'Major miss': Vegas women's hoops tourney setup criticized

Indiana Hoosiers women's basketball coach Teri Moren said Saturday that an opportunity was missed to showcase her No. 6-ranked undefeated squad and other teams at the Las Vegas Invitational tournament this weekend because of a subpar setup for the event.

A site coordinator told ESPN that he apologized to players, coaches, fans and referees about the tournament conditions, which have been discussed on social media. The tournament was played on a court in a large ballroom area at The Mirage hotel that had no stands for spectators. Chairs were set up around the court.

Moren confirmed that the site coordinator, Ryan Polk, did apologize.

"I think there are other people who probably need to apologize as well for wanting us to come and play in this event and making promises, if you will," Moren said. "This is not what was described to us a far as what the venue was going to look like, what the setup was going to look like.

"What was disappointing was the aesthetics; it's not a fan-friendly environment. As women's basketball coaches, we're trying to move our game forward. It felt like because [this] got so many ticks on social, that we had taken a couple steps backward. We have an obligation to grow our game, and we completely missed on this opportunity because you have a lot of really good teams that are here. I see all these other tournaments going on and footage of that, but this was a major miss."

Indiana shared correspondence the school had in March with the tournament director, Bryce McKey, who told the Hoosiers that the event would be set up with a court similar to what the Athletes Unlimited professional women's league in Las Vegas had earlier this year. But it did not resemble that.

"We've played in ballrooms before," Moren said. "We were in the Bahamas last year: Another ballroom scenario, but looked far different than the ballroom we've played in the last two nights. I don't want there to be the notion that playing in ballrooms is dangerous. But in this particular event, there were a lot of things that needed to be better."

McKey was at another tournament this weekend in Daytona, Florida. Polk said the tournament organizers realized too late that the setup in Las Vegas would not be up to par.

"We're very sorry," Polk said. "The court and the lighting, that stuff hasn't been an issue. But we needed to have full-on bleachers. We have notified The Mirage we won't be coming back again. This is a one-time disaster in terms of events. It definitely did not go the way we thought or planned. We just severely missed the mark when comes to the spectator side."

Another issue arose Saturday night at the tournament, though, when Auburn Tigers player Kharyssa Richardson was injured after hitting the floor hard while scrambling for a loose ball. The game was delayed nearly an hour during the wait for her to get medical attention. According to the Auburn radio broadcast, it took more than 40 minutes for paramedics to arrive to the court.

"She was alert, she was responsive to everything, so I really believe it's precautionary," Auburn coach Johnnie Harris said after the Tigers' 74-73 win over the Colorado State Rams.

Richardson posted an update on social media, saying "Thank you Auburn family. I am doing better and can't wait to come home."

On Friday, Indiana standout Grace Berger sustained a knee injury, and she did not play in Saturday's 79-64 victory over the Memphis Tigers.

Moren was concerned by the length of time it took for Richardson to receive medical care. After consideration, the Hoosiers still decided to play after that, with their game starting more than an hour late.

"I discussed it with our staff. 'Do we feel like we are safe?'" Moren said. "I talked to my athletic director, and he wanted to make sure we all felt safe. The answer to that is yes. We all felt like we were in a safe environment."

Moren said she had no issues with the court itself and felt it had nothing to do with Berger's injury.

"I don't read a lot of social [media]," Moren said. "But this notion that the floor ... there's no problem with the floor. The injury to Grace did not happen because of the floor.

"[But] I think any good tournament has EMT and all that, medical professionals, on site. And once again that wasn't the case. Another big miss for this tournament. There were a lot of things that should have been better, and they just weren't. I was very frustrated having to watch that moment for Auburn."

UConn coach Geno Auriemma, whose team did not play in the tournament, shared some thoughts on it Sunday.

"It's probably the last time they'll get a good team to go to that tournament. It's almost that condescending kind of thinking, 'Yeah, wouldn't it be neat to have the gals come out here and play,'" he said. "Fortunately, we don't have to deal with that sort of thing. ... It's unfortunate for them to have to go through something like that."

UConn player Azzi Fudd concurred.

"It kind of shocked me ... right away it gave me AAU vibes," she said. "I remember playing in ballrooms like that. I couldn't believe that was a college game being played like that. I just think we need to do better."

ESPN's Alexa Philippou contributed to this story.