Women’s NCAA Tournament – Second Round Notes
by Ray Floriani
TRENTON, N.J. – The top seeds moved on in second round action at the NCAA Women’s tournament at Sovereign Bank Arena. The nature of the two games was a bit unexpected.
Georgia 73, Hartford 54
Rutgers 82, TCU 48
Players of Note
Tasha Humphrey, Georgia: 26 points 17 rebounds
Sherill Baker, Georgia: 26 points
Erica Beverly, Hartford: 13 points, 6 rebounds
Cappie Pondexter, Rutgers: 24 points
Matee Ajavon, Rutgers: 18 points, 13 assists
Adrianne Ross, TCU: 10 points, 4 assists
Hartford battled Georgia tough in a game that was competitive, hard-fought and close for most of the contest. The final score does not do justice to the effort turned in by the Lady Hawks.
Following a close first half, Georgia opened a seven-point lead in the early minutes following intermission. Hartford responded with a run of their own and tied the score at 42 with sixteen minutes remaining. Over the next four minutes, Georgia responded with a 15-0 run that essentially was the difference.
“They (Georgia) overwhelmed us with their athleticism, quickness and talent,” Hartford coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. “You hope you have one more run, but at that point we had a lot of guys with a lot of minutes so we got worn down.”
Hartford played Georgia even throughout the remainder of the contest. The run Rizzotti hoped for never materialized and the damage of that four-minute stretch was enough to send Georgia into the Bridgeport regionals to face UConn.
In the nightcap, Rutgers expected a low-scoring half court battle with TCU. The Scarlet Knights squeaked past Dartmouth in the first round on Sunday and TCU, a winner over Texas A & M, figured to give C. Vivian Stringer’s club a severe test. Rutgers played its usual tough defense. The offense, much like the stock market in tournament time, enjoyed a wealth of prosperity. With ten minutes remaining in the first half it was 16-14 Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights then went on a 25-8 blitz over the final ten minutes to take a 41-22 lead into the break.
Over the initial four minutes of the second half Rutgers went on a 10-2 spurt, and essentially the game was over. “Rutgers was as good as any team we’ve seen this season,” said TCU coach Jeff Mittie. “We did a few things that were decent but Rutgers was simply fantastic.”
Rutgers, paced by senior Cappie Pondexter with 24 points, had all five starters in double figures. The Scarlet Knights shot 55 percent for the game and were 6-of-11 from three-point range. True to their defensive stance, they held TCU to 29 percent shooting from the floor.
- Rutgers will face Tennessee in the Cleveland regional. “Pat (Summit) and I seem to have a ‘cup of coffee’ every year in the NCAA tournament,” Stringer said. The Lady Vols denied Rutgers a Final Four trip, defeating the Scarlet Knights in the regional finals. Stringer remembers all too well. When asked about preparation for Tennessee, Stringer smiled and said. “I can assure you I’ve have been preparing and getting ready for Tennessee for quite some time now.”
- Big story of the first two rounds here was Hartford. In seven years Rizzotti has done a masterful job transforming a struggling program into one of the best in the East. Hartford has now been to two straight NCAAs and three in the past five seasons. On Sunday the Lady Hawks earned the program’s first NCAA tournament victory with a 64-58 win over a good Temple team. The eleventh-seeded Lady Hawks then gave third-seeded Georgia fits before the SEC representatives broke it open in the second half.
“It’s amazing what we have done and what we are capable of now,” Rizzotti said after the Georgia game. “After we won the first game our kids felt they could compete with Georgia and they did. Not for forty minutes, but certainly a lot of the game.”
Rizzotti was a sparkplug, a take-charge point guard on the 1995 national championship team at UConn. The qualities, hustle and hard work, she showed as a player are evident in the manner she’s turned around the program at Hartford. Following this weekend in Trenton, Rizzotti feels the bar has been raised. A new standard is set. “Our kids won’t be satisfied with going to the tournament and winning one game,” she said. “Now our kids will want to win two and get to the Sweet Sixteen. That’s the next step.”
- Georgia coach Andy Landers had praise for Rizzotti’s game preparation. “She took us out of a few things we like to do,” Landers said. “I saw early they had a plan for us and it would be effective.” Landers would not go into specifics to reveal what was taken away. Still, the Georgia mentor cited cutting off penetration inside the lane as crucial to Hartford’s success.
- Beside recruiting, scouting and general day-to-day coaching duties, Rizzotti and her staff have done a little homework. “As a staff we have met and studied the RPI,” she said. “We went over everthing possible to learn how it works and how to use it.” Her thinking is should Hartford have a good season and get knocked out of the America East Tournament, they wouldn’t necessarily be kept out of the NCAA. “We worked on upgrading our non-conference schedule,” Rizzotti said. “We want to have the best RPI possible so if we do lose in the tournament we can still get an at-large bid (In the NCAA).” Their performance over the two days in Trenton can’t hurt either.
- Don Harnum was in attendance and accepting congratulations. Harnum recently accepted the athletic director’s position at Rider University. Harnum expressed the felling that it was difficult to leave the sidelines and give up coaching. On the other hand, the ever popular former Rider mentor relishes the challenge of directing the school’s athletic administration.
- Dave Magarity was also in attendance. Magarity assisted Maggie Dixon in the women’s program this past season at Army. The Army women captured the school’s first-ever Patriot League title in basketball several weeks ago. They were eliminated from the NCAA tournament in the opening round by Tennessee. “I’m getting a demotion in rank after Sunday,” Magarity joked. On a serious note, Dave had nothing but praise for the job Dixon did this season. “She’s outstanding,” Magarity said. “After she got the job in October, I met with her and she was a big reason I decided to join the staff.”
On The Baseline
- Georgia cheerleaders took full advantage of the stay and Trenton location. On one day, they made the sixty-mile trip to New York, and Monday traveled the thirty miles south to take in Philadelphia. A big favorite per coach Shelly Korpieski were, “Philly cheesesteaks, naturally.”
- TCU band had a member who could whistle with such sound it virtually echoed through the arena. The band member did it everytime a Rutgers player was on the line, even after the RU fans chanted to him ‘you’re down 28.’
- With a minute left Rutgers reserve Courtney Locke buried two free throws. The celebrating RU crowd then chanted ‘she’s from Texas’. Locke, a senior guard, hails from San Marcos in the Lone Star state.