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

December 24, 2013 at 9:42 AM

The Dribble: Washington’s Kelsey Plum honored and Merry Christmas


UW freshman Kelsey Plum

I’m a day late from the official announcement, but Washington G Kelsey Plum was named the Pac-12’s Freshman of the Week on Monday. It’s her second honor of the season, highlighting the Huskies’ positive vibes headed into winter break.

UW finished 2-1 in the “Duel in the Desert” hosted by UNLV last weekend. The Huskies (6-4) missed a chance to get another win complimentary to their victory against Wisconsin, dropping a 73-66 decision to DePaul. But considering what the team went through just to finish the tournament, the trip was a signature win regardless.

“It’s an NCAA-tournament type team,” first-year Washington coach Mike Neighbors said of DePaul. “We had just enough spurts that we weren’t very good that we couldn’t overcome…but overall, considering all of the crazy things that happened to us with the sicknesses and injuries, they fought so hard. They played smart. ”

The Huskies left wing Heather Corral in Seattle to get microscopic surgery on her surgically repaired knees. She’s expected to return mid-January. Corral, a reserve, wasn’t the sole loss, however.

Neighbors quasi teased with officials about rules on using a four-player lineup to balance foul trouble with a seven-player rotation. Of course the response was no, so Neighbors worked with losing C Mathilde Gilling (sickness) and Katie Collier (hamstring). Technically F Talia Walton was out with what Neighbors suspects was really food poisoning, yet she played 25 minutes in the loss to DePaul and finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds.

Basically G Jazmine Davis, a Wooden and Naismith award nominee, held the team afloat. Named to the All-Tournament team, the junior averaged 23.3 points in the three games.

Players dispersed at the airport to return to their respected homes for winter break. UW plays its final nonconference game of the season at Alaska Airlines Arena on Dec. 30 against UC Irvine at 7pm.

As for the state’s other Division I teams, No. 24 Gonzaga (10-2) got revenge against Washington State to wrap nonconference play on Saturday. The Zags open West Coast Conference play Dec. 28 against Saint Mary’s (10-1).

WSU (6-6) was close to collecting another signature win against Dayton, which opened the season ranked No. 14 in national polls. The Cougs are off until conference play begins with Arizona State (10-1) at home on Jan. 3, 2014 at 7pm.

Seattle U (5-7) returns to play UC Santa Barbara (4-7) on the road on Dec. 28 while Eastern Washington (4-5) takes a four-game win streak into the break and hosts Portland State (2-7) in its nonconference finale on Dec. 29 at 2pm.

RANK ‘EM: Well, Duke showed i’ts among the best of the rest, only dropping to No. 3 in the AP poll in defeating No. 6 Kentucky after a debacle against undefeated UConn, which is why ESPN needs to end its love affair with the Huskies to feature other teams in “prime time”. True, it’s like ditching Miss Universe for a former Victoria’s Secret model, but she’s still hot. And you don’t have to stop airing UConn at all, just take a gamble that Colorado-Iowa or Stanford-Tennessee could be good theater — and were — to keep ratings during the prime time program high.

For instance, if ESPN had the guts to swap broadcast of the Texas A&M matchup with St. John’s win at the same Maggie Dixon Classic as No. 1 UConn vs. No. 21 Cal on Sunday, the casual fan’s perspective of women’s basketball on its grandest stage, Madison Square Garden, would be drastically different. A groggy West Coast most likely still saw the entertaining matchup where Red Storm sophomore Aliyyah Handford nailed a game-winner with 2.8 seconds left because of the timing of the matinee tip from New York. Still, the reaction nationally is, “Dang, that was a good game and these teams aren’t even ranked?!”

Instead, the casual fan, who has no idea the type of loss Gennifer Brandon alone does to Cal, watches another top-25 team get creamed by the otherworldly Breanna Stewart. Remember Elena Delle Donne and how she dragged Delaware to the Sweet 16? Stewie would win the NCAA title with the current Washington Huskies. No joke. All Stewie needs is someone to pass her the ball, which is why Stefanie Dolson looks good. UW has even more entertaining and accurate passers in Jazmine Davis and Mercedes Wetmore who could feed Stewie just as well and follow her on an injury-plagued team to win the title this year.

Stewie is that type of player where if she’s playing at 4am, you wake up to see her. But watch 10 times a season and everyone else sucks.

The rest of women’s college basketball doesn’t suck. The enforcement of the defensive rules, while irking some of us defense lovers, does make the game more fun. And there are more competitive games with fun scores like Oregon’s 105-100 win against Seattle U at KeyArena. Yep, Oregon was slaughtered 114-68 at UConn, but who doesn’t like to watch a kid score 40-plus points and almost lose in a two-possession differential? It shows there’s other talent out there to entertain.

Reminds me of this volleyball match I watched. Haven’t paid attention to the sport in at least a decade. No reason, just haven’t. Then I watch this match where these two kids seemingly have Swiss Army Knives for hands, slicing, cutting and pounding the ball where I’m contorting my face with every kill and found my heart racing like I was watching a thriller movie. It was a thriller. By the end, both kids had 30 or more kills and Washington junior Krista Vansant was the winning one, adding an amazing 30 digs to the win in the Elite Eight volleyball NCAA tournament.

UW advanced to the Final Four at KeyArena to play the UConn of volleyball, Penn State, and was dismantled by the eventual 2013 champions. But because of that UW-USC match, I’m curious about next season. If I had watched Penn State ace Micha Hancock slaughter top programs all season, I’d say “WOW.” But being that casual observer, my feeling about the sport would be “eh.” If I catch it on, I’ll watch, but I’m not going to seek out a match. Just like the checkout guy at the PCC told me when he asked what all the popcorn was for.

“I’m watching the Duke-UConn game tonight,” I decided to reply honestly.

“Oh, yeah, right UConn. That’s the one that always wins, right? The only one that’s any good?,” I remember him replying. I didn’t have time to explain that’s not totally true this year. They have Miss Universe in a season without fellow contestants like Brittney Griner, Skylar Diggins and Delle Donne. Too bad another Duke-UConn mismatch and Huskies winning by 37.8 points so far this preseason in prime time for all to see kills the argument.

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.

WCC: Saint Mary’s senior G Jackie Nared.

WAC: Bakersfield junior G Tyonna Outland.

Big Sky: North Dakota sophomore F Mia Loyd.

GOLDEN APPLE: This week’s goes to Washington junior Jazmine Davis. She’s really having a standout season and asked to do even more than anticipated because of injuries. UW’s backcourt could make for an interesting Pac-12 conference play.

Anyway, Merry Christmas!

Comments | More in Northwest Ballers, Polls, Washington | Topics: Kelsey Plum, UConn


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