Women’s Final Four notebook: Late push secures a sellout

Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins, left, and coach Muffet McGraw smile after a win over Duke at the regional final of the NCAA women's tournament Tuesday, April 2, 2013, in Norfolk, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber) Show caption
Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins, left, and coach Muffet McGraw smile after a win over Duke at the regional final of the NCAA women's tournament Tuesday, April 2, 2013, in Norfolk, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

NEW ORLEANS — Thanks to a late push from local businesses, the Women’s Final Four is officially a sellout. About 500 tickets were purchased Friday; they are slated to be distributed to youth groups.

Capacity for New Orleans Arena for the event is 17,545, which is larger than the Hornets’ listed capacity of 17,292.

Corum comes home

Most folks around Connecticut will tell you that coach Geno Auriemma doesn’t have a boss. But at least Debbie Corum has the title.

Corum, who was the assistant athletic director and senior women’s administrator at LSU from 1996-2000, took over the same post at UConn last September, making her the direct supervisor of the Huskies’ Hall of Fame coach.

“You don’t interfere with Geno’s program,” said Corum, who had spent the previous 12 years as an associate commissioner of the Southeastern Conference. “My job is to help elevate our other women’s programs to that level.”

Unless you follow field hockey, UConn’s other women’s sports aren’t exactly high-profile. But Corum, who helped guide LSU to a high level following the school’s involvement in a gender equity lawsuit, is enjoying the task.

“I really missed being on a campus,” she said. “So I’m loving this job because it’s the opportunity to do some really positive things.”

And it’s not like Corum, who got to know Auriemma during her stint on the NCAA Women’s Basketball Committee, doesn’t at least pay attention to Auriemma’s methods.

“There’s just such great consistency in the way everything is done,” she said. “I’ve been around a lot of great coaches, but Geno’s consistency is something I’ve never seen.”

In turn, Auriemma is fan of Corum’s.

“Bringing Debbie here was a like a dream come true for me,” he said. “I’ve never had an advocate for our program in all the years I’ve been here who works as hard as Debbie does.”

Diggins’ death stare

After trailing Duke 37-31 at halftime of the Norfolk Regional final, Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins led her team on a 19-4 run that propelled the Fighting Irish to an 87-76 victory, punctuating it with a glare of defiance at the Blue Devils.

“That look is the finisher,” the Irish’s Natalie Achonwa said. “It’s a no-mercy look that’s a deadly look for sure. ... It intimidates the other team, but it also motivates us to literally finish them — no mercy.”

Big East omen

They won’t be together much longer, but UConn, Notre Dame and Louisville being in the Final Four is reminiscent of 1985, when Big East powers Georgetown, Villanova and St. John’s made the men’s version.

The lowest seed of the three — No. 6 Villanova — wound up beating Georgetown in the title game. Maybe that’s a good sign for Louisville, which is only the second No. 5 seed in the Women’s Final Four, joining 2001 Missouri State.

Enjoying the ride

Auriemma, who is making his third Final Four appearance in New Orleans, reveled Thursday evening in the police motorcade that escorted the team from the airport to Mardi Gras World, where the Huskies took team pictures, then to their Canal Street hotel.

“In Connecticut, we’re really politically correct,” said Auriemma, setting up his own punch line. “We have a police escort, a couple of really nice guys. But we stop at red lights and are really polite.

“It’s nice to come down here and get three tough guys on motorcycles. They get us anywhere we need to go in about three minutes.”

Homegrown Bears

Of the 11 players on the California roster, 10 are the from the Golden State. And the exception, guard Avigiel Cohen, was born in Los Angeles but grew up in Israel.

Even the team’s ineligible transfers, Brittany Shine (Florida) and Kyra Dunn (Pittsburgh), are California girls — teammates at Sacramento High in fact.

Students rewarded

Tayla Williams and David Moses of Ben Franklin Elementary, and Caroline Bickerton and Thaddeus Wilson of St. Dominic School were the winners of the NCAA’s Middle School Madness and Pinnacle of Fitness programs. Their essays on being of service to the community were judged to be best of those submitted from 16 area schools, and each will receive a laptop. Lusher Charter School won for best mural.