Coquese Washington to succeed Stringer as Rutgers coach

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PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Former Penn State women’s basketball coach Coquese Washington will succeed Hall of Famer C. Vivian Stringer as coach at Rutgers, the school announced Monday.

Washington, who spent the past two seasons as an assistant at Notre Dame, agreed to a six-year contract, the school said. It guarantees total compensation of $4.625 million with additional performance incentives.

Stringer retired late last month at age 74, capping a career in which she won more than 1,000 games in 50 seasons – the last 25 at Rutgers – and went to the Final Four four times with three different teams: Cheyney State, Iowa and Rutgers. She did not coach this past season because of concerns over COVID-19.

Assistant Tim Eatman filled in for Stringer last season. The Scarlet Knights went 11-20 overall and 3-14 in the Big Ten.

Washington went 209-169 in 12 seasons at Penn State (2007-19) and was named Big Ten coach of the year three straight times from 2012-14, a stretch that included three of her four NCAA Tournament appearances with the Lady Lions.

“It is important that the next leader of our women’s basketball program be someone with a proven track record of winning, exemplary leadership and great character,” athletic director Pat Hobbs said in a statement. “Coquese is the perfect fit on all those criteria. She is someone who is hard-working, passionate and dedicated to building a championship program and that commitment extends equally to the success our student-athletes will have off the court.”

Washington had two stints at Notre Dame, previously serving as an assistant at her alma mater from 1999-2007 under longtime coach Muffet McGraw. The Fighting Irish won the first of McGraw’s two national titles in 2001.

Washington then became the first Black woman to lead the Penn State program. Following her third straight Big Ten title in 2014, the Lady Lions fell off dramatically and had only one winning record in Big Ten play in the next five seasons. Washington was fired in 2019 and spent the following season as associate head coach at Oklahoma.

“I am beyond thrilled with the opportunity to be here at Rutgers, a university that excels both academically and athletically,” Washington said. “Following in the footsteps of Hall of Fame coaches Theresa Grentz and C. Vivian Stringer is a tremendous honor. They exemplify achieving high levels of excellence with grace, class, integrity and dignity.”

The Fighting Irish made the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament this year with Washington assisting second-year coach Niele Ivey.

Washington played for Notre Dame and averaged 2.7 steals per game, the best in school history. She played six seasons in the WNBA, winning a championship with the Houston Comets in 2000.

Washington also served as founding president and executive vice president of the WNBA Players Association.

Rutgers coach Stringer to miss season over COVID-19 concerns

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Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer is going to miss the upcoming season because of COVID-19 concerns.

The 73-year-old coach hasn’t been with the team since April, when the delta variant of the virus was becoming widespread in the United States.

“This COVID situation is for real and we have to be very careful and treat it with great respect,” she told reporters in February after Rutgers returned from a six-week pause for the virus.

Team spokesman Matt Choquette said last month when the coach skipped Big Ten media day that Stringer was worried about the lack of testing this season compared with last season, the highly contagious nature of the delta variant and her desire not to transmit the disease to her 40-year-old daughter, who has required special care since contracting spinal meningitis at age 2.

Stringer has 1,055 wins in her 50-year coaching career and is fourth all-time in Division I victories. She was going to start her 27th season at Rutgers. Associate head coach Tim Eatman has been filling in for Stringer since April and will stay in that role.

He also was in charge when Stringer missed the final few games of the 2018-19 season because of exhaustion.

Stringer signed a five-year extension in April. The contract guarantees compensation of $5.5 million, beginning at $1 million in the first year, plus performance incentives and retention bonuses.

The Scarlet Knights finished last season 14-5, losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to BYU. The team graduated star Arella Guirantes to the WNBA, and standout freshman Diamond Johnson transferred to N.C. State.

Rutgers opens the season on Tuesday against Saint Peter’s.

Emmert agrees to meet protesting players after March Madness

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The National College Players Association said Tuesday that NCAA President Mark Emmert has informed a group of basketball players who started a social media campaign to protest inequities in college sports that he will meet with them after March Madness.

NCPA executive director Ramogi Huma said in a statement he received a letter from Emmert in response to the advocacy group’s request for a meeting between the head of the NCAA and three players who led the (hash)NotNCAAProperty protest that started last week.

Through the NCPA, the players had requested to meet with Emmert and one of the NCAA’s top lobbyists on Tuesday morning.

NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said the association had no comment Tuesday.

Michigan’s Isaiah Livers, Rutgers’ Geo Baker and Iowa’s Jordan Bohannon are pushing for the NCAA to change its rules restricting athletes from earning money for personal sponsorship deals, online endorsements and appearances.

The players responded with a letter back to Emmert, saying they were disappointed he wanted to “delay this important conversation for at least two weeks.”

“From our perspective, it’s difficult to imagine any higher priority you may have at this time than addressing concerns that are at the core of state and federal college athletes’ rights legislation, an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court ruling on college athletes’ economic freedoms, and the NCAA’s ongoing discriminatory treatment of female basketball players in its tournament,” the players wrote in a letter released by the NCPA. “Can you please explain what you will be doing over the next two weeks that is more important than addressing these matters?”

The players also requested that the meeting include other men’s and women’s players, and Huma.

“We look forward to receiving confirmation that you will meet with the group we have described, and that you will demonstrate on behalf of your organization and membership that these issues are in fact a priority by meeting with us by Friday of this week,” the players wrote.

The NCAA has committed to changing its rules regarding name, image and likeness rights, but the process has bogged down amid warnings from the Justice Department about possible antitrust violations in the association’s proposal.

An NCAA case involving an antitrust ruling is scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court next week.

The NCAA has asked for help from federal lawmakers in the form of a national NIL law that would preempt dozens of state laws under consideration that would create different rules for competing schools.

BYU beats Rutgers for first upset of women’s NCAA Tournament

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SAN MARCOS, Texas – Paisley Johnson Harding and her BYU teammates were perhaps the last team to make the women’s NCAA Tournament field after a heart-breaking loss to Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference Tournament.

They didn’t waste their good fortune as the 11th-seeded Cougars (19-5) rallied behind Harding’s 28 points to beat sixth-seed and 21st-ranked Rutgers 69-66 on Monday to give the tournament its first upset after the higher seeds went 16-0 on Sunday. BYU will take on third-seeded and 11th-ranked Arizona, a 79-44 winner over Stony Brook, in a second-round Mercado Region game Wednesday.

“Coming into the NCAA Tournament we just wanted to prove ourselves, and to everyone, to the nation, that that we were going to fight and not let down and that we deserved to be in the NCAA Tournament,” WCC player of the year Shaylee Gonzales said. “And we just showed that today.”

The Cougars were beaten in the WCC title game on a last-second shot by Gonzaga. They didn’t give that chance to the Scarlet Knights.

After Gonzales made the last of her six straight free throws with 13.4 seconds left and a five-point lead, Liz Martino hit a 3-pointer but Harding added another free throw and BYU had a foul to give to prevent Rutgers (14-5) from getting another shot off.

Harding scored eight straight points and Lauren Gustin the next four in a 12-0 run over 5 1/2 minutes of the fourth quarter for a 57-54 lead while Rutgers was committing five turnovers. BYU held on from there, matching the one-woman offense of Arella Guirantes, who scored 13 straight Rutgers points in the quarter.

“We all just came together as a team and told each other that we’re going to win this game, that we’re not letting up and that we needed to fight,” Gonzales said. “We came together as a team and we told ourselves the we needed to pick up our defense and then transition into offense. They weren’t doing very well transitionally so we knew that we needed to push it.”

Harding was 8-of-17 shooting with four 3-pointers and consistently provided a spark on offense and defense.

“She was guarding their best player, who was probably one of the best players in the country,” BYU coach Jeff Judkins said. “And I think that motivated her and if you know Paisley, she’s very competitive. She’s been waiting for this opportunity.”

Gonzales, who was only 3-of-17 shooting, made 10 of 11 from the line and finished with 17. Gustin scored six of her 10 points in the fourth quarter. BYU made nine 3s, including five in the third quarter to help them keep within distance after Rutgers went up by 12. BYU cut the lead to seven heading into the fourth quarter.

Guirantes scored 30 points on 10-of-18 shooting with Diamond Johnson adding 13 and Tekia Mack 11.

“We just missed shots. It’s as simple as that,” Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said. “Sometimes it happens. I don’t think it was anything they did, they were predictable the way they played. They played hard. We didn’t give up, I thought our attitude was great. Sometimes you make shots and sometimes you don’t.”

Guirantes and Johnson combined to score all the points in a 10-0 run to end the first half and take a 30-24 lead.

BIG PICTURE

BYU: The Cougars gave up 19 turnovers, including 13 steals, to the Big Ten’s top defensive team (scoring and field-goal percentage defense) but kept their poise throughout until their moment arrived in the fourth quarter. In the end, they had one less turnover than Rutgers and scored nine more points off the Scarlet Knights’ errors than they gave up.

Rutgers: Guirantes showed why she’s considered a first-round WNBA pick and the Scarlet Knights turned in a remarkable season after losing nine games to a COVID-19 pause before emerging to win nine straight then losing to Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament.

Houston beats Cleveland State 87-56 as Sampson ties Wooden

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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Quentin Grimes scored 18 points and Houston coach Kelvin Sampson tied John Wooden on the career victories list as the Cougars beat 15th-seeded Cleveland State 87-56 in the NCAA Tournament on Friday night.

Sampson earned his 664th win, No. 38 all-time, in his first game at Assembly Hall since resigning as Indiana’s coach in February 2008.

No. 2 seed Houston has won eight straight and will face 10th-seeded Rutgers in the Midwest Region’s second round on Sunday. It’s unclear if starting guard DeJon Jarreau will be available after he missed all but 41 seconds with a hip pointer.

“DeJon has been our MVP this season,” Sampson said. “Quentin has been our best player but DeJon has been our most important player and I think doing this tonight will give us some confidence going forward.”

Tramon Mark added 15 points in place of Jarreau and Marcus Sasser finished with 14 for Houston (25-3).

D’Moi Hodge scored 11 points and Torrey Patton had eight points and eight rebounds for the Vikings (19-9). Cleveland State had won at least one game in each of its two previous tourney appearances, beating Indiana (1986) and Wake Forest (2009).

Hanging with Houston, No. 6 in the AP poll, was simply too much to ask – even on a neutral court that had at least a measure of tournament atmosphere. Fans gathered early in the concourse, took photos of statues, lined up for concessions and some brought signs.

“That’s a one seed, I’m telling you,” Vikings coach Dennis Gates said. “They can score the basketball in every which way possible. They do a great job defensively of not fouling. We didn’t play our very best but that was because of the University of Houston. They put us on our heels.”

Grimes’ basket to end the first half gave the Cougars a 37-29 lead and they opened the second half on a 12-2 run, holding the Vikings to just one basket over the first five minutes.

“Rebounding and defense set the tone for the second half,” Grimes said. “Coach emphasized some guys weren’t getting rebounds, we had some mistakes we were making and when we corrected those that’s when we started to take off.”

Cleveland State was 5 of 19 from the field after halftime.

Houston is in its third straight tourney – its longest streak since 1982-84, when the team dubbed Phi Slama Jama lost in back-to-back title games.

BIG PICTURE

Cleveland State: The Vikings were overmatched. They played hard and fought valiantly for a half – but they were outrebounded 38-24, committed too many fouls and lacked the depth to stay with the Cougars. Walk-on Ben Sternberg brought some joy to the Vikings bench by making two late free throws.

Houston: The loss of Jarreau and Mack’s early foul trouble created some difficulties for the Cougars. But they still look like a team capable of making a deep run – if they’re healthy.

INJURY WATCH

Jarreau, a fifth-year senior, spent most of the game grimacing in pain while wearing an ice pack on his right hip. He earned second-team all-conference honors and was named the American Athletic Conference defensive player of the year. “A hip pointer for him will be a little more severe than for me or you,” Sampson said.

TEXAS HOLD ‘EM

Three Texas teams held serve at Assembly Hall during the first two days of the tourney. Texas Southern drew an ace in a First Four victory Thursday. Texas Tech made it a pair by beating Utah State in the early game Friday and the Cougars made it three of a kind with Friday night’s victory. No Texas teams are scheduled to play in Bloomington on Saturday and tourney games after the first round will be played in Indianapolis.

Stanford climbs to No. 2 in women’s AP Top 25 behind UConn

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Buoyed by an impressive run to the Pac-12 Conference championship, Stanford jumped two spots to No. 2 in The Associated Press women’s college basketball poll on Monday.

The Cardinal won three games in the conference tournament by an average of 31 points, including a 20-point victory over then-No. 9 UCLA on Sunday for the title.

Coach Tara VanDerveer’s team received five of 29 first-place votes from a national media panel. Stanford (25-2) trails only UConn in the AP Top 25. The Huskies got 22 first-place votes and play for the Big East Tournament title on Monday night against Marquette.

North Carolina State stayed at No. 3 after edging Louisville for the Atlantic Coast Conference championship. The Wolfpack received the other two first-place votes. Texas A&M and South Carolina rounded out the top five teams in the poll. The Gamecocks won the SEC championship on Sunday, beating Georgia.

Baylor was No. 6, with Louisville and Maryland tied for seventh. Indiana and UCLA finished off the top 10. The Lady Bears, Terrapins and Hoosiers all play in their conference tournaments this week.

The final poll of the season will be released next Monday before the NCAA unveils the tournament bracket.

Florida Gulf Coast entered the Top 25 for the first time since 2015, coming in at No. 24, while DePaul fell out. The Eagles have won 22 consecutive games after losing in the Gulf Coast Showcase to Missouri State and Arkansas. They play in the Atlantic Sun Tournament later this week.

“We’re definitely excited that we’re being considered among the best 25 teams in the country,” Florida Gulf Coast coach Karl Smesko said. “It’s something that’s very challenging for mid-majors to break into that poll. We know we put in a lot of work and had to have a successful season up to this point to be considered for it.”

The Eagles were ranked for the final five weeks of the 2015 season, reaching No. 20 – the only other time the school has been in the Top 25.

“It is rewarding that we’re being recognized for how well we’re playing when we didn’t have the same type of nonconference season we normally have with the number of BCS teams,” Smesko said.

Here are a few other tidbits from the poll:

MOVING UP

Rutgers shot up five spots in the poll to No. 19 this week. The Scarlet Knights have won nine games in a row for the longest conference winning streak since the 2004-05 team went unbeaten in the Big East. Rutgers finished third in the Big Ten, which ties the school’s best finish since joining the conference in 2014-15.

FALLING JACKRABBITS

South Dakota State saw its 18-game winning streak end with a loss to Omaha in the quarterfinals of the Summit League Tournament. The Jackrabbits fell to No. 25 in the poll and will have to wait until Selection Monday to find out their NCAA Tournament fate. Early season wins over Gonzaga, Iowa State and Missouri State should bolster their tournament resume.