Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Monday, December 05, 2016

The Guru Roundup: UConn Shakes Off Texas on Way to Notre Dame 1 vs. 2 Showdown

By Mel Greenberg @wmhoopsguru

UNCASVILLE, Conn. – The University of Connecticut women’s basketball team may not be the veritable wrecking ball of recent seasons in the wake of the graduations of Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson, and Morgan Tuck, but Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma’s Huskies are still causing mayhem despite their view at the moment not being from the top of the sport in terms of the polls.

That could sort itself out Wednesday night when UConn takes its No. 2 position into South Bend, Ind., to face top-ranked Notre Dame in the battle of unbeatens.

It’s the second time in three seasons the two former old Big East rivals will be in a 1 vs. 2 contest.

The last time occurred much later when the Huskies beat the Irish for the 2015 title, but unlike this time, UConn had one setback during the regular season and Notre Dame had two and neither met along the way because the the Irish had moved to the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Huskies became part of the renamed American carved out of the football schools of the old Big East.

Of course, back then the ranking order was reversed.

The setup for Wednesday was put in place Sunday when each team reached 7-0 – Notre Dame blasted unranked Valparaiso 114-54 while here at the Mohegan Sun, home of the WNBA Connecticut Sun, the Huskies handled No. 14 Texas 72-54 in the Hall of Fame/Jimmy V game that used to be separate marquee events on the national women’s card.

It’s no surprise that Notre Dame is ranked where it is, though the Irish have not faced a major test, since coach Muffet McGraw’s group outlasted a crowded contingent for preseason No. 1 rights in the wake of the Stewart-Washington-Tuck exits that saw then land 1-2-3 at the top of the WNBA draft last spring.

But UConn, because of those exits, was expected to be further down the line with a talented but young roster.

Prior to Sunday, UConn and the Longhorns (2-4) had met twice in two recent NCAA tournaments with the Huskies winning 105-54 in 2015 and 86-65 last season.

It went a little better for Texas,  which is now 0-8 all-time against UConn., here Sunday, trailing  57-49 at the end of three quarters. Then the roof fell in with Napheesa Collier (8) and Katie Lou Samuelson (5) combining for 13 of the Huskies 15 points in a 15-5 finish to get to the final 72-54 score.

“I’m really disappointed from the sense that I thought our team really competed for three quarters,” Texas head coach Karen Aston said. “Then, it got really tough. I don’t want to sit up here and make a bunch of excuses, it got tough in the fourth quarter and they out-toughed us.

“I thought they competed a little better, they competed a little longer on possessions, and were just a little tougher than we were and and again I thought we handled the atmosphere and played really well and it’s something our team has struggled with right now playing four quarters.”

The nearly packed house of 9,018 made the atmosphere rather electric.

Texas, which has to battle No. 4 Baylor in the Big 12 later this season, has not shied away from non-conference matchups, losing at Stanford 71-59, at Mississippi State 79-68, and at home to No. 3 South Carolina 76-67 on Thursday.

The Longhorns started this one like perhaps UConn was finally going to stumble after surviving opening night at Florida State, 78-76, at the finish, and then next time out stunned Baylor in the home opener with a fast finish for a 72-61.

They led by as many as six but suffered a lost early when Ariel Atkins went out for the rest of the game after an injury six minutes into the contest.

“That was difficult because she got a very good start for us,” Aston said.

Auriemma said he told his team during the initial Texas thrust, “’You can just take a deep breath. This game is over. You don’t have to Rory about anything.’ They just kicked our asses for five minutes. This is going to keep happening for the next 35 minutes, so don’ worry about it.’

“It was a scare the first five minutes the way the game started. They got stunned. We’re not used to that.”

But they’re still used to the fact that talent takes you a long way and perhaps the only difference so far is that instead of things have done wholesale so far, different players in different games have single handedly done the job to bring the overall current win streak to 82, getting closer to the UConn NCAA record 90 set several seasons ago until Stanford provided the stop.

Now it’s Notre Dame looming ahead to block the latest run but anything is possible.

“It’s really hard to put a label on this team,” Auriemma said. “They just seem to do what they need to do. That’s what it appears to me right now. We don’t appear to be the kind of team right now that just goes in there and posses their will on the other team like we’ve been doing the last couple of teams.

“We’re more of a ‘OK what do we have to do today. Let’s figure it out and let’s do it.’ And it’s a little frustrating at times from a coach’s standpoint. We seem to find someone each game that kind of gets it going for us.

“In the Baylor game it was (freshman) Crystal (Dangerfield). In the Florida State game it was ‘Pheesa. And today it was Kia (Nurse). And it was Kia the other night. And ‘Lou in the second half. So somebody seems to recognize that ‘That’s OK. This is what we need right now.’ And they do it.

“And that’s one of the nice things about playing some of the teams we are playing. We have to play that way. We have to step up. AndI thought today we had a tough fight today. That first five minutes was a real eye opener. ‘Cause we’re used to doing that to people.”

Doing it individually in terms of the boxscore for the home team, Collier finished with24 points, eight rebounds, and five steals, while Nurse had 15, Samuelson had 12, and Gabby Williams had 11.

Texas’ Brooke McCarthy scored 15, while Kelsey Lang had 12 points and 10 rebounds.


Duke Stuns South Carolina

Should Connecticut survive Notre Dame, still ahead before hitting the less formidable American Athletic Conference slate are Ohio State’s visit to Hartford, Dec. 19, and a visit to Maryland, Dec. 29.

And if the Huskies are still standing when 2017 arrives at the end of the month, forecasters look down the road to Feb. 13 when South Carolina arrives on campus at Gampel in Storrs and the current UConn streak would be attempting win No. 100.

But that became a little less formidable Sunday when Duke, which has been out of the rankings for a while since dropping out late last season, beat the Gamecocks at home Sunday shocked the Gamecocks 74-63 in Cameron Indoor Stadium as Rebecca Greenwall scored 29 points.

It’s the first time since 2009 that the. Blue Devils (9-1) have beaten a Top 3 opponent.

“I wanted to make a statement, said Oderah Chidom, who added 15 points to the Duke Ambush, “and South Carolina’s a great team to do it agains.”

The Gamecocks (6-1), in their first loss of the season, suffered 19 turnovers, a season-worse number of miscues that ended up with Duke mining 28 points.

And if Duke could be headed back into prominence, Tennessee could once again be outside looking in with a much shorter stay after last season’s first voter banishment in over three decades.

The Lady Vols got run over by No. 4 Baylor at home in Knoxville 88-66, making it three straight Sundays in which winning has become taboo following upset setbacks at Penn State and Virginia Tech before falling at home to the Bears.


Local Roundup: La Salle Stuns Dayton

Three of the PhillyhoopsW crowd had games Sunday and if anything was a major surprise, it happened on the road where La Salle got off to a 1-0 start in the Atlantic 10 with a 54-41 WBB at Dayton, dropping the once dominating Flyers to 3-4 on the season while the Explorers got back to .500 at 4-4 following last Wednesday’s loss at Villanova.

Dayton didn’t help itself, missing 12 foul shots.

Jasmine Alston hit a key foul shot for La Salle with 50.1 seconds left in regulation and then Micahya Owens locked it up with two more free throws with 5.1 seconds left.

Amy Griffin, the leading scorer in the A-10 last season, collected 23 points while Alston dealt a game-high seven assists. Next up the Explorers take their 0-2 Big Five record to Penn (0-1 Big Five) Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Delaware, which had been somewhat of an early surprise winning close games, fell Sunday at home in the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark to Georgetown 54-46 in a non-conference game.

Falling to 5-3, the Blue Hens struggled, shooting 27.8 percent from the floor and committing season highs in fouls (20) and turnovers (15).

Nicole Enabosi had 19 points and 12 rebounds for the Blue Hens, while Hannah Jardine had 12 points and six rebounds.

Georgetown (6-2) got 18 points from Dionna White.

While acknowledging that all was not bad, veteran Delaware coach Tina Martin noted, “We did not execute the way we needed to and that put a lot of pressure on our defense.”

Delaware goes off to Loyola, Md., on Wednesday to meet the Greyhounds coached by former Saint Joseph’s assistant Joe Logan.

Temple (4-2) recovered from its loss at Harvard, beating Vermont 54-39 at home in McGonigle Hall as the Owls forced 23 turnovers and got 27 points from their bench in dropping the Catamounts to 3-5.

Alliya Butts and Donnaizha Fountain each scored 16 points for Temple and Fountain also grabbed nine rebounds. Feyonda Fitzgerald had six points and seven assists.

The win spoiled two homecomings on Vermont, coached by Chris Day, the son-in-law of retired NBA official Joey Crawford who was recently in reverse-order an assistant at Penn after stays at Indiana, Saint Joseph’s and La Salle.

One of his assistants is recently graduated Villanova star Caroline Coyer, who suffered a knee injury near the end of last season that deprived her getting drafted to the WNBA.

“I’m surprised no one invited her to a camp last season,” said Curt Miller, coach of the WNBA Connecticut Sun here, Sunday during a pre-UConn game media event held by the local pro team. “But then again the injury had been close to when camps opened.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if she didn’t get an invite or two next time around.”

Temple next goes to Hampton Wednesday and then its on to Villanova Saturday for a battle of Big Five unbeatens, each at 2-0, the only two unbeaten teams remaining in the local City Series.

Before that game, the Wildcats host Lehigh Monday night in the only game on the local schedule.

And that’s a wrap.


Mike Siroky's SEC Report: The League Takes Some Hits

By Mike Siroky

It may be routine to the Southeastern Conference of women’s basketball to have multiple teams in the Associated Press Top 20 – our barometer of success – but it ain’t easy.

In this modern era of women’s hoops, the SEC regularly qualifies at least a fourth of the Sweet 16.

South Carolina has emerged as the team after UConn by which to measure yourself, nationally as well conference wide.

Nonetheless, all the conference teams fell out before the Final Four once again, an NCAA record of elimination by league teams stretching back to 2009.

The league was without an NCAA finalist only twice before that.

They may smear each other’s makeup for the national presentations  in the rough and tumble of the conference headbutts, but, still, nine made the NCAAs last season.

The strength of schedule in winning 20 overall in this league trumps all other conferences. In this last month before the league starts, the focus is still on winning 10 before 2017, because that increases the NCAA chances.

Only Mississippi State won twice and got to eight wins in the ranking week.
The hype for Naismith national Player of the Year has started, obviously based on reputation projecting future success. In other words, pure speculation.

It was very easy in recent seasons to just concede it all to UConn’s Brianna Stewart.

The serious candidates will be IDed in February when the list is pared almost in half.

UConnn has four nominees of course.

But so does South Carolina, led by A’ja Wilson, the defending league MVP and the program’s other returning All-American, Alaina Coates. They are joined by now-eligible transfers Alisha Gray and Kaela Davis.

Other SEC nominees: Morgan William and Victoria Vivians (Mississippi State); Makayla Epps and Evelyn Akhator (Kentucky); Mercedes Russell and Diamond DeShields (Tennessee); and Sophie Cunningham (Missouri).

The best conference is also well-represented with the usual suspects on the WBCA Wade Trophy watch list of 25 for the coaches’ National Player of the Year.

They are: DeShields, Epps, Vivians, Wilson and Coates. That’s a fifth of the group.


No. 3 South Carolina

The Gamecocks went to No. 14 Texas as the marquee game of the SEC/Big 12 challenge.

Though they hadn’t played in a decade, Texas was 2-0 in the series. That ended with SC’s 76-67 win before 3,330.

It was a sixth straight win.

SC had won all but two quarters this season, but was taken to task in the first.

But Wilson began to connect, 4-of-5 from the field and 2-of-3 from the line in the 16-14 first-quarter deficit.
Each scored nine as the second quarter hit the four-minute mark. Then SC edged ahead by four at the break.

Texas scored four of the first five out of the locker room and it was deadlocked again. Texas was five ahead in rebounds.

Didn’t matter. Texas could not solve SC’s physical game and resorted to grab-a-Gamecock defense.

SC answered with 30-of-40 from the line.

Frontline mate Coates was stuck with foul trouble most of the night, delivering six free throws in 22 minutes.

Wilson finished with a career-best 31 points, with 12 rebounds and four blocks. Davis scored a dozen.

“A’ja Wilson took over,” said SC coach Dawn Staley. “What I saw started pregame because she had two great days of practice. She showed her versatility.

Still, “That’s not the best I have seen her play. Last year at Kentucky, that was the game.”

Texas qualifies as an honorary SEC member, having lost to the top two teams in conference, as will most other league members.

SC is following the Pat Head Summitt toughening plan of taking on all comers, at this point having erased three Top 14 teams.

They next headed to Duke, a staggered program. They had won the last two there.

But Duke is who eliminated Mississippi State last season.

The home team and a crowd of 6,036 was ready in a 74-63 runaway.

Duke won the middle quarters by 15, which is when they won the overall game.

Coates had but eight points in 37 minutes; Wilson 18 in 35. Davis scored 14 but was hassled into 5-of-14 from the field and 2-of-9 from the line. Duke had seen her before in ACC play.

Duke saw its lead sag to five in the final quarter but settled down.

SC takes a week off to refocus.

An interesting stat line: South Carolina leads the nation in free throws made per game (21.2) and free throw attempts per game (30.0) -- the only program to average at least 20 and 30, respectively. They were 6-of-23 this time.

“We were undisciplined. That’s what it’s called,” Staley said. “We knew coming into this season that we would take a hit defensively. And sometimes when you’re winning, and you’re beating top-ranked teams, you can’t give that lesson to your players because they just think, ‘Hey, we’re winning! We’re doing it the right way.’ ”

She took the blame.

“I subbed. I did something that I don’t normally do, so I’m going to take the hit on this,” Staley said. “I went against my normal substitution pattern, because I’m trying to just grow our bench a little bit.

“And that was costly, because they did go on a (26-7) run at that particular time and they got momentum. And we could never get it back.”

Duke scored 19 off 19 takeaways.
“This is a good learning lesson for us,” said Wilson. “I’m not concerned about this team. I think we have a great team.”

Wilson may be the returning conference player of the year, but Coates is already twice player of the week this season.

And here’s what Staley said about Davis: “I’m comfortable. Our assistant coaches aren’t very comfortable. They cringe. It's different. We don’t have Mitchell, we don’t have Dozier. Different isn’t always bad. It’s a different good.”


No. 6 Mississippi State

The Bulldogs are at the program high point.

Surprisingly, they are 12th in field goal defense among conference teams, offset by a 27.4 scoring differential.

That came into play in this week’s game.

They took a vacation from their Hawaii vacation and played but once, at Iowa State.

The Cyclones had won 94 straight non-conference games at home. Coach Bill Fennelly has been there since. He has won more than 600 career games, 443 at home. They have twice made the Elite 8, three times in the Sweet 16.
They have been in the national rankings only in tenure, 18 winning seasons and the third-best draw behind South Carolina and Tennessee, better than 10,000 per.

But they did not qualify for the Field of 64 last season at 13-17 and losing in the first round of the conference tournament.

They had not had a losing season in more than a decade.

He is also fighting a lawsuit by a former star who alleges racism and name-calling. His starting center quit in mid-season.

So the Cyclones needed a marquee win again.

State rallied magnificently from 11 down with four minutes to go, forced overtime, and dominated thereafter, in an 85-81 win.

Schaefer has scheduled eight straight on the road to open the season, another way of toughening a team.

“ We looked like we still had one foot left stuck in Hawaii,” Schaefer said. But offense is seldom the problem.

All five starters hit double figures.

Morgan William hit the final four three throws in 15 seconds as part of her 24. Vivians had 16. Roshunda Johnson's 3 with 11 seconds left in the fourth quarter forced overtime.

“We still have work to do,” William said. “We came out flat, but most important was (that) we fought through adversity.”

“That what great players do. They want to be in that moment and have the opportunity,” Schaefer said. “After that . . . our kids practice really hard.

Anything that goes longer than 40 minutes, we're kind of built for.”

Four Bulldogs played more than 30 minutes each, led by William’s 38.

It helped that Iowa State went to clock management and destroyed their own tempo, allowing the Bulldogs to do what they do. They hit 77 percent in the final quarter of regulation, silencing the crowd of 10,643 that came to see them.
Fennelly said, “We ran out of gas down the stretch.”

Iowa State had closed the first half on a 26-13 run, establishing a 43-26 halftime challenge. “That whole first half, they just stuck it down our throat and made us like it,” Schaefer said

The Bulldogs take another week between games, next appearing at state rival Southern Miss.


No. 17 Kentucky.

In another SEC/Big 12 showdown, UK welcomed previously unbeaten No. 12 Oklahoma and sent them away with a 82-68 win

UK started with a two-point halftime deficit. Epps went off for 18, 7-of-10 from the floor, 4-of-4 from the line with four assists. Akhator had been nullified by foul trouble.

UK went with five guards at time,

including Epps guarding the opposing center. She told her coach if he put her in there, they’d just get it done.

Maci Morris suddenly erupted with a career-high19, 11 in the second half, as UK earned a five-point third-quarter lead.

They won the quarter by a dozen, ending all doubt.

Less than nine months ago, also in Lexington, these teams had played a similar game in the NCAA eliminations, with UK blowing up in the endgame for that win

Backed by a crowd of 4,400 the advantage stretched to 13 in the fourth. Epps finished with 30, five assists. UK hit 17-of-20 from the line, 4-of-4 by Morris and 5-of-5 by Epps.

“They really had to dig deep,” said coach Matthew Mitchell.
“We have had to work so hard just to get our normal rotation down. We had to spend so much time on how to play and what will work and it has not left a lot of time on that five-guard lineup.

“We just have so much work to do,”
Epps said the start, of course, defines her night.

“I can’t predict the future,” she said, “but my main goal is to get started early. If I get started early, that builds my confidence and my momentum.

Coach always tells me when I'm energetic and hype that it’s contagious.

“There were five guards playing in a zone with me in the middle . . . the five guards went out there and got it done. I told Evelyn in the fourth quarter this was her quarter and she went out there and got it done. She’s the only player I’ve seen with three fouls and still going out there and taking charges.”

The Kats headed for No. 7 Louisville and the annual Bluegrass Battle.

Having already lost to another SEC team (South Carolina), Louisville was anxious to reclaim conference pride as well as personal pride in this series, having lost six straight.

They did both, 69-67, in overtime with 12,245 witnesses.

Epps did her best with 22 points and m a career-best16 defensive rebounds.

She was one of four starters to go more than 40 minutes, with 45.

But Akhator had a third straight tough game, fouling out in 19 minutes, with eight points and five rebounds, against an average of 16 points and 11 rebounds,

Epps got off the last two shots of regulation but each rimmed out. It was that close.

Of the one with 18 seconds left, she said, “In the air, I kind of got mixed up between shooting a jumper and shooting a floater.

“Stuff like that happens, but this is a learning moment for me. It hurt, but it’s something I can keep getting in the gym and nine times out of 10, I’m going to make that shot.”

“I thought we showed a little will to win tonight,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz.who last week ripped his team for attitude and playing for “participation trophies.”

“It’s been a very, very intense week.”
 “We had to do it for the city, had to do it for the state,” said Louisville guard Briahanna Jackson.

“We looked like our goose was cooked a couple times there and we kept coming back,” Mitchell said.

“Credit Louisville for playing hard, but I’m happy to be driving back to Lexington with this team that I’m fortunate enough to coach. We’ll just get better from here.”

UK plays one game this week after a rest stop.


No. 20 Florida.

The Gators opened the week by whomping Wofford, 75-51, with a 42-21 halftime lead and probably thoughts about the 44-minute bus bus ride back to campus after that.

As their arena continues under construction, they play home dates at College of Central Florida in Ocala,

They drew 783 for this.

Senior Ronni Williams continued to assert herself with a career-high 26 points and 11 rebounds. It is her second consecutive double-double effort.

She hit 12-of-16 from the field, ending six shy of 1,000 career points.

Sophomore Eleanna Christinaki made two 3-pointers and finished with 20 points on 8-of-12 from the field.

“I thought we gave a good, all-around effort,” said coach Amanda Butler. “When we were really looking for our paint touches, that’s when we were dominating the game on the offensive end.

“Defensively, I thought we did a pretty good job. Whenever you can get steals, that’s pretty solid. We had way too many turnovers. We didn't play with as much discipline as we needed to tonight.

“Ronni had a fantastic night, 26 points and 11 rebounds is good against anybody, any day of the week. Eleanna , another 20-point performance, which is fantastic. The goal for us is to be interchangeable. We believe in our depth and we believe in whomever the sixth person and seventh person is coming into the game – we want everything that they have. I think our upperclassmen did a great job of establishing ourselves.

“There’s going to be a lot to learn from this game. It sounds a little ridiculous, but we should have won by a little bit more. We have to take some pride in things that make us really good.

“One of the things our freshmen are learning is not just the speed of the game, but thinking the speed of the game.

“We ask a lot of our guards and I think there were times when they were relying more on their physical selves instead of their mental selves and that’s just something you have to learn. I think there are going to be great lessons for them to see on film.”

“The thing I love about this group, regardless of the lineup that's on the court, is that they play with tremendous effort. They play with tremendous heart. I thought we had some fantastic hustle plays. I also thought we had some really big minute from Elif (Portakal) tonight, which was really important.

“Our goal today, aside from winning the game, was to be our best. In some moments we were, and in some moments we weren’t. Those are the ones we’ll look at on film.”

Next up was Florida State. The film replay must work.

Among  Williams' game-high 18 was the 1,000th of her career during the 83-53 wipeout against Long Beach State in the first round of the Arizona State Classic held at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe. They drew better than 1,200.

 That set up a back-to-back game, against the host team. The Sun Devils were 3-2. Interestingly, their next game is at Kentucky.

They were a No. 2 home seed in the NCAAs last season and were eliminated in the second round by Tennessee, 26-7, and the highest seed in program history.  So they have had enough of the SEC.

First, though, Florida used its height advantage to block a season-high 10 shots – eighth-most in program history – by six different players. They won rebounds by 20 and were dominant inside, scoring 62-12 underneath.

 Feeding those monsters were 30 assists on 37 field goals. Eight Gators had at least two assists, second-most in program history and the most in more than a decade. Junior Brooke Copeland's career-best six assists led them.

 Early on, Delicia Washington scored the first six points of a 20-5 run. A putback by Williams pushed her past  1,000 career points. They never trailed, leading by a dozen at the half and starting the third 9-0.
Four Gators hit double digits, led by Williams’ 18

Florida limited Long Beach State to 26.6 percent from the floor.

Long Beach State is the preseason favorite to win the Big West Conference, once again demonstrating how the fourth-best SEC team matches the best of a lesser conference.

 Butler said, “We beat a very good team. We knew that this was going to be challenging because we have not defended the 3-point line that well this year and I don't know that we did a stellar job of it tonight, but we defended everywhere else.

“You have to credit our defense. The balance that we had today. We had some folks who struggled a bit.

“Eleanna struggled with foul trouble and Dyandria (Anderson) was struggling trying to get back into the groove. But we had people who stepped up in a really big way. Sydney (Searcy), who tied her career-high, Tyshara (Fleming), who had a double-double and Ronni, who was one rebound shy of a double-double. When you outrebound a good team by 20, good things are going to happen. We beat a team that has a chance to win their league and be in the NCAA Tournament.

“The rebounding battle, which ignites our offense, and so many assisted baskets, which shows chemistry and the way that this team cares for each other, will be hard for teams to overcome when they’re playing us.

“Sydney Searcy's play really excited us. The plays that she was making on defense, how aggressive she was. She really made great decisions on offense, really simple decisions but she was very efficient. She was 4-of-6 and anyone will take that field goal percentage.

“I thought the rebounding effort was what separated us. We did a really good job versus a team that doesn’t just shoot a lot of 3s, but tries to force you into a lot of turnovers and to only have 16, while that sounds like a lot, against a team that’s pretty good.

“The team will head back to the hotel, eat and get some rest. This is where the coaches have to decide the two or three things that we can walk through and talk about. The most important thing is for us to get rest. They have a chance to peek at Arizona State a little bit tonight before our game. They understand what this is, though. It’s an NCAA Tournament team on their home floor and we have to bring our best.”

They looked their best in a nine-point defensive stand in the third quarter against Arizona State.

They looked their worst immediately, giving up 30 in the fourth quarter, including the last nine shots and differential  points of 69-63 win for the home team.

 Florida allowed 13-of-14 field goals that quarter.

Christinaki scored 18, the only Gator in double figures.

So a big win for the leaders of the Pac 12, 4-0 at home.


And the rest.

The league has three of the next five: Tennessee (22) with a lineup change; Auburn (23); and Texas A&M (25). All went 1-1 in the ranking week, the Lady Vols with another blowout loss at home, this time to No. 4 Baylor.

Tennessee has more losses and less wins than any other league team.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Guru Report: Louin Stars Again as Villanova Tops Saint Joseph's With Closing Surge

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru416

PHILADELPHIA – Villanova and Saint Joseph’s have been going wire-to-wire without much separation in their Women’s Big Five matchups for almost a decade and it was nearly the same late Saturday afternoon at the Hawks’ Hagan Arena.

The two seemed headed for another dramatic finish when Chelsea Woods got the Hawks within a point at 51-50 with 4 minutes, 27 seconds left in the game.

However, Villanova’s Alex Louin and freshman Kelly Jekot made that Hawks play the last hurrah for Saint Joseph’s in this one when Louin got inside for a field goal and then assisted Jekot’s three-pointer on the visitors’ next two possessions to launch an 11-4 run on the way to a 62-54 victory.

“A very evenly fought game, I told you before the game it was going to be like that,” veteran Villanova women’s coach Harry Perretta said. “You have two teams that were struggling but we just made enough shots down the stretch – Alex Louin – we were getting her the ball as much as we could.”

It's been like this, however, for nine straight times and while the first of those had a 66-57 outcome, on Dec. 4, 2008, in this arena, that game extended to three overtimes.

Louin, the Mount Saint Joseph’s graduate out of Doylestown, had 26 points for Villanova (3-4, 2-0 Big Five) and provided fourth quarter heroics for the second straight game after hitting six straight points in the Wildcats’ Big Five win at home Wednesday over La Salle.

“We were looking at mismatches and tried to capitalize,” Louin said. “I got a couple of easy looks and I got some momentum off of those.”

Louin also blocked three shots, dealt five assists and grabbed six rebounds.

Megan Quinn added 15 points and eight rebounds for the defending Big Five champion, while Villanova also got seven points and a pair of blocks from Jekot and Adrianna Hahn scored eight points.

The Wildcats connected on the perimeter with seven 3-pointers compared to two treys from the Hawks (2-5, 1-2), who join La Salle with two losses each in the local City Series round robin and likely out of contention.

 With the games among the local quintet now that are completed, Temple (2-0) and Villanova (2-0) are the last two unbeaten in the Big Five and meet Saturday at Villanova with the winner clinching at least a share of the title.

Penn (0-1), which hosts La Salle Wednesday, is the other of the Big Five women still capable of finishing with at least a share of the hardware by beating Temple (Jan. 25) and Villanova (Jan. 18) next month at The Palestra, provided the Quakers beat the Explorers on Wednesday.

It was an obvious tough loss for Saint Joseph’s, which got 17 points and 12 rebounds from Chelsea Woods, who was the star player in the offseason in the Philadelphia/Suburban NCAA Certified Women’s Summer Basketball League played in Hatboro, Pa.

Adashia Franklyn, who also played in the league and is the daughter of former Temple star Marilyn Stephens, got 14 points.

“I thought it was a great game, the scoring went back and forth, a couple plays here, a couple plays there, you know at the end Villanova made a couple of more plays than we did,” said Saint Joseph’s coach Cindy Griffin.

The game had 12 ties and 14 lead changes but Saint Joseph’s was dominated 38-24 on the backboards, including 12-6 on the offensive end, and outscored in the paint 36-24,while also outmatched 13-7 off turnovers in transition.

Villanova trails in the series between the two 27-16 but in recent times the Wildcats have now won 111 Big Five games against 37 losses -- best in the city -- while the Hawks have won 108. It's on the third time in the last 12 that the visiting team emerged the winner in the Wildcats/Hawks series..

“Boxing out,” Griffin said as the where the Hawks go from this point to right the ship, referencing the rebounding statistics.

“We depend on our athleticism way too much,” she said. “To be out-rebounded by as many as we have, that’s effort and that’s positioning and that’s discipline.”

Griffin figured at least the Hawks gained more experience in another closely fought contest.

“We haven’t won these close games this year, I believe that we will, so I think it’s positive we’ve been in these situations. They took advantage of our size inside because they shoot the ball so well we were unable to help as much as normally would.”

Griffin praised Louin: “She played, very, very well. Her line is terrific. She was a problem for us, her size, she defended well, she got key blocks, she was obviously was the difference maker in this game.”

The Hawks coach discussed Woods playing all but one of the 40 minutes across the four quarters.

“She’s obviously playing too many minutes but we couldn’t take her off the court because she is the most productive player that we have,” Griffin said. “With this type of game it is a game of possessions and we probably played her way too many minutes and I think she got tired at the end and gave up a few offensive boards and with hindsight maybe we should have taken her out a little earlier.

“But needless to say she had a double double, she didn’t shoot the ball particularly well (8-18) but she kept a lot of possessions alive for us as well.”

Villanova next hosts Lehigh Monday night prior to the Saturday Temple game while Saint Joseph’s visits Western Michigan Friday night before coming home again a week from Tuesday to host NJIT.


Penn Routs Wagner

The Quakers may be back on track, now having two solid wins against teams they were heavy favorites to beat.

Following Wednesday’s big win at Lafayette, Penn (3-3) evened its record Saturday afternoon romping over host Wagner 63-39 on Staten Island, N.Y.

Michelle Nwokedi and Sydney Stipanovich double doubled their way in the inside with Nowkedi collecting 17 points and 10 rebounds while Stipanovich had 10 each.

“I think our defense was really the spark today,” Stipanovich said in postgame quotes on the Penn website. “We really were aggressive and got a lot of loose balls. We won those 50/50 balls coach always talks about.

“That really generated our offense. We moved the ball really well and got good open shots. Everyone got touches and I think that was the main difference today that got us going.”

Wagner (1-6) was limited to six players and Penn got 10 three-balls, double the five connected by the Seahawks.

Now its on to hosting La Salle Wednesday. Should Penn win and then go on to beat Temple and Villanova the Quakers would gain a tie for the second time in three seasons.


Drexel Stops Cornell

It was a struggle but when time expired the Dragons had their first road win of the season, beating the Big Red of the Ivy League 63-53 in Ithaca, N.Y., Saturday afternoon at Newman Arena.

Drexel (4-2) is now 7-0 against Cornell (5-3) dating to the Dragons’ first-ever Division I game in 1982, the year the NCAA began sponsoring women’s championships.

Foul shooting in the final minute enabled the winners to make it to the break for finals, which conclude on Dec. 13, a week from Tuesday, when the Dragons host Niagara.

Drexel’s Jessica Pellechio scored 17 points, while Sarah Curran scored 16 points and Meghan Creighton scored 14 points.


Penn State and Rutgers Gain Narrow Wins Over Marshall and Bucknell

It took until the final seconds until a basket was the difference in Penn State’s 82-80 victory over Marshall in the Lady Lions’ Bryce Jordan Center while Rutgers, also home, cut short a Bucknell rally to emerge with a 57-53 victory over Bucknell, which had already beaten Saint Joseph’s and Drexel.

In the game at Penn State (6-2) where the team has yet to lose after four game, Teniya Page tied a career high with 31 points in the first-ever meeting between the two schools.

There were 13 lead changes. Sierra Moore produced 19 points to give her 501 in her collegiate career. Lindsey Spann with 15 points and Kaliyah Mitchell with 10 made it four Lady Lions scoring in double figures.

Marshall (5-2), which was forced into 17 turnovers, also had a player reach a career high in Taylor Porter’s 24 points.

Penn State next visits Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., on Wednesday.

Rutgers (2-6), meanwhile, got its second win in this season of woe and it came after the rout by Duke Thursday night, though Bucknell (5-3) nearly rallied all the way after falling behind early in the game trailing by 20 at halftime at the Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway, N.J.

Kandiss Barber set a career high for Rutgers, scoring 17 points, while Shrita Parker had 11 points and nine rebounds, just short of a double double. Parker also hit a pair of foul shots

Claire DeBoer scored scored 17 points for Bucknell.

Rutgers next hosts Colonial Athletic Association favorite James Madison Monday night.


National and Other Notes

Providence beat Bryant 62-51 at home to go 7-0 on the season under new coach Jim Crowley, formerly the longtime mentor of Saint Bonaventure. It’s the best start since a similar 7-0 launch to a season in 1990-91.

Lafayette fell at Saint John’s 64-46 as the host Red Storm moved above .500 at 4-3 with the win at home at Carneseca Arena. The Leopards (1-8) were held to 15 points in the first half and have now been winless since an opening triumph at La Salle. They visit Princeton on Wednesday.

No. 6 Mississippi State stayed unbeaten at 8-0 the hard way rallying from a 17-point deficit at the half to defeat Iowa State 85-81 in Ames, Iowa, in overtime on the road. The Cyclones (5-1) dropped their first game of the season.

And that’s the way it was as the Guru heads up to Mohegan in Uncasville, Conn., for Sunday’s Hall of Fame/Jimmy V game between No. 14 Texas and No. 2 Connecticut.


The Guru Weekend Outlook: Teams Dealing Tests on the Court Besides in the Classroom During Finals Time

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru416

PHILADELPHIA – Unlike many years past, it appears based on the Guru’s grid that while finals are going on the next several weeks in the classroom, court tests will also occur and be more plentiful in terms of not as many gaps between games.

And among our local PhilahoopsW crowd as well as the national scene the exams can be found as early as this weekend.

Right here at 4 p.m. on Saturday Villanova heads right into another Philadelphia Big 5 contest and one being one of the marquee events in the overall series as the Wildcats travel to Saint Joseph’s in Hagan Arena on Hawk Hill.

Both teams have had unexpected struggles but both teams have had their moments if not as many as they were expected to have at this point.

The Wildcats (2-4, 1-0) head into the matchup off Wednesday’s narrow win over La Salle. Right now the defending champions and Temple are the only two of the five who could win outright with 4-0 sweeps though if the Hawks (2-4, 1-1) prevail Saturday only the Owls at 2-0 in the city will be in that position prior to next Saturday’s Temple-Villanova matchup on the Main Line.

Last year Villanova was not perfect but did win outright at 3-1 when La Salle upset Saint Joseph’s near the end of the season to deprive the Hawks what would have been a piece of the title.

Two seasons ago Penn got to 3-1 for the first time and it became a tri-title shared among the Quakers, Wildcats and Hawks.

A Villanova loss will still leave the Wildcats in position for something and Saint Joseph’s at 2-1 could be alive for a shared spot potentially that would be gained, depending on the other games, if the Hawks beat La Salle near the end of the season.

Meanwhile Drexel tries to bounce back from last week’s loss at Bucknell when the Dragons visit  at Cornell. The setback was costly because after the upset of then-No. 11 Syracuse, coach Denise Dillon’s folk were in position to start collecting votes in the weekly polls.

Penn, which looked more like what was forecast for the Quakers at the season’s outset when they won at Lafayette on Wednesday, visits Wagner Saturday looking to gain traction heading into next Wednesday’s Big Five visit from La Salle.

The Explorers are 0-2 in the Big Five with losses to Temple and Villanova but a win over Penn takes the Quakers out of the title mix shared or outright. Yes, the assumption here is 2-loss teams won’t be in contention.

Penn State (5-2) is meeting Marshall (5-1) of Conference USA for the first time Saturday – the game is at PSU’s Bryce Jordan Center -- and the Lady Lions have been a bit of a mixed bag, beating Tennessee at home and losing at Drexel in the season opener and to Georgetown in Florida at the relocated San Juan Shootout.

They come into the game off a recent narrow win at Boston College as part of the Big 10/Atlantic Coast Conference challenge dominated by the ACC in the games played.

Finally, in terms of the local slate for Saturday, the continuing adventure into the unknown continues for 1-6 Rutgers at home, meeting Patriot favorite Bucknell.

The hosts Scarlet Knights, with a slew of transfers, got pounded again on Thursday night at home, losing to Duke in their end of the Big 10/ACC challenge.

Halftime was poignant, however, with all-time great Cappie Pondexter returning from her stardom in the WNBA and an Olympics to have her number retired and also a locker dedicated in her name in the future training center.

Rutgers also hosts Colonial Athletic Association defending champion and favorite James Madison Monday night.

Bucknell (5-2) has held its own playing normally powerful mid-majors by beating Drexel t home and rallying on Saint Joseph’s in Philadelphia.

Princeton (3-4) is off until hosting Lafayette on Wednesday after reversing an 0-4 start slamming Rutgers and Seton Hall at home in Jadwin Gym each by 30 points to win the mini-Garden State tourney among the top New Jersey D-1 schools.

Incidentally, on Friday night George Washington handled visiting VCU 81-67 in an early start to the Atlantic 10 slate, a rearrangement to accommodate the new post season format in March in which the early rounds will be played on home courts the same weekend many are still wrapping up regular season competition.

In the same scenario La Salle Sunday heads to Dayton before visiting Penn on Wednesday.

Some other Friday scores saw Columbia (5-2) maintain its winning start, beating Massachusetts-Lowell 76-57 at home in the morning on eduction day before a record crowd of 2,271 in Levine Gym on upper Broadway.

Rider edged host Canisius 71-70 to get back on a winning track after losing twice in Florida last weekend following the best 0-3 season start in 38 years. A 12-0 run in the middle of the fourth period helped the Broncs withstand a late rally and get off to a 1-0 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference winning start for the first time in 14 seasons.

They continue league play in the Western New York trip visiting Niagara Sunday.

That’s the same day of a nice national/local combination of games.

After meeting twice in the last NCAA Sweet 16 the last two times around, Texas and Connecticut meet in the regular season at the Mohegan Sun with the Longhorns coming off a competitive loss to No. 3 South Carolina.

The Guru will be on the scene fort that one.

The Huskies are still unbeaten, as they have belied the early doomsday predictions for the dominate UConn program in the wake of three key graduation losses in Brenna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck.

It's a big week for UConn with a looming 1 vs 2 game and the Huskies in an underdog role Wednesday heading to national and former old Big East conference rival Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.

Duke, fresh off its Rutgers massacre, hosts South Carolina while Baylor, which has been a dead end road block of Tennessee to the Women’s Final Four in some recent seasons, visits Knoxville to play the Lady Vols with a threat to knock them out of the polls again after their return at the start of the season.

No. 17 Kentucky visits No. 7 Louisville in a big Blue Grass State battle.

Locally, and not mentioned above for Sunday action, after escaping Robert Morris, Delaware hosts Georgetown at the Bob Carpenter Center.

Each team is 5-2 with the Blue Hens, the alma mater of Elena Delle Donne, being ne of the best surprises in the early going in terms of putting a youthful roster together.

Temple will try to shake off its upset road loss at Harvard when Vermont (3-4) visits the Owls (3-2). It’s a Philadelphia area homecoming for new Catmounts coach Chris Day, a former assistant at La Salle, Saint Joseph’s, Indiana, and Penn, who is also the son-in-law to retired NBA ref Joey Crawford.

It’s also homecoming to his assistant Caroline Coyer, the recently graduated former Villanova star who suffered an ACL at the end of last season.

And that is all for the moment blog-wise.


Thursday, December 01, 2016

Hahn Scoring Louin Foul Shooting Propels Villanova Over La. Salle

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

Villanova, Pa. – Villanova took control with perfect 8-for-8 foul shooting in the fourth quarter at home in The Pavilion and sophomore Adrianna Hahn was in control all night to propel the Wildcats to a slim 52-49 victory over La Salle Wednesday in a Philadelphia Big 5 game.

The outcome enabled two streaks to end and one to continue as Villanova’s annual mastery of La Salle was extended to eight straight dating back to the 2009-10 season.

The Wildcats (2-4, 1-0 Big Five) opened defense of their City Series title that was won last season outright with a rare 3-1 record – usually a sweep is needed – courtesy of La Salle upsetting Saint Joseph’s in the last game of the local round robin.

They also snapped a three-game losing streak by finally clamping down on the defensive side of things.

At the same time it was a tough loss for the Explorers (3-4, 0-2), who swept a tournament in Florida last weekend to even their record after dropping the first three games and now at 0-2 in the Big Five they are likely out of local contention.

“We’re finally getting healthy,” La Salle coach Jeff Williams said prior to the game explaining what sparked the recent reversal of fortune. “At one point we were down to six players.”

The Explorers seemed ready to break out of the Wildcats’ hold over them when they reached their largest lead of the game at six points 36-30 with 2 minutes, 12 seconds left in the third period.

But Samantha Wilkes, the unsung heroine for Villanova behind Alex Louin’s perfect 6-for-6 foul shots in the last stanza and Hahn’s overall play, hit a free throw and Hahn gained a tie with a pair of foul shots and a 3-pointer before the Explorer’s Amy Griffin beat the buzzer to end the last quarter clinging to a 38-36 advantage.

In the fourth, Wilkes tied it again before Griffin gave La Salle its last lead.

Then Jannah Tucker, the sensational newcomer who was kept under wraps in this one, tied it for Villanova before Wilkes and Louin completed the mini 6-0 run for a 44-40 lead with just over six minutes left in regulation.

Then Louin went to work on the line with her six straight free throws that got it to 50-46 before Hahn completed her night with two more points on the line for a six-point lead with 12 seconds left before La Salle’s Adreana Miller completed the scoring for everyone with a meaningless three-pointer before time expired.

“Typical Big 5 game,” Villanova veteran coach Harry Perretta said. “Both teams knew each other very well and it came down to us being able to make some shots at the end when we needed to.

Perretta noted that the lineup near the end had just one senior. “We were trying to play young.”

If Elena Delle Donne back in the day was the Ursinus Academy star in Wilmington, Del., who got away, Hahn from the same school is the one the Wildcats snareda fe years later.

On this night she had 20 points, shooting 6-for-13 from the field, including a pair of three-pointers, while being perfect on the line at 6-for-6 while dishing three assists and swiping the same number of steals.

Louin finished with 13 points fueled by 7-for-8 shooting on the line.

“We were just trying to stay in the offense, trying to set picks, we had a couple of mismatches so we tried to take advantage of that and we made our foul shots, which certainly helped us,” Louin said of the final minutes.”

The Wildcats were 16-for-20 from the line for the game while La Salle was 9-for-11.

“We’ve been playing some pretty tough teams so we like where we are right now, we’re definitely getting better, we’re going to try to bring the same energy to Saint Joe’s,” Louin said.

Villanova visits Hawk Hill Saturday, 4 p.m., at Hagan Arena and after the early going the Wildcats and Temple (2-0 Big 5) are the only teams left who can win outright at 4-0, They meet each other Dec. 10 at Villanova.

La Salle’s Amy Griffin, the leading scorer in the Atlantic 10 last season, had 16 points, shooting 7-for-13 from the field and Miller scored 10 points.

The Explorers next travel to Dayton Sunday for a rare early season opener in the Atlantic 10, caused in part by the new conference tournament format for March, and then visit Penn next Wednesday.


Penn and Princeton Flex Ivy Muscles in Dominant Wins

The Quakers of Penn finally looked like the local power they were predicted to be in powering their way to a 64-47 win at Lafayette in Easton, Pa., while Princeton delivered another stunner in the psuedo Garden State tourney, blasting Seton Hall 94-67 at home in Jadwin Gym to follow up the Tigers’ recent demolition of Rutgers for a 2-0 sweep among the three traditional New Jersey Division I women’s teams.

In the Penn game, the Quakers improved to 2-3 as Michelle Nowkedi had 16 points and eight rebounds while center Sydney Stipanovich scored 11 points and grabbed six rebounds.

In this one, some outside help arrived with Beth Brzozowski scoring 13 points.

Lafayette (1-7), which won its season opener at La Salle, dropped its seventh straight off a heavy slate of games early, especially in the recent Hall of Fame Women’s Challenge that finished Sunday at Springfield, Mass.

Anna Ptasinski was the only Leopard in double figures with 10 points.

Penn next travels to Wagner Saturday on Staten Island, N.Y., before hosting La Salle next Wednesday at The Palestra.

Next up for Lafayette are visits to St. John’s Saturday and then to Princeton next Wednesday.

“We did a lot better offensively, we were able to get above 60 which was one of our goals,” said Kasey Chambers postgame as reported by the Penn website. “We really played well on the defensive end to kick-start our offense which was better than our last game.”

Princeton (4-4), meanwhile, continued to roll after its 0-4 start to win its third straight.

Freshman Bella Alarie is rapidly becoming the next great star in the Tigers program. The Ivy rookie of the week off her play in the Rutgers 64-34 and UMBC games, socked the Pirates for 26 points and 15 rebounds.

It's the first Princeton win over Seton Hall since 1987.

Both stats are fifth overall for achievements by a freshman at Princeton while her five treys were third and she also had six assists.

Senior Taylor Brown had 18 points and was a perfect 4-for-4 on 3-point attempts. Leslie Robinson had 17 points and Tia Weledji scored 11 off the bench.

The Tigers, who set a program record with 14 three-pointers at UMBC, scored 42 points in the paint, 32 off turnovers, and 13 on second chances with the bench also contributing 28 points.

The third quarter was crucial and the favored Pirates (4-2) were outscored 29-13.

Deja Winters had 16 points for Seton Hal (3-4) while Skylar Snyder had 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Overall Princeton ruled the boards 53-39.


Penn State Wins One For the Conference

In the ongoing Big 10/Atlantic Coast Challenge this week Penn State got a win for the Big 10, beating Boston College 60-56 at Conti Forum in Chestnut Hill., Mass.

Teniya Page led a Lady Lions rally and finished with 24 points and reached the 600-point career mark. Her three-point play in the final half-minute gave Penn State the game and an improved record to 5-2 while the Eagles fell to 2-5.

It’s the first road win for PSU in the series and the Lady Lions overall in the series are 3-7.

Sierra More had 10 points off the bench  while Kaliyah Mitchell grabs 10 rebounds.

The Lady Lions next host Marshall Saturday at the Bryce Jordan Center.


Lehigh Tops NJIT 84-52

The Mountain Hawks got a game-high 16 points from Taylor Campbell, who also had a career high seven rebounds to go with three steals and a pair of blocks in any easy home win in Stabler Arena in Bethlehem, Pa.

Kaylor Burton tied a career high with four treys for 12 points. Everyone saw action for coach Sue Troyan, whose bench outscored NJIT 50-10 to keep Lehigh unbeaten at 11-0 in the series.

NJIT fell to 3-4.

“There were definitely some bright spots but still some things to work on,” Troyan said with an eye to the tough spot on the schedule which has Lehigh visiting Villanova Monday night.


Around the Nation

Texas A&M made it back into the AP Poll Monday at No. 25 and quickly got bounced by Southern Cal 66-62 at home in College Station as the Women of Troy (6-1) made their own bid to join the elite. It’s the first loss for the Aggies (5-1).

Columbia ruled the boards and consequently the game in Baltimore beating Loyola of Maryland 65-53 at Reitz Arena as Josie Little got a career-high 19 rebounds. The Lions are now 4-2 under new coach Megan Griffith, a former Princeton assistant from King of Prussia, Pa., in the Philly western suburbs. Loyola, Md., fell to 2-4.


Looking Ahead

On Thursday night Duke visits Rutgers and while this was once a matchup of Top 10 teams in the polls neither tean is ranked, though the visiting Blue Devils seem to be faring better of the two.

Rutgers got it first win Sunday, beating Bryant after a program worst 0-5 start that includes last Friday’s pounding by Princeton.

Even if goes South and to 1-6 for the Scarlet Knights, there’s halftime to look to when Rutgers’ Cappie Pondexter of the WNBA Chicago Sky gets her number retired.

Temple drops in on Harvard, whom the Owls have played in the WNIT, while Delaware hosts Robert Morris.

DePaul visits UConn as Doug Bruno, who was an assistant on the gold-medal winning USA olympic staff, goes against his summer boss, one Geno Auriemma.

In anther big showdown, South Carolina is at Texas, yet another road stop of import for Dawn Staley and the Gamecocks, while the host Longhorns next have UConn at the Mohegan Sun on Sunday afternoon.

The schedule is light Friday but Canisius visits Rider, which got off to a 3-0 start, but fell twice in Florida last weekend,  and will try to get back on the winning track.

On Saturday, of local games not already mentioned, Bucknell, which has beaten up some local prominent, including Drexel and Saint Joseph’s, visits Rutgers.

On Sunday, new coach Chris Day, a former La Salle, St. Joseph’s, Penn and Indiana assistant, brings Vermont to play Temple.

Baylor is at Tennessee and on Monday James Madison visits Rutgers.



Monday, November 28, 2016

Mike Siroky's SEC Report: Top Two Still Unbeaten

By Mike Siroky

The reason you play the runup to the brawl to win it all -- the Southeastern Conference regular season – is to get 10 wins.

The magic number is 20; no SEC women’s team with 20 wins has ever missed the NCAA draw and a legitimate legendary team like Tennessee can do it with 19.

Most mortal teams want the 20 wins.

The teams in the AP Top 20 know this.

Joining the two unbeatens left in the group are three more in the unranked scrum and five with one loss each.


No. 3 South Carolina

The Gamecocks, up one spot, are where they are likely to end up.

Coach Dawn Staley is unafraid, having beaten two legitimate Elite Eight teams already.

They started the ranking week by completing the last two of the trifecta in the Hall of Fame games at home.

Hampton fell, 92-38,  as the All-American forwards, Alaina Coates and A'ja Wilson combined for 48. Coates had 28 points and 16 rebounds for a fifth straight double/double streak started last season.

Wilson set a program record, 14-of-14 from the line. She had 20 points in 22 minutes; Coates got hers in 24.

The team won the backboards by 60-36 as 20 offensive boards became 23 second-chance points.

The defense hung two single-digit quarters on the Pirates; eight in the third and four in the fourth. Almost 11,800 paid to see it.

Staley, a Hall of Fame point guard, likes her current one, a transfer in Allisha Gray in the three-guard lineup.

“She’s always the one that falls under the radar. She's going to be probably our most consistent perimeter player as far as scoring the ball, rebounding the ball, getting out and defending,” Staley observes of the former UNC player.

“Sometimes when you have a personality like Allisha, people tend to forget about you. She’s somewhat of our silent assassin. She’s always going to give the same effort every time she steps onto the floor; she's very, very competitive.

“Some players in the whole fold of what we have, have to play that role because if everyone wants that spotlight then there is not enough room."

The next victim was St. Peters, 93-38.

 Five Gamecocks finished in double-figures, led by Coates (16 points in 19 minutes) and Wilson (14 in 21). Gray had 13 points, eight rebounds and five assists in 19 minutes.

The defense held the Peacocks to two single-digit quarters, nine in the second and four in the fourth on 27.8 from the field.

They drew 11,450.

Staley liked the experience of back-to-back-to-back games.

“It was a good learning experience, mentally and physically, for our players to get up to play three games in a row,” she said.

“I know it was lopsided, but we’re still working on us, so it gave us great opportunities to work on us. (We got) to work on starts of games, passing the ball a little bit more, and work on shots in the flow of our offense. That’s an area we need to get better in, and get better quickly.”

So here came No. 4 Louisville to  cap off the Hall of Fame thing in Springfield, Mass.

 When last noticed, the Cardinals were failing in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, at home.

It is quite likely Staley allowed her team to see her memorial in the Hall of Fame.

But the game was the thing and Louisville was ranked No. 4, already with five wins.
They went back home with an 83-59 loss.

Coates, Wilson and Gray each scored 17. Coates also had 14 rebounds as SC took a 15-rebound edge. Gray scored 15 after intermission. Wilson was 5-of-6 from the line.

The Gamecocks scored 18 off 17 Louisville turnovers and had 14 fast-break points. They also used a 23-5 run that covered the end of the half and the start of the third quarter to create separation.

“I think our players really enjoy when the competition is better and they came out and played.”

As for her two forwards, “That’s another year of playing together and knowing what the other is doing.

“We’re still trying to find out who we are.”


No. 7 Mississippi State

The Bulldogs are up three spots and a likely Top 10 consideration from here on out.

They celebrated the best ranking in program history with holiday beach time in Hawaii then swept into the Wahine Classic for three straight.

Oregon was the only other competitive team in the six pack of participants.

Vctoria Vivians had trouble finding her rhythm but was bailed out when  Teaira McCowan, the tallest State player at 6-7, brought eight first half points off the bench.

Vivians, as she always does, righted herself and finished with 17 and scooted past 1,200 career points.

Morgan William scored 14 and Chinwe Okorie 11.

“I knew this would be a knock-down drag-out,” said coach Vic Schaefer. “I was disappointed in some of our mental mistakes. Sometimes, we didn’t follow the scouting report and didn’t switch out.

“This game was not a letdown for us. You have to give credit to the opponents.

“We are now the hunted. We are learning about the role. In the third quarter, we took their best shot and responded. I am really proud of that.”

A downgrade in opponents, San Jose State, was next, with an 88-51 pasting on a 30-rebound advantage, forcing 23 turnovers.

For once, Vivians never found her stroke and finished with eight, including a 2-for-10 first half, the first time in a long time in single digits, averaging almost twice that. She was 3-of-14 from the field.
But all 13 Bulldogs played and all scored.

Freshman Iggy Allen, for instance, scored 14. McCowan had 16 rebounds.

“We finished the first half off well, said Schaefer of the 38-21 advantage.

“In the second half, backup point guard Jazzmun Holmes was awesome. She really came in and set the tone. I really liked my bench tonight. I thought we played really well. Our athleticism and quickness dominated the game defensively.”

Holmes had eight assists and two steals in 21 minutes.

 “We forced 24 turnovers,” Schaefer said. “That is who we are and that is what we do. We try to disrupt you.

“In the second half, we played a whole lot better. In the first half, they took our inside game away. In the second half, we really stepped up and everybody on the team contributed.”

So they finished with an aloha for the host team, and a gaudy 7-0 record.

It started with a 30-17 half. Okorie was 5-of-6 from the field and had a dozen. A single-digit defensive effort, eight allowed in the second quarter, set the momentum for a 66-41 no-doubt win.

She finished with a career-best 18 points, in 23 minutes, 8-of-10 from the field. Vivians scored 10 in 18 minutes. Every Bulldog got in and all but one scored. They threw in another single-digit defensive quarter, eight allowed in the fourth.

“We worked on the depth at this tournament,” Schaefer said. “Trying to build a team, build our depth and build some confidence for some kids.

“It was important how we played out here. It was a great event and great experience for our kids. It has been a great educational experience to see one of the most beautiful parts of the world.”

Vivians was tournament MVP and Okorie joined her on the all-tournament team.
“I was proud of how our first group started out defensively,” Schaefer said. “We had 11 first-half turnovers against the zone, but I am really proud of how we responded defensively. We got some easy baskets off the press. We bother a lot of people with our press and how we get it going in transition.”

“We prepared really hard for this event,” Okorie said. “Being in this championship is great. Winning this championship is great but we are not satisfied. We still have a lot of work to do. We need to continue to grow.”


No. 16 Florida.

The Gators were also up three spots but a suspect Top 20 on a wait-and-see watch until the real games start in conference.

Arkansas State is one of those conference champions that illustrate the difference between a Sun Belt and a down list SEC team.

Florida won, 71-60, scoring on the first possession and never trailing.

Sophomore Eleanna Christinaki scored 23 (her third straight outing of more than 20) and led four Gators in double figures. No sophomore slump apparent.

They closed the game on a 17-9 run.

Coach Amanda Butler said, “In key moments we made plays. It wasn't one of our better performances, but Arkansas State is a team that hadn't lost on their home court in 25 games.

The best thing is we learned more things about ourselves and we made plays when we had to.

 “I thought Dyandria Anderson was a highlight with nine assists. She kept her composure, played 36 tough minutes and getting eight rebounds. I think that's just a stellar performance all the way around for her.

“Overall, we have to do better. We did not come out with the defensive intensity that we need to. We didn't defend the 3.”

So the road trip continued north, the holiday in Chicago and the game at Northwestern.

 Blammo, a 73-68 loss to a Big Ten also-ran.

Only 857 showed up to witness the execution.

The Gators allowed Nia Coffey to hit 10-of-18 from the floor among her 26 points, with 14 rebounds.

Gator senior Ronni Williams tried to rally her team with 19 and Christinaki scored 15.

But 4-of-22 from the field in a fourth quarter seldom leads to anything good.
The home team won the quarter, 17-8, Florida’s first single-digit quarter of the season.

“We got ourselves in foul trouble and that was really tough to overcome,” Butler said. “Haley (Lorenzen) was playing a really good game – 6-of-9 from the floor is great, but only having her on the floor for 22 minutes I think hurt us. We weren’t very productive.

“We got a ton of offensive rebounds but we weren’t very productive with them.

“Defensively, I thought we could have done a much better job.

“We know what our challenges are on the road and we’ve got to do a good job of managing the team’s off days and making sure that we’re resting but still finding ways to improve. That’s what we probably need a little of right now – recovery and get ready to battle again.”


No. 17 Tennessee.

Based on last season, they were gifted with a top 20 spot to start the season and continued with a replay of that hot mess by losing to non-essential Penn State, dropping four spots in the poll.

Then they strangely took a week off instead of playing a competitive team -- they will interrupt their conference season for an inconsequential game against Notre Dame – but that is part of some master plan no one else understands.
So here came Virginia Tech and the result of a week to get ready was another skanky road loss, 67-63.

Tennessee may already be done with the Top 20 for the season. Yikes. They lead the league in losses.

The Tech game is one of those where the winners will brag about finally beating a Lady Vol team.

That brag is still active, if fading quickly.

For instance, Tech also won last season but then failed to finish in the top 64 while UT went to a fourth Elite 8.

UT lost this one in a 27-13 third quarter. They had closed halftime on a 19-7 run.

They botched their last possession when the difference was but a basket.

Overall, there were four in double figures, two double/doubles, a win in rebounds by 23. And yet, back-to-back losses.

The only glaring negative were the 10 turnovers by Diamond DeShields, yet she was one rebound short of a double/double.

“It’s quite embarrassing,” said DeShields. “I am just out there over-thinking. I am still in shock about it.”

Steady center Mercedes Russell also said it was on UT that they did not make Tech work for their shots.

Coach Holly Warlick said UT did not make the game plan work. They got the ball inside, “But then you gotta finish and we missed a ton of layups.

“You turn the ball over 21 times and they get 21 points off turnovers; that’s 21 times we denied ourselves the opportunity. I mean if you throw the basketball off it may go in.”

The Lady Vols have three games against Top 15 teams left before conference play begins.


No. 20 Kentucky.

The Kats Kollege of Koaches (two former head coaches joining a beleaguered staff) has fooled no one so far.

They dropped five spots after a loss at Colorado, then returned home for holiday cupcakes.

First up was Morehead State, a school about an hour away from Lexington but miles away in level of competition.

UK reversed the score on them, 74-47.

They scored the first 11 points of the game and the end was already obvious.

Sophomore guard Taylor Murray matched her career high of 14 points in the first half alone.

The statement came in the second quarter in which UK allowed only one basket. The 13-2 run made the 4,706 in attendance happy.

Senior guard Makayla Epps had 18 points to lead all scorers.

“What I loved about Taylor tonight, more than her offense, was her defense,” said coach Matthew Mitchell. “We’ve been really talking to her and really encouraging her to try to get her going defensively.

“We need her to be a leader for us and a star on defense, and that is what I’m most proud of her for tonight.

“I thought she really tried. She wasn’t looking for comfort tonight. It is on her now and it’s a new role for her and I’m really pleased with her development.”

Next up, Samford and a similar result, 80-57, with four starters in double figures, Epps leading with 20.
It was 41-17 at the break, after a single-digit defensive effort, five in the second quarter. They drew 4,569.

“Mainly we need to focus on finishing,” Epps said.

“Say, for example, halftime the score was 41-17, we will sometimes put the car in cruise and give them a little hope for coming back and that is something we can’t do.

“We have to top teams off, period. If we beat people by 70, then I guess they’ll put us in the news for beating people by 70. Nobody ever said there was anything wrong with that.

“Like coach said, it’s all about intensity. We have to want to get stops in order to get easy transition buckets. I feel like the energy and communication dropped with us being up by so much.

“It also gets a little confusing when we aren’t communicating and Coach has us running different defenses from zone to man.

“We just need to focus in and find the balance on what defense is working well for us at what time.

 “In all honesty, this is probably the most cordial, loving and caring team that I’ve been on since I’ve been here.

“There’s no egos, teammate issues, outside scuffling it’s all one love. We’re all on the same team and have the same mission. I told the team after the game that it’s really crazy we genuinely like each other and have a hard time communicating on the court.

“It blows my mind. We’d probably rather be in the group chat texting or something.

“It’s really the little things. We have a lot of people who have never been in this predicament, playing for a big D-I school against some of the best teams in the country.

“It’s just something different. Now it’s about pushing into December and progressing. Definitely no complainers.”

UK next plays two higher-ranked teams, Oklahoma at home and then at Louisville. The Kats have won 61 straight regular season non-conference home games. The only loss in six games this season was the one road game.

South Carolina Has The No. 1 Look in Hoop Hall Challenge

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – In an annual Basketball Hall of Fame Women’s Challenge foursome header decorated with four coaches with deep Philadelphia ties, the youngest one of the bunch got to make a national statement at the event at the MassMutual Center that ran from mid-morning Sunday until darkness descended on this region here in New England.

Third-ranked South Carolina, coached by Philly roundball legend Dawn Staley, ran roughshod over No. 5 Louisville after a competitive first quarter to gain a non conference 83-59 triumph.

Afterwards media here, those watching from afar via ESPN2, and other observers said despite Notre Dame’s No. 1 ranking and No. 2 Connecticut’s recent upset of then-No. 2 Baylor, the team on the floor right now that is looking like the best bet to leave Dallas on April 2 with the NCAA trophy is Staley’s unbeaten Gamecocks (4-0), who also own an impressive win over then-No. 7 Ohio State in Columbus.

    “As you can see we’re pretty balanced,” Staley said of a roster offering several all-American candidates and at least one player of the year contender in 6-foot-5 junior A’ja Wilson. “Our post players are used to playing with each other. They can put the ball where it needs to be – high-low – or we can step it off the block. It’s another year they’re working together so they can understand each other’s sweet spots on the floor.”

Game-high scoring honors with 17 points each  were shared by three Gamecocks stars – Wilson, Allisha Gray, a transfer from North Carolina; and Alaina Coates, who also grabbed 14 rebounds.

Mariya Moore also picked up 17 points for Louisville (6-1), which dropped its first game in seven outings.

Double-digits on the South Carolina side were also collected by Kaela Davis, a transfer from Georgia, who scored 13 points, and freshman Mikiah Herbert Harriman, who picked up 11 off the bench.

Asia Durr, one of Louisville’s prized talents, got most of her 13 points early as the Cardinals edged the Gamecocks 20-18 after a quarter. But Staley’s group closed the door with adjustments after that and dominated the second period 19-9, the third 27-15, and also outscored the opposition 19-15 in the fourth.

Briahanna Jackson also scored in double figures for Louisville with 10 off the bench.

Cardinal coach Jeff Walz didn’t think the Gamecocks were that many points better but conceded “they’re a very, very, good basketball team.” What worked in the first quarter from his view is “we did a very good job following the scoring report.”

The other three games were mostly competitive all the way, though none went well by the finish for the Philly coaching contingent.

Saint Peter’s (0-5), coached by former Rutgers and West Catholic star Pat Coyle, fell in overtime to Bowling Green, 73-68, in the first game of the day that was played before the South Carolina game.

Carly Santoro scored 28 points for Bowling Green (2-4) and grabbed 12 rebounds while Savanna Bethea scored 26 points for Saint Peter’s (0-5).

Then Lafayette, coached by Hall of Famer Theresa Grentz, the former Immaculata star who had previous coaching stops at Saint Joseph’s, Rutgers and Illinois before a somewhat brief retirement, fell in the final minute to Hampton, 58-55, and the last game wrapped up with Chattanooga, coached by Elkins Park native Jim Foster, another Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer, fading in the last quarter, to drop a 49-39 outcome to Maine.

Malia Tate-Defreitas scored 22 for Hampton (3-4) while Maia Hood had 12 points and Olivia Gumbs had a double double with 10 points and 10 rebounds for Lafayette (1-6), which has been winless since an opening night triumph at La Salle.

Sigi Koizar had 13 points, Laia Sole scored 12, and Bianca Milan had 10 points for Maine (3-4) while Tennessee-Chattanooga (3-5) got 11 points from Lakelyn Bouldin and 10 points and 16 rebounds from Jasmine Joyner.

Mixed Weekend for the Locals

Elation and disappointment were the emotions of the weekend on Saturday and Sunday as far the PhilahoopsW group was concerned.

On the up side, Temple rallied in the fourth quarter to edge Quinnipiac, La Salle stayed positive with a sweep in North Carolina for what is now a three-game win streak after the Explorers dropped their first three  games, Rutgers edged Bryant for the Scarlet Knights’ first win following a record season-opening five-game losing streak, Princeton bombed the baskets with a school-record 14 3-pointers to help win at UMBC, and Saint Joseph’s rallied to beat host New Mexico Saturday and come out of its visit with a split.

On the down side, Drexel, which had pulled a stunning upset of then-No. 11 Syracuse last Monday at home, lost at Patriot League favorite Bucknell Sunday and the Bisons also own a win over Saint Joseph’s. Delaware came home from the West Coast empty-handy losing a tough one to Detroit after losing to No. 24 Michigan Stste Friday. Lehigh got swept in its two games of pre-determined opponents while Rider dropped two in Florida after opening with a three-game win streak.

Lets move in for the close-up.
Temple’s Alliya Butts continued to live up to her unanimous pick on the preseason all-American Athletic Conference team Sunday by nailing a triple with 40 seconds left in regulation to send the Owls on to a narrow 71-68 triumph that completed two comebacks

One was getting back on the winning side after losing at Florida last weekend. The other was overcoming Quinnipiac and a fourth-quarter seven-point deficit to move to 3-1 on the season while the Bobcats, one of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference’s heavyweights, suffered their first loss in five games.

Butts had 24 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter, and grabbed three steals while Feyonda Fitzgerald  sealed the win and finished with 19 points, six assists and five rebounds. Tanaya Atkinson had 14 points and 11 rebounds and Khadijah Berger had six points and a career-high eight rebounds.

Temple next heads to Harvard in Cambridge, Mass., on Thursday night.


La Salle (3-3) continued to shake off the doldrums of a three-game losing streak by sweeping Miami of Ohio on Saturday and UNC Wilmington on Sunday in the UNC Wilmington tournament, whose teams were predetermined in each round.

On Sunday, against host UNCW (2-2), the Explorers got 22 points from Amy Griffin, who led the Atlantic 10 in scoring last season, while Michaya Owens scored 13 and Jasmine Alston scored 10 points.

Earlier on Saturday, coming off a win over American the previous weekend at home in Tom Gola Arena, the Explorers topped Miami of Ohio 79-70 as Alston had a triple double with 15 points, 18 rebounds, and 12 assists while Griffin scored 23 and Adreana Miller scored 16  against the Mid-American Conference reps who fell to 2-3.

Next up La Salle goes to Villanova Wednesday to try to get even in the Big Five at 1-1 while the Wildcats have yet to play in the round-robin this season.


Rutgers, which had lost five straight including a shellacking by Princeton on the road last Friday, finally made it to the victory column Sunday, beating Bryant 50-42 at home in the Rutgers Athletic Center as Kandiss Barber had a career-high 14 points in the non conference matchup.

She also dished seven assists.

Desiree Keeling had eight points and nine rebounds in a near double double perfromance against Bryant (3-2). Aliiyah Jeune, whose steal enabled Shrita Parker to score a trey and turn the tide, had 11 points.

Next up Thursday is a visit from Duke as part of the ACC/Big 10 challenge and at halftime, all-time Scarlet Knights great Cappie Pondexter will have her number retired.


Princeton, which stopped a four-game opening losing streak on Friday with the rout of Rutgers, stayed on the winning side Sunday on the road using a school record 14 three-pointers to beat UMBC  69-58 and outscoring the home team 19-4 in the fourth quarter.

Kenya Holland had a career-high 19 points for the Tigers (2-4), who shot a program record 37 attempted treys against UMBC (2-3). Taylor Brown had 13 points in 15 minutes. Freshman Bella Alarie had 10 points, two blocked shots and two assists.

Next up is a visit 6 p.m. Wednesday from Seton Hall in the second part of the tri-game state competition among the Tigers, Rutgers and Seton Hall.


Poised to start getting votes in the weekly polls after upsetting then-No. 11 Syracuse a week ago, Drexel got taken down at Patriot League favorite Bucknell 78-66 in Lewisburg, Pa.

Though the Dragons (3-2) shook off a double-digit deficit, foul trouble and a weak defense down the stretch proved costly.

After riding the bench most of the first half with two personal fouls, Sarah Curran scored 17 of her 19 points the rest of the way. Meghan Creighton, also in foul trouble, scored 10.

Claire DeBoer scored 22 for Bucknell (4-2).

Drexel next heads to Cornell Saturday afternoon.


Meanwhile, after roaring to a 3-0 start for the first time in 38 years, Rider was stopped twice in Florida on the weekend, the second by Saint Bonaventure 60-47 at Central Florida’s tournament.

The Bonnies (3-3) got 19 points from Mariah Ruff while Rider’s Julia Duggan had a team high 18 points but the Broncs shot just 25.8 penetrate from the floor.

On Saturday Rider fell to the host UCF 49-30.


Lehigh fell twice in its own tournament, losing Sunday to Monmouth 73-62 after falling to Norfolk State 81-57 on Saturday.

On Sunday the Mountain Hawks (4-3) got a game-high 21 points from Quinci Martin against Monmouth (2-3). On Saturday Martin led Lehigh with 13 points.

The Blackhawks will stay home in Stabler Arena to host NJIT on Wednesday.

On Saturday, Saint Joseph’s came up with a split in the New Mexico tournament in Albuquerque beating the host Lobos 79-67.

Chelsea Woods, who lit up the Philly summer women’s league, had a career-high 24 points for Saint Joseph’s (2-4). She also had 10 rebounds in the game in which the Hawks rallied from a 17-point deficit to New Mexico (2-3).

A 16-4 run at the start of the third quarter was the ticket.

Additionally, for the visitors, Sarah Veilleux had a career high 17 points, while Adaisha Franklyn scored 15 points, and Alyssa Monaghan and Amanda Fioravanti each scored 10 points.

Next up is another Big Five game for the Hawks Saturday when Villanova visits.
Finally, for the locals, Delaware dropped a tough 66-64 non conference game to Detroit,  After trailing the Titans by 26 in Cal-State Northridge’s tournament. The Blue Hens had started 4-0 before heading to the West Coast.

Haleigh Ristovski had 20 points for Detroit while Sade Chatman scored 13 for Delaware and Erika Brown and Nicole Enabosi each scored 11 points for the Blue Hens.

Nationally Noted

After being taken down a week ago by unranked Penn State, another upstart got Tennessee with Virginia Tech and new coach Kenny Brooks getting a 67-63 victory to stay unbeaten at 6-0. The Lady Vols fell to 3-2.

No. 18  DePaul smashed Syracuse 108-84. In a game with two Top 10 teams, No. 4 Baylor topped No. 8 Ohio State 85-68.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Princeton Routs Rutgers For First Triumph While Knights Still Winless

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

(The Penn State game is under this one and  updates now exist on the results for Villanova,Saint Joseph's and Delaware from their respect night games.)

PRINCETON, N.J. – Princeton gave out some 700 or so souvenir scarves Friday afternoon inside the doors of Jadwin Gym before the Tigers women’s basketball squad resorted to other ways to smother Rutgers’ offense in a lop-sided 64-34 nonconference victory whose magnitude was totally unexpected.

But stunning news out of these parts has become commonplace considering who the state’s chief executive who resides in a mansion a few blocks from here endorsed for president after his own failed bid to lead the Republican ticket.

Princeton (1-4) broke into the winner’s column for the first time this season after narrowly missing the achievement in  its two previous games so the 0-4 start will end up on the back end of the 10th-year of the Courtney Banghart era tying her worst start when she took over the Tigers.

“That was the motivation for sure, because we know we should have had those games,” said Tia Weledji of her team’s performance.

However, it is not the worst overall start in program history, but the 0-5 season start that Rutgers is now saddled with is both the worst in the 22 years Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer has been aboard and the worst in Scarlet Knights women’s basketball history.

Those are extended marks because at 0-4 prior to game time and 0-3 before that the same situation held.

Rutgers still has a dominating 16-5 record in the series between the two school.

Both squads have had success in recent seasons – the Tigers became the first Ivy school to go unbeaten through the first round of the NCAA tournament in 2015 and last March became the first of the Ancient Eight to earn an at-large bid.

Rutgers won the WNIT in 2014 and had been a regular at the NCAA tournament most of Stringer’s time at the helm of the program.

“I’m upset,” Stringer said afterwards, bemoaning the lack of fighters on a roster that contains six transfers and referring to a previous comment in which she said a winless record was possible.

The crowd included Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame former Virginia coach Debbie Ryan, who was home for the holidays having grown up in Mercer County.

In the dubious spirit of Black Friday, Rutgers gave out 20 turnovers to just 10 for Princeton and the Scarlet Knights shot a dismal 20.4 percent and were out-rebounded 46-39.

The combo of a retooled roster in the wake of four key graduations and a challenging schedule at the outset made Princeton’s start to its schedule not totally surprising.

And Banghart, who is taking a building blocks approach with an eye on the Ivy race in February and March, was pleased when the affair was over at the progress her squad has made since an opening night stunning loss here to nearby Rider two weeks ago.

That setback has since been tempered by the Broncs’ 3-0 start heading to the weekend for the first time in 38 years.

“This team has gotten better, better, better and better every single game,” Banghart said. “It wasn’t like bad, then good, then bad again. It’s just a matter of time before we can put it all together. We’re not there yet but we’re much better than we have been.”

Weledji, a 5-foot-10 junior guard from Kansas, who now moves toward the head of the classes, had 12 points, shooting 4-for-8 from the field for the Tigers.

Bella Alarie, a 6-4 freshman guard/forward from Bethesda, Md., who is showing early promises of one day being mentioned alongside the names of other Tigers greats, had 14 points, shooting 4-for-7 from the field, including 2-of-3 three-pointers.

No one on Rutgers, which completed a four-game road trip mostly in the South, scored in double figures. Desiree Keeling, a 6-2 sophomore center-forward; and Khadaizha Sanders, a 5-7 sophomore guard, each scored seven points.

If you’re a Rutgers fan wanting to wax nostalgic for the days of Scarlet Knights great scorers, head to the RAC on Thursday when Cappie Pondexter, an all-time WNBA and International star following her 2006 graduation, will have her number retired.

Considering the scoring woes and the opponent that night being Duke, though unranked and not necessarily your grandmother’s Blue Devils unit, at least you’ll get the good through the presentation along with the potential nightmare on the court.

Actually, Rutgers comes right back at home Sunday hosting Bryant in a game in which the home team should be favored.

Princeton on Sunday travels to UMBC just outside Baltimore and returns here Wednesday night to host Seton Hall, which also plays Rutgers next month in the triad of competition the three New Jersey schools have set up recently.

Before that Princeton had its struggles getting Rutgers on the schedule.

“We’re on record that Rutgers should be on our schedule every year,” Banghart said. “Not that it means that much to our kids cause only one is on our roster from New Jersey, but it’s really good for the state because there are a lot of good basketball teams in our state.

“Just that fact that you (media members) are here. We have two teams that should be pretty good and play each other.

“Our schedule is pretty challenging. That’s why these kids are here. They want to play good teams.”

Penn State Felled by Georgetown

The Lady Lions’ promising four-game win streak was short circuited by Georgetown 68-54 Friday in the second and final day of the San Jan Shootout in Daytona Beach, Fla.

The event, originally set for Puerto Rico, was moved because of medical concerns over a virus in the tropics.

Penn State (4-2) had opened in Philadelphia with a loss at Drexel before launching its run, highlighted by a triumph over then No. 13 Tennessee at home in the Bryce Jordan Center.

In Friday’s game, the Hoyas (4-2) jumped to an 8-0 lead before Penn State pulled closer and the outcome was undetermined until Georgetown pulled away from a 47-47 tie that existed with 8 minutes, 22 seconds left in the game.

Penn State’s mediocre ball handling proved costly with Georgetown mining 28 points out of 18 Lady Lions miscues.

Peyton Whitted during the game became the 33rd Lay Lion to grab at least 500 rebounds.

Teniya Page for Penn State had a team high 16 points and four assists. Georgetown’s Dionna White had 21 points helped by four 3-pointers.

Dorothy Adomako added 15 points and Faith Woodard had 13 points and nine rebounds.

On Wednesday, PSU travels to Boston College as part of the Big 10/ACC challenge.

Saint Joseph’s, Villanova and Delaware Beaten

Tourney time wasn’t a good time either for the Hawks, Wildcats and Blue Hens Friday following Penn State’s loss to Georgetown in the San Juan Shootout.

In the same tourney, though not in the traditional format, as Penn State, Villanova was edged by VCU 68-66 to fall to 1-4 on the season.

Following nearly a two-minute scoring drought by both teams near the end of the game, the Wildcats pulled close at 64-63 with 51 seconds left in the game and then briefly stopped the Rams of the Atlantic 10 on the next possession before VCU came up with the offensive rebound.

Galaisha Goodhope made it a three-point lead connecting on two free throws following Villanova’s force to foul with 23 seconds left.

Alex Louin then made it a one-point game again with a shot and after the Wildcats committed another necessary foul, VCU’s Keira Robinson went 1-2 from the line to make it 67-65 with 15.2 seconds remaining in regulation.

On the next play, after Villanova missed a potential game-tying shot, Megan Quinn grabbed the offensive rebound and was fouled, but she only went 1-2 from the line with 7.8 seconds left to make it 67-66 still in favor of the Rams (4-2).

Robinson was fouled again, went to the line, but only made 1-2 once more. The ‘Cats had no timeouts remaining and so Jannah Tucker went down the court and tossed a desperation three-pointer that failed to connect as time expired.

Quinn finished with a game-high 22 points, shooting 5-for-7 overall from the field, including 3-of-5 three pointers, and was also 5-for-7 from the line while also grabbing eight rebounds.

Adrianna Hahn, Louin and Tucker each scored nine points while Goodhope had 16 points.

Next up on Wednesday night Villanova makes its Big Five season debut hosting La Salle, which has a loss to Temple in City Series play.

Meanwhile Saint Joseph’s that broke out of a season-starting four-game losing streak, winning at Penn in Big Five competition Wednesday night, fell to BYU 71-56 in the opening round of the New Mexico Thanksgiving Tournament in Albuquerque in what was a game of massive runs.

The Cougars had the last word, using a 24-4 run across the two quarters of the second half.

Saint Joseph’s (1-4) had used its own offensive thrust in the third period erasing a 17-point deficit to take a 47-46 lead off a 24-6 run capped by Jaryn Garner with 36 seconds left in the third quarter.

But then the Cougars (2-2) fired back to leave the Hawks way behind in their rear view mirror.

Amanda Fioravanti had 14 points for the Hawks and also grabbed five rebounds, blocked two shots and had an assist and a steal.

Garner had a career high 11 points, a total matched by teammate Chelsea Woods. Kristine Nielsen had a team-high 15 points for BYU, which had four other players also score in double figures.

Saint Joseph’s on Saturday will play for third place against host New Mexico (2-2), which was ended in its game by Tulsa. (2-3) of the American Athletic Association 67-64.

Finally, Delaware suffered its first loss of the season in its fifth game, losing to No. 24 Michigan State 81-64 in the opening round of Cal State Northridge’s tourney.

The Blue Hens (4-1) will meet Detroit on Saturday night for third place after the Titans (2-3) fell to the host team (3-2) that at New Year’s will host Penn in a single game.

The Spartans of the Big Ten used a three-point shooting barrage from Tori Jankoska – she nailed eight of them to account for an alltime 32 points.

Erika Brown had a team-high 15 points for Delaware.

“While you never want to lose, this was a step forward for us tonight because these ladies played their butts off and really competed against a nationally ranked team,” said longtime coach Tina Martin.

“This was a very physical game and our kids did a good job of being relentless under the boards. I saw some real fight in our young ladies and if we can bring that same fight and go after people with no fear, we can do a lo of good things this season. We really need that toughness for the rest of the year.”

After Saturday night, Delaware returns home on Thursday to host Robert Morris and then host Georgetown Sunday, Dec. 4, at the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark.