Weekly Wrap-Up with Dick Rockne

Jan. 31, 2007

By Dick Rockne

In a way, the incident involving the Fox Sports Net telecast of the Stanford-Arizona State game seemed like it was a reminder that no matter how great the strides made by women's basketball there are more to go.

In another way, what happened probably resulted in the Fox Sports network receiving fewer complaints from upset viewers.

The incident in question was the sudden termination in a five-state area of the Pacific Northwest of the Stanford-Arizona State game Jan. 27 with 3 ½ minutes to play in overtime. It was done so that the network's telecast of the start of the Washington-Oregon State men's game could be shown as scheduled.

Needless to say that for those of us who had invested a couple of hours in what was a compelling - and close -- women's game, not getting to see the conclusion was frustrating. If not infuriating.

What happened?

According to Jill Wiggins, director of communications for Fox Northwest, situations like the one that occurred - what to do if a game goes beyond its scheduled time period? -- usually are up for discussion ahead of time. Involved would be the Fox Northwest director of programming and someone at Fox's Technical Operations Facility in Houston, where plugs are pushed and pulled.

Wiggins said that was not done in this case, probably because Stanford and Arizona State are not geographically linked to the Northwest, like Washington and Oregon State. Even if the situation had been discussed, there might not have been a different decision.

'In hindsight,' Wiggins said, 'we might still have gone away from the women's game because ratings for local men's games are much higher.'

She added that Fox no doubt would have received many more complaints from fans of the UW men's team had the start of its game not been shown.

'We definitely would have heard about it from a larger audience,' Wiggins said.

The Pac-10 Conference, which is contractually linked to Fox, has no influence on what Fox should or shouldn't have done in this situation, said Duane Lindberg, the Pac-10's associate commissioner for electronic communications.

Oh, by the way, Stanford won, 73-65.

Speaking of Stanford ...

In itself, Stanford's victory over Arizona State provided further evidence that the Cardinal is the class of the league. The way it was accomplished underscored just how difficult coach Tara VanDerveer's warriors are to beat.

In the overtime against the Sun Devils, two of Stanford's front-line standouts - senior Brooke Smith and freshman Jayne Appel - were not available because they had fouled out. So it was left to Candice Wiggins to take over. The junior guard scored 10 of Stanford's 14 overtime points and finished with 30, a performance that resulted in her being named Pac-10 player of the week.

Imagine what she can do if she's 100 percent healthy.

'Her ankle is still tender. Her hamstring feels good. She's getting there,' VanDerveer said.

The victory over ASU was the Cardinal's 16th straight on the way to a rematch against California.

'Stanford has an amazing way of getting better with each game,'' Arizona assistant coach Kelly Barney said this week.

'I think they're starting to hit their three-point shots better. If there was anything that was different from (Stanford) teams from the past it was probably their three-point shooting percentage was better with previous teams. But this team is showing it can knock it down with consistency as well.

'They're just a team that finds a way to win. I think they play extremely well together. They have great dominance on the inside and they certainly have the guards on the outside with speed and quickness. It's just one of those traditionally well coached and well refined teams.'

Rivalry series a success

The coaches involved - Oregon's Bev Smith and Oregon State's LaVonda Wagner - have said they don't particularly like having their teams play each other twice in a week. But if fan acceptance is an indicator, this year's two-game, I-5 rumble between the Ducks and Beavers was a success.

The attendance in Eugene, where Oregon State rallied from a 20-point deficit in scoring a 65-59 overtime win, was 3,704 on a Wednesday night. That was 793 more than Oregon was averaging at the time.

Five days later at Corvallis, Oregon won the rematch before a crowd of 5,127, which raised the Beavers' season average from 961 to 1,424.

'There are some plusses and some minuses,'' Smith said.

'I think the rivalry week is a great thing. We had a lot of fans out in both arenas. You create a little bit of suspense with them coming down and winning on our court and us going up there and winning on their court. You create a lot of basketball awareness in Eugene and Corvallis. I like that aspect of it.'

What scheduling the games the same week last season and this season did was free up some time around Christmas for nonleague games. But, said Smith, next season's schedule will make it more difficult to plan a Rivalry Week 3.

'We'll sit down and look at it,' she added.

Huskies, Trojans on different paths

The Washington Huskies, who started the Pac-10 season 5-0, are in the midst of a difficult stretch, during which they've lost five of six games and fallen into a tie for fifth place with UCLA.

Going the opposite direction is USC, which has won seven of eight and moved into a tie for third place.

'I don't think we are as crisp in our execution offensively,'' UW coach June Daugherty said. 'We have given ourselves some tough shots at times instead of moving the basketball in our motion offense.

'I think defensively, at times we're doing a pretty good job in our execution.

'I don't think we've been as tenacious as we were in the past in the rebounding end of things. Our strength is our defense, our transition offense and ability to rebound. If we don't rebound and defend we can't run. That's something we've got to get to at a higher level.'

USC coach Mark Trakh has a simple explanation for his team's run of success.

'We're getting some bodies back,' said Trakh, whose Women of Troy were plagued by injuries earlier.

'This week we hope to gete Simone Jelks and Hailey Dunham back,' Trakh said. 'We're getting some depth. And I think we're playing well right now. We just have to keep it going.'

Field goals and free throws

Coach Joanne Boyle, whose Bears began the week 16-5, are winning despite the loss of point guard Alexis Gray-Lawson (knee injury), said, 'I don't think they (her players) get all hung up about pieces we don't have. We have enough pieces.' ... Washington State coach Sherri Murrell doesn't much care for playing on Sunday and the following Thursday. She and her Cougars returned to Pullman from a Sunday game in Los Angeles at 2:30 a.m. Monday. 'We gave them a day off Monday so it cuts the preparation time for us.' ... Don't expect the Arizona State Sun Devils to be hanging their heads this week as a result of losing the TV game to Stanford. 'They're a resilient group,' coach Charli Turner Thorne said. ... Oregon had lost 13 Pac-10 road games in a row before winning at Oregon State. ...

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