Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tennessee vs USF Game

Okay, okay, okay, when they opened the doors to the press room at USF for the post-game press conference, R made a beeline to the front row, with C, permanent hide-in-the-back-row-dweller reluctantly following, and that’s how we ended up being five feet away from the winning-est coach in women’s or men’s basketball! (R hates C’s run-on sentences and made up words - “winning-est?). But C and R were like kids in a candy store when they made the trip to the University of San Francisco to see Tennessee take on the USF Dons. And we even got to ask questions of Tennessee’s coach, Pat Summit, and she looked directly at us and answered! Even when R asked one about Jayne Appel and I thought she was going to stand up and throw us out. But wait, C is telling you the end of the story first. Let C tell you our tale from the beginning.

Faithful readers (Hi Mom, Hi Patty) know we finagled our way to press passes for this game because we wanted to meet the afore-mentioned Pat Summit. This has been on our calendar since the beginning of the season. That, coupled with Stanford’s victory over Tennessee, we were in seventh heaven braving the traffic to drive up to USF from the South Bay.

First of all, C and R would like to say what a wonderful experience we had and that was largely in part to the courteous and professional staff at USF. Rachael Engrissei, assistant media relations director and Lorraine Gan, director of basketball ops were very knowledge and helpful. Rachel told us the War Memorial Gym, where the women and men play, holds about 4500, but they weren’t pulling all the seats out, and in this configuration, the building holds about 3,500. The women’s teams averages about 200 people a game, and they had already pre-sold 2,500 tickets. She expected about 3,300, yet sadly, this would be the smallest crowd Tennessee would play in front of all year long. (Official count would be 3,255). Makes us appreciate the support Stanford receives.

Lorranie worked for eight years at UConn!! We asked for some inside scoop on UConn coach Geno Auriemma. First, she eyeballed our press passes and laptop and then very diplomatically said he was a stand up guy and she got to know him outside of the court. No, really, we believe she meant that, it was just disconcerting for us to be thought of, or taken seriously, as "Press". That what you said to us mattered, or that someone thought twice before talking to us because we are Press, because we love talking to everyone. (Okay, Janie McCauley, the Associated Press writer that kindly introduced herself and sat next to us and asked for our link, is probably shaking her head and calling us the hicks that we are, but we write from a fan’s perspective, and I think that’s what keeps our faithful readers (mom, Patty) coming back to us. If you want to know who scored how many points or moved into third place on Tennessee's all-time 3-pointers list with 165 –Angie Bjorkland-it was Angie Bjorkland-you can find that out anywhere, but if you want to read that with her team winning, yes winning by 60 points, Pat Summit called a timeout and yelled to her team loud enough for everyone in the gym to hear, “Get over here!” and we felt her anger so much that we wanted to run on the court and say, “Yes M’am, please don’t hurt us!”, then come to us.) OMG, R is elbowing me in the ribs to stop that horribly-gone-wrong-run-on sentence and get back to the story and I will. Oh, here is what Janie from the Associated Press wrote about the game, and it is neat to see how she pulled together quotes from that afore-mentioned press conference, typing away while C and were still trying to get their tape recorder turned on.(check out her story about Pat popping popcorn to watch Stanford play Connecticut today).

Things we noticed about the game:
Tennessee showed up to the gym at 6:00 for a 7:00 game. We noticed for the Stanford game they were on the floor an hour ands a half before the game with an assistant coach with a whistle doing elaborate stretching with stretch bands and drills with cones. Although they did an abbreviated version of that, we wondered if they were taking this game lightly?

Even the refs were star-struck at seeing Pat Summit, and when Pat emerged five minutes before game time, the three gathered around Pat and basked in her wisdom.

In the first five minutes, Tennessee was too relaxed (Kelley Cain missed three put backs in a row) and the Dons were doing well and went up 4-2. Summit called a timeout to yell at her team and give them the “glare”. Then USF tried to take it inside and ran up against a wall and they panicked and did not want to try that again. Summit, smelling fear, put on a three-quarter press and forced a turnover and soon it was 8-20 and that was all she wrote.

Pat put in her subs around 6:22, but these subs were eager to show Pat what they could do and smelling points ran it up to 48-17 at half time. They used power, finesse and athleticism to mug USF and forced them to shoot threes way out of their comfort range.

The second half was more of the same, with USF reluctant to go inside and their three-point percentage ended up being 20%. R didi notice that USF had great fundamentals, blocked and blocked out well. Just Tennessee was taller. Also, USF didn’t give up. They ran the whole 40 minutes. The final score was 34-89.

Then we hustled down to the media room and we finally get back to the beginning of this story, which is really the end of this story. So we are sitting five feet from Pat and the thing I noticed the most was she was not afraid to pull punches about her players. Or, as I thought, give sharp barbs to the media with the players sitting right beside her. She made several mentions about Kelley Cain and Alyssia Brewer not getting up and down the court fast enough and needed to get in better shape. Now, C and R agree with her, but we feel you shouldn’t air that to the media. She also said Kamiko Williams needs to “not give into fatigue” and Kamiko was sitting right next to Pat! Another time someone asked about Angie breaking the record and is that what she, Pat, expected, and Pat said, yes that’s why we recruited her, “we didn’t recruit her for her defense.” Angie sitting a player away said, “Hey!” Pat backtracked and said she has been working on her defense. Ouch.

Then C got up the courage to ask about the four assists last game (Stanford) and the team effort this game and Pat admitted the team effort was lacking at Stanford but graciously credited Stanford for in getting in the passing lanes. She thought the team got better ball movement and moment without the ball at this game.

Then R got to ask about Pat playing more zone (Pat used a zone for the first time we think ever against Baylor in the opening game) this year and she answered she just thought it matched her teams's talent. She said when she saw it on the floor they looked "tall and rangy" and they play big and the zone has bothered other teams. Then R asked how she thought center Kelley Cain matched up with Stanford Jayne Appel and R got a little bit of the stare and C wearing her Stanford blogging shirt thought please don’t hurt us Stanford bloggers and Pat answered that Cain didn’t match the intensity of Jayne and that she got a valuable lesson on how active Jayne is and how much energy and how aggressive she is and the skill set she has to attack the basket…C and R kinda got the idea Pat would LOVE to have Jayne Appel on her team. She turned it into a positive saying Kelley learned a lot from playing her.

Pat had to go do a radio show and C and R were wowed by how tough she is on her players. The one question we didn’t ask, because we were a-scared to was one Pat brought up herself at the Stanford press conference. She said her team looked too much like “me, me, me” during that game with only four assists. We thought we saw evidence of that at this game, too, and that should be a concern for Summit. But we didn’t want to draw attention to it in case she made the team run up and down the San Francisco hills before boarding the bus, so we let it go.

Then the Tennessee players talked to us. We asked what they liked best about their free time and California and they said everything! Shopping at Union Square and the Stanford Mall (Does Tennessee have a “Vols” mall?), the seafood, being outside, walking around Fishermen’s Wharf, trying to see Alcatraz for the umpteenth time, as the media director lady said earlier…. C and R kinda got the idea the Tennessee players would LOVE to play in California!

We also got to talk with USF Head Coach Tanya Haave, former Tennessee player, and she also was very impressive. Assistant coach Abby Conklin also played for Tennessee. Haave did admit she hoped Tennessee would beat Stanford because, "you don’t want to play Pat after a loss". She was very gracious to Pat’s team and the caliber in both teams. We did like her saying that you only get better by playing better teams, a sentiment some coaches might not share when they want to pad their stats. We applaud USF for scheduling them.

All in all, it was the best night of women’s basketball that did not feature Stanford!

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