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SPORTS EXTRA / NCAA TOURNAMENT | WOMEN'S BASKETBALL

Runge's Angry Players Fueling Oregon's Hot Streak

March 15, 2001|EARL GUSTKEY

The recent turmoil in the Oregon women's basketball program--Coach Jody Runge's unhappy players recently met with Athletic Director Bill Moos and asked that she be fired--is nothing new. The Ducks have been bickering since Runge arrived at Oregon in 1993.

During a game against UCLA last year in Eugene, Oregon guard Shaquala Williams, angry at being pulled from the game, engaged Runge in a jaw-to-jaw shouting match, in full view of a full house of 9,000.

The bickering Ducks--it's a natural state of affairs.

The theory here is Runge likes it that way. And if we're correct, she isn't the only coach who believes some basketball players are at their best when playing angry.

That was certainly the case Feb. 25, when Oregon senior forward Angelina Wolvert was first suspended then reinstated for the USC game at the Sports Arena.

Wolvert, upset over losing at UCLA two nights before, walked off the floor without the traditional hand-slaps with the UCLA players. At practice the next day at the Sports Arena, Runge told her team Wolvert would sit against USC.

Wolvert went bonkers. So did her teammates.

Runge rescinded the suspension (the replacement punishment was a letter of apology to UCLA), and a fuming Wolvert scored 25 points in 23 minutes, leading Oregon to a 74-66 victory.

Oregon (17-11) finished the season with a four-game win streak to earn a trip to Salt Lake City and a Saturday matchup with Iowa (20-9) in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Runge laughed when asked if the turmoil was by design, then added:

"Our heads were hanging near the end of the season and I decided to push some buttons. Whether or not my motivational techniques helped or hurt, that's for others to say. I apologized to the team if I hurt anyone's feelings.

"There are athletes who when angry play much better and Angelina is one of those athletes. She has played much better since that SC game and if that's because she's mad at me, so be it."

UCLA, by the way, says Wolvert's apology letter still hasn't arrived.

*

Patricia Hoskins, whose 12-year-old NCAA career scoring record was recently broken by Southwest Missouri State's Jackie Stiles, may try a comeback.

Today she's a single mother, working six days a week in a Greenville, Miss., tile factory to support her 12-year-old son. She has asked the WNBA for an invitation to the league's pre-draft Chicago tryout camp.

In her 1985-89 career at Mississippi Valley State, the 6-foot-3 Hoskins scored 3,122 points.

She points out that at 34 she's younger than Cynthia Cooper and only 10 pounds over her playing weight.

"I still think I can play," she said recently.

"And I think I've got three or four good years left in me."

*

Arizona State certainly had an unusual Selection Sunday.

At 8 a.m. Sunday, Coach Charli Turner Thorne went to the hospital and had labor induced. Her husband, Will, hovered nearby, relaying labor progress to her basketball players via cell phone. The players were gathered at their coach's house to watch the NCAA selection show.

Turner Thorne's second son, Liam, arrived an hour after Arizona State (20-10) had been matched with Louisiana State (19-10) Friday at West Lafayette, Ind.

Born at 4:29 p.m., he weighed in at 8 pounds 5 ounces. He has a big brother, Conor, 2.

Here's the kicker: Turner Thorne ran Tuesday night's practice. And yes, she's taking Liam to West Lafayette.

*

No, that 6-23 UCLA season won't cost Coach Kathy Olivier her job, UCLA women's Athletic Director Betsy Stephenson said. . . . Four Pac-10 teams in the NCAA tournament is the norm. The conference has had at least four entrants for 11 consecutive years. . . . UCLA junior Michelle Greco, who led the Pac-10 in scoring for most of the season, finished second at 19.9 and first in free throw shooting, 86.5%. She also made the all-Pac-10 team. USC freshman Ebony Hoffman finished third in rebounding at 8.0 per game and made the all-freshman team. The player of the year was Oregon State junior Felicia Ragland, who by a fraction of a point edged Greco for the scoring title. . . . Two Southland girls, both Tennessee-bound, have been selected to play in the Women's Basketball Coaches Assn. High School All-American Game at Hartford, Conn., April 7. They are Loree Moore of Narbonne High and Courtney Young of Ventura Buena. . . . Shawtina Ferguson, senior captain at St. Mary's Academy in Inglewood, was one of eight national essay winners in a program sponsored by American Water Works and will attend the women's Final Four in St. Louis and receive a $1,000 savings bond.

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