DePaul women fall short of Elite Eight

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DePaul women fall short of Elite Eight

Sunday, March 27, 2011
Posted 4:46 p.m. Updated 5:53 p.m.Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA - The final seconds ticked down, and Duke was set for a celebration. The Blue Devils will get a blockbuster sequel they believe has a better ending than the original

The Blue Devils get a second straight shot at winning a regional final - and a rematch with top-seeded UConn to show how far they've come since an embarrassing loss in January.

Karima Christmas had 23 points and nine rebounds, Jasmine Thomas scored 19 points and the Blue Devils beat DePaul 70-63 on Sunday to reach the regional final for the second straight year.

Duke (32-3) earned a rematch against top-seeded Connecticut on Tuesday night with the Final Four at stake. Maya Moore scored 29 points as UConn surged to a 41-15 halftime lead in an 87-51 win over Duke on Jan. 31.

"That game, we, I can't even explain what happened in the first half," Christmas said. "It just kind of put us in a place where we didn't want to be and didn't expect to be."

The second-seeded Blue Devils did expect a return to the regional final a year after they were bounced out by Baylor. They've won nine straight games and are a win away from their first Final Four since 2006.

"It's really a lot of fun," Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "It's not something you reflect on too much right now because you've got a game coming up you've got to get ready for."

Chelsea Gray scored 16 points for the Blue Devils, who raced to a 15-point lead and had to hold on after the big advantage nearly evaporated late in the second half.

DePaul's Deirdre Naughton hit two 3-pointers in less than a minute that cut the lead to three each time, but Gray made four free throws in the final 22 seconds to set up Duke's date with UConn.

The Blue Devils clearly feel they're a different team than the one that faced the Huskies in their first meeting.

"I wouldn't say (they're) vulnerable, but every team has their weakness," Christmas said. "If we try to exploit some things that we've seen that, had they gone wrong last game, we would have been in better shape."

Naughton scored 17 points for DePaul (29-7), which has never played in a regional final.

The Blue Demons had no answer for Christmas on either end of the court. She attacked the lane for easy buckets and got to the free throw line 14 times.

"We had no answer for Christmas," DePaul coach Doug Bruno said. "We couldn't guard her. Nothing we tried to do could manage her."

Duke coasted until late in the second half, when the Blue Demons were on the brink of pulling off their latest big comeback. Naughton's second 3-pointer of the game in front of a jubilant Blue Demons bench made it 63-60 with 50.4 seconds left. She again delivered a clutch 3, this one with 24.7 seconds remaining to make it 66-63.

It was just too late.

"I think that Duke turned up their defensive intensity and that had a lot to do with it," guard Sam Quigley said. "We needed to be patient.

The Blue Devils survived a 1-for-10 effort from the 3-point line and sealed the win with a 21-for-29 performance on free throws.

The Blue Demons were back in Pennsylvania after winning two games in State College, Pa., to advance to the round of 16 for only the second time in school history.

DePaul, which trailed by 14 last week against Penn State before storming back to win by two, did its best to extend its stay in the Keystone State. Keisha Hampton, Anna Martin and Quigley each hit 3s that trimmed a 15-point hole to 49-42.

Naughton's two free throws made it 57-53 with 2:54 left - a preview of her late-game baskets that nearly gave DePaul a victory.

Bruno led the third-seeded Blue Demons to their highest single-season win total in team history. He lost to a former pupil - McCallie was a summer basketball camp counselor for Bruno during her playing days at Northwestern.

Duke's Blue Devil mascot taped a sign stretched horn-to-horn that read "Demons work 4 me."

For 20 minutes, it was true.

Duke made a habit of slow starts this year, and it nearly cost the Blue Devils in a second-round game against Marist. They needed an 11-0 run in the final minutes to knock off the 10th-seeded Red Foxes.

Not this time. Not with so much on the line.

They used a 20-7 spurt over the final 10 minutes of the first half to take control. The Blue Devils harassed DePaul into 11 turnovers. Balls were stripped on driving layups and Thomas swatted the ball with such force, the "whack!" was heard in the last row of the upper deck.

Hampton was a non-factor in the first half. Hampton, DePaul's leading scorer at 16.1 points, was held to five, giving the Philadelphia native little for her own pocket of fans to cheer for.

UConn's Geno Auriemma stopped Bruno for a small chat outside a locker room before tipoff. Auriemma told him his team was "unbelievable" and he was surprised to learn Hampton was a junior.

"You're definitely the favorites next year," Auriemma told his Big East rival, smiling.

For this week, that title still belongs to the Huskies.

It's up to the Blue Devils to wrest it away.

Box Score

Loyola excited for upcoming season, trip to Spain

Loyola excited for upcoming season, trip to Spain

Loyola didn't have the season they were hoping for in 2015-16 but they're optimistic that things can turn around for the upcoming season. Even though the Loyola roster is filled with newcomers, the Ramblers are hopeful that a summer trip to Spain can help give them a head start.

As part of the trip, Loyola will get 10 extra practices and four games against Spanish competition that will give the team some much-needed experience before practice officially begins in October.

Head coach Porter Moser is already happy about working with this group, which features some productive returnees and a lot of talented newcomers.

"We play four games over there. They get that feel of being coached in a game at this level with their teammates," Moser said. "So then when we start back up in October they have a sense of some of the things we're trying to teach, some of the things of what to expect. And I think that's such a big element."

On a team full of new players, it will be important for senior guard Milton Doyle to have a bounce-back year for Loyola after a disappointing junior campaign. A former star at Marshall, Doyle saw his shooting percentages dip last season as the Loyola coaching staff challenged him to improve for his final season of college basketball. 

Moser is happy with the strides that Doyle has made this summer as he's added over 10 pounds of muscle to now play at 192 pounds. Also committed on the defensive end of the floor and being a team leader, Doyle is the Ramblers' only senior this season, so he'll be counted on to be a productive presence.

"It's a lot this year just because we had four seniors leave last year and I'm the last senior," Doyle said. "So it's my job to make sure everyone stays on track and everyone is uplifted, even when coaches get on them. That's my job right now."

Junior wing Donte Ingram — a former Simeon product — and junior guard Ben Richardson also return as key contributors from last year's team while Iowa State transfer guard Clayton Custer is expected to come in and be a major factor in the team's backcourt rotation.

As for the newcomers, Moser compared juco transfer forward Aundre Jackson favorably to former Loyola forward Christian Thomas while Vlatko Granic gives the team a stretch option at forward that they didn't have in the past. The team's freshmen are also very talented as guard Matt Chastain has shown solid athleticism and a good basketball IQ through some early practices. 

Another freshman guard, Cameron Satterwhite, is coming off of a torn ACL that cost him his senior season, but the Loyola staff is optimistic about his recovery for this season. Croatian freshman guard Bruno Skokna is also recovering from injury as he has played against professionals in Europe the last few seasons on an amateur contract. He is expected to be cleared soon so that he can return to action this season.

"I love this group because it's a group full of gym rats. This is a really enthusiastic group," Moser said. "They've come together, we've got a lot of newcomers. That's the benefit, that's why we did the Spain trip this summer."

Loyola takes its trip to Spain from Aug. 12-22 as they'll hit cities like Barcelona and Madrid during the trip.

Pat Summitt used the sport to empower women at Tennessee and beyond

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Pat Summitt used the sport to empower women at Tennessee and beyond

Needing yet another men's basketball coach, Tennessee officials turned to the one person they thought would be perfect to take over the Volunteers program.

Pat Summitt said no.

She wasn't interested in the job in 1994 after Wade Houston was forced out, and she turned it down again when Jerry Green quit in March 2001. A Tennessee governor once joked he wouldn't have his job if Summitt ever wanted to run her home state.

Breaking the glass ceiling in the men's game, political office, that wasn't Summitt's motivation. She had the only job she ever really wanted.

"I want to keep doing the right things for women all the time," Summitt said in June 2011 after being inducted into her fifth Hall of Fame.

Summitt died Tuesday morning at age 64.

The woman who grew up playing basketball in a Tennessee barn loft against her brothers, and started coaching only a couple years after Title IX was invoked, spent her life working to make women's basketball the equal of the men's game. In the process, Patricia Sue Head

Summitt stood amongst the best coaches in any sport when she retired in April 2012 with more victories (1,098) than any other NCAA coach and second only to John Wooden with eight national championships.

Summitt used the sport and her demand for excellence to empower women and help them believe they can achieve anything, taking no backseat to anyone.

When I moved to Tennessee in 1976, girls played six-on-six, half-court basketball designed to protect them from getting hurt. Summitt, who took her Lady Vols to four AIAW Final Fours, refused to recruit Tennessee players. Tennessee high schools switched to five-on-five rules starting with the 1979-80 season.

The NCAA finally started running a national postseason tournament for the women in 1982. At the time, Summitt was known for having "corn-fed chicks" on her roster, big and strong but not talented enough to win national titles. After she won her first national title in 1987 in her eighth Final Four either in the AIAW or NCAA, she said, "Well, the monkey's off my back."

Back then only a student ID was needed to attend a women's game. And there was no demand for the results of those games. After graduating from Tennessee, I helped the sports writers by bringing notes from an NCAA Tournament game back to the office for someone else to write up. There was no urgency since there was no reader demand.

So Summitt worked to make it impossible to ignore her team or the women's game.

By January 1993, so many people wanted to watch then-No. 2 Tennessee visit top-ranked Vanderbilt that the contest became the first Southeastern Conference women's game to sell out in advance. With children under 6 allowed in free, having a ticket didn't guarantee getting through the door; at least 1,000 were turned away at the door - including Vanderbilt's chancellor.

The Lady Vols won 73-68, a game I covered in my first year as a sports writer for The Associated Press in Nashville.

"This was the biggest game in women's basketball, and that's what I've been waiting 19 years to see," Summitt said. "I'm glad I stayed around to see it."

Summitt scheduled opponents anywhere and everywhere, barnstorming the country to introduce people to women's basketball. Tennessee played Arizona State in 2000 in the first women's outdoor game played at then-Bank One Ballpark, drew the largest crowd ever to a regional championship in March 1998 when 14,848 packed Memorial Gym in Nashville with Tennessee trying to finish off the NCAA's first three-peat and helped Louisville set a Big East record christening the KFC Yum! Center in 2010.

The Lady Vols became must-see TV in the sport as Summitt put the women's game on the national stage with six national titles in the span of 12 years.

I remember when I got real up-close look at what drove Summitt.

Assigned to cover Summitt as part of AP's annual college basketball preview package in the fall of 1998, I spent nearly 30 minutes with the coach in her office.

Door closed, Summitt gave a glimpse of that famous stay-away stare. With undivided attention now on me, she wanted to know if I had talked with her mother, Hazel, for the story. She then showed me the engaging side, laughing when asked about a stretch of play during the 1998 title game that resembled the Showtime Lakers, beaming while reflecting on how well her Lady Vols showed women could play the game.

The Lady Vols lost 69-63 to Duke that season in the East Regional. The next day I left a message at Summitt's house and late that afternoon, she called back to talk about more life lessons and basketball.

"It's a game, and winning and losing both can be great ways to teach kids how to get ready for the real world," said Summitt, who had to stop the interview because her mother had given son, Tyler, a gift. She explained he would have to save some of that cash before buying something for himself. Then she resumed the conversation about the game.

That was Pat Summitt: Hoops and family.

She held everyone to the exacting standards she learned from her father cutting tobacco and helping bale hay on the family farm. Tennessee and Connecticut was the biggest draw in women's basketball with Geno Auriemma and his Huskies handing Summitt her lone title game loss in 1995. But Summitt canceled the series in 2007 and refused to say why other than, "Geno knows."

Summitt ended a nine-year championship drought with her seventh national title in 2007 followed by the eighth in 2008. She became the first NCAA coach to win 1,000 games Feb. 5, 2009, and received a new contract that boosted her annual salary to $1.4 million - far removed from the $8,900 of her first season.

She never got to the 40th season in that contract, her career cruelly and prematurely ended by early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type. She finished 1,098-208 with 18 Final Fours, at the time tying the men of UCLA and North Carolina for the most by any college basketball program.

Not that numbers define Summitt, who once said, "Records are made to be broken."

Yes, all marks fade, but no one will eclipse Summitt's contributions to women's basketball.

Illini starting pitcher Cody Sedlock named Big Ten Pitcher of the Year

Illini starting pitcher Cody Sedlock named Big Ten Pitcher of the Year

University of Illinois starting pitcher Cody Sedlock was named the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year on Tuesday.

The junior from Sherrard, Ill., led the conference in strikeouts (116) and innings pitched (101.1).

He is the fifth Illini pitcher to take home the award, following Tyler Jay who was given the honor last year — and later went on to be picked No. 6 overall by the Minnesota Twins in the 2015 MLB draft. It's the second time in program history that an Illini pitcher has won the award in back-to-back seasons.

The right-hander Sedlock is projected by many to be a first-round selection in the upcoming MLB draft on June 9.