March 20, 2007

Los Angeles: California and March Madness Dreaming

This weekend's actions started Saturday morning at 11 am with overcast blue skies outside, but bright visions beaming inside USC's Galen Center.

Slowly but surely, the initial eight were cut down to four and with each loss, another California dream ended.

However for the four who made it to today, in a city where you can see more stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame than in the sky some night, stars and dreams of advancing to the Sweet 16 stayed in their eyes.

Yet as this evening wore on, the NCAA Tournament said good-bye to the Texas A&M Aggies while the George Washington Colonials took a big step in the big dance.

The next team that would send their seniors home with a loss was the Louisville Cardinal. They played their hearts out for 38 minutes, but it was those final two when their dreams were dashed and a pesky Sun Devil team decided they were going to be the last team in the Pac-10 standing at the dance.

March Madness weekend number three is now history and as the final four teams here in LA either slumber or celebrate in their hotel rooms, it's time to look towards next weekend and what dreams may become reality for those 16 teams still in the dance.

ASU vs. Louisville: The comeback team

On Saturday, ASU was surprised by a quick little UC Riverside team that led by as much as 15 points.

Tonight, ASU fans and players must have felt like they were experiencing deja-vu as once again their opponent, this time Louisville, enjoyed a comfortable 15 point lead at one point of the game.

Much like how Saturday's match-up unfolded, ASU used their athleticism to tire out their opponent and connecting on their shots to prove that as much as a lead is nice in the beginning or middle of a game, the only lead that is really important is the one at the end of 40 minutes of play.

"I have a new nickname for my team - The Comeback Kids," ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne said. "I'm glad that we keep to keep this amazing experience going."

Somehow I think that Thorne calling this an amazing experience doesn't quite do justice to what was witnessed by the few, but faithful ASU fans here in LA. Instead, I think it may be better to chalk this weekend up as a miracle on Flower and Figueroa.

ASU started out tonight's game down. The Sun Devils were not just barely losing, but they were getting their plane tickets back to Tempe handed to them by the Louisville Cardinal mascot who was laughing at their sad 21 percent shooting from the field. Yet the Sun Devils never gave up. Instead, they dug in their heels and kept plugging away until they caught a break.

Tonight's break came not only with one of Louisville's stars, Angel McCoughtry, in foul trouble early and held to a mere seven points, but also late in the second half with 2:58 left in the game. This is when the Sun Devils broke through their second tied score of the game and went on a 11-2 scoring run that the Cardinal could not compete with.

Between the scoring run, wearing down the Cardinal with scrappy defense that included a full court press at time and more shot clock violations than in all of Saturday's games combined, ASU found a way to win and earning themselves the second golden airplane ticket of the night, this time to Greensboro next weekend.

Leading the way for the Sun Devils was Briann January with 22 points that included hitting a perfect 4-4 from the three point line when her team needed the points the most. Following her lead was teammate Emily Westerberg who finished with 12 points. While no Sun Devil finished with a double-double, there was a balanced attack on the boards as all but one player finished with at least one rebound.

ASU gets the headline tonight with the win, but Louisville showed tonight that they could have been flying to Greensboro next weekend very easily.

The Cardinal were physical, tough and played with the kind of heart that only an underdog can play with. Unfortunately though there could only be one team advancing and the nod goes to ASU.

Big numbers for Louisville came from Jazz Covington with the sole double-double of the game with 11 points and 12 rebounds.

As another team goes home happy and another one goes home empty handed, with some different teams making it to the Sweet 16 next weekend, the game and fans of women's basketball go home with the kind of joy that only March Madness can bring.

ASU vs. Louisville: And then there were none...

WIth two free throws from ASU's January, the Louisville lead has gone the way of both of Britney Spears' marriages - part of history.

We're all tied up at 54 a piece with four minutes left and ASU may pull out with their second 'Whew!' win of the weekend.

Stay tuned...

ASU vs. Louisville: Getting tired?

There's less than 10 minutes left, Louisville leads by seven, but with a three-point bomb from ASU's Jill Noe and the Sun Devils playing a full court press, the Cardinals are showing some signs of fatigue.

In addition, momentum seems to be shifting towards the North end of the Galen Center where the ASU bench is seated.

Stay tuned, we are now down to a four point lead...

ASU 50
Louisville 54

Time: 5:58

ASU vs. Louisville: A Sun Devil of a visitor

ASU's Jill Noe is returning for a sixth year next year, but as she hussled to my sideline (and the table) in hopes of stealing a pass, I wondered if she was starting to think about her next move after basketball.

After all, this is the dot com end of the table with SI.com, NBCSports.com and yours truely all blogging away.

Stay tuned, ASU just broke through the 10 point mark and has cut the Cardinal lead to single digits.

ASU 45
Lousiville 54

March 19, 2007

ASU vs. Louisville: Mascot nomination

He's been obnoxious and I think I've even seen him give the bird to opposing teams and officials, here's the next nomination for the CSTV.com mascot hall of fame - the Louisville Cardinal

Louisville Cardinal.jpg

Maybe I'm just feeling a little bird-brained during the second game today, but as I watch him dance around to 'We Want the Funk,' it's reminding me why I am glad that my alma mater doesn't have a larger than life mascot at basketball games.

Stay tuned..

ASU 34
Louisville 45

Time: 12:55

ASU vs. Lousiville: Second half - Who will show up?

The second half just started moments ago and as I happily munch on my salted pretzel I am wondering which team will show up to play this period.

The Cardinals have the edge right now as they scored the first bucket of the half, but after getting called for shot clock violation due to ASU's defense and ASU's January hitting a sweet little jumper, the only thing I am really certain of right now is the Louisville mascot jumping up and down for the next 17:44.

Stay tuned...

ASU 28
Louisville 35

ASU vs. Louisville: Bedeviled

Louisville's lead is starting to look like a Britney Spears marriage - good when it started, but fading quickly.

Don't get me wrong, Louisville is still leading 28-23 as we go into halftime, but with ASU's offense coming back to life and their shots starting to go in, this five point lead may not last for long in the second half.

Stay tuned, there's a Cardinal shaking his tail feathers in front of me and the teams are leaving the floor for the break.

ASU vs. Louisville: In January ASU trusts...

ASU's Briann January is not only fun to watch as she can defensive slide and bring the ball up the court with the best of the guards out West, but she also can sink the shots when ASU needs them the most.

She just hit a three pointer that did not necessarily even up the score, but provided an emotional lift that the Sun Devils need so badly right now.

Stay tuned, Aubree Johnson just took down Louisville's Jazz Covington followed by January successfully getting an offensive foul called against the Cardinal, so it's time to rumble...

ASU 11
Louisville 22

ASU vs. Louisville: Anyone's game

Louisville is currently up 13-2, but even though we are halfway through the first half, after the comeback that ASU made on Saturday, the Sun Devils are not out of it by any means.

This has been another physical game where one Louisville player is currently out nursing and icing an injured left knee. Hopefully the body count will stay at one for the night and weekend.

Stay tuned...

Time: 9:59

GW vs. Texas A&M: A long time coming

It's been 10 years and too many games, but by George, George Washington has made the Atlantic 10 conference proud tonight after knocking off Texas A&M and advancing to the Sweet 16.

"I thought we played with a tremendous amount of heart and it feels good to have a team that wants to keep winning and not care about who gets the credit," GW coach Joe McKeown said.

Let credit go where deserved, the Colonials are riding high into next weekend thanks to a hard fought team effort and from stellar scoring from Kimberly Beck's 18 points, Sarah-Jo Lawrence's 12 points (my fellow blogger from nbcsports.com John Walters wonders if the 'Jo' is in there so she is not mistaken for a small liberal arts college) and Jessica Adair's 10 points. The Colonials were out-boarded as expected, but only by a seven-board margin of 39-32.

Texas A&M was never really out of it until the last six minutes of the game. It was at 6:39 where the Aggies were still in reaching distance by only being down by three.

Leading the Aggie effort tonight was Takia Starks with 16 points followed by Danielle Gant with nine.

The GW team is currently enjoying a cushy seat in the stands watching the ASU vs. Louisville game happy to know they are heading to Dallas next weekend.

Stay tuned, more on ASU vs. Louisville to come.

GW vs. Texas A&M: No hold em...

The end of the Aggies run of hard work, making enough shots and luck seems to have come to an end here in LA.

Yes, there are more than two minutes on the clock, but with the GW lead now at 10, time is also running out for Texas A&M.

The Aggies lost some of their opening game sizzle as GW keeps building their lead.

The game is not over, but it's close enough that I hear the fat lady warming up for the Aggies.

Stay tuned...

GW 57
Texas A&M 47

Time: 1:18

GW vs. Texas A&M: Time to get pushed around...

Welcome to the NCAA Tournament where the teams are hungry, upsets make the tournament fun and physical play that isn't called leaves players bruised and banged up.

There's a whole lot of pushing going on in LA and it's not from the paparazzi who are chasing around Lindsay Lohan or Paris Hilton. Instead, it's from the players down low who are trying to get open, trying to get the rebound or just trying to move around to set a screen to help out a teammate.

While this is all part of the game, the refs are letting players push their way around and not getting called for it.

Stay tuned, more pushing than the first day of Nordstrom's half-yearly sale to come here at the Galen Center.

GW 42
Texas A&M 35

GW vs. Texas A&M: Technicality

GW coach McKeown may be hobbling around with a bum leg tonight, but apparently getting up close and personal to tell the refs what he thinks of them isn't stopping him from delivering the message.

McKeown just got callled with the first 'T' for the weekend.

Meanwhile Texas A&M has clawed their way back and now on top 32-31.

Stay tuned, 11:55 left to play in this first game.

GW vs. Texas A&M: Mascot Hall of Fame

While George may have a bored expression on his face, at least he is giving his team the thumbs-up on their first half performance.

George.jpg

As one of our founding fathers, he definately makes it to the next round of the CSTV.com mascot match-up.

Stay tuned, GW is building their lead, now at 29-24.

Time: 15:58

GW vs. Texas A&M: Halftime

It's halftime in LA and with so much on the line, it's no wonder that the score is so close.

We are now on our fifth lead change with GW up 23-21 thanks to a last minute lay-up from GW's Whitney Allen.

Official stats are on the way as the crowd gets enterained by the Texas A&M dance team.

Stay tuned...

GW 23
Texas A&M 21

GW vs. Texas A&M: The board report

I don't have an official line on each team right now, but Texas A&M has to have three times as many boards as the Colonials. Their inside players of Damitria Buchanan and Danielle Gant are making a killing on the boards in this first half.

With the Aggies lead cut to one on a three-pointer from GW's Kimberly Beck and a lay-up by Whitney Allen, Buchanan and Gant's ability to keep GW away from the easy shots and a second or third chance may be the key to the Aggies living for another day in the tournament.

Stay tuned...

GW 15
Texas A&M 16

Time: 3:37

GW vs. Texas A&M: Sister act

GW is currently trailing by eight and hoping that a little bit of sisterly love down low will help turn the tide for the Colonials.

That's right, Jessica Adair's sister Jazmine is now in the game at the other post position.

Stay tuned...

GW 8
Texas A&M 16

Time: 8:02

GW vs. Texas A&M: The intimate crowd

With neither school being from ANYWHERE close to LA, you can definately see it in the attendance for this first game of the day.

I really do think that the support staff (operations, media, cheerleaders, bands and one mascot) out-number the actual fans here right now.

Give credit to the George Washington fans as they do have a good showing, with their Colonial hats and all.

Stay tuned, both teams are still playing pretty tight so there's not much of a score.

GW 2
Texas A&M 6

Time: 14:46

GW vs. Texas A&M: Familiar foes

There's a little bit more than 10 minutes before tip-off before the first of two games here at the Galen Center tonight.
First up is No. 5 seed George Washington vs. No. 4 seed Texas A&M.

George Washington is here after defeating Boise State on Saturday. The Colonials are still alive thanks to some outstanding performances from 6-foot-4 Jessica Adair, who recorded the third double-double performance on Saturday with 10 points and 11 rebounds. She is their beig player in the middle, but with the rest of the team taking care of business around her, the Colonials improved to 12-2 in NCAA Tournament first rounds and looking to see how far they are going to last on this ride.

Standing in the Colonials way of getting a golden ticket to the Dallas Regional next weekend is Texas A&M. The Aggies are still alive tonight after sending the other team from the great state of Texas packing, Texas-Arlington. Leading the way for the Aggies is Danielle Gant with her own double-double from Saturday of 24 points and 11 rebounds. The Aggies are hoping that they get one of the golden tickets tonight so they can make a trip to the Sweet 16, which will be the first time since 1994 for this program.

While both teams had good enough nights on Saturday to make it here today, what will be interesting to watch is the coaching match that takes place. George Washington's coach Joe McKeown is coaching on a broken leg against his proclaimed best friend, Texas A&M coach Gary Blair. These two know each other from different coaching jobs (McKeown was at the University of Oklahoma while Blair was at Louisiana Tech) and come into tonight knowing a lot about what makes the other one tick.

Stay tuned, we are about to tip off here in LA...

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