Houston Roundball Review: Women's Hoops

This is The Houston Roundball Review's (www.TheHRR.com) blog to discuss women's basketball. The HRR began in 1994 and has been media credentialed to cover college and pro hoops since 1997. Member of the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA).

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Coop: "Many More Steps"

After her Prairie View A&M team defeated the Rice Owls 51 to 46 Friday night, Cynthia Cooper stated the win was very good and another step toward her program achieving bigger and better things for Prairie View A&M.

"It's very important for us to be competitive in the NCAA -- not only in the SWAC (Southwestern Athletic Conference). This game was a step in that direction. It was a step in the right direction of being competitive in the NCAA and not just being seen as a tough opponent in the SWAC. We have to take many more steps in order to achieve our other goals."

"We have had a tough non-conference schedule. We went to Baylor; we played Texas A&M in College Station; going to Georgia; playing Virginia Tech and Florida. We, specifically, want to play those types of teams because, it's not good enough for me to get into the NCAA Tournament and get beat by 50 0r 60. We really have to be competitive; and, in order for us to be competitive, I thought it was important that we have those experiences early in the season and grow as a team and hopefully be better towards the end. Hopefully, we get to the Tournament again and show that growth."
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PVU tops Rice 51 to 46

"Well, I thought it was one of the ugliest games I've ever coached," said Prairie View A&M's Cynthia Cooper - Dyke. "And, definitely one of the ugliest games I've ever seen."

Now, realize this: Prairie View won the game. PV defeated the Rice Owls 51 to 46 Friday Night at the William H. Nicks building (b.k.a The Baby Dome) in front of 247 fans.

The game was ugly. Both teams struggled offensively in the first half. After taking a 6 to 4 lead on a lay-up from guard Dominique Smith, Prairie View (5-7) did not score another point for nearly eight minutes. However, due to Rice's own inability to take care of the basketball or make any shots, the Lady Panthers trailed the Owls (7-6) 10 to 8 with 6:53 left in the first half.

The Lady Panthers tied the game at 17; then, PV's guards turned up the heat. Candice Thomas picked up one steal; then, Shavonne Smith picked up three steals (two by cleanly swiping the ball from Owls' guard Shyrelle Horne). The Lady Panthers converted the steals into points and took a 24 to 19 lead before Owls' freshman guard Brittney Hudson swished a three-point shot to trim the lead to 24 to 22.

Prairie View's Chari Smith closed out the first half scoring by splitting two free throws.

PV made just 9 of 31 from the field for 29.0% in the half. Rice shot slightly better: 38.1% (8 for 21); however, the Owls committed 17 turnovers.

The second half featured more poor shooting and more turnovers; but, the half was close and competitive throughout. Seven ties in the half with the last at 44 with 3:32 remaining in the game.

Therefore, the question was which team would make the plays down the stretch to win the game.

Answer: Prairie View.

Candice Thomas broke the tie with a driving lay-up to give the Lady Panthers a 46 to 44 lead. Then, following a turnover by Rice. Krystal Williams drained a jump shot for a 48 to 44 lead with 2:10 left in the ball game. Rice's Hudson turned the ball over once more; but, Prairie View failed to score.

Neither team scored for another 90 seconds; and, following yet another turnover by Rice and a missed shot by the Owls' PV's Shavonne Smith split two free throws to give Prairie View a 49 to 44 lead with only 36 seconds remaining.

Rice's Valeriya Berezhynska hit two free throws with 21 seconds remaining; however, Rice would not score any more. During the final 10 seconds, Chari Smith hit two out of four from the foul line for the final score.

Rice finished the game with 30 turnovers. The Owls shot 17 for 47 (36.2%) from the field. Kadie Riverin (12) and Tara Watts (11) led the Owls in scoring.

"We held a team to 51 points on their home court, said Owls head coach Greg Williams after the game. "We out shot them in all three categories: from the field; from 3; at the line. We out rebound them; and, you wonder 'How could this team lose?' And, obviously, it's 30 turnovers."

Prairie View shot 32.7% (18 for 55 including 0 for 8 from 3) from the field and made only 15 of 28 free throw attempts. Gattie Werema and Candice Thomas each scored 12 points to lead the Lady Panthers.

"It was important for us to play tough against a Conference USA opponent," said Cooper. "It was important for us to play tough in a game where every game counted and every defensive possession was important."

"I thought our young ladies came out and really played hard the entire game."

"I thought we struggled to finish around the basket. Defensively, we wanted to force turnovers and give ourselves another chance to score. The way I sell my team on defense is you get a free chance to run down and get a fast break and score in transition."

"We wanted to put pressure on the wings and front number 15 (Rice center Valeriya Berezhynska) and really do some different things differently. We went from a 2-3 zone to what we call a 'diamond' zone. Then, we went back to man-to-man; and, we pressed a little bit. We tried to give Rice different looks; but, at the end of the day, this was a gut win. This was a win on heart. I was very proud of our players."

"First, I want to give Cynthia a lot of credit," said Greg Williams. "She's done a great job with this program. They've played a really tough schedule. This game was only their second home game (this season.) We knew it was going to be tough coming in here. She's done a really great job. I give her a lot credit for where this program is right now.

"We were extremely sloppy and careless with the basketball. We had 17 turnovers at halftime. We didn't improve that much in the second half. Really, they didn't press us much. A lot of our turnovers were careless. They did a good job of course; but, we were careless with the ball. We weren't very tough with the ball. We through a lot of soft passes; and, they took advantage of it and that was the difference in the game. They were the more aggressive team getting to the free throw line a lot more times than we did. Most of the times in our wins this season we got the free throw line more than our opponent; but, tonight, we weren't even close. It all adds up to a very disappointing loss for us and a very good win for Cynthia and Prairie View."
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Monday, December 24, 2007

UAB's McFadden Earns C-USA Weekly Honor

Today, Conference USA named UAB's Crystal McFadden the Women's Basketball Player of the Week, for the week ending December 23, after earning Most Valuable Player honors at the Blazer Invitational tournament.

2007 - 2008 C-USA Women's Basketball Players of the Week

Dec. 24 -- Crystal McFadden, UAB.
Dec. 17 -- Casey Baker, Marshall.
Dec. 10 -- LaToya Terry, East Carolina & Pauline Love, Southern Miss.
Dec. 3 --- Delisha Wills, SMU.
Nov. 26 -- Janielle Dodds, SMU.
Nov. 20 -- Maudess Fulton, Rice & Crystal McFadden, UAB.
Nov. 12 -- Valeriya Berezhynska, Rice.
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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Greg Williams discusses pre and post Christmas break

After Thursday's 66 to 65 win by Rice over Rider, Rice head coach Greg Williams spoke with the media about the effects the two weeks off for final exams had on his team in the game as well as the two games after the Christmas break.

"It (the layoff) always does. That's the situation at Rice: we have to take two weeks off; and, it had been two full weeks. It's difficult to take 14 days off -- you know we didn't take them all off -- but, it's hard to practice consistently because of finals. Mentally, at Rice, they're very drained. They're very fatigued -- mentally and physically.

"Plus, we had some beat up players. We had to rest Kadie (Riverin) an entire week. Val (Berezhynska) sprained her ankle in the last seconds of our TCU game (on December 6). Val had no contact for two weeks and had limited contact yesterday (Wednesday, December 19). That's all she had.
Shyrelle Horne did not practice yesterday at all. Her shoulder had flared back on her; but, she gave us real solid minutes tonight. Despite the break, we had so many injuries that we could only practice with seven healthy players.

"This game (the game before Christmas break) is always a concern. We tried to tell the players, 'Hey, Christmas break starts at 9 o'clock tonight not before the game.' We have four freshman players that are playing some; and, they are all looking to go home (for Christmas). We know that.

"I think the lack of focus was reflected in the first half."

After the Christmas break, Rice plays at Prairie View (Friday, December 28, at 6pm) and at Baylor on December 30.

"The first game after Christmas break is maybe even worse because the players would have gone home for five days; and, we'll only have two practices before we play Prairie View at Prairie View. That's going to be tough. We know that. That's the way we set up our schedule. We know that Christmas time is important for the kids to spend time with their families; so, we take the good with the bad there."

Playing PV (4 - 7) on the road will not be easy.

"Prairie View has played an extremely difficult schedule and very few home games; but, we know what we're getting into -- the players may not know it -- but I do. It's going to be very difficult. Then, two days later, we play Baylor whose only lost one non-conference game since Kim Mulkey has been there (as head coach). That's why this game tonight was important to at least give us that cushion of being two games above .500 (7 - 5). In case we stumble these next two games, at least we're .500 going into conference (Conference USA)."
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Friday, December 21, 2007

UH 73, TCU 68

The Houston Lady Cougars (btw, are they still known as 'Lady Cougars?') came from behind in the final seven minutes to defeat TCU 73 to 68 Friday night at Hofheinz Pavilion in front of 501 fans.

Yes, that's right. 501 fans.

Houston trailed TCU (5 - 7) 59 to 52 with 7:02 left in the ball game. Plus, senior guard Tye Jackson and starting center Cobilyn Hill were on the bench with four fouls each; therefore, things didn't look promising for the Cougars.

However, UH (5 - 7) showed surprising poise on offense and scored eight straight points to go ahead 60 to 59. Senior Whitney James started the run with a three-point play; then, freshman guard Jasmine Johnson hit three of four free throws; and freshman forward Courtney Taylor capped the run with a short jump shot.

The game went back and forth for a minute before Houston's Ryan Meyers scored a lay-up to give UH a 64 to 63 lead with 3:28 remaining in the game. Jackson scored the game's next four points (one jump shot and two made free throws); but, TCU's Helena Sverrisdottir made a layup to cut Houston's lead to three (68 to 65) with 1:36 left in the ball game.

After Houston's Twiggy McIntyre split two free throws, TCU senior Adrienne Ross drained a three point shot to trim Houston's lead to 69 to 68 with 51 seconds remaining.

UH did not call time-out. McIntyre took her time dribbling the ball up the sideline; then, she made a soft pass toward Jackson which Jackson, to her credit, came toward the pass (thus avoiding a very costly turnover); and, caught the ball near the top of the key. Jackson penetrated into the free throw lane; drew the defense; and passed to a wide open McIntyre. McIntyre rattled in a three-pointer to put Houston ahead 72 to 68 with just 26 seconds left in the game.

"Shots hadn't been falling for me (the entire game); so, I knew I was due for one (to go in)," said McIntyre after the game. "Tye made a great penetration move to the basket and just left me wide open; so, she created the shot for me; and, I'm just glad it fell."

UH held on to win the game 73 to 68.

UH turned the ball over 24 times; but, the Coogs shot 50% (24 for 48) from the field including 6 for 11 from three point range. Houston also shot 19 for 22 from the free throw line.

Jackson led Houston with 14 points. Ryan Meyers scored 13 points. McIntyre and freshman Brittney Scott added 10 points each.

"It's a tribute to our kids," said Danny Hughes, UH interim head coach after the game. "We were down seven with about seven to go. Those kids that came off the bench made some plays and played awfully well for us."

"I know Twiggy didn't play well tonight; and, she struggled at times. But, I told her, with about 3 or 4 minutes to go, 'Keep your head up. You're going to make a play for us down the stretch.' There it was. She got that open look and she made it."

"We're coming together," said Tye Jackson. "We had a tough beginning to the season; but, conference is getting ready to start and, we're playing together. We're playing hard for 40 minutes."
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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Harding to the Comets?

According to an article in the Houston Chronicle, Lindsey Harding, former Cy Fair High School and Duke University star, is trying to work (some may say 'force') a trade from the Minnesota Lynx, Harding's current WNBA team, to the Houston Comets. The reported deal would send Harding to the Comets in exchange for center Michelle Snow or forward / center Sancho Lyttle and the Comets' fifth pick in the 2008 WNBA Draft.

Harding's rookie season in the WNBA was cut short due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament knee injury; however, at the time of the injury, despite woeful shooting numbers (35.4% from the field, 22.9% from 3-point range), Harding (5'8, point guard) was leading the rookies in scoring (11.7 per game) and assists (3.9 per game). She was second among the rookies in rebounds (4.4 per game) and third in steals (1.0 per game).

Typically, a player does not return to being the player they were before an ACL injury for about two years; so, if the Comets were to acquire Harding, they must keep that fact in mind. Also, since there is currently no collective bargaining agreement between the WNBA and the players' association, a new agreement would need to be reached and ratified. (I've been told the two sides are not close to reaching a deal.)

The HRR has not contacted Comets' head coach / general manager Karleen Thompson; but, owner Hilton Koch told The HRR he had "no comment" on the deal.
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Bianca and D-Rob Earn Big 12 Honors

Yesterday, the Big 12 announced its Big 12 Women's Basketball Players of the Week for the week ending December 9.

Colorado's Bianca Smith (from Bellaire HS, Bellaire, TX) was named the Player of the Week while Oklahoma's Danielle Robinson (D-Rob) earned her third Rookie of the Week honor this season. Smith received her first career honor.

Smith averaged 19.0 points and 2.0 rebounds while leading Colorado to wins over No. 22/21 Wyoming and at No. 20/17 Vanderbilt.

Robinson was OU's second leading scorer last week, averaging 12.5 points in road wins at Illinois and Tulsa.

2007 - 2008 Big 12 Player of the Week
Dec. 10 -- Bianca Smith, Colorado.
Dec. 3 --- Courtney Paris, Oklahoma.
Nov. 26 -- Andrea Riley, Oklahoma State.
Nov. 19 -- Heather Ezell, Iowa State.
Nov. 12 -- Danielle Page, Nebraska.

2007 - 2008 Big 12 Rookie of the Week
Dec. 10 -- Danielle Robinson, Oklahoma.
Dec. 3 --- Stanecia Graham, Texas Tech.
Nov. 26 -- Danielle Robinson, Oklahoma.
Nov. 19 -- Danielle Robinson, Oklahoma and Kathleen Nash, Texas.
Nov. 12 -- Nicollette Smith, Kansas.
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C-USA Names Co-Players of the Week

Yesterday, Conference USA has named East Carolina's LaToya Terry and Pauline Love of Southern Miss as Co-Players of the Week for women's basketball. Terry led ECU to an 89-82 victory over 24th-ranked North Carolina State Sunday afternoon with a 19 point and 10 assist performance, while Love averaged 17.5 points and 16.5 rebounds while shooting 43.3 percent from the field and 75.0 percent from the line in two games last week.

Dec. 10 -- LaToya Terry, East Carolina and Pauline Love, Southern Miss.
Dec. 3 --- Delisha Wills, SMU.
Nov. 26 -- Janielle Dodds, SMU.
Nov. 20 -- Maudess Fulton, Rice & Crystal McFadden, UAB.
Nov. 12 -- Valeriya Berezhynska, Rice.
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Friday, December 07, 2007

Comets: 12/07/07

Recently, I spoke with Hilton Koch, owner of the Houston Comets. Though our talk was "off the record" -- nothing recorded -- I will post a few things of interest:

Hilton told me ticket sales and sponsorships are going well because the organization now has time (compared to the late start this past season) as well as staff to concentrate on contacting people and businesses to encourage (and urge) them to support the Comets.

The Comets' organization has set a goal to sell 3,000 season tickets for the 2008 season.

Lastly, Hilton told me he'd like to talk with me as much as possible in the future regarding news about the Comets.
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HBU loses; Rice wins

Thursday night, Houston Baptist University hosted a women's basketball double-header. The Huskies played Harding University in the first game while the Rice Owls played TCU in the night cap.

The Bison executed their offense with precision during the game's final eight minutes and erased an eight point Huskies' lead and
defeated the Huskies 74 to 64.

"We didn't get the basketball stops that we needed," said Huskies head coach Todd Buchanan after the game. "Basketball is a game of runs. We had a great run. We were eight up at about the 10 minute mark of the game."

"Ten minutes left to go in the game; I'm really at a loss for words and understanding what happened after that."

"We still don't have the killer instinct to finish games."

HBU begins a four-game road trip Saturday, December 8, with a 2 pm match up with Wayland Baptist.

"Needless to say," added Buchanan. "We'll have to play a whole lot better (on the road) than the way we're playing right now."

Owls top TCU by Eight

While I was interviewing Coach Buchanan, apparently, I missed a key to the Rice Owls'
82 to 74 win over TCU. No, it wasn't the fact the Owls were playing their first "home" game in three weeks. No, it wasn't the great support from the Owls band nor the great support from the Owls' fans who drove to Sharp Gym for the game.

The difference to the win was a new cheer. That's right a new cheer.

Owls' senior guard Kadie Riverin and sophomore guard Tara Watts said so after the game.

"We knew one of the things we were struggling with is energy," said Riverin. "So, we tried to change some of our cheers; pump everybody up. Everybody got fired up."

"We had a different pre-game cheer," Watts laughed. "We got krunked. The music was different, too."

Rice (6-5) started the game with a 14 to 2 run; however, TCU (3-5) answered with a 15 to 5 run to trim the Owls' lead to 19 to 17 with 9:15 left in the opening half. The game was tied four times over the next six minutes before the Owls went on a quick 7 to 0 burst to lead 39 to 32 before the Horned Frogs closed the half with four points.

After TCU pulled within three points (41 to 38) early in the second half, the Owls scored eight consecutive points to lead by 11. Rice led by double digits for most of the game's next 10 minutes. However, a jump shot by TCU's Danielle Nunn trimmed Rice's lead to just eight (71 to 63) with three minutes and 13 seconds left in the game. Nunn scored a lay-up to pull TCU closer; however, Riverin swished a three-point jump shot from the top of the key with 2:15 on the clock to give the Owls a much needed basket.

Adrianne Ross drained a three-point shot to trim the lead to six once again; however, Owls' senior center Valeryia Berezhynska converted a three-point play to put Rice ahead 77 to 68 with sixty-nine seconds left in the game.

TCU took advantage of a few mental breakdowns by the Owls during the final seconds of the game to pull within six points (80 to 74) with nine seconds left in the game; but, Riverin hit two free throws to put the game away.

If a new cheer and new music was the tonic needed to end a four-game losing streak, good call.
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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Owls vs. TCU Tonight

The Rice Owls take on former Southwestern Conference rival TCU tonight -- at HBU's Sharp Gym -- at approximately 7:30 pm.

HBU plays Harding at 5:30 tonight to kick off the women's hoops doubleheader.

Tonight's game will be just the second home game for the Owls (5 - 5) this season.

A few Owls tidbits are included in "
The Fastbreak" put together by Owls sports information director Matt Dunaway.

For example:

International Update
Lauren Neaves, Michelle Woods, and Amber Cunningham are three former Rice Owls who are succeeding overseas.

Neaves is playing for Calais in France’s Ligue Feminine de Basketball. She is coming off a 28-point and 12-rebound effort against Aix-en-Provence on Dec. 2. She is averaging 11.8 points and 8.7 rebounds per game.

Woods poured in 22 points and added 23 rebounds for Isreal’s Maccabi Tel Kabir against Hapoel Tel Aviv on Dec. 3. She is averaging 17 points and 8.9 rebounds per game.

Cunningham’s team, BC Teleorman Alexandria in Romania, is in second place and off to a 6-1 start.
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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

OU's CP3 and Tech's Graham Earn Honors

Oklahoma University's Courtney Paris and Texas Tech's Stanecia Graham were named Big 12 Players of the Week for the week ending December 2.

Courtney Paris was named the Phillips 66 Big 12 Player of the Week while Graham was named Rookie of the Week, announced by the conference office Tuesday morning, by a media voting panel for games played from Nov. 26 to Dec. 2.

It was the 17th time in her career that Paris earned either player of the week or rookie of the week honors from the Big 12, extending her conference record.

CP3 averaged 20.5 points and 18.5 rebounds in leading Oklahoma past North Texas, 79-47, and Arkansas State, 93-36, in OU's first home games of the season.

Graham averaged 19 points and eight rebounds in Texas Tech's two wins last week to improve the Lady Raiders' record to 9-0.
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Comets' Toy and Clothing Drive

Tis the season...

...The Houston Comets and Hilton Furniture & Mattress will host a toy and clothing drive on December 11, 2007 from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. at 1730 Jefferson Street in downtown Houston. Toy and clothing donations will benefit The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club Irvington Branch, the March of Dimes, Texas Division, Houston Chapter and St. John’s Academy and Bread of Life, Inc.

The items requested for donation are listed
right here.

Financial contributions can be made payable to the Houston Comets Foundation.
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Monday, December 03, 2007

SMU's Wills Named Player of the Week

SMU sophomore forward Delisha Wills has been named C-USA Women's Basketball Player of the Week after averaging 17.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game in SMU two victories over the weekend. She also shot a solid 61.9 percent (13-of-21) from the field and 75.0 percent (9-of-12) from the free throw line.

This is Wills' first C-USA Player of the Week honor.

Dec. 3 -- Delisha Wills, SMU.
Nov. 26 -- Janielle Dodds, SMU.
Nov. 19 -- Maudess Fulton, Rice and Crystal McFadden, UAB.
Nov. 12 -- Valeriya Berezhynska, Rice.
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Coogs Announce 2 Signees

The University of Houston women's basketball team signed two student-athletes to National Letters of Intent during the early singing period, Interim Head Coach Danny Hughes announced today.

The two players,
Roxana Button (Dallas, Texas/Coppell HS) and Deeva Vaughn (Albuquerque, N.M./Highland HS) are both rising seniors in high school and will join the Cougars for the 2008-09 season.

I interviewed Roxana August 21, 2007. A photo of her is posted

I have not interviewed Deeva Vaughn; but, I knew of Houston's interest in her months ago. However, since I don't know much about her game, I used the Internet to try to learn a little bit about her.

Check out these two posts from the Albuquerque Tribune's
AP All-State Basketball Team:



Interesting. Very interesting.
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Sunday, December 02, 2007

WBCA to Launch First Health Initiative

Monday afternoon, December 3, representatives from ESPN, The V Foundation, the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA); as well as North Carolina State's women's basketball coach Kay Yow will attend a press conference which will introduce the WBCA’s first health initiative and The V Foundation’s newest women’s initiative.

This is the first time that the WBCA has chosen a health initiative in its 26 year history and is the newest women’s initiative at The V Foundation. Major supporters of this new fund include The V Foundation, ESPN, NCAA, Kay Yow, Geno Auriemma and Pat Summitt.

As Sherri Coale, current president of the WBCA
told The HRR in October, creating the Kay Yow Fund was one of the goals set by the WBCA.

“Another thing the WBCA is diligently working towards now is creating the Kay Yow Fund which is an organization that will obviously help fight breast cancer and will be involved in research and treatment,” said Coale. “There have been many such initiatives; but, none really all bound together as a voice of the WBCA. Different campuses have celebrated ‘Pink Outs’. We (OU) did one of those; but, for everyone to have a concerted effort and send all the funding to the Kay Yow Fund and, ultimately the Jimmy V Foundation will make a significant difference in the fight against breast cancer; so, we’re working diligently to get those things into motion. We’re very, very excited about that.”

The press conference will be held at Rutgers University’s Louis Brown Athletic Center (The RAC) prior to The Jimmy V Classic matchup between top-six teams Rutgers and Maryland at 6:00 p.m. CST.
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