Posted: Tuesday March 22, 2005 2:40AM; Updated: Tuesday March 22, 2005 2:46AM
By Richard Deitsch, SI.com
If Michigan State advances to the Final Four, it'll be because of Lindsay Bowen's performance on Monday.
It looked like something out of a time machine: USC, which once ruled the women's basketball earth with Cheryl Miller and Cynthia Cooper, playing like a national power. The Trojans nearly pulled off the tournament's biggest upset. They played the top-seeded Spartans down to the wire until Michigan State's Rene Haynes captured a loose ball off a scramble under the basket and hit a layup with 2.9 seconds left for the 61-59 win. But don't feel too badly for the Trojans. USC is going to be a power next season. Four of the Trojans' top five scorers this season are underclassman, including freshman guard Camille LeNoir, who led USC with 18 points.
If Michigan State advances to the Final Four -- and the bet here is the Spartans get picked off in the regional final -- it'll be because Lindsay Bowen bailed them out Monday. The junior guard hit 5-of-9 shots from 3-point range, including four in the second half. The reward for top-seeded North Carolina after it rolls George Washington? A road game at Arizona State. The winner of the Tar Heels-Colonials game will play the Sun Devils at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe. That's ridiculous. No team should ever host a game past the second round, and I'd be furious if I was North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell. Especially when she learns this stat: The Sun Devils are 25-2 at home over the last two years. The Pac-10 is 7-1 in the tournament and has two teams in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1994. They've shut up the critics, including yours truly.
PLAYERS WHO IMPRESSED ME
Georgia coach Andy Landers is arguably the best coach never to win a championship. Well, he's got a good shot in the next three years, thanks to 6-foot-3 freshman center Tasha Humphrey, the Southeastern Conference newcomer of the year. Humphrey, whom Landers has compared to Charles Barkley, scored 26 points and 10 rebounds on 11-of-23 shooting against Texas. Humphrey also put up 27 against the Longhorns during the regular season. Humphrey's a monster inside and it says here that Georgia beats Duke in the regional semifinals this weekend, and by a good number.
I wish I got to see more of Middle Tennessee's Patrice Holmes because what I saw over the past two days left me awed. The 5-foot-9 senior guard scored 25 points (on an kaleidoscope of shots) in a loss to Texas Tech. You'll see her in the WNBA later this year. Kansas State's senior forward Kendra Wecker, the Big 12 player of the year, scored 29 in her final college game in a 63-60 loss to Vanderbilt. Wecker's Wildcats showed plenty of heart in the loss, though they strangely opted for a two-point basket late as opposed to setting up for a game-tying 3-pointer. K-State went on a 19-4 run to cut the lead to 61-60 with five seconds left before Vandy sealed it by scoring on a breakaway layup on an out-of-bounds play.
AND ONE WHO DIDN'T
For the second straight game, Jacqueline Batteast failed to show up for the Irish. It's a shame because Batteast leaves South Bend as one of the program's greatest players. She's in the top five on Notre Dame's career lists for points (1,874), rebounds (965), blocks (167) and double-doubles (38), and is only the third Irish player (Katryna Gaither and Ruth Riley) to amass 1,800 points and 900 rebounds in her career. The sight of Notre Dame freshman guard Charel Allen lying on the floor in pain was tough to watch. She tore her ACL in the second half of Monday's loss to Arizona State. Allen averaged 7.3 points and 4.3 rebounds and is a promising player. Here's hoping she makes it back.
Kansas State senior guard Laurie Koehn hit her 392nd 3-pointer of her career to set a new NCAA record but went 3-of-12 from 3-point range.
Pat Summitt will break win Dean Smith's record Tuesday. It's a lock. Purdue gutted out an opening round victory over New Mexico, but Kristy Curry's team is overmatched. The Boilermakers are led by a pair of sophomores (Emily Lawless and Katie Gearlds) and start four underclassman at times. Curry's a great coach and this is a team to watch next year, but Tuesday is for Summitt. And Summitt will get the record on her home court (Thompson-Boling Arena), which is an added bonus for the sport's most prominent figure. Some will argue that Summitt's accomplishments should not be compared with Smith because of the large gap between the have's and have-not's in the women's game. That smells of sexism, and why even compare the two? Summitt always scheduled tough teams. She's won six national titles. Her record stands at 879-171. Those credentials stand on their own merits.
ESPN's talent base proved fortuitous Monday when the announcement came down that Chamique Holdsclaw had been traded from the Mystics to the Sparks for forward DeLisha Milton-Jones and a first round pick in the league's 2005 draft.The studio analysts for ESPN: Stacey Dales-Shuman (who played with Holdsclaw in Washington) and Lisa Leslie (the Sparks' starting center and league MVP). "The news for me is a shock," said Leslie, who looked glassy-eyed as she delivered her thoughts. "We will welcome her with open arms." Leslie also gave props to Milton, her partner in the paint. Viewers were served by both Shuman and Leslie's comments. Where ESPN viewers are not served is the continued lack of real-time scoring on the screen for the games in progress along with the one in your broadcast area. As usual, viewers had to wade through ESPN's Bottom Line ticker to get updates on the other games.