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.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Guru's WNBA Report: Number 22 Loomed Big For Two Reasons on a Draft Night Tribute to Lauren Hill

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

UNCASVILLE, Conn. – The biggest number on WNBA draft night here last week  at the Mohegan Sun Arena, home of the Connecticut Sun, was 22 for separate reasons.

The first was WNBA league president Laurel J. Richie welcoming the immediate audience and those across the nation watching on TV and referring to Lauren Hill, the courageous 19-year-old Division III freshman at Mount St. Joseph’s in Cincinnati who succumbed earlier this month on April 10  to pediatric brain cancer.

In a poignant short speech, Richie re-capped the events of the past year and Hill’s cause which was embraced by the WNBA, as well as the NCAA,  and established that draft night was dedicated to Hill, who wore uniform number 22 which was used in some of the fundraising efforts to bring awareness to the disease.

But several days earlier 22 became a cause celeb because one of the loopholes that allows a female player in the United States to leave college before her eligibility expires and opt for the WNBA draft is if she turns 22 during the calendar year of what would be her rookie season.

Two star collegians exercised the escape clause in Minnesota’s Amanda Zahui B, who went second to the Tulsa Shock, and Notre Dame’s Jewell Loyd, who became the overall top pick of the Seattle Storm.

Considering how little WNBA players make compared to their NBA male equivalents, the action may not be the start of a big trend but it is a wake up call across the board, more so on the collegiate side of things.

Notre Dame certainly appears to have either been caught sleeping, considering Irish coach Muffet McGraw claims she got the official word several hours after the Irish loss to Connecticut in the national championship game in Tampa, Fla., or deceived.

McGraw also stated since the move that several weeks earlier Loyd indicated she was going to return for her senior season. Of course by opting out now, she was able to go No. 1 instead of being picked most likely behind Connecticut sensation Breanna Stewart.

Financially, the payout is the same in the front of the draft, though with an opportunity to be in Europe next winter a lucrative payout looms a year ahead of schedule.

As to McGraw’s reaction – she did not attend the draft but neither did UConn coach Geno Auriemma or Duke coach Joanne McCallie, who had two of the other top four picks in the draft.

Talking to some WNBA coaches off the record while discussing their picks on the record, there did not seem to be major sympathy in Notre Dame’s direction, with some saying this has been going on for some time in the men’s collegiate game and those coaches have learned to suck it up.

Several also said they usually check birthdates in the women’s junior class just in case moves occur similar to Loyd, more so than Zahui B, who as a foreigner is thought of more on the scale of those players who have had relationships with the NCAA.

But there could be an impact in recruiting on the women’s side in that perhaps birthdates may be part of the research process, though unlike the men’s one-and-done we’ve seen exist, the women, for now, would be in a three-and-done mode if they qualified under the loophole.

Hall of Fame South Carolina coach Dawn Staley, a former all-everything point guard  in high school here in Philadelphia, at Virginia in college, and then also in the pros and in the Olympics, spoke of the looming change while being on the scene to celebrate her first Gamecocks product to the WNBA, Aleighsa Welch, who went in the first round to the defending Eastern playoff champion Chicago Sky.

Ironically, Staley’s first Temple product, WNBA All-Star Candice Dupree, now with the champion Phoenix Mercury, also went to Chicago as the sixth overall pick when the Sky launched its inaugural season as an expansion outfit in 2006.

“I think you’re going to see it a little more,” Staley said of an early exit and then quipped, “Thankfully for us, Tiffany Mitchell is only 20.

“You have to (to check the birthdate),” Staley said. “You’re seeing the effects of the WNBA. Players are getting a lot better. And they want their dreams to come true a lot sooner.

“I think it was a great move for Jewell Loyd. She wouldn’t become No. 1 playing in the WNBA next year so here’s an opportunity for her to do,” Staley continued.

“I talked to her a little bit, but get your degree,” Staley said with emphasis. “You got one of the things you wanted to do as far as playing in the WNBA but just go back – I think she’s just five electives short of graduating, her mother told me so, it’s a great move for her and her family.

“I wouldn’t want to be Muffet at this point because it catches her off guard but we’re learning from Jewell Loyd as coaches as an example. You have to prep for it because obviously you recruit thinking you’re going to have a player for four years and it’s little bit of a setback making that adjustment because it’s hard replacing that player that could leave early. It’s really hard.”

As far as having the player for three years, Staley pointed out, “You can manage the roster a little bit better but if we lost Aleighsa Welch last year to the WNBA it would have been a big missing piece because of the intangible, the experience, the teaching.

“She taught our younger players how to play and sustain playing at a high level every single day.”

The reward, of course, was the Gamecocks being ranked first or second through the polling season and then making the first trip to the NCAA Women’s Final Four following one appearance in the books during the AIAW era when Magic Johnson’s sister Evelyn made them a national force in the late 1970s.

DePaul coach Doug Bruno, whose player Brittany Hrynko from Philadelphia went in the first round to the Connecticut Sun and then was swapped to the Atlanta Dream for former Duke star Jasmine Thomas, commented on the culture change saying, “If a player is good enough to, they’re probably going to go.

“But the bottom line is you still have to make the roster,” which one WNBA coach said is getting shorter as more veterans stick from year to year.

Coming up in the next blog as the Guru goes through the quasi-quiet period between the NCAA and WNBA seasons are the details on the upcoming annual Philadelphia/Suburban NCAA Women’s Summer League, which could expand from 13 to 14 teams if enough players sign up.

“We have most of the adjustments worked out to go to 14 if enough players sign up,” said longtime commissioner David Kessler, who noted the moves are not many to put expansion in play.

 Mel
     



 

Friday, April 17, 2015

WNBA Draft: Washington Picks Cloud Bringing Sunshine to Saint Joseph's

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Aced out of the WNBA’s media draft guide, Saint Joseph’s senior Natasha Cloud was a winning card played by the Washington Mystics Thursday night when they  selected her as the 15th overall pick and third pick of the second round of the WNBA draft that originated out of here at the Mohegan Sun Arena, home of the Connecticut Sun, for the second straight year.

Cloud was not among the players invited to be here as part of the telecast but the Cardinal O’Hara graduate was at her suburban Philadelphia home with teammates, family, and friends, watching the proceedings one night after being named both the top defensive and most valuable player at the Hawks’ postseason dinner.

“It’s just great knowing how hard you work all your life for something in grade school, high school, and college, and then see it happen,” said Cloud in a phone call with the Guru.

She is also one of the first players to get drafted who also played in the Philadelphia/Suburban NCAA Women’s Summer League, where last season she was one of the top performers.

The league is currently getting organized for its start in June and commissioner David Kessler said demand is such it may expand by one to a 14th team.

Cloud was just one of several individuals who added a definite Philly area accent on the night’s activity.

Besides Cloud, who follows former WNBA All-Star Debbie Black and Jana Lichnerova as selectees from the Hawks by WNBA teams, DePaul senior Brittany Hrynko was taken by Connecticut as the 19th overall pick and seventh in the second round and then traded to the Atlanta Dream, while Rutgers senior Betnijah Laney went to the defending Eastern playoff champion Chicago Sky as the 17th overall pick and 5th choice of the second round.

When Laney gets to training camp, she will find herself in the company of another Delawarean in Delaware graduate Elena Delle Donne and also on a squad with former Rutgers all-time great Cappie Pondexter, who returned to her hometown in the offseason in a swap of former Scarlet Knights stars that sent Epiphanny Prince to the New York Liberty.

The WNBA is entering its 19th season but had the league existed much longer it’s possible that Laney could have been part of a rare mother-and-daughter combo, if the not the first, considering her mom Yolanda out of University City High also played for Hall of Famer C. Vivian Stringer but as an all-American at Cheyney in the early 1980s.

Princeton star Blake Dietrick did not get chosen but after the three rounds concluded she signed a free agent training camp contract with Washington.

Additionally, South Carolina coach Dawn Staley, one of the sports all-time players out of Philly’s Dobbins Tech, was on the scene to support her first Gamecocks star to be picked in Aleighsa Welch.

Ironically, All-Star Candice Dupree, now with the defending champion Phoenix Mercury, was Staley’s first player drafted out of Temple in 2006 and also went to Chicago, then in its fledgling season, as the sixth overall pick.

WNBA PR honcho Ron Howard said that when names from teams and coaches began arriving in projecting draft prospects, Cloud was in the loop, but as the winnowing began in terms of looking at general overall demand, she slipped out and did not make the guide.

“Of course some of these coaches like to product smoke screens,” Howard observed.

That’s certainly true of Washington coach Mike Thibault and assistants former Immaculata great Marianne Stanley and Thibault’s son Eric.

Thibault and his staff were at a slew of Hawks games over the winter, though at one point one night when George Washington blew a game wide open, he chided the Guru for putting out a tweet saying, the Colonials had just transformed the game into a Mystics one-player combine in light of Cloud playing well while the rest of the Hawks were not.

“The thing we really like about her is she can play three positions,” Thibault told the Guru in a phone conversation Thursday night.

He had taken Dayton’s Ally Malott, another Atlantic 10 star, as the eighth overall pick in the first round but Thibault separately told the Guru here and the Washington media at the watch party in the nation’s capital that if Malott was not on the board, “we would have taken ‘Tosh as the eighth pick.”

Saint Joseph’s coach Cindy Griffin, who was at Cloud’s party, said, “For what we were told 24 hours ago, everything played out the way Washington said it would so we were not nervous about whether ‘Tosh would get pick.

“From the very beginning, the Washington people were very straight shooters with us as they scouted her and we respect them for that.”

There’s a history of former stars of nearby Maryland appearing on the Mystics roster and Cloud will bring some Terrapins DNA, having played for Brenda Frese her first season before transferring to Saint Joseph’s to be closer to her family.

Cloud was part of a poignant story in mid-December 2013 when she and her family lost everything in a fire in their home in Broomall, Pa., which is not far from the Saint Joseph’s  campus.

But the entire Hawks athletic program dug in helping to produce support and there was even a fundraiser at one of Saint Joseph’s games after the fire struck.

With her pick by Washington, Cloud’s family won’t go bankrupt following her at games.

“It’s great for them,” Thibault said. “We’re a couple of hours away so that’s 17 home games and in the East they will have easy trips to Connecticut and New York to see those road games.”

Hrynko thought she was going to have the same luxury at Connecticut,where the Sun are a four-hours drive when traffic doesn’t impede the trip.

But no sooner had she finished giving interviews to reporters on the scene then word came she had been dealt to Atlanta where she will be in a backcourt with stars Angel McCoughtry and Shoni Schimmel.

Sun coach Anne Donovan, a basketball hall of famer, said she wanted to keep Hrynko but in picking up veteran Jasmine Thomas in the deal they have someone to help another former Duke star in Chelsea Gray, who did not play her rookie season due to an injury the previous winter with the Blue Devils.

Connecticut looked like they could be called the Sun Devils in the future because the organization picked Duke star post player Elizabeth Williams as the fourth overall pick in a transformation of sorts from the UConn stars who dotted the roster.



    

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Crenshaw Promoted to Succeed Andy Landers at Georgia

By Mike Siroky

The University of Georgia women’s basketball team did not stray far in its search for the latest coach to join the Southeastern conference.

She was already there.

Assistant coach Joni Crenshaw, a member of the Georgia staff for the past four seasons, including the last three as associate head coach, has been named the Lady Bulldogs' new head coach.

 Greg McGarity, the director of athletics, announced Crenshaw's appointment on Sunday. She makes it seven women coaching in the league.

Her choice was likely directed by outgoing coach Andy Landers and makes sense. It helps fans buy into continuity and the players certainly know the coach who recruited them. She has seen the success and --  this past season – what a key injury can do to wreck one.

The program considered assistants at several other schools – including Final Four teams from the most-recent tournament.

"After a national search, it became evident that Joni was the perfect person to lead our program," McGarity said. "Joni brings the intangibles that parallel success – character, experience and a tireless energy to lead our program. We are confident she will do a tremendous job leading Georgia basketball into the future."

"I am extremely honored to be the next coach at Georgia," Crenshaw said. "I want to thank President Morehead, Greg and Carla for trusting me with the program.

" I have been fortunate to have learned under a great coaching tree and have great mentors along the way. I want to thank Coach Landers for all that he has done for me since I have been under his tutelage. The trust and responsibility he gave me definitely prepared me for the next step in my career but more importantly his friendship means the world to me."

Crenshaw sports 13 seasons of coaching experience at the Division I level, the last seven within the Southeastern Conference. 

The Meridian, Miss., native joined the Georgia staff in 2011 and spent one season as an assistant coach before being promoted to associate head coach. 

Prior to arriving in Athens, Crenshaw coached at LSU from 2010-11, at Alabama from 2008-10, at Louisiana Tech from 2005-08 and at Troy from 2002-05.

During each of those coaching stops, Crenshaw has displayed the ability to both sign premier prospects and then help those recruits develop into highly successful players. 

In the Lady Bulldogs' four signing classes since Crenshaw's arrival, Georgia's 16 scholarship newcomers arrived on campus with a combined 18 high school state titles. That group also featured seven standouts ranked among the nation's top 100 prospects and included a quartet of state Player of the Year honorees.

Crenshaw helped Alabama and LSU land Top 5 individual prospects in the classes of 2010 and 2011, respectively, and also spearheaded the Crimson Tide’s recruiting class for 2010 that ranked among the nation’s top 10. 

She helped Lousiana Tech sign the 2006 Miss Basketball for both Alabama and Mississippi and Troy sign two future Atlantic Sun Freshman of the Year honorees.

"Georgia Basketball is in great hands," Landers said. "Coach Crenshaw is a person who has deep-rooted values and morals, which are two of the cornerstones of Georgia Basketball's success. 

"Her appreciation for the total development of young women is second to none and her past experiences have prepared her for the challenges ahead. I am confident she will do extremely well. Joni has an excellent basketball IQ, is a tremendous recruiter and is a terrific people person, but above all else, she is someone who young people will aspire to play for and enjoy that same experience."

Crenshaw herself was a highly sought after basketball prospect. She was the 1997 Gatorade Player of the Year for Mississippi after leading Meridian High to a 67-7 record during her junior and senior seasons. She also won three state titles in track and field and was selected as the school’s Homecoming Queen.

At Alabama, Crenshaw was a significant contributor to four teams that reached post-season play – the 1998 and 1999 NCAA Tournaments and the 2000 and 2001 WNITs. She was a two-year starter and scored 716 points, grabbed 555 rebounds and blocked 103 shots, which is No. 4 among the Tide’s career leaders.

Crenshaw was a standout off the basketball court. She was recognized as one of the most influential African Americans on the Alabama campus in 2001, was named to the SEC’s Community Service team for women’s basketball in 1999, 2000 and 2001 and was awarded a post-graduate scholarship from the SEC for her community service record. She received her bachelor's degree in Education from Alabama in 2002.

And here’s a nice competition idea: She is engaged to marry Darius Taylor, an assistant coach for the South Carolina women's basketball team. Their wedding is Aug. 1.

She replaces, of course, the venerable Landers, who came to Georgia in 1979. 

For all his success, he was forever in the shadow of the legendary Pat Head Summitt. His Bulldogs made every NCAA tournament but one and he surpassed Summitt for NCAA appearances and SEC seasons in the past two years with her retirement. 

His teams had been ranked 522 weeks in the AP poll, the record for active coaches.

For our original report on his retirement: http://womhoops.blogspot.com/2015/03/mike-sirokys-sec-commentary-legendary.html


The other assistant coaches, Rob Mosely and Angie Johnson  (each with three seasons) seem assured of remaining in staff.

Among the returning player are a freshman and sophomore class from this year which are a solid foundation. 

Landers started playing more and more of them as the season deconstructed so all have plenty of playing time in the toughest conference is America.

The seniors will be Schacobia Barbee, Tiaria Griffin (11.4 points per game, started all 30 games), Merritt Hempe (7.5) and Marjorie Butler (4.8, started 27 games) and seldom-used Terryuana Godwin.
It was the loss of Barbee to a season-ending injury – a right leg bone break  -- with nine games to go, that really doomed the season. The team leader averaged 12.4 points and 6.9 rebounds game. 

The ‘Dawgs lost all direction after that, losing eight of the last nine in the regular season after starting the year in the Top 25. She was second-team all-conference her sophomore season. 

The new juniors are Hannahkohl Almire and Halle Washington.

The sophomores will be Haley Clark, Jasmine Carter, Krista Oliver and all-SEC freshman Mackenzie Engram (7.9, with 20 starts).

Non-roster players who will become eligible are 6-3 Samantha Gloddis, Sydnei McCaskill and Jasmine Carter and Nasheema Oliver 
   

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

UConn Wins 10th Title Beating Notre Dame As Huskies Coach Auriemma Catches Wooden

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

TAMPA, Fla. – In many Olympic disciplines such as gymnastics and figure skating, 10 is the mark of perfection.

Appropriately, coach Geno Auriemma, the return leader of the USA women’s basketball at next year’s games in Brazil, was hanging tens in the collegiate women’s world Tuesday night after Connecticut topped Notre Dame for its third straight NCAA title in the Breanna Stewart era.

Ten was the differential before a crowd of 19,810 in Amalie Arena in the 63-53 outcome over the Irish (36-3), whose losses were the two to the Huskies (38-1) and one regular-season defeat at Miami during the Atlantic Coast Conference portion of the Notre Dame schedule.

Ten is the total for a perfect 10-0 victory streak BY UConn when it comes to playing for the NCAA title.

And 10 is the total of titles Auriemma has produced to match the overall success on the men’s side by the legendary John Wooden with the UCLA men.

For the previous two seasons, Auriemma’s story was about passing the women’s legendary Tennessee coach emeritus Pat Summitt, which the Philadelphian who was born in Italy achieved last season to become the all-time winner in the women’s world.

Now, “Wait Till Next Year,” a phrase usually uttered by those whose seasons end in degrees of disappointment, is apropos for even greater things out of UConn and for Auriemma.

Despite the graduation of departing seniors Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Kiah Stokes, a top-rated recruiting class, highlighted by California’s Katie Lou Samuelson, the high school player of the year, will be arriving at Storrs.

There’s the first opportunity for Auriemma to pass Wooden and also become the first USA women’s coach to guide our Olympians to a second gold medal following  the seven previously attained.

Auriemma now has more NCAA titles than all the combined active women’s coaches in Division I and his 10 also matches the number of NBA crowns won by Phil Jackson, as well as the 10 by Wooden..

Phil Jackson in the NBA also won 10 titles along with the 10 by Wooden and Auriemma.

“We all coached some of the most iconic players to play the game of basketball,” Auriemma said. “So I think we have that as the thread that runs through all three. 

“Anytime you’re in a championship situation, anytime you’re trying to win any tournament, but especially the national championship, so many things have to go right and you have to have players that make those plays that make it go right.

“To do that 10 times in a row, win 10 and be 10-0 in National Championship games is – again, it’s too big for me to think about it. It’s too much. Too much.”

As for his star player among stars in Breanna Stewart, the 6-4 junior forward from North Syracuse, eligibility limitations means three is her mark in perfection.

After scoring eight points and 15 rebounds against the Irish, the two-time national player of the year has now won all three NCAA crowns attainable and in each of those Women’s Final Fours, she has picked up three Most Outstanding Player honors, the most by any individual in women’s collegiate history.

UCLA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul Jabbar did it once on the men’s side.

“I think it’s really surreal, and I think I haven’t had a chance to even think about that, the fact that I won three national championships,” Stewart said. “But I said I want to win four, and you can’t win four without three.”

Speaking of threes, the Huskies are the only team to win three straight titles multiple times while Tennessee, the only other school to claim the triple, did it just once (1996-98).

The only mark of greatness missed this time around by UConn was caused by an 88-86 upset loss the first week of the season at Stanford and that one occurred in overtime.

That led many to think that perhaps Notre Dame might finally return to its stretch of domination the Irish briefly enjoyed several years ago over the Huskies.

But five games later when Connecticut arrived in South Bend, Ind., to play the host Irish, after falling behind in the opening minutes, the Huskies rallied and went on to win easily 76-58.

“A lot of changes were made in that time,” Auriemma said Tuesday night of the stretch between the loss to the Cardinal and the win over Notre Dame.

Still, Irish fans could note their team lacked sensational freshman Brianna Turner, who was sidelined with an injury.

On Tuesday night, on the way to a 31-23 lead at the half, Turner was shutout those first 20 minutes before finishing with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

But Jewell Loyd, who was the leading challenger to Stewart all season in the player of the year competition, was held to just two points over the same period after scoring 10 in the opening period.

Taya Reimer had 11 rebounds and that was it in terms of double figures produced by Notre Dame, which has now lost in the championship four times in the last five seasons including last season’s first-ever battle of unbeaten teams in Nashville, Tenn.

Besides Stewart, the two other named all-Americans on the Huskies had key moments in point guard Moriah Jefferson with 15 points and Mosqueda-Lewis, who also had 15 points and delivered two straight treys for a 61-50 lead with 4 minutes, 8 seconds left after Notre Dame had made it close at 56-50  on Lindsay Allen’s layup with 5:29 left.

“It meant a lot to be able to step up for my teammates in a big time when they needed me,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “And definitely kind of had it in the back of my mind that we wanted to go out with a National championship and being able to hold that trophy up at the end of the game and end my senior year the way I wanted to and the way that any basketball player wantds to is amazing.”

“I’m glad the two buckets that K made down the stretch were kind of the difference in the game,” Auriemma said. “And that’s the way she’s supposed to go out, because she made a big difference all year and throughout her career.” 

Morgan Tuck also scored in double figures for UConn with 12 points.

“I thought that 3 that Lewis hit in transition was critical,” Notre Dame coach Muffet Mcgraw said. “We had just cut it to 6. Now it’s a five-point swing and went to 11 and that was the game.”

UConn’s Stewart, Tuck and Jefferson made the all Final Four team along with Notre Dame’s Turner and Loyd.

That’s it except for a possible follow-up the next several days.

-- Mel
 

 
    

 

Monday, April 06, 2015

NCAA Women: Notre Dame Edges South Carolina While UConn Tops Maryland To Set Up Title Rematch

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

TAMPA, Fla. – Ghosts and spirits danced around the NCAA Women’s Final Four Sunday night in the national semifinals and when the music stopped not much had changed from a year ago in terms of who the combatants will be Tuesday night in the championship game at Amalie Arena.

Connecticut will be looking to extend its current title run to three straight and ten overall while Notre Dame is back again for the second straight season and fourth in the last five years.

Unlike a year ago when both the Huskies and Irish were the mark of perfection – each unbeaten for a first in the history of the NCAA event dating to 1982 – Connecticut (37-1) got nicked in the first week of the season at Stanford while Notre Dame (36-2) got waxed by the Huskies at home in December and then fell in Atlantic Coast Conference action on the road at Miami a month later in January.

There are three coaches with Philadelphia connections in the field – or were prior to Sunday’s tip – and two of them went at it in Sunday’s opener as Muffet McGraw’s Notre Dame squad used a cable as in Madison Cable at the  finish to complete her only made shot halt Dawn Staley’s South Carolina group 66-65 to ruin a stirring comeback by the Gamecocks (34-3).

That sets Up UConn Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma, the third Philly coach, as the barrier to a second title for the Irish  if they can find a way to stop UConn.

That may be difficult to do considering the way the Huskies handled Maryland (34-3) in the other semifinal game with an 81-58 wipeout to go 4-0 over the Terrapins (34-3), who went unbeaten on the conference slate in their first season in the Big 10.

The last time Connecticut got to this point, it was name of Tennessee Hall of Fame Coach Emeritus Pat Summitt lurking in the background as the Huskies pulverized Notre Dame and enabled  Auriemma to break a trophy deadlock and become the all-time women’s winner with nine championship rings.

Now he is 40 minutes away from matching another legend – the late UCLA  men’s coach  John Wooden – with 10 overall NCAA titles.

In Sunday’s game Staley was eerily dragged back across three decades to 1992 when in her third straight finals as the national star point guard for Virginia, the Cavaliers couldn’t hit foul shots and fell 66-65 depriving her of her last chance to capture an NCAA title as a player.

In that game, Virginia couldn’t sustain a lead. On Sunday, the Gamecocks also were miserable when it came to foul shots, going 7-for-16 to recall the futility.

Except this time, South Carolina quickly fell behind in the first five minutes 15-3 and spent the rest of the game trying to catch up.
Eventually finding a way to hold Notre Dame at bay, the Gamecocks finally caught the Irish for the first time and took a 65-64 lead on a layup by Aleighsa Welch with 1:12 left in regulation.

Notre Dame star junior all-American Jewell Loyd committed a turnover 20 seconds later as Welch stole the ball but she missed a jump shot with 30 seconds later and Lloyd grabbed the rebound.

Prized Gamecocks freshman A’ja Wilson blocked Lloyd’s shot with 21 seconds but Cable grabbed the ball for the Irish and scored with 16 seconds left as Notre Dame went back in front.

“Jewell shot it, which it usually goes in almost all the time,” Cable said of her winning play. “I was just crashing anyway to try to get a rebound. And it bounced right where I was, and I had an open shot so I took it. Luckily, it went in.”

All-American Tiffany Mitchell, who earlier in the day was named winner of the Dawn Staley Point Guard Award, then launched a desperation three from the corner and the shot bounced off the top of the backboards and once again Staley was on the losing end by the same 66-65 score.

“We gave God the glory when we made it to the Final Four,” Staley said in her opening remarks. “We’ll give him the glory for the defeat.

“I feel that our team did what they had to do, put themselves in the position to win the game.

“Unfortunately, for us, it came down to them making a play when they needed to make a play and we didn’t.”

Lloyd had 22 points for Notre Dame, freshman sensation Brianna Turner scored 17, and Taya Reimer scored 16 but Turner and Lindsay Allen missed a  karge portion of the game after both fouled out during the second haLf.

Unlike South Carolina’s struggles on the foul line – the Gamecocks were also 2-for-12 on three-point attempts – Notre Dame shot 12-for-14 from the line.

Wilson, off the bench, scored 20 for South Carolina, while Alaina Coates scored 12, Mitchell had 11, and Welch scored 10 points and grabbed 14 rebounds.

The Gamecocks also owned the boards 45-37.

“It’s surreal, right now,” McGraw said of getting back to the championship with a younger squad that graduated Kayla McBride last season. “I can’t believe that we’re here. I’m just glad we played the earlier game so we can get a little rest.”

In the second game, watched by actor Tom Cruise, the two-time defending champs didn’t take long to get to Cruise control and were up by double digits at the half 44-33. There was never a threat the rest of the way, thereby enabling the name of Summitt from last year’s title game with the Irish replaced by Wooden this time around in anticipation of the 10th championship.

Breanna Stewart, who added the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) Ann Meyers Drysdale national player of the year award to her collection earlier in the day, had a game-high 25 points, looking at the chance to become a three-time Most Outstanding Player winner, if the Huskies prevail on Tuesday night.

Morgan Tuck, who was sidelined with an injury in the title game a year ago, had 24 points, while Moriah Jefferson scored 11.

And all this accomplished while the Terrapins had the satisifaction of holding Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis to four points.

Brionna Jones scored 14 points for Maryland, while Lexi Brown and Brene Moseley each scored 12 points.

“We felt going into the game we had an advantage with these two,” Auriemma said, “with Morgan and Stewy, and we tried to really take advantage of that. And obviously, they were great. I can’t say enough about them. Tuck, anyway, she played both ends of the floor.”

Said Tuck of playing this year, “It means a lot just to be out there and actually contributing and making an easy impact. That’s why I came here. And to be realing doing it. It’s a great feeling.”

   



   


Sunday, April 05, 2015

Staley Didn't Build Temple and South Carolina in a Day But Build Them She Did

By Mel Greenberg

TAMPA, Florida –
Back in her playing days at Virginia, the future Hall of Famer Dawn Staley, reared in urban Philadelphia near Temple University, often battled with creaky knees while becoming one of the all-time point guards in the game.

While several times her knees were operated on to ease the aches and pains, her trainer Sue Foreman, talked about Staley’s resiliency.

“Everything is a challenge,” the trainer said. “One thing is you can’t do is tell Dawn she can’t do anything. You tell her she will be out ten says, she’s back in four, and lots of other things.”

That was in the early 1990s.

A decade later, Temple officials used reverse logic to pursue her to become a coach of a program that was a doormat.

Staley, who also played for the prestigious Philadelphia Belles AAU team, had no interest in coaching and was ready to say nada for the last and final time when the late Owls athletic director Dave O’Brien then appealed to her competitive sensitives – tell her she was afraid of the challenge, she had fear of failing.

That’s all she had to hear.

Staley accepted and it seemed like all she had to do was wave a magic wand and a decade of losing came to an end and Temple was on the way to becoming nationally relevant.

Then in the Spring of 2008, she sought a new challenge, taking a moribund South Carolina program to try and make it competitive in the rugged Southeastern Conference.

Three times as a player she had been to a Final Four, and as a national player of the year in two of those, but the quest fell short and when the curtain came down it was total devastation.

Matters weren’t helped several months later when she was the last cut for the 1992 Olympic team to compete alongside the men’s Dream team.

But after becoming a coach, the disappointment replaced by international and professional success, Staley thought she would return to a Final Four and live the triumph through her players.

She is here for the first time in that role and while Connecticut is a prohibitive favorite to make it three straight, Staley is striking a balance in letting her Gamecocks enjoy the moment but not get carried away from the task at hand.

The way the tournament has played out, there is a safety valve to block thoughts of playing UConn, and that is Sunday night’s opponent in Notre Dame before the Huskies meet Maryland.

Staley talked at Saturday afternoon’s press conferences in Amalie Arena a little about what it took to get both programs back on track.

“What you had to do was change the culture,” Staley said. “You had to get your players to stop thinking about where they’re going to spend spring break besides in the gym prepping for postseason play.

“I was fortunate in that our Temple players bought into that right away, right away. Instantly, we hit the ground running, and it pretty much was a success story,” she continued.

“And then you move to a place like South Carolina where it was very similar, but the players don’t catch on. They really didn’t catch on to doing the things they needed to do to change the culture and love basketball in the way that they probably should love basketball.”

While those initial Gamecock players are long gone from the court, they’ve come to see what Staley was talking about.

“They understand what we asked them to do a lot more because they stayed around our program. They’ve been a very good support system for us, and they’ll be in town sometime this weekend to enjoy the fruits of their labor.”

A year after the testy dust up between Notre Dame and Philly-bred coach Muffet McGraw and Philly-bred Geno Auriemma of Connecticut in the title game showdown battle of the unbeatens won by the Huskies, we now have a Staley vs. McGraw Philly special in the semifinals before Connecticut and Maryland play the nightcap.

Incidentally, Staley is on Auriemma’s USA Olympic staff for Brazil and was part of the contingent with La Salle grad Cheryl Reave that also had Chicago’s Doug Bruno, who also coaches DePaul.





- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Guru's Musings: Random Thoughts and Some WF4 Items

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

The Guru needs to do some wrapping up[ and looking ahead but the problem is your Guru has to deal with a lot of behind the scenes situations and preparations and the flight leaves for Tampa in a few hours.

He will wrap up the locals on the overnight in Florida but congratulations to Villanova and Temple for their WNIT runs which might have meant a collision course initially until both ended up getting edged in overtime after West Virginia rallied down the closing minute twice in regulation.

But both the Owls and Wildcats have the potential to do some great things next season and we will talk about all that.

USBWA Awards

We're under way trotting out the United States Basketball Writers Association women's postseason honors with the All-America team announced on Tuesday and previously the first Mary Jo Haverbeck winner, Sue Donohoe, who will receive her hardware at the awards session in the Amalie Arena 3:30 p.m. before the semifinals get under way.

All credentialed media have automatic access while special temporary access is being granted to those interested and the Guru is serving as a filter between then and the NCAA, which issues the passes.

In the next day or so the freshman of the year will be announced and on Sunday the player and coach of the year winners will be revealed out of what was some of the closest voting the Guru has seen in two categories since he was charged with counting ballots.

Also in what will be a sort of representation of the Most Courgeous Ceremony -- we stayed with just the one on Nov. 2 -- Dan Benjamin, who is Lauren Hill's coach at Mount St. Joseph's, will speak.

So time is running out on closing the list to the room if you will be in Tampa. 

The Philly Coaches Club Meets in Florida

Maryland's Brenda Frese gets honorary membership since two Philly types Laura Harper and Crytal Langhorne, were the jet engines in the Terrapins' title run in 2006 in Boston.

But the arrival of South Carolina coach Dawn Staley to join Final Four veterans Connecticut's Geno Auriemma and Notre Dame's Muffet McGraw provides a Florida flavor that tastes more like 2000 when UConn, Tennessee (with former Cardinal O'Hara star Ace Clement), Rutgers and Penn State all made it to what is now the Wells Fargo Center.

Staley, of course, was a three-timer without a title in those Virginia runs in 1990-91-and-92.

The first was as an underdog having dislodged Tennessee at Old Dominion in the Elite Eight in overtime to ruin the Lady Vols' hosting party at what was a sold-out Thompson-Boling Arena in advance.

The second, in New Orleans, which everyone has been focusing on, was tough but there was till going to be one more shot. Ironically, several years ago, when former Virginia coach Debbie Ryan and referee Patty Broderick were inducted into the Women's Hall of Fame, Broderick fessed up to a call at the finish that cost the Cavaliers the crown.

In 1992 out of the West Coast, there was all types of mayhem, when the women had to start at 9 a.m. in the semifinals because the men's and women's were both on the same day televised on CBS.

The first game took long enough because of the parade of fouls that when the doubleheader lapped into the men's start time back East, ESPN didn't have to to lift too many fingers after that to make its move on the women's tourney.

Stanford won it over Virginia at the finish in the second game, taking advantage of the Burge twins missing foul shots.

Few locker rooms in the history of the tournament were the picture of devastation painted live by the Cavaliers afterwards, who stayed in town but vanished from view the rest of the weekend.

It didn't go well either for Staley several months later in the Rockies when the last people were chosen for the Olympic squad to play alongside the USA Dream Team men. So if you want a low point in an otherwise brilliant career, that was it.

But since then, it's been nothing by gold on the court, off the court, and everywhere else, not necessarily all in titles, but in a life well lived.

As a footnote, some say that UVa team really got good when a paerty animal several years ahead of the others finally graduated but went on to a productive life.

No names, go ahead and guess. But Staley once said of that teammate, "Don't look at me. I was always in the library after practice."

The Guru will be back from the sunshine state later Thursday and once again Willbill will be on the scene with his camera eporium.

-- Mel