Like I said, you'll read it here first: As Rutgers cuts the nets down out on the court they just read off the Greensboro All-Tournament Team, and it read exactly like my ballot (coincedence, I'm sure), down to the MVP bestowed upon Matee Ajavon. Kudos to Alison Bales, the only player to make the team that wasn't playing Tuesday night. Her 21 points proved how un-ready she was to head home.
All in all, a slugfest that paled in excitement to Saturday's big upset, but solid basketball nonetheless. At least I had the boys on press row to chat with. Some thoughts from the Hoops Odyssey crew that rang especially true:
"Arizona State never even had a chance!" ~Waxman
"Vaughn is good." ~Osterhout
"They cut the nets down here for getting to the Final Four, then when they win the first game, then when they win the title game? That's an overabundance of net-cutting." ~Osterhout
We're all done here in Greensboro. Rutgers took it home in convincing fashion, winning 64-45 over Arizona State here in the Coliseum. There may not be an incredible crowd, but the Rutgers fans are as happy as you'd expect. Now it's trophy presentation time...Let's see what the ladies in red will do as they receive their riches.
We are at the under-four TV timeout, and Rutgers' lead is up to 22 points as the score is 56-34. Now that ASU is about to go down, the women's tourney has a strong eastern flavor as the Sun Devils were the only team west of the Mississippi remaining.
After the way in which they operated in the half-court on Saturday I thought ASU would win this game, but Rutgers has proven to athletic to overcome. And anyone who thought they would suffer a letdown after their upset of Duke was sorely mistaken.
I don't know where this ASU comeback magic is, but it sure hasn't showed yet -- Westerberg's cold inside, completely befuddled by Vaughn. Matee Ajavon's got three steps on January and Rutgers isn't the kind of team (ahem, UNC men) to squander a 20-point lead with only three and a half minutes remaining.
We are more than 12 minutes into the second half, and ASU just can't shoot straight. Rutgers, on the other hand, is getting it going. Matee Ajavon and Essence Carson just hit back-to-back jumpers for the Scarlet Knights to extend their lead to 48-32.
The only ASU player who has been able to get anything off of dribble penetration has been Briann January, but that was early in the game. Emily Westerberg missed by about three feet on her only open look from three-point range this half. Even if Rutgers does not score again, ASU would need to score 16 points in 7:56. Considering they have only twice that many points in more than 30 minutes of play. It looks like Rutgers is Cleveland-bound.
Charli Turner Thorne has talked again and again about the hospitality her team has experienced in Greensboro, giving a glowing review of "Tournament Town" and all its offered her players.
Rutgers, however, isn't being quite as hospitable. The Scarlet Knights are still getting at the Sun Devils on every single play, smacking away an inbounds pass here, intercepting one of those pinpoint interior passes there, generally getting up in the Devils' mojo. They have an 11-point lead to show for it, though as CSTV.com West Coast correspondent Lara Boyko cautioned me, if there's one thing Arizona knows how to do it's come back at tournament time.
I am not talking about the ASU male cheerleader that looks at risk of dropping his fellow Sun Devil, I am talking about ASU guard Danielle Orsillo. As her and her teammates were waiting for Rutgers to come back out of the last timeout Orsillo went to each of her fellow Sun Devils and got in her face. It wasn't anything angry though, she had a huge grin on her face and was trying to transfer some of her enthusiasm on to them.
Orsillo leads the Devils with 8 points, but ASU has been stuck on 29 points for minutes. Orsillo also gets credit for rocking the black shoes and socks, bringing back memories of the Fab Five.
The second half has begun with a clank. Both teams are off to cold starts and were are tied at 4-4 for the second half and we are more than five minutes in. That should answer any questions about whether Emily Westerberg has gotten going for the Sun Devils.
So this game is far from over, but we've got an All-Tournament Team Ballot sitting in front of us that's due 13 minutes from now. So far I've put Duke's Alison Bales, ASU's Danielle Orsillo and Rutgers' Kia Vaughn on the ballot. I'm going to let Matee Ajavon and Emily Westerberg duke it out for the MVP spot and second place, but with 15 minutes remaining and ASU only trailing by 7, anything could happen. Let's just say I'm not writing in pen.
I am not talking about former WWF (now WWE) star Jake "the Snake" Roberts, I am talking about the kid wearing a Jake Plummer Arizona State throwback jersey. For my money, that is the best piece of attire in the arena with all due respect to Doris Burke's silver jacket with a floral design.
We'll have to see what storylines open up in the second half, but so far it's just been Rutgers staying a couple of points, inches and pounds ahead of Arizona State. The Sun Devils went into the half down 31-25, and we'll have to see which team of destiny -- the upset special Rutgers or the fated-to-return Sun Devils -- will have fate on their side in the second half.
It's 31-25 Rutgers at the half, and it could be a lot worse from an Arizona State perspective. Rutgers has dominated inside and Rutgers forwards Matee Ajavon and Essence Carson look more athletic than anyone on the ASU roster.
ASU forward has been MIA thus far and the Sun Devils need her to make an appearance if they want to win this game. The Sun Devils leading scorer has two points on 1-for-4 shooting. That is not going to cut it.
Kirsten Thompson, the 6-foot-6 backup center for ASU, just took a tumble going for a rebound and was helped off the court. Though she is the Sun Devils tallest player, she has done little to slow down Kia Vaughn thus far who has 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting to go with two rebounds and two blocks. Thompson went to the locker room but was back moments later.
ASU's cheerleading team is back out, and the same male cheerleader that was having trouble with his lifts on Saturday is struggling again. Let's hope we don't have any problems.
It's hard to believe this is the same Rutgers team I watched on Saturday against Duke that couldn't score for much of a game. The difference is that ASU does not have someone like Alison Bales to defend the paint. Rutgers is having a field day inside, with Kia Vaughn just getting a bucket and drawing the foul heading into the TV timeout. She heads to the line to try and extend Rutgers 25-20 lead at the 7:18 mark.
ASU has tried to cycle a bunch of different lineups in and out, with coach Charli Turnen-Thorne sometimes subbing in four girls at once. She has even given major run to the 6-foot-6 Jirsten Thompson, but she does not have the mobility to hinder Vaughn.
Kia Vaughn just put it DOWN. Her post-shot celebrations are as intimidating as anything -- screaming and fist pumping from her already intimidating frame would have ME a little worried, not to mention that she already has 8 points, making her a much bigger scoring threat than she usually presents. I say, keep dishing it to Vaughn inside until ASU figures something out, and then you'll have Ajavon or Prince freed up outside to knock down a few killers.
I hate to keep harping on Briann January (and I am running out of January puns), but she has been the story for ASU so far as her seven points pace the Sun Devils' attack. The point is, her concussion is not a problem. What is the problem is the ASU interior defense. They didn't have to worry about it much against Bowling Green because the Falcons had very little size.
Rutgers, on the other hand has the 6-foot-4 Kia Vaughn as well as Matee Ajavon and Epiphanny Price, who are having no trouble getting in the lane. Rutgers leads 19-16 with 11:04 left in the half.
Matee Ajavon's getting what she wants out there. An inside layup, a long three, two made free throws, you name it. She didn't get started until the second half Saturday and managed to key her team to victory. Imagine what could happen if she can stay hot today...It could be Matee's world, and we're just living in it.
Although I might be blogging too soon now that a couple of ASU shots have fallen, Rutgers looks pretty good here in the early going. ASU's 6-6 attempt at an answer to Kia Vaughn, Kirsten Thompson, is no match for Vaughn inside, and Epiphanny and Matee have both gotten shots to fall.
To this point Briann January looks fine. ASU's second-leading scorer set up center Kirsten Thompson for ASU's first bucket off a pick and roll and just scored her first two points on free throws after earning her trip to the line on a strong drive.
CSTV.com is rolling deep tonight in Greensboro. We were worried we were going to outnumber the fans here from the looks of the parking lot earlier today, but the turnout has been fairly decent for two way out of state teams. Tonight the CSTV roll call includes myself and Matt Meyers (your faithful Arizona State cover-er, for tonight) and also the guys from CSTV.com's Hoops Odyssey, Matt Waxman and Jake Osterhout. We've got more angles than a hexadecagon, folks. You'll read it here first.
Watching these two teams take the court is a study of opposites. Arizona State might be the higher seeded team, but they certainly haven't been the higher regarded team by the media here in Greensboro.
To look at them lined up, they are completely physically different. ("I like the fact that people underestimate us, think that we're a bunch of skinny white girls who aren't athletic," Emily Westerberg said frankly yesterday), and Arizona State gets all the finesse points while Rutgers racks up the "brawling", "defensive" descriptors. Fact is, the Sun Devils know how to press with the best of 'em, and Matee Ajavon has showed over and over in this tournament that she can shoot sharp as ever, so these two very different teams might make the perfect match.
Jess and I are back in Greensboro with a Final Four bid on the line between Rutgers and Arizona State. With Duke eliminated on Saturday, we expected a sparse crowd tonight. We weren't the only ones, because the ACC issued a release begging area residents to show up. We are not sure if that tactic worked, but there are definitely more people here than I expected, which is definitely a good thing.
We'll be continuing our style from Saturday with each of us blogging from one team's perspective. I am taking ASU and Jess has got Rutgers. Let's rock.
So much for Sunday as a day of rest. These two teams have today and only today to prepare for each other. Sure, they prepared to play each other in a preseason tournament, but both teams have grown remarkably since that time, so there's plenty of scouting to be done.
Arizona State's out on the court for their closed practice (which I discovered after traipsing out of the court and being reprimanded by a beefy event staff guy) and has their off-day press conference thereafter. You can bet a lot of the talk is going to be about the preseason tournament matchup that was cancelled between these two teams after a death in the ASU family -- it was a subject that brough both Emily Westerberg and Charli Turner Thorne to tears on the winner's podium yesterday. Today they have to be more prepared for the questions, but the subject is still overwhelmingly emotional.
For all the hospitality they've offered us here in Greensboro (and it's been fantastic, a sentiment echoed by ASU's Charli Turner Thorne in her press conference), it looks like they're a little worried that it will be a ghost town here on Monday night now that forgone Elite Eight conclusion Duke is, well, gone.
The official statement from ACC Commissioner John D. Swofford, released to the press minutes ago:
"The great thing about the Triad Community is that it has a tradition of hospitality, especially when it comes to college athletics.
On Monday night, Arizona State and Rutgers will compete at 7 p.m. for the chance to advance to the Final Four. We encourage all ACC fans, women's basketball fans and sports enthusiasts to come out, support these teams and make a difference.
Let's show our appreciation for these student-athletes and demonstrate why this community has come to be recognized as 'Tournament Town.'"
I hear ya, Johnny. I'll be there.
On the list of my favorite sports performances, Matee Ajavon's second-half ranks up there between Michael Johnson in the 1996 Olympics and Randolph Childress in the 1995 ACC tournament.
You feel horrible for Lindsey Harding, to have her career end with two missed free throws, but you have to give all sorts of credit to Rutgers. They did not back down from a team that beat them by 40 in December and they have Ajavon to thank.
Duke just got PUNKED. Alison Bales, as predicted, was the go-to option, put up her jump shot and it banked out. Wanisha Smith got the rebound, but just as fast Epiphanny Prince ripped it out of her hands, went coast-to-coast and hit the off-balance layup to give Rutgers the LEAD, 53-52. 12 seconds. what happens now!?
After their offense deserted them for much of the game, it is now the Rutgers defense that has been their undoing. Matee Ajavon continues to score and has twice set up Heather Zurich for jumpers, but they cannot get a big stop when they need it.
Zurich just cut it to two, but Carrem Gay got an easy bucket on the other end to extedn it to 52-48.
Bales just picked up her fourth foul with two minutes remaining. If she sits, it could mean disaster for Duke.
One small comfort: a new Blue Devils' scoring option in the form of Wanisha Smith, otherwise dormant through most of the game, has picked up four quick points on two breakaway plays, keeping Duke in the lead.
Carrem Gay must have heard me -- she just got a layup inside to extend Duke's lead to four.
As Mel Greenberg of the Philadelphia Inquirer just said to me, "how many more bullets can Rutgers dodge?" They have kept the deficit at two for last couple of minutes, but have been unable to get the tying or leading bucket.
Alison Bales is about to head to the line for Duke with a chance to extend their 43-41 lead. There is 3:17 on the clock and the Scarlet Knights need one in shining armor.
Three minutes and a two point lead is apparently the magic combination to get the Duke fans to their feet here in Greensboro. Otherwise fairly sedate compared to their Rutgers counterparts (and certainly the Bowling Green fans that came before them) the Blue Devil find their team in a bit of a pickle. They don't seem to have a single go-to offensive option, and if it wasn't for Rutgers' shooting woes, they might not have the lead at all.
Bales, with 19 points, has to be the Devils' go-to gal for the rest of this game. She hasn't hit the mid-range shot since the first half, but that could be the straw that breaks the Knights' backs if she can get it to fall.
Rutgers has brought a solid cheering section with them, and it is a group that looks more likely to be getting senior citizen discounts than student discounts. I don't see many students in the group, it looks more like alums and family. They are loud and proud, that is for sure.
Kia Vaughn just hit a long two-pointer to tie the game at 39 with 8:10 left. Yowsa.
I blogged too soon. Bales just picked up her third foul and put Ajavon at the line. She missed, but teammate Epiphanny Prince converted on a steal and the Knights are within 2.
Where's the Duke offense? Their plethora of options seem down to none and Gail's going ballistic in the huddle. Only Bales is in double figures, and since Vaughn can at least contain her the Bevils need another viable option.
Pull up J from Harding...no good. Who's going to start putting the ball in the hole for Duke?
A three-point play from Alison Bales -- exactly the kind of aggressiveness the Blue Devils' need -- and they're up 39-33. Now, they also need a stop, which Ajavon and Carson are determined to make hard for them.
Rutgers has found their offense, and her name is Matee Ajavon. The junior forward from Brick City (aka Newark, N.J.) now has eight second half points to bring her game total to 12. Rutgers next best scorer has five.
The entire arsenal has been on display for Ajavon, as she been hitting from outside and getting inside to score and set up her teammates. The Scarlet Knights need to her to keep it up.
Duke still has the lead, but they're being outrebounded by the Knights, and now that Matee Ajavon has found her shot Duke's got to be sweating.
Without Waner, the Blue Devils would officially be in a scoring drought. As is, they're only leading by 3 the team they had a 10 point lead on minutes ago. The momentum on the floor is definitely in Rutgers' favor, and for the first time in a long time Duke looks scattered and rattled. There is a lack of aggressiveness in the Devils' play today that Harding and Waner usually inspire, but they'd better find it fast before Rutgers' jousts them right off their horse.
After Matee Ajavon went off for six quick points, Essence Carson added a jumper to cut the Duke lead to 30-26.
Rutgers has started to show a little full-court pressure and Duke does not look entirely comfortable with it. It will be interesting to see if Duke adjusts to the pressure or if Rutgers has the stamina to stick with this kind of ball pressure for an extended period.
So you're Duke coming out of halftime and scoring 8 quick points, almost half of what you scored all first half. Just when you think you can pull away, when Abby Waner's hitting shots and your lead is 10, Rutgers gets up in your game again...Matee Ajavon just picked up the and-one to cut the lead to seven. Then she converted a steal into a quick three-pointer and put the pressure on Harding on the inbounds forcing a Duke time-out.
Abby Waner just hit her first shot of the game, a three from the right wing, and Duke is now up 28-18 at the 17:49 mark. Ten points isn't an outrageous deficit, but when you consider that Rutgers has only scored 18 in 22 minutes of play, they need to find some buckets.
C. Vivian Stringer called a timeout to settle her troops, hopefully their was some secret offense/shooting potion in that huddle as well.
So contrary to what this blog's title might lead you to believe, both of these teams are shooting cold, cold, cold. Sure, Rutgers has their abyssmal 24 percent shooting to deal with, but Duke's still none too stellar at 42 percent. Unless Stringer has the Knights back out here for shooting practice in a minute, I'd say all the Blue Devils have to do to stay in control is tighten up their offense -- 21 points in a half for a team with national title aspirations is bad news, I don't care what defensive guru's team you're playing.
With absolutely no intent to jinx Duke the way I did Maryland, but I'm getting pretty tired of the video of last saeson's title game that plays during every NCAA game's halftime. Then again, while it could have served to soften Maryland with overconfidence, it will only remind Duke's fans what the Blue Devils are fighting against: last season's demons, and a chance to get another crack at the title that eluded them in overtime.
With Kia Vaughn on the bench, Duke has exploited Rutgers' lack of size. Forward Carrem Gay has now scored twice in a row on post moves that evoke Kevin McHale. Duke now leads 18-14, and Rutgers can't seem to create any consistent offense. The last four minutes of the half should be key as Rutgers will look to stay close with Vaugh on the bench.
We were watiing for that -- with Abby Waner on the bench, Harding took the outside scoring into her own hands, sinking a three-pointer to put Duke up 14-12.
Not to cry foul (nyuk nyuk), but the Scarlet Knights have had 6 fouls called against them while Duke only has one. Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer is NOT happy, and it can only be a matter of time before the Rutgers crowd starts making noise about the "home court" advantage.
The score is 11-10 Duke at the under-12 TV timeout, and to this point the pace probably favors Rutgers. It has been a grind it out affair thus far. Duke has been content to sit back in a zone and let Alison Bales control the middle because Rutgers has not proven they can make long jumpers. They are going to need to if they want to win this game.
Kia Vaughn picked up her second foul and was forced to hit the bench and allowed Coach G to give Bales a breather.
The Rutgers mascot has this bizarre outfit that is puffy silver pants that look as though are filled with down and a windbreaker on top. It looks like something out of a 1998 P. Diddy/Mase video.
Duke just took the 11-10 lead on a Brittany Mitch layup, and I'd start talking about them getting into their rhythm if Joy Cheek hadn't just traveled the possession away.
In more pressing news, Duke's No. 1 superfan, Crazy Towel Guy, is here int he house llooking rather sedate by his standards, but impressing the crowd with his classic scream 'n' spin antics during the media time out. These are the things you just can't get on TV.
If this keeps up we'll barely break double digits -- it's 6-2 Rutgers more than 7 minutes in, and both teams are shooting ice cold. It's equal parts bad shooting and good defense. Bales already has two blocks (she made 'em look easy) and the Harding-Essence Carson matchup is a defensive case study.
I'm finding Rutgers freshman Epiphanny Prince especially impressive. The last two times I saw Epiphanny play, were the Duke debacle earlier this year and her first high school game AFTER breaking the single-game scoring record . She wasn't particularly impressive in either (though she did drop a cool 40-some points on a whisper of an opponent in the high school game), so her hustle and court sense is a sight to see. She's got two rebounds and two points, which amounts to a third of the Scarlet Knights' scoring.
I'm calling it now: this game will be decided on the low post, where Kia Vaughn seems equipped to handle Alison Bales, but might falter if Bales decides to execute her mid-range game. Right now Duke's starting to look just a bit unsure in the face of Rutgers' feistiness, and though we're tied at two I'd give the hair's width advantage to the Scarlet Knights.
Abby Waner and Bales have both airballed shots on two successive plays -- I want to see Harding take control a bit more to get her offense started.
As a car, the Kia is small and economical. Rutgers center Kia Vaughn is nothing like that. If she were a car, she would be a Cadillac. The 6-foot-4 sophomore is a beast, and she is one of the few players with the size and width to bang with Duke center Alison Bales down low.
It's rare that Bales does not give the Blue Devils an enormous advantage inside, and today is one of those days. To prove it, Vaughn hit a turnaround jumper on the right baseline to give the Scarlet Knights a 4-2 lead.
As is typical in the NCAA tournament, the players meet at halfcourt and shake hands when the lineups are introduced. Rutgers took it a step further. Each of their players jogged over to Duke coach Gail Goestenkors and shook her hand before meeting their counterpart at the circle.
It's a mad, mad world here in Greensboro, where Devils wear blue and the women in red are noble Knights. The Blue Devil's mascot's forehead tape says "The Scarlet Letter: L" and both teams look typically intense. Rutgers is far from the favorite in this one, but they might just leave the Devils so black and blue that they come away with a surprise win.
The Sun Devils wrapped up their regional semifinal win in neat and tidy 67-49 fasion, beating the little-Falcons-that-could and leaving Marist as the tournament's best Cinderella story. ASU now works on a story of their own, advancing to their first Elite Eight in school history. Orsillo finished as the team's leading scorer, though Westerberg wasn't far behind. I'm didn't see enough razzle-dazzle from ASU to think they can beat the Blue Devils (should they advance past Rutgers) but I've been blind to the Sun Devils' shine before this season -- no reason if they play as tight as they did tonight that they can't do it again.
BGSU coach Curt Miller did the appropriate thing and took his seniors out the game with 30 seconds left. Not surprisingly, they got an enormous ovation and tears were most certainly shed. Jess can barely control herself over here (I kid).
BGSU finishes with a 31-4 record and the team's six seniors lose just their 26th collegiate game. Not too shabby.
Kate Achter's aunt is stoicly holding up her "Kate the Great" sign behind us, despite Achter's disappointing performance.
BGSU loses 67-49 and ASU moves on to the Elite Eight to face the winner of the Duke-Rutgers game that isset to tip at the bottom of the hour.
BGSU's picked it up a step, most likely the panic of the clock ticking down on their Cinderella run. CSTV's own Jeff Lippman will be especially disappointed with the result, as he picked the Falcons to win. I myself thought BGSU had so much momentum and just enough talent to give ASU the boot, but I apparently have much to learn about Charli Turner-Thorne's squad. Like where Orsillo's hot hand came from, or how a point guard as capable as Reagan Pariseau flew under my radar all seaosn.
Two and a half minutes. ASU leads by 14 points. It's not impossible, but it's improbable. If the Falcons weren't looking so dejected I'd say they have a chance, but I've got to see a little more fight in their eyes.
It has been a great story, but time is running out on BGSU. The Falcons now trail 63-47 with 3:22 remaining and they just turned the ball over again. Credit is due to ASU for playing an excellent game, but I am sure BGSU could have played better.
It has been a nightmare for Kate Achter, who is still scoreless for BGSU and was heavily responsible for creating the deficit with six turnovers in the first half.
They're on. That's about it for Arizona State, they're hitting their shots (60% in the first half, hovering around 56% this half), they've got killer interior passing, they're maintaining a steady momentum and ticking away the seconds towards the Regional Final. I'm not sticking a fork in this one yet, but Orsillo just dropped another J and the lead is 18.
The Falcon faitfhul keep trying their best to get their girls back in the game, but ASU isn't letting them. They have stifled Ali Mann and Kate Achter, BGSU's top two scorers and ASU seems to hit a big shot whenever they need it.
BGSU just cut it to 11, but Reagan Pariseau came back for the Sun Devils and calmy hit a three-pointer. They then forced Mann into a bad shot and Emily Westerberg hit Aubree Johnson for a lay-up to put ASU 57-41. ASU deserves credit for their cuts and clean interior passing and BGSU just seems a step slow.
By hitting two free throws, Amber Flynn cut the ASU lead to 44-35. It is the first time the margin has been less than 10 points since the 6:44 mark in the first half and we are now more than five minutes into the second.
Carin Horne just drove to the lane for BGSU and got fould. It is the first time BGSU has gone to the line for two shots, and they missed their only free throw of the first half. Note to Falcons: attack the rim.
This is still an issue for BGSU, so I am talking about it again. After Danielle Orsillo scored 10 points in the first half on 4-for-4 shooting, she has come out and hit her first two jumpers. BGSU needs to do something about this.
Wait, she just missed her first shot and it was her easiest look of the day. The irony is rich. She already has 14 points, five more than her season average.
It's 40-24 at the half with ASU in the lead and that score accurately represents the first half. BGSU has not executed crisply on offense with any consistency and their interior defense and rebounding have been shoddy.
You want evidence of the fact that their defense has been pourous? How about the fact that ASU is shooting 61 percent to this point. Compoudning that is the fact that ASU is winning the battle of the boards 18-11.
The Falcons are going to need Kate Achter, their second-leading scorer, to get going in the second stanza. She is 0-for-3 from the field with six turnovers. Yes, six. That's something you'd expect to see in a game at Rucker Park.
"Un-Falcon-believable," that wins the award for best sign in the stands today thus far. Bonus points because it does not include some sort of lame ESPN acronym in an attempt to get on camera.
"Un-Falcon-believable" also describes the Falcons post defense. ASU point guard Reagan Parsieau has had no trouble making entry passes deep into the post and Aubree Johnson and Emily Westerberg are having no trouble finishing. BGSU needs to tighten up the interior defense. The BGSU fans sitting right behind us are getting chippy. This could get ugly.
She's the the Sun Devils' leading scorer at halftime and her name isn't Emily Westerberg. Orisillo's dropped a couple of pretty three-pointers, and just capped off the first-half scoring with a full court spring and a pull-up jumper from the free-throw line. ASU leads at the half by 16 points, and I'm starting to feel confident that Matt's going to be buying the beers tonight.
Then again, ASU's been working their way through this tournament by overcoming (big) deficits. How are they going to react to being up at halftime?
The crowd's momentum has certainly swung right into BGSU's favor, and the Falcons have cut the Devils' lead to 9. They even managed to interrupt the scorching hot hand of Danielle Orsillo who just airballed her first miss of the game inside. But they committed another costly turnover in the form of a shot clock violation and Westerberg just hit two free throws to put ASU back up 11.
People ASU should fear if this one gets much more physical: Center Liz Honegger, who is a big 5-11, and setting picks like it's her job (which it is). Honegger just had Westerberg looking out her earhole for a second after setting a pick for forward Amber Flynn, and then promply took out Orsillo on her next move.
BGSU's still in striking distance, down 11 with 5 minutes to play ebfore halftime, but ASU's making good use of its height advantage to clear shots over the Falcons. Maybe Honegger has the right idea -- if the Sun Devils want to go over us, we'll just have to go through them.
I don't know if the floor is slippery or if this is just a physical game, but there have been players falling down on pretty much every possession. It is not affecting ASU though as Kate Engelbrecht just hit a triple to put the Sun Devils up 31-18.
ASU is winning the battle of the boards, particuarly on the offensive end. BGSU does not have a second-chance point yet.
BGSU is starting to get things going on the offensive end. Leading scorer Ali Mann hit a three, and after regaining possession when the arrow went in their favor on a jump ball, they had what was probably their best possession of the game.
Senior forward Carin Horne got the ball swung to her at the left elbow and blew past her defender and into the lane before dishing to Amber Flynn for an easy deuce. They trail 19-14, and the intensity is picking up.
Jess just pointed out a BGSU fan wearing a BGSU-orange hunting hat. He is seated behind a group of four women with BGSU painted across their stomachs while wearing halter tops. Like I said, these fans have Falcon fever.
Those surprised not to see second-leading scorer Briann January in the starting lineup tonight just got their explanation -- they handed us a short printout on press row with the following:
"Arizona State sophomore guard Briann January was scratched from the starting lineup just before tip-off of today's game. January suffered a concussion in Monday's 67-58 victory over Louisville. She is dressed but is medically inelgible to play. This was a game-time decision."
The Sun Devils are going to miss her offense, but maybe "Do it for Briann" will be the emotional boost ASU can use to rival the emotional wave the Falcons are riding. EIther way, ASU's up five at the second media time-out, so they seem to be managing her absence well, so far.
ASU guard Danielle Orsillo has just knocked down back-to-back three-pointers. The first was from Dan Majerle-land on a broken play and the second off a curl on the left wing. BGSU needs to get in her face.
BGSU does not have continuity right now on either end and trail 14-7 with 14:33 to play in the first half. After scoring on their opening possession, Ali Mann has barely touched the ball.
The Falcons may have spirit, but the Sun Devils are playing much more precise basketball. Aubree Johnson just zipped a nice pass to Emily Westerberg in the low post, and Reagan Pariseau repeated the play with a nice bounce pass seconds later. Now that that Danielle Orisillo hit an NBA-range three, BGSU will need a little more than scrapping and screaming to stop ASU's run.
Another Orisillo three-pointer! Time out, BGSU, quick before the Falcons find themselves too down to the Devils.
To this point the Falcons cannot find the touch from long range. After a strong take for two by Ali Mann to open the game, BGSU missed four straight open jump shots. They got their second bucket on a nifty drive by Kate Achter. They might want to think about continuing to attack the middle.
From this point forward, blogger beware: Matt Meyers and I are splitting blogging duties on this one to bring you double the fun. Matt's going to keep a sharp eye on BGSU (he won the toss) and I'm going to be all about ASU.
We are moments from tip-off here in Greensboro, and if any team has any advantage in the stands, it is Bowling Green. The Falcon faithful have made a strong showing down here and could be heard doing a call and response, "B-G . . . S-U" chant 20 minutes before gametime. It is the first time a MAC team has made it to the Sweet Sixteen, and their fans are making the most of it.
I would estimate the crowd right now is 80 percent BGSU orange, Jess says it might even be 90.
Matt and I will do our best to act in a manner befitting of our journalistic integrity, but I have to warn you, BGSU junior guard Kate Achter's aunt is sitting right over our shoulders with a sign that says KATE THE GREAT -- this could influence our reporting, as she can read what I'm typing and potentially dump a stadium-sized beverage on me. Go Kate Go!
Battle of the Mascots update: The Falcon is pretty badass, but the fact that she's weating a skirt and a sparkly orange scrunchy loses her MAJOR points. She still gets the W in this game, however, since the Sun Devil is unforgivably scrawny.
Fact is, most people probably think that today's first game is little more than a fight for the chance to lose to Duke in the Regional Final on Monday night, but don't tell that to Arizona State's Aubree Johnson. In yesterday's oreview press conference she said with confidence, "We have the potential to make the Final Four."
The Greensboro Coliseum is familiar territory for me, but I always look forward to coming back. As a cub reporter at Virginia. I came to two ACC women's tournaments here, and have since made a few repeat visits with CSTV. Coming down from New York, it always a couple of hours to get over the culture shock of how darn nice people are, and in my case I have to brace myself for a full round of "sweetie", "young lady" and "darlin'"s. I take is as local charm, but you'd never get away with that on the A train up North.