AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
Coach Suzy Merchant's Spartans are just the third 9-seed to reach the Sweet 16.
Michigan State gets last word over Duke, McCallie
By Mechelle Voepel
There was so much emotion involved in this Duke-Michigan State matchup, and for so many different reasons.
No. 1 Duke was upset in the second round, falling 63-49 to a jubilant No. 9 seed Michigan State on the Spartans' home court in East Lansing, Mich., on Tuesday. It ended the star-crossed Duke careers of seniors Chante Black, Abby Waner and Carrem Gay, and it gave Michigan State some feelings of redemption -- if that's the right word for it.
This multi-faceted drama was set in motion two years ago when coach Jody Conradt stepped down at Texas
or maybe you could say it actually goes all the way back to the night of April 4, 2006.
That evening in Boston, Duke lost the national championship game to Maryland in overtime, an emotionally devastating event for then-coach Gail Goestenkors and her Blue Devils.
The next year, on the eve of the NCAA tournament, Conradt ended her legendary career at Texas. Goestenkors, enormously successful in 15 seasons at Duke, was Texas' target from the start. Her Duke team suffered another crushing loss, falling to Rutgers in the Sweet 16 -- just the Blue Devils' second defeat that season.
Then the wait was on for Goestenkors' decision, which impacted more than her career, of course.
She took the Texas job, and the Blue Devils players -- especially Waner -- were very upset. Former Duke assistant Joanne Boyle was offered the job, but she decided she did not want to leave her Cal program.
Meanwhile, Joanne P. McCallie had agreed to a contract extension to stay at Michigan State
but she broke that a month after signing it when Duke offered her its job.
That left behind very upset Spartans players, who thought after her deal had been announced that they didn't have to worry about her leaving.
Michigan State hired Suzy Merchant, and she set about earning the affection/trust of her new players. McCallie was trying to do the same thing at Duke. But there's no way to sugar-coat this: It wasn't an easy transition for the Blue Devils.
McCallie runs a very different system than did Goestenkors. There were times in the past two seasons that Duke's offense looked as if it had adjusted to her, and times it didn't.
This season, the Blue Devils were runners-up in the ACC tournament -- with another painful overtime loss to Maryland in the final -- but got a No. 1 seed. However, this is where the set-up of the women's NCAA tournament is so problematic. More
Coleman, Toliver true leaders for Terps
By Graham Hays
COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- There are times when the things Kristi Toliver and Marissa Coleman do on a basketball court make it difficult to believe your own eyes. But in person, it doesn't take a replay to verify the moment.
All you have to do is listen for the roar.
It was there Tuesday as Coleman swatted a Utah player's shot from behind in the post, the ball ricocheting off the backboard with the force of a volleyball spike early in the first half of Maryland's second-round game. It was there as Toliver raced up the court in transition and rifled a pass through traffic to Marah Strickland on the baseline for a lay-up. It started as collective gasp and rose to a crescendo of full-throated contentment.
Only by the closing moments of a 71-56 win that sent top-seeded Maryland to a Sweet 16 date with Vanderbilt in the Raleigh regional semifinal had the roar subsided, replaced by the appreciative applause more familiar to outcomes long since decided.
"We were just really in sync in terms of each and every player, being led by our two special seniors to set the tone and set the intensity early," Terrapins coach Brenda Frese said.
For a few minutes early in Tuesday's game, it seemed like this encounter might play out with similar dramatics as the game in Albuquerque. Maryland was the slower team out of the gates, letting the undersized Utes pick up a pair of offensive rebounds on their first possession. Finding room out of her team's motion sets, Morgan Warburton repeatedly turned the corner on the Terrapins, and post player Katie King found herself mysteriously wide open for the kind of baseline and elbow jump shots she's hit all season.
But from a 15-8 deficit, Maryland roared back behind its two stars. By the time Toliver took an outlet near midcourt with less than 10 seconds left in the half, locked her eyes on the clock as she corralled the ball, turned and snapped a pass to Strickland for another lay-up, the Terrapins were up by 16 points and safe from whatever second-half runs Utah had in it.
In the end, the Utes never came up with an answer for Coleman, who finished with 18 points and 18 rebounds, or Toliver, who added 17 points and four assists. Standouts from the moment they first suited up for Frese (they combined for 32 points in their college debut), both have nonetheless grown with each passing season. More
Rebounding, post strength push Terps past Utes
By Graham Hays
COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- It's further testament to how good Kristi Toliver and Marissa Coleman are that the senior duo often overshadow teammates Lynetta Kizer and Demauria Liles.
These days, it's the latter two casting the shade on opponents more often than not.
Quickly shedding the label of "Crystal Langhorne and Laura Harper's replacements," Liles and Kizer have established their own presence in the post for Maryland. Tuesday, the spotlight was on Liles, who piled up 17 rebounds -- including nine offensive boards -- in 31 minutes against Utah. Throw in 18 rebounds from Coleman and five from Kizer in limited minutes and the Terrapins outrebounded the Utes 54-24.
"It's just pure and simple really, their strength over us and their physicality," Utah coach Elaine Elliott said of the deciding factor. "We couldn't change that. We couldn't grow bigger; we couldn't grow heavier. That was the difference in the two teams."
That's not good news for Vanderbilt, next up for Maryland in Raleigh. The Commodores do a lot of things really well, but rebounding is not among them for one of the smallest teams in the SEC. But frankly, it's not good news for anyone if, in addition to everything it does well, Brenda Frese's team starts dominating the glass by the same kind of margins it did with Langhorne and Harper holding court on the low block.
Entering play the NCAA tournament, Maryland had played 16 games against teams that eventually made the field of 64. The Terrapins held a rebounding edge in those games but it was by a scant 1.2 rebounds per game, considerably less than the 5.8 margin across all games that ranked them No. 28 in the nation. And even that latter margin paled in comparison to the double-digit margins the team had in each of the last three seasons.
"Demauria Liles and I talked about it right before the game and we said we were going to get every rebound," Coleman said. "That was just the mentality we had going into the game, that we were going to do our best to get every rebound that we could. As a team, when we are dominating the boards, that's when we are at our best."