Kristen Doherty does little bit of everything
BURLINGTON, Vt. -- If Boston College is going to make a run at its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2006 with just nine players on the roster, it's going to need to steal a game or two from the six teams picked to finish ahead of it in the ACC.
The good news is that if the first four games of Kristen Doherty's college career are any indication, the Eagles have a thief as entertaining to watch as anything this side of the "Oceans" movie franchise.
AP Photo/Hans PenninkKristen Doherty, who played for Sachem East (New York) in high school, was HoopGurlz's No. 12 recruit last year.
Doherty and Boston College breezed through the TD Bank Women's Basketball Classic over the weekend, beating Dartmouth 87-61 on Friday and host Vermont 85-50 on Sunday to improve to 4-0 this season after earlier wins against Boston University and Hartford. The competition will get considerably more difficult (mid-major powers last season, Hartford and Vermont are both off to slow starts in rebuilding seasons), but Doherty's numbers so far this season would turn heads if they came against YMCA weekend warriors, let alone Division I teams.
In four games, the freshman who was ranked No. 12 nationally among incoming recruits by HoopGurlz has 23 rebounds, 20 assists, 22 steals and just two turnovers in 129 minutes.
A one-dimensional freshman can still be a valuable commodity if she's consistent within those limitations. A freshman whose game spans the number of dimensions usually reserved for something written by Stephen Hawking or the late Carl Sagan is something else entirely.
"She's not really a freshman," Boston College coach Sylvia Crawley said. "She is a special player. She gets what we're doing defensively; she just gets it. She knows where to be at the right time, anticipates very, very well. We're pressing a lot, and we put her in positions where she's able to see the floor and anticipate for steals at the end of the press. She just kind of steadies our team, even though she's a freshman."
That Doherty, who averaged close to 30 points per game in high school, is also an elite scoring prospect was on display Saturday, when she hit 7 of 10 shots from the field, including all five of her 3-point attempts, to lead all scorers with 21 points. But what made her earlier box score stuffing all the more impressive is that it came while she was working through a cold shooting start, hitting just 10 of 33 shots in her first three games. Rather than get flustered or unnerved by the misses, she made up for it -- and them some -- in other areas.
"I was getting frustrated, but that's not the whole part of the game, so I really focused on my defense," Doherty said. "Each game, Coach gave me specific defensive assignments and told me to lock down, stop them from scoring. I really focused on that, and I knew once I got into the flow of things and really got comfortable, my shot would just fall. But I really focused on defense."
A valuable lesson in bringing an all-around game with you to college? Well, sure, but ask Doherty about the roots of her defensive prowess and she takes on the embarrassed look of someone who just banked in a 3-pointer from the corner. She got a lot of steals in high school, but she is the first to admit that end of the court wasn't exactly a priority until the Boston College coaches called her in during preseason and told her she could be -- and the team needed her to be -- a stopper.
"She was not a defensive player at all in high school," Crawley said. "But when I was recruiting her, I could tell that she was capable of playing good defense. She's smart enough to be a good defender. Not the quickest player in the world but she understands her body and what she can and cannot do. And because she's so smart and anticipates so well, she gets more steals than players who are twice as fast as her."
At least against Vermont, Doherty's steals weren't the result of a player poaching at the expense of neglecting an assignment elsewhere, even if she has some freedom to roam in Crawley's system. More representative was a play in which she started to move toward trapping a Vermont player on the sideline, only to sense the play developing too quickly away from her, retreat back to the weak side to be in position for a rebound, push the ball up the court on the dribble and deliver a perfect pass to facilitate a teammate's layup.
The short-staffed Eagles have their work cut out for them trying to run with some of the rosters in the ACC. But adding Doherty to a mix that already includes posts Carolyn Swords and Stefanie Murphy and a pass-first point guard in Jaclyn Thoman makes for a compelling development.
Four things that caught my eye
1. The Preseason WNIT champions won't need to go for a WNIT double this season. To put this in the context of the coming week, it's a lot easier to be picky about apples if you're on the hook for only four apple pies, not 40 of them. A season ago, Purdue's Brittany Rayburn took 134 more shots -- roughly four more per game -- than anyone else on her team and shot worse than 40 percent. Rayburn might be an Indiana native, and thus born with an urge to shoot, but that volume wasn't due to any lack of conscience. Purdue simply didn't have a lot of scoring options.
Capped by Sunday's win against DePaul in the championship game of the Preseason WNIT, the Boilermakers spent their first four games hinting that that's no longer the case. Drey Mingo, eligible after sitting out last season as a transfer from Maryland, scored 21 points and stepped outside to knock down three key 3-pointers. Freshman Courtney Moses beat DePaul's pressure and hit three big free throws to give Purdue the lead for good at 47-44. And even on an otherwise off night offensively, Antionette Howard, eligible after sitting out last season as a transfer from Florida State, followed Moses' free throws with a big basket. All of which followed the same script as wins against Austin Peay, Toledo and South Dakota State. And all of which helped Rayburn score 21 points on 5-of-11 shooting, keeping her at 50 percent this season.
AP Photo/Mark HumphreyTCU's Emily Carter scored a school-record 43 points in a double-overtime win over SMU last Wednesday.
2. We might learn how big a star Emily Carter is this week. TCU has a big week ahead, with games against West Virginia, Iowa State and Virginia in the U.S. Virgin Islands offering a chance to either solidify or lose its place in the top 25. Helena Sverrisdottir, Iceland's best import this side of Siggi's yogurt, has long been the main attraction for the Horned Frogs, and rightly so. But it's not Sverrisdottir averaging 30 points per game.
Carter, a senior, isn't exactly a secret, earning first-team All-Mountain West honors after last season and again this preseason, but she wasn't part of any of the notable award preseason watch lists. That won't be the case after the season if she keeps producing like she did this past week, following a school-record 43-point performance in TCU's double-overtime win against SMU and 22 points in a win against Texas-San Antonio. A consistent 40 percent shooter from the 3-point line through most of her time at TCU, Carter has also gotten to the free throw line 37 times through three games (hitting 35 of those attempts).
3. It's easy to see why Jeff Walz is excited about Shoni Schimmel. Connecticut's Bria Hartley showed nerves of steel in knocking down big shots at the end of the Huskies' win against Baylor, but at least she got a warm-up game. Louisville freshman Schimmel had no such luck, playing her first official college game in front of more than 22,000 fans and with Pat Summitt and the iconic Tennessee Lady Vols on the other bench.
But after a tough, seven-turnover first half in that game, Schimmel has come on strong. She had just one turnover in the second half against Tennessee and has 16 assists against two turnovers in three subsequent games. Granted, Ohio, Houston Baptist and SE Missouri State aren't the toughest assignments, but those will come in upcoming games against Xavier, Old Dominion, Kentucky, Dayton, Marist and Nebraska, among others. And Schimmel should be ready.
4. Was Sunday a turning point for Glory Johnson? It kind of has to come with a question mark when it involves the übertalented Johnson, right? It's possible that Tennessee can reach the Final Four and win a championship getting exactly what it always has from Johnson -- the occasionally great, frequently good and sometimes mystifying. There certainly isn't a shortage of talent in Knoxville, with or without Johnson leading the way inside. But if you're going to pick one player who can swing the season, the junior from Knoxville is a good one with which to start. According to the recap of Sunday's win against Arizona State, Summitt said she was too hard on Johnson at halftime, after pulling her in the first half, but the message seemed to hit home. Johnson's 14 points and 15 rebounds marked her first double-double since Jan. 28 of last season against Auburn, a span of 19 games. The points are good, and double figures should be within reach almost on putbacks alone most nights, but if coach and player really are on the same page, Johnson can affect a game through defense and rebounding like few others in the country.
The week ahead
Monday: Raised in Oklahoma, Adrian Wiggins brings his Fresno State team to Norman to face the Sooners in a clash between major and mid-major. The Bulldogs aren't shooting the ball well thus far (39.7 percent overall and 26.5 percent from the 3-point line in four games), but the matchup between Fresno State star Jaleesa Ross and Danielle Robinson should be a good one. Off to a 4-0 start, Portland looks for a second consecutive victory against a Pac-10 opponent when it visits Oregon (the Pilots beat Washington State on Thursday). Portland's ReZina TecleMariam has been fantastic, averaging 14 points, 6.3 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 steals.
Tuesday: Maybe Georgia's football team doesn't want to travel across the country anymore, but credit to Andy Landers for going to Los Angeles to face USC in advance of a Thanksgiving visit to Loyola Marymount's tournament. USC had more than twice as many turnovers as assists in its first two games (a win against Gonzaga and a loss at Duke), but it kept things under control in Sunday's 82-60 win against Long Beach State by at least matching 20 turnovers with 20 assists. In-state bragging rights haven't been much of an issue for LSU since about the time Louisiana Tech slipped out of the national championship picture, but Tulane visits Baton Rouge with thoughts of adding its name to the mix. The Green Wave already blitzed one SEC team, Mississippi State, by 20 points and pair five double-digit scorers with a defense limiting opponents to 32 percent shooting. Tulane is 3-0 for the first time since the 2001-02 season, when it reached the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Wednesday: Not every team is getting an early start on the holiday, with a good night of basketball on tap. Duke's visit to Pittsburgh might be the marquee matchup, with the Blue Devils looking to impress in their second road game of the season (and the first of four in a row away from Cameron) after a 75-62 win at Auburn in which the Tigers were within single digits inside the final six minutes. Wisconsin will look to avoid going 0-2 against in-state foes when it welcomes Marquette to Madison. The Badgers got blitzed in Green Bay on Thursday and then lost in overtime at home against Kansas on Sunday, despite 27 points from Alyssa Karel in her season debut. Mid-major fans will want to keep an eye on Illinois State's visit to South Dakota State. The Redbirds followed a big opening win at Illinois with home wins by double digits against Eastern Illinois and SIU-Edwardsville. They're turning the ball over more than in recent seasons, but they also have five players averaging between 9.7 and 11.3 points per game and own the boards thus far.
Thursday: Enjoy your turkey.