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After a disappointing end to her college career, Iowa State forward Hallie Christofferson is looking forward to continuing her basketball career in the professional ranks.
Gamecock Man of SB Nation's Garnet and Black Attack wrote up a review of South Carolina's 2013-14 season, highlighting a rather obvious area of improvement and whether their incoming talent can help address it.
To really get to the next level and compete for a national title, though, Carolina has a specific need to address: Outside shooting. South Carolina 34.7% from beyond the arc is respectable, but elite programs such as Notre Dame and UConn sport significantly higher percentages...It's not clear whether the incoming class will satisfy this need. The Gamecocks bring in two highly rated guards in SG Kaydra Duckett and PG Bianca Cuevas. Neither, though, is known as a sharpshooter, although Cuevas is a legitimate threat and Duckett has the potential to be one. Both have strengths in attacking the basket, with Duckett effective with both her mid-range jumper and finishing moves, and Cuevas known for the floater she uses to finish and her passing ability in the lane.
While the article focused on South Carolina's NCAA Tournament loss to North Carolina, two of their six least efficient games came against North Carolina this season and, unsurprisingly, both were losses. Perhaps even more troubling was that all three of their worst shooting performances came in March, when teams would normally hope to peak: a loss at Tennessee during SEC play and their NCAA Tournament games against Oregon State and North Carolina.
None of that should detract from an otherwise great season, but it suggests that a range of opponents with varying levels of familiarity with the program began to "figure out" the Gamecocks late in the season.
For more on South Carolina's season, check out the women's basketball section at Garnet and Black Attack. For more on their path through the NCAA Tournament, check out our Stanford region storystream.
Bay Area photographer extraordinaire Baranduin Briggs put together a great gallery of photos from the Elite Eight matchup between Stanford and North Carolina at Maples Pavilion.
People are seizing upon the opportunity to praise Chiney Ogwumike's supporting cast for their Elite Eight win against North Carolina, but let's not go overboard here: as C&R have noted in their summary of the game from Maples, the turning point was Ogwumike's total dominance of the paint in the second half that the Tar Heels simply never found an answer for.
However, that doesn't negate fellow senior Mikaela Ruef's role in getting the win.
Give an assist to older sister Nneka Ogwumike giving Chiney a pep talk at the half, too. Also keeping Stanford in the game was Mikaela Ruef, the fifth year senior who did not want to remember last year’s loss in the Sweet Sixteen. She hit three 3-pointers, a career high. She has never hit more than one in a game before. Before this game, her career total for threes was seven for all five years. She scored a career-high 17 and grabbed nine rebounds...Mikaela Ruef does the things not noticed in the box score. Someone must have noticed, though because she was awarded the regional MVP. A shocker it was not Chiney, but we are sure Chiney does not mind Ruefie picking up some hardware.
For Ruef, that was something of a storybook ending to her five-year career at Maples: after doing all the little things to help Stanford dominate the Pac-12 for years, she finally received some much-deserved recognition to the delight of just about anyone who has followed her tenure with the team.
In the second half, it was UNC's youth versus Stanford's experience and the results were somewhat predictable....Over the course of the season, this team showed both how talented they were in beating South Carolina and Duke twice but also their youth in losing a few games they should have won against clearly inferior teams. Shoring up the latter and still doing the former will make this team a solid ACC and Final Four contender next season
In addition to their five highly touted freshmen, UNC will return sophomore forward Xylina McDaniel next season. That leaves a number of years for the team - particularly freshmen Diamond DeShields and Allisha Gray - to grow together and it's hard to imagine them not making it back to this point again once or twice.
For more on the game, check out the women's basketball section at SB Nation's Tar Heel Blog. For more on North Carolina's path to the Elite Eight, check out our Stanford region storystream.
This was a tremendous game for 39:15, and then it all fell apart for UNC. Bummed that Sylvia Hatchell won't coach this team on Sunday. :-(— Matt Zemek (@MattZemek) April 2, 2014
North Carolina gave Stanford just about everything they could, coming out hot from three point range while containing Chiney Ogwumike in the first half, forcing the prospect #1 draft pick into an uncharacteristic five turnovers, and winning the offensive rebounding battle.
But in the second half, Ogwumike's refined post game proved too much for UNC's younger players, UNC's hot three point shooting touch went cold, and mental mistakes down the stretch killed UNC.
The Tar Heels had their chances, but ultimately Stanford's experience (and home court advantage?) overwhelmed UNC in the second half en route to a 74-65 win to advance to their sixth Final Four in seven seasons.
Mikaela Ruef was awarded Most Outstanding Player and appropriately so: for her entire career she's done things that don't necessarily show up in the box score, but tonight she read UNC's defense perfectly and figured out a way to exploit every gap in the D for herself or by setting up others.
A large part of that was their ability to contain PSU's Maggie Lucas defensively, holding her to a career-low six points.
Stanford’s Lili Thompson got the assignment to guard Penn State’s great scorer, Maggie Lucus. She averages about 21 points a game. Lili held her to 6 points in the fist half. And for the game? Six points. That’s right they shut her down in the second half. Lucas was scoreless. Tied her career low, too. She was 3-for-14 from the floor, including 0-for-5 on 3-pointers. Her last points were nine and a half minutes left in the first. Wowsa!
Penn State set screens, and even double screens, to try to free up their outside shooter Lucas, but nobody prepares for a game like Tara Vanderveer. Stanford knew the screens were coming and either got over them or switched personal on her so she never got an open look.
Stanford isn't the first team to stifle Lucas, even if for only a half: in PSU's previous two losses to Nebraska and Ohio State (in the Big Ten tournament), Lucas shot a combined 10-for-34 in the face of similar defensive schemes. Stanford was just able to get it done for 40 minutes.
Gamecock Man of SB Nation's South Carolina site Garnet and Black Attack told us before the Sweet 16 began that North Carolina would pose the Gamecocks a significantly larger challenge than their first two opponents.
Turns out his observation was spot on as South Carolina fell to UNC today, 65-58.
UNC's Diamond DeShields was obviously the individual hero of the day, but Gamecock Man rightly noted in his summary of today's loss that South Carolina's poor shooting effiiciency - something that also plagued them the first time around - was something that really hurt their chances to win, even though they were in position to do so for much of the game.
With UNC center Stephanie Muvunga in foul trouble in the second half, the Heels simply didn't have anyone who was up to the task of covering Coates.
Unfortunately, outside of Coates, the Gamecocks struggled to score. USC's guards, in particular, struggled against UNC's tough perimeter defense. Tiffany Mitchell went 4-14 and caved to the defensive pressure a few times by forcing unwise shots. Khadijah Sessions went 0-8 and looked similarly out of control at times.
Something else noteworthy in relation to their first meeting of the season is the Gamecocks' free throw attempts: the first time around, Tiffany Mitchell and Aleighsa Welch combined 22 of the team's 29 free throw attempts; today, the entire team only managed 10 attempts, further reinforcing the observation about UNC's defense.
For more on the Gamecocks' season, check out Garnet and Black Attack's women's basketball section. For more on the region as a whole, check out our Stanford region storystream.
ESPN's commentators mentioned that some people thought that Penn State had a chance at an upset in this one. I guess anything is possible, but even considering that prediction seems difficult unless you a) have never been to Maples or b) don't know anything about Chiney Ogwumike.
Ogwumike, whose dominance looks routine at this point, scored 29 & 15 in the game and really didn't face all that much resistance.
For Penn State, Maggie Lucas scored just six points and none in the second half as Lili Thompson's defense just did not give her any breathing room.
Like the Baylor - Kentucky game yesterday, the Sweet 16 game between North Carolina and South Carolina is a rematch of a December game in which the lower seed won. So what can we learn from December for today's game?
NPR's Only A Game published an interview with South Carolina coach Dawn Staley today, which included her thoughts on turning around the Gamecocks program and their upcoming Sweet 16 matchup with North Carolina.
But one noteworthy nugget in there was Staley describing just how badly the school wanted to keep her there when Ohio State came calling last year.
KG: Your team’s success has not gone unnoticed. This week, a columnist for the Post and Courier compared you to the Dalai Lama. And when Ohio State tried to recruit you away from the Gamecocks, the governor called personally to ask you to stay. What has all that attention been like for you?
DS: The attention has been great because it raises the awareness of women’s basketball in the state of South Carolina, and we’re breaking down barriers. Our attendance has skyrocketed. On our last home game we had close to 13,000 fans witness us win a regular season SEC championship. So when the governor calls, and when your boss, Ray Tanner, doesn’t want you to leave, and he shows you, he gives you your flowers while you can smell them, we can only be successful when you have that much support around you.
Even if you're not a South Carolina fan, this is probably a good thing for women's basketball: the game needs more programs who are at least able to be in the discussion with the elite; as Staley said earlier in the interview, having a new team on that #1 line "gives the whole country a breath of fresh air."
For more on South Carolina's way forward, check out our Stanford region storystream.
After a heartbreaking 60-58 loss to North Carolina in the first round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament, UT Martin had plenty of reason for disappointment. But senior Heather Butler is proud that her team managed to prove to the nation that they belong among the nation's best.
Gamecock Man of SB Nation's Garnet and Black Attack recapped South Carolina's 78-69 win over Oregon State in the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament, highlighting how the Gamecocks' athleticism influenced the outcome.
First of all, Carolina took 43 free throws to Oregon St.'s 18., making 34 to OSU's 9. Mitchell's ability to attack the basket and Carolina's front line's ability to get off shots around the rim--in part by muscling for offensive rebounds--account for the difference. In particular, Welch's blend of power and agility in the paint proved to be difficult for OSU's less athletic roster to handle.
Second of all, Oregon St. came into the game living offensively off of star point guard Sydney Wiese's long-range shooting ability.
Although Wiese shot just 2-for-12 from the 3-point line, the rest of the team shot a solid 8-for-18 to finish a solid 10-for-30 as a unit. But that first point about the free throw line reflects another problem for OSU in the game: three players, including 6-foot-6 center Ruth Hamblin, fouled out leaving the the Beavers short-handed.
For more analysis on South Carolina and their tournament run, check out the women's basketball section at Garnet and Black Attack. For more on the region as a whole, check out our Stanford region storystream.
Garnet and Black Attack's preview of South Carolina's second round matchup with Oregon State highlights two keys to the Gamecocks getting a win tonight.
Oregon St. lives on three-point shots, making 8.2 per contest. The Gamecocks play disciplined perimeter defense, giving up only 3.5 treys per game. We're well-equipped to take away what OSU does best. USC also outshines OSU in post presence. While OSU is no slouch down low, with its roster including 6'6 Ruth Hamblin, the Gamecocks trio of Aleighsa Welch, Elem Ibiam, and Alaina Coates has been the key to its success all year and is good enough to help carry the Gamecocks to victory on this one if USC patiently works the ball to them on offense.
Oregon State ranks 14th in the nation in 3-point percentage this season, according to WBB State - South Carolina negating that strength and leveraging their offensive rebounding strength and athleticism to cut second chance opportunities seem like the two big keys to this game.
For more on South Carolina's season, check out Garnet and Black Attack's women's basketball section. For more on the region as a whole, check out our Stanford region storystream.
Swish Appeal interviews Oregon State stars Jamie Weisner and Sydney Wiese before their second round matchup with top-seeded South Carolina.
2007 dejavu rematch: Florida State will try to repeat the same feat that led them to their first Sweet 16 back in 2007.
Not to be lost in the chaos of that second half, Xylina McDaniel's shot from the ground in North Carolina's 60-58 win over UT Martin was certainly Sportscenter worthy.
For more on the game itself, check out our Stanford region storystream.
UT-Martin's Heather Butler wrote in her guest blog published at Swish Appeal today that she planned on giving North Carolina "a good battle" today. As it turned out, they did that and then some in nearly upsetting #4 North Carolina.
Connor Tapp of SB Nation's South Carolina site Garnet and Black Attack summarized the Gamecocks' 73-58 win over Cal State - Northridge in the first round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament today.
The Gamecocks gained their advantage with excellent interior play on both ends of the court but gave away all but four points of their lead when their hot shooting cooled and they stopped dominating the offensive and defensive glass...Any time the ball found its way to Coates in the paint, the Irmo, S.C. native was either coming away with two points or going to the free throw line, it seemed. In fact, South Carolina's ability to get to the charity stripe (42 free throw attempts) as a team while preventing the Matadors' from getting there themselves (15 free throw attempts) was likely the deciding factor in the game.
In the second round, the Gamecocks will face #9 Oregon State, which beat Middle Tennessee by an even more convincing score of 55-36.
For more on South Carolina, be sure to visit Garnet and Black Attack's women's basketball section. For more on the rest of that region, check out our Stanford region storystream.
In another predictable upset, the #11 Florida Gators beat the #6 Dayton Flyers 83-69. ESPN had the reaction from victorious coach Amanda Butler.
With 18 seconds left, during UT Martin timeout, PA announced all-clear on UNC campus.— Graham Hays (@grahamhays) March 23, 2014
So UT-Martin just got screwed... Heck of a comeback by UNC though. Hope everyone stays safe on the UNC campus— Natalie Marlowe (@CoachNMarlowe) March 23, 2014
With the announcement that UNC's campus was on lock down, UT-Martin essentially lost its timeout as everyone paid attention to that. It appeared that UT-Martin's coach Kevin McMillan was asking for additional time - a reasonable request given the nature of the public safety announcement - but the officials denied whatever he requested, forcing him to spend another timeout.
Naturally, UT-Martin came out and botched the final possession of the game, leaving a game-winning three to a player who hadn't taken a shot all game.
It was an unfortunate way to end a great season and strong tournament appearance for UT-Martin.
UT-Martin star Heather Butler offers a guest blog about making the tournament and rising to the challenge of facing a bigger program.
What makes the Stanford bracket most exciting isn't the host or surprising top seed, but the young sleeper with an explosive freshman star.
Well, this one went pretty much as expected, though #10 FSU beating #7 ISU in Ames should still be considered an upset. While FSU can rejoice, Stanford can breathe a bit of a sigh of relief: FSU is obviously a tough opponent, but at least they won't have to contend with player ISU in front of a boisterous home crowd.
Chiney Ogwumike is obviously the top prospect in the Stanford region, but there will be a pretty good matchup of prospects in the first round and a mid-major prospect that's definitely worth watching.
Only 4 finalists? No Thomas?
From the bubble to facing Iowa State in Ames for the first round the tournament.
You'll be forgiven if you were a little surprised by this one.
Get ready for a three point barrage in Ames.
The Big Ten regular season champs are back with home court advantage.
Youthful triumphs have defined the season.
A veteran team that is sometimes overlooked.
Scott Rueck's rebuilding process has been quite remarkable.
Dayton makes the NCAA Tournament as a #11 seed.
With one of their better wins, we'll grant them exclusive rights to the USC moniker.
As though they needed more motivation while playing at home, Stanford enters the tournament as a #2 seed.
The Shockers are not actually a shocker.
Wait, what? A familiar face in a new place.
Some fancy moves from the Big West champions.
No, we have not missed a word. A new team has climbed to the peak of the Summit.
It's the most wonderful time of the year again, when mid-majors rise and champions are crowned. Join your intrepid blogger on her third annual attempt to learn about ALL the teams. First up: some high-flying birds of prey.
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