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, March 09, 2014

Mike Siroky's Big Ten Report: Two Western Coaches Go For First Title

By Mike Siroky

There is no Eastern bias in the Big 10.

At least, the two best teams – each of whom earned a conference title shot – survived challenges in the league tournament semifinals at Indianapolis.

Nebraska, a relative conference newcomer, has never won a Big Ten title, of course. Iowa has not won one since the long-ago realm of then-coach C. Vivian Stringer.

Against Iowa, Ohio State struggled valiantly and then succumbed to a better team, the Buckeyes finishing with a losing record but not a loser by any means, first-year coach Kevin McGuff putting them back in the conference conversation by dispatching the top seed and three-time defending conference champs.

Michigan State, in the national Top 25 at least until tomorrow’s rankings, will be in the NCAA draw somewhere, maybe even on track to the Notre Dane Regional.

Here’s the semifinals (seeds listed).

• No. 5 Iowa 87 (26-7) 77, No. 8 Ohio State (17-18) 73

Theatrics from Theairra have become all the norm for No. 23 Iowa.

Senior Theairra Taylor scored 2, including the go-ahead layup with 92 seconds left as Iowa held on.

After that layup, Ameryst Alston missed a layup on Ohio State's ensuing possession and Martina Ellerbe then missed a potential game-winning 3 as time expired on the Buckeyes’ season.

Iowa is in the Big Ten title game for the first time since 2010.

Junior Bethany Doolittle and freshman Ally Disterhoft each added 18 points and junior Melissa Dixon 16 for Iowa, which never gave up the lead, despite the closeness of the game. All are fed by junior guard Samantha Logic. Her nine assists gave her 26 for three tournament games.

Iowa may be 3-0 this season against Ohio State, but had been 0-3 in conference tournament games. The Hawkeyes ride a six-game winning streak, 12 of the past 14. The 26 wins are the most since 1996-96, with the 27 that season a school record.

Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said she is “just thrilled” for the team, citing their mental toughness.

“Thei’s basket was just incredible,” she said. “She just willed it in. I am just very, very grateful we survived.”

Taylor said of the shot, “Well, I saw the opening, but I didn't know if I had the touch to kiss it off the glass the right way, but luckily I did.

“It's an amazing feeling. I can't think of a better script or a better team to be going to the championship with. I think we deserved it, we work hard, we played team basketball, we play the game the way it's supposed to be played and we're all excited to play tomorrow.”

Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said his building process is showing signs of good things in seasons to come.

“I think we can take away from this I think we took significant steps in just consistently playing hard and imposing our will on the game,” he said.

“I think you saw a little more glimpses of how we want to be from a style standpoint. We were very aggressive, we were up-tempo and those are all things that, the direction that we want to move towards and the type of kids that we're recruiting.

”We came out, we were confident, we were ready, we were focused, we were excited to play, we were excited for each other and I think that certainly had a significant impact on our play.”

•No. 3 Nebraska (24-6) 86, No. 2 Michigan State (22-10) 58

The No. 16 nationally ranked Cornhuskers are the most-honored in the league this season. Despite finishing third, they now stand with those other teams now eliminated.

The Huskers hit 19-of-30 first-half shots (.633), including 75 percent of their 3s (6-of-8). NU also hit 6-of-6 free throws.

Sophomore guard Rachel Theriot and Tear'a Laudermill ignited a 23-6 surge over a six-minute span in the first half without All-American Jordan Hooper, the conference player of the year. Theriot had eight assists, giving her 26 in two tournament games.

The Huskers led by 23 at the half and pushed the lead to 32 points late in the game. Nebraska hit 52.4 percent (33-of-63) of its shots in the game, including 6-of-17 3s, while connecting on 14-of-17 free throws. The Huskers forced 23 Spartan turnovers, finishing with a plus-13 turnover margin on the night. MSU was held to 22-of-60 (.367) from the floor, including 4-of-15 3s in a futile attempt to catch up.

Michigan native Allie Havers added a career-high 17 points off the bench for Nebraska. The 6-5 rookie center from Paw Paw, hit 6-of-7 shots from the floor and all five of her free throws, while adding career bests with three assists and three blocked shots. She scored six of her points and had all three of her assists in the first half as Hooper's replacement.

Hooper, befuddled by fouls, scored 15 in a Big Ten season-low 23 minutes.
There were 6,890 witnesses.

With the win, conference Coach of-the-Year Connie Yori actually took time to reflect long-term.

Without Hooper out there, she said she began to think this was the team she was going to have next season, with some valuable rookies adding to it.

“As a coach, you think, ‘Well, should I put her back in,’ but then we didn’t need to.”

Theriot said defense keyed it.

“Getting big stops,” she said. “And then everyone was making big plays for us. I just took what they gave e and sometimes that’s me finding the open person, but I am happy taking my shot.”

Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant was transparent in her self-assessment.

“That might possible me the worst game we ever played,” she said, giving Nebraska’s defense all the credit.

“It was sort of a snowball effect. We didn’t have leadership from our vets.”
As a ranked team and co-conference champ, MSU does have time to recover and keep practicing, assured of placement in the NCAA playoffs.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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