Wilson, who scored 20 of their team’s 24 points in the third. The other four came on jumpers by Chelsea Nelson. Texas spread the scoring around as it had during the first half, led by Brooke McCarty and Lashann Higgs.

Holmes has been spectacular at times, and disappointing at many others this season.

“She came into the program gifted with some unique physical tools,” coach Karen Aston told me before the Tournament.

“But because she is so very gifted, she never has developed that natural habit to play every play. And until she gets that, she isn’t going tap into that ultimate potential.”

The final bucket of the third period was a rare Holmes three-pointer – just her third this season. But that shot may have been the signal that she was ready to play every remaining possession in the game. Her aggressiveness in the final stanza, on the glass, and in taking that key charge, saved Texas to play another day. In the fourth period the freshman had five rebounds, including an offensive board and put-back off a missed Higgs free throw with seven seconds remaining, that truly sealed the Longhorn victory.

The fourth period was tense until the final horn sounded, with no lead greater than five, and two ties, two lead changes, and nine possessions with a single point difference. In the crunch, Texas held firm and scored when they absolutely had to do so. Neither team played very good defense, but the Longhorns out-rebounded the Wolfpack 18-11 in the second half, and they took eight more shots. They spread the offense around, getting 29 bench points to NC State’s five, and by the end their team play, rebounding, and a bit of luck brought them the win.

Texas will face a surging Stanford team 9 p.m. Friday at Rupp Arena in Lexington, and the game will air on ESPN.

T’was the night before the Sweet 16

LET’S GET THIS GOING AGAIN, ALREADY!!

General Tournament news:

Those witty NCAA WBB tweets? Ball State students.

NCAA Tournament team news:

Florida State is focused on the here and now.

Louisville is again looking for an upset against Baylor.

The Cardinals are shaking off the underdog label.

Washington braces for a stiff defensive test against Mississippi State.

Notre Dame looks to move on without injured forward Brianna Turner.

Are the Irish still ready for Tournament success?

Three freshman starters have helped Oregon to the Sweet 16.

Moments that defined the Ducks’ season.

Oregon is going places, to the Sweet 16 and beyond.

The Ducks feel like they’re playing with house money.

Oregon’s rebuilt team prepares to play the Terps.

Maryland arrives in Bridgeport with plenty of motivation.

The Terps consider an ailing seven-year-old “like a little sister.”

Oregon State’s seniors leave a legacy at home, but a bigger treasure awaits.

Beaver Breanna Brown is focused on the present.

The Ducks and Beavers would love an all-Oregon NCAA Championship.

The Gamecocks are wary of “Cinderella” Quinnipiac.

The Bobcats are enjoying a memorable climb.

How 12-seed Quinnipiac became a mispronounced Cinderella.

The Bobcats’ Tournament run will have a lasting impact.

Is UConn peaking at the right time?

NCAA Tournament player news:

Victoria Vivians: How we do it in Mississippi.

Washington’s high-scoring Kelsey Plum leaves opponents befuddled.

Texas’ Joyner Holmes and Stanford’s Alanna Smith are ready to make impact in Sweet 16.

The development of Holmes coincides with a rematch with Stanford.

Ohio State’s Stephanie Mavunga is progressing, but coach Kevin McGuff is noncommittal about her return.

Leticia Romero broke out of her slump at right time for Florida State.

Mississippi State’s dad-daughter combination works – just ask mom Holly Schaefer.

NCAA Tournament coach news:

Geno Auriemma is the 2017 United States Marine Corps/WBCA National NCAA Division I Coach of the Year.

Karen Aston will coach against an icon when Texas meets Stanford.

Muffet McGraw and Kevin McGuff must put their friendship aside tomorrow.

Texas A&M coach Gary Blair has a unique perspective on the Mississippi State-Washington match up.

Washington coach Mike Neighbors faces a friendly foe in Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer.

WNIT news:

Today’s results and recaps.

College team news:

Five players – all international – will transfer from Maine.

College player news:

Jackie Benitez will transfer from Siena.

A balanced meal of news

Regionals news:

Injury might change the landscape at Lexington.

Four of the nation’s top teams are headed to Rupp Arena.

Stockton is preparing to host.

NCAA Tournament team news:

The Pac-12 is making a statement with five teams in the Sweet 16.

The NCAA Tournament has boosted support for women’s hoops in Seattle.

Sue Semrau and Florida State are focused on Oregon State.

Notre Dame shifts gears for Ohio State after losing Brianna Turner.

Baylor heads to Oklahoma City – the site of both cheers and tears.

Travel challenges are just part of the NCAA Tournament for Stanford.

Texas seeks revenge in their rematch with the Cardinal.

Quinnpiac: tough to say, hard to beat.

Teh Bobcats seeks another upset against top seed South Carolina.

Baylor and Louisville will cross paths again.

Oregon is waiting for another chance to play road warriors.

Maryland isn’t looking past the surprising Ducks.

Washington gave fans a party Monday, and now they’re ready to keep dancing.

Washington is confident about a return trip to the Final Four.

Ohio State is in a better place in their return to the Sweet 16.

Oregon State will see familiar teams in Stockton.

Steady growth led to a storybook ending for the Beavers.

UConn is winning by playing unselfishly.

NCAA Tournament player news:

Allisha Gray will be able to play in the Sweet 16, South Carolina says.

Gamecock freshman Tyasha Harris plays beyond her years.

Destiny Slocum means a lot to Maryland.

Lindsay Allen has driven Notre Dame into the Sweet 16.

Oregon alums say the Ducks’ Tournament run has brought them together.

WNIT news:

Games resume tomorrow…..bracket and schedule.

Kim Barnes Arico will face her former team as St. John’s visits Michigan.

College program news:

Riverside’s Athletic Director, Tamica Smith Jones, joins the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship Sport Committee.

College team news:

For Miami’s seniors, Monday was a heartbreaking finish to their great careers.

College player news:

Up next for Syracuse’s Brittney Sykes and Alexis Peterson: playing for pay.

College coach news:

Illinois is set to hire Nancy Fahey as their new coach.

Florida’s pursuit of Becky Hammon is a big swing.

Holly Warlick could be coaching for her job next season.

Bryan Whitten’s contract will not be renewed at Mount St. Mary’s.

WNBA news:

Sweet 16 watch.

Walt Hopkins is Minnesota’s new assistant coach.

High school news:

Don’t be that recruit: Five crazy stories told by college coaches.

UCLA emphatically punches Sweet 16 ticket with 75-43 rout of Texas A&M

Kari Korver exults after shooting a three-pointer. Photo by Zyaire Porter/T.G.Sportstv1.
Kari Korver exults after shooting a three-pointer. Photo by Zyaire Porter/T.G.Sportstv1.
Kari Korver exults after shooting a three-pointer. Photo by Zyaire Porter/T.G.Sportstv1.

Los Angeles – There was only one question coming into Monday’s NCAA Tournament second round match up at Pauley Pavilion: would UCLA dominate Texas A&M, as they’d done to their opponents in the first round, or would the Aggies ride the momentum from their own comeback run two nights before?

The Bruins answered that question resoundingly by crushing the visiting team, 75-43 – their largest Tournament win in school history. Kari Korver led the way for UCLA with 21 points, on seven three-point shots. Jordin Canada had 12 points and 11 assists, and Monique Billings added 12. Kennedy Burke had a career-high nine assists.

Korver got the Bruins off to a quick start with two three-point shots in under two minutes. She and her teammates continued their offensive assault while playing stifling defense. They limited Texas A&M center Khaalia Hillsman, who had a career-high scoring night in the first round, to just 10 points. Aggie point guard Curtyce Knox, the Division I assists leader, dished only one by night’s end.

UCLA led 42-21 at halftime – ironic because the Aggies came back in the fourth quarter against Penn Saturday by just that margin to win. Against the Bruins, however, there was no comeback. UCLA visibly frustrated Texas A&M players, especially when they switched defenses, and had built a 35-point cushion in the fourth quarter before coach Cori Close inserted her bench players.

It is the second consecutive trip to the Sweet 16 for the Bruins.

Monique Billings blocks Khaalia Hillsman from shooting. Photo by Zyaire Porter/T.G.Sportstv1.
Monique Billings blocks Khaalia Hillsman from shooting. Photo by Zyaire Porter/T.G.Sportstv1.

“I thought our defense was really solid,” Close said. “We wanted to take away the lobs, and I think they only had two of them to Hillsman. I really thought our defense took away what they do best; they wanted to find Hillman on the assist. That’s one of the reasons Knox has so many assists, on lobs to her, and I thought we took that away.”

“Monique was fearless and went right at her. When we went zone, we were able to double the low post and get out to shooters. We had a couple of lapses in our rebounding, but I thought overall it was really solid.”

For Korver, a redshirt senior, it was her last game at Pauley Pavilion. After her third three-point shot, she turned and yelled enthusiastically, which elicited a roar from the crowd. She said the game was more than memorable.

“I usually try not to show that much excitement, but I was pretty pumped up,” Korver said. “It’s cool to be able to play in the Sweet 16. It’s my last game in Pauley and I was just really excited. My teammates did a great job in finding me and we were a really unselfish team so it was fun.”

Aggie coach Gary Blair said the game was more about what UCLA did right than about what his team did wrong.

The Bruins confer at a timeout. Photo by Zyaire Porter/T.G.Sportstv1.
The Bruins confer at a timeout. Photo by Zyaire Porter/T.G.Sportstv1.

“That is what UCLA beat us on, was ball skills, basketball IQ and I think Cleveland might have the wrong damn Korver, because that (Kari) Korver’s pretty damn good,” Blair said in reference to Korver’s cousin Kyle, who plays in the NBA. “Give her a little bit of credit because her release—if I’m LeBron (James), I’m trying to get this one, too.”

Knox acknowledged the Bruins were the better team of the night.

“Well UCLA, they have a great point guard; they have a great shooter in Korver,” Knox said. “I just think that she shot the ball extremely well tonight and Canada got the ball to her open shooters and post players. They executed their offense very well and we just didn’t defend it.”

The Bruins head to the Bridgeport, Conn. regional where they will take on the undefeated Connecticut Huskies Saturday.

Upsets, broken records, oh my!

If the rest of the NCAA Tournament is as heart-stopping as these first two rounds have been, I will need a couple more defibrillators……

Major upsets, bro:

Oregon upended Duke, 74-65, to reach their first Sweet 16.

Quinnipiac outlasted Miami, 85-78, to reach their first round of 16.

Another broken record for Kelsey Plum:

In Washington’s 108-82 rout of Oklahoma, Kelsey Plum set an NCAA single-season scoring record. She now has 1,080 points.

More results:

Connecticut 94, Syracuse 64.

Baylor 86, Cal 46.

Stanford 69, Kansas State 48.

Louisville 75, Tennessee 64.

UCLA 75, Texas A&M 43.

Washington 108, Oklahoma 82 (Our reporter’s game story).

Madness. Just Madness.

Plum, Osahor leave Hec Ed on a high as Huskies advance to Sweet 16

Kelsey Plum set an NCAA single-season scoring record Monday night. She now has 1,080 points. Photo courtesy of Washington Athletics.
Kelsey Plum set an NCAA single-season scoring record Monday night. She now has 1,080 points. Photo courtesy of Washington Athletics.
Kelsey Plum set an NCAA single-season scoring record Monday night. She now has 1,080 points. Photo courtesy of Washington Athletics.

SEATTLE — No matter the result of Monday night’s second-round NCAA Tournament game between Washington and Oklahoma, it would be the final time Kelsey Plum and Chantel Osahor played in front of the Husky faithful at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.

The question was whether they — and fellow seniors Katie Collier and Heather Corral — would have more collegiate games to play.

It was a moment that Plum had given a lot of thought.

“I visualized it, thought about it, dreamed it, whatever you call it,” she said. “I thought about it and there was no way that I was going to lose this last game on my home court.”

With a night of season-highs and broken records, the Dawgs danced on.

Plum set the new single-season scoring record in college basketball with 38 points and a career-high 11 assists, while Osahor had her 29th double-double with 16 points and 15 rebounds in the Huskies’ 108-82 victory over the Sooners. Natalie Romeo had 20 points, and Aarion McDonald 18 as the other Huskies finishing in double-figures, as Washington (29-5) set a season record for scoring.

“For those kids to leave Hec Ed with a win, in a fashion like that against a program that’s been to 18 straight NCAA tournaments, I’m really at a loss for words which I very rarely am,” said Washington head coach Mike Neighbors.

Four players finished in double figures for the Sooners (23-10), led by Gioya Carter’s 17 and Chelsea Dungee’s 16.

Washington will now head to Oklahoma City to face Mississippi State in the Sweet 16.

The Huskies took a quick 7-0 lead less than two minutes in, and led by as many as 10 in the first quarter, led by 13 points from McDonald.

But McDonald took a seat for the rest of the half after picking up her second foul with three minutes left in the first. With the speedy freshman on the bench, Oklahoma cut the deficit to five by the end of the first, and took its first lead of the night with a Little three-pointer just over two minutes into the second.

The 16 seconds between that shot, and a jumper from Osahor were the only moments that Oklahoma led on the night.

That jumper started a 13-0 run for the Huskies, and they led by seven at the break.

However, with two starters sitting the entire second quarter in foul trouble — Vionise Pierre-Louis and Maddie Manning — while Washington shot 50 percent from the field, the Sooners weren’t down on their chances.

“We liked where we were sitting,” said guard Peyton Little.

But what followed was the most lopsided quarter of the night, as the Huskies outscored Oklahoma 30-14 in the third, shooting 11-of-15 to effectively seal the result with 10 minutes left. Washington led by as many as 29 late in the fourth, as Neighbors lifted Plum, Osahor, and Collier with 1:19 to play, to a raucous standing ovation from the crowd of 7,579.

“We kind of sent our fans off just with a lot of respect and appreciation for them, so I think it was cool the three seniors and coach we had a moment right there where we subbed out,” Plum said. “I just can’t say enough about this city, this university, and everything it’s done for this team and me personally.”

In the words of Coale, her team “lost our minds” in the third.

“Sometimes when things get really crazy you default back to that pattern, that safe place that you have, and our thing seems to be we think we can score 12 points in one possession,” she said. “I don’t think it’s ever been done in the history of basketball. So we started taking crazy quick shots and forcing things and trying to make up for mistakes that we just had, and it got out of control, and Washington took full advantage every single time we did that.”

It was also in that third quarter that Plum broke Jackie Stiles’ record for points in a single-season. Not that she was paying close attention.

“What I am going to remember from this night is the win and the feeling I had with my teammates,” she said. “That’s it. That is not a disrespect to the individual record. It is just not something I pay attention to.”

It was the third match up between the two programs in as many seasons: Oklahoma won both ends of a home-and-home series, defeating the Huskies 90-80 in Norman, Okla. in 2014, and the rematch 71-68 a year later.

“We’ve had experience in big games in Pac-12 play and last year’s run, so I feel that that big game experience really helped us,” Plum said. “I feel like the last two times we played Oklahoma we hadn’t been in those tight situations and we hadn’t maybe handled it as well, but third time’s the charm.”

While the Huskies were able to get past an opponent that gave them fits in the past, they’ll now face a Mississippi State team in the regional semifinals on Friday for their first meeting in program history.

Their performance on Monday night made a believer out of Coale, not just for the Sweet 16, but the rest of the tournament.

“Obviously if they play like this,” she said, “they can beat anybody.”

Dribbles:

Washington shattered several program NCAA Tournament records in the victory. 108 points was the most scored by the Huskies in a tourney game, besting the previous mark of 99, set against New Mexico State in 1988. Kelsey Plum set a new record for most points scored by a UW player in a tournament game with 38 (the previous mark was 32, also scored by Plum, last season against Maryland) … 18 3-pointers by the Huskies was also an NCAA Tournament single-game record … Post-game, UW head coach Mike Neighbors talked about an incident with an Oklahoma fan in the game’s waning moments. “I look down and a fan challenged me to come down there. I obviously couldn’t go down there. Most of the time I am one of these guys that remembers three days later what I wish I would have said. But for the first time in my life it hit me what I needed to say. I said ‘hey I can’t come down there right now but I am going to be in Oklahoma City’.

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