On Saturday, I filed a blog about the NCAA Tournament — the NCAA men’s tournament — that began thusly:
“At the time of this writing, Saint Louis has six points against Louisville. Louisville has 12. There are 7 minutes, 21 seconds remaining before halftime. Peach baskets are falling from walls.”
A little while later, North Dakota State scored 44 points in its loss to San Diego State.
A little while after that, Dayton led Syracuse 20-18 at halftime. Dayton won 55-53. Syracuse did not make a 3-point shot. It was the first time in 665 games that Syracuse did not make a 3.
Perhaps I should have watched the women.
Aaryn Ellenberg, who played high school ball for Bishop Gorman, made seven 3s for the Oklahoma women — and 36 points in all — in their first-round NCAA Tournament game.
It would be her last college game.
DePaul won 104-100.
How do you like that, Loyola Marymount circa 1990.
Remember when LMU beat Michigan 149-115 in the second round of that year’s Madness? I bet Steve Fisher does. He was the Michigan coach. Perhaps that’s why he switched to a defensive style at San Diego State.
I watched the replay of the DePaul-Oklahoma women’s game on ESPN3. There weren’t many people in the stands at Cameron Indoor Stadium. (Coach K and the Blue Devils were on their way home, if they hadn’t already arrived.) But the game sure was exciting in a below-the-rim, run-the-offense kind of way.
Peach baskets did not fall from walls in that women’s game.
The home page of the Oklahoma women’s basketball website showed Ellenberg launching a 3. Next to the DePaul logo it said “104” in bold numbers. Next to the Oklahoma logo it said “100.” Under the score, in thick, maroon letters: “MADNESS.”
Links to the rest of the story said how this was the highest-scoring regulation game in NCAA women’s basketball history; how Oklahoma had fallen behind by 19 with 16 minutes left; how Ellenberg, who has gained a little weight — but not much — since I last saw her play against Centennial as a skinny ninth-grader at Gorman, led the Sooners almost all the way back with steals and long 3s from Winston-Salem.
It was tied 97-97 with 48 seconds left.
During one frenetic stretch in the second half that lasted 1 minute, 39 seconds, the teams combined for 15 consecutive points without a miss.
Every time the ball went up, it went “Swish!” Or “Swiss!” Like the dumb guy in the Sonic commercial says.
Jim Boeheim and the coach from North Dakota State, who had beaten Lon Kruger and the Oklahoma men — and cried after the loss to the Fisher Kings of San Diego — would like to know how they did that.
I know the ball is a little smaller in the women’s game — but so are the hands. And so are the egos of the coaches. (Except for Geno Auriemma at Connecticut.)
“I would imagine for the fans who were in the arena and for the people who were watching on television, that was a very entertaining basketball game,” said stylish Sherri Coale, the Oklahoma coach. “Lots of points scored. Lots of big plays. Very talented offensive players.”
Aaryn Ellenberg was one of those on Saturday, and for each of her four seasons on the Norman campus — and on the Baylor campus in Waco, Texas. A couple of weeks before their maddening comeback against DePaul, she and her teammates had whittled a 32-point deficit with 15 minutes left against the Lady Bears to six before coming up short.
Oklahoma is where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain, and where Aaryn Ellenberg comes sweepin’ down to rise and fire from beyond the 3-point line.
She made 376 3-point field goals during her college career, more than any other Sooner ever, and her percentage from out there was nearly 39, which is awesome, even if the ball is a little smaller.
She averaged 16.2 points as a freshman, 15.5 as a sophomore, 18.7 as a junior, 18.8 as a senior. Unlike that kid sitting close to the Kansas bench Sunday, the stoic Ellenberg cried only once: She broke down on Senior Day when she began thanking her mother, Annette Ellenberg.
“The most I can take away from it is my effort,” she said as she faced the media for the last time, at least as a college player. “And I gave all I had for 40 minutes, so I don’t have anything to hang my head about.”
Aaryn Ellenberg won three state championships in four years at Gorman, went to four straight NCAA Tournaments at Oklahoma, and 39 percent of the time when she let fly from beyond the 3-point line — 376 times in all — the ball went “Swish!” Or “Swiss!”
She scored 36 points for a team that scored 100 points in her last college game and lost. As she said, that’s nothing to hang one’s head about.
Plus, I hear the guys who hang the peach baskets on the wall really dig her.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.