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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

First-round winners get extra rest for long weekends

Thursday, March 6, 2008

By MICHAEL MAROT

AP Sports Writer

INDIANAPOLIS -- Michigan and Indiana weren't looking at Thursday's first-round Big Ten tournament games as mere tuneups. They wanted to make sure they could survive the rigorous four-day format.

Thanks to double-digit victory margins, both teams now find themselves rested, ready and tested. With the nervousness from the opening games presumably gone, the much more significant factor starting Friday may be how much the extra breaks will help their players recover.

"If we want to win this tournament, we're going to need more players obviously," Michigan coach Kevin Borseth said. "You're playing another game in 24 hours, you need to have more people."

For Borseth, it's a new philosophy.

Heading into the tournament, Borseth relied little on his bench, preferring instead to keep his five starters on the floor as long as possible.

He altered that approach during Thursday's 64-54 victory over Penn State.

Borseth inserted four backups during the game, combining for about 50 minutes of playing time, in hopes it will have better ramifications as the seventh-seeded Wolverines try to stay fresh for Friday's matchup against second-seeded Iowa.

"We've got a couple of kids in the line, maybe not as much as we'd like to have, but it's a start," he said.

They'll certainly need them this weekend. This year's tourney is the first to be played on four successive days since 2001.

Sixth-seeded Indiana (18-13) also took advantage of a chance to rest.

After building a double-digit first-half lead against Northwestern, then extending the margin to more than 20 early in the second half, coach Felisha Legette-Jack pulled most of her starters. Indiana still won 74-52 and forward Whitney Thomas was the only starter to log more than 21 minutes.

The question now is will a deeper bench help Indiana in Friday's quarterfinal game against third-seeded Purdue?

"The thing about it is that I think adults get tired more than kids do," Legette-Jack said. "Kids can play forever. I remember playing six or nine hours a day and never being tired. So we like it, but however long they have to play, they have to play."

Illinois (17-13), however, used a different strategy in its 73-58 victory over Wisconsin.

After pulling away early in the second half, the Fighting Illini continued to rely primarily on its starters. All five played at least 30 minutes and forward Chelsea Gordon wound up playing for 38 minutes.

On Friday, all three teams will have a chance to see which tactic works best and first-year coach Jolette Law didn't wait long to explain what she has planned before facing top-seeded Ohio State.

"We're going to go get a nice dinner, watch some film and get them refocused," Law said. "We'll be ready for tomorrow. We'll just go back to the ranch and do what we do because it comes down to what we do."

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HOOSIER HYSTERIA: Friday's game between in-state rivals Purdue and Indiana marks the third time the two have met in Big Ten tourney play since 2002, and the games have often produced memorable moments.

In 2006, Purdue blasted Indiana 67-41 in the semifinals before losing to Ohio State in the title game. In 2002, Indiana beat Purdue 55-41 in the semis, en route to its only tourney title. After the Hoosiers' victory, Purdue was upset when Hoosiers coach Kathi Bennett suggested girls in Indiana would want to play for the Hoosiers rather than the perennially strong Boilermakers.

And this year's matchup pits Legette-Jack against her predecessor at Indiana, Sharon Versyp, a Purdue graduate.

Legette-Jack wasn't taking the bait, though.

"I think it's wonderful to have an in-state rivalry, but I didn't really know how big it was till I got here," she said. "I think when you walk in and compete, it's good for that. But when the ball goes up in the air, it's about what we do."

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SOUR ENDING: Traditionally, Penn State has been one of the Big Ten's strongest teams.

Not this year.

Thursday's loss kept the Nittany Lions (13-18) out of the quarterfinal round for the first time since 1997, and they finished the year with 12 straight losses.

It wasn't what first-year coach Coquese Washington envisioned, nor was it something she wanted to discuss.

"We haven't really focused on however many it's been in a row," she said. "We have that approach whether we're winning or we're losing. Nobody on this team is pleased that we finished the season on a down note, but we're a resilient bunch, and I have all the faith that they'll get into the gym this summer and get better."

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FORGET THE AWARDS: Jolene Anderson did everything but win in what could have been her final game with Wisconsin.

The Big Ten co-player of the year finished with 24 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and three steals in the loss to Illinois and even moved past Minnesota's Lindsay Whalen into sixth place on the conference's all-time scoring chart. Anderson has 2,291 career points; Whalen finished with 2,285.

But the stats, awards and prestige mattered little to Anderson, one of the best players in Wisconsin history.

"I just want to get the win," she said. "Any award I get, goes in the background. It definitely hurts that our basketball team didn't get the 'W.' I think when it all boils down to it, their eight or nine players are all in it together," she said.

Anderson finished her career averaging 19 points in six conference tournament games.

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TOURNEY TIDBITS: Washington lost in her return to Conseco Fieldhouse, where she had the best season of her WNBA career with the Indiana Fever. ... Indiana's Lydia Serfling scored her first career points late in the Hoosiers' blowout. She made 1-of-2 shots and finished with two points. ... Of the three first-year coaches whose teams played Thursday, two of them -- Borseth and Law -- won in their conference tourney debuts. Washington was the only one who lost.



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