Behind The ScenesNCAAB

Highest-scoring women’s basketball game part of endurance test for ESPN crew

Fran Fraschilla and Jon Sciambi took a pre-game photo that will serve as a reminder of their historic call of the Kentucky-Baylor women’s game.
Jon Sciambi (l) and Fran Fraschilla took a pre-game photo that will serve as a reminder of their historic call of the Kentucky-Baylor women’s game.

Saturday morning, when basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla ducked in for a (much-needed) coffee at his local Starbucks, a gentleman in a Baylor Bears hat approached him with a simple message.

“Thank you for covering our Bears, Fran,” the man said.

“That’s what it’s all about,” Fraschilla said late Sunday, two days after calling the highest-scoring Division I women’s game in history, a 133-130 quadruple overtime win by Kentucky over Baylor. “We knew we had a good game, we had no idea it would become historic.”

The game was a part of doubleheader, played at Arlington, Texas’s AT&T Stadium – site of this year’s men’s Final Four – and featured the men’s teams from Kentucky and Baylor in the second half of the twin bill. The women’s game – called by Fraschilla and play-by-play partner, Jon Sciambi – was telecast on ESPN3 and WatchESPN beginning at 6:30 p.m. local time (7:30 ET).

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Bonus Basketball

The bonus basketball from the Baylor-Kentucky women’s game marked the second straight Friday where an extended time game was featured on one of the ESPN networks.

“The prior Friday we had the third-place game of the NIT Season Tip-Off between Drexel and Alabama that went to three overtimes on ESPN2,” said Jay Levy, ESPN’s senior coordinating producer for college basketball. “The championship game between Arizona and Duke was scheduled for ESPN. With that game running long on ESPN2, the ESPN studio crew of Steve Weisman, Seth Greenberg and Dan Dakich put on their dancing shoes and tap-danced their way through a 45-plus minute ‘fill’.

“This type of thing happens often because we televise a lot of same-site multiple-game events,” he said. “It was coincidental that the UK-Baylor producer and director have also done the Maui Invitational for many years and Ken Dennis, for a number of years, has directed all 12 games in 3 days. So if there was anyone I was confident of directing two games in six hours with no fatigue, it was Kenny.”[/box]

The men’s game was slated for a 9 p.m. local start time and wound up being delayed 75 minutes as the women’s game finished. [A decision to put the women’s game on ESPN3/WatchESPN was made late in the week when the programming department realized no one was showing the game involving two Top 10 teams and thus offered a way for the network to serve sports fans. Fraschilla is no stranger to the women’s game, having done several years of the women’s NCAA Tournament and Sciambi was familiar with both teams.]

“It was clear something was brewing when [Baylor’s] Odyssey Sims hit 40 points,” Fraschila said. “But then she gets to 47 points and fouled out in the first OT. It didn’t realy become historic until the second overtime.”

By that point, Kentucky’s Jennifer O’Neill became the individual story, scoring 43 points. . . off the bench!

“It was one of the most memorable games I’ve called in a while,” said Sciambi, who quickly shifted back to baseball mode as part of ESPN’s coverage team for Baseball’s Winter Meetings. “I had 25 texts when I got off the air from people who had watched and were just blown away by it.”

The game’s audience grew significantly late in the second overtime when ESPN switched to the ESPN3/WatchESPN telecast, sensing something special was going down.

“The funny thing was that based on the added equipment we had at the game (including super slo-mo, Behind the Glass IMovix and Above the Rim cameras) it was probably the most equipment ever for a women’s college basketball, non-Final Four game and definitely the biggest equipment compliment for an ESPN3 game ever,” said Jay Levy, senior coordinating producer for college basketball. “It was fun watching the game and listening to Fran and ‘Boog’, who were getting more and more into it as the OTs were coming.

“It reminded me of last year when Dan Shulman and Dick Vitale called the 5-OT Louisville-Notre Dame game,” he said. “As the game moved on, I could hear in both instances the announcers getting caught up in the excitement, drama and history.”

The regular Saturday Big 12 pairing of Fraschilla and Sciambi – and the hard-working crew behind the scenes – wound up calling nearly six consecutive hours of basketball by the time the Baylor men had defeated Kentucky, 67-62. Fraschilla admitted to squeezing in a bathroom break and a “quick nosh [consisting of] a plain turkey sandwich on a white roll” in the 25 minutes between games.

“After the men’s game, we all go to the production truck to talk about the game,” Fraschilla said. “We all knew what happened was unique. It was kind of like being part of a 21-inning baseball game – you knew you were part of history. Kudos to the executives who made the decision to do the game. We ended up serving fans beyond our wildest dreams.”

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