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  • UConn women’s dominance starts on defensive end Mar 27, 2014 5:50 PM
    STORRS, Conn. — Connecticut’s opponents spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to slow the Huskies’ offense. A bigger challenge may be finding a way to score on the nation’s top-ranked women’s team. UConn (36-0) goes into Saturday’s regional semifinal against BYU (28-6) holding opponents to an average of 47 points a game. The next best defense, Presbyterian, gave up 53.5 this season. The Huskies also are at the top of the list when it comes to shooting defense, with opponents making just 30.4 percent of their shots. “Our philosophy has always been, if we play great defense we’re going to have a chance to win every single game,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “Then we’re going to let our offense dictate how much we’re going to win by. If our offense is lousy that night, we’re not going to win by a lot, but our defense is going to make sure that we have a chance to win every single game that we play.” In his first few seasons, he said, the Huskies were holding teams to 55 points a game, and losing 55-50. This season, they are scoring an average of more than 83 points, and winning games by an average of 36. The nation’s other undefeated team, Notre Dame, ranks second in that category, with an average margin of victory of just over 26 points. “It’s easy, especially when a team is scoring at the clip that they are offensively, to be slow and sloppy and lazy on the defensive side of it,” Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said after losing by 26 to the Huskies in the American Athletic Conference tournament. “I think that Geno does a masterful job of encouraging his players to be as intense on the offensive side as they are on the defensive side or vice versa. But that’s what clearly makes a great team.” Auriemma jokes that he has a way of making sure players give maximum effort. If a player isn’t committed to defense, he has several other former high-school All Americans on the bench who are ready to take their minutes. But he also believes his team’s defensive numbers have been inflated a bit this season because of the lopsided scores. A lot of teams, he said, become unhinged while trying to match UConn basket for basket. “When you’re down 15, there is a lot more pressure on you to make shots,” Auriemma said. “If it’s a three-point game, I don’t think that’s a lot of pressure because if you miss you are only down three. If you are down 15 and you miss, then we go down and now you are down 18. Then you come down and you miss. With each time down that you miss the pressure mounts and it becomes harder to make shots.” And because UConn is so good in transition, opponents often get just one shot each trip down the floor, conceding the rebound to get back on defense. UConn outrebounds opponents by about 10 boards each game. The Huskies also have won the turnover battle (614-428) by stealing the ball 344 times and blocking 293 shots, leading the nation at more than eight blocks a game. “For us, everything starts on the defensive end,” said senior Stefanie Dolson, the AAC’s defensive player of the year. “We take so much pride in that. We try not to give up anything easy.” Dolson (6-foot-5), Breanna Stewart (6-4) and Kiah Stokes (6-3) each averages more than two blocks a game. “They’re a great back line and it’s really hard to penetrate their defense,” said Saint Joseph’s guard Natasha Cloud, whose team lost by 39 points to the Huskies in the second round. “So you’re depending on the outside shot. If they are falling, they’re falling. If they’re not, you’re kind of out of luck.”

  • College athletes amateurs? Only in the U.S. Mar 27, 2014 5:32 PM
    The U.S. college sports system, which generates billions of dollars and draws millions of fans and viewers every year, is a rarity across the globe. Other nations are puzzled about the concept of student amateurism, and how college students can compete in front of full stadiums and have their jerseys sold, but don’t receive a salary.

  • Attendance at women’s hoops first two rounds drop Mar 27, 2014 5:06 PM
    It wasn’t hard to find a good seat during the opening rounds of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament. The NCAA expects that to change for the Sweet 16. Fewer people turned out for the opening two rounds of the NCAA women’s tournament as the 16 sites averaged nearly 4,100 fans for the first two rounds, down about 700 from the previous year.

  • Whoa! DePaul women take down No. 2 Duke Mar 24, 2014 8:07 PM
    Megan Rogowski scored 22 points and Megan Podkowa added 18 to help DePaul upset Duke 74-65 on Monday night in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Brittany Hrynko added 14 for the seventh-seeded Blue Demons (29-6).

  • DePaul women ready to go against Oklahoma Mar 18, 2014 8:44 PM
    The DePaul women are back in the NCAA basketball tournament for the 12th season in a row.

  • Notre Dame, UConn on collision course in women’s tourney Mar 17, 2014 10:15 PM
    All season there has been a buzz around women’s basketball about UConn and Notre Dame. Now the stage is set for the former Big East rivals to meet in a historic national championship game.

  • Boot camp devotee weighs in on her new life Mar 14, 2014 1:01 AM
    The washer and dryer are almost always running at Erin Pron’s house. And it’s not just because she’s constantly trying to keep up with the laundry from her 8-year-old twin daughters, Caitlin and Megan. Pron is doing her own laundry just as often, perhaps even more so. If she doesn’t, her closet will empty quickly. “I don’t have a very big wardrobe anymore,” said Pron, a 42-year-old work-from-home medical biller who lives in Lake Villa. “I’ve donated all of my old clothes, and I don’t want to spend a lot of money on new clothes when I’m still changing so much.” Pron has made a dramatic physical transformation over the last two years, and she’s still very much a work in progress. Once 330 pounds, the 5-foot-7 Pron has dropped 148 pounds in the last two years, and has moved down a jeans size each month, by eating right and participating in a new and popular fitness regimen that seems to have struck a chord with women. Pron, who says she wants to drop another 27 pounds to get to her goal weight of 155 pounds, is a faithful member at Real Results Fitness in Grayslake, a small and locally owned gym that specializes in group boot camp classes. Bootcamp classes at Real Results, where I met Erin and have dropped 18 pounds myself since mid-September, incorporate not only intense cardio work, but also weightlifting and mobility exercises. The regimen, which can include pushups, pullups, chin-ups, burpees and situps, just to name a few “favorites,” is different every day and is designed to push everyone from beginners to even more advanced members outside of their comfort zones. The beauty of these classes for women is the social aspect and the community feel. Classes last only one hour, so there’s not a lot of time for chitchat while you work. But when you keep working out and pushing yourself alongside the same people each morning or afternoon, friendships certainly develop. There’s definitely a sense of camaraderie and community that serves as a support system throughout your fitness journey. Members often chat after class, or “chat” with each other on the gym’s Facebook message boards about their workouts, overall fitness issues or life in general. With this approach, gone are the days of walking into the gym with anonymity, or down into your basement alone, and logging yet another monotonous workout on the treadmill in solitude. That’s a workout that becomes easy to skip. The environment and the variety in a boot camp setting keeps people coming back for more. “The social aspect is huge with women because boot camp gives them an environment that they look forward to going to, a second home of sorts,” said Dustin Martorano, a 1999 Warren High School graduate who is a certified trainer and the owner of Real Results Fitness. “It’s also about the accountability. You’re almost being held accountable by the other people in your class. I think it really works for a lot of women, and my mission is to help as many women in Lake County as I can to live a longer, happier, healthier life.” Of course, men are also welcome at Real Results, and my husband is one of many men who attends classes. But Pron says that one of the reasons she kept coming back during those tough, early days is that she never felt judged or uncomfortable around the guys, as she did at some of the less personal and big box coed gyms she had tried in the past. She never lasted at those gyms for more than a month or two, she said. “I remember my first day of boot camp and how I was scared to death. I didn’t sleep at all the night before. I didn’t think I would fit in,” Pron said. “But there were three of us who started that day and everyone there was so welcoming. I struggled getting through everything. I mean, I couldn’t even do a jumping jack. The trainers worked with me and showed me different modifications that I could do and told me that as long as I kept moving, I was doing something. No one made me feel stupid for doing that. “At the end of that first class, everyone applauded the new people. That made me feel really good. And every day I went after that, I’d meet new people, make new friends and I’d get a little better.” Pron, who also tracks her food intake through My Fitness Pal and Weight Watchers, has gotten so good at boot camp that she’s bumped up her schedule from three days a week to five days a week. She’s also trying out a new program at Real Results: strength camp. Since moving to a bigger location at 1838 Belvidere Road, Real Results has added a heavy weightlifting class and also a cross-fit class, which is essentially a more intense version of boot camp. “Before I started boot camp, I had never even picked up a free weight and now I’m trying strength camp,” Pron said. “I’ve been overweight my whole life, and now I’m on brochures for a fitness place. It’s all so crazy to me.” Pron, who still keeps her “before” picture in her purse so that she never forgets where she started from, mostly relishes the little victories, like being more active in her daughters’ lives. “I was able to sled with my kids, which almost brought tears to my eyes” Pron said. “I was always the one who had to wait at the bottom of the hill for them, because I couldn’t climb up. I just couldn’t make it to the top. Now, I can do that. I can play tag with them. I’m an active parent now, not a sideline parent. “Bootcamp has changed my life in so many ways. I don’t know where I’d be without it. It’s been magical, and it’s been so much easier having people with me on the journey.” • Follow Patricia on Twitter@babcockmcgraw.

  • DePaul tops St. John’s for Big East women’s title Mar 11, 2014 11:43 PM
    Brittany Hrynko scored 15 points and Megan Rogowski added 14 on Tuesday and No. 23 DePaul beat St. John’s 65-57 to capture its first Big East women’s tournament championship. Megan Podkowa had 12 points and Jasmine Penny added 11 as the host Blue Demons (27-6) won their seventh straight and earned the league’s automatic NCAA tournament berth. Aliyyah Handford scored 13 points and Briana Brown added 12 for the Red Storm (22-10), making their first Big East title game appearance since 1988. DePaul never trailed in the second half after taking a 30-29 lead just before halftime. It was the first women’s championship game for the realigned Big East since powerhouses Connecticut and Notre Dame departed last year for the American Athletic and Atlantic Coast conferences, respectively. The championship tournament was also held for the first time in Chicago after Connecticut hosted the past 10 years. DePaul also finished atop the regular season standings for the first time since joining in 2005-06. DePaul took an early 15-9 lead, but Handford scored five points in a 9-2 run that gave the Red Storm their first edge at 18-17 on a layup with 8:52 remaining. Hrynko answered with a 3-pointer for a 20-18 Blue Demons lead. Three players later combined on seven unanswered points to put St. John’s up 25-22 with 4:11 remaining. The lead changed hand twice more before DePaul took a 30-29 advantage into the half after Rogowski’s layup with 37 seconds left. DePaul led by seven points through the mid stages of the second half, including a 49-42 edge at the 9:57 mark on Rogowski’s layup off an inbound pass. The Red Storm closed the gap to four at 57-53 on Brown’s 3-pointer with 2:24 left. Rogowski followed with two free throws and Penny banked in a shot with 1:54 left for a 60-53 lead. Brown recovered a loose ball for a layup to cut the DePaul lead to 60-55 with 45 seconds to play, but Chanise Jenkins hit a pair of free throws two seconds later to restore a seven-point lead. Connecticut captured seven Big East tournament titles from 2005-12, plus last year’s NCAA championship. Notre Dame won the 2013 league tourney on the way to its third straight Final Four appearance. Both remained unbeaten after winning conference titles this week and are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 nationally. “They’re off the charts,” DePaul coach Doug Bruno said. “I never felt bad about what we achieved in the previous Big East. It was no disgrace to get to the semifinals in that league. If you could go to the final four of the old Big East, you could go to the Final Four of the NCAA tournament.” Whether the new Big East produces a Final Four entry won’t be known until next month. But the current 10-team league — eight from the previous league plus Butler and Creighton — now features more balance and competitive play. Regular-season champion DePaul was 15-3 in conference play while runner-up St. John’s went 13-5. In Monday’s semifinals, St. John’s had to rally in the second half to force the first overtime then a second before beating Creighton. DePaul held off a late Marquette comeback and didn’t secure its win until hitting six free throws in the final minute.

  • UConn women rout Louisville 72-52 to win AAC title Mar 10, 2014 8:14 PM
    Breanna Stewart scored 20 points and top-ranked Connecticut beat No. 3 Louisville 72-52 on Monday night to win the inaugural American Athletic Conference tournament.

  • Big Ten touts athletic, academic success Mar 10, 2014 8:14 PM
    In a room on the ground floor of its sparkling new headquarters, the Big Ten Conference is putting the final touches on its version of Cooperstown. It’s not quite a Hall of Fame. The Big Ten Experience is a shrine to the conference’s athletic and academic achievements. “This kind of exhibit exists in many of our campuses, and it allows us to create a zone for capturing the past and telling our story,” Commissioner Jim Delany said.

  • For DePaul’s Jenkins, communication remains key Mar 7, 2014 4:48 PM
    DePaul point guard Chanise Jenkins learned from her deaf sister to be a good communicator on and off the court.

  • DePaul women win Big East regular season title Mar 1, 2014 6:07 PM
    Doug Bruno and his DePaul Blue Demons were sitting at the airport watching the final seconds of Creighton’s game against Marquette on their phones. When the final buzzer sounded Saturday and Creighton lost, the team let out a big cheer having clinched the Big East regular season title and the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament next weekend. It’s the first championship for the school since 2004-05 when DePaul was champions of Conference USA. “I’m really proud of our team, our staff, and am proud of the players for having the resiliency to fight back from a 2-2 start in the league,” Bruno said.

  • Nebraska women hold off Illini 72-65 Feb 27, 2014 10:12 PM
    Jordan Hooper, a Nebraska native and lone senior on the roster, scored 29 points on Senior Night as the No. 16 Cornhuskers held off Illinois 72-65 Thursday for their ninth-straight win. Tear’a Laudermill added 15 points, Emily Cady had 10 points with 12 rebounds and Rachel Theriot had 10 assists for the Cornhuskers (22-5, 12-3 Big Ten).

  • Sims scores 38 as No. 6 Baylor beats Oklahoma Feb 24, 2014 9:39 PM
    Odyssey Sims scored 38 points and Nina Davis added 28 points and 14 rebounds to help No. 6 Baylor beat Oklahoma 96-89 on Monday night.

  • Harper hits the road for Region IV playoff game Feb 24, 2014 8:49 PM
    Fans of the Harper College women’s basketball team may only get one last look reigning Region IV player of the week, Hawks sophomore Monica Hinderer. The Hawks (3-23) received the sixth seed in the NJCAA regional tournament bracketing, meaning they’ll travel to Madison, Wis., for a first-round game against third-seeded Madison College (19-9) on Tuesday.

  • No. 16 Cornhuskers topple No. 8 Lady Lions 94-74 Feb 24, 2014 8:40 PM
    Tear’a Laudermill scored 22 of her career-high 27 points and made six of her seven 3-pointers in the first half, and No. 16 Nebraska defeated eighth-ranked Penn State 94-74 to stay alive in the Big Ten race on Monday night.

  • No. 21 Michigan State rolls past Minnesota 75-61 Feb 24, 2014 8:39 PM
    Tori Jankoska scored 16 of her 21 points in the first half, including four 3-pointers, as No. 21 Michigan State beat Minnesota 75-61 on Monday.

  • Women ski jumpers find fight well worth it Feb 14, 2014 6:46 PM
    Ski jumping for women makes its Olympic debut after a long road and a relentless fight.

  • DeShields leads No. 17 UNC past No. 3 Duke 89-78 Feb 10, 2014 10:22 PM
    Freshman Diamond DeShields knew Cameron Indoor Stadium can be tough on visitors — especially those from hated rival North Carolina. She didn’t expect the Cameron Crazies would be this easy to tune out. DeShields scored a season-high 30 points in the 17th-ranked Tar Heels’ 89-78 upset of No. 3 Duke on Monday night.

  • West Virginia stomps No. 11 Iowa State 102-77 Feb 10, 2014 10:21 PM
    It was tough to tell what Remi Dibo enjoyed more: being the centerpiece of West Virginia’s 3-point show against No. 11 Iowa State, or clamping down on Big 12 scoring leader Melvin Ejim. Dibo scored a career-high 20 points to lead the Mountaineers to a 102-77 victory Monday night, the Cyclones’ most lopsided loss of the season.

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