Busy Week Helps Women's College Hoops Rebound from Loss of Kay Yow

Travis MillerAnalyst IFebruary 3, 2009

In the week following the death of Kay Yow, women's college basketball has come together and is now stronger than ever.

The lead story this week developed Thursday night after then No. 15 Tennessee avoided an upset, beating Mississippi 60-59. The Lady Vols' Angie Bjorklund hit a three-pointer with six seconds left to give Pat Summitt her 999th career win.

No coach in Division I basketball history, women's or men's, has won 1,000 games. No active coach is within 100 wins of Summitt. Bob Knight has 902 career wins, Texas Longhorns women's coach Jody Conradt won 900, North Carolina legend Dean Smith finished with 879, and Kentucky icon Adolph Rupp led his teams to 876 victories.

Even more remarkable is that Summitt has only been coaching 35 years. Each of the four aforementioned coaches were at the helm 42, 38, 36, and 41 years, respectively.

Like in football and men's basketball, this is a down year for Tennessee. However, a "down year" for Summitt simply means not being ranked in the top five.

Considering she just lost one of the best players in women's college history, Candace Parker, it's quite remarkable to still be a nationally ranked squad, even more so considering the team's schedule (six ranked non-conference opponents, 10 total ranked opponents, No. 2 SOS, No. 3 RPI).

Unfortunately for Summitt, her first attempt at 1,000 came Monday night as her Lady Vols went on the road for a meeting with the Paris twins at Oklahoma.

Tennessee wasn't able to pull off the upset, losing 80-70, but Summitt's next chance comes Thursday against Georgia at home. It should be a very special night.

The Tennessee/Oklahoma matchup is a perfect transition to the next remarkable accomplishment, or the end of one, rather.

Courtney Paris, the more successful of the Sooners' twins, had a 112-game double-double streak snapped against Summitt's Lady Vols.

The streak pretty much dates back to when Jamie Moyer was in grade school. Paris is a double-double machine:

In 2005-2006, she averaged 21.9/15.0 (fourth in nation/led nation). In 2006-2007, she averaged 23.5/15.9 (third/second).

In 2007-2008, Oklahoma emerged as a much more well-rounded team, so her scoring took a dive, as she averaged 18.6/15.0 (26th/first), and this year, she's averaging 15.4 points per game and is second in the country with 13.5 boards per contest, but leads the nation in total rebounds with 284.

Paris got her 12 boards against Tennessee, but was taken out of the game with only nine points, so the NCAA-record 112-game streak ended. She was brought to tears after the game because of the overwhelming support of her teammates and fans.

Courtney and her sister, Ashley, are truly dominant forces inside, and can cause headaches for many teams, as Ashley averages 10.0 rebounds per game. Smaller teams don't stand a chance, and only superb guard play (see: Connecticut, UNC) can overcome neutralize their advantage in the paint.

The final highlight from the week comes straight out of Poughkeepsie (you didn't actually think I could write about WCBB without mentioning Marist, did you?), as Rachele Fitz broke the women's school scoring record Friday night.

Ursula Winter held the record for over 20 years with 1,587 points, which is nothing extraordinary. What's special about this? Fitz is only a junior. Provided she stays healthy, she's got a more-than-realistic chance to break the school scoring record of 2,077, held by Steve Smith (not any of the ones you're thinking of).

What was most special about the history-making night was that the Red Foxes were decked out in pink. It was Marist's leg of the WBCA Pink Zone Breast Cancer Awareness games.

There was a moment of silence for Kay Yow before the game, multiple instances of honoring breast cancer survivors before, during, and after the game, and an all-around special night to be in the McCann Center.

Setting the record wasn't easy as everyone thought it would be, and ended up being very ironic.

Fitz came into the game tied with Winter, so she only needed one point to break the record. Two minutes into the game, she was already on the bench with two fouls and didn't see any time the rest of the half.

She got her points on a turnaround jumper just under three minutes into the second half, but only finished with six for the game.

Though she attained the scoring record, it snapped a 54-game streak of scoring in double-digits, dating back to the first game of the 2007-2008 season, a six-point loss at Ohio St.

Fitz didn't care about the 54-game streak being snapped, she was just happy to get the win. A week earlier, the Red Foxes dropped only their second contest of the season, at home against Fairfield. Their only other loss came at Oklahoma in November.

The win got Marist back on track where they needed to be, and if they continue winning, they should sneak back into the national rankings (Associated Press, anyway).

Marist is up towards the top of a shallow mid-major class this year. South Dakota St., New Mexico, Middle Tennessee St., and Gonzaga are among the other mid-majors looking to make some noise in March.

Marist has won three NCAA Tournament games over the last two years, and is poised to make another run this March. We'll see if the Cinderella slipper still...FITZ (good one, I know)!


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