Sorry I'm just getting to this now, but I wanted to get something out before the moment passed. But as of last night, I'm putting some pennies away to travel with this team to wherever their NCAA Tournament berth takes them. Because they will absolutely be in The Dance if they stay healthy as evidenced by their performance last night.
Please note that we rarely use this space to complain about officiating. The whine of losers is that the refs screwed you, and the scoreboard is what matters. But I sat court side for this game last night, and I'd like to think I know a bit about basketball. That was as inconsistently officiated a game as I've seen, particularly on the post. So Amy Bonner, Maj Forsberg, & Rachelle Jones, I talked to all three of you at some point last night, and you seem like very nice ladies. But the inconsistency with which contact was called was utterly maddening. Driving the ball into a defender as their backing away while flailing wildly into their jersey was always a defensive foul. But reaching over the back, or slapping the arms of a shooter at the rim was always seemingly let go. I saw Akila McDonald get karate chopped about 10 feet from me so hard it had a discernible sound, and as she fell to the ground there was still no call. It was insanity.
The most frustrating call might have been at the end of regulation, with the game tied at 63 and the Bulls having the ball with 14.2 seconds left. Following a timeout, Andrea Smith came off a double screen and saw a lane to the basket. She finds a somewhat clear path to the rim, but gets mugged as she shoots a lay up that is eventually rebounded by Notre Dame with just over seven seconds left. It's a tough spot to make that call, and you can certainly argue that the Bulls needed to make sure they get the last shot there (neither team looked to get a two-for-one at the end of the first half, second half, or overtime), but it was clearly a foul. It was one of many examples late that made it certainly seem like the calls were favoring the team that was supposed to win.
As to the game, I hope Andrea Smith iced her shoulder this morning. The Bulls leading scorer was 13-37 from the floor for 33 points, and also added 11 rebounds. Her sister Andrell chipped in 15 points and five boards, and Inga Orekhova added 13 points on a somewhat inefficient 4-16. But anyone that saw the game can tell that USF can compete athletically with any team in America. They looked to push the tempo and pace all night long, and forced the #2 team in America to want to slow tempo and bang it inside. Much like the men's team, the women's hole is in the paint. Zero points, five rebounds, and a disqualification for McDonald in 25 minutes of play isn't good. Neither is the 20 points and eight boards she (mostly) allowed to Natalie Achonwa.
But they can run and jump and trap and harass and defend as well as anyone in the open court and on the perimeter. Notre Dame's All-Interplanetary guard Skylar Diggins was just 6-18 shooting with 6 turnovers. The back court for the Irish really struggled to get in any rhythm in their half court offense, and that's a testament to the work rate, activity, and athleticism of the Bulls.
The Bulls head to DePaul probably brimming with confidence that they can beat anyone in America, as the Notre Dame team they most likely should have scalped beat UConn earlier this year. They can play with anybody, and should be proud of the effort they got last night.
Coach Jose Fernandez was also given the game ball from his 200th career win last night in a pre-game ceremony from Doug Woolard. Let's just make sure he gives him a contract extension after this season as well. He's a guy who's won at a place it's tough to win, and his deal is up at the end of the season, making this the exact same situation Stan Heath was in a couple years ago. If he leaves... who can you get that's better that you're willing to pay?
Wait, let me guess... someone that'll work for peanuts and try to learn on the job. Because we would NEVER do that, right USF??