Betty Wiseman couldn’t be with the Belmont Bruins to celebrate the first-ever win in the women’s NCAA Tournament by the program she founded.
But she shared the moment with them: Wiseman cried and hugged the TV at her Tennessee home.
“The closest I could get to them was through the TV, so I just wrapped my arms around the TV and loved them real good,” Wiseman said Tuesday. “I was so proud of them. Wow. It was a monumental day for for our program, especially for this team.”
The Belmont grad started the women’s basketball program in 1968 with no money and two old station wagons to go to games. Pat Head (Summitt) attended one of her high school camps, and Wiseman coached the first 16 seasons going 248-153.
She also knows every player who has put on a Belmont uniform in the 53 seasons of the program.
Now 78, Wiseman spoke to the Bruins before they flew to Texas, and she celebrated with them Monday night in an emotional Zoom session.
Junior forward Conley Chinn said they can feel Wiseman with them all the time and hear her saying “Let’s go Bruins” even when she’s watching on TV. Chinn said it’s tough to put into words what Wiseman means to the players, who all know she laid the path for them at Belmont.
“I don’t think a lot of people can say that about their program, that they’ve just had such investment by such an incredible woman,” Chinn said. “I feel like there’s nothing Betty Wiseman can’t do. Just who she is is who we all want to be.”
Wiseman’s message to the team is that anything is possible in a season where the Bruins survived being shut down for a month by COVID-19. She’ll be back in front of her TV when Belmont (21-5) plays No. 4 seed Indiana (19-5) on Wednesday.
She said her the tears Monday night were from feeling so relieved to see Belmont reach a standard the Bruins had worked toward for so long.
“I just told them how much I love them, how much they meant, what they’ve done for this storied program, 53 years in existence,” Wiseman said. “And I think there’s more. So my heart filled up. I’m excited.”
UConn coach Geno Aurimma turned 67 on Tuesday and spent his birthday at home, waiting to end his COVID-19 isolation. The Huskies gave him the gift of an 83-47 win over Syracuse in their second-round game.
“Happy birthday Coach, if you’re watching,” UConn freshman Paige Bueckers said. “Get your butt here tomorrow. We’re excited to see you.”
The Huskies now are 12-1 under Auriemma on his big day. The Huskies’ only loss came in 1998, when he turned 44. UConn committed 23 turnovers and shot only 34% in a 60-52 loss to North Carolina State and Hall of Fame coach Kay Yow in the regional finals.
USING THEIR VOICES
Oregon’s Sedona Prince drew national attention with a post on social media that showed the difference between the weight training facilities for the men’s NCAA Tournament and the women’s event. The video also spurred larger conversations about how the women’s game is sometimes overlooked.
Following Oregon’s 67-47 first-round victory over South Dakota, senior forward Erin Boley was asked what she hopes new fans – who might have been tuning in because of Prince’s video – see in the sixth-seeded Ducks.
“I hope that they see that not only do we have a platform, but we’re really passionate about what we do,” Boley said.
“First and foremost we’re athletes and we want to set a really good example on the court first, and then be able to use that platform that we’re given to speak up. We’re all really proud of Sedona and I’m proud of the girls on this teams who have spoken up and ignited change.”
COVID TESTING RESULTS
The latest testing results are in for the women’s NCAA Tournament with no new positives for COVID-19.
The NCAA has run nearly 11.4K tests still through Monday on the players, coaches and others helping put on this tournament using daily antigen testing. Only two positives have recorded. Any false positives are quickly retested using the PCR test, which is considered more accurate.
More AP women’s college basketball coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball