Category archive: Ohio State Buckeyes
The headlines Monday morning are about Baylor beating Connecticut and Notre Dame beating Kentucky, but there's still cause to consider an abbreviated look at other weekend action.
Frank Victores/US PresswireCoach Dawn Staley liked what she saw Sunday when South Carolina held No. 16 North Carolina to 48 points and improved to 9-2.
Best team performance: South Carolina. There wasn't much heft to the 8-2 record South Carolina brought to Myrtle Beach for the neutral-site clash with North Carolina, but a 79-48 win presumably hit the ACC team like a ton of bricks.
The Tar Heels played two games of consequence this season, against Penn State and South Carolina, and lost both of them without being within single digits on the scoreboard over the final 10 minutes.
Dawn Staley's Gamecocks did just about everything right, shooting 47 percent, claiming a 47-30 advantage in rebounds, turning over the ball just nine times and getting 21 points from La'Keisha Sutton and 20 points from Markeshia Grant.
Considering a third of the team's wins came while scoring 60 or fewer points, defense still rules for Staley, but at least it's nice to know the offense has this in it.
Best individual performance: Gennifer Brandon, California. It came in a loss against Ohio State, California's third of the season by three or fewer points against a ranked opponent, but Brandon's line of 24 points and 24 rebounds in 33 minutes jumps off the page. Brandon entered the weekend tied for 48th in the nation in rebounding. Her average went from 9.6 per game to 10.9 per game after her effort against the Buckeyes, the latter average bettered by just 10 players entering the weekend.
Brandon might dwell, as players are wont to do, on the shot she missed in the closing seconds to try to force overtime, but it's safe to say her team wouldn't have been in that position in the first place without her points and rebounds.
Best coaching milestone: Jim Foster. Brandon's super-sized double-double wasn't the only big number that came out of Ohio State's victory against Cal. Buckeyes coach Jim Foster became the ninth Division I coach with 750 career wins.
It's difficult to believe it has been nearly two decades since he took Vanderbilt to the Final Four in 1993, but he keeps piling up victories. He needs 11 more of them to make Ohio State the most successful stop of a career that includes St. Joseph's and Vanderbilt.
Best comeback: Duquesne against West Virginia. Duquesne beat a nationally ranked Ohio State team on the road a season ago during the holiday portion of the schedule and proceeded to miss the NCAA tournament out of the ultra-competitive Atlantic 10. So Dukes coach Suzie McConnell-Serio wasn't ready to put any special labels on Saturday's 61-55 win against an unranked West Virginia team. But it sure beats losing, an outcome that seemed certain when Duquesne trailed by 17 points early in the second half.
Behind clutch 3-pointers from Alex Gensler, big baskets from Wumi Agunbiade, unsung role play from Jocelyn Floyd, Vanessa Abel and Ahjah Hall and a 2-2-1 press that left the Mountaineers flummoxed and coach Mike Carey apoplectic on the bench, the Dukes closed the game on a 38-15 run and claimed the win.
Best early start to the week: Northwestern. Sunday was only the beginning of things for Northwestern, which played UNLV in the first of three games in three days in Las Vegas. But it was a good start. The Wildcats improved to 9-1 with a 79-49 win against a Lady Rebels team that entered with just two losses on the season and a victory against Big Ten side Iowa.
It seems there is life after Amy Jaeschke for Northwestern, in large part because Joe McKeown is still the man in charge. Highly touted freshman Morgan Jones is living up to the hype and finished with 18 points, seven assists and three steals Sunday, but holdover Kendall Hackney is the star so far. Hackney scored 22 against UNLV, her fourth game in a row with at least 20 points. A win Monday against Kansas State and Northwestern would be 4-1 against teams from BCS leagues.
Monday morning headline: Statements or suggestions?
Statement wins. They're not just for college football anymore! Thankfully, since the only subjective judgment used in basketball's postseason is between No. 64 and No. 65, not No. 2 and No. 3, style points from Sunday's games are nothing more than conversation fodder. But four games between ranked teams make for a lot of fodder.
Ranking the statements made:
1. Purdue beating Texas A&M: More on the Boilermakers in a minute.
2. Ohio State beating Oklahoma: A year is a long time to wait for a mulligan, but that's what Ohio State earned with a big win at Oklahoma. The Buckeyes beat the Sooners a year ago to improve to 7-0 and promptly lost four of their next five games, and six of their next nine, locking in the script for a team that was never as consistent or as good as you got the feeling it should have been with Jantel Lavender and Samantha Prahalis. The schedule through the end of the month is much kinder this time around, and after adding a victory in Norman to home wins against Temple, Florida State and LSU, it's once again tempting to believe this team has some long-range potential. Averaging a shade more than 21 points per game for the season, Tayler Hill averaged 24.5 points in those four signature wins. She also shot 48.2 percent in those games.
AP Photo/James CrispSamantha Drake shoots over Louisville's Asia Taylor in the Wildcats' 74-54 victory Sunday.
3. Kentucky beating Louisville: A'dia Mathies got the best of Shoni Schimmel in a battle of Bluegrass State guards (albeit one a transplant), and Kentucky's 74-54 win just about evened the score in the series after last season's 78-52 drubbing at the hands of Louisville. This one matters most because Kentucky's schedule was lighter than a helium balloon floating in the International Space Station coming into Sunday, making it tough to know what to think of life after Victoria Dunlap (and before Connecticut transfer Samarie Walker becomes eligible following the fall semester). The problem is Sunday seemed to prove Kentucky can turn people over and play hard for Matthew Mitchell, two things we already knew. If the Wildcats repeat the 3-point shooting (10-for-19) at Duke on Thursday, then we've got a statement.
4. Tennessee beating Texas: Don't get angry, Lady Vols Nation. You're only fourth because your team's elite credentials mean beating Texas is more taking care of business than making a statement. The rebounding (49-38) is what we expect. The 3-point shooting (11-for-21) can't be counted on every game, but it's nice to know it's there. The impressive part? Just nine turnovers. Against its three toughest opponents this season, Tennessee now has just 33 turnovers (including 13 against Miami and 11 against Baylor). Tennessee didn't play Miami a season ago, but if you substitute Louisville in its place, the Lady Vols had 58 turnovers in three similar games.
Best team weekend performance: Purdue. A season ago, Purdue lost a tough home game against Maryland in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. It then lost its next two games at Notre Dame and Texas A&M. There's no shame in those defeats, but losing by 21 points in South Bend and a cringe-inducing 45 points in College Station pushed the Boilermakers completely out of the national conversation the rest of the way. Well, Purdue had ample reason to look at Thursday's loss at Duke as one that got away, a 40-39 lead with 11:58 to play vanishing in a game-ending 25-13 run by the Blue Devils. Purdue couldn't buy a shot, couldn't get a rebound and couldn't stop turning over the ball when it mattered.
So what did Sharon Versyp's team do three days later against the defending national champion? Turn a nine-point deficit with 15:39 to play into a 60-51 win. Purdue matched Texas A&M on the boards, getting 12 rebounds from Sam Ostarello, in addition to four steals and two blocks. Brittany Rayburn and Courtney Moses hit 5 of 10 shots from behind the arc and matched seven turnovers against a tough defense with seven assists.
It's a statement win all on its own. It's an even better one given what preceded it.
Best individual weekend performance: Chucky Jeffery, Colorado. The number of unbeaten teams is already dwindling toward single digits, with few real surprises amid names like Baylor, Connecticut, Delaware and Green Bay. One name that does jump out is Colorado, it of the 18-16 record last season. Playing a schedule that nobody will confuse with those favored by teams like Rutgers or Tennessee helps, and Sunday's 68-59 victory against Idaho might not rank high on the statement scale, but unbeaten is unbeaten. Jeffery ensured the Buffaloes still fit the category with 30 points and 10 rebounds against the Vandals. For the season, she's averaging 18.3 points. 9.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists while shooting 54 percent from the floor and 44 percent from the 3-point line, so, you know, expect to see her name here again at some point.
Best individual off-the-radar weekend performance: JaQuayla Berry, North Carolina A&T. It's never too early to start conference play. All right, it's ridiculously early to start conference play, but the MEAC is one of several leagues doing it anyway. Berry gets the nod here for filling up the stat sheet with 28 points, 14 rebounds, five assists and three steals in a game that mattered, North Carolina A&T's 84-74 win against North Carolina Central. Berry was third in the nation in steals per game last season.
Best mid-major team: Green Bay. The next mid-major top 10 isn't until next week, but consider this an unofficial change at the top. Gonzaga dropped a 58-51 decision against USC at home Sunday, while Green Bay completed a weekend that began with a win Friday against in-state rival Marquette and ended with a 74-67 victory over Northern Iowa on Sunday. Senior post Julie Wojta was at it again, with a double-double against Marquette and a career-best 26 points against Northern Iowa, but keep an eye on redshirt freshman Megan Lukan. Phoenix coaches last season compared Lukan to Celeste Hoewisch at the same point in her career (both redshirted their first season in Green Bay). Lukan had 12 points and three steals against Marquette and 13 points against Northern Iowa. Lukan is a keeper.
Setting up the week ahead (Monday-Friday)
Rutgers at Miami (Monday): Not a single Rutgers player averaged 30 minutes per game through the team's first eight contests, which is saying something for a program that recently seemed capable of using players for 30 minutes a half. It's early, and there have been a couple of bench-friendly wins against teams like Lehigh and La Salle, but will depth actually be an asset for the Scarlet Knights? Speaking of spreading the wealth, Miami's Morgan Stroman led the Hurricanes with 20 points in last week's win at Michigan State, the first time a player other than Shenise Johnson or Riquna Williams led them in scoring since Dec. 18, 2010 (Stroman against UC Riverside).
Texas A&M at Connecticut (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET Tuesday): There's something about the Women's College Cup, college soccer's version of the Final Four, that doesn't sit well with the Aggies. Long the Big 12's flagship soccer team, Texas A&M has a strong claim to being the best program never to reach the signature event. And now for the second year in a row, Gary Blair's basketball team dropped its first game of the season over College Cup weekend. OK, maybe I've been around too much soccer this weekend. The Aggies bounced back from a loss at Duke last season with a big victory against Purdue in their next game. Now coming off a loss at Purdue, they need Sydney Carter and Adrienne Pratcher (combined 3-for-21 versus Purdue) to at least play Bria Hartley and Caroline Doty to a standstill to have a chance in Hartford in the Jimmy V Classic.
Duke at Kentucky (Thursday): Duke's Chelsea Gray is in the middle of any conversation about the weekend's best performance after going for 14 points, 13 assists, 11 rebounds and six steals (and just one turnover) in a 92-43 rout of Pittsburgh on Sunday. Now the challenge is to see how she and Chloe Wells hold up against the pressure Kentucky applies. This has all the makings of a game in which both teams approach 30 turnovers, but if Wells and Gray take care of the ball and get looks inside for Elizabeth Williams and at the 3-point line for Tricia Liston, look out. For the season, the Blue Devils are still running a positive assist-turnover ratio.
DAYTON, Ohio -- Ohio may just want to close its southern border at this point.
A day after the Ohio State men's team was eliminated from the NCAA tournament by southern neighbor Kentucky, Tennessee did the same to the Ohio State women's team by an 85-75 score, backed by the orange-clad, full-throated support of fans who made the drive north and took over University of Dayton arena.
Darrell Walker/Icon SMIShekinna Stricklen led the way for Tennessee with 20 points.
Running on all cylinders from the start on offense, Tennessee nevertheless dug itself a halftime hole courtesy of some soft defense and a strong offensive performance from Ohio State's Samantha Prahalis and Jantel Lavender, among others. But a strong showing on both ends in the second half allowed the Lady Vols to gradually build a cushion. Behind 20 points from Shekinna Stricklen, 18 points from freshman Meighan Simmons and 16 points from Kelley Cain, Tennessee is going back to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2008.
Turning point: With just under 17 minutes to play in the second half and the game tied in a track meet of traded baskets and sketchy defense, Ohio State's Samantha Prahalis found herself with the ball and a two-on-none break. But as she let off the accelerator and drifted in for the finish, Tennessee's Simmons came from well behind the play to swat the layup in the direction of the Ohio State pep band behind the basket.
After an Ohio State miss off the inbounds, Simmons eventually scored on the ensuing possession to give Tennessee a 48-46 advantage, a lead it wouldn't relinquish. The block didn't settle the game by any stretch of the imagination -- Ohio State had plenty of opportunities the rest of the way -- but it seemed to provide a spark for a Tennessee team that had looked flat on the defensive end up to that point.
Key player: Kelley Cain. Take your pick between Simmons and Cain, but the 6-foot-6 post showed exactly why Tennessee wanted her in the starting lineup, her first such assignment since Feb. 10. Cain scored three baskets in the game's first three minutes to immediately establish the Lady Vols' post game and make Ohio State's Jantel Lavender and Ashley Adams expend energy on that end of the court. Cain may be a 35-minute player at this point because of a litany of physical ailments, but the minutes she played Saturday made all the difference.
Key stat: 53.6 percent. Entering Saturday's game, 53.6 percent was the best an opponent had shot against Tennessee in 30 appearances and 129 games in the NCAA tournament all time. And it still is, despite how unlikely that outcome appeared for much of the game. Ohio State shot 66.7 percent in the first half, the result of an offense that moved the ball extremely well and a Tennessee defense that looked extremely passive for long stretches. But a more energized group limited the Buckeyes to 39.5 percent shooting over the final 20 minutes.
What's next: The winner of the day's second game between Notre Dame and Oklahoma awaits in Monday's regional final. Tennessee is one of 13 schools to win at least one championship in women's basketball. Notre Dame is one of just two of those 12 other schools, along with Texas Tech, against whom Tennessee has never lost. The Lady Vols are 20-0 all time against the Fighting Irish, most recently winning a Sweet 16 encounter in 2008 in Oklahoma City. The Fighting Irish have come within single digits just three times in those 20 meetings, most recently in 1992.
There is less history between Tennessee and Oklahoma, although three of the five meetings have come in the past four seasons. One expected meeting that never materialized was right here in Dayton in 2007, when an Oklahoma team led by Courtney Paris was upset by Mississippi in the Sweet 16. Ole Miss went on to lose to Tennessee in the regional final.
Four things that caught my eye
1. Morgan Hook might be the nation's most dangerous H-O-R-S-E player. Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops briefly joined color analyst Billy Tubbs on the regional television call of Sunday's game between Sherri Coale's Sooners and New Mexico, meaning they were short only Barry Switzer and possibly the spirit of the late Bud Wilkinson in putting together a heck of a panel on how to make the most of home-field or home-court advantage in Norman, Okla.
AP Photo/Kevin RivoliSyracuse coach Quentin Hillsman might get criticized for a lack of travel before the conference season starts, but Saturday's home upset of Ohio State was huge.
Then again, by the time the game was over, Sooners freshman guard Morgan Hook might have ranked as the foremost expert on the subject in attendance.
Hook scored her first 15 points on 3-pointers against a Lobos team that refused to play the role of sacrificial lamb. Hook has scored 32 of her 40 field goals this season from behind the arc -- a number that includes hitting 19 of her last 25 3-point attempts at home. But it was her field goal from point-blank range that saved the day for the Sooners and suggested she's more than a shooter.
With the Sooners down one with 10.2 seconds remaining, she got the ball back after making a sideline inbounds pass (the Lobos doubled Danielle Robinson) and needed just three dribbles to get to the opposite side of the paint and finish a long, scooping layup in traffic.
Oklahoma looks like the dictionary definition of a young team that's going to be better in March than it is right now, particularly if Whitney Hand returns from a long injury layoff as anything close to her old self. But between Hook and Aaryn Ellenberg, who struggled Sunday but more than proved her potential in last week's loss against Ohio State, the present isn't too bad alongside Robinson.
And just as last year's escape at Marist early in the season marked a step in that team's evolution and in Nyeshia Stevenson's development as a go-to option, Sunday might prove the same for Hook and the Sooners.
2. Tennessee has more options than an Army-Navy football game. Chelsea at Tottenham was an enjoyable Sunday morning appetizer for the main course of Tennessee at Texas, so perhaps I just had depth on the brain after Chelsea afforded itself the luxury of bringing on Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard as subs. But even as Pat Summitt shortened her bench on the road at Texas, playing four players for 30-plus minutes and giving double-digit minutes to just six players in all, two fewer than in any previous game this season, Tennessee's depth stood out -- even if only in the form of potential energy.
It wasn't that Summitt couldn't go deeper; it's that she had the luxury not to, having found a lineup that the Longhorns couldn't stop and having kept those players fresh in previous games. Consider one of the answers on the postgame quote sheet from Texas coach Gail Goestenkors after her team's 92-77 loss.
"We didn't know what kind of lineup they would start," Goestenkors said. "They have changed their lineups a little bit recently. When [Kelley] Cain's in there they are so big and strong, and when [Shekinna] Stricklen is out on the perimeter, they are one of the toughest, tallest teams to guard. Lately they have been going a little bit smaller, with Kamiko [Williams] in there and [Meighan] Simmons. They have one of the quickest backcourts in the country, so they aren't as big."
And so after Angie Bjorklund got all of her 20 points in the first half, Williams and Simmons took over in the second, with Stricklen and Johnson doing all that was needed inside against the small Longhorns.
To a large degree, we know what Connecticut is. It's just nobody has figured out how to stop that for the past two-plus seasons. And while Baylor and Stanford have taken the occasional loss (albeit mostly at the hands of Connecticut), the same is essentially true of those two teams, the next tests on Tennessee's schedule. The Lady Bears and Cardinal are going to get better at being who they are between now and March, but the basic essence of what they are isn't going to change -- doesn't need to change. What's intriguing about Tennessee is it's not entirely clear what the Lady Vols are -- or that they need to be the same thing every time out. Maybe the Georgetown loss suggests the Lady Vols are still working through it themselves, but when you've got perhaps the deepest roster out there, you've got a lot of looks to throw at opponents.
3. Syracuse showed its doubters something. Syracuse still needs to schedule some road games to be played before Auld Lang Syne is retired each year, but folks like me need recipes for crow with all the leftovers from the Orange knocking off Ohio State on Saturday. Soft early schedule notwithstanding, Syracuse showed off a tough interior in owning the glass against an Ohio State team with Jantel Lavender collecting 14 offensive rebounds despite shooting a more-than-respectable 43.8 percent from the floor and holding an overall 43-33 rebounding edge. And in a battle of New York-area point guards that precedes the coming weekend's showdown at Madison Square Garden between Ohio State's Samantha Prahalis and Connecticut's Bria Hartley, Syracuse senior Erica Morrow got the best of Prahalis with 27 points and just two turnovers in 39 minutes.
Syracuse gets another chance to make a statement when it faces Baylor on a neutral court in the Bahamas on Dec. 21, but the Orange and coach Quentin Hillsman deserve their due. It's easy to play the bully against the likes of Cornell, Maryland-Eastern Shore and Delaware State. It's not easy against Ohio State, and it deserves a tip of the cap.
4. April Sykes is still here. Rutgers sophomore Monique Oliver had the starring role in Rutgers' biggest win of the young season, totaling 21 points and 17 rebounds against Georgetown on Dec. 9, but that game and Sunday's loss at Boston College offered a glimpse at an April Sykes long rumored but rarely seen. Sykes scored 17 points against Georgetown and 32 points against Boston College, and finished the two games a combined 11-of-21 on 3-point attempts. Those two efforts alone total more than a quarter of the points she scored all last season, and she's just 32 points shy of matching her single-season high. It's not the big game next Sunday, but Rutgers matching up with Texas A&M as the opening act for Connecticut and Ohio State looks more and more intriguing.
The week ahead
Monday: The Windy City derby between DePaul (11-1) and Northwestern (8-1) merits the spotlight for reasons beyond a light schedule. DePaul's Keisha Hampton became the program's 25th player to reach 1,000 points during Saturday's win against Northern Illinois, and the junior has scored 20 percent of those points during this season's first 12 games. Forced by injuries to play 38 minutes a game last season, DePaul point guard Sam Quigley's assist-to-turnover ratio has gone from 1.34 last season to 2.15 in much more manageable minutes this season. For Northwestern, which beat DePaul last season for the first time in more than a decade, senior center Amy Jaeschke is coming off a 37-point, 17-rebound effort against Central Michigan on Saturday.
New Mexico State's trip to Michigan marks the day's only other game between teams with winning records. The Wolverines' four losses this season came against Xavier, Marquette, Texas A&M and Iowa State (with only the Xavier game in Ann Arbor), hardly an embarrassing state of affairs. And particularly in wins against Wake Forest and Kansas, they seem to be playing Kevin Borseth's brand of basketball.
Tuesday: Whatever rotation Tennessee uses when it travels down the road from Austin to Waco and a matchup against Baylor, everyone who gets on the court better bring something to the table. Of course, where Brittney Griner is concerned, it will help the Lady Vols if Kelley Cain is one of those players on the court. Cain left Sunday's game with what was described on the broadcast as a right hip contusion. Baylor hasn't played since beating Minnesota on Dec. 5, but Griner is working on a string of four consecutive games with at least 20 points. Perhaps just as impressively, she had a total of five turnovers in those games. Griner doesn't get enough credit for taking care of the ball better than most posts. There might be times when she's still too cautious in making an offensive move, or when she shoots going away from the basket, but she doesn't give away possessions.
Saint Mary's (Calif.) at Arkansas-Little Rock isn't quite the game it could have been before Thanksgiving, but it's still an inter-region mid-major clash. And it still features a pair of intriguing leads in Little Rock's Chastity Reed and Saint Mary's Louella Tomlinson. Reed didn't travel to her team's weekend loss at Memphis, its third defeat in a row, for what the Memphis Commercial Appeal described as disciplinary reasons.
Wednesday: Wisconsin and Washington State aren't making reservations for Indianapolis, but they're the first and last BCS conference schools on Wyoming's schedule, starting with the Badgers traveling to Laramie for Wednesday's game (the Cougars visit on Saturday). So while it would be fun to see Wyoming's dynamic duo of Hillary Carlson and Aubrey Vandiver (33.3 points and 17.8 rebounds per game between them) play some higher-profile games, this will have to do.
What says Big East like an Ohio River rivalry between Louisville and Cincinnati? Just wait until TCU joins the mix. But geography aside, Wednesday's conference game is the third tough test in a row for the Bearcats, who started the season with five consecutive wins before losses at Dayton and at home against Xavier. It's also an intriguing individual matchup of breakout backcourt stars between Louisville freshman Shoni Schimmel and Cincinnati senior Shareese Ulis, who put up 24 points on 8-of-16 shooting in the 69-61 loss against Xavier a week ago.
Thursday: Stanford has a key stretch looming with a road trip to Tennessee this coming weekend and home games against Xavier and Connecticut after Christmas, but the Cardinal aren't taking it easy in advance of all of that, instead heading to Chicago to face DePaul on Thursday. They didn't look rusty Sunday against Fresno State after a long layoff for finals, including 10 points and 11 rebounds off the bench from Sarah Boothe. Because if there's one thing Stanford didn't have enough of on a roster with more double-double potential than In-N-Out, it's size.
Put Arizona State's Charli Turner Thorne on the list of coaches willing to go where so many others fear to tread -- tough mid-major gyms. Arizona State's visit to South Dakota State starts a nice weekend of basketball for fans in Brookings, where the hometown Jackrabbits also host Iowa on Saturday. Reserve Steph Paluch (17 assists, 14 turnovers) is the only South Dakota State player with more assists than turnovers, something reflected in a loss at Northern Iowa on Saturday in which the Summit League team had 26 turnovers and nine assists.
Friday: Tulane already knocked off LSU and gets a shot at sweeping the state's big names when Louisiana Tech comes calling Friday. The Green Wave will be coming off more than a week and a half without a game, an annual break that has generally been pretty kind to them (winning the first game back in four of the past five seasons, including at South Florida last season).
Speaking of Tulane and Louisiana Tech, those are the two teams to beat Mississippi State this season, a fact the Lady Bulldogs will find it difficult to keep true on the road against Xavier (not to mention Wednesday's game at Southern Miss).