Sunday, March 29, 2020
Page 3

Some shockers in conference tourney play

MAC semifinals:

Toledo stunned No. 1 seed Central Michigan, 78-71.

Kent State’s balanced attack lifted them over Buffalo, 72-66.

Eastern Michigan edged Ball State, 64-63.

Ohio State busted Western Michigan, 84-75.

More results:

ASUN semifinal scores.

Big Sky semifinal scores.

MEAC quarterfinal scores highlighted by Maryland Eastern Shore upsetting No. 1 Bethune Cookman, 61-55.

MAAC quarterfinal scores.

Big West quarterfinal scores.

Sun Belt quarterfinal scores.

WAC quarterfinal scores.

C-USA first-round scores.

CAA first-round scores.

All scores

Tomorrow’s game schedule

College team news:

Oregon is in line for a true No. 2 seed in the Tournament.

UCLA is preparing for an empty Pauley Pavilion.

SIU is trying to restart at the MVC Tournament.

College player news:

NC State star Elissa Cunane is inspired by her father’s zest for life.

The Gray sisters’ final game together for Oklahoma State is coming.

Anne Simon has stepped up her game for Maine.

Wisconsin’s Courtney Fredrickson has entered the transfer portal.

The five finalists for the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award: Aari McDonald (Arizona), Haley Gorecki (Duke), Kathleen Doyle (Iowa), Dana Evans (Louisville) and Chennedy Carter (Texas A&M).

The five finalists for the Cheryl Miller Award: Megan Walker (Connecticut), Ashley Joens (Iowa State), Rhyne Howard (Kentucky), Satou Sabally (Oregon) and Michaela Onyenwere (UCLA).

College coach news:

North Dakota has fired Travis Brewster.

WNBA news:

Moriah Jefferson didn’t let being short stymie her dreams.

Former Sparks GM Penny Toler sues organization

Explosive:

Former Los Angeles Sparks general manager Penny Toler is suing the WNBA team, saying she was fired for raising complaints about inappropriate sexual relationships involving the team president and a managing partner, not for using a racial slur………

Toler said her termination had more to do with retaliation “after raising complaints about the workplace conduct” of former team president Christine Simmons and team managing partner and governor Eric Holoman, “who were engaged in an extra-marital affair” during Simmons’ tenure as team president — a relationship Toler said made doing her job difficult………

Toler, who had been with the franchise as a player or GM since it was first founded in 1997, describes a soap-opera-like atmosphere in the lawsuit that allegedly included sexual relationships between Simmons and a ball boy and the coach and a player………

Toler said she asked Sparks management to investigate Agler’s relationship with the player and was told by Holoman that he would handle it. — but that no action was taken. She said she didn’t hear anything about the allegations again until the league reached out to her in 2019……

Toler said the former coach’s “sexually predatory conduct caused certain Sparks players to complain that he made them uncomfortable, and compelled other Sparks players to leave the team altogether.” Agler eventually resigned and is currently coaching Dallas.

We will see what happens next.

More Big Dance tickets issued

Big East Championship:

DePaul topped Marquette, 88-74, for its third straight tournament title.

American Athletic Championship:

UConn routed Cincinnati, 87-53, to finish a perfect conference run.

West Coast semifinals:

Portland came back from a 20-point deficit to stun Gonzaga, 70-69.

San Diego defeated Pepperdine, 59-44.

Summit League semifinals:

South Dakota 65, Oral Roberts 43

South Dakota State 76, North Dakota State 56

Horizon League semifinals:

Green Bay 50, Northern Kentucky 49

IUPUI 71, Cleveland State 54

Patriot League quarterfinal scores

NEC quarterfinal scores

MAC first-round scores

Big Sky first-round scores

All scores

Tomorrow’s game schedule

College team news:

Maine is powering through a rash of injuries.

Georgia will consider the WNIT if left out of the Tournament field.

Oregon State is waiting to see if they’ll host.

At long last, measurable progress for North Dakota State.

College player news:

Michigan’s Naz Hillmon: this third-generation hoops star has rebounded her way to success.

Kyla Irwin broke her elbow in UConn’s game yesterday.

The five finalists for the Nancy Lieberman Award: Te’a Cooper (Baylor), Crystal Dangerfield (Connecticut), Sabrina Ionescu (Oregon), Stella Johnson (Rider), and Tyasha Harris (South Carolina)

College coach news:

Vic Schaefer is still optimistic after Mississippi State’s loss.

Navy has fired coach Stefanie Pemper.

Omaha will not renew the contract of coach Brittany Lange.

High school news:

Paige Bueckers is the Gatorade POY.

WNBA player news:

Skylar Diggins-Smith is happy to be on “the other side” with the Mercury.

A judge has overturned the convictions of the man Maya Moore has been working to free.

The Celtics celebrated Kara Lawson and Alison Feaster yesterday.

(More) predictable shifts in the AP top 25 poll

Surprise! Not…..Oregon and Baylor switch in this week’s AP top 25 poll:

1. South Carolina
2. Oregon
3. Baylor
4. Maryland
5. UConn
6. Louisville
7. Stanford
8. NC State
9. Mississippi State
10. UCLA
11. Gonzaga
12. Northwestern
13. Arizona
14. Oregon State
15. DePaul
16. Kentucky
17. South Dakota
18. Florida State
19. Texas A&M
20. Indiana
21. Iowa
22. Princeton
23. Missouri State
24. Arkansas
25. Arizona State

UConn and Cincinnati advance to AAC tournament final

Both Connecticut and Cincinnati won their American Athletic Conference semifinal games Sunday and advance to the title game Monday.

No. 1 Connecticut 79, No. 4 USF 38

The Huskies’ defense is – to the surprise of coach Geno Auriemma – really, really good. Defensive pressure forced nine South Florida turnovers and two shot-clock violations in the first seven minutes of Sunday’s AAC semi-final. That intensity allowed a poor shooting (7-19) UConn squad to establish a 18-5 lead in the first quarter.

They held that level of pressure for the entire contest, and the Bulls never came close to threatening the Huskies’ dominance.

Auriemma praised his team’s ability to get beyond a poor shooting day.

“At this time of year, you have to play a certain way defensively,” he said. “And you have to play with a certain amount of energy and urgency. It’s March. You’ve got to have a different mind-set in March than when you play in January. And then if you make enough shots, you have a chance to win. And we did that.”

Pressured on every possession, USF shot just 1-13 in the first period.

UConn, which has torrid from beyond the arc recently (.477 in the five games leading to this one), did not find the range this day. They seemed to have fallen in love with the shot, hoisting them up early in many possessions, and missing nine of the first eleven tries.

In the second quarter, they were more patient offensively. They began working the ball inside, and opened up a 27-9 lead midway through. While the Bulls began hitting some contested shots, their opponents countered with Aubrey Griffin.

Griffin, who scored nine in the first seven minutes in the quarterfinal, scored eight consecutive points in her first seven minutes in this game, going 3-3 on driving layups and 2-2 from the free throw line.

The Huskies led by 21 at the half, while USF shot 19.2 percent for the first 20 minutes.

The second half was a formality. Even as Auriemma began to sit his starters, the defense continued to shine. The Bulls managed just five points in the third period, as they had in the first. UConn continued to struggle shooting, hovering around 40 percent, but USF was shooting just 16 percent, as the quarter ended at 56-22. Megan Walker led all scorers with 21 points as she went to the bench.

Against the second team, the Bulls improved their scoring a bit, but the outcome was never in doubt. The Huskies will play in the AAC final for the seventh straight time. With the 79-38 semifinal victory, they are now 138-0 all time in the conference.

For UConn, beyond the obvious importance of winning, was the importance of the re-emergence of Christyn Williams.

Williams can be a dynamic, driving guard, but has been reluctant to do so most of this season. Sunday she regularly took the ball into traffic, and good things happened. She got to the line twice, and scored three hoops inside.

Williams both acknowledged that part of the game had been missing, and recognized that she had come back to it.

“I’m slowly getting back to my normal self,” she said. “So, yeah, it felt good to drive and make that layup.”

“I’m just trying to do that more consistently throughout the tournament. I feel like I’ve changed my mentality. Post-season is just a new season overall. So I’ve just changed my approach. And if my shot is not on, I’m trying to impact the game in other ways. Stay engaged.”

Williams had 15 points, but also grabbed four rebounds – two of them offensive.

Auriemma also praised her defense.

“We need her defensively. She did a great job defensively today – really good job defensively today,” he said. “That’s part of the growing process for her.”

The Bulls will miss the NCAA tournament this year for the first time in many.

No. 3 Cincinnati 57, No. 2 Central Florida 51

These two teams entered their match up with identical conference records (11-5), and had split their season series. In a game of two halves, Cincinnati – which looked moribund after the first 20 minutes – stormed back with stifling defense in the second half to seize a 57-51 win over Central Florida.

The Bearcats shot just 30 percent in the first half, and most of their shots were both contested, and taken as the shot clock was running down.

The Knights held a distinct height advantage, and exploited it early and often. Masseny Kaba and Brittney Smith, both 6-3, were guarded by 6-0 Angel Rizor and 5-10 IImar’I Thomas, and made them pay in the first half. The Cincinnati forwards scored 17 points between them, seven from the free throw line, in the half. They also grabbed seven rebounds.

Central Florida shot 45 percent in the first 20 minutes, and led at the half, 36-25.

After the break, the Bearcats came out of the locker room a totally different team: energized stifling on defense. They outscored their opponents 17-3 in the third period and forced 15 turnovers in the half.

Coach Michelle Clark-Heard told her team at halftime that defense was their strength, and to let it win the game for them

“I told them that that’s what we’re going to do – play defense,” she said. “And to trust that our shots were going to fall.”

“Our ball movement got better, but defense was the key. We changed up defenses. It’s awesome to have a group who can follow the lead of the staff and just doing what we’re trying to do. We put in a lot of change-ups and other things, and we were really good and I think it kind of threw them a little bit and it really helped us.”

Cincinnati also awoke offensively, hitting 7-13 shots in the third. They assisted on five of those seven baskets, and they found Rizor open at the high post against the zone, where she converted for seven points in the period.

Defensively, the Bearcats denied the pass into the post, frustrating a Knights team that had been in control throughout the first half. Cincinnati’s post players changed their approach on defense, and held Smith and Kaba to just two points and five boards in the second half.

Rizor said the defensive change was mostly about better effort.

We knew that was one of their strengths,” she said, “and their posts were killing us, and getting all the rebounds. So we knew that we just had to come out and really box out and like really stop & contain them.”

The Bearcats took the lead for the first time at the 2:31 mark on an Thomas bucket inside, then extended the lead to 43-39 as the quarter ended.

The fourth quarter was a frenetic but unstructured affair. Cincinnati opened up a ten-point lead early in the quarter, but their opponents cut that to five, and then to one after the press forced a steal, and Sianni Martin completed a three-point play on the other end with under two minutes to go.

The Bearcats refused to fade, however, and stuck with their defensive pressure, holding the Knights scoreless for the last minute and a half, while extending the lead to six. A Thomas bucket, a defensive stop and one of two free throws by Antoinette Miller gave them a two-possession lead with 46 seconds to play. Rizor blocked Kay Kay Wright’s shot on the next possession, and Central Florida was forced to foul.

Miller made both shots, and Cincinnati lead 57-51 with 20 seconds left. A forced held ball stopped the Knights final possession, and the Bearcats completed a gritty comeback to seize a place in the tournament final.

Clark-Heard was thrilled.

“This is for our program,” she said. “We just had our 700th win. We haven’t been in a tournament final in 17 years.”

Crown ’em

SEC Championship:

South Carolina dominated Mississippi State, 76-62.

Pac-12 Championship:

Oregon handled Stanford, 89-56.

ACC Championship:

NC State got by Florida State, 71-66, for their first tourney title since 1991.

Big Ten Championship:

Maryland surged past Ohio State, 82-65.

Atlantic-10 Championship:

Dayton outlasted VCU, 52-48.

Southern Championship:

Samford topped UNC Greensboro, 59-54.

American East Tournament semifinal scores…..Stony Brook and Maine will face off in the final.

American Tournament semifinal scores…..UConn and Cincinnati will meet in the final.

Big East semifinal scores…..DePaul and Marquette will see each other in the final.

Summit League quarterfinal scores

Non-tournament results:

Upset: Iowa State nipped No. 2 Baylor, 57-56, to end their 58-game winning streak in the Big 12.

All scores

Tomorrow’s game schedule….WCC and MAC tourneys kick off tomorrow.

College team news:

Florida State heads into the Tournament on the right foot.

Indiana is better for having faced the best in the Big Ten Tournament.

UC Santa Barbara has secured a No. 2 seed in the Big West Tournament.

The DII Tournament bracket is out.

College player news:

Mikayla Pivec broke the career rebounds leader record at Oregon State.

College coach news:

Podcast with Marquette coach Megan Duffy.

NCAA news:

The Final Four is just four weeks away.

High school news:

Paige Bueckers and Geno Auriemma are chuckling through the early stages of their player-coach relationship.

Setting the stage for a ticket-punch Sunday

Pac-12 Tournament semifinals:

Oregon handled Arizona, 88-70.

Stanford beat UCLA, 67-51.

SEC Tournament semifinals:

South Carolina routed Arkansas, 90-64.

Mississippi State stepped up to overcome Kentucky, 77-59.

Big Ten Tournament semifinals:

Maryland defeated Indiana, 66-51, by “going bananas.”

Ohio State shocked Michigan, 66-60.

ACC Tournament semifinals:

Upset: Florida State took down Louisville, 62-60.

NC State got by Boston College, 82-75.

Ohio Valley Tournament final:

Southeast Missouri State ran past UT Martin, 67-47, to punch their ticket.

A-10 semifinals:

Dayton 58, St. Louis 50

VCU 60, Fordham 55

ASUN quarterfinals results

American quarterfinals results

Big East quarterfinals results

Summit League quarterfinal results

WCC quarterfinal results

Non-tournament results:

Texas Tech 106, Oklahoma 94

TCU 77, West Virginia 63

All scores

Tomorrow’s game schedule

College team news:

The MAC tourney field is set.

Ohio earned a bye with their win today.

Princeton finished the Ivy League season undefeated.

Penn downed Columbia to clinch a two-seed in the Ivy League Tourament.

Kentucky awaits their fate after today’s loss.

Iowa also awaits after a loss.

Rider clinched their first-ever MAAC regular-season title with an incredible buzzer-beater shot.

Will Tennessee get an at-large NCAA Tournament bid?

Despite their early exit from the conference tourney, Oregon State believes they have the resume for a top four seed.

Kansas State is focused on Kansas, with the Big 12 Tournament ahead.

College player news:

South Carolina is counting on “Mad Kiki” for the Tournament.

UConn is depending on Megan Walker.

Two will transfer from Wyoming.

The Wooden Award watch list is down to 15 names, and six of those belong to Pac-12 players.

College coach news:

Lindsay Whalen is optimistic even though Minnesota missed their NCAA Tournament goal.

Coronavirus news:

The NCAA is weighing having fewer venues for the Tournament.

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