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, March 05, 2018

Mike Siroky’s SEC Report: The Best Team Won

By Mike Siroky
For the fourth straight season, South Carolina won the automatic bid to the NCAA eliminations, downing Mississippi State once again in a game over by halftime, 62-51.

It ends the BulldBy Mike Siroky
For the fourth straight season, South Carolina won the automatic bid to the NCAA eliminations, downing Mississippi State once again in a game over by halftime, 62-51.

It ends the Bulldog run of 32 consecutive wins, which started after the national title loss to SC. 

While it evens the season between them at 1-1 it does alter the national picture somewhat. 

State seemed all but locked in as a top seed but now would need to be a second conference top seed in all likelihood and that did not happen last season.

Perhaps the No 2 from here would be the top No. 2 and avoid the conference foe’s Regional as well as UConn, which nobody wants to play until they have to. 

The Selection  Committee is not bound to follow the Associated Press rankings, but State surely slides from No 2 nationally. But will they fall behind what was No. 7? 

Could they still be thought of as at least equal to the Gamecocks.

Notre Dame lost again to Louisville in that conference, but defeated SC as well. They are a dangerous No. 2, sure to escape where Louisville is No 1 and not UConn.

Louisville may have won Lexington as a top seed or maybe an SEC team will get a shot as a No. 2.

 That leaves Kansas City (where State would have been had it won) and Spokane (the longest distance yet a No. 1 destination). A team which lost to end the season has little pull.

We have a week to wait.

The game is one better watched with the talkers muted.

 Their first big error was telling us Dawn Staley was the defending all-conference coach, They too are unbelieving of the choice that was made. Vic Schaefer is the conference coach of the year now.

Staley outcoached him from the jump, as Schaefer likes to say.

A lot of that goes to senior All-American A’ja Wilson. 

They could have handed out the all-tournament ballots with her name and that of Victoria Vivians of State already printed on them. 

No drama, both made it.

 Wilson becomes the first four-time MVP and the only non-starter ever.

 The other spots went to national freshman-of-the-year Chennedy Carter of Texas A& M and starting SC center Mikiah Herbet-Harrison and point guard Tyasha Harris.

The crowd of 8,215 was ready to cheer for State but lost its will in the second quarter. 

The Bulldogs had one basket in a five-point effort, the lowest ever.

 Schaefer told them he could not make the plays for them and urged more drives inside but no one was willing to sacrifice this night.

They did not score a basket for the final 8:21.

Missing was the tree in the middle, Teaira McCown, limited to 24 minutes.  She got a second foul at 8:39 of the first and was not seen again in the half. 
Had she played, she undoubtedly would have been all-tournament.

“We’re locked in, contesting every shot,” Staley said at the break.

Vivians finished with a fine 17.  Nobody doubled. SC won rebounds by 15. Schaefer had counted rebounds as a toughness stat in the semifinals.

“Credit to South Carolina, they played very well today,” Schaefer said. “They came out energized, ready to play. They do a great job of exposing your weaknesses. 

“I thought this would be a game of toughness. I always talk about how tough our team is. I don’t like we are out-toughed. I will wear that as a coach; that is on me.

“In the first half, we settled for too many jump shots. They were fairly good looks. In the second half, we played harder, played better. We didn’t have enough today. We missed our fair share of layups. We didn’t make plays we normally make.”

They missed their first seven shots; SC missed their first four.

After the 30-19 start, all SC had to do was maintain.

“We got great players, the current ones, the former ones,” said Staley. “They believed in this before it was popular to do so. 

“We were definitely the underdogs here and that was a good place to be. Fighting, fighting, fighting for history. I do not know what this does for us in the NCAA. We can’t do anything about it; it’s in others’ hands.

“Mississippi State had a tremendous year. They are doing things that haven’t been done before. Honestly, if we hadn’t won it, I wanted them to win it. I want to congratulate them. Sometimes, coming in undefeated puts a lot of pressure on them. 

“I thought our team was engaged.”

Wilson also recognizes the pride in her team.

“I can’t even put into words what it means to win this uniform,” she said. “I am so proud of the young ones on this team. Hard work, hard work. I trusted the team and the coach. She has done so much for me as a player and a person.”

Harris said the idea the seniors have been undefeated in confidence tournament is “crazy.”

“For me, I could not have imagined this. I think it really does help our confidence a lot. 

“That’s who we are, that’s our system. We are just going day by day.”


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