Paxton native wanted to look good against Illini

Paxton native wanted to look good against Illini

   INDIANAPOLIS  If she didn''t coach the rival school, Angie Lee might have been up in the stands wearing orange and blue Monday.

   Instead, the second-year Iowa coach paced the sidelines at the RCA Dome, cajoling her team past Illinois for the Big Ten women''s tournament title.

   Sorry, the Paxton native said, but she had to do it.

   "Any competitor, when they go up against their home state, they want to look good," Lee said. "The reason they want to look good and do that is because they''re proud of where they''re from."

   There''s no doubt Lee is proud of Illinois  both the state and the school. She''s also a big fan of Illinois coach Theresa Grentz.

   "Coach Grentz, she''s done a fabulous job," Lee said. "I''ve come to these tournaments and I''ve seen 25, 50 people from Illinois show up. She got a whole bunch there now."

   Lee isn''t afraid of the competition. She''s thinking about the bigger picture.

   "It''s good for women''s basketball. That just puts another strong Big Ten team up there," Lee said.

Psst, hey coach.

   With Illinois a lock for the NCAA tournament, win or lose Monday, did Lee consider asking Grentz to take it easy on her team?

   "I would have said that to Coach Grentz if I would have thought she''d have bought it. But she wouldn''t have bought it for a half a second," Lee said with a laugh.

   Lee knew what Grentz was going through. Last year, the Hawkeyes went into the Big Ten tournament with an NCAA berth in the bag. Iowa lost in the conference semifinals.

   "We knew we were going," Lee said. "As much as you don''t want your kids to buy into that, I think they''re comfortable."

Who needs two?

   A sure sign of a big-time event reads "I need tickets."

   Usually, the scalper signs pop up at sold-out pro or college games. They''ll buy your extras (cheap), then turn around and sell them (not so cheap). With an 11,000-seat setup in the RCA Dome and about 5,000 expected, there didn''t figure to be much need for scalpers.

   But one hopeful, or bored, scalper stood outside Monday looking for tickets. Needless to say, business was not brisk. Good news: The Final Four comes to Indy in a month.

Aiken to be there.

   UI chancellor Michael Aiken proved he''s a real sports fan Sunday.

   He attended the Illinois men''s game against Michigan at the Assembly Hall, then drove to Indianapolis for the women''s semifinal game against Michigan State.

   Aiken made it to the women''s game about at tip-off. No word on speeding tickets.

Faces in the crowd.

   Former National Basketball Association player Harvey Catchings sat in the stands Monday rooting for the Illini and daughter Tauja Catchings.

   Next year, Harvey Catchings figures to find his way to many college campuses. Tauja Catchings will be in her second season at Illinois and Tamika Catchings will enter her first year at Tennessee.

This ''n'' that.

   The Illini now have lost both Big Ten tournament title games they''ve played in. They also advanced to the final in 1982, falling 69-66 to Ohio State.

    With Monday''s game attracting 5,490, the tournament set a record for total attendance with 24,803. The previous record, 22,866, was set last year.

    Illini center Casey Leonhardt was involved in two of the 10 tournament records that were set or tied this year. The 6-foot-5 freshman set the record for blocked shots in a tournament (10) and tied the single-game mark for blocks (5, vs. Minnesota).

   Illinois'' 98 points against Minnesota on Saturday also was a tournament record.

    Iowa set a tournament record for largest margin of victory, 34 points, in its semifinal game against Indiana on Sunday. In the 87-53 win, the Hawkeyes also set a tourney mark for field goals (37).

    Monday''s loss left Illini coach Theresa Grentz four wins short of 500 for her career. She is 496-177 in 23 years as a collegiate head coach.

    Monday night marked the first time a UI women''s game had ever been nationally televised. ESPN2 carried the contest on a tape-delayed basis. The Illini had been on television six times this season before Monday, four on SportsChannel Chicago and two locally. Iowa had been on ESPN2 twice previously this season, Dec. 13 in the Big Ten-SEC Challenge against Florida at Madison, Wis., and on Feb. 16 at Penn State.

    Based on a minimum of two games played, Illinois had two of the five individual statistical leaders for the tournament. UI guard Ashley Berggren ranked first in assists average (5.0) and Leonhardt led in blocks (3.3). Berggren was Illinois'' top scorer for the tournament, ninth overall, with a 15.0 average.

    Illinois'' average home attendance this season of 4,018 ranks 15th nationally, according to the University of Wisconsin sports information office, which compiles weekly national attendance figures. The Illini are sixth among Big Ten teams.

    This may have been Iowa''s first tournament title, but the Hawkeyes are no strangers to Big Ten championships. Iowa had won seven regular season league titles, the last in 1996.

    As the Big Ten''s automatic qualifier for the NCAA tournament, Iowa will be making its second straight appearance and 10th in 11 years. The exception in that streak was 1995.

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