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The latest news and analysis on college and pro women's basketball.

November 18, 2013 at 3:41 PM

Monday dribble: Pac-12 stumbles, WNBA tops MLS and Tina Thompson playing again

BasketballThe NCAA hoops season not even being a month old may be the sole lifesaver for the way the Pac-12 made its 2013-14 debut. Cal got beat by George Washington, UCLA showed its obvious transition in losses to No. 11 Nebraska and No. 12 North Carolina, and Stanford looked out of its league against UConn.

Don’t play. The Cardinal’s showing on ESPN “Big Monday” had nothing to do with UConn being a given dominating team over the women’s basketball landscape. There are some glaring issues for the young Card.

Add Washington’s loss to Portland, giving up 91 points, and I wouldn’t blame the East Coast for heading to bed instead of staying up to catch a glimpse of the conference.

The stumbles led to the Card dropping three spots to No. 6 in the AP poll. The Golden Bears (2-2) did play without posts Gennifer Brandon and Justine Hartman due to illnesses, but voters weren’t forgiving and dropped them seven places to No. 17. Colorado (2-0) hasn’t played a competitive opponent (and won’t until it travels to No. 4 Louisville on Dec. 21,), keeping the Buffs at a respectable No. 16 ranking.

Utah (1-1) looked best among the conference to start. The Utes led then-No. 15 Nebraska 41-36 at halftime of its eventual 75-69 loss. Utah couldn’t stop a run out of the break and weren’t able to regain its lead to pull the upset. Still, against a solid front court, senior F Michelle Plouffe had 27 points and 12 rebounds. Fellow Canadian, freshman F Emily Potter, added seven points and 10 rebounds with two blocks off the bench against the Huskers (3-0).

“I think they outscored us 8-0 to start the second half, and we were sort of playing catch-up the rest of the way,” Utah coach Anthony Levrets told the Deseret News. “They came out and imposed their will on us.”

While Cal was able to rebound, Stanford’s next test is against No. 18 Purdue (3-0) on Nov. 26 on The Farm. Washington, picked to finish fourth in the Pac-12 and possibly return to the NCAA tourney, plays a critical game on Tuesday against Seattle U (0-2) at Alaska Airlines Arena. The Huskies (0-2) are the only Pac-12 team without a win to start the season. UW is young, but it can’t afford a loss to the crosstown rival.

Redhawks senior G Sylvia Shephard is expected to play after suffering a knee injury in her team’s loss to Washington State (2-3) last week. She was diagnosed as having an bone bruise and will try to practice on Monday.

ZAGS LEGIT?: No. 24 Gonzaga (2-1) played well in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT), losing a thrilling matchup to No. 10 Oklahoma 82-78 on the road. The Zags showed talented depth and defense to envy. If the team was better at free throw shooting, it could have pulled the upset against OU (3-1). Sooners coach Sherri Coale was impressed, stating “They’re underrated,” after the game.

The observation didn’t get Gonzaga a top-20 ranking in the AP poll as Coale said they should be, but they’re ranked for the third straight week. And it made that Dec. 14 matchup at No. 6 Stanford more intriguing, if that’s possible.

Gonzaga (2-1) hosts Eastern Washington (0-2) on Wednesday.

A-ROB OUT: Storm C Ashley Robinson announced Monday via Twitter that she suffered a torn left Achilles while playing in South Korea.

A reserve C for Seattle’s 2010 WNBA championship team, Robinson is a free agent and was questionable to return to the team in 2014. Seattle released a statement regarding the injury.

“Ashley has been an integral part of Storm Basketball for seven seasons, including the team’s historic run to the 2010 WNBA Championship,” the release said. “We wish Ashley all the best in her recovery and rehab process and are looking forward to her return to the court.”

WNBA free agency doesn’t open until 2014.

ONE MORE TIME: WNBA legend Tina Thompson is playing in South Korea for Guri KDB Life Winnus. She was drafted No. 1 overall by the WKBL in July and opted to accept the contract, traveling to the country earlier this month. Thompson retired from the WNBA in October. But she told me after the Storm was swept in the playoffs by eventual champion Minnesota that she’d only play if offered a lucrative contract.

Her son, Dyllan, is a factor, too. “It’s really cold,” was his response to the experience in Korea last winter. But since the 8-year-old is already being home schooled this year, playing one last round overseas was possible. Thompson, 38, said this would be the end of her playing career, but…

South Korea is a hotbed for Storm players. G Noelle Quinn and F Shekinna Stricklen are also playing in the WKBL. Stricklen is a highlight for Week 1.

BETTER THAN SOCCER: Sports Business Journal published an interesting story last week. According to research, the WNBA’s TV numbers increased 28 percent from last year’s record-low viewership. Regular-season WNBA games averaged 231,000 viewers, which is higher than Major League Soccer’s regular-season game averages on both ESPN/ESPN2 (220,000 viewers) and NBCSN (112,000 viewers). The WNBA Finals — a three-game sweep in October — averaged more viewers on ESPN2 than IndyCar did on NBCSN and the U.S. Open Series tennis events on ESPN2.

“The ratings of the WNBA on ESPN and ESPN2 have consistently shown that they draw a strong, loyal audience,” Norby Williamson told the Sports Business Journal. He’s ESPN’s executive vice president of programming and acquisitions. “Given the competitive landscape, I think most networks would be celebrating some of the results, if they could get to the numbers that we’re getting with some of their properties.”

POW: Here’s a list of conference Player of the Weeks based on ties from programs in Washington (UW, WSU, Gonzaga, Seattle U and Eastern Washington).

Pac-12: Stanford senior F Chiney Ogwumike.

WAC: Idaho senior F Alyssa Charlston (Eastlake HS).

WCC: BYU senior C Jennifer Hamson.

Big Sky: Not named

GOLDEN APPLE: Redshirt sophomore G Sarah Hartwell (Bellarmine Prep) is eligible this season after transferring from Georgia Tech her freshman year. A starter at Illinois, she’s helped the team to a 3-1 start. Hartwell is averaging 14.8 points on 52.6 percent shooting from the field.

Comments | More in Northwest Ballers, Polls, Storm, WNBA | Topics: Stanford, Tina Thompson


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