UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) — UCLA coach Cori Close feels that it’s a pivotal time right now for women’s basketball.
There are more people watching the games and the talent level has never been better spread across the country. That’s why she didn’t mind scheduling another cross-country trip — the team’s third of the young season — for the second-ranked Bruins to be part of the Hall of Fame Women’s Showcase on Sunday.
“This is a special time in our sport. A window of opportunity to shine the bright light, pound the chest for the sake of each other,” Close said after her Bruins beat 20th-ranked Florida State 95-78. “We would be foolish not to put the growth of the game above our own institutions. There are better TV ratings, better attendance numbers … I think everyone is buying in. This is a really special time. It’s a tipping point for women’s sports in general.”
Sunday’s tripleheader featured six ranked teams, including No. 1 South Carolina and the Bruins. South Carolina coach Dawn Staley applauded the effort that ESPN has put forth showing so many great matchups early on this season, which is barely a month old.
“I’ve been a critic of ESPN, but they’ve by far telecast a lot of games and not just the top teams in the country but also great, great matchups,” she said after her team held off No. 11 Utah 78-69. “This is just a build up of what we’ve been missing and now we’re at a place where everyone is seeing great basketball, great matchups, great parity, great coaches, great programs.”
The six teams playing in Connecticut had a banquet on Saturday night and Utah coach Lynne Roberts said she looked around and saw All-Americans everywhere, including her own star Alissa Pili, who had 37 points in the loss.
“This is a first-class event,” she said. “Our sport is legit and worth watching and worth putting marketing dollars behind. It’s going to continue to grow.”
UConn coach Geno Auriemma has been in some iteration of this showcase most years since it first started in 2013 and he was impressed with this year’s field.
“I do believe you have to make some statements and some splash where people will pay attention right away and remind them basketball season is here,” he said. “The guys have been doing it very successfully so its appropriate we follow suit. We couldn’t do it without the Hall of Fame investing in this event and the fans were tremendous.”
North Carolina coach Courtney Banghart would love to see this event grow even bigger.
“You can’t turn on a women’s game right now and be bored,” the WBCA President sad. “It’s not possible. You don’t know who’s going to win.”
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AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball