IU's 79-70 loss to No. 19 Penn State cut two ways Thursday night at Assembly Hall.\nAlong with the Hoosiers dropping their third consecutive conference game and falling further back in the Big Ten standings, they lost two players for the game.\nSophomore small forward Jill Hartman and freshman forward Charliss Ridley sat out. Hartman missed the game for an academic slip-up, while Ridley is taking a one-week leave of absence from the team, Sports Information Director Shelli Stewart said.\nHartman will be back in the line-up for Sunday's 1 p.m. game against Ohio State, while Ridley's longterm status is unclear.\nCoach Kathi Bennett declined further comment about Ridley's leave of absence.\nHartman received a one-game suspension from the NCAA for not having enough class hours. Hartman scheduled 13 hours but tested out of a two-hour class, which she then dropped, leaving her with 11 hours. NCAA rules require student athletes to carry 12 hours.\nBennett said Hartman was advised incorrectly and didn't know she was doing anything wrong.\n"She was advised that she would get retro-credits," Bennett said. "She certainly didn't know what she was doing was wrong.\n"I feel terrible for her."\nRidley averages 4.5 points a game, while Hartman averages 3.9.\nPenn State soothes road woes\nLast season, a banner year by all accounts, the Lady Lions were a force on the road. In a league with the general mentality of "win at home, and go .500 on the road," Penn State was dominant. \nIt beat eventual WNIT champion Wisconsin 57-52 in front of 8,600 fans. It beat then-No. 12 Purdue in Mackey Arena with more than 9,000 Boiler fans. It smashed Iowa, and held on against Ohio State. It decimated IU and Minnesota by a combined 90 points. One Big Ten road loss marred the Lady Lions' perfect conference season. \nThis was a road team. \nBut the Lady Lions' traveling bags have seemingly stayed in the friendly confines of the Bryce Jordan Center. Penn State, with thoughts of returning to the Final Four, hasn't been as impressive on the road during this conference season (0-3). Things got a little better for Penn State in its win against IU Thursday.\n"We're happy to get a win on the road," Portland said. "In this conference it's so tough to win on the road. You want to win at home and steal one on the road. We did that tonight.\n"It was a very good basketball game tonight, and we were fortunate to get out alive."\nThe win was keyed by two runs to end the first half and start the second. Penn State erased a two-point deficit with an 8-2 run to end the first half. The Lady Lions jumped out strong to start the second, scoring the half's first eight points and grabbing a 10-point lead.\nPortland still isn't satisfied with how the Lady Lions are playing away from Happy Valley.\n"We're still not playing very well," Portland said.\nIt's just the little things about being away from home, she added.\n"There's a comfortability about playing at home," said Portland before the game. "When we're on the road, we're not playing smart basketball." \nPSU sharpshooter pushes past tough defense\nPenn State freshman guard Kelly Mazzante, leading the Lady Lions with almost 19 points a game, saw a zero in that column after the first half. It surprised everyone.\n"When she's used to scoring 32 points a game in high school, it's tough for her when she doesn't score," Portland said. "She needs to find other ways to contribute when teams take away her scoring. \n"We had a talk with her about that at halftime."\nBut rather than give in and play defense, Mazzante created shots and scored her points. The Montoursville, Pa., native scored 14 points, all in the second half.\n"She found her shot in the second half," Portland said. "If she's not Freshman of the Year in this league, I'll be shocked"
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MADISON, Wisc. -- Women's basketball packed the front pages of Wisconsin newspapers.\nThe coverage shocked Wisconsin coach Jane Albright.\nNine thousand fans flurried to the Kohl Center, a large crowd even for basketball-friendly Wisconsin.\nBut the papers weren't covering the Wisconsin-IU women's basketball game.\nAnd a lot of the fans weren't there to see junior center Jill Chapman duel with UW sophomore center Nina Smith.\nThey were there and the flashbulbs were popping to see a Bennett stroll the Madison sidelines once again.\nDick Bennett returned to the Kohl Center for the first time since his unexpected retirement earlier this season Sunday in IU's 69-62 loss to watch his daughter coach.\nThe event was a story to everyone -- except all the key players.\n"It's emotional that my team lost," said coach Kathi Bennett, answering a question about the trip home. "It's emotional that we're not playing very well right now."\nBennett had downplayed the side story all week, saying the game was more important than coming home.\nAlbright said she wasn't sure if all the hype was necessary, but was happy the event brought 9,100 fans to the game.\n"It was a novelty story," said Albright, with Sunday's win and an Illinois loss put her team alone in second place in the Big Ten. "I'm glad you (the media) made it such a big story, because you brought the fans here.\n"And we were able to win on our home court."\nDick Bennett was bouncing from television station to newspaper reporter before the game started, talking about his retirement -- and what is was like to be back inside the arena where he coached for the first time.\n"My wife and I just worry for Kathi now," he said. "It's tough watching these games, because I'm always worrying for her."\nBennett sat in a box near midcourt, and declined an escort to get to his seat. Instead, he walked up the bleachers, just like any other paying spectator. Dick Bennett, who guided the men's Wisconsin team to the Final Four last year, shook hands and spoke with fans on the way to his seat.
MADISON, Wisc. -- Kathi Bennett walked to both of the edges of her bench, looking for an answer.\nShe didn't find it.\nWith the IU post game shredded by fouls, Wisconsin exploited the weakness consistently and purposely in a 69-62 Badger win Sunday in front of 9,100 fans at the Kohl Center.\n"Wisconsin really out-foxed us and played very well," Bennett said. "Their post players were dynamite and really hurt us."\nThe Badgers' starting frontcourt each netted double-digits by game's end. Junior forward Jessie Stomski led the pack with a season-high 25 points.\nStomski, at 6-foot-3, had at least a four-inch height advantage on the Hoosiers' smaller power forward. Stomski used the advantage, making a Badger-record 21 trips to the free throw line, connecting on 15.\n"I thought it might have been their game plan or something," said Stomski, laughing off her new record. "They just came at me very hard every time I touched the ball, and I got to the line." Stomski added 10 rebounds. The Hoosiers (13-5, 4-3 Big Ten) were badly outrebounded, 40-27.\nIU has lost its second straight game this season, the first time all season the Hoosiers have lost back-to-back contests.\n"We have to stay together," junior point guard Heather Cassady said."It'll be real easy to give up and go home, but we need to stay focused and keep working."\nMore foul trouble terrorized IU's inside, as starters Rachael Honegger and Jill Chapman, and reserve center Erika Christenson all fouled-out by game's end. The Hoosiers committed 26 fouls total.\n"We wanted to focus the game down low," Wisconsin coach Jane Albright said. "We thought we had an advantage at the four-spot, and Jessie really ran with that for us."\nWith Chapman playing with four fouls and Christenson and Honegger already out, the Badgers attacked the 6-foot-5 center. With 10 minutes left, Albright posted sophomore center Nina Smith on the low left block and forced Chapman to play defense. Helpless, Chapman was abused by Smith, the 1999 National High School Player of the Year. Smith finished with 14 points and five rebounds in 26 minutes.\n"Once she got her fourth, we knew we could attack her," junior guard Kyle Black said. "She couldn't play the defense she was playing in the first half, so we went right at her. And it worked."\nThe Hoosiers held the lead to 34-33 minutes into the second half, but a quick Wisconsin spurt ballooned the lead back to six, where it hovered for the rest of the game.\n"Unlike the Penn State game, we thought we could win the whole time," Bennett said. "We had spurts, but we needed to play 40 minutes of solid post defense, and we didn't."\nCassady led the Hoosiers with 18 points, 13 of which came in the futile second-half comeback try. Cassady was five-for-nine from the field and six-for-seven from the free throw line.\nWisconsin (11-6, 5-2) jumped out quickly on the Hoosiers, who have been plagued by horrific starts recently. After an open three by Honegger in the game's first minute, UW went on a 13-0 run over the next six minutes to grab a 15-3 lead. Black guided the run, netting eight of UW's first 15 points. The 5-foot-11 Indianapolis native made three field goals and two three-pointers on the initial run, soaring over a much smaller IU senior guard Rainey Alting, listed at 5-foot-6.\nCassady broke the run with a driving layup eight minutes into the first half. But the damage was already done, and IU played behind for the rest of the first half.\n"We got good shots, we just weren't making them," said Bennett of IU's third poor start in four games. "The score didn't look good, but I was happy because we were playing hard."\nWisconsin guard Tamara Moore, who averages 14 points a game, missed the UW run on the sidelines. Moore turned an ankle in the game's opening minutes lunging for the ball. She returned midway through the first half. Moore will have x-rays on the ankle this week.
It's homecoming weekend for coach Kathi Bennett.\nAnd everyone's making a big deal about it.\nExcept Kathi Bennett. \n"A lot of people have been saying a lot of things about this game," said Bennett of her trip to Madison, Wis., where many of her roots remain. \n"Yeah, I'm going back home in a way, but (the team) is so zeroed in on playing basketball right now after (Saturday's 89-68 loss at) Penn State, no matter who we're playing or where we play," she said. "It's going to be a nice opportunity because we need to win, not because of where the game is."\nRegardless, Bennett, who was born and raised in the dairy land of Wisconsin, returns home at 1:30 CST Sunday at the Kohl Center where IU (13-4, 4-2 Big Ten) takes on Wisconsin (9-6, 3-2 Big Ten as of Jan. 19).\nFirst, the sub-plots.\nBennett's father, Dick Bennett, coached the men's program at UW for the past six seasons before abruptly resigning earlier this season, citing burnout. Last year, he guided the Badgers to the Final Four.\nAfter nearly three months away from Kohl Center, Sunday will be the first time Bennett goes back to the site of many of his great coaching triumphs.\nWisconsin women's coach Jane Albright said she hopes he's there.\n"It'd be nice if he was here," Albright said. "I haven't seen him in a while."\nDick Bennett said before the season that he would be watching "from an inconspicuous spot" when his daughter came to Madison. Because of his resignation, Bennett has already seen his daughter coach twice, earlier this season in Bloomington.\n"In the four years Kathi was at Evansville, I didn't get to see her coach once," said Bennett of his daughter's former position. "It's like we're making up for lost time."\nThe Bennett name is big in Madison. Kathi Bennett\'s brother, Tony, is still on staff with the men's program at UW, and the Bennetts still live there.\nBut the Bennetts aren't Hoosiers spies in Badger country, Albright said. There's no way Dick or Tony Bennett would be relaying Badger secrets to Bloomington.\n"I was talking to Dick at a practice, and he made it a point to say to me, in that Dick Bennett kind of way, that 'You know, I would never tell Kathi anything. You know that, don't you? ...,' Albright said. \n"I think he advises her on everything except how to beat the Badgers."\n"Despite the drama, if the fans that fill the Kohl Center can keep there eyes from searching for Bennett's white hair and red sweater-vest, they should actually see a solid basketball game," Albright said.\nAnd an important one.\nWisconsin and IU both have two conference losses. A loss for either team puts it in a hole in the standings, dropping potentially to seventh place in the conference.\nIU is entering the game off the heels of its largest loss of the season, a 21-point handling from Penn State.\n"We need to bounce back and get back believing in ourselves," Bennett said. "We need to get back to staying focused for 40 minutes and just playing good basketball."\nThe key to Sunday's match-up may be the competition between UW and IU's frontcourts. Two-time Big Ten Player of the Week, junior center Jill Chapman will have her arms full with Badger power forward Jessie Stomski. The 6-3 junior leads Wisconsin with 16 points and eight rebounds a contest.\nAlongside Stomski, the Badgers boast the conference's biggest frontcourt in senior 6-3 forward LaTonya Sims and 6-4 sophomore center Nina Smith. \nWith three players 6-3 or taller, Bennett will most likely have to sit her third guard, 5-11 junior Tara Jones, in lieu of a traditional forward. Senior Rachael Honegger at 5-11 will have her hands full with the taller Badgers.\nJunior Erin McGinnis, at 6-1, and sophomore Erika Christenson at 6-5, may see more time against the taller Badger frontcourt.
STATE COLLEGE, Penn. -- The IU women's basketball team has been in this position twice before: win a big weekend game and earn a spot among the nation's top 25. \nBut losses to Louisiana Tech and Purdue kept the Hoosiers hovering around the esteemed ranking instead of securing it.\nSunday, the Hoosiers, sitting at 27th in the Associated Press poll, were there again: beat Penn State, the No. 12 team in the country, and in all likelihood, squeak into the top 25. But like their two other chances, the Hoosiers were tripped up. This time, the Lady Lions did the trick, 89-68. IU remains on the outside looking in.\n"We have to learn from these experiences," coach Kathi Bennett said after the loss to Penn State. "We know the areas we need to address, and we are going to work our hardest on them. When we play, whoever it is, we need to start out and be prepared. I didn't think we were prepared to start and we got in early foul trouble and that hurt us."\nThe Hoosiers had 19 points in this week's AP Poll, ranking them 31st in the nation. That's a drop from the 50 points they received last week after their 67-59 loss to Purdue.\nIU has received even less support in the coaches' poll, where it has only 12 points this week. \nThe Hoosiers has not been ranked in a national poll since Jan. 18, 1993.\nThe team never was a threat in Sunday's loss, never holding a lead and trailing by as many as 28 points midway through the second half. IU was blown away from the start and could never catch up with the potent Lady Lion offense.\nThe sluggish start was reminiscent of last week's loss Purdue loss. In that game, the Hoosiers were slow in the first half and fell behind by 17 points at the halfway point.\n"I talked to them before the (Purdue) game, and they got so fired up that they got down by 22 points," said former Wisconsin coach and Bennett's father, Dick Bennett. "I don't know what it was. They just seemed to come out very nervous in the first half."\nAnd like the Purdue game, junior center Jill Chapman's first-half foul problems stifled much of the Hoosier offensive attack.\nWith Chapman out, Penn State attacked the IU inside and built up an insurmountable 21-point cushion.\n"It definitely hurt us," Bennett said. "I don't know, it was 37-16, so I don't know how much of a difference it made, but it did hurt us."\nThe Lady Lions focused on the low post game screening forward Maren Walseth and forward Rashana Barnes to create chances at shots.\n"They did screen a lot more than we've been use to," Chapman said. "It's just something we need to work on"
STATE COLLEGE, Penn. -- IU racked up its best second half of basketball Sunday against Penn State. Fifty-two points and a sizzling 69 percent from the field both set season records for 20 minutes of Hoosier basketball.\nBut that wasn't the only season record set in front of 7,114 fans at the Bryce Jordan Center. During the first half, IU shot a dismal 14 percent from the field and scored a season-low 16 points. In all, the five first-half field goals made hot second-half shooting irrelevant as Penn State hammered the Hoosiers, 89-68.\n"Penn State just really shoved it down our throats and took it at us," IU coach Kathi Bennett said. "They were very ready." \nThe Lady Lions and IU are now tied for second place in the Big Ten conference standings, trailing Purdue by two games. With Sunday's win, Penn State now controls the conference tie-breaker, but the two teams will meet again Jan. 25 in Bloomington.\nIU (13-4, 4-2 Big Ten) started sluggishly, connecting on just one field goal in the game's first nine and a half minutes. In that span, Penn State (12-5, 4-2) built a 10-point lead on three-pointers from freshman guard Kelly Mazzante and sophomore guard Ashley Luke. Mazzante finished with 23 points, tying the game high. \n The Hoosiers never made consecutive field goals in the first half. The Lady Lions, the defending Big Ten champions, countered every IU bucket during the first 20 minutes.\n Penn State has now beaten IU 13 of the last 14 times. In fact, IU has never won at State College, and has never come within single digits of winning. The closest contest was an 83-73 Lady Lion win during the 1981-82 season, the first time the two schools met. \nThe Lady Lions' most recent domination comes on the heels of two consecutive conference losses for Penn State. Back-to-back defeats to Michigan and Illinois dropped Penn State from first to third in the conference standings.\nThe quick turnaround was because of the players, not the coaching, Penn State coach Rene Portland said.\n"It's been two days since our Michigan loss. I'm not their Fairy Godmother. I'm not that good," Portland said. "The players made great adjustments defensively."\nAmidst poor shooting, the Hoosiers were plagued by foul trouble in the first 20 minutes. IU leading scorer and rebounder, junior center Jill Chapman, picked up two fouls on Penn State's first possession and was forced to the bench just 27 seconds into the game.\nThe loss of Chapman for most of the first half destroyed the Hoosiers' inside attack. With Chapman and junior forward Rachael Honegger also on the bench with foul trouble, IU's offense became disoriented and unorganized.\nThe Hoosiers tried to create offense off penetration from their guards, but the Lady Lion defense stopped most IU advances.\n"Our defense caused a lot of problems for them," Portland said. "And I hope it's not a mirage. The defensive intensity in the first half was pretty exciting to watch."\nAnd without Chapman and Honegger, the Lady Lions dominated the boards in the first half, 30-21. Penn State controlled the glass throughout the game, 53-33.\nPenn State forward Rashana Barnes led the battle on the glass, compiling a career-high 15 rebounds, 10 of which came offensively. Barnes was 8-for-14 from the field, finishing with 23 points. Barnes scored 11 points off the offensive glass.\n"After two losses, we just really had to think about what can each of us do to put this team where it should be," Barnes said.\nIU made a run in the second half as its offense finally fell into sync. The Hoosiers hit nearly 70 percent of their field goal attempts in the second half.\nChapman, playing most of the second half with four fouls, piled up points for the Hoosiers in the second half, making 7-of-8 from the field. Overall, Chapman led the Hoosiers with 19 points in only 22 minutes of action.\n"When we made our run, the game was out of touch a little bit and we were fearless," Bennett said. "When we stepped on to the court at the start of the game, we didn't have that same mentality."\nAfter trailing by as many as 28 points in the second half, IU fought back, cutting the lead to 12 points with five minutes left. IU went on a 23-7 run during a six-minute stretch in the second half.\nChapman had nine points in the run, but Penn State rebounded with a 15-6 sprint to end the game and any chance of a Hoosier comeback.
A year ago, IU was embarrassed at Assembly Hall by then-No. 6 Penn State. The Hoosiers were outplayed in every facet of the game by the Big Ten's best team that season. In the 74-36 drubbing -- by far the worst performance of the year -- the Hoosiers shot an abysmal 21 percent from the floor and were outscored by 32 points in the second half.\nIU's second-half defense was forgiving, allowing the Lady Lions to shoot nearly 65 percent in the second half.\n"We got some easy buckets in the second half," said Penn State coach Rene Portland after the win. "Layups really help the shooting percentage."\nAnd the Hoosier offense was transparent, managing only 13 second-half points.\n"None of our players stepped forward offensively for us tonight," then-coach Jim Izard said. \nThe two teams will meet again 2 p.m. Sunday at State College, but chances of a similar plot are slim, as IU looks to continue its best season in recent memory. Portland thinks the Hoosiers are much improved from the last time the two squads met.\nShe said she thinks the key is the new attitude coach Kathi Bennett has brought to the program. \n"The kids are fired up to play for somebody who really cares about them," Portland said. "Kathi has done an amazing job with them this year.\n"They're playing tough defense and making wise choices on offense."\nNo. 9 Penn State (11-4, 3-1 Big Ten as of Wednesday) is looking to repeat a magical season that ended in the semifinals of the NCAA tournament. The Lady Lions only return two starters from that team, but have used scoring from new outlets to fuel their run.\nFreshman guard Kelly Mazzante leads the charge for the Lady Lions, averaging more than 18 points a game in Big Ten play. Mazzante, a front-runner for the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, is shooting more than 51 percent from the field to lead the team. Her shooting ability is the reason Portland brought her to State College.\n"She scored 3,200 points in high school and got cut for the USA team because she shot the ball too much, so we kind of knew what we had with her," Portland said. "I get mad at her when she doesn't attempt shots."\nBut the original plan didn't have Mazzante playing much in her first season. Key injuries forced Mazzante into action.\nSenior starter Chrissy Falcone went down with her third anterior cruciate ligament in pre-season practice, and freshman guard Jennifer Brenden is also out for the season with a knee injury. The depletion of two guards along with the graduation of All-American point guard Helen Darling forced Mazzante to see quality minutes.\n"It's unfortunate that she has been put in the position she has," Portland said. "Missing two guards, we really needed her to step up and play big minutes. And she has responded great.\n"It is unbelievable, considering the schedule we played and the positions we have put her in just how tough she is hanging in."\nPenn State stumbled in its last Big Ten game after a hot start, falling to Illinois 75-71. Illinois had been suspect, beating a tough Auburn team, yet losing to DePaul and Northern Iowa. The Fighting Illini were coming off a 100-59 drubbing from Georgia prior to their upset of Penn State.\nPortland said they saw Illinois on one of its good days.\n"They played with a tremendous amount of energy," Portland said. "They just need to get their act together. They got every loose ball, but they may be a different team tomorrow."\nBennett has kept quiet about Penn State, instead focusing on Thursday's game with Minnesota. \nShe said she is excited about the opportunity to play a ranked team in a hostile environment to see how her team reacts.\n"It's a great chance for us," Bennett said. "I've heard a lot about their (Bryce Jordan Center) arena. I know their fans are really loud for Penn State and get on opposing coaches, so I expect that"
The faces are familiar. The match-ups won't change much. And the Hoosiers and coach Kathi Bennett, hope the result won't change, either.\nIU looks to complete the season sweep of Minnesota at 7:30 p.m. today in Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers held off the Gophers 79-76 a week ago in Minneapolis.\n"Knowing their tendencies helps," Bennett said. "Yeah, it helps that the girls will remember the match-ups, but it's also fresh in Minnesota's head that they lost a close game.\n"Every game in the Big Ten is tough, and this one will be no different," she said.\nIn the first game, Jan. 4, junior center Jill Chapman scored 17 second-half points to lead IU back from an 11-point deficit. But the Hoosier defense was shaky, allowing the most points all season. Minnesota freshman guard Lindsey Whalen led the Gophers' scoring attack with a game-high 21 points\n"I felt that, defensively, we struggled and had no one stopping the ball tonight," Bennett said after the game. "Thank goodness we could keep scoring with them. I am so pleased that when it counted down the stretch, and we had to take care of the ball, that we did."\nMinnesota (7-7, 0-3 Big Ten) controlled most of the game, but poor free-throw shooting down the stretch hurt the team, Gopher coach Cheryl Littlejohn said.\nThe Gophers were 22 for 32 at the free-throw line, but three misses in the game's final four minutes crushed Minnesota's chances.\n"Poor free-throw shooting has cost us two games this year," Littlejohn said. "We missed the front end of three one-and-ones in the last four minutes of the game. We missed easy lay-ups in the last four minutes of the game. We got ourselves in the right position, but we need to finish games," she said.\n"But (losing) puts us in the position to have that fire to get back there and go over the top."\nIn the interim between last week's game, Minnesota lost one of its key players to injury. Freshman Ozlem Piroglu, the Gopher's starting point guard, will miss up to a month with a strained medial collateral ligament in her left knee.\nLosing Piroglu thins an already inexperienced team that has used close to a dozen different starting line-ups so far this season. In 12 games, Piroglu was averaging more than eight points and nearly five assists a game.\n"This has been a horrific year of injuries," Littlejohn said. "Our starting point guard went down with an MCL injury, and really thins us at guard."\nIn Piroglu's place, sophomore Trish McGhee will start at the point. In her first start Sunday against Michigan State, McGhee scored four points and added one assist. In her first meeting with IU, she came off the bench to score a season-high 11 points. \nLittlejohn's team is loaded with freshmen and sophomores, leaving the third-year coach without much floor leadership. \n"Seven out of the nine players I'm playing are freshmen and sophomores," Littlejohn said. "So it's constantly a learning experience. They don't know what to expect from the Big Ten yet.\n"Not knowing what this conference is all about, it's tough for this team," she said.\nWhalen has taken charge of the team, leading in scoring and in her presence.\n"She's been consistent since day one," Littlejohn said. "She can do so many things. She's only a freshman, but she's someone everyone looks to."\nWhalen averages 17 points per game, ranking her fourth in the Big Ten.\nFor IU (12-3, 3-1), the key will be rebounding from Sunday's loss to Purdue. In what Bennett called a very tough defeat, the Hoosiers trailed by as many as 22 points to the No. 6 team in the country.\nChapman, who led the Hoosiers the first time against Minnesota, was mostly ineffective against Purdue, and junior point guard Heather Cassady said she didn't handle Purdue's pressure extremely well.\nBut Cassady said she expects the Hoosiers to keep fighting hard, which is Bennett's trademark, and bounce back against Minnesota.\n"We never gave up," said Cassady of fighting from 22 points back against Purdue. "This team has a lot of heart, and we will bounce back in our next Big Ten game"
Purdue senior small forward Katie Douglas' head was probably still spinning Sunday when her team played IU.\nJust three days removed from a mild concussion suffered during her team's win against Iowa, Douglas was groggy, dizzy and hurting when she took the Assembly Hall floor.\n"It was a collaboration between the doctors and myself -- the decision to play today," Douglas said. "I had a little bit of a headache and still was feeling dizzy yesterday. But I got a good night's rest finally (Saturday) night and felt able to play."\n"I will say I didn't feel great out there, though," she said.\nBut watching her control the floor, directing her team and attracting the attention of everyone else, Douglas looked like the All-American she is, despite the cobwebs still rattling in her head.\n"Katie hasn't practiced for two days," Purdue coach Kristy Curry said. "I was really concerned about her being a step off or a shot off, but she showed a lot of heart and soul and character and really stepped it up. \n"Her presence makes us a better team, there's not a question about that."\nDouglas might have been dwarfed on the scoreboard by freshman Shalicia Hurns' 19-point performance, but the Indianapolis native dominated the court.\nHere is just some of the things the box score didn't show on Douglas' performance:\n• With both teams fumbling around in the opening minutes of an intense game, Douglas set the tone for a Boilermaker-dominated first half, calmly sinking a three five and a half minutes into the game. Her three sparked a 31-15 run during the next 14 minutes.\n• When coach Kathi Bennett replaced senior guard Tara Jones, who was guarding Douglas, with a much smaller Anna Waugh, Douglas immediately went down into the paint and used her size to overpower Waugh.\nSeeing Douglas' smarts, the match-up didn't last long and Bennett was forced out of playing her three, smaller guards (Waugh, junior Heather Cassady and senior Rainey Alting).\n• As IU made a run at the 22-point Boilermaker lead, Douglas, at 6-1, took over the point guard responsibilities to try and settle the Purdue offense.\n• With Purdue clinging to a slim six-point lead, 58-52, Douglas wisely stopped her teammates from a quick offensive set after a steal by Purdue junior guard Kelly Komara. Instead, Douglas ran a deliberate offensive set at the point leading to a an easy lay-in by Komara to pump the lead to eight points with three minutes left.\nAnd that wasn't all.\nHurns, who saw more playing time Sunday because of the season-ending injury to back-up center Mary Jo Noon, credits much of her outburst to the floor leadership Douglas brings, even with the effects of a mild concussion.\n"She's such a leader for us," Hurns said. "She makes the difference. She doesn't even have to say anything most of the time. She just gives us that look and we know what she wants us to do."\nDouglas played 36 minutes Sunday, the most of any Purdue player after being a game-time decision. Only Cassady, who was on the court the entire game, played more. Along with 13 points, she finished with five rebounds and three steals, numbers around her averages.\nDespite Douglas' intangible effect, Bennett said she was happy how the team defended her. Douglas was held scoreless in the second half after shooting 4-for-4 in the first 20 minutes.\n"She's tough to handle, but I thought we did a pretty good job on her tonight," Bennett said.\nWhat Douglas did do, after thoughts she wouldn't play, was enough for Purdue to remain undefeated in the Big Ten.
When IU women's coach Kathi Bennett wakes up Friday morning in a Houston hotel room, her father Dick will no longer be a basketball coach.\nIt will be the first time she could say that.\nEver.\nIn all 37 years of Kathi's life, Dick has been a basketball coach. But that all changed when Bennett announced his retirement from the University of Wisconsin in a press conference Thursday afternoon flanked by his wife Anne, and Athletic Director Pat Richter.\nFor Kathi, who heard news from her family Wednesday after IU's practice, the news was upsetting.\n"It's really sad," Bennett said. "I just want him to have peace. I'm so proud of him for doing what I know he had to do, to stand up and do that. My heart aches.\n"I wish I could be there and that's what is killing me the most."\nBennett, who guided Wisconsin to an NCAA Final Four appearance last season, is retiring because of a burnout.\n"I just simply was drained," said Bennett, who will be replaced by UW assistant coach Brad Soderberg on an interim basis. "I just simply could not keep up and it began to bother me. I don't want to go out cynical."\nThe 57-year-old Bennett said his health was fine.\nKathi openly acknowledged her father's intense passion for the game of basketball. In an earlier interview, she remembered one time when his extreme emotions got to him while coaching at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.\n "I will never forget the struggles when I was in college and my dad was taking over the Green Bay program," Bennett said. "It was around Christmas time, and they were struggling. I was up in the stands, and I almost got into a fight with someone ... they were screaming 'Bennett you're a bum,' and 'What did we bring you here for?'\n"I remember going home after the game, and he was sitting at the table; pure red, with his veins sticking out, and I remember telling my mom I thought he was going to die. It was a scary time for our family."\nAn athletic department official from Butler, which plays in the same conference as UWGB, recalled Bennett vomiting before many of his games.\nKathi said that his brother Tony will remain on as an assistant under Soderberg.\n"Tony wants to coach," she said. "It's in his heart and it's what he wants to do. He's got all the qualities my father has, but he's able to put things behind him faster.\n"That's something maybe my father and me can't do."\nSoderberg, who was head coach at South Dakota State from 1993-95 before joining the Wisconsin staff when Bennett became the coach, said he tried to talk his boss out of retiring.\n "But as he told me, he just ran out of gas," Soderberg said. \n In April, the Badgers lost to Michigan State 53-41 in the NCAA tournament semifinals, the team's first NCAA Final Four appearance in 59 years. Afterward, Bennett spent a week mulling retirement, but decided to return.\n "I got caught up like everyone else in the euphoria of the Final Four," Bennett said, "and thought maybe I could just roll along ..."\nBut Bennett said he began to notice he wasn't paying attention to details and knew then it was time to say good-bye to the game he loved.\nBefore the Badgers made their unexpected run to the Final Four, Bennett was the subject of harsh criticism in Wisconsin for his antiquated style of coaching and perceived shortcomings in recruiting. Unlike many coaches, Bennett admits he hears criticism and is hurt by it.\nIn truth, Bennett made the Badgers respectable after decades of ineptitude. In his five years, Wisconsin went to the NCAA tournament three times, after just three visits in the previous 97 years. His last two teams are the winningest in school history.\nHe has directed the Badgers to 24 victories over top 25 opposition, including a 78-75 overtime victory against No. 13 Maryland Wednesday night at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee.\nIn the locker room afterward, he gathered his team and told them he was calling it quits so he could spend time with family, friends and former players.\n"He didn't say much. He just said, 'Guys, I'm stepping back'," senior Andy Kowske recounted. "We were all shocked. We all just gave coach a hug and said good luck."\nKnown throughout the coaching ranks as one of the game's pre-eminent defensive coaches, Bennett's Badgers led the Big Ten in scoring defense for four straight seasons. He has lived in Wisconsin since childhood, and spent 11 years coaching high school basketball in the state, before moving to Stevens Point in 1976.\nBennett succeeded without superstars, always uniting a roster of roll players into a cohesive unit that could play with the best teams in the country.\n"Everyone here realizes we're not the most talented bunch of kids," senior Mark Vershaw said. "For us to have done what we did, it just shows what a great teacher he was."\nThe Associated Press contributed to this story.
Joanne McCallie rode the University of Maine about as far as it can go. \nSix consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. Seven consecutive 20 win seasons. Four conference tournament titles and five regular season crowns.\n"My work was done there," said McCallie, who, at 34, is the youngest coach in the Big Ten. "In eight years we had tried hard and accomplished a lot."\nStrapped by resources at Maine, McCallie moved back to the Big Ten and Michigan State last spring to take over the Spartans. McCallie played for Northwestern for four seasons in the mid-80s, earning All-Big Ten honorable mention in her senior year. But the bigger arena and more dollars at Michigan State isn't a guarantee of success, especially with the graduation of the Spartans' one-two punch that guided them to the WNIT Tournament last season, McCallie said.\nMaxann Reese and Kristen Rasmussen combined for 30 points and 13 rebounds per game. As a shooting guard, Reese was a serious threat from the three-point range, connecting on a team-high 51 three's last season. Rasmussen was the Spartans dominating inside presence, leading the team in blocks and rebounds.\nJust thinking about them makes McCallie emotional.\n"Kristen Rasmussen and Maxann Reese were the complete core of this team," McCallie said. "Our complete core has been removed.\n"I haven't even watched any film from last year and nor do I want to. Why would I? Max and Kristen were there. I don't need to cry. I've cried enough in my life."\nWith Reese and Rasmussen departed, McCallie is starting from the ground up, she said, looking to rebuild a program that won 19 games a season ago.\nLeading that process on the floor will be junior forward Becky Cummings. The second leading scorer on last year's team, she will be the focal point of the Spartan's offense. Unfortunately for McCallie, with Reese and Rasmussen gone, Cummings will also be the focal point of opponents' defenses.\n"Last year, I was able to take a back seat and watch and learn from Max and Kristen on everything they taught everyone," Cummings said. "This year, I think it's my turn.\n"I need to help my teammates out now. The way they did for me."\nThrough the Spartan's first four games this season, Cummings has led Michigan State with 12.5 points a game and is the top rebounder for MSU (2-2). \nMcCallie has grilled the Spartans on a daily basis at practice, trying to get them in physical shape to play the style of basketball she wants. It's been a long process, McCallie admits, as the Spartans came to practice in the fall out of game shape.\nThe intense work ethic is all a part of McCallie's recipe for success. \n"We've been working them very hard," McCallie said. "I think they call me the Wicked Witch of the East sometimes. But we want to play very hard. We want to play defense. We want to rebound, fight and be in every game.\n"That's how you pursue championships. And that will be the same every year"
There's a new coach walking IU's sideline, but it's a new player that's getting all the attention.\nThe thing is, she's been here for three years.\nAlways a presence, junior Jill Chapman has taken her game up a level through six consecutive wins for the Hoosiers. And it's been noticed across the conference: the 6-5 center was named Big Ten Player of the Week. \n"I didn't know until I came into the training room today," Chapman said. "Everyone was like 'congratulations,' and I was like, 'for what.' I had no idea. It was kind of a shock."\nIn IU's 79-42 romp against Kent State last night, Chapman played only 20 minutes. But she was productive, scoring 10 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. She also had three assists and two blocks.\nThe numbers haven't changed too much for Chapman, who was averaging 13 points and nearly 10 rebounds per game coming into Tuesday's contest. Last season, Chapman averaged 16 points and eight boards per contest. \nThe difference might not be in the stat sheets, but the team agrees Chapman has grown as a player since new coach Kathi Bennett's arrival. \n"I tell you, she looks really good," Butler coach Wendy Gatlin said after Chapman thumped her team for 27 points and 18 rebounds last week. "She was always a menace down low, but she's doing a lot more now. She's running better. She's finishing better. She's seeing the floor better."\nBennett said she believes Chapman's improvement is based largely on making stronger moves to the basket. In the past, Chapman has relied on moves away from the basket, including a hook shot.\n"We've been trying to get her to attack the basket," Bennett said after the Butler game. "She's still using that hook a little more than we'd like, but she's definitely getting tougher down low." \nChapman credits her success so far this season to her mobility.\nAgainst the Flashes, Chapman twice made perfect passes after the Kent defense collapsed on her. Getting in first-half foul trouble, Chapman only played nine minutes, managing six rebounds and a lay-up.\nSeeing double teams whenever she gets the ball, Chapman has mixed her moves with precision passes, leading to easy IU buckets.\n"Jill was outstanding tonight," Bennett said. "She was completing passes and making strong counter moves to the basket"
IU's Kathi Bennett is not the only new women's coach in the Big Ten this season.\nIn fact, she's not the only one to jump from the Missouri Valley Conference. She's not even the most-decorated coach to move up from the MVC.\nIowa's Lisa Bluder holds that distinction.\nThe three-time MVC Coach of the Year moved from Drake, to Iowa City, three hours northeast, to take over a struggling Big Ten program -- a move similar to Bennett's.\n "It's kind of comforting to know someone is coming into a new league from the same place," Bluder said. "We're going through new things together, and although we haven't called each other and spoke about it, it's just good to know someone is going through the same growing pains you are."\n And that's not where the similarities and connections between the two coaches end. Bluder was the fifth youngest coach to reach 300 victories in January 1998 at the hands of Bennett in a Drake win over Evansville, Bennett's former school.\n Like Bennett, Bluder is taking over a program that returns all five starters from last year's 9-18 squad. With the new coach and her new style, the return of all Iowa's major scorers and a storied tradition, the Hawkeyes have big expectations for Bluder's first season of Big Ten basketball.\n"We're excited about the season," senior guard Cara Consuegra said. "We think we can surprise some people, but a lot depends on how well we can adjust and continue to adjust.\n"An NCAA tournament berth is not out of the picture."\nThe Hawkeyes are led by the explosive backcourt pair of junior Lindsey Meder and Consuegra, who combined for 34 points per game last season. Meder, who averaged more than 19 points in her sophomore season was named to the second team of the All-Big Ten team.\nFive games into this season, her third, Meder has already broken the school mark for three-pointers in a career. She is averaging just under 19 points a game this season.\nMeder is excited about Bluder's new offense, which will teach her to get her teammates more involved. \n"The offense is a big change this season," Meder said. "We run a triangle, and there's so many different things you can do off of that. We will really need to read defenses.\n"I think the new offense is going to give us a lot more balanced scoring. Balance will be the key this year. It's so much easier to worry about two people than to have to worry about five. That's our job, to step up and get everyone involved."\nConsuegra was also a second-team All-Big Ten selection last season. She was second in the Big Ten averaging over five assists a game and third in the conference with a 81.9 free throw percentage.\nConsuegra has struggled this season, shooting 35 percent from the field, while averaging 10 points. Her assists have not dropped in the team's first five games resulting in a 3-2 record.\nAfter opening with an impressive win against Marquette, Iowa almost shocked No. 8 Iowa State, losing a tough game, 86-76.\n"There's no timetable," Bluder said. "It takes a while and I think everyone realizes that. However, with this bunch here at a program of the caliber of the University of Iowa's, I think we can get it done faster than maybe some people would expect"
Washington coach June Daugherty pleaded with officials for 0.9 seconds at the end of their overtime season opener with Indiana.\nShe won the argument, but those 0.9 seconds cost her team the game.\nFriday, in a wild game that the Huskies forced into overtime with a miraculous three-pointer, IU guard Tara Jones hit a three from the corner as time expired to lift the Hoosiers past Washington, 77-74.\n"I'm really glad (Washington) fought for those 0.9 seconds," said IU coach Kathi Bennett, who earned her first win in the process. "It turned out to be a blessing." \nWith the game tied, Jones was sent to the free-throw line after Washington's LeAnn Sheets was called for a hand check foul as the final buzzer sounded. After deliberation at the scorer's table with coaches, the referees set the clock at 0.9 seconds.\nJones, a 70-percent free-throw shooter last season, missed both shots. The ball bounced off the hands of two Huskies defenders and out of bounds with 0.7 seconds left. Jones, who had been 2-for-14 from the field, took the inbound pass from junior guard Heather.\nTrailing by three with 7.8 seconds left in regulation play, Huskies' guard Giuliana Mendiola sent the game to overtime with an acrobatic three.\nMendiola's first shot was knocked out of her hands on the way up by Cassady. Mendiola recovered the ball with her back to the basket, turned and flicked a shot that sent the Husky bench jumping. Mendiola finished with 15 points.\nTrailing by six with just under 10 minutes to play, the Huskies top threat, Megan Franza, made her first shot, a three-pointer that cut the lead in half. The 5-11 senior caught fire from there, shooting 7-for-11 with a constant hand in her face, finishing with a game-high 23 points.\nBut her late burst of scoring wasn't enough. \n"They definitely played good man-to-man defense, but I got some good looks and they just didn't fall," Franza said. "You get that adrenaline pumping in the first game and the shots are just a little long.\n"It was important for me to relax and play the game like I do every other day."\nCassady, who played 36 minutes to lead the Hoosiers, finished with 15 points and four assists. Jones added 10 points and eight assists.\nWith four Hoosiers in double-figures and nine scoring overall, Bennett was extremely pleased with the team's balance and overall confidence in their first game.\n"There wasn't anybody on the floor who didn't want the ball down the stretch," Bennett said. "And that's a neat feeling to know the competition brought out the best in us.\n"That's a great sign"
Part four of a five part series profiling IU women's basketball coach Kathi Bennett.\nWhen coach Kathi Bennett took over the women's basketball program at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh, she inherited a team that had never appeared in an NCAA Division III tournament game. \nIn the 14 years the program existed before Bennett, the team never won a conference title.\nThe Lady Titans had been successful, with a .650 winning percentage. But they weren't able to make that jump to postseason play.\nIn the seven years Bennett coached Wisconsin-Oshkosh, her teams won 82.9 percent of their games, five conference titles, made six NCAA tournament appearances, won a NCAA Division III Championship and 31 straight games, leading to an unblemished season.\n"There's no doubt I've learned from one of the best," said Pam Ruder, who was an assistant under Bennett at Oshkosh and is now entering her fifth year as head coach there. "I'd be stupid to alter too much of what she put in place here, because her philosophy works. We're continuing the same defensive style and intensity that she put into place here." \n Through recruiting and defensive intensity, Bennett's team got steadily better at Oshkosh. The senior class that won the national championship in 1996 didn't make the NCAA Tournament its freshman year.\n Its sophomore year, the team progressed to the Elite 8, and in its junior season, the Lady Titans lost in the National Championship game to Capital College, 59-55. For Bennett, everything was building to 1996.\nIt almost climaxed without her.\nAfter falling one win short of the Division III national crown in 1995, Bennett lobbied for a Division I coaching job at Northern Iowa, which had a vacancy.\n"I pursued Northern Iowa very hard and really wanted that job, and I didn't get it," Bennett said. "It wasn't meant to be, and I'm so thankful because of the experiences in 1996." \nThe magical year of 1996 ended up with the Lady Titans 31-0 and National Champions, but it could have easily gone south in the very beginning. Oshkosh's first game was against St. Thomas, a Minnesota school perennially at the top of Division III women's basketball. \nSt. Thomas won the 1991 National Championship and owns the third most NCAA wins in all of Division III basketball.\n"Our first game in our tournament, wow, that was neat," Bennett said. "And we beat them by more than people thought we would -- like 10 or 11. And one of our best players didn't play well that game. Wendy Wangerin did not have a good tournament at all."\nWangerin, who was an All-American center for the Lady Titans in 1996, didn't have a particularly good game in the NCAA title game against Mount Union either, Ruder said. \nIt was solid backcourt play from Shelley Dietz that gave the Lady Titans a 66-50 win against Mt. Union.\n"I can't say enough about her," Dietz said. "She brings out the best of you...and I'm so thankful for that."\nDespite Wangerin's struggles, Bennett had numerous other options to choose from, including Deitz, on one of the most balanced teams she has ever coached.\n"We were so balanced," Bennett said. "That was probably one of the better Division III teams."\nAnd it was the last time she'd coach one. Within days of winning the national crown, Bennett was fielding offers from Division I schools. With the women's Final Four a week after the Division III title game, Ruder knew by then Bennett would most likely not be back at Oshkosh.\nAnd soon thereafter, Bennett was announced as the new women's basketball coach at the University of Evansville.\n"It was time for her to coach on the D-1 level," Ruder said. "She'd accomplished everything she wanted to here and wanted to get to go to a different level of play and try and accomplish the same things there."\nBennett, who never is afraid to say she's an intense competitor, said she was ready to move to a higher level and coach a Division-I program. For Bennett, leaving Oshkosh -- a program she put on the map -- was difficult, but the decision was easier knowing Ruder would stay behind and continue teaching the same philosophy.\nIt also helped to leave on such a positive note, she said.\n"You always want to leave a program in better shape than when you came," Bennett said. "That's very important to me."\nLooking Ahead: D-1 Bound\n• Kathi Bennett never had a \nlosing season in her eight years as coach for two different programs. But when she moved to D-1 program in Evansville, things began disastrously. In two years, her team had gone 9-43. But the Purple Aces bought into Bennett's system in the third year and rode her defensive pressure all the way to the NCAA tournament. For more, read Friday's IDS.
There are only two tournament teams in Division I women's basketball that ended their season the way they wanted - with a win.\nFirst is Connecticut and its legendary march to the NCAA championship.\nThe second team is Wisconsin.\nAfter winning five consecutive games, including a 75-74 win against Florida to claim the 2000 WNIT title, the Badgers look to make another postseason run in March of 2001. The difference is that this time they plan to dance in the other postseason tournament.\n"We had one winning season in 11 years before I came in," said Wisconsin coach Jane Albright, entering her seventh season in Madison. "I think we have raised the bar in a lot of areas, and I think we have to raise it again."\nThe Badgers return their entire frontcourt from last season, the tallest in the Big Ten. The trio also happens to be Wisconsin's top three returning scorers and rebounders.\nSenior forward LaTonya Sims leads the charge as the Badgers biggest threat down low. Last year, she averaged more than 14 points and nearly nine boards per game en route to a 21-12 season. \nSims said she hopes the experience of winning the WNIT can translate into more positive things this year.\n"When it came down to tournament time, we were a really good tournament team," Sims said. "I was sitting on the bench of the first NIT game, and it was amazing … we were so together. Why couldn't we do this in the beginning of the year? Everybody knows we're a good tournament team. Now we have to prove that we're a good season team."\nAlong the front line, juniors Jessie Stomski and Tamara Moore are returning. Moore played point guard most of the season, but will likely move into the backcourt to offset the losses of the Badger's two starting guard to graduation.\nThe Badgers first three games are representative of the difficult nonconference schedule they face. Wisconsin opens its season at NC State in a four-team tournament. They then travel home for a match against Notre Dame in the Coaches for Cancer Tournament.\nIn all, their 10-game pre-conference schedule includes six teams that received votes in the preseason Associated Press poll, including Tennessee, Georgia and Notre Dame, who is ranked in the top six.\n"I sent the kids out a letter this summer," Albright said, "the first paragraph of the letter was Oregon, North Carolina State, Notre Dame, Georgia, Nebraska, Tennessee and Oklahoma.\n"That's all I had to say. It's probably too tough for this team, but there's no use in crying over it now."\nWhile most of the big guns in the Big Ten will be relying heavily on freshmen for minutes, the Badgers are loaded with experience. \nThat's a luxury many of the other Big Ten teams don't have, and it's something that conference coaches have noticed.\n"I think they're the favorite in the conference in many ways," Penn State coach Rene Portland said." You look up and down the conference, and you see freshmen that are going to be needed to score for teams. Wisconsin doesn't have that problem. They have so much experience that they're in the best shape of any of us"
Coach Kathi Bennett was on a different career path in the mid-1980s.\nBelieve it or not, Bennett had no plans of being a coach. In fact, she did not want to roam the sidelines piling up the headaches and heartaches that came with the job.\nThrough her dad, she'd already had enough of that.\n"I will never forget the struggles when I was in college and my dad was taking over the Green Bay program," said Bennett of her father, Dick, coaching at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. "It was around Christmas time, and they were struggling. I was up in the stands, and I almost got into a fight with someone ... they were screaming 'Bennett you're a bum,' and 'What did we bring you here for?'\n"I remember going home after the game, and he was sitting at the table; pure red, with his veins sticking out, and I remember telling my mom I thought he was going to die. It was a scary time for our family."\nBut after a few years filled with soul-searching and growing debt, Bennett took a small job at a small school -- and in the process found her calling.\nUntil then, Bennett had no plans of falling in her father's footsteps, and wasn't afraid to make it known. Her college teammate at UWGB, Sue Bodilly, remembers Bennett telling her often that she would never pick up a whistle.\n"She kept telling us that she would never be a coach," Bodilly said. "With her dad being so occupied with his profession, I think it was difficult for her to think about going down the same path."\nBeing a player made that decision easy for Bennett. At UWGB, she starred in the backcourt, not on the sidelines, and never really had to seriously consider the weight of her words. A career-ending knee injury near the end of her junior season made her hypothetical statement all too practical.\nStill, Bennett stood firm that she would not coach basketball. \n"I was kind of bitter because I had worked really hard to become a good player," Bennett said. "I never accomplished what I wanted to accomplish in my playing career, and so I certainly had a lot of bitterness about that and fought it for a long time."\nThe next fall, Bennett was coaching as a senior at UWGB, but she wasn't coaching basketball. The daughter of a basketball coach, and a former all-conference basketball player, Bennett was coaching UWGB's men's cross country team.\n "She coached that team very well," said Carol Hammerle, her basketball coach at UWGB. "I mean, she was respected not only by her runners, but by coaches throughout the league as well.\n"To do what she did, to coach her peers like that, just shows what a gift she has to teach."\nBennett took over the men's cross country program at the insistence of Hammerle, who knew that she needed to keep active following the knee injury. The injury had taken an emotional toll on Bennett, who had known nothing else than playing basketball all her life.\nAll the hours of practice and preparation that Bennett had spent on basketball were now vacant and Hammerle knew it was eating at her former guard.\n"Coach Hammerle knew me so well," Bennett said. "She knew I needed to keep busy. I could not go to games, I could not go to practice -- I couldn't handle playing basketball."\nBut Bennett handled her new job well, taking a team that perennially finished last in the conference and jumping them to seventh with a strong showing at the conference meet. It was one of the best experiences in her life, she said.\n"You would have thought we had won the meet, and I think some people were pretty mad about that," said Bennett. "The guys picked me up and were carrying me around on their shoulders."\nTwo years passed until Bennett would coach again. Money drove her to an assistant position at Carroll College, a liberal arts school with 1,800 students in Waukesha, Wis.\nBennett built up debt in those interim years, taking out numerous college loans to pay for graduate school. The Carroll job was more out of necessity to help pay back the loans than it was for wanting to coach, she said.\nBut it didn't take long for Bennett to fall in love with the profession she tried so hard to stay away from.\nHaving the opportunity to lead her first practice, Bennett quickly knew that her passion for basketball hadn't died and that coaching provided much of the same rush she had received from playing.\n"(Carroll's former coach) never had weekend practices, and I asked if I could hold one on a Saturday," Bennett said. "I offered and said if anyone wants to show up, I'll be there.\n"And they all showed up. And I got to run the practice. And immediately, I knew this was what I had to do."\nLooking ahead: A dance with perfection
Crouched on the sidelines at Assembly Hall, new IU women's basketball coach Kathi Bennett hardly draws attention. \nBut as a player on basketball courts across Wisconsin, Bennett garnered the spotlight -- a spotlight her college teammate said could have been brighter if not for unfortunate injuries.\n"She was outstanding," said Sue Bodilly, Bennett's backcourt partner for two seasons at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. "I mean, she was really before her time. She was an exceptional ball-handler with a really quick jump shot and exceptional court awareness. We'd only see a player or two in that caliber all season."\nBut Bennett's high school and college careers were cut short by debilitating knee injuries. With serious injuries to both knees, Bennett, who was once bound for a big-time Division I program, was finished playing competitive basketball.\n"I swear if her knees weren't done, she could walk out there and compete with D-I level athletes today," Bodilly said. "She was that good."\nIt started in high school, where many of the nation's top programs looked at Bennett. But the knee injury, which sidelined her for nearly two years, forced her to UW-Stevens Point, an NAIA school where her dad was coaching the men's team.\n"I went two years without playing," Bennett said. "And back then, when they did surgery ... well, you can tell by my scars."\nAt UW-Stevens Point, Bennett had relative success, including all-conference honors after her freshman season. With her knee feeling better, Bennett made a "selfish decision" in transferring to UW-Green Bay after one season at UW-Stevens Point. The move was prompted by the ability to compete at a higher level -- a wrong decision in hindsight, she said.\n"I wanted to take that next step and see if I could compete at the highest level," she said. "At Oshkosh (Bennett's second head coaching job, a Division II school), we got players that maybe could have played at a Division II or low Division I school, but we sold the idea that you could do something special. That you can win the national championship and you can be undefeated.\n"That's a really neat thing, and something I missed."\nStevens-Point went on to win the national championship in what would have been Bennett's senior year.\nAlthough Bennett might have erred in transferring, UWGB Carol Hammerle was happy to have her. With Bennett on the floor, the 1983-84 UWGB squad posted a 24-6 record -- this from a team that was supposed to be rebuilding, Hammerle said.\nBennett averaged 11 points and six rebounds a game in her first year with the Phoenix. But even before Bennett came to Green Bay, Hammerle knew how talented she was.\n"When she played at Stevens-Point, she was so tough to stop," said Hammerle, who coaches the women's basketball program at Northern Illinois. "They'd run this simple ball screen and she'd read it so well.\n"She would bounce open for just a second and have such a quick shot, that we couldn't stop it. That's why I wanted her on my team."\nBennett posted similar numbers in her second and last season at UWGB before succumbing to her second serious knee injury, this one to her healthy knee.\nAt the state championship game against UW-Milwaukee, Bennett was making a cut with the ball in the paint. When she cut, her knee gave out.\n"I dislocated everything. I tore everything," Bennett said. "My thigh was in one direction and my lower leg was in another.\n"I was so mad because it was my other knee. If it was the same knee I think maybe I would have been able to come back, but to have two really bad knees -- I pretty much knew right there I was cooked."\nHammerle, who has been coaching for 27 seasons and has notched nearly 500 wins, said it was a moment that she hasn't forgot.\n"She didn't let on the pain, but you know it must have killed her," said Bodilly, who works for her alma mater. "You knew what kind of competitor she was. She was in the gym hours more than any of us. \n"She was really strong and when we'd ask how is she doing. She'd always say fine or OK, but you knew it had to be tearing her up"
Penn State women's basketball coach Rene Portland already had a headache when trying to replace Helen Darling and Andrea Garner, two All-Americans who guided Penn State to the Final Four last season.\nGone were 25 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists per game. More importantly, gone was the leadership and experience Darling and Garner brought to the floor.\n"I'm sorry, Helen Darling is hard to replace," Minnesota coach Cheryl Littlejohn said. "I'm happy. I told her after the last game we played at Penn State, I said 'Girl, I'm so glad to see you leave.'\n"She's been a nightmare for us."\nNow Portland has nightmares.\nAnd it got worse when senior Chrissy Falcone ended her career a week into practice, tearing her anterior cruciate ligament. Falcone was expected to ease the effects of the loss of two dominant starters.\nAdd to that freshman Jennifer Brenden's torn ACL, which will have her out for the year, and Penn State is reeling.\nWith three keys missing from last year's Big Ten regular-season champions, Penn State counts on seniors Maren Walseth and Lisa Sheperd and four freshmen to drive the Lady Lions to another Big Ten crown.\n"Everybody is talking about new coaches," Portland said jokingly. "I have a new team. They're still going to have to watch film and do their homework on us."\nSophomore Ashley Luke replaces Darling, who started all but two games in her four-year career. Luke, at 5-foot-6, will run the point. She didn't start a game last season and averaged 2.5 points in about 10 minutes of playing time.\nPortland doesn't expect Luke to fill Darling's right away but is confident she can make an immediate contribution.\n"We've worked really hard to get Ashley ready for this season," Portland said. "I think she's ready to go. The non conference schedule is terrific, and we're going to do baptism-by-fire with this group."\nThe pre-conference schedule for the Lady Lions includes Old Dominion, Duke, Texas Tech, LSU, Florida and Vanderbilt.\nWhile losing Darling and Garner, a four-year starting center, was expected, the loss of Falcone was surprising.\nFalcone, a fifth-year senior who had to redshirt her freshman year after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee, tore the same ligament in her right knee at practice.\nIt was the third time Falcone had torn an ACL and the second time in her right knee. She missed her senior season at Trinity High School in Cleveland after tearing her right ACL.\n"We're all very disappointed," Sheperd said. "I think our focus now is to try to be there for her and support her. I can't even imagine what she's going through. We need to let her know that she's still a part of this team and going to go everywhere she goes."\nFalcone will stay with the team this season as a coach, Portland said. Falcone has been key in working with the five freshmen.\nDespite the losses from last year's successful team, an infusion of five freshmen who will play often and the experience of the returning players could lead the Lady Lions to another Final Four.\n"We need to step it up in the post and at the guards," said junior Rashana Barnes, who will replace Garner. "It's going to be a process. You're not going to see it in the first couple games, but hopefully by the end of the year everything will be clicking.\n"And come March is the only time it really matters"
Two years ago, Purdue cut down the nets as the nation\'s top team. It's easy to forget that -- in part, because of all of the changes in West Lafayette.\n1999 Coach of the Year Carolyn Peck is gone, running the WNBA's Orlando Miracle. Ukari Figgs and Stephanie McCarty, the Boilers scoring punch in their championship run, have moved with Peck to the pros.\nBut for all the changes from that 34-1 team, the starting center and shooting forward have not left the black and gold of Mackey Arena. \nAnd neither has the goal.\nStellar seniors Camille Cooper and Katie Douglas have their eyes set on St. Louis and a second national championship, as Purdue returns four starters and adds arguably the nation's top recruiting class.\n"We've been to the top and we know what it's like," Cooper said. "We want to go back.\n"(Katie and I) have a sense of urgency that we need to communicate to the freshmen because this is our last go-around, our last chance to have that experience again."\nCoach Kristy Curry, who replaced Peck after the 1999 season and is in her second season, inherited two of the nation\'s top players. Douglas and Cooper. Douglas, who is a Naismith Preseason Player of the Year finalist and an All-American, led the team in scoring last year with just more than 20 points per game.\nDouglas was the Big Ten preseason player of the year as selected by both the media and the Big Ten coaches. She's a known threat that has the attention of all the Big Ten coaches.\n"I call her 'The Assassin,'" Minnesota coach Cheryl Littlejohn said. "She gets it done on both ends of the court. She can score. She can rebound. She can defend. She can pass. She has a complete game.\n"You don't stop Katie Douglas, you try to contain her," she said. "You can't let her create for other people. If she's going to beat you, she'll have to beat you by herself, but she can\'t have everybody else getting involved."\nWith the bull's-eye set squarely between the three and the two on her jersey, Douglas knows that every game will be physically demanding on the 6-1 Perry Meridian product.\nBut Douglas said she doesn\'t see the opponents' focus as a hurdle, but rather a reason to improve her game.\n"It does put a little bit of pressure on myself, but I need to use it as motivation," Douglas said. "I know that every night, the other team is going to be working really hard to stop me. So I need to work that much harder to keep helping this team."\nCooper, a 6-4 center, averaged 15 points and nearly eight rebounds a game last year on a team that lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, 76-74 to Oklahoma.\nNot only does Purdue return its one-two punch, but also five of its top six scorers from last year\'s team. Add to that the nation's No. 1 recruiting class ranked by All-Star Girls Report and the bar is set high for Curry's team.\n"We always have high expectations at Purdue," Curry said. "We expect to be the best. We are very young, but yet we have a great blend of the old. The job is going to be how well we mesh together and how quickly the freshmen can come along.\n"I have a new baby at home and I have six babies at work," said Curry jokingly about her two-month old daughter and her recruiting class.\nHow quickly those six freshmen come along will weigh heavily on the shoulders of Cooper and Douglas.\nThe five seniors who hope to end their careers with a national championship will have a big part in maturing the freshmen, who are getting their first exposure to Division I basketball.\nThe top freshman for the Boilers is USA Today High School Player of the Year Shereka Wright, who will understudy this season at the three-spot behind Douglas. Wright will see significant playing time during the season along with the other freshmen, Curry said.\n"Anytime a freshman steps into a college game it\'s a huge adjustment playing-wise," Douglas said. "Myself, Camille and the three other seniors need to teach, instruct and show them the ropes a bit.\n"Our goal is to win the Big Ten title, the Big Ten tournament and go to the Final Four. They're big goals, I know, but we won't be satisfied with anything less"