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Wed Mar 13, 2013, 11:08 AM

Women's College BB: Hartford Courant -- An Irish Win, And A Wake Of Sorts


An Irish Win And A Wake Of Sorts http://www.courant.com/sports/uconn-women/hc-jacobs-column-0313-20130312,0,4040163.column by Jeff Jacobs

UConn's final possession may have been the worst in a big moment in the history of the program. Skylar Diggins stole the ball. Notre Dame stole UConn's heart. Again. Again. Again.

Yet it wasn't until the Notre Dame women gathered in a chorus line following their dramatic Big East tournament triumph and began dancing the jig to their band's playing of "Rakes of Mallow," that the thought crossed my mind.

This really was an Irish wake, or at least the basketball equivalent of it.

SNIP

On a day when Notre Dame officially announced it was leaving for the ACC in July, on a night when the Big East brought down its curtain both on the women's tournament and the tournament run at the XL Center, the Huskies died one more excruciating basketball death at the hands of the Irish.

These are the headlines.

  • UConn failed to win either the Big East regular season or tournament title for the first time since 1993. Two decades, one, the other, or usually both titles an unreal streak.

  • UConn failed to hit a three-pointer for the first time since it won the national championship against Oklahoma in 2002. Eleven years, raining threes, with the best shooter in the nation in Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis Tuesday night an unreal streak of 403 games.

  • SNIP

    if anybody walks away from the past few years saying anyone other Skylar Diggins is the greatest opponent in UConn history, well, they're faking it. They're relying on the argument of pure greatness of a Candace Parker or a Holdsclaw or a Griner. Nobody has dug down deeper when it matters most against UConn than Diggins.

    One thing before we get into the last play, maybe the worst play in UConn women's history when it mattered. One thing before we bemoan how UConn had a lead at the end of the Final Four game in Denver and lost in overtime. One thing before we bemoan how the Huskies had a lead at Gampel Pavilion at the end in January and lost by one, and had a lead in South Bend at the end last week and lost in triple overtime. And this is the thing.

    As much as been said about her terrific leadership, clutch offensive play and sometimes wayward shot, Diggins is a tremendous defender. "A lot of players can't guard the dribble," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "She is able to pick up players in the backcourt and force turnovers. But her defense is excellent because she has so much pride. She does not want you to score on her."

    SNIP

    What was Kelly Faris thinking last night with 18.4 secs left? Her bad pass to Stewart was luckily saved by the freshman. It was a 1 handed catch like you see in the NFL. Then after Faris gets the ball again she drives towards the baseline and Achonwa cut it off. Instead of turning around, Faris makes an awkward pass to KML, who was heavily guarded by Jewel Lloyd and which caused her to be off balance after catching the pass. The KML made a bad pass that was easily intercepted by Diggins. You could see the domino effect of a bad play in real time during that period. Faris acted as if she thought there was 8 secs instead of 18.4 secs left in the game. Why didn't they try to pass the ball around the perimeter for a better shot? There was plenty of time for that. Worse, even if they missed the shot, they were guaranteed an overtime?

    My other comment on the game last night --where was Bria Hartley? She seems to fade in tough game situations and her play this year is a disappointment for UCONN. She needs to score the 3's when the other team shuts down KML. Though I have to congrat ND for doing a great defensive job on KML. She killed them in the first half last week and ND was determined not to let her repeat that scoring blitz.

    Overall, last night's game was another thriller and another growing spurt for women's basketball. ND is my alma mater and she will always be first in my heart, but as one who witnessed Title IX come in when I was in 7th grade, I respect UCONN and how Geno proved that women can play high caliber basketball that was interestingt to watch. UCONN is now where Tenn was when UCONN was an up-and-coming basketball power. Defeating UCONN is now proof that a team/program is a national contender.

    I remember when ND first joined the Big East and I would see how the ND Women's team at first was psyched out before the game against UCONN started. UCONN dominated the Irish til 2001 when Ruth Riley & Co. defeated them first at ND and then in the Final Four. Even after that UCONN regained their dominance until Diggins became a sophomore and her tough minded attitude helped her teammates learn to psych out UCONN and defeat the Huskies.

    Because I like the UCONN Huskies and can never root against my alma mater, my approach to their matchup is "you have to earn the win". Notre Dame finally figured out how to do that against the Huskies. Congrats to the Irish for a great season and one that was not expect by much of the women's basketball world.

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    Reply Women's College BB: Hartford Courant -- An Irish Win, And A Wake Of Sorts (Original post)
    Larkspur Mar 2013 OP
    joeybee12 Mar 2013 #1
    Larkspur Mar 2013 #2
    joeybee12 Mar 2013 #3
    Larkspur Mar 2013 #4
    joeybee12 Mar 2013 #5
    joeybee12 Mar 2013 #6

    Response to Larkspur (Original post)

    Wed Mar 13, 2013, 11:17 AM

    1. UCONN probably is as talented as ND...

    But they don't have a leader...at the end, when it matters, there's no individual holding them together...they could have easily beaten ND 3 times...but when it counts, there's no leader...they're glad ND is going to the ACC, although without Skylar, ND comes back down to earth.

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    Response to joeybee12 (Reply #1)

    Wed Mar 13, 2013, 11:56 AM

    2. Actually, UCONN is a little more talented than ND

    UCONN has taller inside people. Dolson did a great job getting herself in shape for this year and her game has improved dramatically. Stewert, while a freshman, is a very good shooter. Her weakness is posting down low and playing through contact. Kia Stokes is a great shot blocker, but she doesn't get much game time.

    But the discrepancy comes at the guard spots. Diggins, Lloyd, and McBride did a number on KML, Hartley and Faris. All scored in single digits and either turned the ball over or caused their team mates to do so in clutch situations. And ND forced UCONN to shoot goose eggs at the 3-pt range. That's the stunner from last night's stats.

    But I think the edge is in the mental toughness of ND's guards over UCONN's at this point. ND never got rattled last night. They knew that UCONN on basically a UCONN home court was going to come back, but they weathered it well and forced UCONN's guards to make bad decisions. To me it's obvious that ND has gotten into Faris' and Hartley's heads. KML can have a great night shooting if ND doesn't guard her, but when they do and the other 2 guards can't help her, KML has a bad night.

    In a way also, ND gave UCONN a taste of UCONN's own medicine. So is UCONN glad ND is going to the Big East? Maybe the UCONN fans are, but UCONN needs teams like ND to challenge them and test their mettle. UCONN actually made ND a national champion contender program. Instead of whining about UCONN, Muffet decided a few years ago to rise to the challenge. She recruited well and found players who wanted to beat UCONN. If ND keeps what they learned from UCONN, they should dominate the ACC. The ACC teams haven't been able to crack UCONN consistently. Once in a while they catch the Huskies in a lull between greatness but they can't match the daily grind-it-out intensity and demand for perfection that UCONN has.

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    Response to Larkspur (Reply #2)

    Wed Mar 13, 2013, 03:39 PM

    3. I think you mean ND is going to the ACC...

    They should be dominant there...the ACC is vastly over-rated in the women's game...it shows every time UCONN goes to play an undefeated Duke or North Carolina.

    Sad to say, I don't think ND can beat Baylor...UCONN has a better shot...I just hope they don't meet in the semis again...I'd like Baylor to have to play bothe teams...I think the Final Four will be the usual suspects.

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    Response to joeybee12 (Reply #3)

    Thu Mar 14, 2013, 05:34 PM

    4. I don't think anyone can beat Baylor as long as Griner AND Sims are playing together.

    No one, not even UCONN, who played Baylor in Hartford, could beat them.
    Stanford got lucky because Sims didn't play. I think she was sick or injured. Even then, Stanford only won by 1 or 2 points.

    It looks like ND and UCONN will see each other in the Final four if they make it that far. Baylor will be the #1 overall 1 seed, ND will be the #2 overall 1 seed, UCONN the #3 overall 1 seed and Stanford the #4 overall 1 seed. 1 plays 4 and 2 plays 3.

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    Response to Larkspur (Reply #4)

    Thu Mar 14, 2013, 05:42 PM

    5. I think Baylor is beatable...

    But it will be very, very hard. I'd love to see UCONN drop to the #4 seed...so Baylor would get both ND and UCONN...I know Sims was out against Stanford...I think it was an injury, but I can't recall for sure. UCONN was beating Baylor until the second half...they have the talent, not the mental toughness...Baylor led ND the whole game, if I recall.

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    Response to Larkspur (Original post)

    Tue Mar 19, 2013, 03:57 PM

    6. Same #1's as last year, same 1-4 seeding as last year...

    Can't see anyone other than those four making the Final Four...

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