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Well it certainly wasn't Uconn's most glamorous performance, but in the second half, Maya Moore and the Uconn women made it work. SB Nation's Uconn blog, The Uconn Blog, offers some praise:
Let us never mention anything about this actual game ever again, except to say that Maya Moore became an utter legend in the second half. Once she started hitting shots, it was all over. This was her night, her star-making moment on the biggest stage.
Whether you follow the women all season, or you just tuned in tonight, this is an amazing accomplishment. Having covered the team for parts of all four of my years in Storrs, I'm proud to see Geno, Tina, Maya and the rest kick the ass of anyone who's challenged them. They represent the school tremendously.
Next year, Moore's senior year, the goal will be to make it to 11-0 next season and eclipse John Wooden's all-time mark. From there, it will be Geno's chance to FINALLY catch Pat Summitt in total championships.
After two wildly disparate halves of basketball, the UConn Lady Huskies are the proud owners of a bouncing national title, their second in a row, and two perfect back-to-back seasons following their 53-47 defeat of Stanford Tuesday night in San Antonio.
The first half was simply a horror show, opening with four missed shots, a move that would prove to be a specialty of both teams. Maya Moore was benched, and UConn hit the locker room trailing 20-12. And then the Husky Ladies came out with 20 minutes between them and the trophy and decided to play a little basketball. They started with a 17-2 run, took over the lead with 14:24 remaining, and kicked in Maya Magnificent's afterburners.
The game hinged on Moore, both ways. It took her twelve minutes and change to score in the first half; in the second she poured it on, scoring 18 points and finishing just into a double-double (23 points, 11 rebounds). In Papa Geno's postgame words, "Maya's the best player you can think of when you need points."
For the second consecutive game, Auriemma relied more heavily on his starters than he has all season, with all five logging at least 30 minutes on the court. Newly-minted Naismith luminary Tina Charles finished with nine points and 11 rebounds.
Stanford began scratching and clawing their way back with less than three minutes remaining, but they started too late. Trailing 47-31, they made a game effort to climb out of the well with a pair of threes from Jeanette Pohlen. They cut the lead to nine, then to six, then to five … and that was as close as it got. Kayla Pedersen and Nnemkadi Ogwumike recorded double-doubles, to little avail. A single-digit loss, a UConn opponent first in 2010, would be their only consolation.
You have to feel for Jayne Appel. Clearly favoring her injured ankle, there was never much distance between her feet and the floor, and she ends her Stanford career with a scoreless game and seven rebounds. You have to feel for all the Stanford girls, really. But you also can't turn your backs on UConn for a red second, a hard lesson the Lady Cardinal has had delivered twice this season.
And where does UConn go from here? From 1971-1974, John Wooden's UCLA Bruins won 88 straight basketball games. Auriemma's brood is up to 78.
Who fed UConn's gremlins after midnight? This is the farthest the Husky Ladies have trailed all season, and their halftime output of 12 is tied for lowest in school history. Both these teams play fine defense, but it's terrible shooting that's the hallmark of this first half. Maya Moore was briefly benched after missing her first five shots. At one point UConn went more than ten minutes without scoring a single point. Even the talking heads seem a little shellshocked, and Auriemma told Holly Rowe, "This is the worst I've ever seen it." Us too, Papa Geno.
SBN’s UConn blog is running an open thread for tonight’s title game, if you’re into that sort of thing.
It's a coast-to-coast rivalry with a lot of great recent history. UConn is the last team to beat Stanford, in a regular-season matchup just before Christmas that put a blemish on the Lady Cardinal's perfect 2009-10 season. But what's getting forgotten more often than not is this: Stanford is also the last team to beat UConn, responsible for the Husky Ladies' untimely exit from the 2008 tournament. After tonight, somebody's going home with a fine set of undisputed baller tiaras, as the 2010 national championship squad and the unofficial designation of juggernauts -- or giant-slayers.
To take home the nets, the ladies in red need to find their feet again beyond the arc. UConn's preposterous defense won't give much ground near the basket, but if Stanford gets on another wild three-point tear, they might not need much.
What they do need is personnel. Stanford needs nothing quite so badly as a mighty tandem to match the productive power of Maya Moore and Tina Charles, and they have the potential for one in Jayne Appel and Nnemkadi Ogwumike. Problem being, the former is hurt and the latter's just a sophomore, though a sophomore on a pretty hot streak of late.
This isn't to say that Stanford's a slouch team. They even led the first half the last time they met, but did so with Maya Moore on the bench for much of it. They may not have the best chance to beat UConn. But they've got the only one left.
And don't look for UConn to get distracted or dazzled. Geno Auriemma's teams are used to being here. They've been through perfect seasons before. With a second straight title on the line, they're just not the type to get lost in the lights. Like Moore says, "It doesn’t take a whole lot to motivate us right now."
Tipoff: 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN.
SBN's UConn Blog traces the recent history of the women's basketball empire Geno Auriemma has built up in Storrs:
The UConn machine you see now, chewing up opponents and leaving swaths of destruction in their wake, is at the pinnacle of its powers now because Geno won two of the most important recruiting battles of his career. (There's a sort of unspoken assumption among UConn women's fans that any loss is intolerable. Losing more than three or four games per year is a sin. And missing out on a national title is a failure)
Tina Charles and Maya Moore are two of the five best players to ever play at UConn. But what's lost in their utter dominance over the past two years is that, before they arrived, it seemed like Geno might struggle to dominate the basketball world as he did in the first half of the last decade.
Geno Auriemma submitted to a brief, goofy video interview with Rebecca Lobo, in which we get to see his superb half-court victory dance moves:
Also revealed in the above clip: He'd like his new grandbaby to call him "Coach" and he thinks Pat Summitt's aged better than he has. (This just lends further credence to my theory that behind all the rivalry and barbs, Pat and Geno are secret besties, and are gonna retire together to a desert island someday and spend the rest of their lives playing backgammon on the beach and hollering at each other.)
UConn senior Tina Charles has won the 2010 Naismith Trophy, following in the footsteps of fellow Husky Lady Baller Maya Moore. Charles' honor means Moore won't win back-to-back trophies like Diana Taurasi, but as a junior, should she choose to return for another season, she'd be the easy favorite. (And it's not like UConn doesn't have enough glory to go around right at the moment.)
SBN's women's hoops blog Swish Appeal analyzes the play of Stanford PG Jeannette Pohlen, whose victory layup against Xavier surprised some fans, but maybe shouldn't have. Pohlen doesn't look like a world-beating shooter on the stat sheet, but her contributions to the Cardinal are crucial:
The simplest way to look at Pohlen's performance as a point guard is to note the 5 assists and 0 turnovers, which is quite easily identified as a solid assist-to-turnover ration. But the fact that she played 40 minutes at the point guard position and managed to finish with no turnovers - especially given Oklahoma's mix of defensive pressure using their athletic guards - is actually outstanding. The value of balancing assists and turnovers so well in big minutes is what John Hollingers pure point rating accounts for. In the Oklahoma game, Pohlen posted a pure point rating of 8.33, which is in the elite range of point guard performances for women's college basketball players. Sure, she didn't do much other than set up others and take care of the ball, but on a team like Stanford and a night on which Nneka Ogwumike had an other-worldly performance - she accounted for 50% of Stanford's overall production - Pohlen played her position very, very well. That's noteworthy for a person who is not necessarily a born point guard.
It was mentioned during last night's early game broadcast that Stanford was "the team to beat UConn." The inescapable reality that Stanford already has a double-digit loss to UConn this season aside, at this point? No one is the team to beat UConn. Baylor came closest Monday night, and lost by 20.
It wasn't the prettiest game Auriemma's brood have turned out. Baylor was 1-of-7 from beyond the arc and UConn was statistically
worse miserable, making just three of 17 three-point shots. The turnover differential also played a large part -- Connecticut held themselves to seven in nasty contrast to Baylor's 20. But the She-Bears made the Husky Ladies sweat for the first time all year, trailing by a "mere" 13 points at the half and shaving that lead down to three just five minutes after play resumed. Not to be overshadowed by Nnemkadi Ogwumike's performance in the Final Four's first game, this is about when Maya Moore started really pouring it on. The junior phenom finished with 34 points and 12 rebounds; her deadly counterpart Tina Charles notched 21 points and 13 rebounds.
UConn's vaunted bench didn't see much action, with just one non-starter, Kelly Faris, logging more than three minutes of playing time. Moore and Charles were granted respites of one minute each. And if you're wondering why you haven't read Brittney Griner's name yet, it's because she was largely a non-factor. This isn't to say she played poorly; with 13 points, six rebounds and five blocks she's got nothing to be ashamed of, but she is, contrary to internet legend, only human, and can't reasonably be expected to deal with Moore and Charles all by her lonesome.
So no more dreams haunted by Griner's dead, staring gunslinger's eyes this tourney, and no more Kim Mulkey, to the chagrin of bored journalists everywhere. UConn still doesn't have a loss. They don't even have the relative indignity of a single-digit win to blemish their A++ record. And nothing that happened in last night's second game remotely indicates a chance of that changing any time soon. Tune in Tuesday for one more gladiator-and-lion show.
An all-Big 12 women's NCAA basketball title game is not to be. And for most of the night, on an unfortunate frilly-painted court, following some really unfortunate player intros*, Stanford's victory was all but assured. Oklahoma couldn't crack ten points for more than twelve minutes to start the game, and the Cardinal led 34-21 at half.
The She-Sooners cut the double-digit lead to eight with 13:48 remaining in the game, and again at 2:40. Again and again, Stanford pulled away. But with a flurry of Danielle Robinson-related action, the latest Cardinal comfort zone slimmed to three points with just sixteen seconds remaining. And that's all, she wrote: Nnemkadi Ogwumike remembered that this was her show and sunk her fourth and fifth free throws of the game's remaining minute with a layup tossed in for good measure. Final score, Stanford 73, Oklahoma 66.
About this being Nnemkadi Ogwumike's show: 38 (THIRTY-EIGHT) POINTS, 16 rebounds. Jayne Appel added a double-double of her own (13 points, 10 rebounds). The Lady Cardinal have a date with an astonishingly vicious opponent Tuesday night, and if Ogwumike can pull off a repeat performance, it just might be more of a game than we've all been thinking.
*Seriously, that clothes-spinny animation went out with Smallville, and wasn't great shakes even then.
And then there were four:
7:00, ESPN: No. 1 Stanford vs. No. 3 Oklahoma
In a stroke of programming competence, ESPN has saved the interesting game for the late tip and gifted the viewing public a matchup between a Stanford team whose most publicized accomplishment this season has been losing to presumed champ squad UConn over Christmas break and an Oklahoma group best noted for not having Courtney and Ashley Paris among their number anymore. This is not to say they're not playing great basketball, but if you're not currently an avowed fan of either team you're likely just tuning in to see if the Stanford Tree can get away with doing something obscene on live television.
9:00, ESPN: No. 1 UConn vs. No. 1 Baylor
You've heard it all week from the pundits (women's basketball has pundits! I know!) that if any team can take down the glowering Husky menace, it's Baylor. This is not inaccurate, but it's maybe a little broad. This game will turn on Lady Bear star freshman and noted shmeast Brittney Griner and her ability to never, ever leave the court. Geno Auriemma will have his Husky Ladies rotating off the bench with the usual dizzying frequency, and Griner's quick hands and her foul count will just have to keep up.
NCAA women's Final Four play begins Sunday night. The most interesting teams, naturally, are on the same side of the bracket.
This is not the story of either of those teams.
Oklahoma beat Kentucky by twenty Tuesday night, 88-68, despite a 17-4 Lady Wildcat lead to open the game and despite a halftime score that only favored them by four points, 43-39. UK's Victoria Dunlap had 31 points (and 13 rebounds), but no teammate came close to matching her productivity -- the next-closest Lady Wildcat had nine. Kentucky also shot 33% from the field to OU's 62% and managed a dismal 2-17 for three-pointers, which wasn't particularly helpful considering the Sooners had a 30-point scorer of their own and two girls in double figures backing her up. Nyeshia Stevenson recorded 31 points and 5 steals; Amanda Thompson added 17 points and 14 rebs, and Danielle Robinson had 16 points. Depth may have also played a factor, as Kentucky's currently fielding an eight-woman team, none of whom had a lot of answers for Oklahoma's top three women who, by and large, never left the court and never slowed down a step.
It's not UConn, and they're not skippered by a barking madwoman like Kim Mulkey, but this unlikely Oklahoma team has survived the parity-happy Big 12 (and done it sans the Paris girls) to stack the Final Four in their conference's favor. The Sooners will face top-seeded Stanford first, Sunday night at 7:00.
Hearing the cheerleaders for any of UConn's poor, floundering opponents yell "DE-FENSE!" is pretty painful, but when Bob Wischusen said Florida State had given the Husky Ladies their best game of the tourney, he wasn't kidding. Of course, at that point UConn led 64-34, but moral victories are about all that's available when Geno Auriemma and his merry band of basket-killers occupy the opposite bench.
For much of the first half, this looked like it might actually be a ballgame. FSU took three minutes to score their first bucket, but managed to keep UConn's lead in the six- to seven-point range for quite some time. Maya Moore had two fouls early and spent the last 13 minutes of the half on the bench, which may have contributed to some false sense of hope -- though the 'Noles trailed 28-42 at halftime, Moore came back with a fierceness in the second and a 20-point lead was not long in coming.
In her absence, Tina Charles led UConn with a first-half double-double, with 16 points and eleven rebounds. Moore ended up with 22 points and eight rebounds in just 20 minutes. Final score: UConn 90, FSU 50. It's the fourth time the Husky Ladies have cracked 90 points this tournament, and the first time any opponent has managed to get out of the thirties against them. In this year's tournament, against this UConn team, that really is what passes for a successful campaign.
The NCAA Women's basketball tournament concludes Elite Eight play tonight with UConn, Florida State, Kentucky, and Oklahoma contending in Dayton and Kansas City for Final Four bids. Who will join Baylor and Stanford in San Antonio? (OK, who besides UConn?)
• 7:03 p.m. No. 1 UConn vs. No. 3 Florida State
FSU already dropped one to the Husky Ladies this year, an ugly, lopsided 78-59 loss in late December. Have the 'Noles made twenty points' worth of improvement? Yeah, probably not. Still, if you like your entertainment in the true Roman fashion, this will be the game to watch.
• 9:07 p.m. No. 3 Oklahoma vs. No. 4 Kentucky
Will the Lady Wildcats carry the pride of the Bluegrass State to the promised land in place of Calipari's brood? Or will the She-Sooners add another Big 12 banner to the Final Four festivities? Stay tuned.
Both games will be broadcast on ESPN. For more women's basketball coverage, visit SBN's Swish Appeal.
Sacramento, CA (Sports Network) – Jeanette Pohlen drove the length of the court and hit a layup at the buzzer to lift the top-seeded Stanford Cardinal to a 55-53 victory over the third-seeded Xavier Musketeers in the Sacramento Regional final of the NCAA Tournament.
Kayla Pedersen posted 18 points and 10 rebounds for Stanford (35-1), which will take on either third-seeded Oklahoma or fourth-seeded Kentucky in the Final Four. Nnemkadi Ogwumike added 16 points and 14 rebounds for the Cardinal, who are making their 23rd straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Amber Harris scored 20 points in defeat for Xavier (30-4). The Musketeers also got 11 points from April Phillips and 10 points from Dee Dee Jernigan.
Stanford led 26-24 at intermission despite shooting only 25 percent from the floor in the first half.
Over the final 20 minutes, the Musketeers missed all nine of their three- pointers, enabling the Cardinal to squeak out the win.
This game marked the first-ever meeting between Xavier and Stanford.
No one on Baylor or Duke's women's basketball teams can shoot a successful field goal. (This is a slight exaggeration.) No one on Baylor or Duke's women's basketball teams can shoot a successful three-pointer. (This is not an exaggeration, at all. Respective percentages here read 17% and 18%, with San Antonio on the line.)
By the end of this one, even the announcers sounded exasperated at all the unnecessary, forced, and otherwise ill-advised shot-taking going on in Memphis, but a trip to the Final Four is a trip to the Final Four, and if you're shooting 34% from the field (BAYLOR.) it's all right as long as the other team's stat sheet reads 23%. (It took six minutes for Duke to make its first FG. Six. Baylor didn't make a three-point shot until seven minutes into the second half.) The good news, if there's any to be had, is that all comers were knocking down free throws like they were playing on Fisher-Price hoops.
Baylor had trouble with Duke's zone play all night, and She-Devil Karima Christmas notched a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds. Jasmine Thomas added 16 points of her own, and for most of the second half Duke seemed content to sit on a four-to-seven point lead, abscond with loose balls (Joy Cheek had four steals) and get chippy with Brittney Griner. A Melissa Jones steal just before the two-minute mark made things interesting, however, cutting the Blue Devils' lead to a mere point. Griner got the go-ahead bucket with 44 seconds on the clock, and ensuing free throws extended the Lady Bears' lead to 51-48.
What followed was embarrassingly emblematic of what had transpired all night: a missed Duke three-shot, a weird possession arrow dilemma with 11.5 seconds remaining (almost like the officiating crew recognized that no one on this court deserved a Final Four berth), and ... another missed three to leave the final score where it was. Griner finished a block away from a triple-double, with 15 points and 11 rebounds, managed not to officially punch anyone (her one "accidental" thrown elbow was positively artful) and set the record for most blocks in NCAA tournament history with at least one game still ahead of her.
So the She-Bears survive and advance, and despite all the bad basketball tonight this is empirically a good thing, because Baylor coach Kim Mulkey, if you've never seen her, is like an angry golden poodle that wandered out of a Dallas galleria or off the set of "Justified," a helmet-haired fireplug of a woman who may be a legitimate, actual crazy person. This makes her excellent television, and her continued success should be applauded accordingly. Just as long as she tells her girls to keep drawing fouls, they should be just fine.
It's getting real for the ladies, y'all. The NCAA women's Elite Eight kicks off tonight for the Memphis and Sacramento regional championships. Up first:
• No. 2 Duke vs. No. 4 Baylor
One school out of 300+ still has both teams in the tournament, and naturally, it's Duke. The boy Blue Devils made fast work of the He-Bears over the weekend despite a valiant comeback effort; can their female counterparts find an answer for Baylor She-Beast Brittney Griner? We'll find out at 7:03 tonight on ESPN.
• No. 1 Stanford vs. No. 3 Xavier
So far this season, no one's had an answer for the Lady Cardinal save UConn, and that's mercifully a problem they don't have to address just yet. Stanford's lone loss came on December 23 in Storrs, while Xavier struggled early on against lesser luminaries Michigan, Michigan State and LSU. Neither squad has lost since December, but somebody's going home for good tonight. 9:07, ESPN.
For more women's basketball coverage, visit SBN's Swish Appeal.
• No. 1 UConn 74, No. 4 Iowa State 36
UConn continues to mow through opponents at a leisurely pace, playing no starter more than 27 minutes. (Those 25 points Maya Moore racked up? Took 20 minutes.) Of course, when the first-half score is 42-14, you're afforded the luxury of easing off the gas just a bit. Swish Appeal does the math:
Someone on ESPN today told me that UConn had won all three of its games in the NCAA tournament strictly on the basis of first-half scoring output - if UConn had scored zero points in the second half, they would have won those three games anyway. I decided to extend that to UConn's regular season to see if UConn would have a winning record if they were just held to their first half offensive output.
Oddly enough, UConn was suprisingly good. At one point, they were 14-9 early on in the season [...] Their Big East season record was 7-9.
7-9, by the way, would still have beat seven teams' full-game Big East records this season.
• No. 3 Oklahoma 77, No. 2 Notre Dame 72
Notre Dame was the toughest 2-seed in the entire bracket, and it wasn't close. Remember that only an unfortunate late-season stretch in the Big East lobster pot (the Irish were undefeated until meeting UConn in January, and didn't lose another game for a month) kept them from a top slot. Remember too that they already beat Oklahoma once this season, way back in November. In overtime, however, the Sooners are undefeated this season, and a beautiful 3-shot from Nyeshia Stevenson sends them to the Eight.
• No. 4 Kentucky 76, No. 1 Nebraska 67
One Kentucky team showed up to play basketball this weekend, and it wasn't Coach Cal's. Nebraska became the second top seed to fall to a fourth-ranked team this weekend, and after tying it up 16-16 nine minutes into the game, it was never close again. The Huskers' Kelsey Griffin was everywhere at once, recording the game's only double-double, but she's headed home and Kentucky's prepping for Oklahoma.
• No. 3 Florida State 74, No. 7 Mississippi State 71
The women's bracket is so neat and tidy, don't you think? And Florida State is the OxiClean of women's basketball. Just look at the ladylike fashion in which unwelcome lower seeds are swept away! With the demise of Mississippi State, the lowest remaining teams are 4-seeds Baylor and Kentucky, and it's Florida State's diligent commitment to housecleaning that's the real story here. Not a trace of upstart remains! Those girls are going to make great wives someday. (They can start as soon as next week, since they're staring down a date with the UConn buzzsaw tomorrow night.)
Wrapping up NCAAW Sweet 16 play, Sunday offers:
• 12:04 p.m. (ESPN) No. 1 UConn vs. No. 4 Iowa State
• 2:32 p.m. (ESPN2) No. 3 Florida State vs. No. 7 Mississippi State
• 7:34 p.m. (ESPN2) No. 2 Notre Dame vs. No. 3 Oklahoma
• 9:30 p.m. (ESPN2) No. 1 Nebraska vs. No. 4 Kentucky
(Before you ask, men's Elite Eight action doesn't tip off until 2:20, so there's plenty of time to catch that Husky Lady bloodbath. Todd Blackledge says, "Mmmmmm.")
No, for real. Lowly upstart San Diego State is gone. Georgia got mauled. Both Gonzaga teams are no more. and the lone upset was a piddly four-seed (Baylor, knocking off Tennessee in a truly abysmal game).
• No. 4 Baylor 77, No. 1 Tennessee 62. Rocky Top Talk:
Thirteen missed field goal attempts in a row.
If anybody needs to find a reason for the loss, look no further than that number, as that was how Tennessee performed from the 7:53 mark to the 1:05 mark. In the same time span, Baylor went 6-9 from the floor and 8-9 from the free throw line. The most frustrating part of this to Vols fans (and, once they review the game, to the Lady Vols) is that the difference had nothing to do with effort. Baylor simply made better shot selections, while Tennessee took tough, ill-advised shots. And as the scoring differential grew, Tennessee became more impatient and rushed their shots, exacerbating their problems and hurting themselves.
In today's lesson, the Lady Bears played within themselves while the Lady Vols tried to do too much. Tennessee may very well have the most talent on the floor of any team in the country (yes, including UConn), but it's talent that has to learn to play with control at all times, for all 40 minutes of every game.
• No. 1 Stanford 73, No. 5 Georgia 36. DawgSports: "I mean, dang."
• No. 3 Xavier 74, No. 7 Gonzaga 56. This one could have been interesting. The Zags grab national attention once a year, and with the boys of both Gonzaga and St. Mary's out of the way all WCC eyes turned to the She-Zags. And then they went and lost, although it was at least for a reason -- Xavier had four players in double figures and an evident talent differential on both ends of the court.
• No. 2 Duke 66, No. 11 San Diego State 58. The last possible Cinderella bids the ball adieu, unless you count 7th-seeded Mississippi State, and really, how excited can one get about a single-digit seed upset? All at once, the Aztecs were no match for the She-Devils' Jasmine Thomas and her 29 points, and any hopes of hearing Aztec human sacrifice jokes on live air have had their beating hearts ripped quite asunder.
Now. Let's not speak of this again. Bring on the next UConn victim and let's keep this gladiator show rolling, shall we?
The first day of Sweet 16 play in the women's NCAA tournament features two top seeds (Tennessee and Stanford), two SEC teams (Tennessee and Georgia), the lowest remaining seeded team in the bracket (San Diego State), and the fightin'est player remaining in the field now that Andrea Riley's been eliminated (Baylor's Brittney Griner). Schedule of events is as follows:
• 12:04 p.m. (ESPN) No. 1 Tennessee vs. No. 4 Baylor
• 2:00 p.m. (ESPN) No. 2 Duke vs. No. 11 San Diego State
• 9:04 p.m. (ESPN) No. 1 Stanford vs. No. 5 Georgia
• 11:32 p.m. (ESPN2) No. 3 Xavier vs. No. 7 Gonzaga
For more fine tourney coverage, visit SBN's Swish Appeal.
Highlights from the final night of second-round play in the women's NCAA tournament:
• No. 4 Iowa State 60 - No. 12 Wisconsin-Green Bay 56
The Phoenix actually led at the half! By five whole points! WGB's Kayla Tetschlag had more points on her own than any two Cyclone players put together! She's only human, and there's only one of her, however, and so Iowa State knocks off the lowest-seeded team remaining in the tournament. Nobody likes teams that do this. Especially the basketball gods. You can tell, because Iowa State has a date with the UConn buzzsaw on Sunday. Bye, Iowa State. (Nothing against them personally, but wouldn't we all have much preferred to see a 12-seed team with their league's first bid take on UConn? You never know.)
• No. 1 Nebraska 83 - No. 8 UCLA 70
Anyone interested in stopping the No. 1s in this tournament? [crickets] Anyone interested in building a healthy lead over the newest No. 1 team only to fritter it away and see their own tourney dreams dashed? UCLA, hey! The pride of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, Nikki Caldwell is nurturing a great program out in Westwood, and had four players in double figures tonight, but an 11-3 lead early on turned into a 10-point slide by the end of the first half, and the Huskers never looked back.
• No. 3 Oklahoma 60 - No. 11 Arkansas-Little Rock 44
Dammit, can one hyphenated upstart survive the neat, tidy, and apparently impenetrable seeding order of the women's bracket? Not tonight. A paltry 13 first-half points from ALR aren't going to get you anywhere, even against Georgetown or Baylor. Abi Olajuwon had a double-double evening (yep, she's one of those Olajuwons), which is nice for her. Oh, and one three-point shot went in all game. One. ALR was 0-16 and OU 1-7. Can we bounce both these teams and keep Green Bay alive instead? That'd be all right. Just terrible.
• No. 11 San Diego State 64 - No. 3 West Virginia 55
Will you look at that. One got through! The next-highest seeded teams in the Sweet 16 are 7-spots Gonzaga and Mississippi, and to make the Eight SDSU has only to get by Duke, who were very nearly ejected by a subpar LSU team over the weekend. It could happen. (Note to She-Devils: Jene Morris and Quenese Davis were responsible for about two-thirds of the points scored by SDSU tonight, and so far this tournament it hasn't really occurred to any one to put bodies on them them.) (And a note to those wondering why on earth they should care about a team with "State" on their jerseys: Please understand that, as (presumably) a fan of entertaining sports coverage, you want a team called the "Aztecs" to remain on the air as long as possible, because the more games they play on television, the likelier it is for some announcer to make a human sacrifice joke.
For liveblogs, commentary, and other fine tourney coverage, visit SBN's Swish Appeal.
Highlights from the final night of second-round play in the women's NCAA tournament:
• No. 1 UConn 90 - No. 8 Temple 36
Let's get this out of the way right off the bat and admit what we all know in the marrow of our bones to be true: UConn is a machine. And it's getting smarter. Even their fans seem incredulous at this point, watching win after brutalizing win unfold. Temple scored twelve points in the first half. It took UConn 15 minutes to triple them up, 44-11. The Lady Huskies shot 78% from the floor in the first half, 62% overall, and 71% from beyond the arc. All but one player had at least one basket to her credit. Their lone double-double came from Kelly Faris, who didn't even start. I'm just listing facts here because I'm still a little agog at what just happened. Even by modern Auriemma-led standards, this was a gladiator show. Go ahead and start pitying their next opponent right now.
• No. 3 Xavier 63 - No. 6 Vanderbilt 62
Fully half of the SEC women's teams made the NCAA tournament; Vandy is the second squad to fall in the round of 32. After tying up the first half and trailing most of the second, Xavier escaped the evening's only remotely close game by the grace of a well-timed layup by Amber Harris with less than thirteen seconds on the clock. Harris led all scorers with 21 points and seven rebounds. The Musketeers will be joining the Xavier men in a Sweet 16 matchup of their own, facing Gonzaga this Saturday.
• No. 2 Notre Dame 84 - No. 10 Vermont 66
The Catamounts had a ten-point lead at one point in the first half ... a lead that quickly spiraled into a ten-point deficit before halftime, and from which they never recovered. Don't forget: before a nasty stretch at the end of the regular season that pitted Notre Dame against the rest of the loaded Big East field and left them with a 12-4 conference record, the Irish were projected as a top seed themselves, and it's performances like Skylar Diggins' tonight that recall that. The hometown pride of South Bend had 31 points and seven steals and barely left the court, logging 33 minutes of play.
• No. 7 Mississippi State 87 - No. 2 Ohio State 67
Now here? Is an upset with panache. Mississippi State has its first Sweet 16 berth in school history, and earned it hanging an extra 20 on a top-ten Ohio State team -- the same team that unceremoniously booted the Bulldogs from the tournament last year. Senior guard Alexis Rack scored a cool 30 points while leading the team in assists and blocks and generally making anyone in a Buckeye uniform look a little ridiculous trying to keep up.
For liveblogs, commentary, and other fine tourney coverage, visit SBN's Swish Appeal.
For everyone who comments in tonight’s thread, ignore any and all points scored by UConn in the first 10 minutes of the game. Thank you.
Something tells me this won’t make much of a difference. Follow along in their open thread hyah.
The second night of competition in the NCAA women's round of 32 means two things: Connecticut whaling on some poor bunch of girls, and everybody else. Tipoff times are as follows, all on ESPN2:
7:06 No. 1 Connecticut vs. No. 8 Temple
7:06 No. 3 Xavier vs. No. 6 Vanderbilt
7:11 No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Mississippi State
7:16 No. 2 Notre Dame vs. No. 10 Vermont
9:35 No. 1 Nebraska vs. No. 8 UCLA
9:40 No. 3 West Virginia vs. No. 11 San Diego State
9:40 No. 4 Iowa State vs. No. 12 Wisconsin-Green Bay
9:45 No. 3 Oklahoma vs. No. 11 Arkansas-Little Rock
Three double-digit seeds remain. Number ones are undefeated in this year's tournament. For more tourney coverage check back here later in the evening and visit SBN's women's hoops blog, Swish Appeal.
Highlights from the first night of second-round play in the women's NCAA tournament:
• No. 1 Stanford 96 - No. 8 Iowa 67
It was a home crowd for the Cardinal and for senior Rosalyn Gold-Onwude, who put on a 26-point show in her final home game. Nnemkadi Ogwumike added 23 points, and Stanford rolled despite leaving Iowa's Kachine Alexander to her own devices. Alexander amassed 27 points and led the team in steals, assists, and blocks in a valiant one-woman effort, but Stanford has five who can score just like her. And speaking of those five, they're about all we're seeing right now. Stanford's doing it all with the starters -- only two bench players even scored points for the Cardinal. All five starters scored in double figures; all logged at least 23 minutes on the court, and three played at least 30. It's a strategy that's working for them so far, and with the dangerously balanced UConn way over on the other side of the bracket, it's something they might not even have to worry about changing up until the finals.
• No. 7 Gonzaga 72 - No. 2 Texas A&M 71
The first of Monday's two upsets was sweet bracket revenge for Gonzaga. A day after their men's team was steamrolled by Syracuse, the ladies kept it alive by taking out perhaps the weakest 2-seed from the parity-packed Big 12. The Aggies trailed for most of the game, at times by as much as 13 points. By the time Gonzaga star Courtney Vandersloot fouled out, it was almost a relief -- she turned the ball over eleven times between tipoff and the bench. Vivian Frieson filled in the stat sheet admirably, leading both teams in crucuial categories including 23 points and nine rebounds.
• No. 5 Georgia 74 - No. 4 Oklahoma State 71
Oklahoma State survived the first round without the suspended Andrea Riley, but stumbled upon her return in the second -- Riley racked up 31 ultimately futile points in her final outing as a Cowgirl and missed what would have been the game-tying shot in overtime. Georgia's freshman Jasmine James is fast becoming a holy terror, notching 27 points and ten rebounds. Georgia's other double-double came courtesy of Angel Robinson, with 16 points and 15 rebounds. The Lady Dawgs can't get too comfortable with their upset win, not while staring down a Sweet 16 date with Stanford, a game that for nonpartisan observers may be the most strategically interesting third-round matchup. Georgia employs the same strict no-bench-players policy as the Cardinal, with four starters logging at least 40 minutes in last night's action. Next weekend's matchup may be decided purely on conditioning.
• No. 4 Baylor 49 - No. 5 Georgetown 33
Yes, this was a complete game, albeit a wretched one. If you tuned out after Georgetown's first basket seven and a half minutes in, nobody blames you and you weren't missing much. No Hoya players in double figures anywhere, and only one Lady Bear -- Morghan Medlock, with 11 points and 16 rebounds. The hallmark of this game was minutes-long stretches of scorelessness punctuated by exasperatingly frequent Baylor turnovers. Brittney Griner did set a tournament record for blocked shots with 14; we'll find out on Saturday whether Baylor's 6'8 monster can slow down Tennessee's scoreboard-pummeling game.
For more fine NCAAW tournament coverage, please patronize SBN's Swish Appeal.
Highlights from the first night of second-round play in the women's NCAA tournament:
• No. 1 Tennessee 92 - No. 8 Dayton 64
Dayton got here, you may remember, by beating TCU at the actual last second after trailing by 18, but its first tournament bid met a grisly end in Knoxville. It took the Lady Vols four minutes to establish their first double-digit lead, and it was full throttle from there for Pat Summitt's latest war machine. (Rumors that Tennessee's head coach was seem smiling a human smile on the sidelines cannot be confirmed at this time.) At no time was it a particularly exciting matchup, unless you like your lady hoopsters flirting with triple-doubles with the game well in hand. ESPN abandoned coverage in favor of actual contested games early on and didn't even cut back for the final minute. Alicia Manning had a career night with 17 points and ten rebounds, and did it coming off the bench.
• No. 2 Duke 60 - No. 7 LSU 52
This was sort of a head-scratching heartbreaker, as LSU committed turnover after inexplicable turnover but managed to hang with Duke until the final few minutes. Once the clock wound down to single digits, the harder the Lady Tigers played, the faster the Lady Devils widened the gap. This was one of Duke's lowest offensive outputs of the season, but tonight, it was enough. They await the winner of tomorrow's San Diego State-West Virginia matchup.
• No. 4 Kentucky 70 - No. 5 Michigan State 52
The Lady Wildcats haven't enjoyed the program success bestowed upon their male counterparts in Lexington, but they thrashed their way out of a low-scoring snoozer where plodding, single-digit stats were spread evenly across both squads with the aid of Victoria Dunlap, whose 21 points and eight rebounds were the only remotely entertaining part of the evening. After a steady drizzle of points in the first half, Kentucky outscored the Lady Spartans by 14 in the second. What remains to be seen is whether they can keep it together against a presumptive Sweet 16 date with top-seeded Nebraska.
• No. 3 Florida State 66 - No. 6 St. John's 65
Florida State is hard to root for right now, knocking off one of the 2010 tournament's favorite plucky upstarts in such cruel fashion, but they also have the year's most terrifying player in Cierra Bravard, who's got the eyes of a mako shark and hands that could crush a man's skull with little effort, so let's just say it's a real shame we don't get to see more of the Red Storm's Nadirah McKenith, a freshman guard who charges around the court like Ivory Latta, and leave it at that. This game went to overtime tied at 62, but Shenneika Smith let a pass slip through her fingers with nine seconds remaining and the 'Noles up by a point, and Da'Shena Stevens' last-second heave clanged off the rim. Congratulations, Florida State. Please don't hurt me, Cierra.
What America missed in the women's round of 64 this weekend, because there was boysketball on at the same time:
• Not a lot in the way of shockers, and certainly nothing in the vein of the first and third days of the men's tourney. Lots of the big score disparities you frequently find in women's college hoops, and four top seeds who (unsurprisingly) absolutely rolled their opponents.
• Zero upsets in Saturday's games. The closest score, much to the pride of the seeding committee, was No. 8 Dayton beating No. 9 TCU by a bare point, 67-66. The biggest scoreboard disparity was Duke's doing, with the No. 2 She-Devils hammering 15th-seeded Hampton 72-37.
• Sunday, things got interesting. 6th-seeded Vandy needed overtime to eke out an 83-76 victory over DePaul. In the way of actual upsets, we had No. 10 Vermont over No. 7 Wisconsin, 64-55; No. 11 Arkansas-Little Rock over No. 6 Georgia Tech, 63-53; No. 12 Wisconsin-Green Bay, the first Horizon League team to earn an at-large bid over No. 5 UVA, 69-67; and No. 11 San Diego State embarrassing 6th-seeded Texas, 74-63, in Austin. (Not a great year for Longhorns in postseason sports.)
• You may have heard about this basketball team they've got up in Connecticut. The Lady Huskies ... "rolled" doesn't quite begin to cover it when you outscore your opponents 95-39. Better luck (in landing out of UConn's region) next year, Southern. Geno Auriemma had his squad's fearsome depth on fine display, with only one player cracking 30 minutes on the court. Five UConn women scored in the double digits; Maya Moore and Tina Charles both went past 20 points.
The second round begins tonight with No. 1 Tennessee facing No. 8 Dayton on the Lady Vols' home court in Knoxville. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:06, and will be followed by Duke-LSU, St. John's-Florida State, and Michigan State-kentucky in the first wave of games. For more on this first game, see Rocky Top Talk's open thread, and for fine coverage of other tourney goings-on, visit SB Nation's Swish Appeal.
Overall No. 1 seed UConn, you may have noticed, is mowing a wide swath through women's college hoops. What's their secret? Simple: They're abominably talented, with depth enough to afford everyone frequent breaks (only one player has played a full 40-minute game, and that only happened once this season). Oh, and they're programmed to not get tired:
With only 11 players, coach Geno Auriemma choreographs practices with precision, making sure the work gets done without exacting a major toll.
To do that, he has mixed in male practice players and given players with nagging conditions, such as Caroline Doty (knee) and Lorin Dixon (hamstring), occasional days to rest. And through 33 games, the strategy seems to be paying off.
As their current win streak first breaks and now threatens to shatter their own consecutive victories record with a successful tournament run, yes, "paying off" would be a fair assessment. "Meticulously calibrated killing machine" would be my choice of words.
The Southern University Jaguars went 23-8 this season, which culminated in a SWAC Championship and an automatic bid in the Women’s NCAA Tournament. What they lacked in RPI rankings (# 198), they made up for with a gritty determination not to make it yet another NIT season.
The Jaguars have earned their right this season and for all of their hard work, all of their passion and all of their determination, they get the opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament….against the UConn Huskies.
Well…it’s been a nice season, Southern.
The 2010 NCAA Women's Basketball Championship bracket is out, and before you ask: That song from the selection show you're using a screwdriver to bore out of your head right this minute is "History in the Making" by Darius Rucker (yes, Hootie hath wrought this beast), and there is no known cure. Highlights from the bracket follow:
• First and last in: No. 1 Stanford, No. 16 UC Riverside.
• UNC scrapes in low at a 10-seed, and they have to go to Sacramento to play for it.
• Oklahoma State's Andrea Riley will be absent from the tourney opener against Chattanooga, serving a one-game suspension for a fight that happened in year before last's tournament.
• First and last in: No. 1 Nebraska, No. 16 Northern Iowa.
• No. 14 South Dakota State is 2-for-2 in tourney bids since becoming eligible for D-I postseason play, and will face No. 3 Oklahoma.
• Notre Dame falls to a 2-seed after a brutal end-season stretch that took them through the other four ranked teams in the Big East. UConn alone is responsible for three of their five losses.
• First and last in: No. 1 Tennessee, No. 16 Austin Peay.
• 8th-seeded Dayton earns its first bid in school history.
• Like the Sacramento region, the 1-16 matchup is an in-state rivalry game. Unlike the Stanford-Riverside tilt, one team already has a losing record. The Governesses (may not be actual mascot) are 15-17 and finished third in the Ohio Valley conference. And even though they're hosting the regional openers in Knoxville, the Lady Vols can't be too happy with their placement -- they're on the same side of the bracket as the Lady Huskies for the first time since 1999, meaning another classic UT-UConn final is already an impossibility.
• First and last in: No. 1 UConn, No. 16 Southern, whom Trey Wingo called "Southwestern," not that anyone will need to know their name for very long, because, again, UConn.
• Green Bay's at-large selection is the first for the Horizon League.
• Geno Auriemma continues to age backwards. He's starting to look like a younger Pat Summitt. You may remember Tennessee and UConn no longer play a regular-season rivalry game, so we have to ask: the hell kind of Dorian Gray scheme do those two have going on?
The first round of games tips off at noon Saturday on ESPN2, and the entirety of the tournament will be available online at ESPN360. For more women's tourney coverage in the coming days, check out the fine work at SBN's Swish Appeal.
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