Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Guru's AP Women's Poll History: Some Updated Notes Thru Monday's Release

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

Here are the best current streaks of significant numbers by teams in the AP Women’s Poll thru the vote of 11/23/15 .

1. Tennessee 537 weeks. Began Feb. 17, 1985 after 10-wk drought and runs across 30 seasons.

2. Connecticut 415 weeks. Began Preseason 93/94 and runs across 222 seasons

3. Duke 344 weeks. Began Preseason 97/98 and runs across 18 seasons.

4. Stanford 261 weeks. Began 01/02 and runs across 14 seasons.

5. Baylor 225 weeks. Began week 9 Jan. 5, 2004 and runs across 12 seasons.

6. Notre Dame 158 weeks. Began Preseason 07/08 and runs across 8 seasons.

7. Texas A&M 118 weeks. Began 11/16/09 2nd week and runs across 6 seasons.

8. Maryland 100 weeks. Began preseason 10/11 and runs across 5 seasons.

Huskies/Lady Vols Domination

Connecticut, which was set to host Kansas State in Hartford Monday night (we will be on the scene), made its 400th Top 10 appearance this week, and its 111 appearances in the top 10 for the decade is a perfect market as is the Huskies 111 Top 5 appearances.

UConn has also moved ahead of Louisiana Tech for all time poll appearances at 448, which is 5th behind Tennessee 680. Georgia 522. Texas 484. and Stanford, 479.

Connecticut has made 187 appearances as No. 1. Tennessee is second at 112. The fastest the Lady Vols could catch UConn at this moment is to become No. 1 and stay there just short of four seasons, using about a 19-week polling term as a guestimate. Louisiana Tech is third at 83 and Texas at 47 is fourth. It would take the Longhorns over seven straight seasons to catch the Huskies for overall No. 1.
Tennessee as a program has missed just 14 poll appearances as we reach overall week 694 in the 40th anniversary season. The Vols have made 680 appearances overall.

Notre Dame made its 100th Top 10 appearance in the decade.

Oklahoma's Sherri Coale and Duke's Joanne P. McCallie have moved into a three-way tie for 22nd with former Maryland coach Chris Weller on the all-time appearance list at 227, just ahead of Theresa Grentz (225) who has bumped some people back on the active list with her return to the sidelines coaching at Lafayette College.

Arizona State's Charlie Turner Thorne made her 100th poll appearance.

Of the top 28 on the all-time coaching appearance list only former Penn State coach Rene Portland (9th), Seattle coach Joan Bonvicni (18th), Maryland's Brenda Frese (26th) and former Western Kentucky and Nebraska coach Paul Sanderford (28th) are not members of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn.

 -- Mel

Baylor has tied Rutgers for overall Top 10 appearances with 190 for 10th in the all time list.

Mike Siroky's SEC Notebook: Conference Top Heavy With Ranked Teams Out of the Early Going

By Mike Siroky

There may be more conferences with individual powerhouses, but consider the Southeastern Conference of women’s basketball is the only league with three in the top 10, four in the Top 12 or five in the Top 13 of the Associated Press poll.

 Those ranked teams rocketed through Week 2 unscathed, even as the SEC/ACC challenge got under way with an overtime matchup of ranked teams.

The league is 32-8 against the world this season.

*No. 2 South Carolina went to Clemson, then headed to UCLA.

Clemson was not a challenge, the Gamecocks establishing that with a 20-9 opening quarter and a 27-8 third. Those starts to each half resulted in a 67-41 in-state runaway.

Everyone played well, but the conference’s best, Tiiffany Mitchell played best. She had 18 with four steals.

Coach Dawn Staley was discouraged with the lackluster effort and the need to rely on her guards.

''Every time we step on the floor we need to look like national champions and not take two steps back,'' said Staley.  “Our post players didn't come to play today. When they shoot 20 percent from the floor in the first half, it's hard to keep going in there.'

The game at unranked UCLA started out contentiously. The Bruins led at the first stop but SC took the lead with an 11-3 run for its largest lead of the game, with points from five players. It was 32-31 at the half. UCLA was hanging around by hitting all eight free throws despite being outrebounded by 16. No one was in double-figures.

 Neither team could fool the other. It ended 68-65 with SC winning the fourth quarter by six after allowing eight straight to close the third. A Tina Roy 3 and an A’Ja Wilson jumper put them ahead with eight minutes left. Each side had misses and makes with UCLA leading  by one with 4:41 to go.
Two baskets –Mitchell and Coates on an assist by Mitchell  -- to one by UCLA had the visitors up by two with 80 seconds left.

The best player took over. Mitchell continued to steady the team and made the final free throws, 6-of-6 at the line overall. A 3 at the buzzer was too little too late. SC was 4–0 hours after Kentucky gained that mark. SC hit six of its final seven shots, UCLA two of seven
Mitchell and Roy each scored 17. The two others in double figures had double-doubles, Coates with a dozen points and rebounds and Wilson with 11 and 10.  Only 2,018 came to Pauley Pavilion.
SC’s four-year players are 89-16. The school record four-year mark is 113, reached last year.
SC will play three games in three nights in Hawaii at the Rainbow Wahine Showdown

*No. 4 Tennessee welcomed in Penn State, which had a terrible season last year and fell away from qualifying for the NCAA draw. UT starts with eight home games.

Penn State was ready, keeping it at 19-18 early up y four at half then allowing the Lions to open the second half 5-0.

No worries.

For some strange reason, Bashaara Graces was the designated sitter this game but she hit her first five shots and first four free throws to keep UT ahead heading into the final quarter.

Even though it was not a superlative effort, UT held on, 74-66. The vanquished were happier than the victors. Graves finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds. Freshman point Te’a Cooper and returning center Mercedes Russell each scored 14, Russell with 14 rebounds.

Graves credits her team mates with the effort.

 "I just came in knowing I wanted to play hard,” she said  That's all I did. It came easy when you're out there playing hard and having fun.

" I just got comfortable. I knew I could take them off the dribble, and I did that. Just trying to get rebounds, that's just what I do. Rebounding is first in my game plan coming into the game."

“My teammates we're getting me great passes, and I was getting great looks from them. When you just play, and play hard, you don't notice anything else.”

Then No. 23 Syracuse arrived and 10,007 came to see it.

In a very well-contested game, Tennessee struggled to a 57-55 win. Last season UT lost to several ranked teams early.

Early in the second half, Tennessee had seven more rebounds and was still losing.
Graves, in the starting lineup, as 6-of-6 with seven rebounds as UT ended the third quarter on an 11-0 run. It’s where the game was won.

Graves made a layup with 2:48 left and the Lady Vols were up 57-55. No one scored again.

Syracuse’s last points came at 5:12. Graves finished with 16 and 10 rebounds.

In those closing minutes, the Orange attempted three 3s and missed two free throws. UT missed its only jumper.

Russell had the last defensive rebound, her seventh, with six seconds left. She also scored 13. Graves had a block and Cooper a steal in the closing minutes.

DeShields has yet to bust out a game f any impact. She is coming off the bench and had zero points.

There is evidently more rust than anticipated on the projected All-American.

Tennnessee coach Holly Warlick said, “We played well down the stretch and got the win. I'm really proud of our kids. There are a lot of things we can get better at and learn. We haven't had a chance to practice since we have so many games back-to-back. At the end, basketball players make plays, and I thought we got some big stops. We got some big steals at the end and won the basketball game.”

She said among the works in progress is her freshman point guard.

"I think Te'a does some good things, then I think she does some freshman things. That is what we have to work out,”

*No. 10 Mississippi State had Grambling at home in a TMZ rival matchup – they knew them before they were famous.

State exceeded 100 in the 107-43 win. Most dismal for Grambling was the 29-5 third. It is hard to evaluate what actually happened beyond the stat line.

Victoria Vivians found her groove after halftime: 8-of-8 from the field including five 3s. She finished with 22, all but one in the second half.

Rookie 6-7 center Tearia McCowan introduced herself to the 3,472 home fans with a double-double, 22 points anf 11 rebounds off the bench in 14 minutes.

Defensively, State got 40 points off 29 Grambling turnovers.

“Our kids deserve a lot of credit for how they made Grambling play,” MSU coach Vic Schaefer said.

“I am really proud of how the kids played. We did a great job of getting the ball inside. I’m really pleased with how we shared the basketball. The second group that came on in the first half did a great job of sharing the basketball and flipping the floor.

“We did a great job of using our size today,” Schaefer said. “We had a huge advantage there and we really got on the boards. We had 34 offensive rebounds and that’s a great number. I was really proud of how we attacked. We hit seven 3-point shots in the second half and that opened up the inside even more.”

*No. 11 Texas A&M went to No. 14 Duke and then played at home to a traditional rival, TCU.
Against Duke, the Aggies fashioned a one-point halftime edge as non-starting guard
guard Chelsea Jennings scored six and third guard Jordan  Jones hit seven, on  3-of-4 from the field with four rebounds They needed every point, as it turned out.

The two Courtneys barely contributed in the opening half, Williams with five and Walker with four

For Duke Rebecca Greenwell hit 5-of-6 (two 3s) to lead everyone at the break with 14 on her way to 22.

Greenwell is a sophomore in eligibility (freshman redshirt) who hit 202 3s last season. She would have been on the Gold Medal World University Games team but had to withdraw with an illness at tournament time.

Duke eliminated Mississippi State from the NCAAs last season. They go to South Carolina and Kentucky next month.

A&M went relatively cold in the second half, at one point hitting just 35 percent from the field overall, while Duke was 10 percent better.

What that meant down the stretch was Williams made a jumper with 2:43 left which was immediately countered to put the home team ahead by a basket.

Time froe until Walker drew the defense to her then fed Khaalia Hillsman for a layup to tie it at 63 with 34 seconds left. Jones got her fourth defensive rebound but A&M missed it long, so, at least, there was overtime.

A&M made the most of it, 9-3, for the win. Walker made a jumper then Duke kept fouling and Walker, then Williams found success at the line

Walker finished with 22, Jones 14 and Williams a dozen. Walker had her second career double-double, with 11 rebounds.

A&M coach Gary Blair had never won a game at Duke.

“I’ve completed my bucket list, so you might not see me here again,” said Blair. “Everything about this program is just class. They’re going to get better and they’re going to compete to win in the ACC. But they’re going to take some lumps.”

“It was a great basketball game,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “It’s like an NCAA tournament game, which is good. There are just very, very good lessons for us. I thought we fought hard.

“The reality is that you have to play that way the entire game, not just when you’re coming back.”
Another final flurry led to the 82-78 A&M dismissal of TCU before 4,013 witnesses.

They were down by four with four minutes to go but Walker scored the last 4 of a 6-point burst. TCU tied it with free throws but the Aggies made their last six shots: Williams, two free throws then a basket by Walker, a layup by Chelsea Jennings. With 90 seconds left, Jennings got a defensive board and Joes made a layup. Walker hit the dagger with six seconds left.

Walker scored 23 with eight rebounds, Williams and Jones 17 each.  Jones was 8-of-1from the line.
“It’s not what we didn’t do, it’s what TCU did,” Blair observed.

“Over these years I’ve heard so many coaches get up here and complain. Why not just give TCU a little bit of credit? They stayed in the game because every time we would make a run and get the crowd into it, they would hit another one and another one.

“We felt like we were fighting hard the whole ball game just to get it to even. TCU is sort of the new kid on the block, sort of like we were. Now I think TCU is going to fit in the top four in the league over there. So I think they’re here to stay, but we’re not going anywhere either.”

But he does like his own team so far.

“The resiliency of this team is pretty amazing to me. My five seniors stepped up tonight. All five of them played big time minutes. It’s going to be a sad day when they graduate because we couldn’t really use our depth in this game. We only had nine turnovers, and our first six were in the first six minutes of the game.

“They played Wednesday night just like us, on the road. We were both playing off of fumes, pride, and talent. In the second half I knew our legs were gone so I said quit shooting the jump shots, take it in, drive, and try to get to the foul line.”

 Jordan Jones’ leadership impressed him.

“That girl played her butt off. 39 minutes, there’s no way she needs to be playing that many minutes back to back games coming off of ACL [surgery]. We would not have won that game had it not been for Jordan Jones and her senior leadership and what she could do.”

Texas A&M Sophomore Khaalia Hillsman said, “Our sense of urgency was not there in the first half). The Duke game took a lot out of us, and I think the fatigue got to us. I think they came out with a whole bunch of intensity, and we didn’t match it in the first half.

 “We can’t be stuck in the past with Duke, because we didn’t come out right in this game. The next five practices will be really important since we do play Ohio State and Cal in Vegas.”

 Texas A&M Senior Courtney Williams, said, “Last year (against TCU), we were more focused because we didn’t just finish playing Duke. We weren’t hung up on the game before them. We more focused last year on just coming in and playing TCU. The distance (between)  the games last year helped.”

 With one more win, Blair will become the 16th women’s Division 1 coach to hit 700. No. 1 California visits Friday.

*No. 13 Kentucky welcomed in Morehead State, one of its traditional in-state opponents, to start a four-game homeset.

It added another win to the start of the season, 112-57. Alexis Jennings scored a career high 28, Janee Thompson 22 and Makayla Epps 21. Rising center Evelyn Akhator ruled the middle with eight rebounds on each end. Jennings had 13 rebounds and Epps 11, wit 12 assists for the league’s first triple double this year. It is the first time in 26 seasons that UK had three in double figures.

The 67 team rounds are a school record The 32  assists are one shy of the school record.
Coach Matt Mitchell is satisfied.

“I thought it was gonna be a tough game,” he said.

“Morehead State really battled in the first half. They were very aggressive and I thought they played harder than we did in the first half so I really challenged the team to come out in the second half and compete with a lot of intensity and I thought it got better in the second half.”

 As for his star’s triple-double:

“Love that. I thought that it was important for her tonight to prove to herself how much her conditioning has improved. She went all 40 minutes and she needed to do that and understand that we might be in that position again where she has to play a really big role,” Mitchell said.

“ It was a good night for her and she can play better, she will continue to get better. I thought that there were times in the game where all of us, not just Makayla but all of us, weren’t as mentally sharp as I would like them to be. But they’re a good, hard-working group and they will get better from this.

“It’s a big night for Epps, those are hard to come by, triple-doubles.”

The Kats became the first league team to 4-0 by walloping visiting Colorado, 86-61. It was doubled at the half, 42-21.Thompson led the well-balanced attack (nine scorers) with nine at the break

Akhator had six rebounds, five defensive. The Buffaloes did not hit 42 until the final quarter. UK coasted

This meeting of the fourth place team in the SEC vs the fourth place team in the Pac 12 demonstrates the idea of depth in the SEC. Thompson finished wih 17 points and seven assists. Four others hit double figures.

“I wanted them to reap some benefit for their great preparation for the game, and I thought they did,” Mitchell said.

“ We spent a lot of time on our offense the last three days and I think it was the best that we’ve executed in a very long time.

“We just really tried to work on our poise and our timing. Sometimes when you play at a frantic pace it’s hard to slow down. We tried our best to mix as much defensive work and preparation and I thought the first half we got them out of their style.”

Monday, November 16, 2015

Mike Siroky's SEC Notebook: Conference Loaded Again But Anyone to Stop UConn?

By Mike Siroky

The most powerful women’s basketball conference in the nation has had its usual eventful summer adventures of top players representing America on top international teams. One of them took the allowed European tour and got a jump start on practice and play as a team.

They have gathered on campuses across the Southeastern Conference to try and find identities as individual role players, as newly melded starting fives with additions.

Non-conference play – wherein the SEC annually has a better than .700 winning percentage against everyone else – started this weekend. The league went 17-3.

All are pointing towards Indianapolis and the coming Final Four.

The SEC has a legitimate chance to qualifying two there by being seeded as No. 1s in the big tournament and thus avoid – as recent history had proven – being steamrolled by UConn before the Final Four.

UConn will be in home state Bridgeport if it wants to be for its Regional.

The Huskies represents the forever truth is the women’s game: There is one truly elite team and everyone else is playing for No. 2 and the puncher’s chance (hello Ronda Rousey) in the showdown.

The best site for an SEC team will be Rupp Arena inn Lexington, Ky., not really a home arena for UK but at least in the same town.

The SEC tournament winner will land there.

Next best would be Sioux Falls, South Dakota because the other Regional is Dallas and resurgent Baylor will own that site. Would be nice if Texas A&M got there, too and avoided a threepeat as fodder for UConn.

We will continue to analyze and report on the ranked teams from the Associated Press poll in our weekly posts.

Last season, we were the only blog site to pick Tennessee as the SEC champ and, therefore, were the only one which got it right when they ended up as co-champs with South Carolina on the last day of the regular season.

SC is our No. 2 and Texas A&M as No. 3, slightly head of Mississippi State.

We choose Tennessee again on the premise you can only start five and the Lady Vol starters are as good as South Carolina’s. I am a sucker for a guard-oriented team.

But each has added a magnificent forward line player with experience. Each has an All-American caliber guard. The SC-UT game is Feb. 15 at Knoxville this season and that may be the tiebreaker for the regular-season title as the team that wins all of its home games for the past seasons has won the season title and that includes each team of last season’s tie.

For purists, it is the season struggle which means the most.

For money – and smaller conferences – the post season conference tournament is important and has been designated as the automatic bid to the NCAAs.

Should an also-ran win the SEC tournament, it means little as the top teams in conference (any team with a winning record) rides the conference strength of schedule and tradition into the draw anyway.

The NCAA is not required to award the automatic bid winner the best seed of conference competitors.

SC made its first Final Four. Tennessee, for the second straight season, was ended a game away by Maryland, now the best of the Big Ten.

*Holly Warlick is forging her own reputation as a coach, successfully following her mentor legend Pat Head Summitt. This year’s Tennessee team has none of Summitt’s recruits left, as the life calendar swiftly turns. Summitt did visit the first practice as a surprise start. She also was courtside for the first game.

In the coming seasons, the Lady Vol brand will also go away as the university has already erased it from all other women’s teams, but not basketball, in obvious deference to the ailing Summitt. A major uniform change has the Big Orange basically the Big Grey in its new system-wide look.

That is all backdrop of course, to the game and Warlick can present a mighty one.

Last season her starting center was lost in the closing weeks to a blown knee. It hobbled their remaining run.

This season, Mercedes Russell is here, all healed after a season of recovering from foot surgeries. She had a magnificent run as the rebounding leader of the USA Gold Medal team in the World University Games.

Another addition is All-American caliber guard Diamond DeShields, after sitting out her year of transfer from a devastated North Carolina team. She is a Lady Vol legacy (her mom lettered track at UT) and has since said she made a too-quick acceptance at North Carolina.

She was also on the Gold team with Russell but did not play as she was rehabbing her shins and feet. The coaches made her pre-season all-conference and AP made her preseason All-American. Not too much pressure before her first UT game. Senior forward Bashaara Graves joins her on the coaches’ preseason team.

DeShields averaged 18 points per game in her national Rookie-of-the-Year season. In the season opener, they had five players in double figures, including a career-best surprise double-double from Kortney Dunbar (24 points on 10-of-15) and from Russell (10 of 16), each with 13 rebounds.

But the new important ingredient is rookie point guard Te’a Cooper, the national high school guard of the year. She had 22 points, four steals and six assists in her debut. Tennessee has basically been without a dependable point guard for two seasons.

Yet another returnee after a year out is junior Jasmine Jones, sidelined last season with concussion problems. She is an SEC legacy as her mom lettered in hoops at Alabama.

Warlick said, “I don’t expect us to be at the very top of our game right now, but we are a team that is learning, getting better. I want to be more consistent on the defensive end.”

As for being ranked No 4 nationally to start the season, she said, some watching now would say, “Probably not. Maybe we aren’t top 100. I don’t care. We’re ranked fourth, and I’m loving it. You keep winning. When you keep winning, you stay where you are. Can we get better? Absolutely. That is why we play this game."

She has used flms of the 1985-86 Boston Celtics as a primer of how to play the game. She terms that team one of the best-ever in terms of cohesive play.

Ironically that was also season No. 1 in which the Lady Vols have been ranked wire-to-wire for 30 straight and the overall appearance streak obviously continues into Monday's AP women's poll, which is being raeleased after this column posts.

Counting several weeks ending 1984-85 and the current seasonal two weeks makes the Tennessee AP appearance run far better than anyone else, though UConn, which came later, is second behind the Lady Vols

Of DeShields’ opening play, Warlick said, "You saw why Diamond came to Tennessee, to have the opportunity to play with a team. That is not saying anything to slam North Carolina. I just think she wanted to have the opportunity to play a solid game.

“She is an unbelievable passer. I will say this about Diamond DeShields. Not too many people have a feel for the game. She has an unbelievable feel for the game. She sees the floor. That is hard to teach.

“Players like that can see things develop two to three plays before they happen, and that is one solid thing that Diamond has. I told her before she went in, `Enjoy this. You have been out for a year and couple months. This is what you wanted. This is why you came to Tennessee. Have fun.’

“She has. Her attitude here has been unbelievable. We haven’t had any problems whatsoever. She loves the game, and her getting back on the court was the most important thing for her."

*You’d think South Carolina, already loaded and with the proven best player in the conference – senior guard Tifany Mitchell – would not have any surprises.

Overlooked in these goofy national recruitment analyses are the new phenomena of players who can transfer in to a proven program and be eligible now, having graduated with eligibility left. Shades of the old AIAW no-waiting rule.

These are proven commodities who are here to be used, not projects who may develop or flee after a year or two. And they are impactful. .SC accepted only one incoming freshman but a formidable frontline got even better.

All-ACC player Sarah Imovbioh, brings more than 1,000 career points and more than 700 career rebounds from Virginia. She graduated and has a year of eligibility left. She gives SC five players at 6-2 or better.

In a substantial early-season win against visiting Ohio State, a Top 10 program, the Gamecocks outscored the Buckeyes, 52-20, in the paint.

"Our posts are our best passers to each other," coach Dawn Staley said. ‘I’m glad that they were able to make a connection. I’m also glad they weren’t able to make a connection so that they could see what they need to correct in those types of situations. And, Sarah Imovbioh -- we don’t win the game without her. We don’t win the game without her experience, her agility, her aggressiveness and her willingness to get back in transition. This type of game pays big dividends for her and her speed."

If SC were as free as UConn, in terms of no conference competition, they might go undefeated, with five proven seniors and four proven juniors.

Another player who will not make the recruiting assessments but who will immediately impact the Gamecocks next season is another All-ACC player Alisha Grey, with more than 1,000 points and more thsn 700 rebounds in two seasons at North Carolina. Gray’s last game for NC was a two-point loss to her new team in the Greensboro Regional. She has two seasons of eligibility. She also considered joining DeShields at UT or going to be the big Kat at Kentucky.

Back to the transfer vs. recruitment idea: NC once had the top recruiting class in the country, before an academics scandal was revealed. Two seasons after, there are none left.

But, as Staley said of the competition, “It makes our league attractive. The players are coming to play in the best league in the country. The SEC has the best competition. I don’t think there is a question what league is the best league in the nation. I don’t think any other conference can say we got a fight each night.”

Guard A’ja Wilson, the conference rookie of the year last season is the second Gamecock on the preseason coaches’ All-conference team. She played in the most games (37) last year. She was on the Gold Medal Under-19 World Championship team this summer.

*There is no doubt Gary Blair had the most disappointing ending to any of his previous seasons. They closed with two losses and were erased in the opening round of the elimination games.

But he remains the kind of coach any university would love. He has been at A&M since 2003, well before the school joined the conference. They took the national title in 2011.

He does not shy away from competition; witness scheduling UCLA for a pre-season scrimmage. His team is ranked No. 13 to start the real competition,

The “Two Courtneys” are back, “We saw right quick, Courtney Walker with 228 and Courtney Williams with 25“ where the perimeter points will continue to blossom, he said after the exhibition. They are coaches’ picks to be all-conference this season. A&M Is the final team with two on that list.

“Times are a’changing; kids want to play motion and I am adjusting,” Blair said. Jordan Jones and Jasmine Lumpkin gives him basically an aggressive four-guard attacking offense and defense.

But 6-5 sophomore center Khaalia Hillsman was the team’s best newcomer and 6-7 junior Rachel Mitchell make sure it isn’t all about guards.

*Mississippi State was the national fun ride of the past season

Rookie Victoria Vivians elevated them. They are No. 11 in the preseason. A quiet penalty was obviously applied last season when they were denied a Top 16 seeding and home NCAA games, likely due to the fact the campus still displayed a Confederate flag and the NCAA has banned tournament games in all sports (football bowls included) in such states.

Then again, South Carolina was so good, they earned (were not given, as the NCAA parsed it in a CYA move) a top seed and home games which the university played as if they had been denied for other reasons in previous seasons.

The NAACP was asleep at the switch and did not protest under after the bid was given and three other universities had travel plans made. The NCAA seeding committee would not answer questions about it

South Carolina the state has banned the flag. Mississippi State the campus has banned it. The difference between being a No. 4 at home and a No. 5 on the road was that close. It meant losing to Duke at Duke in the end.

Back to the court: State remains a conference contender with a refreshingly candid coach in Vic Schaefer and Vivians, who led all rookies in scoring at 14.9 per. She is a coaches’ pick to be all-conference in her second season.

Schaefer was the national choice for conference coach of the year, a nice marker for the third-place team. They also had school records for most wins (27) and conference wins (11). They did lose a home game, double overtime, to LSU.

Schaefer came to State after nine seasons with Blair through an A&M title run, specializing in defense

He is raring to make sure last season was no fluke.

“We have such high expectations, he said. “I have to remind the staff to hold back a little now. We know what we want to do.”

He has another impact freshman in 6-7 Teaira McCowan. She is from Texas and early reports had her going to Baylor or A&M. Then one recruiting service had her signed at Tennessee.

But the Parade All-American landed in Starkville.

Schaefer also accepted the transfer of Oklahoma State’s starting point guard, Roshunda Johnson, who will be eligible next season.

*Kentucky remains an enigma. Coach Matt Mitchell is tough. A big-name player on the national elite level, Linnae Harper, shockingly transferred out after UK lost a sub-regional game at home last year. Another player, Chrishae Rowe, was kicked off the team.

They are the last of the league’s pre-season ranked teams, at No. 18. The SEC had at least five ranked teams for the entirety of the past season. They have already won in overtime on the road at a team ranked higher than their own selves, Arizona State, to start 2-0. The Sun Devils were a Sweet 16 team last season. They were down 17 at the half.

The Kats have only one contributing senior. It will be an interesting, pressure-filled season. But it always is such in Big Blue country, where the men’s team overshadows even good teams. They were seventh in national attendance last season.

But the fans want more. Junior College Player of the Year, Evelyn Akhator has arrived. The 6-3 post player also considered Tennessee. She started her Kat career with a double-double, 16 points and 17 rebounds.

True freshman guards Maci Morris, Taylor Murray and Morgan Rich join rookie forward Batouly Camara. Cincinnati transfer Makenzie Cann will sit out the entire season.

“I am very excited about the team that we have and the work we are putting in as the season nears,” Mitchell said. “We have another challenging schedule this season, especially in the nonconference, and it’s important we don’t waste any opportunity to improve.”

Makayla Epps, the junior guard who was all-conference last season, was voted there by the coaches in the preseason. She led the upset win with eight of the Kats’ dozen OT points and four of the 6-0 run to end regulation. Akhator had 10 rebounds, six defensive.

uVanderbilt also had three players transfer away after the Commodores failed to make the NCAA draw while losing six of the final seven regular-season games. Melanie Balcomb has 13 seasons as the coach. So the pressure is mounting to return to at least one of the 64 best teams in America. Same for Florida, as Amanda Butler enters her ninth season as an SEC coach. The Gators also flopped out of the tournament last season.

*LSU slid backwards last season and moreso in the offseason. They lost to non-contenders Arkansas and Ole Miss before the win against A&M. They bopped away in the first game of the NCAAs.

Danielle Ballard started her junior season suspended for 14 games, recovered to make second team all-league then was dismissed in the summer. The coach is former Tennessee All-American Nikki (Caldwell) Farkas. At some point in each of her seasons in the bayou, she has had her team ranked but never strong at the end, when it counts.

Senior Anne Pedersen is the setup player, but the best player is junior Raigyne Moncrief, who would start on any league team. It is unknown and undemonstrated if she can be the player, however.

*Alabama is still newly committed to women’s basketball, but Kristy Curry is in her third season and it is time to show something with her own players. Schaefer has shown it can be done.

She represents those name coaches trying to break through in a tough league. She made a name for herself as Purdue’s coach, then fled for the brighter basketball lights at Texas Tech where she plateaued before coming on to reshape the Tide.

*At Ole Miss, this could be an elevator year for coach Matt Insell in his third season He likely would be competitive in any other conference, so this may just be a launching pad. He has no seniors, so he has pretty much cleared out the former regime. He did hype up a 7,407 attendance in the opening game, which is a state record for women’s college ball. Back to you, State.

“We’re looking more like an SEC basketball team every day on the court,” Insell said.

*Missouri is always one of those “yeah but” teams, so close, yeah but something happens. Pre-hoops news has been dominated by protests and changes on campus.

The Tigers have been coached since 2010 by Robin Pingeton. She has a contract through 2020. Their 19 wins last season was one loss short of the NCAA magic qualifier for the league – no SEC team with 20 wins has missed the tournament – but Arkansas slid in. They had split the season with the Razorbacks

*Arkansas made a liar out of this site and others by elevating a never-been coach from ESPN to the coach of a team which made the NCAA tournament. The best returnee is senior Melissa Wolf. She had six double-doubles.

*The most-watched team will be Georgia. A perennial power until recent years, Joni Taylor replaces Andy Landers as coach. He has the most SEC games coached, the most SEC national tournaments coached and was the last of those around when the NCAA adopted the league.

Taylor inherits a fine team after being associate head coach for three seasons. Obviously, she is the first woman to lead the program. She was a wonderful player at Alabama.

Senior Shacobia Barbee is the best of the inherited talent, a nice mix with representatives in every class. The only two freshmen are in-state recruits so Taylor will have to start with casting a wider net.

They started with a home win and four of five starters in double figures

But the team tanked the final eight regular-season games of last season, floundered in the SEC tournament and ended 19-12, or one short of a Landers’ gift pass to the NCAAs. Taylor is owed no such sentiment.

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Auriemma Impressed by Temple Football

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

BRISTOL, Conn. –
Although Hall of Fame women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma, who grew up in Norristown, is at Connecticut, a rival of Temple in the American Athletic Conference, he is quite impressed over the recent growth of the Owls’ football program.

A week agoi Auriemma was among several notable coaches and players from across the country who attended a national media day here at ESPN headquarters co-hosted by the NCAA to focus on the 2015-16 season.

Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw and South Carolina’s Dawn Staley, both Philadelphia natives whose teams like Auriemma’s advanced to last season’s Women’s Final Four, were also among the participants, as was Maryland's Brenda Frese whose Terrapins were also in Tampa, Fla.

By the way, Auriemma's former longtime assistant Tonya Cardoza begins her eighth season coaching the Temple women when the Owls open up Friday night hosting Florida.

With the excitement over the attention off the football matchup with the recent sellout of the Notre Dame game at Lincoln Financial Field still in the air, Auriemma was asked his impressions of the events that included a near-upset by the nationally-ranked Owls.

Temple, incidentally, bounced back last Friday night with a 60-40 win at SMU in Dallas to run its record to 8-1 staying on top of the East Division of the AAC and in the polls heading into Saturday's game at South Florida.

“ I watched the game and I was educating somebody on Temple University,” Auriemma related.

“A Connecticut native, we’re watching the game. And he’s like, `What’s Temple? Who are these guys?’

I said, `First of all, what you don’t understand is Temple is one of the best academic institutions in the country.

‘And their graduate programs are unbelievable.

‘And their location can sometimes hinder their ability to get certain kinds of players over the years but they’ve done a lot to fix that.’ Obviously, they’ve enhanced their campus.

“But in the Philadelphia area, and growing up, Philadelphia is a basketball town when it comes to college,” Auriemma said now doing the explaining to media seated around him here.

“College football is not the thing that’s going to separate you from anybody in Philadelphia.

“If you’re a college football fan in Philadelphia, you’re probably a Penn State fan or something to that effect. And certainly the Eagles.

“So for Temple to get that kind of recognition, Game Day, and 65,000, and having 50,000 of them, or certainly 40,000 of them, being Temple fans, that’s a statement I think that those kinds of things, they’re not the property of any particular region in the country, type of school, or conference – so for me to see that – I was just like …

“I remember going to see Temple play at Franklin Field against Penn State. And it was 60,000 and it was 45,000 Penn State fans coming to watch Penn State win against Temple and having guys that I knew playing on those Temple teams.

“And now to see them have a chance to win against a team like Notre Dame, with the history that Notre Dame has, if they win that game, if Temple wins that game, you’d be looking at something that could be, because the city’s big enough to handle the situation, it could become, but they don’t have the history, like Los Angeles.

Out there you have have UCLA, USC and they’re going to have a NFL football team again. But you could make Philadelphia into a Temple town, football-wise. You could. The people already love football.

Auriemma agreed that conditions for the Owls gaining a spotlight locally are similar to when the Immaculata women’s team in the suburbs drew a lot of coverage after the Mighty Macs won their first national title.

Back in 1972-73 none of the city’s four pro teams were having much success similar to the current struggles of the Phillies, Flyers, 76ers and Eagles.

But with Immaculata, at least some team in the area was dominating the opposition and as such the local media jumped on the bandwagon as the Mighty Macs went on two win two more consecutive titles after the first one.


- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Monday, November 02, 2015

Associated Press Women's Poll Preseason No. 1 Year-by Year

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

With Connecticut likely to be No. 1 when the Associated Press preseason women's poll is released Tuesday, it will be the third time that the Huskies and Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma has a three-season streak to begin at No. 1.

The three-peat is matched only one time and by Tennessee coach emeritus Pat Summitt, whose Lady Vols still lead UConn by one 12-11 in all-time No. 1 rankings heading into the competition.

Tennessee has been in every preseason poll except the very first one in Nov. 1976. Of course, UConn didn't come on the scene as a power at the top until almost two decades later.

The first years through 1988-89 the poll was a Top 20 and then in 1989-90 it expanded to a Top 25 as did the AP football and men's basketball polls.

Here is the previous 39 No. 1 teams, their coaches, and the conference they were in at the time of the ranking.

The NCAA sponsorship for women didn't begin until 1981-82 so the years prior refer to the AIAW and what region the team was in. Texas was still in the old Southwest Conference when Jody Conradt had the Longhorns on top at the outset two straight times and Leon Barmore's 1989-90 No. 1 ranking came when the Lady Techsters were in the former American South.

That year also brought a one-time rarity to date with the rivalry of the time Tennessee and Louisiana Tech tied for No. 1 off the vote by coaches. They actually met at the beginning of the season so the tie was broken quickly.

Now here's the list which is cut and pasted off the Guru's Excel poll history index spreadsheet so here's hoping this is readable.

In terms of the count as of last year:

Tennessee 12
Connecticut 10
Louisiana Tech 3
Baylor 2
Duke 2
Southern Cal 2
Stanford 2
Texas 2
Delta State 1
Georgia 1
Maryland 1
Old Dominion 1
Virginia 1

And below the breakdown of those 40 team due to the one-time tie.

Preseason #1 by year
Year Team Conf. CoachF CoachL
2014-15 Connecticut AAC  Geno Auriemma
2013-14 Connecticut AAC  Geno Auriemma
2012-13 Baylor B-12  Kim Mulkey
2011-12 Baylor B-12  Kim Mulkey
2010-11 Connecticut BEC  Geno Auriemma
2009-10 Connecticut BEC  Geno Auriemma
2208-09 Connecticut BEC  Geno Auriemma
2007-08 Tennessee SEC  Pat Summitt
2006-07 Maryland ACC  Brenda Frese
2005-06 Duke ACC  Gail Goestenkors
2004-05 Tennessee SEC  Pat Summitt
2003-04 Connecticut BEC  Geno Auriemma
2002-03 Duke ACC  Gail Goestenkors
2001-02 Connecticut BEC  Geno Auriemma
2000-01 Connecticut BEC  Geno Auriemma
1999-00 Connecticut BEC  Geno Auriemma
1998-99 Tennessee SEC  Pat Summitt
1997-98 Tennessee SEC  Pat Summitt
1996-97 Stanford PAC-10  Tara VanDerveer
1995-96 Connecticut BEC  Geno Auriemma
1994-95 Tennessee SEC  Pat Summitt
1993-94 Tennessee SEC  Pat Summitt
1992-93 Stanford PAC-10  Tara VanDerveer
1991-92 Tennessee SEC  Pat Summitt
1990-91 Virginia ACC  Debbie Ryan
1989-90 Louisiana Tech Amer. Sou.  Leon Barmore
1989-90 Tennessee SEC  Pat Summitt
1988-89 Tennessee SEC  Pat Summitt
1987-88 Tennessee SEC  Pat Summitt
1986-87 Texas SWC  Jody Conradt
1985-86 Texas SWC  Jody Conradt
1984-85 Georgia SEC  Andy Landers
1983-84 Southern Cal PAC-10  Linda Sharp
1982-83 Southern Cal PAC-10  Linda Sharp
1981-82 Louisiana Tech Indp  Sonja Hogg
1980-81 Louisiana Tech AIAW-R4  Sonja Hogg
1979-80 Old Dominion AIAW-R2  Marianne Stanley
1978-79 Tennessee AIAW-R2  Pat Summitt
1977-78 Tennessee AIAW-R2  Pat Summitt
1976-77 Delta St. AIAW-R3  L. Margaret Wade

Big 5 Women's Schedule 2015-16

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA -- Hello all. Yes, it's been a while in terms of offering some prose though the Guru has remained active on his twitter account.

However, lots of things about to come this way since we are now in November and on Tuesday when the Associated Press preseason enn gpoll rolls out it will begin the 40th anniversary season so expect all kinds of trivia -- the first of which will be the preseason poll once the Gur knows who is in it to add to the equation.

In the interim, since the Guru's composite schedule is done, with some refinements likely to happen between now and the Friday the 13th opening tip this month, to whet your local appetite here is the 10-game Big 5 slate.

Some notes first.

Based on the calendar it is unlikely anyone can clinch a share or outright crown till late since three Penn games are in January though Temple, Villanova and Saint Joseph's each have a chance to win three of their four games by the Christmas break.
As for sites by each team, La Salle will be home for all four; Saint Joseph's will be away for three and home for one; Temple will be away for one and home for three (all in McGonigle Hall); Villanova will be an even two away, two home; and Penn will be away for all four.

Last year in a rarity, Penn (first time in the mix), Villanova, and Saint Joseph's split the title with 3-1 records.

That said, here's your schedule.

Nov. 18, Wed.,7 p.m. Temple at La Salle (Tom Gola Arena)
Nov. 24, Tue., 7 p.m. Saint Joseph's at Villanova (The Pavilion)
Nov. 29, Sun., 2 p.m.. Saint Joseph's at Temple (McGonigle Hall)
Dec. 2, Wed., 5 p.m. Villanova at Temple (McGonigle Hall)
Dec. 8, Tue., 5 p.m. Penn at Saint Joseph's (Hagan Arena)
Dec. 20, Sun., 1 p.m. Villanova at La Salle (Tom Gola Arena)
Jan. 18, Mon., 7 p.m. Penn at La Salle (Tom Gola Arena)
Jan. 21, Thu., 7 p.m. Penn at Temple (McGonigle Hall)
Jan. 26, Tue., 7 p.m. Penn at Villanova (The Pavilion)
Feb. 17, Wed., 12 p.m. Saint Joseph's at La Salle (Tom Gola Arena)**

**-Also the second game of the home-and-home series in the Atlantic 10.

That's it on this post.

-- Mel

Monday, October 12, 2015

WNBA Finals: White Huddle Outburst Leads to Indiana Forcing Minnesota to Game Five

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

For Blue Star Media

Call it the tongue-lashing heard ‘round the huddle.

Holding off the Minnesota Lynx most of Sunday night from wrapping up Game 4 and the WNBA championship for 2015 here in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Indiana Fever were on the verge of seeing all the comebacks starting with the Eastern semifinals go for naught.

Minnesota, which had taken a 2-1 lead here Friday night in the best of five series on Maya Moore’s three-point buzzer-beater, had bolted from a 36-32 halftime deficit to a 38-36 lead on Sylvia Fowles’ layup with 8 minutes, 26 seconds left in the third quarter.

At that moment, Fever rookie coach Stephanie White called a timeout and gathered her troops.

“I just really challenged our team,” White said. “Our attention to detail was worse. We were fumbling the ball. Nobody was sure about anything we were doing.

“So I just challenged them. `Do you want to see the opponent hoisting up a trophy on our home floor, or do you want to fight, and do you want to do everything we’ve done to put ourselves in this position?

“Fortunately, they responded. It’s tough. You’re playing against a great opponent. You can’t afford to have moments like that because they’re going to capitalize and make you pay for that, and we can’t afford to do it.”

From that moment the Fever surged on a 13-2 run and went on to open a 14-point lead, largest of the series, and thrilled the predominantly pro-Indiana crowd of 10,582 fans to gain a 75-69 victory re-tie the series and send it back to Minnesota Wednesday night for a penultimate Game 5.

Tamika Catchings, the elegant former Tennessee All-American and Hall-of-Fame bound warrior who will retire after next season, offered a family-friendly Fevers player perspective on what was said.

“That’s a `You need to be in the huddle’ moment,” Catchings said with a smile. “Steph went off on us and basically just challenged us. She said, `You guys have 30 seconds to turn this thing around.’

“Literally, we went out and she just lit a fire upon us, and she was like,` this is a game to allow you an opportunity to play for a championship, and this is how you want to come out?’ Those are my nice words,” Catchings winked.

Indiana is 5-0 in elimination games to date in the postseason, including two on the road to emerge out of the Eastern Conference in their 11th straight playoff appearance – a league record.

The Fever, seeded third, dropped Game 1 of the East semis on the road to the defending conference playoff champion Chicago Sky and then bounced back to take the next two games and move on against the overall top-seeded New York Liberty, against whom they dropped that Game 1 in Madison Square Garden.

Then down 18 points here in Game 2, Indiana rallied and then went back on the road to control the New Yorkers and reach the WNBA championship series for the third time. In 2009 they dropped a thrilling five-game series to the Phoenix Mercury, came back in 2012 to dethrone Minnesota, which won its first title in 2011, and here they are one win away again.

A lot of times might have had trouble recovering from Friday night’s crusher, but this franchise has become skilled in resiliency first under White’s predecessor Lin Dunn and continued under White who was promoted after Dunn retired at the end of last season.

“Indiana played great,” said Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve, the former La Salle star in Philadelphia who will also be one of UConn coach Geno Auriemma’s assistants in the Olympics in Rio next summer.

“They played like a team that didn’t want their season to end. Played with great pace.

“They had to be thrilled with their defense, just the way they came at us. Frankly, it probably started with their defense. We started early in the game with silly turnovers. They were very opportunistic.

“Briann January outshot us at the free-throw line. We had nine free throws. She had 12. That’s not good for us. 26 (Indiana) free throws, and it was all Indiana just creating a pace, doing what they do, straight line drives. Our defense was not as good as we need to be.”

Indiana only made one field goal in the fourth quarter but was 15-for-18 from the line.

On Friday night, Minnesota’s Moore missed a chunk of the game because of foul trouble, and 48 hours later it was inside post presence Sylvia Fowles limited to less than a half of action.

Shenise Johnson, the former Florida State star picked up in the offseason as a free agent, had another stellar night, scoring 15 points for an Indiana high, with nine coming in the second half.

January had 13 points and 12 rebounds, while Marissa Coleman scored 14 points, and Catchings had 10 points and four rebounds in under under 35 minutes.

White talked about Catchings being the reason the Fever have won so many elimination games over their years in the WNBA.

“A lot of people were asking me about Catchings’ numbers,” she said. I’m like, no, it’s not the numbers. She’s tricking all you guys because it’s not the numbers,” White explained.

“It’s the way she creates for her teammates whether it be through her hard-nose play, whether it be through her extra possessions and toughness, whether it be through her spacing, whether it be what she is saying in the huddle, the way she’s been coachable all season long.

“I challenged her with a couple of her turnovers, and she took it. So there is a lot of things Tamika Catchings does that don’t show up in the stat sheets that we value as teammates and that allow her teammates to be coached the way I coach her.”

Incidentally, the extended series will delay White from getting into her winter gig as a chief women’s basketball analyst on the Big Ten Network, so whatever happens Wednesday, she probably won’t be doing the early network preps at the conference media day in Chicago Thursday.

Meanwhile, on the Minnesota side, Moore finished with 20 points, but Fowles, because of her limited play, scored just four points. Seimone Augustus scored 10 and Lindsay Whalen scored 16 in one of her better performances in this series.

So now what has been an exciting test of wills heads to theTarget Center.

Moore first rebuffed the idea of being home for a game that will probably draw the most attention in the WNBA all season, indicating the better feeling would have been to have finished off the Fever.

But she then acknowledged what has been on the better finals in the history of the championship series.

“”The series has been a fun one to watch,” the former UConn great said. “Especially the last few games have been very fun, I think just from a fan standpoint.

“So a lot of great things happening, players making plays. Sometimes you can have all the schemes and sets in the world, and it comes down to players making plays. You’ve seen a lot of that in this series. One more game to see which players do that more.”

As for playing at home Wednesday, Moore said, “It’s going to be hard, but if I was to, like I said, have a choice, I’d want to do it at the Target Center.

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Saturday, October 10, 2015

WNBA Finals: Moore's Money Shot at the Buzzer Stuns Indiana as Minnesota Goes Up 2-1

By Mel Greenberg
For Blue Star Media

Women’s Basketball Legend Maya Moore sliced the hearts of 16,332 predominately WNBA Indiana Fever fans in an arena appropriately named Bankers Life Friday night with a buzzer-beating three-point money shot from beyond the top of the key in the final 1.7 seconds to give the Minnesota Lynx an 80-77 victory in Game 3 and a 2-1 lead in the best of five championship series

The Lynx can close out the Fever for their third title in five years when the two meet in Game 4 Sunday night at 8:30 p.m. here on ESPN2 or at worst from their perspective, having regained the home advantage, on Wednesday night when a penultimate fifth game would be played back in Minneapolis at the Target Center.

It’s only the second time in the 19-year history of the WNBA finals when a long shot decided the outcome, the other being Teresa Weatherspoon’s 47-foot missile from beyond half court on a play that began with 2.4 seconds left to even a best-of-series with the former Houston Comets 68-67 in 1999 before the Texans won their third straight the next day.

In terms of winning with less than three seconds on the clock the other electrifier in a finals came in Game 1 of the 2010 WNBA series when Seattle’s Sue Bird, like Moore a former UConn great, hit a jumper from the foul line with 2.6 seconds left for the Storm’s 87-84 win over the Atlanta Dream on the way for a second crown in Seattle history.

And in recalling a great finish in the NCAA men’s tournament, Duke’s Christian Laettner ruined Kentucky 104-103 in a regional title game with a length-of-the-court heave in Philadelphia’s former Spectrum with 2.1 seconds left.

“That was pretty fun,” Moore said afterwards. “Pretty fun to finish that way.”

Asked to recall any previous winner at the horn, Moore said, “I guess high school was the last buzzer-beater. I was 16, to win an AAU championship.”

Ironically, the team she beat was the Philadelphia Belles, a nationally prominent organization, who once counted among its top talents over the years Moore’s Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve, the native of southern New Jersey who starred at La Salle College in the City of Brotherly Love

Moore was once on the other side of a buzzer-beating situation in the 2012 when Notre Dame put an end to her illustrious collegiate career at Connecticut in overtime.

In the national semifinals in Denver, Natalie Novosel scored inside with four seconds left in regulation to force overtime and the Irish took it from there sending Moore on the way to the next stage of her career where she quickly became the overall No. 1 draft pick with her selection by Minnesota.

Since then she has picked up a league MVP title and a key part of two championships by the Lynx in 2012, her rookie season, and 2014.

Now her shot Friday night has the Lynx knocking on the door for another one.

“Well, 1.7 is a lot of time,” she described the winning play. “Everything kind of fell into line. I did what I could. I can’t say I completed masterminded the whole situation. It was just a basketball move and I was able to get it off.

“Fortunately, I have a pretty quick release so it worked out … It felt good. It felt good. There’s not much you can do after it leaves your hand until it goes in the rim, other than hope it goes in.

“But it felt good coming off my hand. It felt a little off center, but not so off center that it couldn’t go in. But I’m just glad it went in.”

I think that might have been one of the best played WNBA Finals games in our history,” Reeve proclaimed in the media presser afterwards. “I’m pretty mindful of things that have gone on before us. But that’s got to be right up there.”

Certainly with eight ties and 11 lead changes, the game was tense and exiting throughout, especially with the crowd at, excuse the expression for this particular home team, Fever pitch to provide a great atmosphere.

But the game’s ultimate place in the WNBA finals talked lexicon will be enhanced or diminished by whether Minnesota moves on to win it all, in the process attaining for its fans, revenge for losing to Indy in 2012 a year after claiming the first crown in the Lynx franchise history.

But maybe both teams are just getting started considering there's still Sunday's game here and potentially one more in Minnesota.

One certainly can't discount a Fever squad that has done well on the road, rallying from an opening loss in the conference semifinals to dethrone the reigning Eastern playoff champion Chicago Sky.

Then after trailing by 18 in Game 2 of the Eastern finals following an opening loss to New York, the Fever rallied to force Game 3, where in Madison Square Garden before a hostile crowd, the Lynx put an end to the Liberty's renaissance season.

With Game 3 see-sawing down the stretch Friday night, the way things were going with two league superstars – one from each in Moore and Indiana’s Tamika Catchings involved – it seemed likely that even as both struggled – one of them might be headed to a frozen moment in time for all to recall in years to come.

Certainly it virtually froze for Reeve, who described her thoughts in the final moments from the time the ball was inbounded in the Lynx frontcourt.

“It looked darn good. It looked darn good. I don’t know if I had any thoughts. It looked like what you felt in the arena. It just got quiet. It’s what you’ve seen in the movies with the ball going in the basket (nothing but net swishing through completing a path from it’s launch by Moore),” Reeve described.

“It looked like everyone was watching, then it went through and (sound) picked up again, and that’s what it felt like.”

Now the only way Indy might have been rescued and allowed to try to win in overtime would have been for Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck’s sister Lady to arrive and effect an observation by the officials viewing the video replay that would indicate the shot didn’t go down fast enough, allowing Indiana to dodge defeat for at least another five minutes.

Perhaps because there is a chance to play another day or days and all Moore did was tip the balance of an existing 1-1 tie rather than closing the WNBA postseason, Fever rookie coach Stephanie White was remarkably straight forward and sounded more like she was in her offseason role as a prime collegiate women’s basketball analyst for the Big Ten network.

“That was a great player making a great play at the end of the game,” the former Purdue star said. “I’m proud of our team how we fought. We battled.

“We did a much better job in some areas we needed to improve. But that was just a hell of a shot by Maya Moore. Great individual effort on her part. She comes back in and think the beginning of the fourth quarter maybe has five straight points, and Minnesota got great balance.

“Their bench, again, was superb, and we just gave ourselves an opportunity. We gave ourselves an opportunity and didn’t capitalize.”

White alluded to the pump fake Moore pulled on former Maryland star Marissa Coleman before launching the shot.

“One of the great things that Maya Moore does, she always stays poised. She always stays under control. Marissa wanted to contest, and got suckered a little bit in the head and shoulder fake, but I just thought it was a heck of a shot and a heck of a play.”

The UConn karma also permeated the Lynx in the performance of former Huskie Renee Montgomery, who has struggled in recent seasons off injuries, but who delivered a key three-pointer to tie the game 77-77 with 1 minute, 25 seconds left in regulation.

The Fever then had a chance to delight the fan base here but steady Brian January missed a jumper with 46 seconds left. However, Erlana Larkins grabbed the offensive rebound to retain possession but then quickly made a bad pass turnover.

Montgomery, who had 12 points off the bench to account for her part of a completed reserve combo of 22 points going with former New Yorker Anna Cruz scoring 10, missed a chance at a game-winner with 26.9 seconds left.

Coleman then gave Indy another chance at taking the lead in the series but former Florida State star Shenise Johnson, who propelled the Fever with 14 of her 17 points in the first half, missed with 4.9 seconds left and the Lynx called time to set up the Moore moment that followed Lindsay Whalen’s pass to get the ball in her hands.

Reeve called Montgomery a big key to the win on a night that although Moore scored 24, she missed almost half the game in two stretches in each half with foul trouble.

Moore was asked whether her teammate’s performance was the vintage Huskies’ Montgomery who was a contemporary of Moore on the collegiate powerhouse.

“I had a flashback for a second. She’s even talking to me like we’re in school again,” Moore said of Montgomery. “But she’s a battler. She’s a competitor.

“I remember really being connected to Renee when we were in school together because we were the two most competitive people everywhere we went. We were never on the same team (at practice) because we would kill the other team, so we always had to be on opposite teams and we would just duke it out because we were competitors, and she’s brought that to the Lynx.”

Sylvia Fowles, who came to the Lynx at midseason in a trade from Chicago also involving the Atlanta Dream, had a double double with 11 points and 11 rebounds for Minnesota, while Seimone Augustus, recovered from a bunch of nagging injuries, scored 13.

The Lynx shot 7-of-13 treys, including 4-for-7 from Moore.

Johnson’s 17 was a team high for the Fever, who also got 14 from Coleman, 15 from January, but only 10 from Catchings, who will be retiring after next season.

She also had 10 rebounds while in trying to maintain her role as the Fever’s force, shot only 3-of-10 from the field and missed an easy inside layup down the stretch with the outcome still undetermined.

“Yeah, this is probably the worst I played,” said Catchings, who now owns the WNBA record for most postseason appearances at 65, breaking a tie with former WNBA star Taj McWilliams-Franklin. She’s also tied with McWilliams-Franklin with her 64th start and that will be broken on Sunday barring any unforeseen event to sideline her.

“It’s just so frustrating as a player when you know you’re so much better.”

Montgomery paid tribute from her side of the long association with Moore.

“We’re witnessing greatness. It’s hard to realize in the moment but the way she continuously puts up big numbers night in and night out, when you know the entire scouting report is focused on her, she continuously comes through.

“I’m excited to witness that and be part of it. I was with her in college, and now in the pros. We are witnessing greatness.”

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad