Pac-10 Women's Basketball Deals with Rash of Injuries

Feb. 14, 2007

By Dick Rockne

Will the rash of injuries that have occurred to Pac-10 Conference women basketball players this season ultimately have an influence on the number of league teams playing in the NCAA tournament?

Arizona State coach Charlie Turner Thorne thinks it might.

'It's frustrating in the sense that we're coming off two tremendous postseason years as a conference and our profile has grown immensely these past two years as a women's basketball conference,'' Turner Thorne said this week while addressing the injury situation.

'Obviously, we were looking to grow from having even six teams in the NCAA tournament. And the injuries have impacted that. I don't know how things are going to transpire down the stretch in terms of postseason, but obviously the injuries have affected our ability to do everything we know we could have done as a conference.'

In the Pac-10, only Oregon State and UCLA have escaped having their seasons impacted by injuries.

No team has been more affected than USC. Camile Lenoir (hip) and Jackie Gemelos (ACL surgery) joined Brynn Cameron (baby) on USC's redshirt list before the season began. Four others - Simon Jelks (knee), Jamie Funn (hip), Aarika Hughes (foot) and Markisha Lea (knee) have either trickled back into action over the past month or are due to return.

Arizona lost 6-foot-7 Beatrice Bofia and freshman guard Marie McGee before the season began. Freshman forward Rheya Neabors missed 17 games.

Arizona State lost freshman guard Dymond Simon last month. In December, Cal lost sophomore point guard Alexis Gray-Lawson, who was one of five players named to the all-Pac-10 freshman team last season.

Oregon lost 6-6 senior Jessie Shetters in midseason; freshman guard Taylor Lilley missed six games early in the campaign.

Washington lost starting guard Dominique Banks (stress fractures in both legs) for half the season and starting forward Andrea Plouffe has been influenced by tendonitis in both of her knees. Washington State senior Kate Benz, the Pac-10 rebounding leader last season, has played with back pain all this season.

Stanford lost its starting point guard, JJ Hones, two weeks ago and now Candice Wiggns, two-time player of the year in the Pac-10, has been sidelined for the second time with an ankle sprain.

Turner Thorne said injuries are one of the toughest of the 'uncontrollables' that coaches have to deal with.

'You can do everything right,'' Turner Thorne said. 'You can work hard. Your team can position itself to do amazing things and you can sometimes be one injury away from realizing that. And it's completely out of your control.'

Six Pac-10 teams - tournament champion UCLA and five at-large selections - competed in the NCAA tournament last season and five advanced to the round of 32. In 2005, five Pac-10 teams were in the NCAA field and all advanced to the second round.

With just two weekends of regular-season games and the Conference tournament remaining, based on RPI numbers, four Pac-10 teams - Stanford, ASU, California and Washington - appear likely to be part of this year's NCAA field.

Senior Days significant

Maybe it's this way every year, but the Senior Day celebrations prior to Pac-10 women's basketball games seem particularly significant this season because so many outstanding players have been or will be honored.

The group of departees includes five players who made up half of the 2006 all-Pac-10 team: Emily Westerberg of Arizona State, Brooke Smith of Stanford, Noelle Quinn of UCLA, Shay Murphy of USC and Cameo Hicks of Washington.

Collectively, they are averaging more than 80 points a game -- from averages of 13.7 to 18.5 - along with a lot of rebounds, assists and leadership.

Of the five, maybe no one has come farther faster than Murphy, whose scoring averages her first two years with the Women of Troy were hardly eye-opening at 5.7 and 8.3 per game. But, as a junior, she averaged 17.6 points; this season she ranked No. 2 in the league at 18.5.

'Going into her sophomore year she was out of shape and unmotivated and wanted to be an entertainer and not a basketball player,' USC coach Mark Trakh said of Murphy. 'The legacy she's going to leave is that she became our hardest worker in the weight room and the gym. The other kids saw how hard she worked and how much she wanted it.

'I think that's going to be her main legacy -- how her work ethic turned around. She's had a great impact on our program and got us headed in the right direction.'

Other prominent seniors nearing the ends of their college careers include Joy Hollingsworth of Arizona, Aubree Johnson of Arizona State, Keanna Levy of California, Shetters, Carolyn Ganes and Eleanor Haring of Oregon, Casey Nash of Oregon State, Kristin Newlin of Stanford and Benz at Washington State.

With 18 games to go ...

If the regular season was over, the pairings for the Pac-10 tournament in San Jose would be:

March 2 - No. 7 seed Oregon vs. No. 10 Washington State, No. 8 Oregon State vs. No. 9 Arizona; March 3 - No. 3 California vs. No. 6 UCLA, No. 2 Arizona State vs. winner Oregon/Washington State, No. 1 Stanford vs. winner Oregon State/Arizona, No. 4 USC vs. No. 5 Washington.

The outcomes of the 18 remaining games could have a significant effect on the pairings.

Fourth-place USC and sixth-place UCLA have four games remaining, at home against the Arizona teams and at California and Stanford. Fifth-place Washington has just three games left, all against teams at or below seventh place.

How important are the seedings? Stanford has won three of the first five Pac-10 tournaments as the No. 1 seed; Arizona State won the first one in 2002 and UCLA won last year as a No. 3 seed.

Notes

With Wiggins out for at least one game, Melanie Murphy, 5-9 freshman from Brooklyn, N.Y., will make her first start at point guard for Stanford at Oregon State. ... Arizona's Joan Bonvicini, in her 27th year as a head coach, earned her 600th coaching victory when the Wildcats beat Oregon State Feb. 8. No. 1 in the Pac-10 is Stanford's Tara VanDerveer with 681 wins in her 27th season. No. 3 with 311 wins is Washington's June Daugherty (17th year). ... Appropriately on Senior Day at ASU, Sun Devil senior Aubree Johnson had career bests of 27 points, 12 field goals, four steals and four blocks in a win over Oregon State. Johnson was named Pac-10 player of the week. ... California's 19 wins are the most in any one season since the 1992-93 Bears went 19-10. ... The crowd of 9,749 for the UCLA-USC game at Galen Center was the biggest ever for a Pac-10 Conference game.

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