Monday, March 25, 2013

The 2013 Women's Hoops Tourney -- Round 1 Review

from USF's athletic site
Who helped carry their team through the first round? What player who you never heard before showed up big under the big lights? This is by no means a complete list, but through the first two days of the tournament, these players jumped off the screen for me.

-- Inga Orekhova, South Florida. In the most exciting game of the first day (as Baylor coach Kim Mulkey put it, 'best dang game of the day'), the South Florida Bulls pulled off an upset of Texas Tech, on the Red Raider's home court. As much as I enjoy watching the Smith twins play, it was the pride of Sevastapol, Ukraine, Inga Orekhova who led her team down the stretch, hitting a huge 3-pointer with about a minute to go to tie the game. In all, she had 20 points (5 of them inside the last two-minutes) and her team fed her the ball with confidence.

Photo:  Wade Payne, SF Gate
-- McKenzie Fujan, Creighton. The men's squad at Creighton has made a habit of knocking off big conference opponents in March. This year, the women joined in the fun taking out Syracuse in the first round. The junior guard from Wahoo Bishop Neumann High School (I am not making that up), kept the Bluejays alive. In the first half alone, she was 6 for 7, going 5 of 6 from the 3-point arc. She had 17 points at the half and finished the day with 24. I doubt Creighton has enough ammo to get past Tennessee in the next round, but this was quite an introduction.

-- Joanna McFarland, Oklahoma. Before teammate Aaryn Ellenberg started raining down buckets on the Chippewas, forward Joanna McFarland was a post-presence unlike anything I've seen outside of Brittney Griner. She had 18 points and 17 rebounds. Seventeen! ESPN quoted Central Michigan coach Sue Guevera as saying that McFarland was "just a beast." In the best possible way, of course.

-- Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, UConn. No surprise here, but even so, KML played a monster game. 105-37. Seriously, UConn? Seriously?! I foresee another run to the Final Four and another epic clash with Notre Dame on the horizon.

-- Brittany Boyd, Cal. Oh, sure I expected the Bears to win this game. And in fact, I expect the Bears to make the Final Four. Still Boyd's double-double to the tune of 21 points and 13 boards is worth noting.

-- Elena Delle Donne, Delaware. Delle Donne had her usual ridiculous game, scoring 33 points, and adding 4 blocks and 7 rebounds. What was impressive was this looked like another game the Blue Hens would lose to a big conference team until Delle Donne flipped a switch in the 2nd half. It wasn't just her scoring, her defense got tighter, she was challenging shots and altering the flow of the WVU offense. The Blue Hens also got a huge lift from junior, Kelsey Buchanan who dropped 10 points and added 5 boards.

photo:  Charlie Neibergall, AP
-- Jewell Loyd, Notre Dame. So many stellar players to chose from on this Notre Dame squad -- Kayla McBride, Natalie Achonwa, Skylar Diggins -- but the one who really opened up the game against UT Martin and added a few tricks to coach Muffet McGraw's toolbag was freshman Jewell Loyd. The kid can fly and she is fast as lightning -- she was just blowing by people on the court. She put in 27 points, which verges on Elena Della Donne type stats. I love her energy and she adds a new break-away element to the Irish's game, which they will need as the tourney wears on.

-- Brittney Griner, Baylor. I am running out of things to say about this young woman, but I would like to say this:  sure we expected the defending national champs to roll over #16 seed Prairie View A&M, but with a mismatch that lop-sided, I didn't know what form it would take. It's easy for a game to become a free-for-all, which is to say, playground basketball, everybody gets to shoot, etc., etc., etc. But I liked the fact that the Bears stayed focused and disciplined and ran their offense through the one of a kind Brittney Griner.

Also worth noting:  -- Carolyn Davis, Kansas; Andrea Hoover, Dayton; and Chiney Ogwumike, Stanford. 

Vandy and UConn tip tonight at 7:05. Be there.

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