From start to finish, McCarville up to challenge
Updated: January 11, 2005, 12:09 AM ETBy Nancy Lieberman | Special to ESPN.com
After 37 minutes against the nation's No. 1 team, Janel McCarville had to be exhausted. But her heart has no limits.And, apparently, neither does her 6-foot-2 frame.
Much like Wayne Gretzky's passes, which led you to where you should be, McCarville picks the perfect spot to place the ball. Her precision puts it just past the defender's head -- so close, in fact, that the defender thinks she can deflect the ball. But the pass from McCarville -- who grew up playing ball with her brothers in her family's barn in Wisconsin (family legend has it that she once dunked so hard on the hoop that she tore it off the chimney of the chicken coop) -- is just out of reach. McCarville's passing is just an absolute beauty, and she's averaging 4.2 assists on the season. No other post in college basketball can pass like that. Even the great Bill Walton averaged 3.6 assists in his collegiate career at UCLA. McCarville's feet are equally impressive, and part of that not only is her physical abilities (as in being nimble enough to keep up with Johnson) but also the intelligent way she uses her body. Most good posts these days can ball fake, step through or drop step to score. But McCarville, who has shed 50 pounds since her freshman season, has multiple moves in her arsenal. She drives you to a spot, then can pin you and spin; if you recover, McCarville will step through. She had LSU's Tillie Willis -- an exceptional defender, by the way -- running around like a ping pong ball and overcommitting throughout last month's game. Defensively, McCarville's incredibly smart, stays low and bends her knees and forces you into a poor position. And that, of course, has helped Minnesota into a great position. The Golden Gophers have won 12 of their last 13 games. The schedule gets a lot tougher this week -- Purdue on Thursday and Michigan State on Saturday -- as the Big Ten race heats up. But you can bet McCarville will be battling to the end. Nancy Lieberman, an ESPN analyst and Hall of Famer, is a regular contributor to ESPN.com's women's basketball coverage. Contact her at www.nancylieberman.com.
Janel McCarville, right, helped lead Minnesota to the Final Four last season.
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