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.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Mike Siroky’s SEC Report: Mississippi State Still Dominant

By Mike Siroky
Mississippi State shrugged off a loss to a starter in the first 25 seconds of its supposed showdown with South Carolina, another runaway.

But the world of women’s college basketball and the Southeastern Conference in particular is the shuddering shutdown of Tennessee.

Interestingly, their fall from the rankings made room for two conference mates to reappear. Missouri was just in time for the bad blood showdown at South Carolina.

The conference also solidified its reputation as the top women’s basketball league by producing a weekly show on its own network, a live, 30-minute, SEC Now. 

It starts the night of weekly Thursday night women’s basketball doubleheaders. There are feature stories as well as game previews.
The best new face is last season’s consensus All-America, then WNBA Rookie of the year A’ja Wilson.

She teams with ESPN analyst Steffi Sorensen, a former Florida Gator,  and SEC Network anchor and fellow Gamecock Alyssa Lang for the first two editions. They will come back with a half-hour recap show. 

Wilson be part of studio coverage of the SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament.

They did swell from the jump. Wilson has the advantage by having dominated Mississippi State during her career, but acknowledges now it is State’s turn in the spotlight. Post-game they all wondered at what the heck has happened to Tennessee.

And she started on the night when South Carolina visited Mississippi State, a rivalry defined as much by her play as any other matchup. Wilson was wonderful in retelling what it is Dawn Staley does to motivate the Gamecocks  and surprised at the result.

This does not say what happens to the old, retired coaches who had been studio wonks, though Andy Landers has certainly made a wonderful impact on ESPN pregame and analysis. Wilson breaks the mold for use of current athletes and is a delightful addition.

Mississippi State is on track to have 20 in January after three weeks of Southeastern Conference of women’s basketball.

Now unranked Tennessee (12-5)

The sad thing in the latest era of Lady Vol history is that losing against the Tide is no   longer news. The majority of the team has never beaten them. UT does not deserve national mention. They were blown out, 86-65, by a team that only drew 2,000.

Last week they fell six spots in the national poll. This week, out completely, or minus five, 11 spots in two weeks. They solidified that with a fifth straight loss.

Earlier, Tennessee entered Tuscaloosa on a record three-game league losing streak by two, two and four points. The Lady Vols had never lost four straight since before Pat Head really stated the program following her play in the 1976 Olympics.

The players supporting sophomore Evina Westbrook (16.3 points per game) take turns having no-show finishes.

Alabama had won four straight against UT, including a pair last season. Before that, UT had won 42 straight in the series. 

UT has fallen to the bottom of the Top 20, still perfectly capable of winning any game or losing any game. 

Yes, the Holly Warlick tradition is to lose some games in January, but never this many and seldom by a blowout to an unranked team.

They also come back at the end of the season which is to say they will be in the NCAA draw, somewhere on the road, likely in the UConn bracket.

Yes, seven of the top nine Vol scorers are first or second-year players. That reflects back-to-back recruiting classes of merit. Another one is under way. It appears things will naturally get better as they mature now.

But it also underlines recruiting misses before Warlick put out that fire by hiring a real recruiting assistant.  

And would-be upperclassmen transferred away, one of which is starting at point for South Carolina. A senior-level leader would have foreclosed on those close losses as well as settled the kids down the way Warlick did as an All-American point in the late ’70s.

At any rate, Alabama was at home, averaging 65 each game, which is what Tennessee had been allowing, and had a trio around 13 points each. 

They had just been blown out by equally unranked Texas A&M, by 27. 

For the season, Tennessee is second-worst in points allowed, lagged only by Vanderbilt, which is why the Lady Vols are also next-to-last in the SEC.

UT was averaging 14 points more. 

So what. Not lately. In the SEC, it’s 68. 

Which made the edge three points when UT hit its offensive average. Tennessee’s defensive averaged is last in the league, 72.

Westbrook did her part, 19 points and 11 rebounds with five assists. Freshman Zaay Green is proving the acceptable No. 2, 14 points with 11 rebounds.

Tennessee has no serviceable center. Also missing in action this time was former 15.5 scorer Rennia Davis, no points. 

Two other starters came up with four points apiece.

How bad was it? 

Tennessee was 3-of-23 in the fourth. They lost the quarter, 28-10.

Alabama cannot even point to tradition in its own winning. Their top scorer is a junior college transfer, Cierra Johnson, She scored 17 and was one of five in double figures.

She also hit a 3 ahead by 24 with 25 seconds left. Sort of twisting the knife, which is only revisited if Tennessee rights the ship.

She reveled in her mischief post-game. The SEC announcers laughed with her, because that is what you do to Tennessee now, just laugh.

With its second SEC win, Alabama naturally turned around and lost its next game, also at home to 3-3 LSU. Johnson scored 27, including 14-of-15 free throws.

Warlick presided over another autopsy discussion.

“We didn’t have any energy, No emotion. Alabama just wanted it more than us,” she said.

“It’s hard to watch. I don’t have any answer.

“Alabama played with more heart and energy.”

UT played Arkansas Monday night and predictably lost again,

In the kerfluffle of this season is this is when the university gave Warlick an extension which has a buyout. 

The old contract was to expire after this season They gave her three more years. When the NCAA started women’s hoops, everyone was on a one-year renewable.
This gave universities the chance to simply not renew and eliminated court  cases over being fired, which happened when Linn Dunn was let go by Purdue after having recruited a national-caliber team which indeed won a title with a replacement coach, Carolyn Peck,  who never did anything again at successive schools.

Warlick’s new deal puts her in the middle of SEC coaching salaries.

It came from an old friend from the Pat head days, new athletic director Phil Fulmer, the last UT football coach to win a national title. Both his basketball teams are disappointments.

At home for Arkansas,  Davis was benched due to lack of scoring. She is in that gaggle who would have made a difference with any points in the losing streak.

The Razorbacks started with 9-of-12 from the line and 3-of-4 3s by junior Alexis Tolefree, one of the holdovers from the previous coaching staff.

But Tennessee was just 26 percent from the field, missing 9-of-10 in the stretch, 0-for-8 in  the last four minutes of the quarter which set up Arkansas by five. The lead grew to a dozen early in the second quarter. 

Tennessee had no answers, 1-of-13 from the floor. It was 40-31 at halftime.

Tennessee calmly whittled away and had it down to four with possession in the third. They persevered and tied it at 63, then went up by four with a 7-0 fourth on a Davis 3.

Arkansas had three with at least a dozen each, but Westbrook was 10-of-15 for UT and had 22. Rookie Zaay Green, the second most-dependable Vol, had 15.

Cheridene Green kept UT in it, battling underneath.

With 17 seconds left, UT had the ball down 1. Westbrook drew a foul with 10 seconds left and tied it with her first free throw of 23 points. She put them ahead by one with the second.

Arkansas did not waver.

 Senior Malica Monk drove right down court and scored, 80-79.

With 3.6 seconds left, UT had no plan.  They had come back from 13 down, had the lead late at home. 

And lost.

Mike Neighbors said, “We had worked too hard for this. I am so happy for Malica Monk. She stayed with us and earned this opportunity. We are growing up. To win a game we weren’t supposed to, that is big. You trust your seniors.”

Now the Lady Vols incredibly interrupt the conference season for a home whooping against No. 1 Notre Dame. 

That schedule is on the coach. We have said for four seasons this makes no sense. An unlikely win does not help in conference play. 

The expected loss only further disillusions a team which had just lost five, two by two, one by four and this one by one.

“We dug ourselves into a hole and couldn’t finish the job,” Warlick said. “We can’t give up 3s and we gave up 12. We weren’t doing some things we should have been doing and then they stepped it up.

“We played better defense but still not good enough. Right (confidence) is bit very good. We’ve lost so many tight situations. I didn’t have to coach effort. That’s huge.

“Notre Dame is big for us because it’s our next game. We’re gonna prepare and be ready and fight and put our kids in the best opportunities.

“We’re gonna keep plugging along and get this thing turned around.”

No. 19 South Carolina (13-5)

After the loss at Mississippi State, South Carolina still had the mission of defending the home court. First up was newly-ranked No. 25 Missouri. SC fell three spots in the poll.

Who better than Missouri to welcome at home. This was the only matchup of ranked teams all night. 

Carolina brought in 12,004 fans.

They eased them out, 79-65.

The centerpiece was supposed to be smarmy Mizzou senior  guard Sophie Cunningham.

Last season, she caused a confrontation against South Carolina. She was ejected from one of the games.

The Mizzou athletic director said afterwards racist taunts were given to his players and said Staley created the atmosphere.

This despite the fact SC is the team with a majority of black players and his own team is primarily not.

Eventually, the conference sanctioned him after Staley filed a defamation lawsuit. The school paid $25,00 and he had to publicly apologize. The lawsuit ended in a $50,000 settlement which Staley directed to a charity.

Missouri coach Robin Pingeton said nothing, either in support or about what happened.

After Cunningham flagrantly elbowed a Tennessee player in the face on a drive this year, the Tigers went silent on social media. If they are to be believed, the team decided to do it in their own, a further indictment of Pingeton not controlling things. 

The Tennessee coach, Holly Warlick, swears she didn’t see it and it was not her place to comment. 

Which is how players get away with things. Pingeton also said nothing. The ESPN analysts on the game laughed it off.

Staley had hoped to get the teams together before this game to talk it out. But Pingeton arranged for her team to get to Columbia late Sunday, avoiding the meeting.

So came Monday’s national cablecast.

SC scored after every turnover by Missouri. 

The lead was 11-3, but two fouls on team leader Te’a Cooper for SC, who had been guarding Cunningham. The Bulldogs had two other point guards on the court.

South Carolina slowly built a lead, to 11 with 4:23 in the half. Cunningham had six.

Alexis Jennings had six rebounds in the 18-9 edge there. Mikiah Herbert Harrigan had scored a dozen, more than the opponent combined.

Bianca Cuevas-Moore, one of the three SC point guards, was 3-of-4 on 3s, with 11 points.

Missouri had two single free throws in the closing four minutes and SC pushed it to a 14-point lead at the half and maintained that for the second half.

Cunningham scored 25, 14 in the second half, with four 3s. She ended with four fouls.

The refs stayed in control, calling a double-technical at one tussle, not involving Cunningham. There were 45 fouls called. SC was 17-of-20 at the line.

Missouri’s stay in the Top 25 may be one week.

SC won with their best player, Cooper, hobbled with fouls. Herbert Harrigan and Tyasha Harris each scored 16, Cuevas-Moore and Jennings 14 each.

“This could have been somewhat of a trap game for us, but it wasn’t,” Staley said.

“They knew they played well (at Mississippi State). They wanted to get back on the winning side of things. I think it’s all about preparation – our coaching staff, what we decide on that is important to concentrate on – and we did that over the past two days.”

They have a week off before playing Vanderbilt.

No. 7 Mississippi State (17-1)

State skipped two Sundays and still won twice.

First was at Auburn, 85-59.

They have not lost when they score first.

They started quickly again. Teaira McCowan earned an early rest with 12 points as the ’Dawgs took a 10-point quarter lead. She had as many as did the Auburn team. She has 13 games with 20 or more points and 15 or more rebounds this season, despite limited time in the blowouts.

She is the SEC McCowan Player of the Week again. They really ought to follow our lead and rename it for this season. She also a National Player of the Week honor.

Auburn’s center was also sitting, but because of two fouls

Everything was going well. All the visitors need do was match whatever Auburn did. The visitors spread the joy. Jordan Danberry and Chloe Bibby each had six.

More importantly, 6-5 freshman reserve State center Jessica Carter was in, showing the development learned by contesting McCowan in every practice.

State had 10 points off eight turnovers.

McCowan was whistled for a hooking foul, though replays showed she did not. There was 3:15 left in the half. Auburn cut it to four. But Bibby hit a 3, stole the ball and Andra Espinoza-Hunter hit a 3. It was 10 again, 38-28 at the break. State was 11-of-14 from the line, Auburn 3-of-7.

McCowan started the second half with a third foul. Yikes

But no.

State increased the lead to 19, pirouetting off its defense. When Auburn center Unique Thompson sat down with four fouls, she had no points after averaging a double/double all conference season. She did not even have a shot attempt. The 1,908 in attendance did not appreciate that.

It was simply closeout time McCowan had her 14th double/double, 22 points and 10 rebounds, 9-of-10 from the field 4-of-4 from the line, without playing the fourth quarter. It grew to a 25-point margin with more than four minutes left.

“There’s a reason (State) is the No. 6 team in the country,” Auburn coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said.

“I thought we did a very good job; we were only down by 10 at the half. It’s just a very tough game to continue to play that way. 

“They got some transition buckets that kind of blew the lead (open). We just have to move on. There's nothing that we can dwell on about this game. “

Auburn has been averaging 13 points less in conference play than before that, 66. They were 11 under that this time, right at the State defensive average.

Here came was has been an absolute joy of competition, the once and future monsters if the league, South Carolina visiting as the only ranked teams (SC at No. 15) and only undefeated conference teams in the matchup of the week. 

They are two of the teams not to lose at home in conference, SC had won 12 of the past 13 meetings/

Now there is one undefeated in conference.

It started with the usual flurry of overexcitement, missed chances and turnovers. Then Danberry broke underneath for a layup. A minute later she hit another. Te’a Cooper made a layup then fed Tyasha Harris for a 3.

Danberry scored again. Harris hit another 3. 

Reserve Breamber Scott is a replacement for Bibby. She scored a State layup. A Cooper layup was offset by two Anriel Howard free throws. Jazzmun Holmes hit a State jumper, but Mikiah Herbert Harrigan answered underneath. 

McCowan and Cooper traded layups. McCowan made a layup then hit one of two free throws, then two more.

But in the final seconds, Bianca Cuevas-Moore hit a layup and Cooper a 3. The lead was just 26-23 off those unanswered defensive failures.

Cooper had 11, but forwards Alexis Jennings and Herbert Harrigan each had two fouls trying to contain McCowan. Danberry had seven points and McCowan eight.

At the start of the second, SC went on an 11-4 spree. Cooper was 6-of-8 and had 14. State reeled them in and trailed by two. Howard picked up a third foul, so in came Carter. SC was hitting 79 percent from the field, keeping them in the game. They also had 6-of-7 3s.

The inevitable fall of the shooting percentage leveled out. SC was at 54 percent.
State maintained and led by eight with seven minutes left.

McCowan was McCowan, 18 points and 19 rebounds on her way to 28 and 24. 

They maintained a nine-point lead with two and a half left. Schaefer had 11 points from Scott off the bench. That was significant.

SC coach Dawn Staley had stuck with senior starters Alexis Jennings and Cuevas Moore and that was as significant as they scored four and two. 

State thundered into an easy 89-74 win, four in double figures. They won the closing quarter by 14. 

Cooper scored 27. The visitors needed 10 3s to make it even that close.

“Teaira McCowan – she’s one of the all-time greatest when she’s hooked up and playing,” Schaefer said. "She’s been really interested the last two ballgames. I like this side of T.

“She’s been really interested, very focused on technique and very determined."

McCowan is just the second player in the SEC over the past 20 years to have five career games of at least 20 points and 20 rebounds, joining former LSU star Sylvia Fowles.

"My teammates found me," McCowan said. "I knew coming in it was a big game, so I couldn't take a night off. I just had to go and execute the game plan that the coaches gave me throughout the week.

“They’d make a shot and we’d make a shot, they had a run and we had a run. We just needed to make our runs a little longer.”

“I thought we just haven’t been winning, in my opinion, with the toughness plays,” Schaefer said.

“We lost the toughness plays in the first quarter, so that’s a toughness play. Know the clock, contest it and make them go to the hole, and there isn’t enough time. That’s toughness. Not getting the rebound on the free throw, that’s toughness.

“Of course, you are sitting there thinking, ‘Is this going to come back and haunt you?’ But no, it didn’t. Our kids really buckled down on defense and held them to 10 points in the fourth quarter. 

“I thought, as the game went on, and if you are in my practice, we don’t work too much on zone. To see us play it that much tonight and play it that well.

“As the game went on, we got more comfortable with it and became aware of what they were trying to do to us. It’s funny, we did work on it more going into this game than I have all year long. As it turned out, we sure needed it.”

“It helps us,” Staley said. “This road loss helps us, even though we lost. It helps us in the RPI, it helps strength of schedule and that’s what playing in the SEC does.”

SC welcomes Missouri next.

The Bulldogs have been in the Top 10 for 52 straight weeks. They should close the month with three more wins, at Florida, Mississippi and at LSU.

State sophomore forward Bibby – the only non-senior starter -- blew out her left knee 25 seconds into the game. She was in obvious pain. She was helped off the floor and didn't return.

The 6-1 guard is one of the few consistent outside shooters. She's averaged 12.6 points per game while leading 3s in shooting percent (45) and makes (36).

Schaefer already knew Bibby was seriously injured, which was confirmed the next day.

“Chloe Bibby has worked her tail off to be where she is and to see that happen to her just rips your guts out -- rips your heart out,” Schaefer said. “It's very difficult.”

The effervescent Australian is obviously far from home. She is expected to be in the finalist pool for her country’s 2020 Olympics, having already played on the 16-under and 18-under national team.

She will eligible as soon as she recovers, sometime next season,  and can still travel with the team. She was the only non-senior starter.

No. 15 Kentucky (16-3)

The Kats’ only encounter was at LSU, where the Tigers averaged 63.3 points per game this season allowing 52.9. Junior forward Ayana Mitchell leads the team with 13.4 points per game and 9.9 rebounds per game, hitting 57.8 from the field with a team-best 30 steals.

Still, UK had won four of the most recent five games in the series.

Senior Kat Maci Morris (16.8 points per game) skipped the previous game and classmate Taylor Murray (12.3) is trying to build on limited play with a knee injured against Tennessee. They are the No.2 and No.3 scorers on the team.

Murray is again MIA after injuring a knee in the Tennessee loss. 

We reported last week they are learning to play without her, despite an effort for a few minutes in the next game. She has a patella bone bruise.

A previously unannounced injury to leading scorer Rhyne Howard, the undisputed SEC Rookie of the Year until now, also eliminated her from this game.

 Her loss is game-changing.

But boy was Morris back. She scored 20 in the 64-60 road win.

KeKe McKinney hit the dagger, a 3 with a minute left. She had hit 8-of-31 3s all season.

Jaida Roper started at point guard . She drove the lane and kicked out to a wide-open McKinney, who didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger.

“Last year I wouldn’t have hit that shot. But I was confident, and luckily it went in,” McKinney said. “I was like, ‘Boom girl, you did that.’ That’s what my reaction was.”

She closed the game with a free throw. Those were four of her six points.

Of the shot, UK coach Mathew Mitchell said, “You can try and call something but they’re going to switch everything hard on the initial action ... you’ve got to read the situation,” Mitchell said. “They were not going to let Maci Morris touch the ball.

“The one thing we said was ‘Do not shoot a contested shot’ ... that was beautiful. That was great, great execution.”

They drew 1,452.

UK started on a 21-5 run before LSU ended the half on a 9-0 run hitting three 3s in the final two minutes of the second quarter.

The Kats hit 9-of-13 from the field in the first 10 minutes, while LSU was 5-of-16. UK scored eight points off six LSU turnovers, while LSU scored six points off five UK miscues.

LSU answered UK's 16-point lead in the first half with a 17-2 run.

Next, Missouri visits, then Kentucky is at also unranked Texas A&M in a traditionally tough battle. The Aggies lost their first two in conference, then have won three straight.

 Only Missouri, State and South Carolina have won all their SEC home games after Texas A&M won Sunday at Georgia. Those ’Dawgs have lost three of four, with the only win, of course, over Tennessee.

No. 24 Texas A&M (16-3)

The Aggies lost the first two SEC games, then have won three straight, including giving Georgia its first conference loss at home. So they are worthy of being reranked’

The latest wizardy was winning at Georgia, right after Georgia has embarrassed Tennessee. It stopped a 10-game winning streak and obviously was the first SEC  home loss, leaving just South Carolina and Mississippi Stet unbeaten at home in the league.

 No one has won the conference with a home loss for several seasons.

If there is another All-American in conference other than Teaira McCowan, it is
A&M guard Chennedy Carter.
 She never met a shot opportunity she didn’t like.

She scored a season-high 31 at Athens. Teammate and N'dea Jones grabbed 21 rebounds—tied for the second-most in school history.

Jones had brought dozens of fans to Georgia, as that is her home state and this was her first game in Georgia since leaving for A&M.

A&M won easily, 76-66 .

The visitors led, 36-28 at halftime, but Georgia rallied to tie it at 55 with eight minutes to. The Aggies scored on each of their next five possessions to take control of the game with a 12-2 run.

 Carter's 31 points is her first 30-plus of the season, and the eighth of her career. Shambria Washington scored a career-high 15, Kayla Wells also scored 15 and Ciera Johnson had her sixth double/double of the season with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Georgia coach Joni Taylor noted A&M had more free throws than did her team, 18-of-25 compared to 7-of-9, but owned up as to why.

“I think we need to be more aggressive,” Taylor said. “We fouled them, and we didn't get to the line enough. That starts with getting the ball inside and attacking. They were playing some zone, so we don't get as many opportunities as when they are playing man, but this is the second game that we had single-digit free throw attempts. It means we aren't being aggressive enough to get the ball inside." 

Gary Blair of A&M said, “Firstly, I would like to commend Georgia for having a great crowd (4,773). That is the largest crowd we’ve played at this year because it just so happens that South Carolina, Tennessee and Mississippi State have come to our place.

“We needed to play in front of a crowd like that, that was so good. Georgia, we’re all about the same as far as ability. We all have scorers, rebounders and impact players.

"Fouls can determine a ball game. They got in to more foul trouble than we did. I mean all you have to do is look at the stats, that’s pretty good free throw shooting. But, when Georgia came back and tied it at 55, we stared it in the face and did something about it. It all started with rebounding and defense first."

 A&M won the boards, 47-31.

Jones said, “I think we learned that we can play in an environment like this. We are able to listen to our coaches and keep our composure. We were able to come and complete our goal, to win. It was a big stage, the crowd was good, the band kept booing us but I think we blocked it all out really well. We listened to each other and were really able to communicate with each other.”

Classmate Carter said, “Every game we start out with the confidence that we’re going to  come out and compete. 

“We knew that they were going to come out and throw different defenses at us. I want to say congrats to my teammates. We all stayed composed and calm, we held composure this ball game and led the entire time. That was a big thing for us and we led the entire time because of it.”

Texas A&M stays on the road, at Auburn, then comes home for Kentucky this week

Monday, January 21, 2019

The Guru Report: No. 20 Rutgers and Rider Stay Perfect in Conference Play While Drexel Moves Closer to First

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

No. 20 Rutgers and Rider completed another winning week Sunday to stay atop their Big Ten and Metro Atlantic Athletic Conferences while Drexel with some help elsewhere continued a climb out of the disastrous opening weekend earlier this month to improve the Dragons’ pursuit of another regular season Colonial Athletic Association championship.

On the flip side, Penn State stayed in contention a bit before falling at No. 9 Maryland involving the other Guru local in the Big Ten while Delaware’s bright start on Friday with a CAA win flamed out up in Boston at Northeastern.

Since both are locals it was up one and down one as Saint Joseph’s in the first of two meetings with its  nearby Atlantic 10 rival La Salle defeated the Explorers at home on Alumni Day with Alyssa Monaghan compiling a career-high 25 points.

That game which the Guru was on the scene against La Salle is chronicled separately below this roundup.

Earlier on the weekend, in a game moved from Sunday to Saturday as a precaution against severe weather becoming disruptive, Temple played respectable but still lost to No. 2 Connecticut in the Liacouras Center while Villanova on the road ran out of scoring fuel in the closing minutes in the nation’s capital and lost to Georgetown dropping further in the quagmire that is the bottom of the Big East.

Then there is the overall national scene in which more teams in the week’s total of Associated Press ranked schools with losses increased to 13, one of the more severe group setbacks in the 43-year history of the rankings.

All that said, let’s look at the results in a packaged format.

Rutgers Continues to Soar in the Big Ten While Penn State Setbacks Continue

The Scarlet Knights hosted No. 17 Michigan State and this time had no worries about blown leads in a 76-62 victory to maintained a two-game lead atop the Big Ten standings, running their unbeaten conference record to 7-0 while Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer’s squad is still perfect at home at 10-0.

Rutgers (15-3, 67-0) has also won 10 straight and will probably make a big jump in Monday’s new Associated Press rankings in light of the number of teams who took hits since the last poll that brought the Scarlet Knights back into the AP rankings for the first time since a brief two-week stay virtually a year ago.

In case you’re starting to wonder about other numbers, the last 7-0 start in conference competition was in 2008 in the old Big East for Rutgers and the most wins compiled in the Big Ten was 12 in 2015, the team’s first season in its current league.

In this one Rutgers remained the irresistible object with the conference’s top defense prevailing against the Spartans (13-5, 3-4), the irresistible force with the best offense and continued to hold each of 18 teams (all of them on the schedule) below their scoring averages.

It’s  the second ranked team Rutgers has beaten this season and in this one redshirt senior Stasha Carey had 30 points for a career high while Arella Guirantes had 19 points as the other player to score in double figures for the home team.

Taryn McCutcheon and Sydney Cooks each scored 15 points for Michigan State, which took an early lead until Rutgers erased the 5-0 start and then kept going from there. Cooks also had nine rebounds.

The Spartans arrived with an 80.6 scoring average and was held 18 points below and to just 24 points at the half, lowest total this season.

Rutgers next hits the road this week with visits to No. 22 Iowa (14-4, 5-2) on Wednesday and then Sunday at Penn State (9-9, 2-5) , which lost at No. 9 Maryland 79-67 Sunday after the Terrapins (16-2, 5-2) had fallen earlier at Michigan State.

The Lady Lions got 20 points from Teniya Page and 13 from Siyeh Frazier while Alisa Smith had nine points and nine rebounds, Lauren Ebo had seven points and nine rebounds, and Frazier had eight rebounds.

The Lady Lions got swept on the season by the Terrapins, whose Taylor Mikesell scored 23 points and Kalia Charles scored 19, while Shakira Austin, the reigning USBWA national freshman of the week, had 13 points and 10 rebounds along with blocking three shots.

Brianna Frasier also scored in double figures for Maryland with 13 points off the bench.

The teams traded differentials in the first two periods with the Terrapins taking a 13-point lead in the opening quarter only to have the Lady Lions rally in the second for a 35-35 tie at the break.

But the home team went on to duplicate 22-16 advantages the next two periods for the final score.

“We had a load to deal with today, especially their post play,” said PSU coach Coquese Washington as Maryland avoided slipping further than two games behind Rutgers. “When they’re post players play as well as they did today, they’re very tough to handle.

“I thought we played with a lot of fight and a lot of effort and there are a lot of things we can learn and carry with us as we finish out and continue with Big Ten play.”

Penn State next travels to Wisconsin at 8 before coming home Sunday to host Rutgers.

Drexel Moves Within a Game of the CAA Frontrunners While Delaware Falls at Northeastern

The Dragons continued mopping up true road wins at 7-0 on the season and completed a weekend sweep beating Hofstra 61-49 for their third straight overall in a wire-to-wire victory over the Pride (6-12, 0-6), at the Mack Center in Hempstead, N.Y., on Long Island.

Hofstra, winless in the CAA, is alone in 10th and last place.

Drexel (11-5, 3-2) is now a game behind in the loss column to the tri-leaders of preseason favorite James Madison and Towson, both of which suffered their first CAA setbacks being upset by UNCW, which moved within a half-game behind them in third.

William & Mary has the same CAA mark as the Dragons.

Bailey Greenberg, who had a career-high 26 points and the game-winner Friday night at Northeastern, had 13 against Hofstra along with seven rebounds while Hannah Nihill scored 12, half of which came from making both three-ball attempts.

Aubree Brown had 10 points as once again, Drexel, leading the nation in scoring defense below 50 points maintained that stand holding Hofstra to 49 points.

The Dragons had lost six of seven in the series with Hofstra on Long Island before winning two straight in Hempstead.

In a big weekend ahead, Drexel comes home to host Charleston Friday in the Daskalakis Athletic Center at 7 and then take on UNCW at home Sunday at 2 p.m.

Delaware, meanwhile, fell to eighth tied with Charleston after falling at Northeastern to the Huskies 75-62.

Northeastern (13-4, 3-3) after losing Friday at home to Drexel moved into sixth a half-game behind the Dragons and William & Mary and a half ahead of Elon (7-9, 2-3 CAA), the defending conference tournament champion who also has a lost to UNCW.

Delaware (6-11, 1-4) is a half-game overall ahead of Charleston.

The Blue Hens faded in the final period but were led by Bailey Kargo, who scored 18 points, spurred by four 3-pointers, while freshman Jasmine Dickey had 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Abby Gonzales had 14 points in the game not played in the Cabot Center where the Northeastern women play the most but in Matthews Arena, home to the men’s basketball team and men’s and women’s ice hockey squad in the world’s oldest multi-purpose athletic building.

It’s the first time Delaware has played in that arena.

“This one’s tough,” said second-year coach Natasha Adair. “We did a lot of things well but we let the league’s top scorer (Jess Genco) get 32 points. Kudos to Northeastern and what they’ve done as a program.

“The biggest thing we need to do is focus and be consistent for an entire 40 minutes … We need to put it all together to come out with the win.”

Delaware is home this weekend, hosting UNCW at noon in the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark on Friday and then hosting Charleston at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

Rider Remains Unbeaten In First in the MAAC With Quinnipiac

Just like the landmark run two seasons ago, Rider is still in the hunt for a regular season MAAC title after a sixth-straight win, beating host Manhattan 73-63 in Draddy Gymnasium in Riverdale, N.Y.

Stella Johnson and Lexi Posset each poured 22 points for the visiting Broncs (10-7, 6-0) while Lea Favre scored 15 points, shooting 7-of-11 from the field.

Kania Pollock had 20 points for the Jaspers (3-13, 1-4) while Courtney Warley scored 16, and Sydney Watkins scored 12.

“We started the first and third quarters really strong today,” said Rider coach Lynn Milligan. “Today our biggest mistake was letting our fouls take us out of rhythm. With the clock stopping all the time it was hard for us to find our flow.

“Manhattan is a good team offensively. Stella’s points today were tough ones. Manhattan guarded her hard,” Milligan said. “Stella always does whatever she has to do to help our team win. That’s what she did again today. She draws a lot of attention from opposing defenses.

“For her to continue to do what she’s doing is a credit to her hard work.

“The best thing right now is that we don’t play again until Saturday. We’re coming off a stretch where we played three games in five days. I’m really proud of our effort. To be 6-0 in the league with four of those wins coming on the road is tough.”

Rider has now beaten Manhattan six straight times. The 6-0 MAAC mark is the best under Milligan and in program history one game ahead of the 5-1 opening two seasons ago during the best overall season in history.

The Broncs on Saturday will host Canisius at 2 p.m. on ESPN3 looking for their fifth straight against the Griffs.

Villanova and Temple Drop Games Sinking Further in Conference Standings

The Wildcats held a 59-51 lead in the nation’s capital at Georgetown in McDonough Arena on Saturday but a 7-0 run from the Hoyas in the fourth period led to them closing out to a 68-63 win in the Big East.

Mary Gedaka had 16 points and eight rebounds for Villanova in the fifth straight game in the series decided by five points or less. Kelly Jekot scored 15 points, Adrianna Hahn had 12 points on four triplets, and Jannah Tucker scored 11.

Georgetown’s Dorothy Adomako had 28 points and 11 rebounds while Dionna White had 25 points.

Villanova (11-7, 2-5 Big East), which snapped a three-game conference losing streak stepping outside Wednesday to beat Penn and win the Big Five outright, dropped to eighth place in the conference while the Hoyas (9-9, 3-4) moved a game ahead into seventh.

It’s a logjam behind front running Marquette (16-3, 7-0), ranked 14th in the AP Poll, and Butler (16-32, 6-1).

The Wildcats Friday at 7 visits Seton Hall at Walsh Gym in South Orange, N.J., just after the Pirates (12-6, 4-3) upset No. 24 DePaul 84-73 in Chicago to move into a third-place tie with the Blue Demons ((13-6, 4-3).

Temple, meanwhile, played No. 2 Connecticut a day earlier on Saturday with the game moved up in light of the weather forecasts and the Owls fell 88-67 in the larger Liacouras Center in the American Athletic Conference.

Crystal Dangerfield had a career-high 26 points for the Huskies (16-1m 5-0 AAC) and dealt nine assists to keep UConn unbeaten in all games in AAC history at 106-0.

“I think she was on her game tonight,” Hall of Fame Huskies coach Geno Auriemma said of Dangerfield. “She made shots, she got people shots and she managed the game. That about says it all.”

Napheesa Collier had a season-high 30 points and 12 rebounds, whose only loss has been at No. 3 Baylor six games ago. Megan Walker scored 11 and Katie Lou Samuelson scored 10.

Temple’s Aliya Butts scored 17 for the Owls (4-13, 0-5), who next visit Penn Wednesday night and then host East Carolina Saturday in McGonigle Hall.

Desiree Oliver had her first double double with 15 points and 10 rebounds while Mia Davis and Alexa Williamson each scored 11,

“We knew it was going to be tough,” said Temple coach Tonya Cardoza, who was a Connecticut assistant 14 seasons before succeeding Dawn Staley in 2008-09.

“It wasn’t about them. We had a long talk. We had to be different and I saw signs from some players,” Cardoza said about not getting embarrassed the way many teams do in the conference playing Connecticut.

Nationally Noted: N.C. State Stays Unbeaten in Overtime Win Avoiding Wave of Upsets

The No. 8 Wolfpack are the last unbeaten men’s or women’s team in Division I but nearly lost that distinction of staying alive after being forced into overtime before beating visiting Virginia Tech 70-61 in an Atlantic Coast Conference game in Raleigh, N.C., Sunday.

Aislinn Konig had 20 points for coach Wes Moore’s squad (18-0, 5-0 ACC), which also got 25 from Kiara Leslie.

Taylor Emery with a steal on an inbound play had a chance to win the game in regulation for the Hokies (13-5, 0-5) but missed the second of two free throws at the finish.

Purdue beat No. 25 Indiana 56-53 in the Big Ten, which also saw host Nebraska surprise No. 23 Minnesota 63-57.

 Georgia Tech took down No. 12 Syracuse in an ACC game in Atlanta riding Kierra Fletcher’s 22 points and Elizabeth Balogun had 20 for the Yellow Jackets (13-6, 3-3).  The Orangewomen (14-3, 3-1) departed from a nine-game win streak and got 15 points from Miranda Drummond.

No. 19 Arizona State upset No. 10 Oregon State 79-76 in double overtime in a Pac-12 game in Portland.

Kianna Ibis had 28 points for the Sun Devils (13-5, 4-3), who may have dodged getting ousted from the poll, though the Beavers (15-3, 5-1) will likely drop from the top 10.

And that’s the Report.







Sunday, January 20, 2019

Monaghan’s Career Day Carries Saint Joseph’s Over La Salle in Big Five Win On Hawks’ Alumni Day

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA — On Alumni Day on Hawk Hill, Saint Joseph’s and visiting La Salle competed in the way of prior memorable battles with the home team prevailing in Hagan Arena Sunday 60-57 in what was both a Big Five and Atlantic 10 affair televised on the CBS Sports Network.

The first sign that it might be the Hawks’ afternoon in the first of two between the local rivals was that for all the dire weather forecasts, in the end no snow fell, the rain stopped several hours earlier, and the sun was shining as the clock neared its 4 p.m. tipoff.

“I think Ellen Ryan was smiling on us and had something to do with it,” Hawks veteran coach Cindy Griffin, a former backcourt star here, said beforehand paying tribute to the first program coach and longtime women’s administrator.

Both teams have had atypical down years  — Saint Joseph’s struggling to score in the wake of over 70 percent of the offense graduated while La Salle has been been struggling to win, period, during a rebuilding mode under first-year coach Mountain MacGillivray.

However, at the outset in what was a closely fought contest, the Explorers took control and worked their way to a 21-11 lead early in the second period.

But while one “Mountain” was guiding the visitors from the sidelines, another mountain of sorts was a force on the other squad with senior Alyssa Monaghan bringing the Hawks (6-12, 2-3 Atlantic 10, 1-3 Big Five) back and finishing with a career-high 25 points.

Monaghan shot 9-for-14 from the field, including 5-for-7 on three-point attempts, while dealing four assists and grabbing three steals. Just last Wednesday she matched her previous best with 23 points in a loss at Duquesne. She also collected 23 at Niagara in the 2017-18 season opener.

Krystalyn Baisden also scored in double figures with 10 points Sunday while Katie Jekot scored nine, collecting most of hers on 7-for-10 from the line and scoring with the outcome undetermined down the stretch.

Shalina Miller had 14 points for the Explorers (3-16, 0-5, 0-4 Big Five) as did Shayla Sweeney, matching her career high while Rayshel Brown scored 10, though matters weren’t helped when Miller and Brown ultimately fouled out down the stretch.

“I think it was a typical Big Five battle,” Griffin said, “it was one of those games, we were playing from behind most of the game, the players stepped up, Monaghan had a great game, she was earning everything that she got, and when the opportunity presented itself, she made all the shots and that really, really helped us.

“We got to the foul line a lot of times (17-for-30 vs. 7-for-14), attacking the basket, we need to shoot better from the foul line, obviously, we outrebounded the other team (32-31), that was nice to see, and, yes, really, really excited to see us get this win on our home court on Alumni Day.

“They saw, The Hawk Will Never Die, that’s our philosophy, to play scrappy and gritty, and to fight.

“It’s never easy with these games, it doesn’t matter what your record is, there’s a lot of pride on the line,” Griffin said. “We’re going to see La Salle again, we get to play them twice, so we expect to see the same thing the second time we play them, but it was nice to represent the Saint Joseph’s team of today in front of a lot of Saint Joe’s teams from before.”

After the deficit reached 10 points on Miller’s shot for La Salle, the Hawks closed the half of a 12-6 run to trail 27-23.

La Salle regained a stronger hold early in the third period on Michelle Nicholls’ three-ball and Miller’s shot for a nine-point lead.

But the Hawks struck back again, launching a 12-2 run to go ahead 35-34 with 4:39 left in the third.

It then stayed close with La Salle getting back in front but being left with a one-point lead 43-42 after Katie Mayock’s shot for the Hawks just before the third concluded.

Monaghan’s dime put Saint Joseph’s in front early in the next period for a lead the Hawks would not relinquish but they didn’t get into safe territory until Jekot’s two foul shots made it a five-point lead with 21 seconds left.

Monaghan and Nicholls each then went 1-for-2 from the line to keep it at five with nine seconds left and then Nicholls scored before the end of regulation for the game’s final points.

Being a Big Five contest, the last for both, La Salle went 0-4, though competitive in the City Series round robin, while Saint Joseph’s finished fourth after beating the Explorers for the sixth straight time.

Following Villanova’s win over Penn last Wednesday to claim the local title outright at 4-0, second place will be decided Wednesday night at 7 when Temple visits the Quakers in The Palestra. Both teams are 2-1.

With the inordinate performance of the Atlantic 10, anything could be possible if Saint Joseph’s can put things together ahead of a prized recruiting class on the way next season just as they executed the magical run to the title game a year ago as an under-seed.

The win over La Salle has the Hawks tied for eighth in the conference with three other teams, but only a game behind three more that are tied for fifth with a lot of season left beginning with Wednesday’s Virginia visit to Richmond.

The Spiders (3-15 overall) are winless in the conference as are the Explorers at the bottom of the 14-team field.

“It’s really been up and down with a lot of different teams, on any given night the top teams can be beat, and it’s going to be down the stretch, positioning for the tournament (at Duquesne in Pittsburgh) and who’s going to be hot during that time,” Griffin said.

“We’re starting to play better, doing a lot of things better, and we’re excited about playing our next opponent, which is Richmond. We’ll be tested at Richmond, we’ve been tested all year long so it will be taking it one game at a time.”

Though La Salle fell short, the Explorers performed like progress is being made and it wouldn’t be a shock to see them doing some spoiling the rest of the way.

“No doubt, that was one of our more complete games with the effort we put out, I was pleased with our overall discipline and execution,” MacGillivray said. “We still made too many mistakes, the 20 turnovers, I think maybe 11 of them weren’t forced, undoubtedly a number of fouls we didn’t need to commit, but with all that said, so much better than it’s been.

“Pleased to come here in this historic gym against a legendary coach and give them a good fight. And that was as good as we ever shot, (44.9) percent,” he noted.

“We never shot that well all season. I was really pleased with the way we put the ball in the basket, different players scoring from different spots,” he continued.

“It just didn’t go our way and Saint Joe’s hasn’t been that great offensively. But they defend, and for us to score against that defense, I was really pleased.”

La Salle will host Duquesne Wednesday night in Tom Gola Arena at 7 p.m. The Dukes (10-8, 4-1) were made the preseason favorite but are tied with Davidson and Dayton, a game behind Virginia Commonwealth, which is unbeaten in the conference.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

The Guru Report: Greenberg Buzzer-Beater Gives Drexel Win While Delaware and Rider Also Claim Victories

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA — Three teams in the Guru’s D-1 mix played Friday and all turned in victories, one in dramatic buzzer beating fashion, while the Guru here went back in his pre-womhoops day as the manager to be part of the celebration of the 50th anniversary season of the Temple men’s basketball NIT title at New York’s Madison Square Garden back when that event was a more significant 16-team field.

The NCAA, then dominated by Kareem Jabbar’s UCLA squad, was also just a 16-team arrangement.

Friday was a private diner atop Temple’s new and lavish Morgan Hall while the public celebration will be a reception at 3:30 p.m. followed by the Temple men playing Penn (5 p.m.) in a Big Five game at the Liacouras Center. The NIT group will be honored at halftime.

The weather elements turned Saturday’s activities into a doubleheader with the Temple women hosting No. 2 UConn at noon in the Liacouras Center in an American Athletic Association game that was moved from its original scheduled time at 1 p.m. Sunday.

All that said, let’s go to Friday’s local, then national affairs.

Drexel Wins on Greenberg’s Buzzer Beater While Delaware Also Victorious in CAA Games

The Dragons ventured away on a road weekend in the Colonial Athletic Association beginning in Boston visiting improved Northeastern University before on the way back South stopping Sunday at Hofstra at the Mack Sports Complex in Hempstead, N.Y., on Long Island, where Delaware began the same day and then heading to Boston for a Sunday date with Northeastern.

How those Sunday’s games which certainly will have a snow element as opposed to rain down here are affected remains to be seen.

But when it came to precipitation Friday, Drexel’s Bailey Greenberg (no relation) was dropping shots all over the Cabot Center including the game-winner at the buzzer for a career best 26 points to give the Dragons a 61-59 victory over the Huskies (12-4, 2-3 CAA) and quickly get them back in better shape thanks to another CAA buzzer-beater that saw surprising UNCW fell preseason favorite James Madison for the Duke’s first loss in conference play.

One second was left in the Drexel game when Aubree Brown sent the inbound pass to Greenberg, who pivoted in the paint and nailed a bank shot for the triumph by the Dragons (10-5, 2-2), who had begun CAA play two weeks ago being upset at home by surprising Towson and then losing to JMU, also in the Daskalakis Athletic Center.

Greenberg had tied the game with 30 seconds left to help alleviate a 14-point meltdown in the second half. 

Her aunt by the way, former Penn and Boston U. coach Kelly Greenberg, is being inducted into the La Salle Athletics Hall of Fame Saturday for her time playing for the Explorers, which has already been acknowledge with Big Five Hall of Fame membership.

The Drexel Greenberg shot 11-for-17 on the night, including 2 of 4 attempted treys, after having a previous high of 24 points earlier this season get wasted on an overtime loss to Wright State at Manhattan College.

With that being neutral, Drexel with Friday’s win remains perfect in true road triumphs at a best-ever 6-0 start away from West Philadelphia.

Greenberg also had a game-high eight rebounds.

Maura Hendrixson, named CAA freshman of the week for her performance last Sunday in the win at region and conference rival Delaware, got her first start and poured down another career best 16 points matching what she had rained on the Blue Hens.

The total was aided by 5-for-8 in shooting 3-balls.

Keisha Washington’s four points was noted for getting three on a shot with 2:15 left to get Drexel a four-point lead.

Niki Metzel equaled previous individual Drexel season highs with five steals and scored seven, while Brown’s dish to Greenberg was her seventh assist on the night.

Greenberg’s chance at the game-winner was made possible by Teresa Kracikova pouncing on a loose ball.

The Dragons had to rally eliminating an early eight-point lead by Northeastern and did so across the first two periods with a 17-2 run to take control.

The Huskies managed to do a rarity against Drexel’s nation-leading below 50-point scoring yield by getting to the 59 points in their part of the final score.

The Dragons had their best long-range effort with eight 3-balls.

Northeastern’s Stella Clark had 15 points, Shannon Todd scored 12, and Gabby Giacone scored 10.

Earlier in the day Delaware, which has now put tickets on sale for the CAA tournament it gets to host in March after Drexel hosted last season, won at Hofstra 78-59 as the Blue Hens (6-10, 1-3 CAA) snapped a three-game losing streak due in large part to shooting woes.

Delaware shot 48.4 percent from the field in this one.

Samone DeFreese had 19 points off a hot hand of 8-for-12 from the field and also grabbed eight rebounds.

Makeda Nicholas had 12 points, eight rebounds and four assists while Jasmine Dickey had 11 points and 11 rebounds.

Ana Hernandez Gil had 12 points for Hofstra (6-11, 0-5), which is still looking for its first conference win, while Boogie Brozoski scored 11.

Elsewhere in the CAA, Shrita Parker’s three-pointer with 1.9 seconds left in regulation gave host UNCW a stunning 66-63 comeback on James Madison (12-4, 4-1), snapping the Dukes’ six-game win streak and also, better yet, their overall 17-win streak in the series with the Seahawks (10-5, 3-1), who are in their second season under former Old Dominion coach Karen Barefoot.

Former longtime Delaware coach Tina Martin is in her second season as Barefoot’s top aide.

Parker in the home game in Trask Coliseum in Wilmington, N.C., had a game-high 20 points, shooting 6-for-11 from the field, while reserve Ahyiona Vason had 18 points and Gigi Smith scored 11.

Paige Powell grabbed 10 rebounds to go with her eight points.

Neumann-Goretti grad Kamiah Smalls, the preseason CAA player of the year out of Philadelphia, had 19 points and Lexi Barrier scored 12 and grabbed nine rebounds for JMU.

Smalls had tied the game inside with 20.3 seconds left before Parker on the ensuing UNCW possession took a pass from Vason for the game-winner.

UNCW has little time to celebrate because on Sunday first-place Towson, that’s right, Towson comes visiting after Friday’s 77-61 win at Charleston (5-10, 1-3) put the Tigers (11-5, 5-0) all alone atop the conference for the first time ever.

The overall record is the best since an 11-4 start seven seasons ago in 2011-12, the same season the Tigers last had a six-game win streak.

“We are just trying to play our best,” said second-year coach Diane Richardson. “I’m happy for our players, but I know we still have a long road ahead of us.”

Kiona Jeter had 26 points and Nukiya Mayo scored 19 against Charleston, whose Darien Huff scored 19 and Deja Ford had 10 points and 10 rebounds. Ericka Broughton also scored 10 for the home team in TD Arena.

William & Mary and defending CAA tournament champion Elon, who are tied for fourth with Drexel at 2-2 in the league, were idle.

Rider Still Perfect in the MAAC After Cruising Over St. Peter’s

The Broncs finally got home to play in Alumni Gym in Lawrenceville, N.J., and romped as the only other Guru local D-1 team in action, beating St. Peter’s 60-38 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

Amari Johnson had her first career double double with a game-high 17 points and a career-best 13 rebounds for the Broncs (9-7, 5-0 MAAC), who are unbeaten in conference play as is Quinnipiac. The Peacocks fell to 6-11 overall and 1-5 in the conference.

Lea Favre also was in double figures with 10 points for the home team.

Rider never trailed and led by as many as 25 points. 

“It’s great to win on our home floor,” said veteran Rider coach Lynn Milligan. “We haven’t been home in a while. Tonight was another step towards what we think we can be defensively.

“Saint Peter’s came in hot off a big win. I was really proud of our defensive effort, particularly in the second half. We were on the same page and we got some good stops to help our offense get into more of a flow. Overall it was a solid home win.”

Rider has won nine straight against St. Peter’s and it’s the first time the Broncs are 5-0 in the MAAC under Milligan, as well as in program history. The best previous start in the league was 4-1 two seasons ago, the landmark one.

On Sunday, Rider plays at Manhattan at 2 in Draddy Gym in suburban New York.

Nationally Noted: Marquette Alone Atop the Big East

Thanks to a 74-68 win in triple overtime win by host Providence over Butler to knock the Bulldogs from the conference unbeaten ranks, No. 14 Marquette is all alone and unbeaten in conference play atop the Big East.

Villanova (11-6, 2-4) was idle and travels Saturday to the nation’s capital to play its travel partner Georgetown (8-9, 2-4) at 2 p.m. as the only other Guru local game besides the move up by Temple to host No. 2 Connecticut.

In the game in Rhode Island at Alumni Hall, only the fourth triple overtime in Big East women’s history, Maddie Jolin had 20 points for the host Friars (11-8, 3-4) and Tori Schickel scored 20 and had 12 rebounds for Butler (15-2, 5-1), which lost just its second overall game.

Marquette at home in the Al McGuire Center in Milwaukee romped over Seton Hall 96-60 as Natisha Hiedman had 28 points and Amani Wilburn scored 20 for the Golden Eagles (15-3, 6-0 Big East) against the Pirates (11-6, 3-3), who got 16 points from Victoria Cardaci.

No. 24 DePaul, which came back into the Associated Press women’s poll on Monday, was at home in McGrath-Phillips Arena, where the Blue Demons topped St. John’s 73-64 in Chicago.

Chante Stonewall had 22 points for DePaul (13-5, 4-2), which is third behind Butler and Marquette.

Saint John’s, which stayed within less then 10 points of UConn in a game early in the season, the only team to do so other than Baylor in the Bears’ win over the Huskies, fell to 8-9 overall and 1-5 in the conference.

In the other Big East game, Creighton at home edged Xavier 66-62 in overtime in Omaha, Neb., as Audrey Faber had 18 points for the Blue Jays (10-8, 4-3) and A’riana Gray had 23 points and 12 rebounds for the visiting Musketeers (10-7, 1-5).

All but one of the other ranked teams playing Friday night, all in the PAC-12, won.

 The exception caused by both opponents being ranked was No. 5 Oregon’s 77-71 narrow home win in Eugene against No. 19 Arizona State  as Sabrina Ionescu scored 31 points for the host Ducks (16-1, 5-0 PAC-12) against the Sun Devils (12-5, 3-3), who next go to Oregon State being in danger of falling out of the poll with a loss. 

California, which fell out of the poll for the first time this season on Monday, got 29 points and 23 rebounds from Kristine Anigwe for the Bears (11-5, 2-3) in a 77-63 win over visiting Washington State (7-10, 2-4) in Berkeley.

Utah (16-1, 5-1), looking for a ranking, cruised over visiting Colorado 78-59 in Salt Lake City at home as Megan Huff scored 17 points against the Buffs (10-7, 0-6).

No. 10 Oregon State had an easy time beating visiting Arizona 86-64 in Portland at home as Destiny Slocum nailed four 3-pointers and finished with 24 points for the host Beavers (15-2, 5-0) against the Wildcats (13-4, 3-3).

No. 6 Stanford romped over visiting Washington 91-54 at home near Palo Alto, Calif., as Alanna Smith had 27 points for the host Cardinal (15-1, 5-0) over the Huskies (8-10, 1-5), who fell for the 18th straight time in Maples Pavilion.

Coach Tara VanDerveer’s teams has won 15 straight conference games at home.

Looking Ahead: Rutgers Tries to Stay Atop the Big Ten Unbeaten

No. 20 Rutgers now holding a two-game lead in the Big Ten and off to its best conference start unbeaten in the league hosts No. 17 Michigan State (13-4) at 2 p.m. Sunday with the Spartans coming in off a recent upset of No. 9 Maryland, which Rutgers (14-3) also beat when the Terrapins were ranked first.

Penn State, meanwhile, goes to Maryland having blown a big lead and losing in overtime to Ohio State, while as mentioned the Terrapins are smarting off the loss to Michigan State.

The only other Guru local teams are playing each other as both La Salle and Saint Joseph’s look for their first Big Five win in their final City Series game, which also counts as the first of two played in the Atlantic 10.

This one is at Saint Joseph’s at 4 p.m.

The host Hawks in Hagan Arena will be tipping off at 0-3 in the Big Five, the same as La Salle, so the winner finishes fourth and the loser fifth.

Second place will be decided Wednesday when Temple (2-1) visits Penn (2-1), which fell to Villanova, giving the Wildcats the Big Five outright at 4-0.

And that’s the report.




Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Guru Report: Parker’s Career Night For Penn Ruined By Villanova’s Outside Attack as Wildcats Win Big 5 Outright

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA – Career night did not translate into winning on Wednesday night at several places among the six games on the Guru’s local D-1 slate,  beginning right here in The Palestra where Penn junior Eleah Parker matched a personal best with 25 points and set another with 17 rebounds but when the game ended Villanova went back to the Main Line with a 58-50 victory and added another 4-0 outright Big Five trophy to the Wildcats’ collection.

In a first, Penn was considered the pre-game favorite because of its athleticism and its now-concluded five-game win streak while Villanova (11-6) was on a three-game skid overall within its Big East schedule.

A year ago Penn won just the third game in the long-running series between the two, claiming a 79-77 victory at Villanova on Anna Ross’ shot before the end of regulation as Parker also scored 25.

“They key to the game was they only scored 50 points,” Villanova veteran coach Harry Perretta said afterwards. “If they score 60 they win. Last year they scored 79 and won, this year they only got 50.”

The other key was Villanova’s weapon of choice and necessity — the three pointer — was powerful down the stretch as it had been two seasons ago when the Wildcats beat the Quakers (9-3, 2-1 Big Five) here.

In a game of runs Penn owned the first quarter 13-4 but ultimately squandered what had been an 11-point lead as Villanova closed the second with a 10-0 run to own the period 20-12 and trail at the break 25-24.

The streak continued into the third for the first two points but Penn fought back from a seven-point deficit to finish the third ahead 39-36.

But Jannah Tucker got things rolling in the fourth for the visitors with a deep three, Kelly Jekot hit one to bring Villanova back to a 44-44 tie, Tucker hit another three to take the lead for good at 47-45, then Adrianna Hahn connected from beyond the arc for three more and a 50-45 lead.

Tucker’s third three of the period got it to eight and Penn was not able to turn the tide in the face of the 5-for-7 long-range accuracy in the final 10 minutes and Villanova’s lopsided 22-11 score in that stretch.

In all, the Wildcats shot 11 three-balls compared to five from the Quakers, negating the home team’s huge 30-12 points in the paint advantage.

Penn had not played in 11 days since the upset win at preseason Ivy favorite and defending champion Princeton though the Quakers looked anything but rusty on the opening surge.

However, Phoebe Sterba, a heroine in the Ivy opener at Princeton, was the only other Penn player in double figures with 12 points, all courtesy of four connected three-balls. Princess Aghayere, who had been complementing Parker well, was held to seven points.

Villanova, meanwhile, got 18 points and 11 rebounds from Kelly Jekot, her first-ever double double, she also had four treys, while Hahn, who did not start, had 12 points, five assists, and also four treys, and Tucker had 11 points.

The Wildcats are 43-3 in the series and have won (10) or shared (6) 16 Big Five crowns. They lead the locals with 119 city series triumphs for a 119-39 mark in the round robin. Villanova is also 25-2 in all games played in The Palestra.

“Eleah was dominate but we just didn’t have enough around her,” Penn coach Mike McLaughlin said. “We did not have enough continuity on the offensive end.

“We need to know how to handle the runs, the adversity, and we did, but (Villanova) were a little better at the right time.”

Perretta pointed out that the plan was to score as many threes as possible. “If we get three threes, they need four twos,” he said. “When they got ahead they were never able to put a cushion on the lead.”

Jekot said he told the team not to worry about the early missed shots. “Harry reminded us that we are shooters and when the shots aren’t falling, keep shooting,” she said. “In the second half we kept shooting.”

While not everyone on the court grew up watching the Big Five battles on the men’s side besides the women, the mythical league is important to both coaches, Perretta is a Bonner grad, McLaughlin went to Father Judge.

“For us, it’s big. It’s a big thing in the city,” Perretta said. “It’s big for our kids. It’s big for Villanova. I’m just glad that we won.”

The outcome means that Penn’s next game, which is here next Wednesday against Temple, will determine the winner to get second at 3-1, which would still be nice for the once-doormat Quakers in the city, while the other team will be third at 2-2.

In the one of the two meetings in the Atlantic 10 between La Salle and Saint Joseph’s that also count in the local round robin city series, which is Sunday at Saint Joseph’s, the winner will be fourth with a victory and the loser will be fifth, having won none.

“As the season progresses and we get into the Ivies, our team will develop great chemistry, that will help us in the Ivy League and in the (conference) tournament,” Parker said. “When it gets down to those times, this will really help us.”

Penn after the Temple game hosts Division III Haverford a week from Sunday and then kicks into the back-to-back Friday/Saturday gauntlet in the Ivies, first making road stops February 1 and 2 at Cornell in Ithaca, N.Y. (7:30 p.m.) and Columbia (5:30 p.m.) in New York City.

Villanova resumes its Big East slate the rest of the way first visiting traveling partner Georgetown Saturday afternoon in Washington, D.C.

La Salle and Saint Joseph’s Drop Atlantic 10 Games

Career nights gone for naught also happened to Saint Joseph’s, which lost on the road to Duquesne, 81-73, in Pittsburgh, while La Salle fell at home, both losses decided in the stretch drive with the Explorers losing to defending A-10 tournament champion George Washington 67-59 in La Salle’s Tom Gola Arena.

In the Saint Joseph’s loss at the A.J. Palumbo Center, Alyssa Monaghan, who recently achieved her 1,000th career point, matched her career best by scoring 23 points, shooting 9-for-15 from the floor, for the Hawks (5-12, 1-3 Atlantic 10) while Kristalyn Baisden matched her best, scoring 18 points, shooting 7-for-14 from the field, including 4-of-7 three-pointers.

The Saint Joseph’s total was a season best but was still not enough to overcome the Dukes (9-8, 3-1), the preseason favorites of the conference coaches.

The Hawks were still in contention, trailing 61-59 by a bucket with 7 minutes, 49 seconds to play before Duquesne then darted with a 17-6 closing run to seal the game.

Kadri-Ann Lass had a game-high 23 points for the Dukes, one of three players scoring in double figures for the home team, which shot 52.7 percent from the field, including 8-for-15 on three-point attempts, and also was 15-for-21 on the line.

Julijana Vojinovic had 21 points and Chassidy Omogrosso scored 17.

Saint Joseph’s hosts La Salle Sunday at 4 p.m. in Hagan Arena on Hawk Hill, with CBS Sports telecasting the event. Both teams are 0-3 in the Big Five.

In the La Salle game, yet another situation occurred when career-highs were wasted on the local front.

Rayshel Brown had a near double-double with 21 points and eight rebounds with the points being a new best and the rebounds matching a previous one, while Jeryn Reese surpassed previous career marks, scoring 14 points and grabbing 11 rebounds for the Explorers (3-15, 0-4), her first double double.

La Salle stayed in range of George Washington (6-11, 3-1) but the Colonials’ push to a 55-44 lead in the fourth period withstood La Salle’s 15-12 finish.

As mentioned, the Explorers head to Saint Joseph’s next on Sunday at 4 p.m.

Rutgers Survives Purdue Rally Winning in Overtime to Stay Perfect in Big 10 Action

A year ago almost exactly, Rutgers, playing its best basketball in several seasons, cracked the Associated Press women’s poll for the first time since March of 2015, only to last just two weeks at the start of a major backstretch slide that cost the Scarlet Knights an at-large pick to the NCAA tournament.

On Monday, Rutgers made it back to the ranking again, powering into the Top 25 in a tie for No. 20 with floundering Tennessee.

Then came Wednesday night with a visit from long-time troublesome conference rival Purdue and it looked like more of the same with nine ties and a blown 14-point lead late in the game that took the affair in overtime but once again the home team showed ability to sustain a rally and then find a way to prevail at the finish.

In this one, the Scarlet Knights eked out a 65-63 win that improved the overall record to 14-3, including a perfect 9-0 mark this season in the Rutgers Athletic Center and 6-0 in the Big Ten, their best start since launching conference play in 2015 after a long stint in the old Big East and a transitional year in the American Athletic Conference.

Arella Guirantes had 17 points for the Scarlet Knights, Stasha Carey had 11, including her 1,000th career point, and Charise Wilson scored 10 points.

Karissa McLaughlin and Dominque Oden each scored 18 points for Purdue (13-6, 4-2), while Ae’Rianna Harris had 17 points and 11 rebounds.

Rutgers seemed to be wrapping it all up well before the end of regulation leading the Boilermakers 54-40 with just under five minutes left before Purdue then exploded on a 14-0 run to force the game into overtime.

A perfect 4-for-4 from the line in the closing minute seconds before the end of the regulation gave the visitors new lives.

But in the extended five minutes, Rutgers never trailed and used a 6-for-6 from the line to finish the Boilermakers’ hopes.

Defensively, Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer’s group has held all 17 foes under their scoring averages.

Enjoying the comforts of home Rutgers next on Sunday will welcome Big Ten rival Michigan State, ranked 23, at 2 p.m.

Rider Still Perfect in MAAC After Win at Iona

The schedule maker was kind to Rider in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and the Broncs are taking advantage of it with powers Quinnipiac and Marist still a bit away on the horizon.

The shakedown in non-conference play in November and December continued to pay off on the road as Rider won at Iona 66-58 having to rally against the Gaels (1-15, 0-5 MAAC) in New Rochelle, N.Y. as Stella Johnson poured down a game-high 29 points.

It was the third straight road game win in the MAAC for the Broncs (8-7, 4-0), who are now over .500. on the overall season.

Johnson got 20 of her points in the first half as Rider fought off a brief Iona lead to go ahead 28-27 at the half.

Iona threatened near the finish to come within a field goal with two minutes left but the Broncs got a three-pointer from Johnson to extend the lead to 62-57 with 1:59 left.

The visitors sealed the win riding a 4-1 run the rest of the way.

Lexi Posset also scored in double figures, collecting 17 points, shooting 5-for-8 from the field.

“I thought we stayed composed when they started to press us and we got some easy looks off that which helped us out,” said Rider coach Lynn Milligan. “Iona ran some really good sets against us today. I think they ran their offense well.

“We stuck together and made our free throws at the end. A road win in the MAAC is big and important and we’ll take it,” she continued.

“I think we’re a gritty team. I don’t think we’ve played our best basketball yet, which is a good thing. Our number one key when we’re on the road is defensive discipline. We had some lapses tonight, but when we needed to get big stops, we did.”

The triumph was Rider’s fifth straight in the series and it’s the first time in both program history and under Milligan that the Broncs have taken a 4-0 start in the MAAC.

Leading the conference in blocked shots, Rider stuffed Iona shots six times.

The run in the MAAC has a good chance to continue Friday night when the Broncs finally get home and will look to make it seven straight against Saint Peter’s when the Peahens visits Alumni Gym at 7.

Temple Unable to Stop Cincinnati Strong Finish

The Owls seemed hopeful of stopping their current skid but host Cincinnati exploded with a 17-0 run across the third and fourth periods to go on to a 72-52 win in an American Athletic Conference game.

In the longest of shots the next round doesn’t offer much promise either with No. 2 Connecticut visiting the Liacouras Center, the larger arena, not McGonigle Hall, Sunday at 1 p.m. in the annual We Back Pat game to support the Pat Summitt Foundation named for the late and legendary Tennessee Hall of Fame coach.

In the game against the Bearcats (9-8, 2-2 AAC), the Owls held an eight-point lead with 2:34 left in the third period before Cincinnati exploded to outscore Temple 35-7 over the final 12 minutes.

The Owls (4-12, 0-4), who have yet to win in the conference, were held to a season-low 29.7 percent from the field.

Lena Niang shot 5-for-8 from the field for 15 point for Temple, one less than Mia Davis, who scored 16 points. Alliya Butts had five points and five assists.

Nationally Noted: UConn’s Walker Outscores Tulane in Huskies Win

The final score in New Orleans in an AAC game read Connecticut 75-33 against Tulane but most of the No. 2 Huskies were just along for the ride as sophomore Megan Walker single-handedly was a one-woman tsunami against the Green Wave outscoring them by a point collecting 34, one place in this report where a career high was not a wasted effort.

The last male or female player to outscore an entire opponent was Steve Logan who outscored 
Southern Miss 41-37 Feb. 15, 2002 some 17 seasons ago.

There were several upsets suffered by teams in the AP Poll, as No. 11 Texas fell to unranked Kansas State 87-69 in a Big 12 game in Manhattan in the Midwest while unranked Northwestern upended No. 25 Indiana 75-69 in a Big Ten game in the host Hoosiers’ ccity of Bloomington.

In another Big 12 takedown, unranked West Virginia at home in Morgantown outlasted No. 18 Iowa State 73-64, on the road.

Looking Ahead: Showdown in the SEC

Looking to Thursday night, nationally, in the SEC, South Carolina which has remained ranked under Dawn Staley and now has avoided slipping out at No. 15 visits No. 7 Mississippi State, which has remained in Top 10 and is the top team in the conference.

No. 20 Tennessee with a three-game losing streak is at Alabama, a team that has gotten them in recent years in the SEC.

Locally in the Guru’s group, Penn State hosts Ohio State in a Big Ten game at 7 p.m. in the Bryce Jordan Center.

On Friday, locally, besides the Rider game, over in the Colonial Athletic Association, Drexel is at Northeastern in Boston at 7 while Delaware is at Hofstra at 11:30 a.m.

On Sunday the two road teams switch.

And that’s the report.






Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Mike Siroky’s SEC Report: Week Two Scrambles The Conference

By Mike Siroky
Week two of the Southeastern Conference of women’s basketball confrontations scrambled national and league standings.

Solid is the tradition if you win your homes games you win the conference regular season championship. 

There are three left.

Mississippi State is the dominating team because of consistency. Coach Vic Schaefer takes nothing for granted and revels in each win.

Tennessee, a once-dominating team, showed it simply isn’t with a second home loss in just three games, then a third league loss in succession for the first time ever.

 In other leagues, they’d still be important. Not now in the SEC.

We sometimes lose sight of the concept that what fans of the SEC see as mere  is still Top 25, which  most programs nationally would  welcome.

The song remains the same:  There are a few elite teams and everybody else. The top eight are likely the Elite 8 in the eliminations.

Chennedy Carter of Texas A&M, Rennie Davis of Tennessee, Rhyne Howard of Kentucky and Teaira McCowan of Mississippi State are among the 25 players surviving the midseason cut for the national Player of the Year Wooden Award. 

UConn and Notre Dame each have three nominated.

The conference also announced this year’s Legends of the SEC class, which covers all sports and is picked by each home athletic department. 

The legends will be honored on campus at athletic events and one will be featured each week by the league. 

Among the women’s basketball legends: Courtney Walker 2012-2016 (Texas A&M); and Coco and Kelly Miller (1997-2001) Georgia.

Here’s SEC Week Two

No. 7 Mississippi State (14-1)

Three of the previous four games between Mississippi State and Georgia have been decided by 10 points or less, including last season when State ran undefeated through the league.

This time SEC Co-Players of the Week were featured: Sate senior Jordan Danberry and Georgia’s Gabby Connally.

. Danberry leads the league in scoring in conference play, averaging 21.5 ppg through two contests, and Connally leads the Georgia offense with 13.3 ppg.

Really, though, everyone is just waiting for the end of the season and All-American McCowan winning the overall.

When you are the Big Dog in this league, even the second-tier teams will give you a game.

When those other ’Dawgs, Georgia, fell out of the Top 25 weeks ago, we said they’d not be back. Even with 11 wins, two in conference coming in.

So, on the last play of the third quarter, when Caliya Robinson took a feed from Jenna Statin and hit her jump shot, it gave Georgia a 59-57 lead, the first time State had been behind in the fourth quarter of a league game in two seasons.

Never mind the 29-game home winning streak. This was a gut check.

“It’s about toughness, State coach Vic Schaefer said. “That’s part of toughness, coming back.

“I absolutely love this Georgia team. They got a helluva team. They came in here and took it to us. They play with a lot of confidence. I can respect and appreciate a team like that.”

He also has to love his defense, Schaefer’s specialty. They allowed no field goals in the final 6:12. They were outscored underneath, a season first, led by Robison’s 26. 

But they were in charge low when the game was on the line.

An Anriel Howard layup made it 69-68 with 4:12 left and they built from there. 

She finished with 18, 13 in the first half. 

McCowan was as mammoth as advertised, 18 points, 21 rebounds (13 offensive) and two blocks.

 Jazzmun Holmes scored five of her seven, and the team’s final seven. 

Chloe Bibby scored seven straight times in one stretch, played all 40 minutes and scored a career-best 24, carrying them with 17 in the first half until the others caught up.

“If she doesn’t have 17 at half, we’re down by nine.” Schaefer said.

They had more steals, 12-4, and did win rebounds, by three, causing 22 turnovers.

“I’m proud of our seniors down the stretch,” Schaefer said, “We had some seniors not have their best nights, but down the stretch they found a way.

“Jazz and T, their last five minutes were as good as it gets. Praise the Lord and Go ’Dawgs!”

It was bobblehead night for Schaefer. The first 1,000 fans of the 6,493 got one.

The Bulldogs have been in the Top 10 for 50 straight weeks.  

They play three games this week, at Auburn then the annual showdown with South Carolina before Ole Miss visits for the intrastate battle. 

They can only improve their poll positioning if someone ahead of them loses, but the elite teams merely rotate those spots now.

No. 15 South Carolina (12-4)

And guess who is suddenly the second-best ranked team in conference.

Steady building back from the precipice of being the last ranked team in America, Coach Dawn Staley has rallied her team before Florida visited. 

The Gamecocks successfully defended the home court in league play.

Mikiah Herbert Harrigan has averaged a double-double and blocked 5.5 shots per game last week. In league games, she is second in rebounding (12.5) and 14th in scoring (14.5).

Gator coach Cam Newbauer has not yet captured the magic he had at mid-major Belmont on this bigger stage.

No magic in Columbia, for sure. 

SC announced the anticipated result with a 24-9 opening quarter and a basket-trading second for a 13-point halftime lead. 

Four of five starters were at or near double figures, even if Staley used seven subs, limiting opportunities, but receiving no points.

Early in the third, the lead was 20. The four starters were all in double figures, led by steady if unspectacular senior Bianca Cuevas Moore’s 16 in 17 minutes in her first start of the season. She can do that against bottom feeders.

“She’s healthy. She can do that,” said Staley. “I told her earlier in the process of her rehabbing (a rebuilt knee) that come SEC time is a good target to get as healthy as possible.

“She’s there, health-wise. Condition-wise, I don’t think she’s there.”

Guard Te’a Cooper has fallen way off from a hot start to the season. She had scored zero.

The clock was running and the lead was 30 in the fourth, 71-40 at the finish.

Four players hit double figures.
It was on to the Bayou and two 11-win teams. 

SC ended the Ben-Gals’ shot at undefeated home season, leaving it and the other powerhouse of late, Mississippi State, as the last two ranked conference home unbeatens.

The Gamecocks upped their average rebounding margin to 6.7, coming into conference at 2.8. Center Mikiah Herbert Harrigan has raised her conference scoring average to 13, a five-point increase.

Staley headed to overachieving LSU and a blowout road win, 76-53.  

The defense was so dominating from the jump that is raised the level of offense. The team that allows 54 points per game was past that in the third.

Staley was well beyond points and was scrambling playing time after the 29-11 first quarter established who would win.

The crowd of 3,000 did not like that.

She had four players in double figures in not many minutes played and won rebounds by a dozen.

“When we play fast, we’re pretty good,” Staley said. “When we share the ball, the ball is touching everybody, the result is good.

“When you can hit some outside shots, it tends to make the defense come out and play you. Then that allows us to go inside.”

The renovation of the early season damage is complete. 

SC rose six spots in the national poll, the largest leap.

 This is not to say they are little more than a Sweet 16 team at this point. 

If they can put together a run in the league tournament they are still just that. The next six weeks has to be the development of Mikiah Herbert Harrigan.

This week is the showdown at Mississippi State and the defense of the home court with personal aggravator Missouri.

No. 16 Kentucky (15-3)

There are feature games, but then there are games everyone will be talking about the next day.

Ole Miss’ stunning of Kentucky at home, 55-49, is the more fun of the two.

UK coach Matthew Mitchell came home to figure out life without Taylor Murray. 

An unranked 7-11 team seemed a good opponent to find it.

Ole Miss is just starting the regime of coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin who took over the program after a successful stint at Jacksonville University. 

Her players call her Coach Yo.

Senior guard Crystal Allen leads scoring with 17.9 points per game, hitting a team-best 48 3s with 41 assists and 17 steals. 

Senior guard Shandricka Sessom is averaging 9.8 points with a team-best 5.9 rebounds per game.

 Freshman Mimi Reid has a team-best 75 assists. Junior Jhileiya Dunlap leads the team with 31 blocks and 21 steals.

But they only average 60 points a game while scoring 65. 

That’s about the UK points allowed average, but the Kats usually score 79. But this was also without Maci Morris, the leading scorer.

Of all the weird giveaways in the league, this was UK Rubber Ducky Day, with general admission $10.

 The home team was the sitting ducks. Allen burst out with 28 points , 10-of10 from the line. 

La’Karis Salter hit a dozen off the bench with 10 rebounds, seven defensive. Only Howard seemed engaged offensively for UK, 20 points, five 3s, but 7-of-20 overall.

There was no traction in either side. UK led 9-6 after one. Each side scored nine in the second quarter. It was a season-low half for each side.

But the underdog Rebels were steadily showing confidence.

They won the third, 17-15. They withstood falling behind by eight.

Then came the closing quarter, the visitors won the important quarter by 10.

They did what Tennessee could not. The Rebels did not panic.

With 3:12 to go, it was 44-all. Allen made two free throws. 

There were muffs and fumbles on both sides. 

A precious minute slipped away. 

Salter tipped one in for a four-point lead but Howard answered with a jumper. 

Allen hit two at the line, then two more and the lead was six with 32 seconds to go. Sessom hit an Ole Miss free throw.

Howard hit a long 3 but not enough time was left. 

They fouled Allen and she hit two more to end it. Her season-long 80 percent from the line held up. 

She had scored 28, second-best of anyone in a conference game.

UK scored 30 less than its average. A real stunner.

Coach Yo survived some gamesmanship even before the start.

UK did not inform her Morris was not playing, insinuating the player made the call at game time.

No matter. 

The Rebel coach said she worries about her team, not the chicanery on the other bench.

She never assumes a win.

“I can never feel that before because we’ve been in games and we’ve lost it, and actually, I don’t even talk about winning the game until the last four minutes, three minutes of the game, because there are so many steps to get there to start talking about winning the game,” she said.

“But, when we got a rhythm and started making shots, and I was able to look in my players’ eyes and even when we didn’t get a call out of bounds and they assured me everything was going to be OK, I felt like we would be able to pull it out.

“I don’t think one game in the SEC should sway your thoughts. When they beat Tennessee  . . .  this is the SEC. You have to come to play every night, and so it just happened to be our night and I’m extremely proud of my team.”

Mitchell stuck to the story that having Morris warm up was not just a distraction.

He also said the 17-of-64 from the field was more on them than on the Ole Miss defense.

“It’s not typical of what we’ve been doing, we’ve shot the ball really well this year,” he said.
“ I just think mentally we were clearly not at the standard we’ve set as a team. 

“They are such a great group of kids who work so hard, so a day like this is very unexpected. We couldn’t get anything going for us because we just couldn’t get out of the gate and play with effort and energy, so everything as far as what we were lacking today, it really starts and ends there.

“ I think we missed a lot of layups, and just lacking focus and energy. Clearly, we have to do a better job.”

The win and the loss due to injuries balanced out and Kentucky remained where they started in the national poll.

Missouri visits, then Kentucky is at also unranked Texas A&M in a traditionally tough battle.
No. 20 Tennessee (12-4)

No. 16 Kentucky, with a real grinder of a start to the conference season, came in for the best league matchup of the week, two ranked 1-1 teams.

 All that was sure was one of them would lose a deadly second league game in a row.

Tennessee won both games last season, six of the past seven and was 23-3 in the series.

Coach Holly Warlick swears the offense looks good in practice. Effortless, even. Maybe the defense is that bad then.

Tennessee tried to push tempo, which was just fine with the Kats. They took three straight turnovers to a fast start, 22-5.

That had already decided the 73-72 game. UT had closed the quarter with a 14-11 deficit but the damage was done, again at home.

A singular example: Meme Jackson, a UT senior, had been averaging 20 points a game. Then she went 0-for-9 in the home loss to Missouri. She was 1-of-7 in this one. 

UT was hitting 27 percent to UK’s 52, so it wasn’t all on the defense as the Lady Vols seemed willing to erase any doubt they’d win the conference this season, at home against a lower-ranked team. Well, not lower ranked anymore.

The former UT grad assistant, UK coach Matthew Mitchell, was there when Pat Summitt stifled all such insurrections within conference. 

Senior Maci Morris hit 5-of-6 (3of-3 3s) for 14 early points. A win here would be a capper on her career conference frustrations. 

Similarly, senior guard Taylor Murray scored 11 in support. But Murray and UT rookie Zaay Green got tangled diving for a loose ball and Murray was done. 

She eventually limped to the bench with a massive ice pack on her left knee.

Among the problems of a young team, UT has no such historical motivations.

They were doing OK on UK leader Howard. But it is no longer true you can shut down the main player and still expect to win. 

UK rookie Howard leads Kentucky in scoring and rebounding, averaging 17.4 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. 

Since the start of this one, UK had answered every challenge without her help. Maybe the SEC is where rookiness shows up.

She fouled out of this one.
Tennessee could only knock the lead to 10. 

Reserve Mimi Collins scored 11 as the starters were stagnant. One free throw was the total home scoring in the final two minutes. 

UT needed a run of its own just to be competitive. 

Tennessee had not scored as few all season.

They could not do enough. It was still eight with seven and a half minutes left.

Finally, Tennessee chipped it back to a doable four points with five minutes left.

 This was the ballgame. 

They were winning the fourth, 16-8, but stayed six back. and never took the lead.

Even a 25-15 fourth was not enough. Kentucky prevailed. It is Tennessee’s most disappointing start in years.

Sophomore guard Davis leads the Lady Vols. 15.5 points per game and 8.4 rebounds with 20 steals. She scored two in the first half. She finished with 12.

Classmate Evina Westbrook is also averaging 15.5 points per game with a team-best 74 assists. But she started with five points and five turnovers as the point guard. 

She finished somewhat stronger, 20 points, 5-of-5 free throws. If your leading scorer is just average, they win. They won rebounds by 18 and it did not matter.

Morris fouled out with 27 points but the Kats held on to stifle all the momentum talk. 

UK won with is three best players on the bench down the stretch. 

UT still could not overcome.

Jaida Roper hit a 3 in the final minute and scored two free throws to keep the lead at five each time. Westbrook hit a 3 with two seconds left after Davis had missed.

They drew 8,135, a game-to-game attendance decline of about a thousand.

Warlick said, “We couldn’t overcome a lot of things we didn’t do.”
In the beginning, she said, “We weren’t committed to the defensive end.”

She said, down the stretch they were solid but not starting solid and not being focused around the basket did them in.

The Vols obviously can get better. For now, they are barely in the league upper echelon.
Mitchell said, “We had a lot of toughness and beat a really talented and tough Tennessee team. It is a great win for us, and we are proud of our players for hanging in.

“Everything did not go our way tonight. There were plenty of times that we could have been turned back. We just kept coming at it and fighting. I am really proud of our players and the way we played tonight. 

“There was a lot of toughness, a lot of grit, intensity, and we played good enough defense out there to win it. I am proud of our team.

“We had trouble on the boards, there is no question about it. I have to take ownership of that. We just need to emphasize that on a level where we can compete. We are not where we want to be and we have to get better at that.

“We started together as a group in June and talked about not what we did not have, but what we did have. 

“We have some high character people on the team that want to win and work really hard. We just try to stay focused on being tough and sticking together. 

“We really stuck together tonight, just tremendous adversity, we were all concerned at halftime about Taylor. We did not have her back, and she is such a big part of what we do.

“We made a few more plays, kept our poise, and made one more play than Tennessee. I would characterize it as sticking together and believing. 

“We talked about confidence before the game, and I think we were able to maintain our confidence through really difficult periods during the game. The play could describe it better than I could.”

 He is optimistic Murray will play again.

“We are hopeful,” he said. “We appreciate UT and their doctor looking at her. We are really hopeful that it is good news. I will put it this way, sometimes you know already, and we do not know, so we are hopeful.” 

Morris said, “The second half just showed me how much our team has in toughness. Jaida was frustrated in the first half and came out in the second half and played amazing. 

“She hit some huge shots for us and battled through adversity. She came up big for us as well as others. I was super proud of our team, and we are only going to get better from here.”

Next for the Vols was a road trip to Georgia, another team trying to avoid two league losses.
The Bulldogs entered 9-0 at home. They were enthused by the effort at Starkville.

Their best players underneath are senior Caliya Robinson and redshirt sophomore Jenna Staiti, who’is second in the league in blocks with 37 total this season, while Robinson ranks fourth (32). They are unranked since December.
In the past five games, Staiti is shooting 61 percent (25-of-41) from the floor and 80 percent from 3-point range (4-of-5) to average 12.4 points per game over that span.

The early difference in this one was Tennessee did mot fall out in the first quarter as they had done in the losses. 

They concentrated on defense, even taking a charge on a breakaway as the Dawgs hit a quarter of their shots.

  UT led 22-10 at the first quarter.

Westbrook hit 4-of-5. 

For Georgia, Robinson was hassled well by freshman Zaay Green and was 4-of-10.

UT maintained, showing the ability to win every game or lose every game. The led was 14 as the second quarter progressed. 

Taylor was preaching rebounds, but UT was actually getting them, 10 ahead.

Still, UTs rollercoaster was just boarding.

Tennessee panicked again.

 Georgia caught up at 43.

 UT had not lost three games in succession in 33 seasons. 

Only Warlick was around then. 

Tennessee had 14 turnovers and five third-quarter points when Georgia took the lead qt 45-43. 

A single-digit quarter is usually doom. 

Tennessee barely avoided it by losing the quarter 25-11 and thus setting up the 66-62 overall loss.

The 5,867 in attendance became a factor. 

Tennessee was clearly rattled. No one could score. 

The Orange party line of “we’re young” is wearing thin. 

They are good enough to be starting in the SEC by somebody’s plan. The shoulda been starting senior point guard was run off to South Carolina.

A third straight close loss is still a loss. 

And it illustrates why the SEC is so competitive.

Robinson had 16 points, six rebounds, five assists and two of six blocks in a critical last-minute possession.

With the Bulldogs leading 63-62, Robinson blocked Westbrook's layup attempt with 19.6 seconds remaining and then she blocked Rennia Davis' short jumper with one second on the shot clock. 

Davis finished 10 points below her 15.5 average.

Tennessee couldn't get a shot off before the shot clock expired. The Lady Vols had to foul twice to get Staiti, a 55-percent free-throw shooter, to the foul line, where she made both with 8.5 seconds remaining.

Tennessee went 9-of-18 from the line, at one stretch missing seven in a row. They were 3-of-10 in the fourth. Warlick will say they have free throws every practice. What she is never asked is how many they hit.

Westbrook scored 23 – 10 in the fourth -- and that was about it for UT.

“We took care of the basketball,” Georgia coach Joni Taylor said. “We had players make big shots. Taja (Cole) makes big shots, and then when she got into foul trouble Gabby (Connally) took over and made big shots.

“Caliya has been huge for us the last two games, and Jenna is continuing to come on and be steady for us.

“We battled very hard in the first half,” Warlick said. “The second half we let them take balls out of our hand and let up a little on the defensive end.

“In the first half in the paint it was five of nine, in the second it was six for 19. In the fourth quarter we were three of 10 from the free throw line Georgia was tougher than us in the second half.

“We gotta grow up a little.”

She said the team lost some confidence.

“When we did run in the second half we missed some layups we usually make.”
Westbrook said, “All the shots we were taking were makable shots.”

Warlick said they have a good game plan.

“I think we let our offense affect our defense and we gotta get past that,” she said.

UT goes to unranked Alabama, then Arkansas visits before it incredibly interrupts its conference season for a home whooping against No. 1 Notre Dame.

The losses knocked UT down six spots, tied at 20 in the national poll, the biggest slide of the week, out of the Top 10 for good to the bottom of the Top 20.  

They don’t even deserve that. 

Just a few seasons ago, they finished unranked.

 It is sad for the fans and another smear on tradition. 
They are now just another Sweet 16 team and will not play at home in the eliminations. 

They are behind three unranked teams in conference play, with South Carolina’s quality wins coming in conference, so they surpass UT nationally.