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.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Mike Siroky's Big Ten Report: Favored Penn State Ousted Before Saturday Semis

By Mike Siroky

With five ranked teams, the Big Ten women’s conference tournament quarterfinals meant a ranked team was going to be sent to the sidelines.

But no one expected Ohio State to also dispatch the best team in the conference in an upset of national consequence.

As we have been saying all along, Kevin McGuff of Ohio State is no fluke, even if this is his first year coaching in conference.

And he got the signature win of his season in the quarterfinals.

Here’s the quarterfinals, with seedings and overall records:

• No. 8 Ohio State (17-17) 99, No. 1 Penn State (22-7) 82

This happens all too often to No. 6 Penn State in the league tournament.

Perhaps relaxed too much by skipping the first round, they fell hard to the Buckeyes.

It is Ohio State’s first win over a Top 10 team since 2011, obviously before Kevin McGuff was brought in to resurrect the team.

All-conference first team sophomore Ameryst Alston scored 33 and classmate Cait Craft 24.

They started so hot, hitting 10 3s as part of a scorching 71.9 percent from the field. The 58 points at halftime is a league tournament record. OSU made all 10 of its 3 attempts.

By the end, junior Raven Ferguson added 15 for OSU. For scoring comparisons, Alston averaged 19, Ferguson 11 and Craft 8.5.

It was a 20-point advantage when Ohio State scored its 83rd point and they simply never let off the gas pedal. Penn State had won over Ohio State by 20 to start February.

The Buckeyes advance to a Saturday semifinal, which they must win for any chance to any post-season invitation.

According to the coaches, Penn State has several players much better than Ohio State. But not this game.

“Well, you know, obviously a terrific performance by our players today,” McGuff said.

“I'm really, really proud of the effort that they put forth. We beat a very good team in Penn State. You know, I think the key when you come into a game like this is that -- in a tournament format -- you play extremely hard, obviously because it's win or go home, but also that you're loose and your players are enjoying it and they don't have the weight of the world on them. And we certainly played like that today. It was just a great win for our kids.”

Alston agreed it is all about the work ethic.

“That was our focus for the game, to come out hard and go hard,” she said. “Nobody wants to go home. We play every game like it's a championship game. We were hitting as a team. It becomes contagious, and that helped a lot.”

Craft said the fun they were having also had its effect on Penn State.

“Yes, like I told the girls at the end, I think it was under the four-minute timeout, they started bickering a little bit. When you get teams arguing amongst themselves, that's already like another member of your team playing against them.”

Now the Nittany Lions have to go home and await their first round sub-Regional at home where they should be the lowest-seeded team. It likely feeds the Stanford Regional, which should be the easiest of all.

• No. 5 Iowa 87 (25-7), No. 4 Purdue (21-8) 80

With two nationally ranked teams and perhaps the impetus now that Penn State was gone, this one was a real blue-collar smashup.

No. 17 Purdue edged ahead by four at halftime.

Neither team has a true center. Senior guard Theairra Taylor was leading No. 23 Iowa on her way to 17. Guard Courtney Moses was once again the best of Purdue’s starting guards, with 19, but only five after intermission. The difference was Purdue hitting 54 percent the field while Iowa was at 39 percent.

But down the stretch it was all Hawkeyes.

A 6-0 run salted it away to start the final two minutes. Ally Disterhoff hit a jumper. Bethany Doolittle took a feed from Samantha Logic for another. Taylor hit a layup. All five starters had at least a dozen points each. The final exchange of baskets was meaningless.

Logic, a junior, leads the conference in assists, Disterhoff is among the top freshmen in the league and has 52 points in two games at the tournament.
Iowa coach Lisa Bluder is the only one with 25 wins.

“We feel really good about this game,” she said. “ Coming from behind, battling foul trouble the first half, beating a very, very good basketball team, a team that's going to do incredible things in the NCAA Tournament. So it always makes you feel good when you beat a team that you respect.”

Disterhoff has seen enough that she is no longer a rookie.

“I think we just did a great job distributing the ball,” she said.

“That's kind of something we pride ourselves in is playing very unselfishly, always looking to make that extra pass. We believe in each other so much, and when you have a group of girls that believe in each other that much, you can do some pretty great things and I think that's what we did here today.”

Iowa beat Ohio State at home by four to close February. The Hawkeyes have won five in a row.

Purdue heads home to its sub-Regional which likely feeds into Notre Dame.

Purdue coach Sharon Versyp remains one game away from career win 300.

•No. 3 Nebraska (23-6) 80, No. 6 Minnesota (20-11) 67

National No. 16 Nebraska is 10-1 in its latest games. League Player of the Year Jordan Hooper, a senior, scored 33 with 12 rebounds. A two-point halftime lead expanded to an 11-point second-half edge.

It is the 10th time in her career Hooper has hit 30 or more, this time on 14-of-22 from the field. She has her team in the conference semifinals for the third straight season. The largest crowd of the tournament so far, 5,667, witnessed it.

Junior Emily Cady scored 15 and sophomore Rachel Theriot 14. Stabresa McDaniel came off the bench with 14 points and seven rebounds. Minnesota won the rebound matchup by 14.

A late 11-0 run put the Badgers away. Theriot set a conference record – tournament and all games -- with 18 assists. She has 201 on the season.

The balance is reflected in the honors heaped upon the Gophers by conferences coaches.

Nebraska is a team well-honored by the conference coaches. Connie Yori, in her 12th season, is the conference coach of the year for the second year in a row.

Hooper is the school’s first conference player of the year and the second to be all-conference three times in school history.

Theriot is also first team all-league. Juniors Emily Cady and Tear'a Laudermill are second-team all-conference. Classmate Hailie Sample is on the conference all-defensive team.

“Well, I thought, you know, our execution was really good in the second half,” said the understated Yori.

“We made a lot of plays down the stretch when the game got tight. I told Rachel, ‘I don’t get it. One turnover. What’s up with that?’ Obviously, she facilitated our game and Jordan was the recipient of a lot of them.

“Down the stretch, we just had a lot of kids with a chance to go one-on-one. It wasn’t always perfect.”

Theriot said all the assists were based on confidence her teammates could make plays, if she only got them the ball.

“It’s just one game at a time,” she said. “We are just now getting back to playing the Nebraska way.”

Hooper deflected the credit.

“We made some big stops on defense and that was the key,” she said.

Nebraska had lost at Michigan State by 13 in the second conference game of the season but beaten the Spartans by 10 at home on Feb. 8.

Minnesota returns home to await a call as a higher seed in the NCAAs.

•No. 2 Michigan State (22-8) 61, No. 7 Michigan (18-12) 58.

Michigan had lost by seven at home to No. 19 Michigan State in January, so maybe they got a little better. They only went six deep.

State senior forward Annalise Pickrel, second team all-conference, scored 18 and freshman Branndais Agee was special down the stretch. The Spartan defense held Michigan without a field goal in the final 7:07, closing on a 13-5 run and the last six points.

“I just tried to keep everybody composed and keep everyone kind of focused and energized and really wanting to win,” Pickrell said. “I would definitely have to say that my teammates have put me in positions that I was able to score and coach, as well. So the credit goes to them. But I just tried to keep us glued together in the first half.”

Agree made two free throws at 2:59 to make it a one-point game. Freshman Tori Jankoska put MSU up 59-58 with a layup at 1:15. After a Michigan turnover, Agee grabbed an offensive rebound and scored with 31 seconds left.

State had a 39-26 edge in rebounding. Michigan had the season conference lead in rebound margin at plus-8.4. It was a season-low rebound total for the Wolverines.

State coach Suzy Merchant said there is a certain will to win mode going on.

“I think there are a few things,” she said. “You have to look at our vets a little bit. I do think Annalise's will to win was there from start the finish. And sometimes when things aren't going our way, we can kind of become an individualized team.

“Everybody wants to put the team on their back, but because of that, it’s like one-pass shot, we're one-and-done and that kind of thing. She didn't allow that to happen. I thought Branndais' will to win there down the stretch really plummeted us in into an opportunity where she basically won the game for us with the steal and the rebound put-back and the defensive tie-up.”

Jankoska said of her late layup: “So I figured we should slow it down instead of getting a quick 3. I just thought, ‘Time, score, possession,’ like coach always says, we need to slow it down and make sure we got a good shot. And really having the offensive rebounding position like Branndais had and got an offensive board and put the basket back in.”

Michigan is actually the kind of team other post-season tournaments covert, so the Wolverines may yet get to 20 wins, at home.

Semifinals

No. 5 Iowa (25-7) vs. No. 8 Ohio State (17-17) and No. 2 Michigan State (22-8) vs. No. 3 Nebraska (23-6).

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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