All posts by Nick Barbarino

Louisville “Wins For Ware” in Men’s Championship, Falls to UConn in Women’s Final

The Louisville Cardinals overcame the Michigan Wolverines to win the 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship 82-76. The win gave the Cardinals their third basketball national championship in school history and first championship since 1986. Rick Pitino, coach of Louisville, became the first coach to win a national championship with two different schools, previously winning with Kentucky in 1996.

Michigan came out of the gate with a bang in the first half. Riding the hot hand of freshman guard Spike Albrecht, the Wolverines held a 12-point lead with three minutes remaining in the first half. Albrecht had 17 points and was 4-5 from three point land in the first half alone. However, with Michigan’s Player Of The Year sophomore guard Trey Burke on the sideline with foul trouble, the Cardinals came storming back and ended the half on a 14-2 run lead by junior forward Luke Hancock who hit four three pointers in a row.

The game remained close for much of the second half until another Hancock three pointer gave Louisville a ten point lead with three minutes to go. Michigan’s star studded backcourt of sophomore Tim Hardaway Jr. and Burke did their best to keep their team in the game but the Louisville defense held their ground. Despite shooting 52% for the game and 45% from behind the arc, Michigan could not overcome their deficit as the Cardinals made some key defensive stops down the stretch.  The Cardinals out rebounded the Wolverines 31-28 and shot an impressive 50% from the three-point line.

Louisville seemed on a mission after losing junior guard Kevin Ware to a horrific leg injury in the regional finals game versus Duke. Social media and brands everywhere took off with slogans such as “Win For Ware.” Ware’s replacement, Luke Hancock, stepped in admirably as he finished with 22 points while hitting all five of his three point shots. Hancock was named player of the tournament and a fitting ending came when Ware was the last person to cut the nets off, capping a fantastic and emotional season.

 

Women’s Game

The UConn Huskies blew out the Louisville Cardinals 93-60 to win their eighth national championship. The Huskies were lead by freshman Breanna Stewart who had 23 points, 18 of which were in the second half, to go along with nine rebounds.  The championship gave UConn head coach, Geno Auriemma, his eighth championship in eight tries, which tied him with legendary women’s coach Pat Summitt.

“The only person I compare myself to is Pat Summitt and to be there in that spot with her means a lot to me,” Auriemma said. “The fact that I tied Pat Summitt’s record puts you in the category of the greatest women’s basketball coach that ever lived.” – via ESPN

UConn has been known as a powerhouse over the past decade putting out players such as WNBA All-stars Dianna Turasi and Maya Moore. UConn had been facing stiff competition in recent years from programs such as Baylor, which boasted the best player in the NCAA in Brittany Griner, and Stanford, which snapped UConn’s 108 game winning streak. The win gave UConn their fifth championship in 10 years.

UConn trailed early but a 19-0 run put them up 29-16 and the lady Huskies never looked back. The huskies held the Cardinals to 31% shooting and outrebounded them 43-22. Meanwhile, the Huskies shot an impressive 53% from the field and 50% from the three-point line.

The Huskies simply outplayed the Cardinals who were looking to become the second team to win both the Men and Women’s Basketball National Championships in the same year. The only other team to accomplish this feat was their opponent, the UConn Huskies back in 2004. The Huskies hope to carry their momentum into the next season and should be favorites to win the tournament again as long as Geno Auriemma is coaching.

Dons Overcome Second Half Deficit to Defeat Pepperdine

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The San Francisco Dons Basketball team overcame a large second half deficit to defeat the Pepperdine Waves in a highly contested match last Saturday, Feb 23. The Dons came out slow as they shot 4-14 in the first ten minutes of the game. Meanwhile, the Waves came out riding on the hot play of freshman forward Stacy Davis, who had seven points and three assists in the first ten minutes and helped put the Waves up 19-10. Momentum started to swing in favor of the Dons after a technical foul was called right after USF junior forward Cole Dickerson drained a three pointer. The Dons ended the first half on a 17-5 run and took a 27-25 lead into halftime.

San Francisco fans would have liked to see the Dons momentum carry over into the second half, but they came out just as slow and ended up trailing the Waves once again. After a three pointer by Waves’ junior guard Nikolas Skoulen, Dons head coach Rex Walters called for a time out with USF trailing by nine with ten minutes left in the half. The Dons returned to the court after that timeout with a fire lit under them  as they went on a 16-3 run behind the excellent play of redshirt freshman forward Mark Tollefsen. The 6’9” California native carried the team for the rest of the game, hitting two big three pointers along with four crucial free throws.

Pepperdine’s Skoulen hit two free throws after a technical foul was called on Dickerson, bringing the Waves within two at 60-58. However, that is as close as the Waves would get as they missed their next four shots. The Dons would held on for a 68-54 victory in their home finale of conference play.

Tollefsen finished with 18 points, five rebounds, one steal and one block to lead the Dons. He contributed a pair of huge three pointers to help the Dons claim a lead.

Tollefsen was all smiles after the game.

“It felt great. I had great rotation on my shot. [my teammates] were hitting me and I just felt it. Coach always says find the open man and if you’re open [then] you’re the best option.” he said when asked about his two big shots.

Junior point guard Cody Doolin chipped in 13 points, four assists and three rebounds and Dickerson had 11 points and 6 rebounds for the Dons (13-15, 6-9 West Coast). The Pepperdine Waves were led by Davis, who finished with 12 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. Skoulen added 19 points for the Waves (12-15, 4-10 West Coast).

The Dons take on San Diego on Thursday in what will be their last game of conference play before the West Coast Conference Tournament. USF has won six out of their last ten and are currently on a two game winning streak.

“Our momentum is great. We gotta get on more next Thursday at San Diego. That’ll be a tough one but right now our momentum is great,” Tollefsen said.

San Francisco Basketball Teams Finish Season and Focus on the Future

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The WCC  Tournament 

The San Francisco men’s basketball team lost a nail-biter in overtime to the Loyola Marymount Lions in the second round of the West Coast Conference tournament on March 7 at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. San Francisco had a first round bye. LMU was able to pull off the win even under the pressure of 23 points and 18 rebounds from Dons junior forward Cole Dickerson. Dickerson was the lone bright spot for the Dons – redshirt freshman forward Mark Tollefsen was the only other Don to reach double digits in scoring.

“Cole was fantastic…it was fun to watch. He’s an all-league player and if he has a great spring and summer, he can be the player of the year in this conference next year,” Head Coach Rex Walters said to usfdons.com.

The Dons shot just 38% from the field and were ice cold from the free throw line, shooting a mere 8-19 from the charity stripe. The Dons were out-rebounded 42-36 and managed to score only four points in overtime. Overall, the Dons were out-hustled and couldn’t match the intensity or effort of the Lions.

“I thought Loyola Marymount wanted it a little more than we did. You have to go through the battles. They made more plays down the stretch,” Walters said to usfdons.com.

 

The Final Game

The Dons were able to quickly rebound and build some momentum for next season as they defeated the Northern Kentucky Norse 73-68 in the final scheduled game of the season March 14 at War Memorial Gym. Dickerson starred once again as he posted his 13th double-double of the season with 18 points and 14 rebounds. Tollefsen led the team in scoring with 22 points and chipped in six rebounds. The Dons were red hot from the field, shooting 49% from the field and 40% from three-point land. With ten three pointers, USF set a new school record for three pointers made in a single season with 249. The Dons struggled from the free throw line once again, making only 13 of 21 attempts, but they beat the Norse on the glass, out-rebounding them 36-25.

The Dons finished the season winning four out of their last five games and finished fifth in a highly competitive West Coast Conference that featured Gonzaga, the number-one ranked team in the nation.

The Dons started the season strong back in November and December, winning five of their first six games including a big win over St. John’s, a traditional basketball powerhouse from the Big East Conference.  However, the team lacked senior leadership and struggled with inexperience, leading them to lose their next five in a row. San Francisco recovered later in the season and ended strong. The team did not feature a single senior and has a bright future with junior stars Dickerson and guard Cody Doolin returning for their final seasons next year. The team also has a plethora of talented young players returning next year such as Tollefsen and sophomore guard Chris Adams. The Dons hope to build off of their more impressive play at the end of the season and carry it over into the 2013-14 season.

 

On the Women’s Side

The San Francisco women’s basketball team had a strong showing at the West Coast Conference tournament with a win in the first round over Pepperdine, while falling just short to Loyola Marymount in the second round. The win was the first postseason victory for the Dons since 2007. The team has made strides over the past couple seasons and is hoping to carry momentum into next year. The Dons finished 4-12 in conference play, with many of the losses coming from very close games that could have gone their way with some minor adjustments. Senior guard Mel Khlok and senior forwards Bailey Barbour and Whitney Daniels are graduating this spring, leaving open spots for the young talent that is ready and waiting to step in to fill new roles. San Francisco will definitely miss Khlok, the Dons’ current leading scorer. However, freshman guard Zhané Dikes has made strides in her first season and has even led the team in scoring in a few games. The team will also return their leading rebounder, sophomore forward Alicia Scafidi. Overall, the Dons will continue to strive toward being a competitive team in the West Coast Conference next season and in seasons to come.

49ers To Face Ravens In Super Bowl XLVII

For the first time in the history of the NFL, two brothers will coach against each other in the Super Bowl as Jim Harbaugh’s San Francisco 49ers take on John Harbaugh’s Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII. Some have even called this game the Harbaugh Bowl I, The Harbaugh Bowl, and SupeHarbaughl. This ultimate test of sibling rivalry promises to be one of the most exciting games of the past decade.
The Baltimore Ravens have seemed to be on a determined path toward the Superbowl ever since All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis announced he would retire at the season’s end. Lewis has been both the on-field and the emotional leader of the Ravens since he joined the team in the it’s inaugural season over 10 years ago. The Ravens are now riding on the momentum of beating who experts considered to be the two best teams in the AFC – the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots. Baltimore found their success behind the excellent play of team leaders Lewis and quarterback Joe Flacco.

Meanwhile, the 49ers have looked to their smothering defense, led by linebacker Patrick Willis, and the surprisingly excellent play of second year quarterback Colin Kaepernick to defeat the Falcons, who boasted the best record in the NFL, in the NFC Championship Game.
Jim Harbaugh has always been known to take risks. His latest, starting second year Kaepernick over veteran quarterback Alex Smith, is making him look like the smartest coach in the NFL. The 49ers have gone 7-2 in Kaepernick’s nine starts during which he has thrown for 13 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Kaepernick has been even more impressive in the playoffs, boasting a 94.1 out of 100 QBR (Quarter Back Rating) and setting a playoff record for quarterback rushing yards with 181 against the Green Bay Packers. While Kaepernick’s play has been impressive, it is truly the 49ers defense that is the reason they are in the Super Bowl. Led by linebackers Navarro Bowman and Willis, as well as defensive lineman Justin Smith, the 49ers claim a top four defense in both opponent rushing and passing yards. If the 49ers are to beat the Ravens in the Super Bowl, the defense must shut down Flacco at quarterback as well as running back Ray Rice.
Just like his brother, John Harbaugh has had to make some tough decisions regarding his quarterback. Flacco has been criticized for years for his inability to win the big game, as he has lost in the AFC championship game two times before. However, John never gave up on his quarterback and has backed up Flacco since day one. Flacco has been exceptional this postseason, throwing for 853 yards, 8 touchdowns and zero interceptions. However, just like their opponents, the Ravens have turned to their defense to close out games. Led by linebackers Lewis and Terrell Suggs and safety Ed Reed, the Ravens defense held a New England Patriot’s offense, considered the best in the league, to only 13 points.
Both defenses will undoubtedly come out to play, but the dual threat of San Francisco’s Kaepernick along with running back Frank Gore should turn out to be too much for Baltimore’s defense to contain. In only two years, Jim Harbaugh will help the 49ers complete their quest for their sixth Superbowl.
Nick’s Final Score: San Francisco 34 – Baltimore 31.