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.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Mike Siroky's Final WNIT Report: Nothing Sweet About It

By Mike Siroky

Even though two teams in the Big Ten recovered their season records enough for next year’s public relations books, they still did not win the NIT.

That tournament is only important if you win it, which a soon-to-be conference competitor, Rutgers, did.

Another league newcomer in the next season, Maryland, made the Final Four of the bigger competition.

This proves the league will keep getting better and, perhaps, the best coaches will be the two newbies, each with former conference coaching experience.

Just as their conference sisters did in the NCAA playdowns, the one remaining team each from the Big Ten and the Southeastern Conference went no further than qualifying for the NIT quarterfinals.

The best each team got some more team practices in, showing practicality for next season less than six months away.

So here’s how it ended:

• South Dakota State 76, Indiana 64: Away from home for their first time in the tournament, in Sioux Falls, Indiana (21-13) fell right where conference competitor Minnesota died the week before.

Unlike the Gophers, Indiana is delighted with their coach and he can now build on this experience with a wonderfully young team of seven freshman and three sophomores.

Alexis Gassion led the Hoosiers with a career-high tying 22 points and fellow-freshman Larryn Brooks scored 16 points for Indiana. Brooks is already at 554 on her career.

Early on IU tied it at 13 thanks to a Gassion drive and layup. Taylor Agler found Milika Taufa on a backdoor cut for lay in with 13:28 left in the half. The Jackrabbits then strung together a 6-0 run to take a 19-13 advantage.

South Dakota State closed the half with an 11-3 spurt over the final 4:16 to take a 36-29 lead.

Senior Andrea Newbauer played some big minutes in the second half and drove to the bucket for a layup to cut the lead to four with 12:45 to go.

Gassion hit a three and then two more baskets to cut the deficit to 54-51 with 7:33 remaining.

Indiana ends with a school-record 21 wins, the fifth team in program history to do it.

IU shot 44.4 percent for the game, 8-of-18 3s.

The Hoosiers scored the second-most points ever in a single year in school history (2,369), finished with the second-most field goals (850) and the most 3s (259).

The 259 3-point field goals made rank second all-time in Big Ten history for a single season.

Brooks’ 67 3-pointers made ties for the fourth-highest ever in a season; is third for most assists in a season.

Coach Curt Miller said, “I thought it was great game, with the crowd and the way we competed in it.

”What an honor. That game made us better in the future. The environment will make us better in the long run. The statistics are nearly identical. Both team made big plays when they needed to. I came in saying we needed to be 10 points better to beat them and we were not.”

He pointed out his freshman backcourt scored 45 and so, “The foundation is set with the one recruiting class . . . and yet we continue to build to get better.”

“We always rallied with what we know how to do,” said senior Tabitha Gerardot.
Freshman Taylor Agler said it all is about working hard in practice. “We now know what to do and just have to do it,” she said. “Keep workin’ hard.”

Brooks said she enjoyed her freshman journey and learned a lot about crowds and arenas.

“We didn’t win all our battles and now that is one of our goals,” she said.

“All those different memories,” reflected Gerardot. “The most non-conference wins in school history, getting nationally ranked at one point. I am glad I came.”

SEC

•South Florida 60, Mississippi State 58:
The Bulldogs (22-14) as we have been cheerleading these past weeks position themselves to move into the middle range of the southeastern Conference with this NIT run.

And they made it as close as they could.

Rallying from down seven points in the final four minutes of play, MSU grabbed the lead on a basket by all-conference junior center Martha Alwal. Then a 3 as time expired killed them and drained the home crowd of 3,006.

The Bulldogs won three postseason games for the first time in program history and finished with 20-plus wins for the fifth time ever. The 22 victories stand as the fourth-most in school history.

“It was one heck of a basketball game,” coach Vic Schaefer said. “I never have been prouder to watch these young ladies grow. A year ago, we were doing individual workouts on March 5. This year, we were still playing 25 days later. I am proud of these ladies.

“The crowd was outstanding. The atmosphere was great. It needs to be that way every time because these ladies are paying the price to represent this university.”

Both teams struggled offensively in the opening half as the game quickly established itself as a defensive struggle.

South Florida built an 11-6 lead less than eight minutes in. Back-to-back baskets by Kendra Grant, who finished a point shy of her career high with 22, brought the Bulldogs to 11-10.

South Florida scored seven straight to build a 21-14 lead. From there, State tightened up defensively and did not allow a field goal over the final 4:45 of the half.

The Bulldogs scored the half’s final eight; two free throws by Grant with 21 seconds left tied it at 22 at halftime.

In the opening half, each team hit 8-of-30 field goals for 26.7 percent shooting.

“It feels really good to see how far we have come,” Grant said. “Making it to the Elite Eight of the WNIT tells us that we have come a long way. It feels really good to know that we are making a difference and becoming a really good team.”

MSU started the second half with better offensive flow. The Bulldogs held the lead for all but one possession of the first 12 minutes of the second half.

Behind the strong play of Breanna Richardson inside and Grant outside, the Bulldogs led by four points seven different times in the early stages of the half.

Over the stretch of three minutes, South Florida hit a 12-0 run to grab a 48-40 lead with 6:26 left. The Bulldogs were still down seven with 2:40 left before mounting one final threat.

“I don’t want these kids and this staff to feel like this again,” Schaefer said. “They work too hard and they have given their all. This team is on its way. The people who walked out of the arena tonight now have a connection with this team. They know this team is fun to watch.

“There is no one that is going to out-tough us or out-physical us.”

The Bulldogs hit 32 percent from the field and 72 percent from the line with a 46-37 rebounding advantage.

In addition to Grant’s 22 points, Richardson posted her fourth double-double, second of the WNIT, with 14 points and 14 rebounds, a career high.

Alwal had 317 rebounds, the ever in a season by a Bulldog.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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