Women's Hoops Blog: January 2004

Inane commentary on a game that deserves far better


Saturday, January 31, 2004

The Gray Lady takes notice of our own Minnesota Gophers. I'm so proud.

"In a state where the Vikings are king and hockey is religion, the Minnesota women's basketball team is winning a place in the hearts of sports-minded Minnesotans. Not only are the 14th-ranked Gopher women more successful than the men's team — which is without a victory in Big Ten play — they are more beloved as well."

Thanks to Christopher for the pointer.
Duke was down at half but dominated the second to beat NC State. Beard had 21.

"We attacked so much better in the first half," coach Yow said. "But we slowed down and became more hesitant. Duke picked it up and became more aggressive. They outplayed us in the second half. They went after the loose balls and beat us to some rebounds when we had inside position."
Voepel previews tomorrow huge Big 12 rivalry game between Texas and Texas Tech.

Friday, January 30, 2004

In the first meeting between Coach Summitt and her former assistant Mickie DeMoss, the Vols got the win, but Kentucky played a great game. Inspired by their second biggest crowd ever, the Wildcats played hard and kept it close.

"What an atmosphere," DeMoss said of the crowd. "They made a huge difference. I think they inspired us at times when we got down. They wouldn't let us give up."

Coach Summitt believes that Mickie can return the Kentucky program to greatness. "Oh, yes, in the early '80s, this place was rocking," she said. "This place will be rocking not just tonight, but many times in the future with the job Mickie is doing."
Bouncing back from Sunday's loss to USC, Stanford returned to its usual place of dominance over the rest of the conference. "We learned from what happened in Los Angeles,'' said coach TV.

The Huskies just couldn't figure out Stanford's defense. Giuli was the only player in double figures; Lalum shot 1-7.
Big Ten action:

Purdue won, but Coach Curry wasn't happy with the effort. It was a typically physical Big Ten game -- Wright had to leave for awhile after being knocked to the floor.

Minnesota got back on track by blowing out Indiana. Said coach Borton: "We needed that."

Michigan State barely survived a scare from Illinois. It was an ugly win, but the Spartans played with enough intensity down the stretch to get the W.

In a nonconference game, Penn State crushed St. Joseph's. "We're very, very pleased," said coach Portland, who used to coach St. Joe's.
The Lawrence Journal on coach Washington:

"Even if Washington was completely healthy, though, the likelihood of her contract being renewed for 2004-05 had shrunk to nearly nothing after the past three seasons."

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Kansas coach Marian Washington is taking an indefinite leave for undisclosed medical reasons.

Coach Washington has been with KU for 31 years, and she was recently inducted in the the women's basketball Hall of Fame. This year, however, has been rocky. Just two weeks ago, she was publicly criticized by the Big 12 for her comments following the KU-Mizzou fight. The Jayhawks are currently 8-9 and second-to-last in the Big 12.
With yesterday's trade, coach Thibault moved closer to his goal of a young, talented team with a great future.

"If you look at the team right now on paper, Pee Wee probably is more valuable to us in the short term," he said. "But when you have a chance to do something to improve your team for the long term, you do it when you can."

The Courant speculates that the Sun will use the #4 pick for Powell, if she's available, or else Ohlde or Stephens. For a contrary view, see Barry's analysis yesterday.
And in another minor upset, soon-to-be-unranked Oklahoma lost to Missouri.

"I'm really proud of our kids," said Mizzou Coach Cindy Stein. "Our challenge for ourselves was to continue the trend of energy and doing everything we need to do. Two keys tonight playing Oklahoma were to stop their transition and to control the boards, and I think we did a good job on both of those ends."

The Tigers were perfect from the charity stripe, 21 for 21.
Notre Dame gained its fifth win over a ranked team last night and handed Miami its second loss.

The teams combined for an outlandish 49 turnovers. "I was very disappointed with our performance,'' said Miami coach Ferne Labati.
Ah... we had a rough night last night. Our man KG had an amazing triple-double: 20, 20, and 10. But we lost anyway. Bizarre circumstances forced us to play most of the 4th quarter without a point guard. Shitty reffing. Worst basketball venue I've ever been in. Still recovcering...
The evil Belgians have had us again: Henin and Clijsters reach the finals.

"Maybe people get used to it now," Henin-Hardenne said. Used to it, and tired of it. Serena, Jenny, Venus -- please hurry back to form.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

We're off to see our man KG, the best basketball player in the world, tear up the hardwood in Oaktown. Go Wolves!!!
Big trade today: Connecticut sends Pee Wee Johnson to San Antonio in exchange for the Stars' first-round pick, which is the #4 pick overall.

For analysis, I turn to the expert, Barry Uhrman. Barry's take is as follows:

This trade makes sense...as long as there are other trades involved.

Shannon Johnson at the point, Marie Ferdinand at the 2, and LaToya Thomas at the 4. That is a high-octane offense. But the problem is that Thomas isn't going to pass the ball out of the post, so they need an athletic, physical presence in the paint to rebound and get garbage points. That player is NOT Margo Dydek, who thrives in a slow, halfcourt, grind-it-out offense. Margo does not fit in with those three players; the parts do not mesh.

Margo fits best with the Liberty and Richie Adubato's system. But with Ann Wauters there, New York doesn't need her. In my opinion, San Antonio should trade Margo to Los Angeles for the 12th pick in the draft. Michael Cooper has repeatedly stated that he would like to work with her. Los Angeles is in DIRE need of a backup post. Plus, Margo can learn from Cooper and from Lisa Leslie about how to be more aggressive in the post. San Antonio will still be able to take a post player with the 12th pick. However, the Silver Stars still need to sign Olympia Scott-Richardson as a free agent because other than Gwen Jackson, San Antonio has no depth in the post.

The other issue is Jennifer Azzi. Azzi will not be a backup. Does this mean that Johnson will start at the two, with Marie at the three (which makes a very small lineup)? Or will Azzi be traded? Azzi for Washington's second round pick (15th overall) makes a lot of sense. Azzi is a restricted free agent, and San Antonio can match any offer. Tune in and see what happens.

As for Connecticut, the Sun now have the #4 and #8 picks. And the Sun STILL have NO chance at Diana. Phoenix will not trade the #1 pick unless Sue Bird, Lauren Jackson, or Tamika Catchings...or unless the Mercury get TWO picks among the top four selections. The Sun cannot make either happen.

One other note...San Antonio was not sold on Nicole Powell as Adrienne Goodson's replacement. If Indiana goes for Chandi Jones at #3, Powell would NOT go to the Sun at #4 unless either Katie Douglas or Nykesha Sales is traded (and you can forget about Sales being traded). Powell could slip to #5...meaning Nicole would take over for Crystal Robinson as New York's small forward.
Pac-10 coaches (or at least coach Daugherty) are complaining that they aren't getting enough respect in the polls.

I'm not sure they deserve any more respect than they're getting. The Pac-10's overall RPI is still lowest of the six major conferences.

Stanford is obviously a good team, but probably not deserving of a much higher ranking than they have. Other than the USC upset, it's been flawless in conference. But it lost its two toughest nonconference matches to Tennessee and Texas Tech. Its best win of the year was in November over Georgia.

Arizona has losses to UCSB, Virginia, LSU, and Stanford. It has beaten Washington, ASU, and USC in conference play, but it doesn't have a single quality win in nonconference play.

ASU has 6 losses, and its best nonconference win was over Western Michigan.

USC has played a very tough schedule and had very close games against UConn and Colorado. Admirable as it is to play a tough schedule, you have to actually win some of those games to get ranking respect, and USC hasn't. They're only 3 games over .500.

Washington has been perhaps the biggest disappointment. It had one nice quality win over Notre Dame in early December, but since then it's been only 6-7.

Against nonconference opponents currently ranked in the coaches' poll, the Pac-10 has only 2 wins: Stanford over Georgia, and Oregon (pre-Kraayeveld injury) over LSU. So what do they expect?

None of this is to say that the Pac 10 isn't improving. Several teams -- ASU, USC, and Cal, e.g. -- seem to be moving forward. And the Pac 10 will probably merit 5 teams in the NCAA tournament this year, compared to three last year. But the judgment of the coaches and writers that only Stanford is a top-25 team is sound.
It might be a sign of the apocalypse, but He Hate Me is playing in the Superbowl this Sunday. Sadly, NFL rules require his birth name to appear on his jersey.
Swoopes was added to the Olympic team yesterday.

The big question remaining is whether Taurasi or Beard will make the cut. Coach Chancellor said on TV last week that he would probably take one college player, and it seemed to me that he hinted he'd take Alana.
UConn got out to an early lead on #23 Va Tech last night and then coasted to an easy victory.

"To have another road game right after [Seton Hall], it kind of proved to ourselves that when we put our minds to it, we can come down here and pretty much dominate a really good team," said Diana Taurasi. "It definitely was a test, and I think we passed it. We feel much better about ourselves."

Conlon finally started making some shots; she was 3-4 from outside.
Sara's team handed out a serious beat down in league play last night. Wasn't really a fair match -- a bunch of ex-college ballers on our side versus a bunch of novices on the other.

Was fun to watch, though. We probably had 40 transition points.
Moore to Fleser: "When I switched hands with the ball, that's when I felt the knee pop. I think it was before she ever touched me.''

Classy move by Loree to make this public clarification.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Loree Moore has apparantly confirmed that the injury was not Beard's fault.

According to Melanie Jackson, Moore spoke to Alana Monday night and told her that the injury happened on the jump-stop before Alana even got there.

As I said earlier, this seems to make sense, given that it was the left ACL that was hurt. Plus, I'm not doctor, but I think many/most of the ACL tears I've seen have been from jump stops.

Voepel also weighs in at the same link above and says people should stop blaming Beard.
New coaches' poll out.
On Saturday I posted Barry Uhrman's Full Court interview with Michele Timms.

The intro said that Timmsy had a Jan. 27 due date. But the party came early -- she had a baby girl on Sunday. Congratulations to Michele.

Thanks to Barry for the scoop.
Good financial news in Motown: the Shock have received a sponsorship from Ford. Winning pays.
Still more --

might be that Loree actually hurt her knee before the foul. I figured it was the bouncing on the right leg that caused the injury. But she tore her left ACL, not her right.

Hmmm.... time to re-convene the Warren Commission.
Correction from yesterday's post:

there is still an intentional foul -- it was only the intentional technical that was eliminated from the women's rule book.

Under the current rules, an intentional foul is an act that is not a legitimate attempt to play the ball or the man, regardless of severity. A flagrant foul is severe or excessive contact with an opponent.

Thanks to Kevin for the help.

Addendum, from Appendix III of the NCAA Rulebook, page 153:

"When the defensive player is beaten to the basket and she reaches out and puts a hand on the opponent to intentionally have a handchecking foul call made to stop the dribbler from scoring, officials should call an intentional personal foul since this is not a legitimate attempt to play the ball or the player."

Despite the torrent of emails from Vols fans, I maintain that it wasn't a flagrant foul. Probably should have been an intentional, though.

Monday, January 26, 2004

UNC moved into the top 10 in the AP poll today... and promptly lost.

Unranked Wake Forest knocked off the 'Heels tonight in Winston-Salem. "I'm so happy for the players," said Demon Deacons' coach Charlene Curtis. "They've worked so hard and really deserve this. I just can't say enough about their effort because it was a full 40 minutes."

The Year of the Upset continues.
Just when everything seems to be going so well, the Vols get some terrible news: Loree Moore is out for the year with a torn ACL.

A few Vols fans are complaining that it was a cheap foul by Beard.

Alana didn't really make a play on the ball, so at the time, I was wondering why it wasn't an intentional foul... turns out that, as of this year, there's no such thing as an "intentional foul" any more in the women's college game. [Whoops! This is wrong -- see above.] (Nor is there any "clear path" foul in college.)

It wasn't a flagrant foul. In other words, there was no intent to injure. Really all Alana was trying to do was wrap Loree up and prevent an easy layup. That's a legitimate (and smart) play in basketball. A bit harder than it needed to be? Maybe. A bit of frustration after a steal? Maybe. But this is Alana Beard we're talking about -- she is and always has been a classy player and a clean, smart defender.

Moore just landed in an awkward way and bounced on her leg. A terrible accident, but nobody's fault.
Bird's boyfriend had 27 last night. But it was against the Raptors. Make no mistake: the Bulls still suck.
There are now 4 Big Ten teams in the College RPI top 10. Not a single Pac 10 team, and only one in the top 30.

The Vols are #1 in the new AP poll, and Coach Summitt today received a contract extension throught the 07-08 season. She'll be getting about $750k per year.
Elsewhere in the Big Ten, Penn State and Purdue continue to roll.

Mazzante had 19 to lead the Nittany Lions over Ohio State.

Purdue had no problem at all with Indiana. The Boilermakers took a minor beating in the physical game, but it didn't affect their play or the outcome of the game.
Tough times in Minnesota. Not much more than a week ago, we were undefeated, #6 and poised to move higher. We hadn't exactly beaten lots of great teams, but everything was looking great. We were really starting to wonder if maybe we really could compete with the elite teams. Make a run for the Final Four.

Now we've lost three in a row. The team has averaged over 15 turnovers a game over that stretch. Lindsay Whalen alone has averaged over 6 turnovers, and yesterday, she missed a key free throw and messed up the final play.

The mood swing from last Saturday till now has been dramatic -- such is the life of a sports fan. But now it's time for the team to buckle down.
In Cal's second game since the Lewis tragedy, the Bears played better, but still lost to UCLA in the final seconds.
Coach TV on the Cardinal's loss to USC: "We are really struggling running our offense. We are having trouble when (the opponent) is climbing on people and we have to put the ball on the floor, and we made key turnovers at times. We were never in any offensive flow."

Nicole Powell, who is injury prone, had to leave the game for awhile with a rolled ankle. No word on whether this will affect her playing and practicing this week.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Another huge upset this afternoon: unranked USC over #6 Stanford. The Cardinal's exclusive reliance on Powell continues to hurt their team's performance.

#5 Texas narrowly held off unranked Texas A&M.
Yesterday's big game didn't disappoint. Two very good teams in a tough, back-and-forth contest.

Tennessee played an admirable second half. They handled the press pretty well and made their free throws. In a hostile environment, with an aggressive Duke squad trying to catch up, the Vols' composure never cracked.

"A big win for our team," Pat Summitt said. "I'm really, really proud."

Coach Goestenkors, meanwhile, was mystified at her team's second half play. She called the Devils' defensive performance "inexcusable," and she said that a team simply doesn't deserve to win when they miss so many open shots.

This year, I've come to have even greater respect for Coach Summitt than I ever had before. After last year, there was some talk about the program in decline. And after losing some senior stars Lawson and Jackson, the standard wisdom in November was that this would be a down year.

Now they're #1. And I've seen them win two games where they really had no business winning. Against Stanford in Maples, they were way behind and couldn't do a thing against Powell. But they made adjustments, came back, and won.

Against Duke yesterday, they faced a more athletic more talented team with a huge home court advantage. But the Vols executed well, and again, Coach Summitt made the halftime adjustments needed to win.

I think both wins were attributable to superior coaching. And when that happens against great coaches like Tara VanDerveer and Gail Goestenkors, it shows how good Pat really is. After all these years, she's still the best coach in the game.
Oh... the pain... Minnesota loses again, its third in a row. Whalen played great for much of the game, but she and the Gophers couldn't close this one.

At least the Wolves won.
UConn played well in the final minutes to take the win at Seton Hall.

But most of the game was ugly. Poor post play, poor rebounding, poor shooting by Taurasi.

It really seems like Geno doesn't know what to do with this team. "We're at the point now where winning is really cool," he said. "It used to be playing basketball the right way was the object. Now winning is just really cool. I've given up on playing the right way. Those days are gone."
And two other upsets yesterday in the Big 12 -- not as crazy as OSU, but still upsets --

Nebraska routed #9 K-State. Great defense and great rebounding keyed the Huskers' victory.

Last year, Nebraska didn't win a single conference home game. They were 1-15, last in the Big 12. This year, the Huskers are 14-3, and this win shows how far they've come. "I told our kids that this puts Nebraska women's basketball at least in the vicinity of the map," said Huskers Coach Connie Yori.

Finally, #19 Baylor knocked off #15 Oklahoma in Norman.
On January 10, Texas Tech beat Oklahoma State 106-43. Jia Perkins had 21. It was one of those games that was one-sided to the point of embarrassment. At the time, I called it silly.

Yesterday, Oklahoma State got some revenge over the former #1. They beat Tech 88-87 in double OT.

"We just knew that we owed them one," said Nina Stone, who had 30. "We wanted to pay them back on our home court. We weren't about to let them come in and beat us by 63 points on our home floor. We were going to let them know that it was going to be a battle."

I can't ever recall a team losing by so much in one meeting and winning the next. Obviously, this is a unique situation, since Tech has lost its star in the interim.

A few days ago I said that the Red Raiders probably don't deserve their ranking. I think we'll see them slip further after this one.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Last night in the Pac-10, Stanford needed OT to hold off UCLA. Powell won the game. "Is she a senior yet?" asked UCLA coach Kathy Olivier.

Four days after the stunning death of Alisa Lewis, Cal took the floor against USC. Neither team really wanted to be there. But it was a first step.
Notre Dame pulled off another nice upset today by beating 'Nova 38-36. The teams shot a combined 24 for 84. Several fans were seen sleeping.
Barry has an interview with Michele Timms just posted at Full Court. It's awesome -- and it's happily available on the free portion of the site.

Timmsy is the sort of person who will actually say something interesting in an interview. She's unafraid.

In this one, she trashes Michael Cooper for the way he's coached the All Star games. She says the Mystics never should have fired Tom Maher, and that the team's problems were really caused by the whole McCray-Holdsclaw fiasco. She says Sue Bird is the best point guard out there. She says the Mercury have been a poorly coached team.

Check it out. It's fascinating.
Getting ready for today's big game --

Coach G says this game is similar to last year's against UConn. Last year, the Devils choked. But having been through it, they're now ready to play through the pressure.

Coach Summitt is excited for her first game in Cameron, one of the greatest venues in all of sports. "I've seen it on television many times," she said. "We have played in front of sellout crowds, but from what I understand this is going to be a little different and more challenging."

Unlike Geno last year, Coach Summitt hasn't said much to the press to rile up the Crazies. But she did wonder why they've had such trouble selling out for the women's games: "It's about time,'' she said. "What have they been waiting for?''

It's a huge day for Beard, whose number will be put in Cameron's rafters. Unfortunately, Beard has been limping around this week with a strained groin, so she may be less than 100%.
Venus, out early in Australia.

"I'm pretty much in shock," she said after losing in straight sets to Lisa Raymond. "But that's the way I feel after every loss, whether I've been off or on or what have you."

Williams had been rusty all week. Against Raymond, she piled up 44 unforced errors. That's not good.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Voepel and Lieberman preview this weekend's big game --

Voepel says Duke is excited to have some real fan support (its second advance sellout), and also excited that the Real Iciss Tillis might be back.

Lieberman says the game is all about Beard: another chance for Alana to fend off the criticism that she can't come up big in big games.
Georgia had lost 2 in a row and slipped out of the top 10. They needed a win yesterday.

They didn't get it. Ole Miss came back to tie the game at the end of regulation. Ole Miss made another last second shot to tie it 77 all at the end of the first OT. Then Mississippi outscored the Bulldogs 13-2 in the second OT.
Kathy Orton at WaPo spent yesterday trying to get some more scoop on the Marianne Stanley resignation. Unfortunately, neither Stanley or team management would return Kathy's calls.

But you can always count on Holdsclaw for a quote.

"I'm not shocked," said Chamique in an email from Russia. "Nothing in this business surprises me. You have to realize I've played for four coaches in five seasons."

What would Mique like in her next coach? "I just want to play for a players' coach. Someone who is a great communicator and knows the game and is not high strung."
Neither Duke nor Tennessee had any problems in its warm-up game for Saturday's huge 1-2 battle.

Duke crushed Maryland in College Park. The best news for the Devils was that Iciss Tillis, who has been underperforming for the past month (or longer, depending on whom you ask), finally had a dominant game inside. She had 21 and 8 in only 25 minutes. Said Beard: "She's back!"

The Vols didn't have much problem with Vandy. After the Commodores closed to within 6 in the second, Tennessee scored 12 in a row to put it away. Shyra Ely had 22 and 8.
Ohio State made a nice second half run against Purdue, but the mature Boilermakers squad just took control again and put the game away.

Shereka Wright had 23. Jessica Davenport had 27 and 15 for the Buckeyes.
Ouch. Another loss for our Gophers.

Minnesota played Penn State pretty close for most of the game. But the Nittany Lions finished the game on a 17-2 run to blow it open. Ouch. At least we get to play them again at Williams.

Mazzante had 29, Whalen only 15 on 3-8.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

From tomorrow's Times, this profile of current Naperville star and future Vol Candace Parker.
Because the Republican National Convention will be in the Garden in August, the Liberty are going to play a few games at Radio City Music Hall. They will be the first sports team to have a game there.

Thanks to Peggy for the pointer.
The Courant takes stock of the UConn squad.

One lingering issue for the Huskies is trying to figure out Diana's role.

"The question has been how Taurasi can best lead. Auriemma wants her to be a more aggressive scorer. Taurasi is content as the playmaker. And so coach and player continue to do-si-do."
Marianne Stanley, gone.

The Mystics coach "resigned" yesterday. Stanley herself hasn't made any public comment yet, and the Mystics haven't said what's up.... but after the team's terrible year, it's not hard to understand.

Point guard Annie Burgess was pleased with the change. "Obviously, they're trying to make changes for the better. Everyone thinks that last season was terrible. They're trying to come out with a new spark, new energy in the team."

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

I am sad the Gopher's couldn't get a win against Purdue this weekend. It was their first shot at a Top 10 opponent, but lucky for them, they get another shot this Thursday when they face Penn State. Tough week for the Gophs!

Gopher Coach Pam Borton felt that the key factors in the loss to Purdue were poor free throw shooting and not enough hustle. "We need to improve our free-throw shooting and do better on hustle plays,'' Borton said Tuesday. "We've slipped a little in those areas. Other than that, we're doing a lot of things extremely well.'' To beat Penn State on Thursday Borton said, "We can't play like we did against Purdue, not getting to seven of 10 loose balls, some things caught up to us that you can't get away with against a top-10 team.''

Despite their first loss, the team's popularity is still on the rise in MN. The Gophers had their first sellout in team history just a few weeks ago. And already, the UofM has sold ~10,000 tickets for Sunday's game against Michigan State and 11,500 tickets for the Feb. 8 game against Penn State.

The Gophers and Lindsay Whalen seem to have captured the attention of our home state people love them. I mean, even my father-in-law is interested and follows the team -- heck, he is going to attend his second game of the season on Sunday!!!!
Tennessee has two huge games in the next few days: Thursday's conference match-up against SEC rival Vandy, and Saturday's huge 1-2 game at Duke on national TV.

The Vols will be without Courtney McDaniel, who sprained her ankle. Unclear whether and how much Vandy senior Jenni Benningfiled will be able to play tomorrow. Jenni has been struggling with a foot injury.
Over at Off Wing, Eric responds to the SOTU steroid story. Noting that some supplements are spiked with steroids, Eric wonders whether the President will take the opportunity to crack down on the supplement industry.

The answer, as Eric suggests, is almost certainly no.

One reason is that the highly-profitable supplement industry has become a formidable lobbying force, especially in the Republican party.

Orrin Hatch is one of the most powerful Republican Senators and also a huge backer of the supplement industry. Many supplement companies are based in Utah, Hatch's home. The industry has donated over $100,000 to Hatch over the past decade. And Hatch's son runs a lobbying firm with supplement industry clients, who have paid the firm millions.

Hatch wrote in his memoirs: "I have taken dietary supplements almost my entire adult life and can attest to the benefits they provide." He has argued that adults should be able to decide for themselves whether to ingest these chemicals, and that government regulation shouldn't get in the way.

Ironically, Hatch is also the leading elected official fighting the War on Drugs. Unclear why he thinks adults should be able to decide for themselves whether to ingest kava, e.g., without any government regulation, but shouldn't be able to decide to ingest marijuana, e.g., at all.
The WNBA has announced its schedule for the 2004 season. They will have games till August 1, then break for the Olympics, then return September 1.

There will be about 20 regular season games on national TV. Only 1 Lynx game. Detroit gets 7 and Connecticut 5, while New York, bizzarely, has only 1.

The first TV game on ABC is Phoenix at Connecticut, likely to be Diana's first homecoming.
Tamika Catchings was at the State of the Union last night. She talks about her experience here.

I missed it because Sara had a league game last night. So I don't know if he mentioned her. Or if the camera just showed her and Tom Brady during the "get rid of steroids!" bit.

Sara's team won, incidentally, improving to 3-0.

For uber-blogger Andrew Sullivan's review of the SOTU, see here and here.
More on the Alisa Lewis tragedy --

The Daily Cal compares this to Purdue's loss of Tiffany Young in 1999.

A devastated coach Horstmeyer talks about losing "the nicest kid that I have ever coached" -- "She always had a smile on her face. She was always playing with everybody's kids. She did volunteer work. This is somebody that the community is going to miss because she would have made an incredible impact. She was just a great kid."

The loss is being felt around the Pac-10. Greg Bishop talks to coaches Daugherty, Gobrecht, and Smith, and also discusses the reaction in Spokane, where Alisa played her last year of high school ball. For the Huskies, it's been a scary reminder of how they almost lost Kayla Burt.

And, finally, the Chron asks the impossible questions: "How do you deal with something like this? Where do you even start? What do you do next?"
Iowa State registered another upset yesterday, knocking off Sherri Coale's #15 Sooners. "I told them before the game 'You're going to play great. I have a lot of confidence in you.' That was probably not the greatest pregame speech I've ever given," said coach Fennelly. It worked.

Freshman Lyndsey Medders led the Cyclones with 20.

Iowa State will have the chance to knock off another ranked opponent when #16 Colorado comes to town on Sunday.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

New coaches' poll is finally out. Basically similar to yesterday's AP poll, but Texas is #5 instead of tied for #3 with Texas Tech.

It's a little hard for me to believe that Texas Tech is still the third best team in the country, after losing to Iowa State, barely hanging on against Baylor, and losing their best player.

But polls are just polls, and especially in women's college hoops, where there aren't many games on TV for the voters to see, the polls are highly inexact.
Alisa Lewis's high school coach remembers his former star: "She exemplified dedication. She was extremely dedicated to honing her craft and was a leader by example. She spoke up when it was appropriate. Her work ethic is unmatched by any athlete I've been around."
North Carolina had a pretty easy time with Maryland. It was the Heels' sixth straight over the Terps.

"For us, we hadn't played in eight days, and I thought we were a little sluggish at times, especially to start the game and also to start the second half," UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell said. "We didn't have the intensity we needed, but we stepped it up when we had to. What I like is that we had five players in double figures."

Maryland coach Frese thinks they should have done better. "We're disappointed, this one hurts because we know we're a better team than we were tonight but I definitely expect us to bounce back from this."
Geno, glad that Diana is focusing on Diana: "She was overly concerned with the rest of the guys on the team, and how they were dealing with what was going on. I think she needed to clear her mind and worry about Diana, and she did that today. The plays that she made are plays we're accustomed to seeing Diana make the last couple of years."

The Huskies also got a nice boost from Willnett Crockett. The post game has been shaky, and Crockett's return to regular playing time could make a bid difference.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Terrible news across the bay --

Alisa Lewis, a reserve forward on Cal's women's hoops team, has died of meningitis.

"Our hearts goes out to Alisa's family following this horrible, devastating news," coach Caren Horstmeyer said. "Alisa was one of the nicest, hardest-working players I've had the opportunity to coach. We're all in a complete state of shock."

Alisa was 20 years old. She was from Spokane.
Not as much shuffling as expected in the new AP poll.

Duke, Tennessee, Texas and Texas Tech tied at #3, and UConn at #5. No one slipped out of the top 5, and no one slipped out of the top 10.
Connecticut today looked like the team I'm used to seeing. Good passing and lots of easy buckets. Calm and collected, no problem with the press. Solid defense and team rebounding.

Before the game, Taurasi said, "I'm an average player right now, and that doesn't sit well with me, and I'm going to change it." Geno said she needs to be more aggressive.

Today she looked like she should: dominant in every aspect of the game. Running her team's offense and controlling the game herself. Hitting shots from everywhere. And playing excellent defense on top of it all.
It was really a great week for women's college hoops. After a week like this, full of upsets, it's fair to start talking about the new level of parity in the game.

Notre Dame, Iowa State, Baylor, and Auburn pulled off huge upsets over top-10 teams. Purdue also defended its home court in a convincing win over higher-ranked Minnesota. There were even a couple road upsets, as unranked Florida beat #9 Georgia in Athens, and Houston knocked off TCU in the Frogs' own house.

Today we will see a fairly massive restructuring in the rankings. It will be Duke and Tennessee at the top, but after that, it's all up in the air. UConn, Texas, and Texas Tech all might fall into the bottom half of the top ten, and Minnesota might fall out of it. With two losses in a row, Georgia will slide pretty far.
In a big Conference USA match-up yesterday, Houston took down TCU.

Chandi Jones did what she's been doing for the last couple years -- single-handedly winning games for Houston. She scored 32 points, including 20 in the second half and the game-winning jumper in the final minute.

"That's pretty much what we expect from Chandi," Houston coach Joe Curl said. "She has the ability to take over a game every time she steps on the floor."
Colorado saw its season flash before its eyes yesterday when Tera Bjorklund went down with a knee injury.

But a locker room diagnosis said it was just hyperextended. Bjorklund came back on the floor, and the Buffs beat Mizzou. Tera will have an MRI today to make sure.
Virginia played a pretty nice game against Duke. The Cavs basically played to a draw for the first 35 minutes, but then Duke sprinted away in the final 5.

"I give Virginia all the credit in the world," said coach Goestenkors. "They played a great game. They came together as a team. They caused us a lot of trouble. I'm just happy to come out with a win."
Finally found a Minnesota message board.
Voepel says Alesha Robertson might have to step up and take the role of leading scorer now that Jia Perkins has left the team.
Purdue held Minnesota to 0 fast break points yesterday, and Beth Jones did a good job slowing down Whalen.

Coach Borton thinks the pressure of being the last unbeaten may have gotten to the Gophers. McCarville's explanation was simple: "We need to learn to play on the road."

Shereka Wright really dominated the game, and she thinks that with performances like that, she should no longer be considered the third best player in the conference behind Whalen and Mazzante.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

No unbeatens left -- Purdue beats Minnesota.

The Gophers came out flat, dug themselves a hole, and could never quite get out. The difference in the game was free throws: Purdue shot about 40 compared to Minnesota's 12.

According to the hometown radio announcers, it wasn't so much poor reffing as Purdue's aggressive driving offense. Shereka Wright, in particular, did a great job of penetrating and drawing contacts.

The really disappointing thing is that due to the Big Ten's unfortunate scheduling system, we don't get to play Purdue on our home floor this year. So we won't get an opportunity for revenge till the postseason.
Texas Tech was able to bounce back from their own upset loss and the incredible tumult created by Jia Perkins's departure. The Raiders beat Baylor in a one-point thriller.

Baylor coach Kim Mulkey-Robertson was irate about the officiating. The refs blew two key calls in the final seconds. The first gave Tech the ball, and the second put them at the line.

"Lubbock's been good to us, hasn't it?" Mulkey-Robertson asked reporters.
Texas had no trouble with Iowa State. The Horns were able to rebound from their loss to Baylor -- the offense still wasn't great, but Texas returned to its usual interior dominance with an incredible rebounding effort.

"I thought we had a little hangover from Baylor in terms of losing a little offensive confidence," Coach Conradt said . "In the second half we started to look like our old selves. When you outrebound someone 49-20 and get 16 offensive boards, it makes up for a lot of offensive deficiencies."
For much of yesterday's game, it felt like everything was still going wrong for UConn. But in the last few minutes, the Huskies were able to fight their way out of another tough situation.

"When you go through a stretch where you get really good players missing wide-open layups, the ball bounces the wrong way, a 50-50 call goes the wrong way, it's good that you see good stuff happening down the stretch," Geno said. "They probably really needed that right now."
Minnesota today lands in Mackey for its chance to prove that it deserves so much attention.

The Gophers are #6 in both polls and also #6 in the RPI, but their strength of schedule is only #40. All of these numbers will change after today.

Looks like this one is available on Yahoo Audio at 1 eastern.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Wie, so close: "I think I played really great (yesterday). Just one more shot and I would have made it. It's killing me now."
The Big 12's crazy week just got crazier. Jia Perkins has left the Texas Tech team. She was their leading scorer.

The official explanation is that she left due to "unspecified medical reasons." Not much info at the rumor mill either.

"Certainly this is some adversity that we did not expect," coach Sharp said in a written statement this morning.
UConn and Taurasi are still out of sync, but they managed to hold off BC anyway. Barbara Turner had 19, including 11-11 from the free throw line.
The AP ran this story on Minnesota, the surprise at the top, and Whalen.

Back home, columnist Bob Sansevere tells how the players have adopted Coach Borton's system, especially her attention to defense.
Voepel reports on the crazy week in the Big 12, including the upsets and the Mizzou-KU fight.

Mechelle wasn't at the game, but she has reviewed the tape. She describes the incident and the aftermath. It seems like she thinks the Big 12 acted appropriately.
Fifa president Sepp Blatter suggested that women soccer players should wear more revealing clothes to bring more attention to the game.

Players, not surprisingly, didn't like the idea. As Norwegian footballer Solveig Gulbrandsen put it, "If I wanted to wear a bikini, I would have chosen to play beach volleyball."

Said Canadian star Kara Lang: "I'd like to see Sepp Blatter wearing hot pants."

Friday, January 16, 2004

She did shoot a 68. But the cut ended up at 1-under.

She missed by one. One f** stroke.

Well, it's simply amazing. Unprecedented. By the end of today, all of the guys on the course were wondering how she was doing. And cheering for her, hoping for her to make the cut.

Almost. Almost one of the most incredible moments in the history of sports. Almost. But now we know it's coming.
Michelle hits the links at 1:54 Hawaiian time. I'm not sure how that translates to human time, but, uh, I think it's coming up.

Looks like the cut will be even par, so she'll need a 2-under 68. Definitely not out of the realm of possibility.
WNBA.com's TV guru Kayte Christensen has her review of the new Bachelorette.

In the first episode, Rick won the white rose. Never having seen the show, I'm not totally sure what that means, but I think it means he did well.

Rick is Rick Enrico. He went to high school with us. I played hockey with him for a few years in junior high -- he was simply the best player in Minnesota. Went on to play for the Wisconsin Badgers. Here's his profile on the show's website.

Spoiler here: rumor at our ten-year reunion last month was that Rick makes it to the end but doesn't win.
For full local coverage of the Michelle Wie story, see here.

Depending on how the wind affects scores, she'll probably need a 67 or 68 to make the cut. It'll be tough, but not impossible.

"If she would happen to make the cut (today), I think it is probably one of the biggest miracles in sports, period," said Jesper Parnevik.

Tune in to ESPN at 7 Eastern if you want to watch.
Over on the free portion of Full Court, Barry Uhrman has his analysis of the dispersal draft.

Sample -- "Seattle: Betty Lennox? Are you kidding me? Anne Donovan managed to make yet another questionable draft decision. As Charlotte's coach in 2001, she drafted Kelly Miller over Tamika Catchings and Marie Ferdinand. Last year with the Storm, Donovan took Jun Sung-Min and unsuccessfully tried to convert the 6-1 center into a wing, when Coretta Brown was available and could have stepped in at shooting guard. Seattle desperately needs perimeter scoring, but Lennox has a chronic hip problem (among other injuries) and a bigger attitude problem. Lennox is simply unconscious with her shot selection and is one of the most inconsistent players in the entire league."

Why Barry wastes time practicing law when he could be writing about women's basketball full time is beyond me. Anyway, go read it.
Purdue is ready for the Gophers and Whalen.

"You just have to focus on everyone else other than Lindsay Whalen," Erika Valek said. "She’s going to get her points regardless of who’s on her."

They are offering $1 seats, hoping to fill the stands on Sunday.
With their win over Illinois last night, the Gophers remain the only undefeated team in the land. If the Gophers can keep it going through the weekend, it will be interesting to see where they end up in the rankings. I don't think the Gophers have ever broken into the top 5! All they need to do is beat Purdue on Sunday! Easier said than done!

Although the Gophers beat the Illini 74-59, it was not the usual Lindsay Whalen show. Whalen was held to only 11 points last night, but the rest of the team stepped it up. McCarville had an awesome game (see ted's post below), and swedish senior Kadidja Andersson finished with 11 points scoring seven in the final 10 minutes of the game.

Coach Borton was pleased with the balanced scoring and contributions from the role-players. "We can't just ride Janel and Lindsay's back the whole year," Borton said. "This is what's going to make us a better team -- what happened tonight."

Illinios coach Theresa Grentz was also impressed by the Gophers, "You can't come in here and think you're just going to nail down one player. I admire talented people and that's a talented team that I enjoy watching."

Frankly, I was a little nervous going into this game after watching so many teams fall these last few days, but Coach Borton was able to keep her team focused. "We respect every team in the Big Ten. We talk about seizing the moment, not being complacent and not taking things for granted," Borton said. "This week has shown that you can lose on any given night if you're not focused. It can be gone, just like that."
Tennessee had one of its best offensive performances of the season last night, crushing South Carolina 86-58.

Ely led with 16.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Another night, another upset.

#9 Georgia got beaten down by Auburn. It wasn't even close.

"Coming in, I thought they were the best team in the SEC," said Tiger coach Joe Ciampi. "Personnel-wise, I still think they're the best team, but we played a little better tonight." A lot better.

Le'Coe Willingham had 20 and 13.

Four top-10 teams falling in three nights. All to unranked teams (except Baylor, sort of). When was the last time that happened?

CORRECTION -- as a helpful reader pointed out, Auburn is also half-ranked. They are not in the coaches' poll, but #20 in the AP.
Big Ten action:

Gophers win, McCarville dominates: 15 points, 11 boards, 8 offensive, 4 blocks.

Nittany Lions win, Mazzante has 19, only 9 from passing Katie Smith.

Boilermakers win, as the starters get the night off.

In a more competitive game, Michigan State topped Ohio State.
Clifton Brown on Wie. Her playing partners were wholly impressed -- and slightly embarrassed by being occasionally outdriven by a 14-year-old girl.

"I think I learned that I can play here," said Michelle. "I think I could play here, but I have to work harder on my game to be in the winner's circle. I never felt like I was out of place."

Pretty amazing: Only 2 behind Davis Love III, one of the top five golfers in the world. 1 behind Appleby and Ben Curtis, tied with Lehman and Micheel, ahead of Hoch and Pettersson.
Michelle Wie has finished her first round with a 2-over 72. That puts her pretty far down the leaderboard, and at this rate, she'll likely miss the cut.

Six hours ago, however, the standard wisdom was that something in the low-80s would be a good score for her. 72 is a fantastic result.
In rules news, FIBA has decided to switch to the 28.5 ball for the Olympics and international competition. Many international players who grew up using the 29.5 ball -- and who say it's actually easier to shoot -- won't be happy.

The NCAA, meanwhile, has decided to postpone its decision about whether to move the three-point line back and widen the lane. The basketball rules committees had recommended the changes, but the executive committee turned them down pending further review.
Another issue with sexual orientation and the WNBA --

the Phoenix Suns just dropped on of its sponsors for "Church Night." The sponsor, the Center for Arizona Policy, had distributed invitation packages including anti-gay marriage and pro-FMA material.

What is notable is that one of the main reasons the Suns pulled CAP as a sponsor was because they were worried about alienating the Mercury's fan base.
While Lindsay Whalen approached the all-time scoring mark for Minnesota, Kelly Mazzante is a few hundred points ahead closing in on the all-time mark for the entire Big Ten conference.

Lieberman says that Taurasi, Whalen, and Mazzante are the best pure shooters in the country. She also says that Mazzante will go top 7 in the draft.

I asked Barry about this yesterday -- he is THE expert on these things -- and he thinks she'll go a little lower. Minnesota, after all, has the 7th pick right now, and it will obviously take Whalen over Mazzante (and anyone else) if she's still available. Not because she's better, but because she's a local hero.

Taurasi, Beard, Powell are the likely top three... and then there's still a bunch of stars available: Brunson, Hayden, Jones, Ohlde, Thomas, and Wright. It's possible that 3 of those 5 will go in picks 4-6. So making it into the top 7 is no guarantee, even for a great player like Mazzante.

Of course, everything may change depending on trades, injuries, and what happens in the rest of the college season.
Today is a big day in the golf world, as 14-year-old Michelle Wie tees off against the men in the Sony Open. Like Annika in the Colonial last year, Wie is playing on a sponsor's exemption.

Wie hopes to make the cut, which would be an unbelievable accomplishment. She'll have a slight edge because this is her home course, but it will still be very difficult.

This could be the beginning of something big. Said Stuart Appleby: "No one else can come on Tour and do any better job than what she (Wie) is going to do. Not so much how she'll play, but who she is, what she is and who she could be."

Wie hopes to someday play regularly -- and win -- on the men's tour. It's very hard to know if that's really possible. If she pulls it off, it will be one of the greatest accomplishments ever by a woman in sports.
As Minnesota prepares for Illinois tonight, Lindsay Whalen is just 45 points away from the Gophers' all-time scoring mark.

Her great play and her improvement from last year have impressed teammates and other coaches around the league.

"She reminds me of a player I was blessed to coach in Jackie Stiles," said Michigan coach Cheryl Burnett. "Her ability to dribble and penetrate, to shoot the three and read her screens."
In less happy Big 12 news, the conference has suspended 3 Kansas players and 2 Missouri players for the postgame altercation last weekend.

The Big 12 also criticized Kansas coach Marian Washington for her public comments, in which she essentially blamed the entire incident on Missouri.
It was a magical night for Anne O'Neil, who hit the game-winner over Texas Tech.

"After I released, I thought, 'Oh, it's going to hit the rim, maybe it'll have a chance,'" O'Neil said. "Once I started bouncing around a little bit, it went through. It was great. I wouldn't have any words for it. I was breathless."

"That was one of the greatest games I've ever been a part of," Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. ". . . I don't like to say it's the best because we've had a lot of great players here who won a lot of great games. But, I do think takes a little different light, coming off a disappointing year last year."

Tech's free-throw shooting and perimeter offense have been subpar all year, and Iowa State exploited those weaknesses.

"All those jumpers were available at the free-throw line, but we didn't make as many as we should have, and some of them we just didn't take when we should have," coach Sharp said. "Against a zone, you have to penetrate it and shoot it in the hole. I didn't think we were aggressive enough with the ball. We just didn't create enough offense around that."

It was a tight game in almost every respect. Both teams shot exactly 21-51 and exactly 10 turnovers. The Raiders had a slight edge on the boards. From the free throw line, however, Tech missed 11, while Iowa State missed only 4.
For Baylor last night, everything went right, while for Texas, everything went wrong.

Coach Conradt ranked the game on her frustration meter: "On a scale of one to 10, it was probably a nine. I knew Baylor was going to come out like that. I knew we might take some things for granted. This might be a little bit of a wake-up call."

"I thought we never backed down," Baylor Coach Kim Mulkey-Robertson said. "I thought we bowed our necks and went right at them. Every kid out there was trying to execute, and I thought our defense was pretty hard tough.

The difference was shooting. The Horns shot 36%; Baylor shot 57%.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Crazy night in the Big 12!

#1 Texas Tech loses to unranked Iowa State.

Iowa State, who hasn't received a vote in the polls all year. Who lost to Nebraska a couple nights ago. Who lost to Drake by 25 points.

#3 Texas loses to half-ranked Baylor (#24 in writers' poll, unranked in coaches').

Nutty times. Just a few hours ago I was saying that the Raiders have an easy schedule coming up. How wrong was I...

We have parity coming out of our ass the last couple days. This is great!

And yes, my Gophers are now the last unbeaten team standing.
Pam Schmid compares Minnesota and Texas Tech, the two unbeatens.

Both teams are looking great, but neither has beaten another elite team yet, so it's hard to know how good they really are... but we'll know pretty soon.

Minnesota plays Purdue on Sunday, then Penn State next Thursday, then Michigan State after that. The first two are on the road. It will be extremely difficult to win all three. If they pull it off, we'll know they deserve their ranking.

The Red Raiders have an easier schedule the rest of the month. They don't play Texas till February 1, and they don't play K State till March.
Sara's team won another one last night. They now have several former college ballers on the squad, so with a little time together, they could be a force.

Sara's still in a bit of a shooting slump, but she had about 20 rebounds last night, which isn't too bad for someone 5'6".
Coming soon to your hometown: federal government training to help couples develop interpersonal skills that sustain "healthy marriages."

Ooh... I can't wait! Sara and I have really been struggling lately. But now that help is on the way from Washington, I'm sure everything will turn around! I really struggle with my interpersonal skills, but it's nothing that a little government instruction can't solve!

Maybe they'll even set up a website. Sort of like Ready.gov, but Marriage.gov instead.

In addition to helpful nuggets like "If a family member becomes sick, it is important to be suspicious," we'll get things maybe like "Start talking from hate, but don't stop talking until it's from hurt."
K State had a slow start, but they pulled it together and thumped Oklahoma State.

"I think it was inevitable," said coach Deb Patterson. "I think we were a little too quick with our shots and off-balance. We were hurrying things and not being as fundamental as we need to be. We were getting a lot of looks, we just needed to settle down and zero in."
Colorado had a rough game, and Bjorkland scored only 9, but the Buffs managed to beat Kansas anyway.
Geno: "Maybe the expectations are too high. Maybe we're supposed to have one of those 6-7 loss seasons that other people have. We're in one of those lulls, and we'll have to work our way out of it."

And more: "We're not as good as we made it look last year. We went out and made something that should have been hard look really, really easy last year at times. It's not as easy as people think it is to do something over and over and over again unless you have a lot of talent. I think what's coming out right now is we may not be as talented. But I've always known that."

Taurasi: "“The whole game we couldn't get over the hump. We just couldn't get anything going on offense. Every time we got some momentum, we fouled. ... Including myself, nobody really stepped up to make shots.

Muffet: "We played with a lot of intelligence, and Batteast's block [on Diana] deflated them. I think they thought Taurasi could save the day for them.''

(Did you notice the extremely cold handshake between Geno and Muffet after the game?)

The Irish have slipped pretty far since the days of Riley, Siemon, Ivey, and Ratay. This year they've struggled, especially in their surprising loss to perpetually marginal Georgetown.

But last night none of that mattered. It was just like old times.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Stunner: UConn loses to Notre Dame, 66-51.

Sounds like Taurasi didn't have a great night, and no one else on the team stepped up to help. UConn fans are beside themselves.

The Huskies' numbers were just plain ugly.

Taurasi: 4-15, 2 assists, 1 rebound
Strother: 2-9 for 4 points, 0-5 from outside.
Conlon: 0 points and 2 assists


StarTrib city columnist Doug Grow on Whalen and the Gophers, from the days freezing in the empty pavilion to now, when they've become local celebs.

"It's like two different lifetimes," said Kadidja Andersson.

Grow: "Because of what this team has accomplished in the past three years, women in Minnesota now have a toehold on sports parity. There can't be a female athlete, or former athlete, in the state who's not astonished by what's happened."
Things got a little ugly after the Kansas-Mizzou game on Saturday. The investigation is ongoing; suspensions coming.
In what sounds like good news, Proctor & Gamble has broadened its marketing agreement with the WNBA.

I always find it a little bizarre seeing commercials for Swiffer and Bounce during basketball games, but hey -- a corporate sponsor is a corporate sponsor.
New AP poll yesterday --

La Tech slips, LSU inches up; 'Nova enters, Ohio State falls out.
Who can pass as well as UConn?

Nancy Lieberman says DePaul can. The Blue Demons have moved to #17 in the rankings, and they lead the nation in scoring. Check out the story of their success this year.
Last week Serena announced that she won't play in the Australian Open. Tennis without Serena is sort of like golf without Tiger -- not worth watching.

Yesterday things got worse when Capriati pulled out. Clijsters too.

At least Venus will be there. Amelie Mauresmo has been complaining about Venus's seed. With Clijsters gone, Venus and Mauresmo will now be #2 and #3, setting up a nice semifinal.

Monday, January 12, 2004

A possible sea change in the Ivies --

Harvard has dominated the conference for the last couple years, and before this weekend, it had an amazing 26-game conference win streak.

But on Saturday night, Dartmouth rolled into Cambridge and knocked off the Crimson on their home floor.

Best of all, Dartmouth's squad is full of young talent, and should be a huge force for several years to come. (Thanks to Eric for the link.)

My dream: Dartmouth vs. Minnesota at Williams Arena in the first round of the tournament.
I am so glad we finally have ESPN2!!! We got it included with our cable just a few months ago and already I am not sure how we functioned without it! ESPN2 has been airing about 4 women's collgege games a weekend, and they are doing a nice job of highlighting a variety of teams and conferences.

The match up between Tera Bjorkland and Nicole Ohlde on Saturday was fun to watch. They are both great post players. I like that they are both tall and big, but they are both mobile, have pretty good hands, and are able to pass well out of the post. (I do, however, think Minnesota's McCarville might be the best passer and have the best hands for a post in the college game right now.) A great post match-up in the women's game doesn't happen that often so it was fun to see.

I was distraught to learn that Bjorklund was from Minnesota. I can't beleive we let a good homegrown, scandinavian baller get way from us! Darn!
Washington's swoon continues. After getting blown out by USC on Friday, the Huskies lost to UCLA yesterday and fell to 1-5 in the Pac-10.
If you want to see Minnesota play at Williams this year, you better get your tickets soon.

We, sadly, are missing all the fun living out in California. But -- we just bought tix for the first two rounds of the NCAAs at Williams. So we'll be flying home to see the Gophers get started in the tournament in March. Should be awesome.
The three top teams in the Big Ten won, but all had more trouble than they were expecting.

The Gophers played a tough, physical game before their 14,000 fans at Williams Arena. My mom was watching the game on TV and calling with updates. She said Iowa's Jamie Cavey did a great job on McCarville in the first half, and that kept the game close. But in a flurry of second half scoring, Minnesota was able to pull away.

Whalen had 30. Kadidja Andersson also had one of her best performances of the year.

Penn State almost allowed Wisconsin to come back for a huge upset. The Badgers hit a couple big threes in the last minute, but fell one point short.

Mazzante had an unusually poor shooting night (4-19), but she made a key play at the end. After Wisconsin pulled to within one, Mazzante took the inbound and sprinted up court to avoid the foul. Time ran out before Wisconsin could reach her.

Purdue shot poorly against Illinois, but luckly the Illini weren't any better. The game was tied at half, and Illinois got to within 5 with a few minutes left, but the Boilermakers made their free throws down the stretch to hang on. Wright had 22 and 9.
Duke got its 500th win and 47th straight in the ACC by beating UNC 79-57.

The game was actually closer than the final score suggests. The Tarheels kept it very close until midway through the second half. But then Duke's intensity increased, and UNC's youth and inexperience started to show.

"The score is certainly not indicative of the game, anyone who witnessed the game understands that. I was just really proud of my team. We weathered the storm, stayed together," said Coach G.

Mo Currie had 14 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 assists. Her outside shooting is occasionally suspect, but she might end up being a better player than Beard.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Take a break from football: UNC-Duke at 2 Eastern on ESPN2.
Yesterday really belonged to the Big 12.

#14 Colorado played at #12 K State. The game was on TV, so we got to see it, and it was fun to watch.

The game featured the match-up of Tera Bjorkland and Nicole Ohlde, probably the two best low post players in the game. Individually, they played to a near draw: Bjorkland had 22 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists; Ohlde had 17, 10, and 4. But Ohlde's team came out on top, in part because she just has a more talented cast around her. Wecker is pretty incredible.

The Buffs also failed to get Tera the ball at the end. In the last couple minutes, during timeout huddles, we could see Colorado coach Barry yelling "Get the ball to Bjorkland!" But the team just didn't always execute that plan.

"We need to recognize at times that she's our best post player and get her the ball down there," Barry said. "Sometimes we go away from her and that is a hard lesson."

In other Big 12 action --

Texas got a pretty good scare from Oklahoma. The Longhorns shot terribly, but solid rebounding and good free-throw shooting helped them hang on.

"It was anybody's ball game," Texas Coach Jody Conradt said. "Thankfully, we made the plays down the stretch. This team has done that a number of times." Sooner Coach Coale wasn't happy with the officiating.

Texas Tech had no problem with Oklahoma State. The stats are just silly.
At the beginning of the year, most predicted a three-way battle for the Pac-10 title between Stanford, Washington, and Arizona.

It's beginning to look like the Cardinal won't have any real competition. Washington has not started well, and last night Stanford blew out Arizona. Stanford is now 6-0 in conference, winning by an average of 19 points.

"It was awesome,'' said Nicole Powell, who had 15 and 12. "Everybody was knocking down shots and playing good defense. I can't think of another half like that, especially against such a good team. It's not going to be like that the next time we play them."
Everything is still shaky in Storrs. UConn ended up with a win yesterday, but something still isn't right. They trailed at half, and they shot poorly -- only 38%. Even against weaker teams, Taurasi still isn't scoring with her usual efficiency.

"There's a lot of things that have happened to this team in the last two weeks that you can't explain," Taurasi said.
Last year Iowa beat Minnesota in the Big Ten tournament. Today the Gophers look for revenge.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Rutgers's string of wins came to an end last night.

The Scarlet Knights lost to Villanova. Courtney Mix made some huge plays for the Cats down the stretch.

"That's what she's supposed to do," coach Harry Perrretta said of Mix. "She's our best player all around. She makes great defensive plays."
Sara's old team dropped to Armstrong.

Friday, January 09, 2004

We were home over the holidays -- if you read our posts from around that time, you could likely sense the palpable excitement in Minneapolis about the Gophers. Whalen is a hero. McCarville is awesome. And they have a roster full of future stars too.

Today Minnesota announced that they've sold out for the Iowa game on Sunday. This is a milestone -- the first in the history of the women's hoops program.

Probably our dear readers are tired of our nonstop Gopher gushing. But there is a broader lesson: if you have a good team with exciting players, the fans will come.

Real sports fans don't care if it's men or women. They care about school pride, they care about personalities, they care about good basketball, and they care about winning. Whalen and the Gophers have provided all of this, and the Minnesota fans are coming out in droves.
Added some links to conference standings down on the left. Also some new college chatrooms.

Speaking of chatrooms --

now that Minnesota is #6, it seems like it's time for us to have one of our own. You know, so we can do all that good chatroom stuff: get in pointless arguments, endlessly flame each other, spread vicious rumors, etc.

Seriously, I think there should be one, but I have no idea how to make it happen. If anyone out there (a) knows how to start one, or (b) is a Gopher fan and wants to help get one going, please email.
The college rivalries in the state of North Carolina are some of the best in all of sports.

Last night, NC State nearly pulled off a big upset over #13 UNC. The Wolfpack were up for most of the game, but UNC rallied, and La'Tangela Atkinson scored with three seconds left to get the one-point win.

On Sunday, the Tarheels roll into Cameron. The rivalry in the women's game doesn't have quite the history that the men have had. But it's still huge.

"It's going to be awesome," said Alana Beard "We always have a good turnout when we play a team like UNC. I think everyone's pretty excited about it, it's going to be a great game, it's always a great game against UNC."
Duke and Tennesse both coasted to wins last night.

It was the third game in six days for the Devils, and the starters only played about half the game, but it didn't matter. Georgia Tech had no answers.

Said Tech coach Joseph: "They're a tremendous team, from the point guard, to the post, to every player on their bench. I think that you saw tonight why they're the number one team in the country."

The Vols opened their SEC schedule against Arkansas. The result was the same thing that the Razorbacks and everyone else in conference are used to.

Arkansas shot 25% and got out rebounded 48-30. Ouch.
Sara started playing in a new league the other night. The other team had a coach, uniforms, and they ran warm-up drills. We weren't sure that we were in the right place.

It was a wacky game. The other team was utterly devoid of talent, but most of the players on our side just met each other that night. So it stayed close.

At the end, Sara could have put away the game with free throws, but she missed a bunch. In the dozen years I've watched her play -- women's leagues in San Francisco, New Haven, and Minneapolis, back through college and high school -- I've never seen her do that.

But, she got back to her old self in OT, nailed 4 free throws in a row to put the game away.

Oh, and I almost got thrown out again. Sara got totally hacked and I said: "She's getting her ass kicked out there!" The ref told me that I needed to calm down and watch my language.
Lot of good Big 10 action last night.

In the marquee match-up, Michigan State hosted Purdue. Michigan State is a solid team trying to prove that it can play with the 3 big powers in the conference. Last weekend, the Spartans nearly upset Penn State.

Last night's game didn't go as well. The Boilermakers raced to an early lead and never let go. "We were aggressive and took care of business," said Shereka Wright, who shredded MSU's zone for 28 points. "I was able to find the right spots, and my teammates took care of me. Coming into the game, we wanted to see whatever they gave us, and we took it."

Elsewhere --

the Gophers shredded Northwestern. The game was essentially over within a few minutes. "We were up 25-2," Janel McCarville said. "I was in awe. I didn't think we'd scored that much, and I didn't think they'd missed that much."

Minnesota is now 13-0. Best start ever. Good TV ratings to boot.

Penn State blew out Iowa. Mazzante had her 4th 30 point game of the year.

In a minor upset, Illinois knocked off #22 Ohio State. Angelina Williams led the Illini with 15.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Jessica Foley's magical buzzer-beating shot has reverberated around the country and all the way down under to her homeland. The Sydney Morning Herald ran this piece today (tomorrow, actually).

Said Foley: "My boyfriend was over here from Melbourne, and Duke only had about 70 people in the arena. They all went nuts. It's been amazing since then. It's been really cool walking around school the last few days, and having people I've never met saying, 'nice shot'. I've gone from zero to hero in a couple of days.

"College basketball is huge over here. I love the way that there's interest in women's basketball, you don't get that anywhere else in the world. The UConn women's team are one of the most watched teams in America.

"And the attention . . . if I had made that shot in Australia it might have got a tiny column in The Border Mail. Here it's been unbelievable."
There is a good article on Gopher sophomore Shannon Bolden in today's Star Tribune. Bolden has really stepped as strong defender for the Gophers this year after spending last summer improving her skills by guarding folks like Taurasi in pick-up games.

I saw Bolden play twice last week, once against SC and once against Michigan, and I was very impressed by her defense and athletic ability. She has long, strong arms, and she has excellent foot speed (especially at 5-11).
Several Big 12 powerhouses notched wins last night.

Texas overwhelmed KU with a huge rebounding edge. "They did everything," said KU forward Crystal Kemp. "They went to the boards, they posted up strong, and their guards did a good job of getting them the ball."

Colorado held Baylor to only 16 first half points but then almost blew their huge lead. "I was thinking, 'I can't believe we're blowing a 23-point lead,' " CU coach Ceal Barry said. "We got rattled, and I felt like all we needed to do was get the ball to Tera." Bjorkland took over at the end, and finished with 16 and 9.

K State crushed Mizzou. Ohlde was off the hook -- 31 points on 14 of 16 shooting, in only 30 minutes. "Hats off to Kansas State," Missouri coach Cindy Stein said. "I needed to do a better job of having these players prepared. That's my fault."

Coach Coale's Sooners had an easy time with Nebraska. Oklahoma's defense was great, holding the Huskers to 36% shooting and forcing 23 turnovers.

The win gave Coale her 143rd win, most in the program's history.
Rutgers has had an up-and-down year. A few weeks ago, they were swooning a little after losing four in a row on a tough road trip, and they dropped out of the rankings.

Lately, the Scarlet Knights have turned things around. Last night they beat #15 Virginia Tech, and they've now won five straight, including three over ranked opponents. Virginia Tech had been undefeated.

Shalicia Hurns did a great job guarding Tech's center Ieva Kublina, holding her to just 6 points on 0 field goals. Pondexter led in scoring with 18.

"Rutgers is very good, very underrated," Virginia Tech coach Bonnie Hendrickson said. "If we were voting, they would be in the Top 25. We understand that if we played their schedule, we would be 7-4. And if they played ours, they'd be 12-0."
UConn bounced back, more or less, topping West Virginia 82-57.

Still had trouble at the free throw line (12-22), still lots of turnovers (19), but an all-around good performance.

"I think we were all anxious to play," said Geno. "For the first time in a long time, there was a difference in going to practice. It was a different attitude. We really couldn't wait to get out there."
A couple days ago I said that there were three women's hoops blogs.

Wrong -- there's a fourth. Darlene has just started the Indiana Women's Hoops Blog.

In one of her first posts, she goes after the Fever:

"The Fever selected Deanna Jackson with the 5th pick in the Dispersal draft for Cleveland Rocker players. This is just the latest in a series of blunders made by this team."

Check out her analysis -- it's good stuff.