Iowa crowns new queen behind the arc
Updated: Wednesday November 29, 2000 1:31 PM
By Aaron Sharockman, Special to CNNSI.com
Five games into her junior year, guard Lindsey Meder is Iowa's all-time three-point assassin.
With nine threes so far this season, Meder took over the record previously held by Nadine Domond with 118. Last year, Meder's 60 threes also made single-season history for the Hawkeyes (3-2).
Under new coach Lisa Bluder, Meder expected to score less in a balanced offensive set, but her production has not dropped any thus far. Through five games, Meder is second in the conference behind OSU's LaToya Turner with 18.8 points a game.
But balance is the key to the Hawkeye's attack, she said.
"Balance will be the key this year," Meder said. "It's so much easier to worry about two people than to have to worry about five. That's my job, to step up and get everyone involved."
Meder is not the only guard lighting up Big Ten defenses:
Penn State coach Rene Portland had a crisis brewing on her hands.
Coming off a Final Four appearance a season ago, Portland, in her 21st year in State College, had to replace her two top scorers from that team. Andrea Garner's inside presence and Helen Darling's leadership were gone. It was a big problem.
Then weeks into practice Chrissy Falcone, another starter on that team drops. A torn ACL ended her season before it ever even started. A week later freshman Jennifer Brenden is lost for the year with the same injury.
Trust me, no one was smiling in Happy Valley.
Two weeks into the season however, the smiles are back.
Despite a misleading 3-2 record, the Lady Lions are back on track for another Final Four run thanks to the help of guards Ashley Luke and Kelly Mazzante.
"It's going to be tough to replace Helen," Portland said. "She was, well, 'Oh My Darling.' But Ashley's been working very hard and she's going to play well for us."
And early on she has, especially in their nationally televised season-opening romp over Old Dominion. Luke, a sophomore making her first collegiate start, tallied a double-double with 13 points and 13 assists.
And maybe a bigger surprise has been the play of Mazzante, a true freshman. Despite only two starts at guard, Mazzante is the seventh leading scorer in the Big Ten, averaging 16 points a game. Her 11 three-pointer's are tops among Big Ten schools.
Mazzante is looking better each game, shooting 9-for-13 from the field and scoring 24 points in PSU's 86-52 romp over No. 10 LSU Saturday. That's just how Portland said it would happen.
"Everyone has new coaches this year. Well, I have a new team," she said. "It's going to be baptism by fire. We'll look bad at times, but I think we'll be right there come March."
Don't look! It might make you cry
When coaches takes over programs, one of their first jobs is to look at videotape from the prior season to see what they're working with. They're looking for strengths, weaknesses, styles of play, everything and anything that could help them in the future.
Not Joanne McCallie, who is in her first season at Michigan State (2-2).
She didn't watch a minute of last season's Spartans, which finished in the WNIT. She couldn't, because it would make her cry.
" Kristen Rasmussen and Maxann Reese were the complete core of this team," McCallie said. "Our complete core has been removed.
"I haven't even watched any film from last year and nor do I want to. Why would I? Max and Kristen were there. I don't need to cry. I've cried enough in my life."
Reese and Rasmussen combined for 30 points and 13 rebounds a game. As a shooting guard, Reese was a serious threat from three-point range, connecting on a team-high 51 three's last season. Maria Recker was closest to Reese with 17 threes for Michigan State.
Rasmussen was the Spartans dominating inside presence leading the team in blocks and rebounds.
In their place the brunt of the weight has fallen on junior Becky Cumming's shoulders. Cummings, who was the second-leading scorer on last year's team got to work behind Reese and Rasmussen. With them gone, she's the player now being targeted by opposing defense. Through four games, Cumming is leading the team averaging 12.5 points a game.
"Last year I was able to take a back seat and just watch and learn from Max and Kristen," Cummings said. "This year, it's my turn to step up and help my teammates out.
"We have to hope other players step up because you can't replace them. I think this team's capable of it though."
They have the Big Ten Player of the Week. They have the best record in the conference. They have wins over a SEC and a Pac-10 school. They beat a 25-plus win team that made the NCAA tournament last year by 37 points this week.
We're not talking about Penn State. Or Wisconsin, or Michigan. We're not talking about Purdue.
This story is about Indiana.
Kathi Bennett's defensive strategy has a firm hold in Bloomington as the Hoosier defense has stymied opponent's offenses leading to six straight wins. The latest chapter was written Tuesday night when IU whipped previously unbeaten Kent State (a team that made the NCAA tournament field last season) 79-42. The 37-point loss was Kent State's worst ever under coach Bob Lindsay .
Big Ten Player of the Week Jill Chapman has dominated inside for the Hoosiers averaging 13 points and nearly 10 rebounds a game. Chapman leads the conference in rebounding. A trimmer, fitter, Chapman has attacked the basket more creating more opportunities for her and her teammates.
"I'm a lot more mobile than I've been," Chapman said. "I'm playing a lot better defense too, which actually helps my offensive game somehow."
The Big Ten's other unbeaten, 3-0 Ohio State has looked very impressive in its three wins as well, including winning the Alaska Shootout last week in Anchorage.
The Buckeyes are dominating the Big Ten's statistical categories. Beth Burn's squad has the highest scoring margins, best scoring offense, best field goal percentage, best three-point percentage, best rebounding margin, most assists, best turnover margin, and most steals so far this season.
Has your head spinning. Well it should, and it had the Buckeyes' three opponents doing the same. Besides the conference's leading scorer in Turner, who is averaging over 20 points a game, OSU's Jamie Lewis leads the league averaging an astounding 10 assists a game.
Sure more games and tougher opponents will probably bring all of OSU's numbers down some, but things couldn't be going much better for the Buckeyes right now.
Aaron Sharockman is a reporter for the Indiana Daily Student, the student newspaper serving Indiana University.