‘Overly physical’: Stanford coach questions lack of calls

Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer speaks with guard Kiana Williams during the second half of a...
Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer speaks with guard Kiana Williams during the second half of a college basketball game against Oklahoma State in the second round of the NCAA women's tournament at the UTSA Convocation Center in San Antonio on Tuesday, March 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Stephen Spillman)(Stephen Spillman | KY3)
Published: Mar. 26, 2021 at 6:35 PM CDT
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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer questioned Friday whether refs are allowing too much contact in the women’s NCAA Tournament compared to the regular season.

The overall top-seed and Oklahoma State squared off in a physical matchup in the second round.

“I think that it is a problem when all season long, hand checking is supposed to be called and then when we get to the tournament, all of a sudden there are different rules. I think it should be consistent from the season to the tournament,” said VanDerveer, who won national championships in 1990 and 1992.

The Cardinal plays No. 5 Missouri State in the Alamo Region on Sunday. VanDerveer said she expects Williams to be ready to play.

VanDerveer said she favors aggressive play but has seen some games cross the line.

“An overly physical game takes away from the strength of women’s basketball, which is our athleticism, our fluidity of the game, what I call beautiful basketball,” VanDerveer said.

“If you’re allowing defenses to just cling on you, to body you, and people are flying all over the court, then I think that’s a problem. I think it is important to have aggressive basketball without it being so physical that it takes away from the strength of women’s basketball.”


The Southeastern Conference had seven teams qualify for the women’s NCAA Tournament for the 13th time, most in the nation.

Now the SEC is down to two.

Only South Carolina and Texas A&M remain standing going into the Sweet 16, extending the SEC’s streak of having at least one team reach this stage each year of the tournament. This is the third Sweet 16 for the Aggies, who won the national title in 2011. South Carolina won the 2017 national championship.

The Big Ten has four teams still alive: Maryland, Indiana, Michigan and Iowa. The Pac-12 is tied with the ACC with three each. The Big 12 has Baylor and Texas, the Big East has UConn and the Missouri Valley Conference has Missouri State in the Sweet 16.


Second-year Missouri State coach Amaka Agugua-Hamilton often hears from Jackie Stiles and has a great relationship with Cheryl Burnett, the former coach she considers a legend.

One of the top scorers ever in women’s basketball, Stiles was the AP Player of the Year leading what was then known as Southwest Missouri State to the Final Four in 2001. Burnett won 319 games in 15 seasons and took the Lady Bears to 10 NCAA Tournaments, including two Final Fours (1992-2001).

“We just want to continue to make those guys proud,” Agugua-Hamilton said Friday. “They all reach out, and that’s what we want. When I came here, I just said I wanted it to be a family affair. I want everybody to just feel like they’re a part of it, even if they were part of it in the past.”

The Lady Bears are in their second consecutive NCAA Sweet 16 and play No. 1 overall seed Stanford on Sunday. They haven’t been past the Sweet 16 since that Final Four team led by Stiles two decades ago.


Ashley Williams was a standout at N.C. State from 2013-2017. She started as a walk-on but helped the Wolfpack reach the second round of the NCAA Tournament as a senior.

Now she’s an assistant coach for No. 4 seed Indiana, top-seeded NC State’s opponent Saturday in the Mercado Region semifinal.

“She’s a kid that is passionate about that place,” Indiana coach Teri Moren said. “She has a terrific story, a walk-on that earned a scholarship and became a starter. I know she loves coach” Wes Moore.

Williams has become a big asset for the Hoosier’s first-ever trip to the Sweet 16.

“She is the lead on the scouting report,” Moren said. “She has a little bit of an insight on how she can prepare our group for some things, just tendencies that we’re going to see come Saturday.”


N.C. State coach Wes Moore has led the Wolfpack to back-to-back Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament titles and has them back in the Sweet 16 for the third straight tournament.

Center Elissa Cunane said it’s amazing what Moore has done for the program, putting them in position to go even further this year.

She said Moore, named the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Div. I Coach of the Year, is a great leader for them on and off the court.

Cuanane said they just make sure Moore has plenty of tea.

“He loves his tea,” she said. “Everywhere we go, he’s carrying around his tea. We got jugs delivered the other day to the conference room, and I promise you he took a whole jug and ran out of the room. So coach Moore loves his tea. He’s from Texas, so that’s a given.”


AP Sports Writers Jim Vertuno, Anne M. Peterson, Kristie Rieken, Stephen Hawkins and Teresa M. Walker contributed to this report.


More AP women’s college basketball coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball

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