Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Wrapping Up the College Tour

Since I've last updated the blog, the U.S. Women's Senior National Team has completed its college tour ...

... but first, let me make sure everyone sees this link: WNBA.com has an interview with MVP Lauren Jackson as part of its "Have You Seen Her?" series.

Q. Do you have a motivational saying or motto that you look back at whenever you need that extra bit of motivation?
A. Yeah, something that got me through a lot of hard times and some difficult situations is this: 'Power and control come from letting go.' Once you let go of everything, power and control come back. That's my thing."

... alright, back to our main topic. The U.S. women finished up at 8-0, completing the West Coast portion of their tour last week.

Last Sunday, it was at Texas A&M, where they overwhelmed the host Aggies 75-24. In a pair of matchups in the state of California, we saw a familiar theme - close games in the first half that turned into easy victories late. USC put a real scare into the U.S., leading 36-33 at halftime before the USA put together a 19-3 run early in the second half to take command. Thursday in Stanford, the U.S. women finished up the tour with a 97-62 win over Stanford. Sue Bird scored 19 points in that one to lead the USA.

"The college tour was really good for us," Storm Head Coach Anne Donovan said after the final game. "We had goals with every game and it wasn't until this eighth game that everything came together, from the first minute to the 40th minute. Everybody played well in this last game against Stanford. We had great competition on this college tour. I don't think we could have asked for anything more from these eight games."

"Coach stated what our goals were and those were to finish strong and have a complete game," added Bird. "We kind of struggled at times, but I'm really glad that we can finish this tour with a good taste in our mouth.

"As a whole, it's been a lot of fun. We all got to play, a lot of us got to visit, see our old college teams, like Jamie (Carey), or even our hometown teams like Diana (Taurasi) and Lisa (Leslie) getting to play in L.A. It was really a good experience."

Check out USABasketball.com's quotes for more from Donovan on the college tour. I also enjoyed this response from Bird on playing for Donovan on the National Team as compared to for the Storm:

"At the core of it she's the same, has the principles, the same game plan," Bird said. "For me it's very valuable, especially as a point guard. People might not always understand a play or why we're doing what we're doing and I can be a voice during the game. That's very helpful. She's pretty much the same. If anything I think she probably has to coach a little less here because we're so good. At the core of it, it's the same."

With the college tour in the books, the U.S. women won't reunite until the spring. As for the blog, it's time to begin focusing on the action overseas. Bird and Taurasi were scheduled to fly to Russia to join their Spartak Moscow squad this week, while Lauren Jackson arrived and made her season debut last week and Euroleague play is well underway. StormTracker will have all the details through the spring.

Friday, November 9, 2007


In a game of alphabet soup, the USA - the Senior Women's National Team, to be exact - prevailed over ASU, Arizona State University, 82-48 Thursday night in Tempe.

The No. 12 Sun Devils were hanging in, down just 10 with 10:21 to play, before the U.S. Women finished the game with a 32-8 run to win going away.

"It was another good challenge for us and another good win for us," said Head Coach Anne Donovan. "It's our fifth game, and there has not been one game that we've played solid from start to finish. Once again, we were challenged in the first half and it took the second half before we could really put them away. Give ASU a lot of credit."

The USA got balanced scoring contributions, with six players in double-figures, including three reserves. Seimone Augustus and Swin Cash led in scoring with 14 points apiece. As a team, the U.S. Women shot 56.9% - an even 60% in the first half. Sue Bird led the attack with three assists.

After a couple of days off, the U.S. will play at Texas Tech on Sunday before heading West to California to wrap up the college tour.

- I mentioned the other day that I would get Paul Westhead's thoughts on Corey Gaines being selected as his replacement in Phoenix. I wrapped that into this story on the decision to hire Gaines.

- If you read just one thing today, well, I hope it's my breakdown of the U.S. Women en route to the Olympics. But if you read two things today - and you probably should be at least there - be sure to check out Steve Kelley's column on Tia Jackson in the Seattle Times, in which we learn that Jackson has a close relationship with Storm veteran Wendy Palmer.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

USAB Update and More

It's becoming a familiar story for the U.S. Women's Senior National Team. On their current college tour, the U.S. Women have tended to start slowly and finish strong. Tuesday's 82-56 win over Baylor was a dramatic example; the U.S. led by just one at the half but outscored Baylor 48-23 in the second half to earn the easy victory.

"Baylor came out really aggressive, we didn't come out so sharp and they made us pay for that," said Head Coach Anne Donovan. "We did a good job regrouping and then coming out in the second half and really getting after it."

Diana Taurasi (21 points, 11 boards) and Lisa Leslie (10 points, 11 rebounds) both recorded double-doubles. Sue Bird had her high scoring game of the college tour, posting 14 points on 4-of-9 shooting.

"They played very well, they're a very scrappy team that forced a lot of turnovers and we didn't really come out with our best game," said Bird. "We regrouped at halftime, coach said some things and we were able to turn it around in the second half and play more our style. I think a lot of that was just being aggressive, both defensively and offensively."

Elsewhere, hat tip to posters on the StormFans.org message board for finding a couple of good stories.

Lauren Jackson, scheduled to fly to Russia Monday, talked to The Daily Telegraph about the experience.

When you focus on playing basketball that's great, but you still have 18 hours of the day, which makes it very difficult. And you can either become a television junkie or go shopping and spend all your money or you can study.

I got my diploma in business management (through Thomson Education Direct). I go to training for half a day, read the other half of the day and then at night someone shows up and takes me out around Moscow, so that's all good.

Also, from Israel, a report on Storm guard Tanisha Wright earning "MVP" honors for Round 4 of league play, which took place in late October. Wright had 25 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in a victory by her Raanana Hertzeliya team.

Lastly, congrats to Corey Gaines, the new head coach of the Phoenix Mercury. Gaines had assisted Paul Westhead in Phoenix the last two seasons and should continue the Westhead style of play that has proven so successful for the Mercury. Phoenix players and Westhead were lobbying for Gaines to be the choice. I'll try to get Westhead's thoughts in the next couple of days.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

USA Basketball On Tour

Sue Bird and Kara LawsonThree games into its college tour, the USA Basketball Senior Women's National Team is 3-0 but has gotten some good competition from the best the college game has to offer (including two of the last three National Champions and the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 4 ranked teams in the preseason poll).

The tour started Wednesday, when the U.S. Women played the 2006 National Champions, Maryland. The U.S. held a two-point lead at the half, 40-38, but went on a 22-6 run early in the second half to win 90-73.

On Friday, UConn alumnae Sue Bird, Swin Cash and Diana Taurasi returned to their alma mater and Gambel Pavilion, where they teamed up to lead UConn to the 2002 Championship. The Huskies were as close as 64-60 with a little more than eight minutes left, but the U.S. Women pulled away to win 90-74.

Today, the U.S. took on the defending National Champions, Tennessee. The Lady Vols got within three points on a 9-0 run, but were held without a field goal over the final 3:48 as the U.S. finished on a 10-1 run and earned an 83-72 victory. Candace Parker, who played with many of the opposing players during the FIBA Americas Championship in September, scored 22 points for Tennessee.

The storied UConn-Tennessee rivalry played out in interesting fashion over the last two games. At UConn, Tennessee product Kara Lawson hit several big shots down the stretch. Today, Taurasi scored a game-high 28 points against her former rivals.

"We expected this to be very competitive, as was the case at Connecticut and Maryland," said Anne Donovan. "There was lots of good pressure by them and it was a great game for us in terms of having to get our composure at the end of the game and finish a game off. They really challenged us down the stretch. You expect nothing less from Tennessee, they gave us a great ball game from start to finish."

Bird has averaged 9.0 points and 3.0 assists over the first three games of the tour. She enjoyed the matchup with UConn.

"I was really excited for this game coming in and playing on this floor again," Bird said. "I was really excited and glad to be out there and play my heart out."

The big story of the college tour is that Lisa Leslie is making her return to the court for the first time since giving birth to daughter Lauren in June. There have been few signs of rust; Leslie has averaged 15.0 points and 9.3 rebounds, including a double-double today.

"My focus is split with my baby, obviously, and not being able to be at 100 percent because it's only been four months," Leslie said. "I keep seeing glimpses of what I'm going to be capable of doing so that keeps me hopeful of coming back. "

Some other notes:
- Today's game was the Tennessee debut for highly-touted freshman Angie Bjorklund, from Spokane's University High School. She started and scored 13 points, hitting four three-pointers.

"Bjorklund's a nice player," said Lawson. "She's got good composure. You can tell that she knows how to play the game. She doesn't seem rushed when teams are going pretty fast out there."

- Got a surprise watching yesterday's UW-Stanford game (go Dawgs!): Former Storm forward Kate Starbird was honored during halftime as part of the group inducted into the Stanford Athletics Hall of Fame.

- While we're on college hoops, the Tia Jackson era started with a win. The Huskies beat Love & Basketball 84-59 in an exhibition matchup on Saturday.