Women's Hoops Blog

Inane commentary on a game that deserves far better

Sunday, March 21, 2004

It was a great day for us here.

In the first game, Valpo took a pretty good run at K State. The Minnesota fans (rooting for the underdog, not wanting to face Ohlde on Tuesday) got behind the Crusaders, but the Wildcats are just too tough.

Then the real fun started.

It was a great feeling in Williams when Lindsay Whalen stepped on the floor for warm-ups. It was even better when they announced her before the game. It was worth our plane tickets just to be there for that.

She is not all right. She has a brace on her shooting hand and can't break her wrist properly on her shot. The ball has no rotation, and frequently, no discernible direction.

I watched her during most of warm-ups, and I didn't see her hit a single shot outside of 10 feet. During the game, she hit one three-pointer, but had at least two airballs and several other bad misses from the perimeter.

And yet she scored 31 points. When they needed her to score, she just took it to the hole. She's not that fast, and she can barely dribble with her left hand, but she managed to beat taller and faster defenders and finish some amazing drives.

The game got crazy -- it was close to the end, and it seemed like disaster was imminent. Lindsay kept driving and scoring, and as we finally pulled away, 14,000 were on their feet screaming. It was deafening for the final five minutes straight. (By contrast, the Wolves game, where I went straight from Williams, was sold out and near silent.) The Gopher crowd was fabulous -- comparable to the fans I cheered with in Storrs and Hartford.

And there was this wonderful moment near the end of the game. It was just finally/almost to the point where we had it in hand. Nikki Blue (who absolutely killed us all day) went for a steal and fouled McCarville. Each player pulled at the ball.

There was a scuffle. There were some words. Nikki and Janel squared up.

Lindsay (who had been playing the crowd all day) grabbed Janel and threw her twenty feet across the middle of the floor -- pulling her out of the fight, but egging her and us on at the same time. Coach Olivier (who had been justifiably upset at the refs all day) lost her head and got T'd up. The refs (who made terrible calls all day, mostly in our favor) struggled to find each other and get some control. The crowd was screaming in every direction at everyone at once.

It was a moment when every person in the building -- the players, the coaches, the refs, and we the masses -- lost control. Frustration, confusion, delirium, elation, and release. It was a perfect sports moment.

I don't know if we have the weapons to counter Ohlde, Wecker, and Koehn. And I don't know what to make of this season and this team.

Around New Year's, I was even starting to dream about New Orleans. But even before Whalen went down, something turned the wrong direction. Then we lost Lindsay and floundered for weeks. Our ranking was a sham; we weren't even a top-50 team.

Now we're in late March, trying to cobble together a functional basketball team, built around a brilliantly overachieving young hero with a broken shooting hand. I don't know what we can do on Tuesday. But we had today.