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:The Real Big Ten Champs Are From Nebraska

By Mike Siroky

As the new world order goes, the teams that win the regular-season of a given conference get a shiny star to paste in their media guides the next season.

The real champ is the one contracted by the NCAA and that’s the tournament champs.

Sometimes, a Notre Dame, a Stanford and, especially, a UConn will win both and there is no discussion.

In the Big Ten, Nebraska erased all pretensions of anyone else being considered the champions, 72-65, over Iowa.

Still and all, the best the Big Ten gets is a No. 2 seed, maybe. Or maybe the best of all the no. 3s. Which, at the Regional level is not all that different as the 2s and 3s would have to play before reaching the Elite Eight

But that’s for next Monday’s discussion, after the draw.

This week, the Cornhuskers can celebrate at least a day, check the new national rankings on Monday and then enter practice with renewed faith in themselves.

There are probably three or four more of these conference teams somewhere in the minds of he NCAA Selection Committee, which is vindication of the third-best overall league in America. They can also continue to practice, especially at West Lafayette and in Happy Valley, Pa., where other sub-Regionals will sell tickets and rent hotel rooms.

Iowa also has a sub-Regional at home and that is a usual ticket to the Sweet 16. If the conference tournament champs prove out, they could be in Lincoln, Neb., for another Sweet 16 appearance.

Iowa can take its 25 wins back home and aim for a school season record. But the six-game winning streak is gone. They have won 12 of the past 15.

Here’s how the title game played out in Indianapolis:

To almost no one’s surprise who is not from Iowa, No. 16 Nebraska, the No. 3 seed, started out with a 12-4 advantage.

Player of the Year Jordan Hooper, shackled in the semifinals with foul trouble, scored half of the points and three teammates each scored two more as Nebraska spread it around.

A 3 by Tear'a Laudermill kept the No. 5 seed Hawkeyes on their heels with nine minutes gone and their chances of an upset slipping away.

It grew to 23-9 before Iowa ignited.

Melissa Dixon and Clarie Till each hit 3s and Amy Disterhoff took a feed from Samanatha Logic in for a layup in a small offensive flurry.

Each side seemed offensively unsettled, Nebraska at 36 percent form the field, Iowa at 34.

The bad news for Iowa was two of their four guards – the best two, Dixon and Theairra Taylor -- had three fouls apiece. The rookie center Disterhoff needs them all to look good. The personal fouls were 12-3 and not in a good way for Iowa.

Nebraska had counter-punched of course and Hooper had a dozen points with 3:29 before the break and the nine-point lead maintained despite Iowa’s best effort.

From 5:24 to 2:14 of the half, Iowa scored not a point. And then it was Disterhoff free throws. The half ended with three straight Nebraska fumble turnovers but a 34-26 lead thanks to the hot start.

All Nebraska needed to do was play even after that. Iowa had the tougher assignment of catching up to a team that does not much allow that.

The final nine Nebraska points came at the line, a sure sign the team ahead was hitting them.

Hooper finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds; Rachel Theriot with 24 points – 19 after intermission – is the conference tournament MVP.

Rebounds and free throws were emblematic of the team ahead playing against a four-guard offense. Nebraska won the boards. 58-27. Free throws were 30-of-36 to 11-of-14 for the Hawkeyes. Jordan was 12-of-14 from the line for a full dance card. Theriot was 5-of-6. Two others were 4-of-4. Disterhoff had 20 points, 8-of-10 from the line but surely seemed all alone out there at times.

Conference Coach of-the-Year Connie Yori said, “It was a game where couldn’t make a shot but still found a way to win. Every game does not come down to playing pretty.”

Jordan Hooper has no problem praising the star of the day, Theriot.

“She kept her calm, kept her cool and passed the ball the way she knows how,” said Hooper. “Obviously, we went after rebounds, protected the ball and had good defensive stops.”

Yori praised her team’s focus on resilience. “Men’s and women’s basketball, I mean we’re not just a football school anymore. OK?”

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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