Friday, February 29, 2008

One more to go

It seems only fitting that the final regular season week of the Big Ten women's basketball campaign would get to this -- six teams still in contention for the title, a conference race closer than ever before this late in the year.

Ohio State was sitting atop at the start of the week, then lost a later-learned controversial overtime game to Indiana. The Buckeyes, Iowa, Minnesota, Indiana and Michigan all have two games this week -- Purdue only has one, when they play Illinois on Sunday.

The Gophers, now 10-7 after defeating visiting Indiana 69-54 Thursday, had to win both their games because they isn't in the best standing as far as Big Ten tournament tie-breakers are concerned.

"We sat down with the team (earlier this week and told them), this is where we are and what we have to do," notes Minnesota Coach Pam Borton. "Our destiny is in our hands."

Borton's players took her advice to heart. Emily Fox's jumper with 12:15 remaining in the first half, broke a 12-12 tie and began a 6-0 run to take the lead for good. A later 11-0 run, which featured six points from reserve center Zoe Harper, gave the Gophers some breathing room heading into halftime. Their 39-23 halftime lead was U-M's largest advantage over an opponent this season.

"Zoey stepped up and played a big role tonight," Minnesota senior forward Leslie Knight says of the sophomore Harper's first half performance.

"That was key for us," Borton says. "(It) gave everyone a lot of confidence."

After their big win Monday, the Hoosiers (16-13, 9-8) couldn't buy a vowel, let alone a basket. Indiana went dry from the field for the last seven minutes of the first half, and almost five minutes after intermission, scoring only four points from the free throw line. The Gophers held Indiana to 15 of 51 shooting (just over 29 percent), a season-low for an opponent this season.

"They had a great defense," admits Indiana Coach Felisha Legette-Jack, "but our kids didn't shoot the ball well either."

Minnesota wanted to stop IU from getting into the paint, Borton points out. At the beginning of the contest, the Hoosiers were doing just that. But then the Gophers switched defenses and those same shots soon dried up.

"Their guards are very tough off the dribble," explains the Gopher coach. "Our plan was to give them one shot and shut down the lane. We did a great job in our 2-3 zone."

The junior Fox led Minnesota with 20 points, her 26th double figure effort this season -- she also done this in all U-M's 15 home games. Knight added 19. Jamie Braun paced Indiana with 16 points, and Kim Roberson had 10. These were the only players on either team that reached double figures.

The win Thursday was Borton's 200th career victory. More importantly, it puts the Gophers in sole possession of fourth place, breaking out of a three-way tie with Indiana and Michigan, who also lost that night -- a 69-67 defeat at Wisconsin. If they stay in their current position, Minnesota is assured a first-round bye.

Minnesota (19-10, 10-7) travels to Michigan Sunday in its final regular season game before the tournament next week in Indianapolis.

"It definitely will be a tough game," says Fox on the Gophers-Wolverines match-up.

But it's only one more to go.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The lady can talk, and coach

Reaching 800 wins in any sport, at any level is worth noting. Rutgers University Head Women's Basketball Coach C. Vivian Stringer reached this historic milestone Wednesday, when her team defeated DePaul.

Only seven others, male or female, have posted as many career victories: Stringer, who coached at three different schools -- Cheyney (Pa.), Iowa and Rutgers, is the first Black coach to do so. Only the late Clarence "Big House" Gaines have more wins -- he earned his 828 wins, however, at one school (Winston-Salem).

I first met Stringer back in the mid-1980's when she was coaching at Iowa. I was on her campus, covering the Hawkeyes-Minnesota contest as a radio reporter. It was just after the passage of Proposition 86, which many coaches felt was discriminatory toward future Black student-athletes coming into college. Both John Thompson and John Chaney were the most outspoken against it.

At the end of her post-game conference, I asked Stringer's opinion on the subject. About twenty minutes later, she still was talking about the injustice of the new rule. I got enough sound bytes to last a week's worth of sportscasts.

It was then I learned about her passion, not only about basketball, but life in general.

From then on, I always made a point to speak with her, even if it was general chit-chatting, and Stringer always was gracious, whether her team won or lost. During her Iowa days, her teams rarely lost to the Gophers.

I missed her when she left Iowa, but I truly understood: her longtime husband and father of their three children suddenly died during the 1992-93 season. Stringer left for the East Coast, and have been at Rutgers ever since.

A few years ago, our paths again crossed: I was in New York for the WNBA All-Star Game, and I was working on a future story on the lack of Black female head coaches.

While in the hallways of the Garden after the game, I just happened to run into the coach, who was there to see Cappie Pondexter, a former player, and one of only two rookies selected as an All-Star. I took the opportunity to again ask her thoughts on a subject not often asked, and can be somewhat controversial.

Save for a few minutes, when Stringer asked me for time as she wanted to introduce a couple of her present players to Pondexter, the coach gave me more than enough information to write a series of articles on the subject.

The lady can talk.

Congratulations to Stringer. I am rooting for her Rutgers to get back to the Final Four this season, hopefully go one step further, and win it all -- the Scarlet Knights finished runners-up to Tennessee, a day before Don Imus' racially and sexually derisive comments went over the nation's airwaves.

Stringer and her players handled the incident and its aftermath, with class.

The lady has class.

She also can coach.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

You haven't seen nothing yet

Sen. Hillary Clinton is fighting for her political life.

She never thought she would be in this position, I suspect. Certainly many in the mainstream press didn't see it coming. That Sen. Clinton would be trailing Sen. Barack Obama at this stage of the long and winding presidential campaign, which I feel last far too long.

"They (mainstream reporters and political pundits) all are scrambling right now to try to understand why they were wrong," says Professor Catherine Squires. She is doing a study of Obama's campaign from the standpoint of media coverage. She is looking at the three national newspapers: the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, as well as national publications as U.S. News and World Report, Time and Newsweek. Squires, the first professor of journalism, equality and gender at the University of Minnesota, has been on the case ever since the Illinois junior senator declared his intention to run for president over two years ago.

"I will continue this analysis as long as he is in the race," says Squires, "because there is going to be talk about the meaning of his candidacy for some time to come. There is so much to look at, particularly since the primaries actually began.

"Since Super Tuesday, I am collecting much more data than I thought," the professor continues.

With Obama now ahead, Sen. Clinton is coming out with all kinds of mess, trying to get back in the race. Everyone uses everyone else's words, so that accusation don't fly.

Now her campaign is showing Obama wearing African garb. So what!

Unless he's buck naked, I really don't care what he wears. We aren't looking for a new president to head up the Ebony Fashion Fair.

Now, Sen. Clinton is dredging up that experience issue again. The last I saw, being the First Lady, even one as involved as she was in her husband's eight years in office, doesn't give you any experience brownie points.

Furthermore, no one who's running for high office: Obama, Clinton, or Sen. John McCann -- none are experience. Certainly current President Bush didn't have any, yet he's in his lame duck year.

"Portraying (Obama) as being too young . . . That could be the code word for (Obama) is not ready yet," adds Squires.

And if Obama does indeed wins his party's nomination, expect things to get even hotter. "We have seen the Republicans do some pretty nasty dirty tricks in the last few elections, from Willie Horton on up," the Minnesota journalism professor surmises. She speaks from personal experience: Squires' father once worked on the late Chicago mayor Harold Washington's campaign, "and I remember some of the ugly things that was going on," she recalls.

The kid gloves are slowly coming off in this campaign. Clinton is taking hers off, and McCann will later this summer.

Certainly stay tuned.

"I really don't know where this will go next," concludes Squires. "There's no Plan B, and that why (the campaign) is so great. I am having quite a bit of fun."

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Moving and dealing, WNBA style

While the hoop world watched the silliness of the Jason Kidd trade, the WNBA quietly began its offseason player movement with a bang.

Swin Cash and Bill Laimbeer reportedly heading to Splitsville at season's end last fall. The two reached their destination Tuesday as the All-Star was traded from Detroit to Seattle for a No. 1 pick. It also signals the beginning of "Trader Brian" Agler's reign in Seattle. When he was in Minnesota, Agler would change his roster like daily clothing.

Katie Douglas traded from Connecticut to Indiana for Tamika Whitmore, a first round pick, and signing rights to Jessica Foley, who hasn't yet decided she is willing to leave her native Australia, signals Mike Thibault's off-season pledge that changes were in the offering. He also re-signed Lindsay Whalen.

Tammy Sutton-Brown also re-signed with Indiana.

Finally, while the Minnesota Timberwolves have no wiggle room to make any moves, their sister counterpart does. The Lynx signed Anna DeForge, an unrestricted free agent. The veteran guard gives the team both scoring and experience, two attributes the league's youngest club badly needs.

Minnesota also offered a contract to free agent center Nakia Sanford. However, she is a restricted free agent and Washington has five days to match the Lynx's offer. If she comes, Sanford becomes the team's starting center, which enables Coach Don Zierdan to move Nicole Ohlde to her natural power forward position.

The Lynx's two moves are impressive. As are the others mentioned on the WNBA's first day of moving and dealing.

Too bad the Kidd nonsense overshadowed it.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Crossing the line

Last night I received a disturbing e-mail,

An engineer from Northern Ireland, on loan to a company based in Edina, Minnesota recently attended a Edina-Hopkins high school girls basketball game. While in attendance, the visitor got to witness a continuing trend in sports at any level -- fans crossing the line.

"There were a dozen or so young males . . . who had exclusive jeers for the two African-American players on the Hopkins team," the engineer recalls. All throughout the game, the two young ladies had to hear "racislist slurs like primate and jungle noises when they were shooting free throws," the letter continued. The person said they kept informal stats and noticed that the two players combined for eight missed free throws out of 13 attempts. "You could see that this hatred, visited upon these girls, had a measurable effect on these two players."

At full count, "this group of sport hooligans" numbered about a dozen, "clad in green Edina kit, and sat in the first two rows opposite the teams, on the other end of the court from the (school band). I was on that same side. I inquired with another spectator more familiar with Edina and he said these boys were on the hockey team and come to all the girls basketball games. He said these hockey players are treated with kid gloves at his school, (and) the normal rules of behavior do not apply to them."

What should be asked here -- where are the adults in charge? The letterwriter, who I might suspect, have seen such boorish behavior at football (soccer) games in their home land, or might have seen worse, asked the same:

Booing the opposition is within reason at home games. Calling out someone's ethnicity, or making mockery of their person, is crossing the line.

I don't care if the person is Black or White. It doesn't matter. It's simple.

It's wrong.

Like the Irish visitor, I, too, have seen such behavior at games. Once at a Minnesota Timberwolves game, I heard such hateness spew out of regular season ticket holders that would make a salty sea captain blush. And these were adults, supposedly persons who are mature enough to know better.

Even though they are kids, these young men shouldn't be given carte blanche to say anything they want, all under the guise of supporting the home team.

I don't know if the constant hassling really did affect the two Hopkins players, but it can have a lingering and long-lasting damanging effect.

As for Edina High School officials, which I am sure someone with authority was present at this game -- they must've heard this. If they did, why didn't they step in and ask the boys to not tone down their act, but cease it altogether.

If these officials did nothing, which according to the letter, certainly seems the case, their non-action co-signed the boys' taunts.

Making jungle sounds only when two Black players are on the court is racist. It's hooliganism American style.

It's crossing the line in Edina, Minnesota U.S.A., an afflunt Minneapolis suburb.

It would be crossing the line no matter if it took place in Hopkins, another suburb, or in the middle of Minneapolis or St. Paul. Or Chicago and Detroit; New York City and Los Angeles.

Or in the Northern Ireland engineer's own backyard.

"I know first-hand what sectarian hatred can accomplish when institutions turn a blind eye . . . or worse, tacitly support it," the person wrote.

Such behavior has no place in sport, period.

"A censure of the adults in charge of this event that night," the visiting engineer suggested -- this e-mail was also sent to Edina High officials and the Minnesota State High School League, the prep governing body which spells out sportsmanship rules for every school member, including Edina.

The letter also suggested that the Edina team managers personnally apology to the two Black players from Hopkins, and find out who were the boys yelling the racial remarks and penalized them.

"The most important thing for Edina to do is to reach out to the players from the other team and let them know that this is not what your school is about," the letter concluded. "The adults in charge of Edina should step up and let these African-American players know that the institution will not condone this behavior by sweeping it under the rug."

Not only let these players know this, but Edina High officials must clearly draw the line between sportsman (or sportswoman) ship and outlandish, sectarian hooliganism.

Not only in high school, but also in college and pros. It's not just creating a hostle environment for the on-court participants, but those attending as well.

What a great first impression the Irish visitor left with that night in Edina.

Friday, February 8, 2008

They were giants this night

It's a long way from those colossal big man battles, such as the ones Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell once had. But what made them great, was how they brought out the best in each other when they played.

This is what occurred Thursday night at Williams Arena. Overall, it was Illinois visiting Minnesota, but the game's subplot was the two sophomore big women: Ashley Ellis-Milan for the Gophers, and Jenna Smith of Illinois, and how they went at each other.

Both are close friends, once summer AAU teammates in high school. They still are friends: the two second-year centers hugged at center court when they meet during pre-game intros.

I have known Smith since she was a youngster, and watched her grow into a fine player. She always had the drive and the determination to get better. I only known Ellis-Milan since she arrived at Minnesota a couple of years ago.

Both have pleasant personalities off the court. But on the court . . . watch out.

"Before the game, we chit-chatted," says Ellis-Milan, a St. Paul Central graduate of Smith, the Bloomington Kennedy grad and former Ms. Minnesota. "But when it's time (to play), and gets down to those four lines (that encloses the basketball court), it's game time and we don't talk much. We just play."

And after the 6-2 Ellis-Milan outjumped the 6-3 Smith for the jump ball, the two young female hoopsters did just that.

"She is a challenge for me," continues the Gopher center on Smith, "and tonight it was a challenge for her, too."

Both Smith and Ellis-Milan fills a specific role for their respective squads:

"J.J. is our All-American, our go-to player on the inside," explains Illini Coach Jolette Law.

While Smith is doubled and triple-teamed, which Minnesota did throughout Thursday's contest, Ellis-Milan rarely demands such attention. "Ashley gets her points (when) we go into our secondary offense," notes Gopher Coach Pam Borton. "We don't call a play for her."

However, on this night, Ellis-Milan won the statisical battle: In the first half, she shot 4-for-7 for 10 points in 17 minutes; Smith shot 3-for-4 for 6 points. She had two more rebounds than Ellis-Milan (4 to 2), and one more assist (one, as opposed to zero for Ellis-Milan). But the Gopher was one-up on Smith in steals (1 to 0).

"Our kids did a pretty good job on (Smith) in the first half, and limited her touches a little bit," Borton points out. "But we knew in the second half, they were going to throw it in (to her)."

After halftime, the two's real show began -- these two giants that night stood tall.

Early in the second half, Smith got called for fouling Ellis-Milan -- she thought she had all ball as she attempted to block Ellis-Milan's short jumper at the rim.

On the next possession, Smith immediately went at her friend, and connected on a back-her-down, semi-hook.

Later, the two again was woman-to-woman, post-to-post, as Ellis-Milan fouled Smith while shooting. Her two free throws gave Illinois a two-point lead with almost eight minutes left in the game.

Ellis-Milan came back down court, and hit a jumper to tie the score.

Then, Smith stepped back behind the arc, and calmly swished a three-pointer, to put the Illini up by three. "She was way back there," says Ellis-Milan.

After a miss, Ellis-Milan then took over: She got three rebounds, two of them off the offensive glass. Then she really got busy.

A free throw. A layup. Another tough rebound off a missed Illini three-pointer try. Two free throws. A jump shot.

This seven-point personal run, in three-and-a-half minutes, gave Minnesota its final lead of the night.

"I didn't even know that I made seven in a row," says a surprised Ellis-Milan afterwards. "I was just out there playing. After I made a shot, I now had to get back on the defensive end and try to stop Jenna because I know they are going to throw it back inside to her."

"We were looking for her," admits teammate Emily Fox. "That is part of being a good point guard, knowing who had the hot hand, and Ashley had the hot hand tonight."

Says Law: "She was determined out there to get position, get a foul, or a basket. She put Minnesota on her back."

"Ashley took the shots that were given to her," adds Borton. "That's what makes Ashley good -- she just opens up within our offense."

Final score: Minnesota 61, Illinois 56. Both teams are even at one win apiece for the season.

Second score: Ellis-Milan 20, Smith 16.

In their first meeting this season, Smith had 20 points to lead her squad to victory over the visiting Gophers. Ellis-Milan finished with nine points.

Now the two friends are even at one game apiece.

"I really like going up against Jenna," says Ellis-Milan. "We know each other's game a lot. I am so proud of her that she had developed so quickly. She has gotten so much better."

But what about her game? Ellis-Milan says she still is working on polishing up her post moves.

When asked has Ellis-Milan joined the team's list of go-to players, Borton quickly told a reporter, "She's got 20 points and we don't call a play for her. Why start now?"

Ellis-Milan and Smith now has met four times in their two college seasons. Predictably, they have four more before their collegiate time is done.

"The next two years," says Law, "it is going to be that duel, those two going up against each other."

Says Borton: "I think they really enjoy each other's company, and playing against each other."

But both coaches quickly warn -- it isn't Chamberlain vs. Russell, or George Miken vs. anyone else.

"They will be the first one to tell you that it's not Ashley against Jenna," says Borton on the two young women. "It's Illinois against Minnesota. Those players are going to be as successful as the people who are around them. Ashley has got great players around her, and Jenna got very good players around her."

"We are not going to focus on it being Jenna and Ellis-Milan," says Law, adding, "They are two great players."

"It's going to be fun the next two years (watching the two play)," concludes Borton.

It sure was fun Thursday night.

FINALLY -- As I wrote a couple of days ago, the Minnesota Lynx hired Jennifer Gillom as assistant coach. She replaces Teresa Edwards, who is now writing a book.

"I have been looking to coach at a higher level and to come back to coach in the WNBA," says the two-time All-WNBA, who played seven seasons in the league -- six with Phoenix. She also played many seasons overseas. Gillom currently is coaching at a high school in Phoenix, and will remain there during the league off-season.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Goings and comings

As the world Wednesday watched Shaquille O'Neal travel coast to coast via a one-for-two trade between Miami and Phoenix in the NBA, here in Minnesota, we saw our own goings and comings.

First, the going: Third-year forward Kristen Mann was selected by the expansion Atlanta Dream Wednesday. She was left unprotected by the Minnesota Lynx.

A 2005 first round pick by Minnesota, Mann's gradual improvement began to show near the end of her rookie year, and continued last summer. Then she posted a career-best 7.6 points and 3.6 rebounds as she played in all 34 regular season contests. For her career, her numbers are 6.3 points, 3 boards and 1.6 assists in 91 WNBA games.

This is what Coach Don Zierden feared: losing a player that was beginning to fit into his long-range plans. Because each team could only protect six, it was bound to happen.

"It is a very disappointing day for us," he said yesterday. "We lost a player."

Although he supports expansion, and knows that yesterday's draft was necessary to give Atlanta a start on forming its first roster, losing Mann is little consolation. "We appreciate everything Kristen has done for us," continues Zierden. "We wish her the best in Atlanta."

The newest WNBA franchise, the league's 14th team, also took advantage of one of the new provisions in the recently-signed collective bargaining agreement. Each team can now designate an unrestricted free agent as a "core" player, giving them exclusive negotitating rights to her in exchange for an offer of a one-year, fully guaranteed contract at the maximum salary.

That player for Atlanta is Betty Lennox, left off Seattle's protection list.

Given the history between Lennox and new Storm coach Brian Agler, who drafted, coached and uncermously traded her when the two were in Minnesota, it was expected that her days in Seattle were numbered. Also, the fact that she was a free agent, meaning that the Storm did not have to protect her.

If she stays, the Dream has a star to build around.

Atlanta also traded its fourth pick in this spring's draft, and guard Roneeka Hodges (formerly of Houston) to the Storm for Seattle's eighth pick and veteran guard Iziane Castro Marques.

If she stays, Atlanta's starting backcourt consist of Marques and Lennox.

They also traded the 18th overall pick, and forward LaToya Thomas, who Atlanta picked from Los Angeles, to Detroit for second-year guard Ivory Latta.

If she stays, Latta may get the minutes she couldn' t in a veteran-loaded backcourt in Detroit last season. Also, concerns about her small frame emerged too much last season, which is one reason why she fell so low in the 2007 WNBA Draft.

Atlanta completed its trading day by getting the 24th overall pick from Indiana in exchange for agreeing not to select specific unprotected Fever players.

Overall, the Dream didn't do too bad in their expansion draft. They also picked up a center (Katie Feenstra from Detroit), up-and-coming forwards in Mann and Carla Thomas (from Chicago), and a starting backcourt in Lennox and Castro Marques. Guard Kristen Haynie (Sacramento) and centers Ann Wauters (New York) and Chantelle Anderson (San Antonio) could be suitable reserves.

Earlier yesterday, all major and minor colleges announced their 2008 football recruiting class. Wednesday was the first day high school seniors officially can submit their letters of intent.

Five players earlier signed letters in December, and joined 26 others to Minnesota.

We still don't know how good a coach he is, but Gophers Head Coach Tim Brewster showed us on the onset that he can out and get some players.

"I love to recruit," says Brewster. "I got a staff that loves to recruit. Every day we are going to recruit."

The team's meeting room in Bierman Building like an overflowing bathtub, as Brewster said such adjectives as "tough," "very physical," "passionate," and "very special" over and over during the afternoon gathering with local reporters. Mel Kiper has nothing on him.

"We got a number of athletic kids," gushed Brewster. "We are looking for (defensive) guys who are tough and loves to play the game."

"He could have went anywhere in America," the coach says of linebacker Sam Maresh of Champlin Park (Minn.) High School, one of four in-state recruits that signed with Minnesota.

Brewster gave all the credit to Assistant Coach Tim Cross for the school landing four kids from the same Skyline High School in Dallas, Texas: Keanon Cooper, Da'Jon McKnight, Spencer Reeves and Troy Stoudermire, Jr. "Tim was solely responsible in getting these four kids, particularly Cooper."

I'm not a draft nut, nor do I get goose bumps over national signing day in any sport. I am under the belief that you can't judge how good a recruiting class is until a couple of seasons down the road.

"All the answers are not in this recruiting class," concurs Brewster, "but the next three to four (classes)."

Nonetheless, it was impressive, and gave the fledling Gopher football program some much-needed positive news. Especially coming off the program's worst season ever.

"I want to create an envirnoment conducive to winning," he concludes. "All these freshmen have a chance. If they can help us win ball games, they are going to play. I don't rule out any of the 31 kids from playing the first game next season."

This will be the first sign if these signees were indeed steals for Minnesota, that the supposedly other schools lost out on, or those schools thanking their lucky stars that they didn't get fooled as the school in the state of 10,000 whiners.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Double celebration

Last night, on the eve of National Girls and Women in Sport Day, the Minnesota Lynx held its first "Slam Bash," celebrating both this annual event and the upcoming 10th year of the team's existence.

The Lynx brought in such legends as Nancy Liberman, Anne Donovan and Cheryl Miller, along with WNBA President Donna Orender, former Lynx Katie Smith, now with Detroit, and Lindsay Harding, who starts her second year with Minnesota.

"There never has been a better time for girls in sports," gushed Orender.

Girls today "can follow your dream," notes Angela Taylor, who grew up in Iowa, played college ball at Stanford, coached for a time, then was among the founding front office personnel when the WNBA began over a dozen years ago. Taylor is now the Lynx's vice-president of business development, and the first female person of color in either the Lynx or the Minnesota Timberwolves front office. "I had no idea on what impact sports would have on my life," she points out.

It's been proven that athletics isn't just for males, adds Smith. "We bring that effort -- we put in as much work (as the men)."

"I'm living a dream come true," says Harding, the WNBA's top pick of 2007.

Liberman came along just as Title IX was born. "I'm fortunate to be a Title IX baby," she says.

Miller, who Liberman calls "the greatest player, bar none," admits by watching players like Liberman and Donovan as a youngster growing up in Calfornia, "gave me the idea that (basketball) transcended gender." Growing up in the middle of a family of brothers, she used sports as "survival," she adds.

University of Minnesota Head Women's Basketball Coach Pam Borton began her basketball playing on a fifth grade boys' team. "I wanted to be just like them," she says.

In a taped statement, Lynx owner Glen Taylor told the gala attendees one of his reasons for buying the Lynx: "It's important to my daughters and granddaughters to have role models," he says. Timberwolves Vice-President Chris Wright reminded the crowd that Taylor's still-standing commitment to the WNBA is as firm as ever. "Without him, this franchise would not be in this market. He is committed to gender equity," says Wright.

On a Super Tuesday night, these women took center stage this night.

Other WNBA news:

--the Lynx will soon announce that Jennifer Gillom will join the coaching staff this season, replacing Teresa Edwards.

--the Atlanta expansion draft will be held today at 3:00 pm CST: each WNBA team submited a protected list of six players to the league last week. The new Atlanta team can select at least one player from each club. Lynx President Roger Griffith says it would might have been better if each team could have protected seven players, instead of six, because this would have assured them of keeping most of its key players.

--on the new six-year CBA, Orender says it came together because all sides wanted what was best for the league.

--Harding is now cleared to play by team doctors, she says: She plans to try out for the USA team this spring.

--after today's expansion draft, Minnesota can better hone in its scouting efforts for the college draft, says Coach Don Zierdan.