Few Surprises in K.C. Region

#5 Vanderbilt and #10 Utah spoiled a perfect region for the NCAA selection committee, but otherwise all the seeds held in the Kansas City Region. To review all 12 games played in the first two rounds thus far in Stanford's region, here is a comphrensive recap of how the KC Regional narrowed from 16 teams to four.

Number five Vanderbilt and number ten Utah spoiled a perfect region for the committee by knocking off Kansas State in the second round, but otherwise all the seeds held in the Kansas City Region.

And actually, when five beats four, as happened with Vandy and K-State, it's really not that big a surprise (especially when four is missing its senior point guard). Utah's victory over Iowa State was a bit of a shock, but given the struggles of the Big XII so far, it fits into an overall pattern.

But the Utes' run ended against Stanford, which joins one seed Michigan State, three seed UConn and Vanderbilt in the Sweet 16.

First round

Michigan State 73, Alcorn State 41

If Michigan State has a flaw, it was obvious in this game. In a 30-point 1 vs. 16 win, only six Spartans played significant minutes. Four of them scored in double figures, but as a team MSU shot only .294 from beyond the arc against a team with less than blanketing defense. The Spartans seemed to rush through the game, and turned the ball over 18 times to the quicker but smaller Lady Braves. For a team that outrebounded its opponent by 33, a 32-point win was disappointing, to say the least. For a team so dominant in the paint, MSU simply did not convert the possession advantage at the rate a number one seed should. This game should never have been so close. Did MSU peak early?

USC 65, Louisville 49

Louisville was outplayed in every part of the game. Unable to figure out the zone that collapsed on star Jazz Covington, the Cardinals shot 20 three-pointers. While the eight they made gave them a credible percentage (40%), the resulting 24 points were half the total they managed while Covington was held to 11 points. USC, typically, outrebounded Louisville by ten, and forced 16 turnovers. Overall, the Trojans had 16 more possessions than Louisville.

A 16-0 USC second half run, fueled by turnovers, put the game out of reach with 7:25 left in the half. Offensively, Chloe Kerr had a career game for the Trojans (14 points, nine rebounds, nine and five above her average), and Louisville had no answer for her in the paint.

Vanderbilt 67, Montana 44

Actually, it wasn't a bad plan.

Montana decided not to let Ashley Early beat them inside -- unfortunately, Abi Ramsey was waiting outside. Ramsey scored Vanderbilt's first 11 points, including three triples, and finished with 13, all in the first half.

In the second half, Early scored 15 as Montana could not keep her doubled in the face of the Vanderbilt's balanced attack. Montana turned the ball over 17 times, and had 18 fewer shots than the Commodores. Only Lynsey Monaco managed double figues, with ten points and Holly Tyler was held to six points and six boards. Despite an easy win, Vanderbilt shot only 38% from the field.

Florida State 87, Richmond 54

Richmond's best player, all-A-10 forward Kate Flavin, was hobbled by a knee injury and played only eight ineffective minutes. While Flavin's loss was serious for Richmond, the real difference in this game was a collossal athleticism gap, which left the Spiders two steps short on defense, a second late to the boards, and smothered on offense. Meanwhile, Florida State dropped nine threes on Richmond, from four different players, at a .720 pace.

What looked on paper like a competitive game became a hopeless blowout. Richmond, which beat FSU in the NIT last year, limped home with only one optimistic note: the performance of Flavin's replacement, 6-3 Kelly Roche. The freshman had a breakout game, scoring 11 points in the first half, including two triples, and more than holding her own against the quick Seminoles. For a half. She did not score in the second half.

All five Seminole starters finished with double figure scoring.

UConn 77, Dartmouth 52

This game matched the Big East tournament champions against the Ivy League champions -- and there's not much else to say. The Huskies quickly shook off the 12-day layoff and clamped down on Darmouth's star center Elise Morrison, limiting her to one field goal in the first half. Morrison's reaction? 'I was actually a little flattered and shocked that UConn would think to double me. They did a great job at it.'

UConn brought out a 10-player, two-squad rotation, and the Huskies quickly ran out to a 51-26 lead at the half. '[O]ne of the dilemmas we had as a team this year is we have some guys that are really, really smart and experienced, and they know where to go with the ball and what to do,' said Geno Auriemma on the 10-player approach. 'They just can't get there and do it. Then we have another group of guys that can get anywhere on the floor. They just don't know what to do when they get there. So, we tried to separate the two so we wouldn't contaminate each other. We've got one group that goes out and plays halfcourt and doesn't do anything stupid and tries to get open shots. Then we have another group that runs around like crazy and tries to create stuff off the press ... I like the direction it's going.'

Because the Ivy League has no postseason tournament, none of Dartmouth's players had ever been in a postseason setting. Although not intimidated, they were clearly outmatched. All twelve UConn players scored, five in double figures. No Husky played more than 24 minutes. (Compare this to Rutgers (Philadelphia region, but Storrs pod), in a 20-point blowout over Hartford, with the starters playing 164 minutes to 36 minutes by the entire bench.) The UConn bench scored 51 points, led by freshman Mel Thomas with 13.

Utah 73, Iowa State 61

Kim Smith (22 points, eight rebounds) outplayed Katie Robinette (eight and seven). At the half, however, the rest of Utah looked painfully inadquate compared to the higher seeded Cyclones, who led 34-26, mostly on six of 11 threes.

After the intermission, however, Utah started hitting some shots, and tightened up defensively. Iowa State was only two of nine from beyond the arc in the second half. Utah's Katie Wood was three for three from outside in the period. Utah's superior aggressiveness was the real difference, however, as the Utes outscored Iowa State by ten from the free throw line.

Iowa State lives and dies by the three. They actually shot their average of eight in this contest, but the Cyclones inability to score consistently anywhere else proved to be their undoing.

Kansas State 70, Bowling Green 60

Maybe it's the number 13. On the same day that #13 Liberty knocked off #4 Penn State in the Chattanooga Regional, Bowling Green led Kansas State at the half, 33-32, and kept it close until Kendra Wecker singlehandedly buried the Falcons with 18 second-half points.

In a closer-than-expected game, Liz Honegger had 15 points and 13 boards for Bowling Green, and Wecker sat for an extended period in the first half with foul trouble. More ominous for the Wildcats, however, was that 47 of their 70 points came from Wecker and Laurie Koehn, while the rest of the team stood around waiting for them to shoot. The non-stars clearly missed point guard Megan Mahoney, out for the season with a leg injury.

Meanwhile, Bowling Green spread the points around, but very inefficiently. Five players had eight or more points, but the team as a whole shot an embarassing 30% for the game. They also missed nine of 20 free throws. Not a recipe for success. Or for an upset.

Stanford 94, Santa Clara 57

Well, Santa Clara did manage 57 points, including nine three-pointers. The Broncos also committed 24 fouls, leading to 33 (of 35) made Stanford free throws. Add to that Candice Wiggins' 29 points (11 at the line), and Stanford easily cruised to a victory. Nine Cardinal were in double figures (with Susan Borchardt one short at nine) and outrebounded the Broncos, 42-20.

Santa Clara hit nine threes, just over its average, but only Michelle Cozad, with 23 points, had much other success on offense. Still, Tara VanDerveer was a bit frustrated that her defense allowed a pile of threes. 'I was wondering if we had talked about [defending the three] with our team all week,' she told the AP.

Santa Clara hit just a third of its shots, and barely half of its free throws. Whatever the deficiencies of their perimeter defense, Stanford's offense was in high gear. Nine Stanford players scored, many during a devastating 31-3 run in the second half that completely demoralized Santa Clara. Yasemin and Sebnem Kimyacioglu played against each other for the first time in college, with Stanford's senior Sebnem scoring 11, while her sophomore sister was scoreless.

Second round

Michigan State 61, USC 59

Did Michigan State play badly, or did USC come up with an inspired, energetic and slightly too short breakout game? This, of course, is a trick question. Both things happened in one of the most exciting games of the second round.

USC was everywhere, outhustling and out rebounding bigger Michigan State for all but a few minutes. USC's active 2-3 zone stymied the Spartans for much of the game, which featured 13 ties and 12 lead changes. For eight minutes, from 11:32 to 3:34 in the second half, Michigan State had but a single field goal. The momentum appeared to have shifted to USC, and the Trojans took a a 54-51 lead on consecutive Kim Gipson layups after Bowen broke the long drought with the first of her four late buckets.

Moments later, however, USC played 28 seconds more of great defense, but Bowen buried a 25-foot three at the shot clock buzzer to tie it at 54. USC took the lead again, but inexplicably left Bowen alone for a 16-footer to tie the game again. USC missed on its end. Now, Bowen had just hit three in a row. Did it make sense to find her, maybe even double her, since the other Spartans had hit but one shot in 11 minutes? It seemed obvious, but the USC defense collapsed into the paint on a Haynie drive, leaving Bowen all alone outside the arc. Nothing but net, and a 59-56 Spartan lead.

After an entire half coming back by playing sterling defense, I guess USC just ran out of gas. Nothing else explains the absurdity of leaving MSU's only active shooter all alone so often in the last three minutes.

Brynn Cameron still had some heart left, however, and tied the game on a three with 22 seconds remaining. Michigan State got the ball into the paint to huge center Kelli Roehrig, but Jamie Funn blocked the shot and stole the ball, only to lose it and have it batted away by the Spartans' Liz Shimek. The ball and about six players hit the floor. Rene Haynes, the smallest player on the court, sensibly did not dive into the pile. But when the ball slithered out of the scrum, she was there to grab it for an easy layin. USC violated the end line on the ensuing inbounds, and could not get a shot off at the buzzer.

Both teams left disappointed. USC had nearly pulled off a colossal upset, but Michigan State, which earned a number one seed with great guard play and balanced scoring, had played a second mediocre game.

The Spartans realized that only the luck of the bounce had saved their season. 'It should never have come down to that,' Shimek told the AP. 'It was a tough shot by Rene, but it never should have come down to that. We played smart basketball for about one minute and that wasn't enough.'

It won't be enough in the Sweet 16. But at least MSU will be there.

Vanderbilt 63, Kansas State 60

In a game marked by droughts and runs, Vanderbilt barely escaped Kansas State on a day when Laurie Koehn broke the career three-point mark previously held by Erin Thorn of BYU and the New York Liberty. On the final shot of her career, Koehn hit number 392 with 1:32 left to bring the Wildcats within three after a 13-2 run.

Vanderbilt held on, however, and managed to keep KSU at 60 points, a magic number for the Wildcats this season. As they exit the tournament, the Wildcats are 0-8 when scoring 60 or fewer points. Kansas State opened on a 20-12 run, then yielded to a 22-5 Commodores run during which Carla Thomas scored eight and Dee Davis seven. Vanderbilt led at the half, 34-25.

Connecticut 70, Florida State 52

After missing five of its first eight shots, UConn clamped down on defense, sparked by freshmen Mel Thomas, Ketia Swanier and Charde Houston of the 'run around like crazy' squad and broke the game open with 13 points off turnovers. The Huskies went on a 28-5 run, holding the Seminoles to two field goals over the last 11:23 of the first half to take a commanding 40-19 lead into the locker room. Six Huskies scored in the half, while Roneeka Hodges of FSU took half the team's shots, scoring 12 of the Seminoles' 19 points, and all of their field goals (all five of them!). Ten Huskies played in the half, to only seven Seminoles, and point guard Holly Johnson looked seriously winded with about three minutes remaining.

The second half was simply a matter of marking time. UConn mostly pulled off the pressure, ran its half court offense and allowed Florida State to do the same. The 21-point halftime lead ended at 18 as the Huskies were content to exchange baskets with the Seminoles. Or, rather, with Hodges. She was seven for ten in the half, finishing at 50% and 28 points. Her teammates were seven of 26 in that time. After Sunday's three-point onslaught, FSU finished three of 13 from beyond the arc.

Stanford 88, Utah 62

This game more than any other proves that Stanford is for real.

The Cardinal buried Utah without a serious contribution from freshman Pac-10 Player of the Year Candice Wiggins. Five players not named Candice were in double figures, led by center Brooke Smith's 20, on seven of 10 shooting. Reserve center Kristen Newlin scored eight points in only nine minutes. The team shot .611 from the field and hit seven of 14 three-pointers.

And if you think free-throw shooting matters in postseason, consider this: In two games, Stanford is 48 for 54 from the charity stripe.

Kim Smith's 20 points broke Utah's career scoring record by 18 in only her junior year. She scored in double figures in every game this season, and has 606 points.


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