Second-seeded Baylor was the exception to the Raleigh Regional hum-drum rule in the early going,
somehow overcoming a decade's worth of misfortune to claw their way into the
Sweet Sixteen. They eventually simply ran out of gas against the potent
scoring of Louisville. Meanwhile, top-seed Maryland snoozed their way into the
Sweet Sixteen and very nearly got a rude wake-up call from Vanderbilt. This
will set up a mentor/pupil clash on Monday night as Brenda Frese takes on her
former chief assistant Jeff Walz for the right to head to the Final Four.
Let's take a quick look at how they got there.
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|#3||LOUISVILLE || v. ||#2||BAYLOR
|56 (W) || ||39 (L)|
When leading scorer Danielle Wilson went down for Baylor, one had the sense that
they were living on borrowed time as a team. They earned their two-seed by
winning the Big XII tournament without her. With Coach Kim Mulkey out of commission due to a
medication reaction, they survived what looked like it might become the first-ever 2/15
upset by University of Texas-San Antonio, hitting clutch free throws in overtime to knock off the
dogged Roadrunners. Baylor then escaped a formidable South Dakota State team, appearing in the tournament in their first year of Division I eligibility,
when Kelli Griffin scored on a drive with one-half of a second to go.
fortunate to have Leon Barmore on the bench to take Mulkey's place in that
first game, having come out of retirement to help his old star player out.
Louisville breezed by Liberty in the first round and then defeated LSU in Baton
Rouge as their one-two punch of Angel McCoughtry and Candyce Bingham combined
for 45 of the team's 62 points. The game was fairly close until Louisville
took control late in the first half and kept the Tiger at arm's length the rest
of the way. Rebounding was key for the Cardinals, whose trap didn't yield much
against a well-prepared LSU team.
The McCoughtry + Bingham + rebounding formula (a combined 37 points and 27
rebounds for that pair) worked nicely against Baylor. The Bears gamely hung in
there and forced Louisville to become a jump-shooting team, which allowed Baylor
to cut the lead to just one point in the second half. But crucial back-to-back threes
by Bingham gave the Cardinals the breathing room they needed and the Bears
simply didn't have the legs left to come back. Indeed, Louisville ended the
game on an 18-2 run that made the final score appear to be much more lopsided
than it actually was.
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|#1||MARYLAND || v. ||#4||VANDERBILT
| || ||74 (L)|
Meanwhile, on the other side of the bracket, top-seed Maryland slapped around
Dartmouth and Utah while Vanderbilt had no trouble dispatching Western Carolina
and Kansas State. On paper, this game looked easy for Maryland: They had many
more weapons, more athleticism and more flash than the steady Commodores.
Vandy had other ideas, however, as they stormed out of the gate on a 12-2 run and
pushed their lead up to 18 with six minutes left in the first half. The key
for Vandy was that defensive ace Jennifer Risper was locking up Maryland star
|Vanderbilt's Jennifer Risper (2) shoots as Maryland's Demauria Liles (13) defends during the second half of a women's NCAA tournament regional semifinal college basketball game in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, March 28, 2009. Risper's defensive lock-down on Marland's Marissa Coleman nearly bought Vandy the upset.|
Now, the Terps have what I call a casual confidence. They always think they're
going to win and have a certain looseness as a result. The problem is that
looseness often leads to sloppiness, and Vandy took full advantage of lazy
passes, poor rotations on defense and a general lack of effort from the Terps.
On the other hand, Maryland has so much firepower that they never care about any
deficit at any time--they always think they can come back. When Risper went out
of the game with two fouls at the six-minute mark, Coleman went to work and made
mincemeat out of Vandy's small front-court, nearly single-handedly reducing the
deficit at the half to just three points.
Of course, the Terps rested after that and the well-drilled and disciplined
Commodores once again jumped on Maryland's mistakes. Vandy led by 11 with seven minutes left and by nine with 4:50 to go. Coleman then went to work,
scoring seven straight points, including a spectacular three-point play off a spin
move. With the score tied at 74, Coleman scored the go-ahead basket, forced a
miss from Vandy's Tina Wirth, grabbed the rebound, and then iced the game with
two foul shots. That was good for a career-high 42 points and 15 rebounds.
LOOKING AHEAD TO THE ELITE EIGHT
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|#1||MARYLAND || v. ||#3||LOUISVILLE
|31-4 || ||32-4
Maryland versus Louisville will be an interesting match-up. Both teams rely on two
players for the bulk of their scoring. Both are excellent rebounding teams.
Louisville is an excellent defensive squad, loving to pressure the ball.
Maryland is a disinterested defensive team at best, saving their energy for
offense and rebounding. They almost never pressure the ball, preferring to
take their chances by getting a rebound and another crack at the basket.
have players who can easily generate their own offense, with Maryland's Kristi Toliver in particular a deadly shooter. Maryland has the edge in long-range
shooting while Louisville is a better offensive rebounding club.
Maryland is a
tough team to press because they do have multiple ballhandlers on the floor at
all times (including Coleman); they can be turned over, but if you don't get
them to cough up the ball they will score. I expect a classic shootout that
Maryland will win in the end, because no one is playing better than Coleman at
the moment in college basketball, and the Cardinals don't have enough outside
of their two stars to quite overcome that edge.