Women's Hoop Thoughts
Only two of the Final Four teams were set when SI went to press, but the tournament so far has provided plenty of drama, including ...
Posted: Tuesday March 27, 2007 11:00AM; Updated: Tuesday March 27, 2007 11:07AM
A BIG UPSET
With .1 of a second to go in its Greensboro Regional semifinal, all that top-seeded Duke needed to do to beat Rutgers and advance to the Elite Eight was make two free throws. Senior point guard Lindsey Harding, the ACC player of the year and a 75.9% foul shooter, was at the line.
There was no one Duke coach Gail Goestenkors would rather have had there with the season in the balance. "I love having the ball in Lindsey's hands," she said later. With Rutgers up 53-52, Harding needed to make one to tie, two to win. Improbably, she clanged both off the back of the rim. After the buzzer sounded, Harding fell to the ground and covered her face with her hands in disbelief as her teammates rushed to console her. "My heart breaks for her," said Goestenkors after the game. "I don't want this to be her lasting memory. She has meant so much to this program for so many years."
A DELAYED MATCHUP
Duke's loss set up an Elite Eight matchup between No. 4 seed Rutgers and No. 3 seed Arizona State, teams that were scheduled to meet in November in a tournament in the Virgin Islands. But on the morning of the game, Jordan Johnson, the 15-year-old brother of Arizona State forward Aubree Johnson, was found dead in his hotel, the victim of complications from an enlarged heart. The game was canceled, and both teams returned home. The Sun Devils played on in memory of Jordan, and the Scarlet Knights matured into one of the nation's toughest defensive teams. When they finally met on Monday night, Rutgers rolled to a 64-45 victory -- and its second Final Four.
A COACH WHO WOULDN'T GIVE UP
One of North Carolina State coach Kay Yow's favorite sayings is, "When life kicks you, let it kick you forward." So when the Hall of Famer returned to the bench on Jan. 25 after taking a leave to battle stage 4 breast cancer, her 13-7 team started playing at a higher level, notching Yow's 700th career win as it went 12-2 to reach the Sweet 16. "Having Coach Yow back motivated us," said forward Khadijah Whittington. "Her fight has been an inspiration."
Yow, 65, who has lost her hair, her appetite, and much of her energy to ongoing chemotherapy treatments, flew from Raleigh to Fresno last Thursday with her nurse, Angela Vaughan, at her side and an IV in her arm. Yow had blood drawn at a clinic to check her platelet levels every day in Fresno. Yet before Saturday's game Vaughan reported that Yow was looking "the best I've seen her in a long time." Her team looked strong, too, at least at the outset. But after taking a 37-36 halftime lead over top-seeded Connecticut, N.C. State wilted in the second half and lost 78-71, bringing an end to an inspiring tournament run. Even Huskies coach Geno Auriemma looked chagrined, later expressing his mixed feelings about having to play "the bad guy."
As she walked off the court, for perhaps the last time, Yow gave the Wolfpack hand signal. Fans of N.C. State, UConn, LSU and Florida State alike stood and applauded.