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.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Guru's NCAA Report: Unbeatens Connecticut and Notre Dame Advance to Title Game

( Here is William "Willbill" Ewart's photo link to the Notre Dame game http://williamewartphoto.photoshelter.com/gallery/2014-NCAA-Womens-Final-Four-Maryland-Vs-Notre-Dame/G0000TnAyQFRresw/1

and to the UConn game http://williamewartphoto.photoshelter.com/gallery/2014-NCAA-Womens-Final-Four-Stanford-Vs-UConn/G0000magE40e1pT4/ )

By Mel Greenberg

The so-called "extras" that Maryland coach Brenda Frese referred to her Terrapins and Stanford going into Sunday's national semifinals of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament got x'd out by the 1-2 punch of Connecticut and Notre Dame to set up a first-ever batle of unbeatens Tuesday night for the Division I championship.

Connecticut's appearance will follow the Monday night men's championship between UConn and Kentucky giving the Huskies a chance to pull a double triumph in the same season for the second time in history.

Despite having lost post player Natalie Achonwa in the regional title win over Baylor, Notre Dame had little difficulty with the Irish's temporary Atlantic Coast Conference rival Maryland and all-American Alyssa Thomas in blasting to an 87-61 victory in the Bridgestone Arena to stay perfect at 37-0.

The Terrapins (28-7) with the loss, will bid adieu to the ACC and on July 1 will join the Big Ten conference.

Notre Dame, an emigre from the old Big East configuration where it played UConn consistently, made its ACC debut this season.

Meanwile, several hours later after a slow start in the first half, Connecticut racked up win number 39 on the season without a loss by beating Stanford 75-56 to make it four wins in five tries against the Cardinal (33-4) competing in the Women's Final Four.

Ironically, the matchup brings together two coaches -- UConn's Geno Auriemma and Notre Dame's Muffet McGraw -- with ties to Saint Joseph's in Philadelphia and to the championship era in the early 1970s of Immaculata, which will be announced Monday morning as part of the induction class to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

Both Auriemma, who coached for the Hawks as a women's assistant, and McGraw, who played and coached as an assistant at her alma mater, are in the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame near here in Knoxville while Auriemma is also a Naismith Hall of Famer.

Auriemma is also going for his ninth NCAA title, which would break a tie with Tennessee coach emeritus Pat Summitt, and second straight win over the Irish in the Final Four following last season's triumph in the semifinals on the way to the way to the championship, which came courtesy of a win over Louisville, which was also in the old Big East.

Previously, Notre Dame had three straight wins over UConn in the Final Four in 2001, 2011, and 2012.

The losses ended the all-American careers of Maryland's Thomas and Stanford's Chiney Oguwmike, who are expected to go quickly in next week's WNBA draft at the Mohegan Sun, home of the Connecticut Sun, in Uncasville.

"Obviously, the better team won tonight," Frese said. "...I thought they set the tone from the first possession with the offensive rebounding, being dominat on the glass."

Notre Dame outrebounded the Terrapins 50-21 and the two all-Americans from the Irish dominated the nets as Kayla McBride scored 28 points and Jewel Loyd scored 16.

Additionally, Markisha Wright off the bench scored 12 points.

Thomas, who struggled with foul trouble, scored 14 points while Brionna Jones had a team-high 16 points for the Terps, and freshman Lexi Brown and reserve Laurin Mncy each scored 11 points.

"We thought the game would be won on the boards," McGraw said. "I think it was. To hold them to four offensive rebounds for the game, I think it was a tremendous accomplishment."

McBride said of her night, "I was trying to have fun -- I thought in past games I was pressed a little bit. As a senior, I felt I had to do too much. But I let this game come to me."

In the Connecticut game, the Huskies' Breanna Stewart, the consensus player of the year to date as a sophomore, had a game-high 18 points, while Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis scored 15 points, Bria Hartley, another all-American, scored 13 points, all-American Stefanie Dolson scored 10 points, and Moriah Jefferson also scored 10.

Amber Orrange had a team-high 16 points for Stanford while Oguwmike ended her career with 15 points and 10 rebounds on the night.

Auriemma ascribed his team's early struggle caused by the inability to make shots but once the Huskies settled down, he noted, "I thought we played one of the best games we played all year, given the fact we beat a really, really good team."

Notre Dame won at Maryland during the regular season in a game in which the Irish lost a big lead but prevailed in the closing minutes.

Connecticut won in the Huskies' campus arena in Storrs at Gampel Pavilion over Stanford in a nonconference game in November.

"I think at times we were a little jumpy, getting too excited," said Stewart, who last season became the second freshman to earn Most Oustanding Player honors for the tournament.

"And we had to settle down and get into the right rhythm of the game. Once we did that, it seemed like we went on a run to end the first half and shots started falling."

Connecticut trailed by six with 5:39 left in the first half and then went on a 12-2 run into the break and kept it up by opening the second half with a 16-3 outburst.

""Things got a little away from us in the second half," said Oguwmike, who was a No. 1 pick overall by the WNBA Los Angeles Sparks two years ago.

"Mybe if two things went our way we could have swayed the momentum. But that's just the way the game goes sometimes."

Hall of Fame coach Tara VanDerveer spoke of the frustration of her Stanford Cardinal playing the Huskies.

"To beat Connecticut when you're here, we needed something else," she ssid. "And we needed to be bigger. We needed to play a bigger lineup. But we didn't. We weren't able to play people when we needed to. We tried it and it didn't look very good."

-- More to Come.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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