Lady Techsters visit Big Ten
Updated: Wednesday November 29, 2000 1:28 PM
By Aaron Sharockman, Special to CNNSI.com
The season may be only a little over a week old, but the plot lines already abound in notebooks of Big Ten women's basketball.
And it starts with a man who has nothing to do with the conference.
Louisiana Tech coach Leon Barmore, who feigned retirement after last season, his 30th, brought his youthful team north for mixed results against a pair of Big Ten teams.
The No. 11 Lady Techsters avenged an 69-66 upset by Michigan on Nov. 17, with one of their own Monday over No. 4 Purdue, 68-63, to win the Preseason WNIT.
Michigan, an NCAA tourney team a year ago, was supposed to have problems filling the shoes of Stacey Thomas who led the Wolverines in scoring and rebounding last season. Senior guard Anne Thorius made the 1,500 fans in Crisler Arena forget all about Thomas, posting a double-double in the Wolverines season-opener. Her 14 points and 10 boards, along with UM scoring the game's last eight points gave Michigan its first-ever win over a top-ten program.
Frustrated, Barmore took out his frustrations on an old friend.
Purdue coach Kristy Curry, who coached under Barmore at La. Tech for three seasons, watched as five-straight points by Techster Amber Obaze in the final minute lifted Barmore's club to the school's second Preseason WNIT championship.
With a rematch with Purdue and a game yet with Indiana, Barmore might make more waves in the Big Ten this season, but no more ink will be spilt this week.
There're other stories to tell.
Like the birds, Big Ten moves south
Four teams will be bundled in winter jackets.
Six will be strolling sandy beaches.
One will still be defrosting.
As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches and college campuses empty across the country, a handful of Big Ten teams are taking their game south to the sun and warmth. A far cry from the wind and snow associated with Midwest basketball.
"It's about 24-degrees here," Minnesota coach Cheryl Littlejohn said from Minneapolis, one day away from a trip to Cancun, Mexico. "It's going to be 90 there.
"Yeah, I think we are all pretty excited."
Minnesota and Purdue are crossing the border to take part in the eight-team Torneo Cancun de Basquetbol Shootout. The two will each play twice, but not each other.
Illinois and Michigan are heading west to Hawaii for separate tournament while Michigan State is staying on the mainland in the Tallahassee Democrat Seminole Classic. (By the way, the Spartans will not have to count any Florida ballots.) Penn State is playing in the Paradise Jam, in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
For Littlejohn, fun in fine, but solid basketball is better. "We need to keep focused. Keep everybody on why we're there -- to play basketball," she said.
Easier said than done. The Gophers, for instance, will spend Thanksgiving snorkeling and for dinner, maybe a cruise, Littlejohn said.
Four teams will be staying in the Midwest playing local games while Ohio State is defrosting from their week in Alaska at the Great Alaska Shootout.
But this weekend won't be filled with snorkeling and sun-tanning for all the Big Ten teams.
When an Indiana SID was asked if the Hoosiers are doing anything special for Thanksgiving he said, "What are they doing special for Thanksgiving.
'Tis the season.
When Jane Albright, women's coach at Wisconsin, sent out her first letter to her team over the summer, the content was simple.
Oregon. Notre Dame. Georgia. Nebraska. Tennessee. Oklahoma.
"That's all I had to say," Albright said.
With an extremely challenging non-conference schedule, last season's postseason WNIT champs, got off to a sluggish start with a loss to 71-57 Oregon last week.
In all, their eight-game pre-conference schedule includes six teams that received votes in the preseason AP poll, including Tennessee, Georgia and Notre Dame, who are ranked in the top-six.
"It's probably too tough for this team, but there's no use in crying over it now," Albright said.
And it got even tougher when the Badgers had to cancel their two-game tour of Hawaii scheduled for December 9-10. With NCAA credit already given to their season-opening tourney at N.C. State, the Badgers couldn't play in Hawaii's Tournament against two lesser opponents.
The other debut at Indiana
While Mike Davis' win over Pepperdine peppered the headlines across the nation, IU women's coach Kathi Bennett quietly coached her first game as a Hoosier, a 77-74 buzzer-beating overtime win against Washington.
Bennett, the daughter of Wisconsin men's coach Dick Bennett is now 2-0 at IU after moving upstate from Missouri Valley Conference emerging power Evansville.
After a miraculous buzzer-beater from Husky guard Giuliana Mendiola sent the game into overtime, IU guard Tara Jones answered with a last-second three of her own.
Jones had been a frigid 2-for-14 from the field until that point and had just missed two free throws that would have iced the game.
Fellow former MVC coach Lisa Bluder also had a successful debut as the former Drake coach took Iowa to a 70-57 win over Marquette. Stephanie McCallie also notched her first 'W' as the former Maine coach who took that team to six-straight NCAA tourneys beat Arkansas State 76-50.Aaron Sharockman is a reporter for the Indiana Daily Student, the student newspaper serving Indiana University.