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.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Mike Siroky's SEC Report: Kentucky's A'dia Mathies -- The Best Player in the Best League

By Mike Siroky

At times, she is the best player in the best conference.

Senior guard A’dia Mathies leads the Kentucky Wildcats into every Southeastern Conference fight.

She earned the best in conference tag last season as UK ascended onto the national scene. She was reanointed as the preseason player of the year in conference and is on every national watch list for countrywide rewards.

She has her ’Cats in the Top 10 in America and second in the SEC. They trail only resurgent Tennessee in the league. Texas A&M is also a game back. The Aggies hadn’t lost in their new league before that and they haven’t lost since.

Even though both A&M and UK have one league loss, they do play again this season.

Mathies averages almost 20 points per game (19.8) in league play and has the best shooting percentage in the SEC (.53 percent) from the the 3-point arc.

She is guaranteed to end in Top 10 of 12 career lists at UK, including third in steals (282) and fourth in scoring (1,727).

In the big early matchup of the year so far, she determinedly led UK past A&M. In the midseason big game of the year, she hit for 12, the 18th straight game in double figures, in the loss at South Carolina. The last conference big game of the year (besides the A&M rematch) is the last game of the regular season when Tennessee visits.

Her coach, Matthew Mitchell, expected much from his senior leader.
“I just want her to take the most shots,” he said.

“I just want her to be the person with the most shot attempts every night. It is a good formula for us, because if she is aggressive, she is going to find a way. She is deadly from the 3-point line right now and you have to guard that. And then you saw her mid-range game and you saw that shot fake where she can put it on the floor, so she is really, really hard to guard when she is shooting the ball the way she is now. She was huge in this game, I am really proud of her.”

Mathies is proudest of course of Kentucky’s defense, which is why they are where they are.

As for the pressure defense, Mathies said, “It felt great. We kept putting pressure on them and running them as much as we could and we felt like we had depth so we could sub where they couldn’t. We feel like they eventually got tired and we were able to open up the game.”

She knows they have to keep the intensity the whole game through.

“I think it’s hard sometimes but I think any team is capable of a run at any time,” she said. “You can play the best defense and they can throw up a wild shot and it goes in. They had a segment where they were making a lot of baskets that they weren’t making the whole game. I felt like we regrouped after that and had to work even harder to eliminate those baskets at the end which we did.”

Even in a game in which she missed just one shot, scoring a career-best 24 against Auburn, she saw a way to improve.

“I really didn’t feel it— definitely not in warmups. I didn’t even know I just missed one shot. I was just out there playing and luckily the shots went in and my teammates did a great job of setting me up.

“You can’t just shut one player down and expect to shut the whole team down. There are too many great players that can score. It makes us a great team.”

She does not discount any SEC opponent.

“I believe the SEC is the greatest conference. Every time you go out there to play, you can take a loss,” she said. “There is no team that you can think ‘oh, we’re going to beat them.’ No, definitely not. Everybody has to prepare every night and stay focused everyday. I think it just goes to show how great of a league this is.

“I think, with every game, it’s important. We’ve got to go out there and rebound. Coach always tells us that the champions in the SEC are great offensive rebounding teams and are great rebounding teams in general. So we just go in there and try and crash the boards on both sides and we tried to block out so they couldn’t get the ball.”


•No. 5 Kentucky took on No. 18 South Carolina on the road. It was 19-19 at intermission and 43-43 with a little under seven minutes left. South Carolina turned up the heat and won out, 12-7, or 55-50 for a final.
As projected here last week, it keeps SC relevant in conference, in third place.

Two of UK’s top three scorers, Jennifer O’Neill (17 points) and Denesha Stallworth (12) fouled out, Stallworth in 26 minutes of play. "This was the first time we have faced serious adversity," O'Neil said. "Like coach said, we didn't have poise." Mitchell also said his team was not interested in being competitive this night.

Demonstrating the strength of the SEC, SC had been allowing 47.6 points per game, Kentucky 51.8. Kentucky had the nation’s best turnover margin (causing 10.4 per game). But SC had scored four more than the UK average while allowing just three more.

Five of the last seven meetings have been decided by eight points or less, including the last four in a row. The series is tied at 2-2 in those games.

UK’s winning streak of 17, the nation’s best, has ended. The ’Cats get every team’s best shot, but regrouped easily against LSU, extending the school-record home winning streak to 34. They now have 19 wins and will the first league team to 20.

And they get a week off in the rotation.

“Hopefully we can refresh a little bit this week,” Mitchell said.

“We don’t have the game looming on Thursday. We can get a bit of mental break where we can just spend time focused on some things that we can sharpen up this week without that game preparation. The players just need to take a deep breath here. They’ve done a fantastic job halfway through the schedule.

“They just need to get a little bit of rest mentally, physically and try to come back with a little pep in their step as we get ready for Georgia.”

Mathies agrees.

“We just wanted to get the lesson from the South Carolina game. We wanted to go out and play as tough as we could the whole 40 minutes and not let the other team be more aggressive than us, and I think we did that today.

“I think we are going to use this to keep the momentum moving forward.”

Showing team depth, sophomore Azia Bishop scored 17, against a 3.2 average, vs. LSU. Mathies kept her dpuble-figure steak alive with 15.

•That leaves the top spot to still-undefeated in conference No. 9 Tennessee.

It had won nine straight (second in conference to UK) before interrupting the conference run with a national game against No. 2 Notre Dame. They can go on another run until A&M comes in to close the month.

Before the ND game, they took care of in-state rival Vanderbilt, 83-75, at Vandy. Thought they have beaten the Commodores 25 of the past 27 meetings, last year’s schizophrenic season showed there with a loss. UT has not lost in conference since, 11 straight.

Taber Spani scored a career-high 24 and Meighan Simmons added 23.

.•No. 14 Georgia erased Florida by plenty in its lone game this week and has the Feb. 3 game at Kentucky as a chance to get back in the league race, two games back. They led by as many as 25, coasting all the way.

Against the Gators, the ’Dawgs had three starters in low double-figures.

•No. 16 Texas A&M embarrassed Mississippi State and thumped fellow league newcomer Missouri at home. They have that lone SEC loss at Kentucky, tied for second with the ’Cats. They hit 60 percent from the field against State.

The Aggies completed their week’s work by welcoming fellow league newcomer Missouri to their place for another wipeout. Adrienne Pratcher hit six 3-pointers.

They have two more winnable games this week

•No. 18 South Carolina built on its road success with a close win at Arkansas. They didn’t score in the final few minutes, but had enough. With 18 wins, they will once again be in the big tournament, a group they joined last season after nine years away. SC is 5-2 in the league, the best start in coach Dawn Staley’s tenure. SC has three winnable games before Texas A&M visits Feb. 10.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Mike Siroky's SEC Report: Still Reaching for the Summit

(Guru's note: This is the latest Southeastern Conference women's report from Guru national correspondent Mike Siroky. A picture of Tennessee's Holly Warlick can be found over on the Guru's local channel http://philahoopsw.com )

The most-experienced rookie coach has Tennessee once again atop SEC

By Mike Siroky
Guru National Columnist

Holly Warlick, it seems, has been at Tennessee forever.

One year after her mentor, Pat Summitt, stepped away, Warlick is officially the coach (she managed all the games last season) and the Lady Vols are back at the top of the Southeastern Conference, ranked No. 9 nationally.

She is the oldest rookie, in her 28th year at the school. “I could not have thought we’d be undefeated at this point,” she said.

Warlick was with Summitt, as a player and coach, for 949 of the coach's 1,098 wins. All the wins last season were credited to Summitt.

Tennessee is undefeated through six SEC challenges, having most recently whacked Auburn and Alabama.

They and defending regular-season champ Kentucky are the only 6-0 teams.

For some reason, they interrupt the SEC run on Jan. 28 for a renewal against No. 2 Notre Dame. That is not likely to happen again in future seasons. Warlick knows the importance of staying focused on league games

“You're undefeated and it's a tough league,” Warlick said. “Any win on the road, at home, it's huge. It's a huge win for us. It may not have gone the way we planned or liked it, but the bottom line is you get it done, then you go home and you get better and correct things that you didn't do right that night."

UT came back from five down the break to erase Auburn and then won crushed Alabama for the 39th straight time. Meighan Simmons scored 29 points in 30 minutes against Auburn and joined four other players in double figures against the Tide.

No one wants to follow a legend, though Warlick has trained her whole life to do so.

Warlick said the toughest part of the anticipated transition was the suddenness with which it arrived. Coach Summitt was diagnosed with early-onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type, and had to step down within a year of her diagnosis. She is still on campus in an advisory role.

“It is what I always thought would happen, not the way it happened,” Warlick said.

On campus, the women’s program has been remarkably consistent. On most campuses, the women’s teams have to be secondary to the men’s programs.

Warlick is magnanimous in sharing the credit for the women’s success.

“Our men’s team successes have made us better as well,” she said. In a college town, basketball has become the thing to do for families.

“People want to get out and see basketball here,” said Warlick, formerly the main recruiter.

She has recruited what she said is a good class for net season and “We got in on the kids we wanted for the ones after that.”

Part of recruiting at Tennessee remains as much finding the students of the game, the players who will commit to the traditions and continue to build upon them as much as simply skilled players.

Still, even Warlick, a participant in the game since its NCAA inception, was not sure this is what women’s basketball would become.

“It still amazes me to come out for a game and see all those people. Our fans are so loyal. They look at what Pat has established and appreciate such a hard-working, traditional basketball team,” she said

And that is what Warlick has in her first year. She knows, as does everyone else, who leads in scoring and other statistical categories.

Ever the point guard, she appreciates most the ones who work the hardest.

“Bashaara Graves (A freshman) is our most consistent player,” she said.

“That’s what I look for. Double-doubles are nice, but consistency and defense will win games. As we find our identity, we will rebound more consistently as a team and play solid defense.”

Among the changes this year is the assembling of her own staff.

“When I was an assistant I had a thousand ideas. They do, too, that is why I hired them. But as the head coach I have to pick which ideas to implement and hope those are the best ones.”

They close the season at Kentucky, a one-game event this season in the extended conference and likely to be a game that decides SEC seeding for the post-season league tournament. You would have had to be a genius to scheduled that one game then and know it would be important, Warlick said.

“And that is a tough game right before the tournament.”

So, no, she said, she wished they played twice and not at the end in order to evaluate themselves as well as the Wildcats.

As always, she will play on, trying to transfer intensity to the players.

The traditions seem to be in good hands.


• The separation games continue; the best teams put space between them and everyone else. No. 4 Kentucky whacked Mississippi by twice the opponents’ score and then took out Auburn to set their record at 18-1 by starting with a 46-15 halftime advantage. With the nation’s best win streak at 17, 15 by 18 or better. UK increased its school-record for consecutive home wins to 33, with a school-record 14 consecutive SEC home wins.

Not only did the ’Cats extend their streak of 20 or more opponents’ miscues (steals and turnovers) to 136 games, they had 35 against State and 48 (30 steals) against Auburn.

UK takes on South Carolina this week.

•No. 14 Georgia now has two SEC losses but, coupled with 16 wins, have assured Andy Landers of another record entry into the post-season. The won at Arkansas then were blasted at home by No. 16 Texas A&M.

Against Arkansas, Georgia fought back from an 11-point halftime deficit.

They dug a bigger hole against A&M, 39-16. The Aggie bench players had 12 all by themselves as the visitors went on a 13-1 run to close the half. The A&M outside game was working as Courtney Walker scored 12 from the perimeter. The Aggies are the only league team with one loss. This is the one meeting between these two.

The ’Dawgs don’t have another tough test until they open February in a Sunday matinee at UK. A&M ought to continue winning the next five.

•No. 18 South Carolina is dealing with two SEC losses but won twice, at home against LSU and at Florida. Ieasia Walker scored 24, surpassing 1,000 for her career, in the LSU win. Khadijah Sessions had 15 points to lead them.

They went more than nine minutes near the close of the game without a point (and missed 14 straight from the field in that stretch) but, after all, this was Florida. Hitting 5-of-6 from the line in the closing seconds helped the escape. The Gamecocks need to up their game when they welcome in UK on Thursday in a last chance – even this early – to get back in the race.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Mike Siroky's SEC Report: New Uniform for Bone - Still an SEC Star

By Mike Siroky

Kelsey Bone is used to coming out parties.

Maybe all children born on New Year’s Eve arrive with great expectations.

She is back in the SEC after once playing at South Carolina and earning Newcomer of the Year honors with nine double-doubles. She transferred to Texas A&M and sat out the required year, but stayed busy. Last season, as a sophomore, she was the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year and a member of the conference all-tournament team.

But, just when you think you’re out they pull you back in.

Her team is back in the Southeastern Conference, ranked No. 20 nationally. She is once again a force in her original conference only she brought a new team with her.

A&M is the best addition to the SEC ever.

They proved that by holding No. 4 Kentucky’s feet to the fire. The Wildcats needed a 34-25 second half at home to eke out a three-point win and maintain the unbeaten pace in the conference. Their next real challenge is Jan. 24 at South Carolina.

The home part is important as UK has the nation’s longest home court winning streak, a school-record 14 games and has another school record with a dozen straight league wins at home.

SEC preseason Player of the Year, senior guard A'dia Mathies, scored a season-high 23 for UZ, her second 20-point game of the season and 21st of her career.

Bone had 27 points and 15 rebounds.

“I thought this kid right here (Bone) played like an All-American the whole ball game just like Mathies did for you,” observed A&M coach Gary Blair. “That’s why the WNBA scouts were here. They were here to watch Mathies and now they are going to go away knowing who the hell Kelsey Bone is.”

A&M recovered nicely in the next game, winning by more than 20 at Auburn, to join the 3-1 teams chasing unbeaten Kentucky and Tennessee.

“We have seven freshmen,” Blair said. “ I am pleased with the progress but they have to learn what life on the road in the SEC is all about. To learn the game, not just play the game. No doubt about it, seven teams (in the SEC) have been to the Final Four.”

“It’s all about the word ‘pressure,’ ” Blair said of Kentucky’s defense. “The amount of pressure they put on is similar to the ‘40 Minutes of Hell’ (Arkansas coach) Nolan Richardson used (when Blair coached the women there). When anyone puts extra pressure on Bone, our freshmen have to step up. If you’re gonna take something away, we have to have others step up.”

The rematch is Feb. 18 in Aggieland. They also welcome in Georgia this coming weekend and they only play Tennessee once among the conference leaders. Kentucky and Tennessee, interestingly enough, play only once this season in the expanded SEC, closing the season at Kentucky.

Bone is the leading scorer (18.1) and rebounder (10.2) in the league. She is the third best career rebounder (693) among active players and will be the leader in the clubhouse next season. She leads the league in most games with 20 or more points (seven times).

All of this comes back to familiarity. She used her off-season sitting out as a transfer to lift weights, and she blogged for the school, about women’s hoops while working on her future career as host of the Aggie Women's Basketball Show produced monthly during the season by 12th Man Productions and broadcast at the women's basketball luncheons.

“So I went to each school and scouted things and saw the lay of the land,” she says of the SEC. Nothing can catch her off-guard.

Her genetics are beyond good. She is from Texas, Houston to be precise. Her dad, two uncles and an aunt all were college athletes.

But, “My grandfather won six state titles (in track) and the public school stadium is named after him,” she observes.

It did not pressure her. But it did help choose a sport.

“I am not for outdoor heat,” Bone said. “I prefer central air. I did try (her senior year) in high school to throw that little iron ball. It was not for me.”

What is for her is hoops. She has played on international teams, coached by Carole Owen, the associate head coach at Notre Dame and a legendary developer of the post players.

Bone helped Team USA to the 2009 U19 FIBA World Championship Gold medal with 12.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game in Bangkok, Thailand.

Every stop along the way has developed her, brought her to his moment.
For instance, “We weight-trained a little bit in high school a little preseason thing twice a week. We died,” she remembers.

She used the season of sitting out to devote herself to weights. “I practiced and hit the weights because I had to do something,” she says of that season. And she proved herself.

“I couldn’t barely life the bar in squats when I started; I maxed out at 355. Maxed out.”
And that serves her well in the rough-n-tumble underneath.

She has learned to use the strength to adjust to the game.

“My freshman year, I was not used to playing a complete game,” she said. “In high school, we’d be so far ahead, I’d sit out. A lot.”

Now that is no problem.

“I have confidence,” Bone said. “I know in the SEC you still have to go to those gyms, hear those boos and you have to believe in yourself.

“I cannot tune it out.”

Instead, she tunes into the legendary coach – who never brags on himself – and her teammates.

“We are just really excited to play basketball,” Bone said. “We have a fun coach, a young team and we are enjoying every game we are allowed to play.”

If this is how it ends, with two more years of top-level college hoops and then an WNBA career aiming towards the Games of 2016, that will be fine.

“I am so respectful of the game and the opportunities I have, we have,” she said. “When I was young, there was only UConn and Tennessee and I wrote both of them letters and said to make sure they’d be coaching when I came along.

“Then, as I got older and learned more, I realized there are a lot of good teams and, as Coach Blair has told us, “Anything can happen.’

“I so respect the game and what it offers.”

The end is fun even if the beginning was not.

“My mom said I had to have something to do in sports. I was in fourth grade, already 5-8 and uncoordinated. My mother was not going to let me not be this. She forced me to play. I hated the game, hated her.

“Now I am so grateful. I am in my home state we have a great team, a great coach and the best fans. My family can see me play all the time.”

(Thru Sunday 1/13)

• The separation games have begun; that is, a lot of the league teams did swell in the non-conference season and now they are head-to-head. Kentucky continued winning, erasing Mizzou’s home streak in a blowout that extended UK’s own national season-best win streak to 13, without altering the lineup. UK has 16 wins already so a 20-win season is all but guaranteed.

As if they needed to improve on anything, the ’Cats hit all 12 free throws. UK has had at least three players reach double-figures in 14 of 17 games this season and have had 134 straight game forcing opponents into double-digit mistakes (steals and turnovers).

• No. 9 Tennessee joins UK at 4-0 in the SEC after absolutely warping Missouri and then disposing of Florida on the road in overtime.

“We’ve made a commitment to our defense and rebounding,” coach Holly Warlick said. “I am proud at how well we’ve started. We played the non-conference to get ready for the league. They understand the focus we need on the road.”

The Lady Vols’ next three SEC games are not real challenges, but they do welcome in national contender Notre Dame to interrupt the league season for some reason on Jan. 28.

•No. 12 Georgia moved to 3-1, coming back from the disappointment at Tennessee with wins at Alabama and by stifling former No. 18 South Carolina. Georgia scored 17 in the second half and SC 15. The low score was expected as SC was No.1 in league scoring defense, allowing 47.4 and Georgia was No. 2 at 52.1. SC is in that 2-2 group.

Georgia’s next challenge is Sunday vs. A&M. Carolina’s next tough task is against UK on Jan. 24. At 2-2, Carolina needs to re establish itself as an SEC contender.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Guru's College Report: NCAA Top Seeds Outlook Becomes Unsettled After Stanford Loss

By Mel Greenberg

Stanford's Pac-12 conference loss to Bay Area rival California at home Sunday did more than just shatter the Cardinal's long conference win-streak as well as hit them with a second-straight home setback at Maples Pavillion following the blowout to Connecticut just before the new year.

Suddenly the race for the four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament leading to the Final Four in New Orleans is not as solidified as it had appeared.

If the committee were meeting today, which of course it is not, instead of this March, the deliberation for the top of the bracket would merit more discussion.

Since nearly the start of the season, Baylor, the defending champion and prohibitive favorite, Connecticut, Duke, and Stanford were considered best bets to lead the four regions when the 64-team field and pairings are rolled out via ESPN on the night of Selection Monday.

But now that Notre Dame has beaten Connecticut and suffered just a loss to Baylor while California has dislodged Stanford with a second loss, the Irish have a case to be part of the mix.

Duke is alive as the last unbeaten team in Division I -- men or women.

However, the Blue Devils have yet to be tested but in a few weeks they will be paying a visit to Connecticut and a win would clearly keep things muddy.

That will begin to raise a bunch of "what ifs?" the rest of the way and perhaps if Maryland or Penn State were to run the table, respectively, in the Atlantic Coast and Big Ten Conferences, or if Kentucky did likewise in the Southeastern Conference, each may also have a case, though the cream of the crop may still be able to wield their way over everyone else.

But at least there's interest and some suspense to hang on to and help keep interest as the conference wars and a few intersectional battles to come heat things up.

Poll Shake-Up Ahead

If Stanford gets knocked out of the Top Five Monday when the next Associated Press women's poll is released it will be the first time in 40 weeks since right before the poll of Jan. 3, 2011, that the Cardinal will not reside in the highest rent district, with No. 1 being the penthouse.

Meanwhile, Connecticut Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma keeps hitting some milestones with the Huskies' longtime appearances in the rankings since he became coach and made them a national force.

Auriemma recently passed retired Texas coach Jody Conradt into fifth for all-time poll appearances at 396 and he also passed the former Longhorns great into fourth for most appearances at the same school with the same number.

Now he is starting to move on Rutgers coach and sister Hall of Famer C. Vivian Stringer, trailing her by just 11 appearances prior to Monday's release.

If the Scarlet Knights fail to return to the rankings this season, Auriemma will be knocking on the door to move ahead after the final poll, though there may not be enough weeks left until the outset of 2013-14 to make the jump.

On Monday Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie will move into the select group of coaches on the all-time list, tying former Kansas coach Marian Washington at 26th with 176 combined appearances -- 105 with the Blue Devils after the new poll is out and 71 previously when she was at Michigan State.

In the next few weeks McCallie should move up another spot in 25th passing former Western Kentucky and Nebraska coach Paul Sanderford at 182.

Texas A&M coach Gary Blair, who is Women's Basketball Hall of Fame bound in Knoxville, Tenn., this June, will soon pass his former
Blair recently went ahead of the late Sue Gunter, whom he replaced at Stephen F. Austin when she took the LSU job.

Meannwhile, there's much happening at the Guru's home base with several local coaches hitting a few mileestones Sunday.

Just click here to go to PhilahoopsW - http://philahoopsw.com - for the roundups and there is also the latest Dishin and Swishin - Philly Style podcast in which yours truly and co-host David Siegel, your host on the national podcast at hooopfeed.com, , interviewed Princeton coach Courtney Banghart.

That's it for the moment.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

SEC Report: Georgia's Jasmine James Puts the Bite in the Bulldogs

(Guru's note: Here's the latest installment of Mike Siroky's SEC Coverage. Due to the Guru's inability to post a picture of Jasmine here, using shameless creative cross-promotion you can view one sent from Georgia athletics over in the local PhilahoopsW blog and if you haven't been there, you can see what the Guru is doing with local coverage here in the region.

By Mike Siroky

As she looks back at a career well-played and the immediate future of a senior season of accomplishments yet to come, Georgia basketball’s
Jasmine James is satisfied she and her classmates have done their best.

“When we came in, there were seven of us and we all knew what Georgia meant,” James said.

“We knew if we stuck together, this could be special.”

And it has been.

The ‘Dawgs are well on their way to a succession of four 20-wins seasons, 13-2 this year, and that means another NCAA invite – 19 straight -- no matter how the conference plays out.

They started the league season by welcoming Missouri to the conference with a 77-46 win. They went on the road and lost again to Tennessee, 79-66.

Georgia has won just one of its last 14 meetings with Tennessee and has lost its last 11 games to the Lady Vols in Knoxville by an average margin of 24.7 points.

For her career, James has has 1237 points, 346 career assists, 226 career steals. If she leads her team in assists and steals for a third straight season, she will become only the fourth player in school history to do that. She has 10 double-doubles already this season. She is also on the conference Academic Honor Roll.


Andy Landers is 10 wins away from 900 coaching victories.

When a traditional coach meets a player setting new traditions, it is a happy moment.

Landers has actually mellowed on the sidelines through the years, perhaps satisfied now that he has coached more SEC games than any other coach.

“He used to yell a lot more,” James said with a little laugh in her voice.

“But then I realized he was trying just to make us better, he wasn’t yelling at us. He was encouraging us.”

From that, from her freshman year onward, James has also learned to pass along those Georgia traditions.

“First, I lead by example because if you don’t show you can do it, who is going to listen,” James said. “If you don’t do it, there is not much you can say to get people to follow you.”

She had that leadership supplied to her when she started out.

An example is weight training; many female athletes do not experience that until they hit college.

“Oh absolutely, for me ,” James said. “It’s 100 percent true for me, I wish someone in high school woulda explained what weights can do, woulda made me do it then. I am in so much better shape, a much better athlete because of our training.”

So she tells the rookies to hit the gym.

Another example of all the conditioning work happened last season when she twice tweaked a knee and missed time.

“I tweaked it a little right before (Christmas) break,” James said. “I came back and tweaked it again and missed five or six more games.”

While it could be argued those missed game impacted the season and cost the Bulldogs a shot at another league title, James did come back at least one game early form the second incident because a teammate had been conked in the head and she would not stay on the bench if her team needed her.

Traditions: Leading by doing

“While I was worried when it happened again, I trusted the training staff,” James said. “They would have not let me even dress out if there was a chance I was not ready.”

That kind of confidence in her coach and her team leads to confidence.

“I can go all-out because I know whoever is on the bench will not let the level of play fall,” James said. “If I need a quick break, I am confident in whoever is in there.”

So this senior class plans to leave a marker in the traditions.

“Going into the SEC season the group as a whole will be able to carry the team as well as let them carry us,” James said.

It is why she came to Georgia in the first place, a Memphis child of rival state Tennessee.

“The whole SEC used to be all within six hours of home for me,” James said.

The additions of Texas A&M and Missouri have extended that some. “It used to be a regional thing, all right around here,” James said.

“My parents have been at all of my games. I wanted to play somewhere to make sure of that.”

Still, she doesn’t dwell on anything about the magical final season all seniors face.

“We talked about that in the pre-season,” James said. “This will be the last time we were at Tennessee, the last time at Kentucky, that sort of thing.

“But when I play, I just play. I don’t know my statistics.

“I will look at the stat sheet after the game and say ‘I didn’t know I did that.’ ”
But, surely, everyone else does.


•Quickly, No. 6 Kentucky still sets the pace at 2-0 in the league after easing into a road win at Alabama on Sunday. At 14-2 the ’Cats also have the nation’s best active win streak at 13.

Senior guard A’dia Mathies scored 17 and tied a career high with five 3-pointers, all in the second half against the Tide. The Wildcats have a much-anticipated match up at home with No. 24 Texas A&M this week. Both are 2-0 to open the SEC. It is UK’s only real challenge in the next five games.

•No. 9 Tennessee also does not have a challenging team in its next five games. The Lady Vols moved ahead of former No. 10 Georgia from No. 12 and become the second-highest ranked team in the league.

•No. 18 South Carolina stayed tied for the spot but won’t be that high anymore after splitting the opening league weekend, but they did end on a win, at lowly Mississippi State. It doesn’t get easier as they welcome in Vanderbilt and then go to Georgia this week.

•Arkansas had been ranked in the Top 25 but that is over now as it opened the SEC 0-2. Its latest loss was to Texas A&M, at home.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Guru's Musings: Notre Dame's Upset of UConn Leaves Duke Last Unbeaten

By Mel Greenberg

STORRS, Conn. –
So how many of you out there thought that Duke would be the last unbeaten team standing in Division I women’s basketball and it would come down to just one team still alive with a perfect record by the end of the first week in January?

Well after Notre Dame’s pulsating 73-72 win over soon-to-be-former-top-ranked Connecticut in the Huskies’ own campus Gampel Pavilion on Saturday afternoon or early evening, considering daylight appropriately became darkness as the opening Big East battle drew to a close, that is exactly the situation.

The nuances of the game have been picked over by nearly everyone else at the event by the time this post is being put together.

Suddenly, we have a five-for-four fight for the No. 1 NCAA seeds among UConn, Baylor, Notre Dame, Stanford, and Duke. And maybe someone else can push their way into the crowd if stumbles by perceived invincible teams continue.

Go back to summer conversations and Stanford and Notre Dame shouldn’t even be involved in this discussion considering expectations that the duo would be in a little re-tooling after losing significant players to graduation, some of who went on to mixed to great summers in the WNBA.

Baylor was going to be invincible so while, yes, Odyssey Sims missed most of the Stanford game, the Cardinal still shouldn’t have even been in the contest, let alone pull an upset.

And then in one week’s time it evolves that a 1 vs. 5 game in terms of the Associated Press women’s poll becomes more exciting than a 1 vs. 2 slaughter that last week was in California when the Huskies overran Stanford on the Cardinal’s court.

And going back to summer conversation, Brianna Stewart’s subpar afternoon, stellar freshman that she is, makes one wonder whether too many things get taken for granted in these parts raising expectations beyond the high threshhold they’re allowed to exist.

With the game on the line, Saturday, Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma learned that lifelines from his summer Olympic squad of former UConn greats are not permitted by the NCAA to takeshooting attempts in place of existing players with the game on the line.

A year ago, Auriemma was showing some reality in saying his team should not be considered among the prime frontrunners for the 2012 NCAA title, though the Huskies played themselves into that position.

Then he put an addendum claiming, to paraphrase, but the next two years we shouldn’t even lose a game.

And as this season approached, he noted of his highly touted incoming class that UConn had freshmen who really aren’t freshmen, until Saturday when the best of the bunch in the entire nation played like one while an Irish newcomer out of Belmar, N.J. – Michaela Mabrey – played like a senior all-American.

“She’s a Jersey girl,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw gushed after making it five out the last six UConn matchups in which the Irish have walked away winners, including two straight wins in the NCAA national semifinals.

The reality of the game is that all the givens of the current women’s season have gone out the window where there is now an element of suspense in the national title chase because no one is invincible.

Around here, the perception gets fueled when the local media gets all worked up over how many times and seconds UConn trails in a game off a schedule that in its early phases has its share of fluff to go with the high-powered clashes.

And how the local populace reacts to such occurrences when they come about, made it a little shocking to leave the arena afterwards and discover that no tremors occurred causing cracks in the roadways and pavements.

In fact, people had already returned to looking ahead to February’s visit from Baylor, which they were already doing after the Stanford win without thinking that Notre Dame could possibly win in Gampel – competitive, yes, but win ???

So remember this in the overlook department. In two weeks Duke comes visiting and it’s possible that the group on the opposition bench many still be the one with the perfect record.

And so as the day came to an end off opening play around the beleaguered Big East, for a short time over the next few days one will see Seton Hall tied at the top of the standings and UConn at the bottom.

ABL East vs. ABL West in the WNBA

That Seton Hall reference was a way to note the recent hire and return to the WNBA of Pirates coach Anne Donovan, who was announced Thursday as the successor to Mike Thibault of the contending Connecticut Sun.

She will maintain the Seton Hall job to the end of the season making Saturday twice now that she is the only person to win at the college and pro level while holding two jobs at the same moment.

Two seasons ago she was in her final season with the New York Liberty on the way to the Seton Hall job when she led the WNBA squad back to the playoffs and a tie for first with Washington in the East.

On Saturday, Seton Hall opened with a win at home in the conference against Pittsburgh, which Donovan coached on the way to the Sun job this March.

When the Seattle Storm and Sun match up in their two WNBA East-West games this summer, the Storm will have former American Basketball League notables Brian Agler, who won two ABL titles, on the sidelines, and Karen Bryant in the front office, a job she held in the ABL with that Seattle team.

For the Sun, Donovan coached the short-lived bankrupt season of the Philadelphia Rage when the ABL collapsed at a time when current Sun general manager Chris Sienko had the same position with the New England Blizzard.

Future WNBA Top Picks Deliver

So in one week’s time – Elena Delle Donne, who could be anywhere from No. 1 to No. 3 in the next WNBA draft, scores 29 points for Delaware and the game-winner in overtime in a great triumph for the Blue Hens at St. John’s while Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins, likely No. 2 or No. 3 overall pick, gets the game-winner with two foul shots at UConn.

Big East Implosion

Looking at opening matchups Saturday and those to come Sunday makes one sad over the soon-to-be demise of the Big East as we know it for women’s basketball, though it does create some humor when one considers the expanded description of the results tallied and next set of games.

On Saturday:

Catholic Seven-bound Seton Hall at home topped Atlantic Coast Conference-bound Pittsburgh 69-56.

C7-bound Georgetown on the road topped C-7 bound Providence 79-64.

ACC-bound Notre Dame on the road edged surviving limbo Connecticut 73-72.

ACC-bound Syracuse on the road topped C-7 bound Marquette 92-79.

C7-bound DePaul at home upset ACC-bound Louisville 86-80.

That makes the Standings at the moment:

C7-bound teams 3-2 with an in-house result.

ACC-bound teams 2-2

Connecticut in a league of its own 0-1.

On Sunday:

Big Ten-bound Rutgers hosts C7-bound St. Johns.

C7-bound Villanova at surviving Cincinnati.

And that’s it for now.


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