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.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Guru's NCAA Report: Maryland Side Steps Texas to Avoid Early Death in the Second Round

By Mel Greenberg

Two decades worth of seasons since Texas and Maryland last met and the Terrapins are still a thorn in the side of the Longhorns' attempt to accelerate progress.

Coach Brenda Frese's squad to the delight of a home crowd in the Comcast Center Tuesday night side stepped Texas and death in the second round of the NCAA women's basketball tournament when Chassidy Fussell missed a three-pointer with 38 seconds left that would have flipped a one-point deficit to a two-point lead.

"Empress (Davenport)was going for the layup and Empress set a great screen on my man so I just came off and it just didn't fall this time," Fussell said.

Then after Laurin Mincy hit a pair of foul shots for Maryland, Texas' Nekia Jones missed a trey that would have tied it with 11 seconds.

All-American Alyssa Thomas, who had been shutout in the first half on the scoreboard, then stepped to the line and sank her points numbers 15 and 16 to give the fourth-seeded Terrapins a 69-64 victory over the fifth-seeded Longhorns (22-12) and a trip to the Sweet 16 in the Louisville Regional Sunday.

"They just didn't go down," Texas second-year coach Karen Aston said of the misfires. "I would want those same players taking those same shots, in particular the shot Chas got out of the timeout was exactly what we were looking for.

"The shot Nekia got was a great shot. We didn't have any more timeouts so they improvised a little bit and I thought that was actually a really good shot to get without having any kind of timeout that created that. But again, I would draw up that same play for Chas again. Everyday."

Maryland (26-6) will meet top-seeded Tennessee (29-5) in the Yum Center, the home of Louisville which was in the top five most of the season and was the best team in the American Athletic Conference not named unbeaten Connecticut.

The defending national champion Huskies (36-0)advanced to the Lincoln (Neb.) Regional semiifnals routing Saint Joseph's 91-52 Tuesday at home in the Huskies' Gampel Pavilion on campus in Storrs.

The other part of the Louisville regional semifinal was determined later Tuesday night with third-seeded Louisville (32-4), the host of the region finals, winning 83-53 over host Iowa (27-9), the sixth seed.

Seventh-seeded LSU (21-12) hosted and upset second-seeded West Virginia 76-67 in the other game as the Mountaineers finished their season 30-5, including sharing the regular season Big 12 title with Baylor.

Back here Maryland appeared on the way to lock things up with an 11-point lead with just under eight minutes to play in regulation and a 10-point advantage at 63-53 with 4:17 left in the game.

But then Fussell and reserve Krystal Henderson connected on a pair of treys around a Maryland basket before Henderson nailed another three-pointer and Imani McGee-Stafford scored on a layup off a Maryland turnover and suddenly it was 65-64 with 1:38 left in regulation.

However, that was as far as the Longhorns surge would get and the Terrapins had their fifth win in six meetings all-time with Texas, including three in the postseason.

"Neither team deserved to lose that game," Frese said afterwwards as Maryland's women's basketball participation as an Atlantic Coast Conference member stayed alive for at least one more game before the Terrapins join the Big Ten this summer.

"I can't remember the last time I've seen Alyssa with zero points and we were tied at halftime," Frese said. "I am really happy for our seniors to able to continue with a win on their home court.

"I told them in our locker room we are not finished. I'm excited to be able to go, and we are going to make a run for the roses."

That remains to be seen whether that's attainable considering that beyond Tennessee looms a potential Elite Eight game against Louisville, coached by Frese's former assistant Jeff Walz, which knocked Maryland out in the Elite Eight in 2009.

Then the odds say next in the Women's Final Four in Nashville would be unbeaten Notre Dame, which dominated the ACC and also went unbeaten besides Connecticut, the overall No. 1 seed in the tournament.

But that's all down the road beginning on the weekend.

For now, there's the chance to savor surviving in a tight game.

"I think it's really good for us that we had to play a game like this to really understand who we are," Freese said. "When we play like the way we've played the last two games, great things are in store for us."

Thomas' 16 points became high for the game to go with her game-high 11 rebounds for Maryland.

Alicia DeVaughn scored 12 points while Laurin Mincy and freshman Lexi Brown each scored 10 points.

The Terrapins also got key support off the bench with eight points from freshman Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and nine from sophomore center Malina Howard, who had been a starter earlier in the year.

"We always talk about as a staff to just be ready for your opportunity," Frese said. "I thought Malina and Laurin Mincy were ready for their opportunity tonight; they were obviously a big piece of the runs we made tonight."

Thomas, expected to go high in the first round of next month's WNBA draft, talked about her night and early struggles.

"I was struggling to score and some of my teammates had a hot hand," the Harrisburg (Pa.) native said. "I knew I had to just be patient and wait for my opportunity.

"Sequoia (Austin) and Chloe (Pavlech) gave me confidence," she said of the halftime discussion in the locker room. "They told me they weren't worried and told me to get to the basket and keep working."

Texas' Henderson, who connected on 4-for-5 attempted treys, had a team high 14 points while Fussell scored 13 points.

Davenport off the bench scored nine points and Nneka Enemkpali had nine points and 10 rebounds.

But McGee-Stafford, a 6-foot-7 sophomore center, was held to six points and six rebounds.

"The resilency of our team has been something that I have watched grow throughout the year and we've really become a pretty good basketball team," said Aston, whose Longhorns were 12-18 her first season.

She previously was at North Texas and Charlotte, when the 49ers were in the Atlantic 10.

"Obvioualy, made some mistakes in the second half that really hurt us, transition mistakes, and some defensive assignments. But can't be more proud of a basketball team than I am tonight," Aston said of the game.

"I think that really the second half we got a little wound up and we started shooting too quickly," Aston said. "And they were Maryland. Maryland's really good on the boards and they forced their will on us in the second half.

"But I thought some of it had to do with us not having patience offensively."

While Maryland blunted the Longhorns once again, Texas remains on the way back to national prominence.

A stellar rookie class will arrive in the fall and it could be that the Longhorns could be back in the Associated Press Poll, of where they are one of the all-time programs, as is Maryland, before too long.

That's it from here. The Guru heads back to Philadelphia. He'll be at Rutgers Thursday night for the Women's NIT third-round game with nearby Seton Hall.

More to come along the way from Siroki and possibly others.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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