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.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Guru's Ivy Overniter: Penn and Princeton Punch Ivy Tickets But Logjam Below

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA – Considering they have been the 1-2 punch the past seven seasons in winning Ivy championships the old traditional way, perhaps it was appropriate with some outside help Friday night that defending champion Penn followed by second place Princeton were the first to grab two of the four available spots in the brand new league tournament which will be held in two weekends from now here at the Palestra.

The Ivy four-team men’s tourney will also be here right along side the women with four games on Saturday and then the championship doubleheader to send automatic qualifiers on the way to the NCAAs.

Penn, the unanimous preseason favorite in the league’s media poll, bounced back off last weekend’s upset loss at Yale to make a defensive stand and ride Michelle Nwokedi’s strong double double performance of 18 points, including the junior’s 1,000th, and 10 rebounds along with four blocks to a 47-34 win over Cornell.

“One of them was to get here,” Penn coach Mike McLaughlin said of the goals by his team for the season. “And now that we’re here we can look at what we want to do once we got here.

“But I’m really proud of them. They wanted to get here, they wanted to represent Penn here in the tournament.”

Of course finishing first in the standings and winning every game is still paramount even though the new playoff introduces a new rigor to the get to the NCAA tournament after the two-month weekend gauntlet of back-to-back games.

“We’re built the way we are,” McLaughlin said of finishing out the schedule. “We’re going to grind it out. Maybe if I have someone that needs a little more rest, I could look at that a little differently but right now we’ll see how it plays out.

“It doesn’t matter where we seed, I’m just trying to get this team to play a little better every time out. I thought we defended so good tonight and offensively we’re still a work in progress but that will take care of what you said (if the Quakers continue to get better).

“We want to win every time out. But that would be great at the end that we won this league. It’s one of the things we set out to do and with four games left, a long journey left, and a lot of basketball left.”

In the seed race alongside getting to the tourney, the win kept the Quakers (16-7, 9-1 Ivy) a game in front of Princeton, which ruined Columbia's Megan Griffith's pseudo-homecoming at Jadwin Gym with a 78-54 thumping of the Lions (13-11, 3-8), pushing them to the brink of elimination from the race.

Technically, Griffith’s real homecoming was when the native of King of Prussia left Princeton coach Courtney Banghart’s staff after last season to take the job in New York at her alma mater.

The win Friday night by Princeton (14-9, 8-2) completed a sweep of Columbia while Penn in its win did likewise to the Big Red (14-10, 5-6), which offset last weekend’s sweep of Dartmouth and Harvard to climb back into the Ivy tourney contention.

The help from elsewhere alluded to at the outset came from the other two games in a pair of upsets that had Yale ride last weekend’s momentum off the win over the Quakers to stun  visiting Harvard 57-52 in John J. Lee Ampitheater in New Haven, Conn., while last-place Dartmouth won at Brown 92-88 in overtime at the Pizzitola Sports Center  in Providence, R.I.

Thus Harvard (19-5, 7-4), which at one point after a season-opening loss had tied a program record with 16 straight wins, has since lost four of its last seven. The Crimson, who now visit Brown in a key game for both teams Saturday night, are still in good shape in terms of making the tournament but have now dropped three games behind Penn and two behind Princeton, in the race to finish first, which will still be acknowledged as the championship by the league.

Harvard, which hosts Princeton and Penn next weekend, remains two games ahead of Brown (14-10, 5-6) and Cornell, which are tied for fourth and the last tourney spot.

Thus the Big Red could have moved ahead of the Bears were it not for Penn here and Cornell still must deal with host Princeton Saturday night while Columbia will be here.

And Yale (13-11, 4-7), with the two improbable wins, stays alive within a game of Brown and Cornell, whom the Bulldogs visit next weekend along with Columbia before finishing hosting Brown, who beat Yale last month.

Of course all of this will have to be re-addressed after Saturday’s games.

As for what actually occurred on the floor beyond the ramifications and implications in the game here, Nwokedi had a hot hand with 16 of her 18 points in the first half where Penn put distance behind Cornell off a 17-8 second period that thrust the Quakers to an advantage of as much as 23 points in the third and they ended up holding a lead the entire game.

"Positionally, I knew where (Nwokedi) was supposed to be so I knew she was fundamentally solid,” McLaughlin said. “She willed herself at the end. She was really fatigued in the last five minutes but we had to get to the finish line.”

Nwokedi said last week’s loss did not hamper preparations for this weekend’s continuation of the race.

“We threw it out,” Nwokedi said. “We’ve been playing the best basketball at home. So coming home it was just like comforting and this huge crowd was great so we just fed off everyone and got the win.”

On making her 1,000th point, which occurred in the big second period, Nwokedi said, “I actually had no idea but it’s just an honor. I couldn’t have done it without any of my teammates. Being able to come out here and get the win and getting the tournament berth just makes it a little better.

“We knew everything was going to have to be 100 percent defensively because as you can see we didn’t score a lot. But we were able to set the tone defensively and were able to get the win because of it.”

Cornell was held to 23.5 percent shooting from the field.

 Nwokedi make a pair of back-to-back 3-pointers that gave her teammates a lift moving forward.

She was the only Penn player in double figures, though Kasey Chambers scored nine while Sydney Stipanovich had six points, eight rebounds, three steals and a pair of assists.

Though as of last Saturday at Yale she became the new all-time Ivy career leader in blocked shots, Stipanovich did not have any against Cornell.

Penn’s defense was such that Cornell’s Megan LeDuc was the only Big Red player to score in double figures and she and Kerri Moran shared team rebounding honors with seven, each.

After Columbia visits Saturday night for the 7 p.m. tip, Penn visits Dartmouth and Harvard next Friday and Saturday and then finishes up hosting Princeton Tuesday, March 7 at 7 p.m.

Several times in recent years the final Princeton game was needed to win for the Quakers to claim the top spot in the standings so next weekend will tell if that’s still in play.

Princeton 78, Columbia 54 – As the Tigers continue to build momentum toward a big conclusion, Courtney Banghart’s bunch  had four players in double figures for the fourth straight game.

Vanessa Smith and freshman Bella Alarie each scored 15 points while Leslie Robinson and Taylor Brown each scored 11.

Camille Zimmerman had a game-high 27 points and became Columbia’s all time leading scorer for a single season, eclipsing the the 521 scored by Judie Lomax in the 2009-10 season.

Saturday night’s game hosting Cornell tips off at 6 p.m.

Yale 57, Harvard 52 – The Bulldogs avoided elimination and got back in the race for one of the two remaining spots in the Ivy tournament by upsetting the Crimson as Jen Berkowitz matched her career high for the second straight game with 26 points, repeating her performance last Saturday against visiting Penn.

In the closing frame, Yale led 54-52 with 16 seconds left when Mary Ann Santucci missed a free throw for the Bulldogs but Berkowitz kept the ball alive and Elizabeth Haley got the offensive rebound.

She was quickly fouled but made just one of two attempts for a three-point Bulldogs lead.

Harvard freshman Katie Benzan then got in position to launch a three that could force the game in overtime but Yale’s Lena Munzer blocked the attempt with five seconds left in regulation.

She was fouled and went to the line and sank both shots to give Yale the win.

“It was a total team effort and I was so proud of how our team fought,” said Yale coach Allison Guth. “We played with poise through Harvard’s second half runs.

Yale trailed by five midway through the fourth period but rallied with a 7-0 run for the lead.

The home team forced Harvard into 20 turnovers.

Benzan had a team-high 14 points for the Crimson.

Yale hosts Dartmouth Saturday at 7:30 p.m. while Harvard heads to Brown for a 4 p.m. game.

Dartmouth 92, Brown 88, overtime – The Bears lost a chance to move into sole possession of fourth place and now are locked in a tie with Cornell and Yale is one game behind.

Shayna Mehta led four other Brown players scoring in double figures, with 20 points.

The Bears scored six of the last seven points in regulation to force the game into an extra period and avoid an upset which seemed possible when they went ahead 84-80 with just under three minutes left in the extra session.

But Dartmouth then surged with a 12-4 run to gain the upset.

Behind Mehta’s scoring, Brown’s Erica Steeves had 19 points and seven rebounds while freshman Justine Gaziano scored 17, Taylor Will had 15 points, and Mary Butler scored 10.

Dartmouth’s Andi Norman had 22 points and nine rebounds, Kate Letkewicz scored 15 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, and Oliva Smith had 15 points and 12 rebounds.

The Big Green shot 54.1 percent from the field in the extra period, made all 3-point attempts, and connected on 8 of 10 foul shot attempts.

The two teams split the season series and now Dartmouth moves on to try and stop Yale’s budding resurgence.

Ivy Madness

The shootaround schedule for Friday on the eve of the tournament has been set with the top seed, at this hour, Penn, going from 9:10 a.m. till 9:50 followed by the opposing No. 4 seed between 10:10 a.m. And 10:50.

The entire men’s participants follow with the No. 1 seed beginning 11:10, the No. 4 seed at 12:10, the No. 2 seed at 1:10, and the No. 3 seed at 2:10.

Then then women’s seeds conclude with the two seed between 3:10 p.m. and 3:50 p.m. followed by the three seed between 4:10 and 4:50.

The entire day is open to the public.

On Saturday the women’s 1-4 semifinals will tip at 11 a.m. on ESPN3 and the women’s 2-3 semifinal will tip at 6:30 p.m. On ESPN3. On Sunday’ the women’s championship will tip at 4 p.m. on ESPNU.

In terms of the preseason poll, the media got the first three picks right as of now, Penn, Princeton, and Harvard, and then went with Cornell, which is almost right, tied for fourth.

Dartmouth, in last, was picked fifth; Yale in sixth was picked six, Brown in a fourth place tie was picked seventh, and Columbia, in seventh, was picked eighth.


Team. W. L. W.  L. G.B.  GR
*Penn 16-7  9-1. --  4
*Pctn. 14-9. 8-2. 1.0 4
Hrvd. 19-5  7-4  3.0 3
Crnll 14-10 5-6  4.5 3
Brwn 14-10 5-6 4.5 3
Yale 13-11 4-7 5.5 3
Colm 13-11 3-8 6.5 3
Dtmth 7-17 2-9 7.5 3
*Clinched Berth

Also Rans

(Ivy Records Only)

Team W-L G.B. GR

Crnell 5-6 – 3
Brwn 5-6 – 3
Yale 4-7 1.0 3
Clm 3-8 2.0 3
Dtm 2-9 3.0 3

Remaining Schedule

Saturday, Feb. 25

Columbia at *Penn, 7 p.m.
Cornell at *Princeton, 6 p.m.
Harvard at Brown, 4 p.m
Dartmouth at Yale, 7:30 p.m.

Friday, Mar. 3

Penn at Dartmouth, 7 p.m.
Princeton at Harvard, 7 p.m.
Yale at Cornell, 6 p.m.
Brown at Columbia, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Mar. 4

Penn at Harvard, 6 p.m.
Princeton at Dartmouth, 6 p.m.
Yale at Columbia, 6 p.m.
Brown at Cornell, 5 p.m.

Tuesday, Mar. 7

Princeton at Penn, 7 p.m.



Guru's Overniter: Rider Sails to Ninth Straight on Senior Night; A-10 Tourney Opens at La Salle and Saint Joe

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

Rider senior night had the sweet smell of success most of the Broncs’ Cinderella season has had to date this one being an easy 62-41 win over Niagara Friday night in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference game played at Alumni Gymnasium in Lawrenceville, N.J.

Still without Robin Perkins due to a nagging ankle injury, the absence was again no problem for coach Lynn Milligan’s squad.

Julia Duggan, one of the outgoing seniors honored, had another double double with 18 points and 11 rebounds to climb back into a first-place tie with Quinnipiac on the final weekend.

The Bobcats, who swept the Broncs early in the season, host Canisius Saturday, and a win means if Rider (22-6, 16-3) wins at Fairfield Sunday in Connecticut, the only MAAC team they lost to other than the Quinnipiac sweep, the two will be co-champs.

The Fairfield win earlier this season in Lawrenceville was 68-67 in overtime.

Obviously if the Bobcats lose Saturday and the Broncs win Sunday Rider wins the conference outright and gets the number one seed going into next weekend’s MAAC tournament in Albany, N.Y.

Rider will be a two-seed if the Broncs and Quinnipiac are co-champs but they can’t be any lower, even should they lose.

Friday’s triumph was Rider’s ninth straight and it seemed like yesterday back on the season opener when the Broncs romped at Princeton, there was wonderment at just what might suddenly has blossomed in Central New Jersey.

“This is a special group,” Milligan said of Duggan and her three other outgoing seniors from what is her tenth season with the program. “We always talk about leaving your mark, leaving your legacy and leaving the place better than you found it and these young ladies have done that.

“They care about this team and each other. They lead this team and they give me everything they’ve got every day.”

In addition to Duggan’s ninth double double, second in the MAAC, Stella Johnson scored 14 points and Kamila Hoskova scored 13 points.

Victoria Rampado had 12 points for Niagara (8-20, 5-14), while Kaylee Stroemple scored 19 points.

Drexel and Delaware Fall to the CAA Front-Runners

The local duo of Drexel and Delaware in the Colonial Athletic Association each found home was of little comfort in each hosting one of the first-place tandem of defending champion James Madison and Elon, the surprise team of sorts in the conference.

Drexel held its senior night at the Daskalakis Athletic Center before playing James Madison and the only satisfaction the Dragons had was reducing a blowout to a final 74-64 result that at least looked a little more competitive.

Delaware at the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark fell to Elon 74-64.

Back in Philadelphia, trailing by 21 in the first half to the Dukes (21-6, 14-2 CAA), the Dragons (20-7, 11-5) got to within three late but no closer in the game which featured the first Drexel  senior class to have three 1,000-point career scorers.

Sarah Curran, part of that trio, had 14 while Kelsi Lidje had 12 points and nine rebounds.

Freshman Bailey Greenberg and Sarah Woods each scored 11 while Meghan Creighton, another senior, scored seven points.

Drexel, which has two shots to set a season pre-conference tournament win record at 21, heads to Hofstra Sunday in Hempstead on Long Island, looking to sweep the Pride for the first time since 2008-09 when the Dragons won the CAA, ironically, at James Madison, which will host this season’s tournament the same weekend in two weeks as the Ivy League.

Coach Denise Dillon’s group finishes at William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., on Wednesday.

The Dragons are locked into the third seed and with JMU and Elon tied for first, the Dukes sweep gets them the No. 1 seed and for Drexel, the Phoenix could be the lesser of two Evils as the third seed if all the high seeds advance.

Precious Hall, likely the CAA player of the year, was unstoppable again, this time scoring 24 to move into second all-time on the JMU career charts. Amber Porter had 15 points and Hailee Barron scored 10.

JMU finishes up at home for its final two games hosting William & Mary Sunday at the JMU Convocation Center in Harrisonburg, Va., and then holds senior night Wednesday, hosting College of Charleston.

In Delaware, Nicole Enabosi had her 14th double double with 12 points and 12 rebounds while Erika Brown was the top scorer with 14 points for the Blue Hens (14-13, 8-8 CAA), who will be either the fourth, fifth, or sixth seed in the conference tournament.

Essence Baucom and. Jennifer Rhodes each scored 11 points for Elon (22-6, 14-2), which is setting program records for wins this season.

"We kept ourselves in the game tonight with our rebounding,” Delaware coach Tina Martin said. “That was a major key if we were going to try and steal one from the top team in the CAA.

“I thought we really battled on the boards. We had some good looks but we just weren’t able to knock them down. Elon is a veteran team that plays really well together. We hung around, but we just couldn’t get it down to a one-possession game to put some pressure on them.”

Delaware finishes up at Charleston Sunday before returning home Wednesday to host Towson, which gave JMU both its losses.

DePaul Explodes Over Villanova

Villanova’s calendar may have said it was February in Chicago but all anybody really cared about in DePaul’s balliwick Friday was the return of January, as in Jessica January, the Blue Demon’s top star who had been sidelined the last two months.

Even though January was back, the star who emerged while she was gone Brooke Schulte continued to be a force in a 77-50 win over Villanova in a Big East game at McGrath-Phillips Arena.

Schulte had 17 points for DePaul (23-6, 15-2 Big East), while January scored 13 and Chante Stonewall had 12 points. Jacqui Grant offered 12 points and 10 rebounds.

The Wildcats (16-12, 11-6), after two straight overtime wins at homde, went into the final weekend on the road hopeful of slipping into third place prior to next weekend’s tournament in Milwaukee after it had previously been held in suburban Rosemont and then at DePaul.

But a 19-2 run early in the second half shattered some of Villanova’s dreams.

Freshman Mary Gedaka was the only Villanova player to score in double figures, getting 12 points as the Wildcats were held to 29 percent from the field.

The Wildcats are in fourth place one game behind Marquette heading to finish with the Warriors on Sunday.

DePaul, which hosts Georgetown, and Creighton, which beat Xavier in Cincinnati 67-57, are tied for first going into the final day on the schedule. Marquette, which upset DePaul earlier in the week, beat Georgetown 80-70.

Creighton goes to Butler Sunday.

The National Roundup: Oregon State Gets Sweep of Stanford in Pac-12 Showdown

In a battle of two Top 10 teams in the Pac-12 conference at the top, No. 10 Oregon State edged No. 8 Stanford at home 50-47 in front of a program record crowd of 9,604, a sellout, in Gill Coliseum in Corvallis to clinch at least a share of the conference title.

“It seemed the whole state was at Gill tonight,” senior star Sydney Wiese said. “That definitely fueled us.”

Wiese had 22 points for the Beavers (26-3, 15-2 Pac-12), including five 3-pointers, while Kolbie Orum had 12 points.

Erica McCall and Alanna Smith each had nine points for Stanford (24-5, 14-3), which fell into a second-place tie with Washington.

The Cardinal had a four-game win streak snapped and took its first road loss of the season.

“They have an excellent team. They had a great crowd. It was very exciting. Great environment,” said Stanford coach Tara Va Derveer, who said similar things in a recent same-like atmosphere in Seattle where Stanford upset the Kelsey Plum-led Washington squad.

In 2014 the Beavers won the Pac-12 outright to end Stanford’s streak of 14 seasons having at least a piece of the top. Oregon State claimed a share last year and then won the conference tournament and advanced all the way to Indianapolis and the Women’s Final Four, as did Washington.

“This conference is so good, and for this team to do what they’ve done this year – with all the new people, with several teams that had more experience on the court than they did – the heart and grit and the togetherness that they’ve displayed to make this possible, that’s something to celebrate,” Oregon State coach Scott Rueck said. “To go back-to-back-to-back in this conference? It’s unbelievable.”

Near the end Stanford held a 47-46 lead before OSU got it back with a layup. Karlie Samuelson, whose sister Katie Lou plays at UConn, missed a trey, and the Beavers scored two foul shots for the final score.

“We’re up one with how much time to go, 14 seconds?” VanDerveer said. “We didn’t find a way to win. It’s disappointing.”

Earlier this season, Oregon State beat Stanford 72-69 on Jan. 8 in double overtime at Maples Pavilion near Palo Alto.

The Beavers, who host California Sunday while Stanford goes to Oregon, get the top seed for the Pac -12 tourney in Seattle if both are tied.

Meanwhile No. 6 Texas lost its third straight, being taken down 70-66 at home in Austin to unranked Iowa State in a Big 12 game.  Last year the Cyclones didn’t get to the NCAA tourney for the first time in nine years.

Seanna Johnson scored 22 for the Cyclones (17-11, 8-9 Big 12).

“That’s one of the biggest wins we had in a long time,” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. “Texas has a Final Four caliber team.”

Bridget Carleton added 18 points to the Cyclone total.

“I’m concerned,” said Texas coach Karen Aston of the Longhorns (21-7, 14-3) struggles. “I ha ve to be. I’m the coach. It’s my responsibility if we played like we did tonight. We didn’t play with (steady) urgency. They had some urgency. They’re on the NCAA bubble.”

Brooke McCarty had 12 points for Texas while Brianna Taylor scored 11, and Joyner Holmes and Alecia Sutton had 10 each.

Looking Ahead: Atlantic 10 Tourney Begins at La Salle and Saint Joseph’s

Just like schedules in some large conferences backload into December for openers, so to is a piece of March Madness getting under way in late February.

Under the reconfigured Atlantic 10 tournament format, the top two teams – Dayton and George Washington – get byes straight to Richmond, Va., and next weekend’s quarterfinals, semifinals, and the championship.

The next six of the top eight are getting home games this weekend as No. 6 La Salle, finishing six slots better than the preseason forecast of 12, hosts Saint Bonaventure at 1 p.m. at Tom Gola Arena.

Saint Joseph’s, which shrugged aside an overall 2-11 start after 2017 arrived to suddenly pulsate a 12-4 run in the conference wars to land a third seed, will host Rhode Island at 2 p.m.

Should the Explorers and Hawks each advance they get to run into each other the third time after Saint Joseph’s had a sweep in the season series.

In one other game on Saturday, No. 10 George Mason visits No. 7 Duquesne.

On Sunday, No. 9 Richmond goes to No. 8 VCU, which is a cross-town trip, and the winner will meet No. 1 Dayton on Friday.

No. 5 Fordham hosts No. 12 Davidson on Sunday and the winner meets the other Sunday winner between host No. 4 Saint Louis, the preseason pick, and No. 13 Massachusets in Friday’s quarterfinals.

The Duquesne/George Mason winner on Friday meets No. 2 George Washington, which had the other bye.

Meanwhile, No. 23/20 Temple will try to shake off Wednesday’s mauling at No. 1 Connecticut by hosting Cincinnati on Saturday in an American Athletic Conference game in McGonigle Hall.

Temple is trying to finish second in the conference and also build its resume for the NCAA types.

And that’s the wrap.




Friday, February 24, 2017

Mike Siroky's SEC Report: Recruiting Season Never Ends

By Mike Siroky

The Atlanta Tipoff Club is down to the 10 best high school players to be considered  The Naismith Girls’ Player of the Year.

The conspicuous element in the finalists: Three of them will play together on campus, at Tennessee.
They are all McDonald’s All-Americans.

 Another from that list will join them as new Lady Vols.

The thunderclap heard across the nation is not due to good luck.

 It is due to Holly Warlick hiring Sharrona Reaves as an assistant coach, to coordinate recruiting.

Last year, we pointed out Warlick needed a change. She needed someone to compliment her as she complimented the late Pat Head Summitt as her recruiting general.

You could chart a simple map for Reaves from her native Mufreesboro across the state to Knoxville, 189 miles.

Of course, it is never that easy.

 Reaves added a few thousand miles in detours to get to her destination.

She played, for instance, at Alabama, still the SEC but not her beloved UT, even if it did allow for visits in the course of seasons.

 And she captained them to the 1994 Final Four.

She started coaching as a junior high school leader in Nashville.

In 1995, she kicked off three seasons at Troy University as assistant coach and recruiting coordinator.

 Their talent got better and they made the NCAAs for the first time in program history.

It was off to California-Berkeley in 1998, as an assistant coach and recruiter.

She took an assistant’s job at West Virginia, then was offered to run the program at Long Island University, C.W. Post.

 But Mississippi State offered her to be recruiting coordinator back in the SEC and she jumped.
The College of Central Florida asked her for one transition season.

 Alabama State had her as their Compliance Coordinator before West Virginia won her back as the top assistant and, of course, recruiting coordinator.

This time at West Virginia, they had a 30-win season, a conference title and a heady No. 2 seed in the NCAA eliminations.


While that sounds like a lot, it is really the typical trek of an assistant with ever-improving aspirations.

She has won the national recruiting wars in her first Knoxville season.

 UT will also return a point guard from a year’s rehab of a blown knee and two superlative JC transfers, in essence enough for a  new team added to the returnees which will include the top scorers and rebounder this season.

Talk about a season on the brink.

Still, the undeniable biggest addition is Reaves. And she has the well-earned skills.

“It used to be you looked two seasons out,” she said. “Now, it is the next season because everybody gets ready quickly.”

She knew under Pat Head Summitt, that Tennessee had the program everyone wanted to be.

“I always admired Pat and the program,” she said. “And Holly. Growing up in Tennessee, how could you not. And, as I played and then coached, it just got reinforced.”

In some respects, at the top programs, the introduction is easier because all players now want to go to the top programs.

Sometimes, recruiting can be a linkage of, say, getting a player from Oregon and then other great Oregon players perk their ears up and want to get on the same ride.

Or by playing a nationally competitive schedule, you are seen in states further from campus.

Summitt once said she initially visited Notre Dame before the Irish had a national footprint to entice a player from nearby Michigan. She got her and that player was in Final Fours.

Even when Reaves was playing, there was not the intense national documentation.

Tennessee’s national following and alumna always have their eyes open wherever they end up.

It builds upon itself.

As information streams have grown, so have recruitment battles gotten tougher.

 There are no sleepers out there, no unknowns across the country.

As the women players have developed physically, there is also little separation in skill sets.

“So, now you look for a measure of leadership,” she said.

 Not that pure rookies are recruited to run the locker room but that they have that skill when their time comes or that JV players are ready now.

“We all get down,” she said. “Do they have the ability to come back.”

Players will have over-arching skills. At the university level, everyone is good. At the elite programs every player is very good.

“They will accept a role, be coachable,” she said.

So one over riding factor is that undefined coachability.

“I definitely see myself as a coach,” she said.

Reaves has developed the sense of picking those players out, of seeing beyond height and speed, to the true value of teamwork.

“We’re a team,” she says of where it starts, with the coaching assistants.

Heather Ervin is director of recruiting operations and player personnel. Jolette Law and Dean Lockwood are the other assistant coaches. Reaves joins them on the bench, in the locker room, in game huddles.

In the end, Reaves said, the mission remains focused.

 It is what she tells the moms and dads in those multiple visits to small towns and big cities: Keep the tradition but establish their own as well, within the story of the Lady Vols.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

UConn Buzzsaw Makes Temple Consecutive Victim No. 102 And Claims American Regular Season Crown

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

HARTFORD, Conn. – The glue in the lineup still on the sidelines. A near escape from the previous opponent, beating Tulane 63-60 in New Orleans Saturday night.

The fact that the last time Connecticut and Temple met earlier this month at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia on Feb. 1, the home team actually outscored the vaunted Huskies in the second half of a 28-point 97-69 defeat.

Call these aforementioned points the straws for grasping hope available for fans of the nationally-ranked Owls to avoid becoming UConn’s consecutive victim No. 102 to go with No. 96 the last time the two American Athletic Conference foes met.

Then from the standpoint of strategy and execution by coach Tonya Cardoza and her staff were the facts of reality: To have a chance, don’t turn the ball over and limit second chance points.

So how did that turn out Wednesday night at the XL Center, the main venue of the Huskies’ off-campus venues?

Well, in the second chance points department, things went well to a 10-10 standoff.

As for the rest of it, 26 turnovers converting into a whooping 37-13 in points in transition favoring the Huskies and a companion 21-4 on fast breaks. And that speed helped balloon the points in the paints comparison to 42-4.

When the scoreboard finally stopped spinning, UConn claimed a 90-45 victory and the first formal of the five-step process to a fifth straight NCAA title in capturing the regular season conference crown.

The Huskies (27-0, 14-0 American) now own all four of those and every event with the AAC label since the conference creation out of the breakup of the old Big East.

The next big event after finishing up hosting Memphis Saturday and visiting South Florida Monday will be the following weekend when the American tournament will once again be held at the Mohegan Sun near New London, Conn.

As for Temple (21-6, 11-3), which recently acquired national ranking status in the USA Today Coaches poll (#20) and Associated Press (media) rankings (#23) the all-time second place finish in the American will have to stay on hold.

The runner up slot that was forecast for Temple by the American coaches back in the fall could come Saturday afternoon when Cincinnati and Cardoza’s good friend Jamelle Elliott visit McGonigle Hall at 2 p.m. or it may have to wait until the Owls finish up at Central Florida Monday night.

Cardoza and Elliott, a former UConn star, spent long stints together as aides to Hall of Fame Huskies coach Geno Auriemma, whose program’s record playing as the number one team in the nation now stands at 400-15.

Meanwhile, no Kia Nurse again due to nagging foot problems, no difficulty for Connecticut, which offers warm hugs and handshakes before playing former members of the Huskies family and rarely offers anything more in terms of good will the following 40 minutes.

Napheesa Collier shot a near perfect 13-for-14 from the field, including connecting on her two 3-point attempts, and she made all three foul shots on the way to a career-high 31 points accompanied by 13 rebounds, four assists, three blocked shots and a steal.

"You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who’s had a better 27 games than Napheesa Collier,” Auriemma said. “It’s just amazing, the consistency that kid plays at.”

Gabby Williams was a perfect 7-for-7 from the field in picking up 15 points, including her 1,000th career point, while Katie Lou Samuelson scored 19, and Saniya Chang scored 11.

“The kid never takes a bad shot,” Auriemma said of Williams. “She doesn’t force shots. She doesn’t throw stuff up there with no intention of making it. She doesn’t waste opportunities.

"Gabby struggled a little bit at Tulane and was disappointed in herself. And came back today and that’s what’s going to happen. Those two (she and Collier) have a pretty distinctive advantage over most people that they play against.

“And when they’re able to take and use that advantage, you get what happened tonight, especially in the second half.”

The Temple trio of guards all got their share of double figures in scoring but below the explosions of recent games. Feyonda Fitzgerald had 12 points and three assists, while Alliya Butts had 10 points and Donnaizha Fountain scored 12 points.

"We played them a little different than last time," Auriemma said, though his team was successful defending the Temple guard tandem in Philadelphia.

The game also featured the farewell of longtime official Dennis DeMayo, the Philadelphia native who had one of the easier nights in his 30 years in the profession on the way to retirement.

As for taking out the problems at Tulane on Temple, Auriemma said of his current group, which has surprised the country after being tabbed as a rebuilding unit on the nation’s powerhouse back in the preseason:

“It’s really difficult with this particular team what to gauge what their responses are,” he observed. “Because they don’t show a lot of either negative or positive emotion. They pretty much stay at a certain level and they don’t deviate that much.

“It was hard to tell whether they were upset, whether they were angry, whether they were disappointed, what were they? I don’t know. And we got home and they all said the right things, `We got to get back to basics, we got to get back to doing the things we were doing before, you know, Lou, we got to work harder defensively, we got to do this, she said we, should have been I, however, the idea that if we work really really hard on the defensive end and go back to what we were doing, which is hard to do.

“It’s hard to maintain a certain level from Nov. 14 till March 1. It’s impossible. There’s got to be peaks and valleys and ups and downs, and that’s when you go to your bench and bring in a lot of people and you get a lot of oomph, and some of the guys get a chance to get a breather in a game, and we don’t have that.

"Eventually, it's going to show, and luckily it hasn’t shown that much this year. But, I have to look really, really hard to see it because they’re the same all the time.”

Auriemma has been the one person, of all people, totally baffled by the continued glorified state of his team and expressed as much again in the postgame press conference.

Even at the end of the season I'll never be convinced that this is working because I see these guys every day and I just shake my head," said Auriemma, who grew up in Norristown and actually played against DeMayo in their youths.

 "Up to this point they have been really good when they needed to be really good, so in that respect it has been a masterpiece,” Auriemma quipped. “We have created a Rembrandt, what am I saying, that is blasphemy (then using Italian painters for his illustration).

“I see them every day in practice and I just can't get those words to come out of my mouth. There is so much we have to do to get so much better. Probably because I know that we are close to where nobody can beat us, and we are that close to Saturday, and haven't felt like that in a couple years so I am always walking around like that."

Guru's Overniter: La Salle Falls in Double OT to Fordham as A-10 Tourney Field Set

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru 

La Salle lost a tough one Wednesday night, dropping a 66-61 setback in double overtime to Fordham at home at the Explorers’ Tom Gola Arena on the final night of the regular season in the Atlantic 10.

The result dropped La Salle (16-12, 9-7 A-10) to a sixth seed, still twice as good as the 12th place finish forecast by the Atlantic 10 coaches back in the preseason, which might land Jeff Williams the coach of the year in the conference.

The win by Fordham (20-10, 11-5) elevated the Rams to the fifth seed.

Saint Joseph’s, which finished up with a win over George Mason on Tuesday night, got bumped up to third seed when Saint Louis lost to Dayton on a night that began with a three-way deadlock for first and ended up with the Flyers and George Washington tied for first after the Colonials won at Richmond.

The Hawks, who were picked for eighth by the Atlantic 10 coaches in the preseason, finished in a third-place tie with Saint Louis, the preseason favorite, but earned the better seed off a head-to-head win over the Billikins 66-63 earlier this month.

In a reconfiguration of the tournament, the top two teams have byes into the tournament quarterfinals in Richmond next weekend while the next six have home games on Saturday and Sunday.

Should Saint Joseph’s, which has been hot since early January, and La Salle win their opening round games Saturday, the two would meet in a quarterfinal in Richmond, sending one to the semifinals the next day.

The Hawks swept the Explorers in their two games this season but before talking more about the tourney, first, let’s look at the particulars of the La Salle loss to Fordham.

Amy Griffin, who led the conference in scoring a second year, had a career-high 37 points for La Salle, including 21 in the second half as she shot 18-for-32 from the field and made her only foul shooting chance.

Jasmine Alston scored 11 points, dealt eight assists, and grabbed six rebounds but the Explorers couldn’t sustain Fordham’s surge in the closing minutes.

G’mrice Davis tied the game at the buzzer to force overtime after Griffin had given La Salle a 52-50 lead with 13.6 left to play.

The Explorers took a 56-52 lead in the first overtime but were shut down the rest of the period and the Rams’ Hannah Missry tied it with 19 seconds to go to force the second overtime.

Fordham then took over the second extra stanza with a 61-56 lead and held off La Salle for the win and fifth seed.

On Saturday, La Salle will host 11th-seed St. Bonaventure at noon.

As for how the Atlantic 10 field became set, in key games Wednesday, George Washington, under new coach and former UConn star Jenn Rizzotti, finished in a tie with Dayton by beating Richmond 63-44 Wednesday night on the road at the Robins Center.

“I am just really proud,” said Rizzotti, who previously won America East titles coaching Hartford. “It is a long season and a lot has to go right for you to be able to sustain a level of success. I feel like our defense is the best it has been all year and it is nice to see so many people contribute and make our team better every night.”

Lexi Martin, a graduate student and transfer from Lehigh, had 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Colonials (20-8, 13-3 A-10), who have been part of three straight regular season titles in the Atlantic 10.

George Washington lost the tie-break with Dayton, but got a bye and gets to face the winner between No. 7 Duquesne and No. 10 George Mason in the quarterfinals.

Off the bracket, if the Colonials advance, they possibly would see Saint Joseph’s or La Salle in the semifinals.

Dayton, in a head-to-head with Saint Louis, off a three-way tie at the top when the night began, beat the Billikins 68-62 in overtime at home in UD Arena and got the number one seed winning the tiebreak, as mentioned, with George Washington.

A three-pointer by the Billikens (22-7, 12-4) tied the game with 12.6 left in regulation to force the overtime.

In the quarterfinals, Dayton (19-9, 13-3) will meet the winner between VCU and Richmond, who play Sunday.

Kelly Austria had 16 points for the winners and Saicha Grant-Allen had 12 points and 17 rebounds.

Sadie Stipanovich, the cousin of Penn’s Sydney Stipanovich, had 20 points for Saint Louis.

Michigan State Rally Carries Spartans Over Penn State

In the only other game by the Guru’s local group Wednesday night, Penn State built a 19-point lead in the first half only to be overtaken by the Spartans with a 23-point second-half advantage and ultimate 73-64 win in a key game in the Big Ten.

Michigan State (19-9, 9-6), considered on the bubble by some for the NCAA tournament, held fourth when the night started while the Lady Lions (18-9, 8-7) were also locked into a four-way tie for the spot but dropped to seventh with the loss.

Teniya Page had 23 points for the visitors in East Lansing, Mich., while Sierra Moore scored 19.

Tori Jankosa had 21 points and 12 rebounds for Michigan State.

Looking Ahead

Rutgers finishes up its road season in the Big 10 Thursday night, the only local game on the Guru schedule, as the Scarlet Knights visit Northwestern in Evanston, Ill., before hosting powerful Ohio State Sunday in the season finale.

In the Southeastern Conference, No. 7 South Carolina visits Texas A&M, while No. 3 Mississippi State, looking to finish on top, visits No. 22 Kentucky.

On Friday, in a key Ivy game, Penn, looking to maintain its lead, hosts Cornell, which is tied for fourth with Brown for what would be the last slot in the new four-team league tournament.

Princeton, which trails the defending Quakers by a game, hosts Columbia, in what will be new Lions coach Megan Griffith’s first return to Jadwin Gym since taking the job at her alma mater following a long stint as an assistant to Tigers coach Courtney Banghart.

Drexel, on senior night, will be hosting James Madison, the defending champion currently holding the No. 1 seed spot in a tie with Elon, which will visit Delaware in the other game in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Rider, in a tie for first with Quinnipiac in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, will host Niagara, looking to compile another season series sweep on senior night.

Villanova, in a huge game, visits DePaul, which is tied for first with Creighton in the Big East, while the Wildcats are looking to possibly get ahead to third over Marquette, who Villanova wraps up the regular season on Sunday in Milwaukee.

We will bring all back which is still ahead in the Friday AM overniter, which is light on local but somewhat heavy on national, especially in the Atlantic Coast Conference, if upsets occur.

And that’s a wrap.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Guru's Overniter: Rider Streak Continues As Broncs go From Cupcake to Tough Cookie

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J. – For a long time on the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference schedule, one of the recommended visits to pick up a cupcake was right here in Rider’s Alumni Gymnasium.

So maybe the fact that the women’s basketball program was offering free cupcakes Tuesday night have caused veteran observers to wonder what was new there.

Well, unlike the past, the only thing resembling cupcakes here were the real deal, right out of the oven, available for free pickup in the front lobby, courtesy of the Rider program.

As for the Broncs, themselves, say goodbye to the cupcake stop.

 The magical season continued Tuesday night with another MAAC opponent swept away, a winning streak that at the moment continued to live without the involvement of Rider’s star player, and a minimum second seed guaranteed but still the chance to finish up pre-conference business as champs or co-champs of the lead-up conference wars.

Chalk up Tuesday’s 75-63 win over Monmouth as another in a collection of games since the season tipoff in November that might have gone by the wayside in past MAAC title chases.

The first quarter was a even battle until the Broncs (21-6, 15-3 MAAC) built a 9-point, 25-16 lead, that stood after the 10-minute opening period concluded.

The second period belonged to the visiting Hawks (12-15, 7-11), though they still trailed 38-34 when the halftime break arrived.

After the teams regrouped, Rider blazed its way to a 13-point lead, gave up five points off that differential, but then took them back to make it 59-46 through three periods.

Then came the final period and Monmouth would not go quietly, launching an 11-2 surge to  narrow deficit to four points at 61-57 in the first three minutes.

But once again, the Broncs reasserted themselves and rode their way to their 75-63 triumph.

“I thought we played a very solid all around game at both ends of the floor,” Rider coach Lynn Milligan said afterwards. “We had some mishaps, a couple on the offensive end, a couple on the defensive end, but I thought our overall play as a team tonight and different people stepping up again really propelled us to victory.

"They’re (Monmouth) a very good team, a very dangerous team, they shoot the ball extremely well, they run up and down the floor, they press you the whole game, I thought we kept our composure and balance the entire game tonight and I felt that really helped us.”

It was Rider’s eighth straight win and fourth straight since Robin Perkins suffered an ankle injury in the Iona victory but a fallen leader only yields new ones on this Broncs edition instead of dismay.

Senior center Julie Duggan had a monster double double with 18 points and 19 rebounds while Kamila Hoskova also had a double double with 18 points and 10 rebounds and Lexi Posset scored 14 points, including a perfect 4-for-4 from beyond the arc.

The Broncs also collectively blocked 10 Hawks shots, including three rejections from Stella Jonson.

Throughout the lineup and the game even players who don’t looks like obvious major contributors in the boxscore still did damage with key plays at critical times when the lead seemed in jeopardy.

McKinzee Barker and Kayla Shaw each scored 13 points for Monmouth and Rosa Graham scored 10.

In reaching their 21st win and a solid shot at the WNIT unless they win the MAAC and get the NCAA automatic bid, the Broncs have reached the roaring 20s for the first time since a 26-win season in 1981-82 but the current collection of triumphs is the most ever against Division I opponents for the program.

Furthermore the 15 MAAC wins to date through Tuesday night are the most ever with two games left as Niagara comes visiting Friday on senior night and then the Broncs head to Fairfield Sunday. Rider will also finish above .500 in the league for the first time since the Broncs became a member.

“It’s better than losing, I can tell you that, because we have gone through that,” said Duggan, whose collegiate career is headed toward an uplifting finish. “It’s a good time. It’s great to see  the smiles on everyone’s faces as opposed to in the locker room after the game, coach going, ‘OK we’ll get them next time.’ It’s just great to have a year like this.”

Looking at the ups and downs as play proceeded, Milligan agreed, “It definitely was a game of runs, and every time it looked like we got comfortable, the margin, they got that big three or we gave up a transition three.

“But again, that goes back to the confidence these young ladies have in each other and the balance we have as a team that it didn’t rattle us. We had to go down and execute our offense and I thought we executed our offense very well tonight,” Milligan observed.

“We didn’t shoot the ball as well as we normally do but I think every shot we took was within the flow of offense and putting the team in a really successful spot.”

As for getting by without Perkins, who could be back by the start of the tournament a week from Friday in Albany, N.Y., “It’s a credit to who we are as a program,” Milligan said. “We don’t build our program around one person. We have 15 young ladies who come in every day and work as hard as they can.

“We want Robin back, absolutely. But her teammates are stepping up for her. We’re picking up the slack. We’re staying balanced and we’re a very single focused team,” she added.

“Today was about playing to beat Monmouth. It wasn’t about winning 15 games or 21 games or all that. We finished the game. Good job. Here’s what we need to do on Friday to beat Niagara.

"I'm not going to worry about wins, seeds, ties, postseason, just what we have been doing, concentrating just on our next game. It’s senior night and we need to make it special for them.”

Saint Joseph's Finishes Regular Season With Overtime Victory

After spending two months on the front end of the season finding all kinds of ways to lose, besides making do with a roster stung by injuries, Saint Joseph’s continues to to find ways to pick up victories and the Hawks, in the Atlantic 10 tournament, which opens on home courts Saturday and Sunday, will be worth paying attention.

Coach Cindy Griffin’s team eked out another Tuesday night finishing the regular season with a 57-53 overtime triumph against George Mason at home in Hagan Arena.

Completing a 12-2 run on the schedule for all games since the arrival of 2017, Saint Joseph’s clinched a .500 season to earn consideration for an at-large bid to the WNIT.

But the way they’re playing now, don’t discount the Hawks (15-3, 12-4 Atlantic 10) from living up to a dark horse billing they have earned for the conference tourney that after this weekend’s round, moves the following weekend back to Richmond, Va., for the rest of the event.

At the moment Saint Joseph’s is the fourth seed but if Saint Louis loses Wednesday night, the Hawks will be the three seed in the field in which the top two above them will earn byes.

Saint Joseph’s will host a first round game at 2 p.m. Saturday against an opponent to be determined by the conclusion of Wednesday’s game and final standings.

As for Tuesday’s action, Chelsea Woods brought her team back from potential defeat in regulation by hitting two foul shots for a 50-50 tie with 9.6 seconds left in regulation.

One could say Woods got the Hawks out of the woods in the extra period, when she hit a layup with 2.39 left for a 55-50 lead.

The Patriots (13-16, 6-10) still had a chance when Kara Wright’s two foul shots trimmed the Hawks’ advantage at 55-53 with 23.6 seconds left but Woods doubled that margin to four points with two free throws and George Mason couldn’t get a shot off in the remaining time.

The key statistic for the winners was the 15-for-22 they shot from the foul line.

Woods, looking like the dynamic star she was in the Philadelphia/Suburban Summer League in Hatboro, Pa., had 20 points and nine rebounds, while Adaisha Franklyn, who also was a summer star, had 14 points and 11 rebounds. Amanda Fioravanti had 11 points, six rebounds and a career-high five blocked shots.

Wright had 13 points for George Mason.

Saint Joseph’s was the only A-10 team to go 8-0 at home on the league schedule.

Meanwhile, La Salle is among the A-10 teams finishing Wednesday with the Explorers hosting Fordham at 7 p.m. At Tom Gola Arena.

The Explorers have already clinched a hosting spot for Saturday but Wednesday’s  game will determine whether La Salle is the fifth or sixth seeds.

Looking Ahead

Temple takes its newly minted No. 23 ranking in the Associated Press women’s poll to Hartford and the XL Center to face top-ranked Connecticut in an American Athletic Conference game as the Owls, who are No. 20 in the coaches poll, try to avoid becoming Huskies’ consecutive streak victim No. 102.

The Owls ranking made coach Tonya Cardoza the 34th individual to have played for an AP ranked team when she was Dawn Staley’s teammate at Virginia in the early 1990s and now be associated with coaching one.

Staley had that same dynamic when she led Temple to its previous 26 poll appearances in the 2005 and 2006 seasons, Of course, now the Philly playing legend is coaching South Carolina, contending for a national title.

Penn State is at Michigan State in the Big Ten with the host Spartans looking to enhance their postseason profile.

On Thursday, Rutgers is in its final road game, visiting Northwestern in the Big 10 before hosting nationally ranked Ohio State Sunday in the regular season final.

The Guru will have the complete weekend look as we get closer but since he was in a rush to get out New Haven, Conn., Saturday night after the Penn loss to Yale, he didn’t post the two sets of standings he has been doing in terms of tracking the race to the four teams berths in the new Ivy tourament at the Palestra next month.

This weekend in the southern tier of the Ivies, Penn hosts Cornell in the Palestra Friday while Princeton hosts Columbia in Jadwin Gym before the visitors switch sites Saturday,

Harvard and Dartmouth will be battling Yale and Brown in the New England tier.

Here is the standing first

Ivy Standings

Team W. L. W.L. G.B.

Penn 15-7 8-1 –
Pctn 13-9 7-2 1.0
Hrvd 19-4 7-3 1.6
Brwn 14-9 5-5 3.5
Crnll 14-9 5-5  3.5
Yale 12-11 3-7 5.5
Cumb 13-10 3-7 5.5
Dtmth 6-17 1-9. 7.5

Also rans

(Ivy only) 

Team. W. L.  GB GR
Brown 5-5 --   4
Crnll. 5-5 --      4
Yale.  3-7  2.0. 4
Colmb 3-7 2.0 4
Dtmth 1-9 4.0 4

And that’s the wrap.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Guru's AP WBB History: Combo Coaching and Playing For Top 25 Teams

                                         (Played for and Coached Ranked Teams)


1. Katie Abrahamson-Henderson    Missouri St. Georgia/Iowa
2. Cheryl Burnett         Missouri.St. Kansas
3. Amanda Butler%                         Florida                                        Florida
4. Nikki Caldwell                             UCLA                                       Tennessee
5. Tonya Cardoza                              Temple                                      Virginia
6. Pokey Chatman%          LSU       LSU
7. Cynthia Cooper-Dyke%                 Southern Cal                             Southern Cal
8. June Daugherty        Boise St./Washington Ohio St.
9. Nell Fortner         Purdue/Auburn     Texas
10. Susie Gardner         Arkansas             Georgia
11. Michelle Clark-Heard% Western Kentucky Western Kenbtucky
12. MaChelle Joseph                          Georgia Tech                              Purdue
13. Linda Lappe%                               Colorado                                      Colorado  
14. Wendy Larry%         Old Dominion Old Dominion
15. Joanne P. McCallie         Michigan St./Duke         Northwestern
16. Kathy McConnell-Miller              Colorado                                     Virginia
17. Muffet McGraw          Notre Dame             St. Joseph’s
18. Katie Meier                                 Miami                                         Duke
19. Cheryl Miller%         Southern Cal             Southern Cal
20. Kim Mulkey         Baylor  Louisiana Tech
21. Mary Murphy         Wisconsin             Northwestern
22. Kathy Olivier         UCLA   UNLV
23. Carolyn Peck         Purdue/Florida                           Vanderbilt7
24. Laurie Pirtle         Cincinnati              Ohio St.
25. Jennifer Rizzotti                        Hartford                                       Connecticut
26. Carol Ross%         Florida/Mississippi Mississippi
27. Bev Smith%          Oregon                         Oregon
28. Dawn Staley                      Temple/South Carolina Virginia
28. Jan Ternyik      San Francisco Montclair St.
30. Charli Turner Thorne          Arizona St. Stanford
31. Amy Tucker*                    Stanford Ohio St.
32. Holly Warlick%                            Tennessee                      Tennessee
33. Coquese Washington                    Penn State                      Notre Dame
34. Terri Williams-Flournoy            Georgetown/Auburn                  Penn State

     *-Filled in for Tara VanDerveer in 1995-96
    %-Ten played and coached at same ranked school.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Guru's Overniter: Temple Upsets No. 22 South Florida And Looks to End NCAA Six-Year Drought

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

It’s time for Temple to go up in the attic and dust off those dancing shoes that have been stored away since 2011.

Remove the word “bubble” and replace it with the word “lock.”

The Owls, trolling American Athletic Conference waters in Tampa Sunday afternoon, snatched victory from the jaws of defeat to upset No. 22 South Florida 77-71 and become a prime contender for one of the 32 at-large invitations to the NCAA women’s tournament.

Temple (21-5, 11-2 American), seeking revenge for a game that got away in the first meeting with the Bulls (21-6, 9-4) last month at home in Philadelphia, seemed ready for another one of those heartbreak setbacks off the past when control of much of the game and a 13-point lead vaporized into a 67-64 USF advantage with 2 minutes, 43 seconds left in regulation time.

But then Feyonda Fitzgerald and Donnaizha Fountain launched another of their game-changer acts, combining to outscore USF 13-4 over an ensuing two-minute stretch to land Temple the victory and a two-game bulge over the Bulls in second place with three games left on the schedule.

The bad news is the Owls now head Wednesday to a probably fired-up Connecticut squad over escaping Tulane Saturday night from having the Green Wave stop the meter on the Huskies’ NCAA-record win streak at exactly 100.

The good news is that USF will host UConn Monday meaning whatever happens next to Temple short of doing Tulane four points better will be a wash.

So ironically, the Owls can clinch the spot the American coaches forecast for them in the fall by beating Cincinnati and Temple coach Tonya Cardoza’s good friend Jamelle Elliott Saturday afternoon in McGonigle Hall.

USF and Temple are probably not through with each other. Barring upsets, the two teams are likely to meet in the semifinals of the American tournament next month at the Mohegan Sun near New London, Conn.

But that means not having to deal with UConn until whoever gets to the title game.

Temple, which drifted into the USA Today coaches poll at No. 25 last week, picked the right day to take care of business.

A bunch of teams in the Associated Press women’s (media) poll took hits making it likely that the Owls could be among the Top 25 for the first time since 2006 in the grandmama of all the polls when the new rankings are released early Monday afternoon.

USF is the second ranked team Temple has beaten this season, having upset Big East frontrunner DePaul in McGonigle Hall in September.

The last times the Owls beat a ranked team on the road was on a neutral court over Purdue in November 2007 and Rutgers of the old Big East on the Scarlet Knights’ court in 2006.

Prior to Sunday’s win, Temple’s RPI was in the low 20s, one of the best ever for the program.

Last month the Owls also achieved a lingering goal of recent seasons, sweeping their way 4-0 to the Philadelphia Big 5 title.

As for the final stats Sunday, Fitzgerald finished with 23 points and seven assists while Donnaizha, who hails from Cardoza’s hometown of Roxbury, Mass., had 22 points and five rebounds.

Alliya Butts scored 13 points and Tanaya Atkinson had 11 points and 10 rebounds.

USF, which was coming off another upset loss at home earlier in the week by Central Florida, was led by Maria Jespersen, who had 26 points and 11 rebounds while Kitija Lacksa had 14 points and Tamara Henshaw and Ariadna Pujol scored 10 each.

Villanova Takes Another Overtime Thriller

Following Friday night’s double overtime victory against Xavier at home in the Pavilion, the Wildcats had to put some more extra minutes in play Sunday afternoon before emerging from the Pavilion with a 61-58 win in overtime against Butler.

The Big East triumph got Villanova (16-11, 11-5 Big East) a sweep of the visitors and the previous one in Indianapolis also went into overtime.

The Wildcats are now tied with Marquette for third and the Warriors (20-7, 11-5) made things interesting Sunday upsetting No. 17 DePaul 96-81 at home in Milwaukee, forcing the Blue Demons (22-6, 14-2) into a first-place tie with Creighton (20-6, 14-2), which beat St. John’s 67-60 at home.

Marquette hosts Georgetown Friday night while Villanova visits DePaul. Given the Wildcats are underdogs in that game, if the Hoyas knock off the Warriors, Villanova finishes up at Marquette Sunday and can get third on a head-to-head win.

But being third is now murky since it is unknown until next weekend who is in that semifinal bracket – Creighton or DePaul.

As for Sunday’s game on the Main Line against Butler (5-22, 2-14), both teams had several chances to win in regulation

With the score tied 58-58 with 1:55 in the overtime remaining, the teams went scoreless a stretch before Alex Louin hit two foul shots with 34 seconds for a two-point lead.

Butler missed a shot on its next possession and Louin was fouled getting the rebound and made 1-of-2 from the line for a 61-58 lead with 8.7 seconds left.

The visitors took a time out and then advanced the ball to the front court.

Taylor Buford missed a game-winning three-pointer and Villanova’s Kelly Jekot was fouled with 3.6 seconds left.

Jekot missed both attempts and then Burford tried to knock one down from 35 feet out but it missed and Villanova had the win heading into Friday’s game at DePaul.

Jannah Tucker had 14 points for the Wildcats while Louin had 13 points and 10 rebounds. Jekot and Mary Gedaka each scored nine.

La Salle Wins at Massachusetts

The Explorers kept their postseason hopes alive with 57-52 win at Massachusetts in Amherst that gave La Salle a home game in this weekend’s conference tournament openers before the event the following weekend moves to Richmond, Va., for the quarter, semi, and championship finals at the Richmond Coliseum.

Fordham upset first-place Dayton at home on senior day and heads to La Salle (16-11, 9-6 A-10) Wednesday so the close of the regular season just got a little more interesting.

As for the Explorers’ action at the Mullins Center, they got a sweep of the Minutewomen (9-19, 3-12) with freshman Sofi Ngwafang scoring 17 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.

Anemone Scheel had a career-high 13 points and Lisa Mintzer matched her career high with 10 points.

Amy Griffin did not score her normally high amount of points but did dish seven assists, tying a career high while Jasmine Alston had nine rebounds and seven assists.

Maggie Mulligan had 18 points for the host Minutewomen.

Saint Louis, George Washington and Dayton are now tied for first with one game remaining while Saint Joseph’s is fourth hosting George Mason Tuesday as the favorite in the season finale.

If they lose and Fordham wins at La Salle there is a tie and since the Hawks and Rams split, best win comes into play but best win is unknown until the top determines which has the Number 1 designation, etc.

Fordham would win out for fourth over the Hawks if Dayton became the best win while Saint Joseph’s does have a win over St. Louis. If La Salle beats Fordham, the Explorers get the fifth seed and cannot finish worst than sixth.

National Results: Day of Upsets

There were big crowds and a lot of upsets among the ranking set Sunday.

We’ve already talked about No. 17 DePaul, No. 22 South Florida, and Mike Siroky in his SEC report addressed No. 6 South Carolina shocked at the finish 62-60 at Missouri and No. 3 Mississippi holding off soon to be dispatched No. 23 Texas A&M 72-67 on the road.

Michigan State ruined No. 20 Michigan 86-60 and the Wolverines’ big day and 12,000 crowd in Crisler, while unranked Wake Forest on the road in nearby Raleigh took down No. 15 N.C. State 89-77.

Not an upset but in the Atlantic Coast Conference when somebody had to lose, No. 13 Duke handled visiting No. 16 Miami 83-70.

No. 7 Notre Dame in the ACC slipped past No. 21 Syracuse 85-80 in upstate New York where a crowd of 11,021 was a record for the host Orange.

The Irish, whose coach Muffet McGraw is again a finalist for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, are alone in first in the ACC trying for their fourth straight regular season title since joining the conference.

Syracuse advanced to the Women’s Final Four last season.

In the West, No. 9 Washington in the Pac-12 held off host Southern Cal 87-74 in Los Angeles at the Galen Center as Kelsey Plum, the nation’s leading scorer, collected 35 points and is now second in NCAA career history with 3,315 points to move ahead of former Baylor star Brittney Griner.

Though Kansas’ Lynette Woodard scored more in the AIAW era that preceded the NCAA, the top position held by Missouri State’s Jackie Stiles with 3,393 points is just 78 points ahead of Plum.

And that’s the wrap.

Drexel Finishes Delaware Sweep In Overtime To Claim CAA 3rd Seed

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA – When it comes to Drexel’s longest rivalry in Delaware and vice versa for the Blue Hens, the label “storied,” is certainly applicable.

They’ve had classics first in their days up north in the America East and several other pre AEC configurations and the two schools didn’t lose that tradition once they moved to the Colonial Athletic Association.

Each has had a marquee star dominate and help win dramatic confrontations in Drexel’s Gabriela Marginean followed by Delaware’s Elena Delle Donne.

And the great thing is the long-standing friendship between Delaware coach Tina Martin and Drexel coach Denise Dillon who only suspend it during the two 40-minutes their teams battle each other and sometimes another 40 in the CAA tournament with titles on the line.

On Sunday afternoon in the second meeting of the season they had to keep a halt a few minutes beyond those parameters after a jump shot from Delaware’s Hannah Jardine with 13 seconds left in regulation sent the game tied 44-44 into overtime here at the Dragons’ Daskalakis Athletic Center.

What Drexel didn’t achieve in shooting from the field in overtime, the Dragons more than compensated over the extra five minutes at the line as freshman Bailey Greenberg, Sarah Curran, Kelsi Lidge, and Jessica Pellechio combined to shoot 7-for-8 on attempted free throws to give the Dragons a 53-49 victory and a clinch of third seed in next month’s CAA tournament at James Madison in Harrisonburg, Va.

Erika Brown had all five of the Blue Hens’ points in the extra period off an old fashioned three-point play and a layup.

Delaware (14-12, 8-7 CAA), which has lost four of the Blue Hens’ last five, held its two-game lead in fourth place despite the loss, since William & Mary and Charleston lost to the front-running duo of Elon and James Madison.

“We found a way to win today, that’s what it came down to,” Dillon said afterwards. “It definitely wasn’t one of our pretty games.

“A month or so back we would have ended up losing, so I was pleased with the effort in the second half to pick it up on defense. I thought Jess played a pretty good game. That was nice. I thought she was under control but other than that it was piece by piece to put some pieces together and figure it out.”

Typical of most games in the series, the action featured nine ties and nine lead changes.

“Down there we had a great first half,” Dillon said of the season sweep by Drexel (20-6, 11-4), “but it still became a 10-point game.”

Drexel won that game 54-44 at the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark after holding a 39-22 lead at the half.

“Then here you knew they would make adjustments and they did. I hoped we would make some outside shots to start just to get the floor open.

“It’s all about how you finish and controlling your own destiny. We couldn’t give this one away, even though we weren’t playing well.”

It's the first time in six seasons Drexel has won a game extended to an extra period after losing six straight overtime encounters.

It’s also the sixth time and fourth under Dillon that the Dragons have reached the 20-win mark on the season. It’s the fourth they reached 20 before conference tourney action and they have three games left to tie or pass the regular season program record of 21 triumphs.

Pellechio was the only Drexel player scoring in double figures with 23 points while Brown had 21 for Delaware and Nicole Enabosi grabbed 11 rebounds.

“We had opportunities but we didn’t capitalize when we needed to,” Delaware’s Martin said. “We had shots and layups that just didn’t convert. It’s frustrating, but I’m proud of this team’s effort.

“We’re playing extremely hard and it’s disappointing not to finish this one out. We definitely didn’t lose because of lack of effort. This was a great game and it’s a shame someone had to lose.

Drexel, two games behind CAA co-leaders James Madison and Elon, hosts JMU Friday night at 7, which is also senior night before finishing on the road at Hofstra and William & Mary.

The Dragons likely would land a home game opener if they are part of the WNIT field but until a CAA tourney winner is claimed, they remain through that route in the hunt for the NCAA field, but are likely out of the mix for an at-large slot.

Delaware hosts Elon Friday night so both the Blue Hens and Dragons that night can affect the top of the standings in playing the conference co-leaders. Delaware finishes at College of Charleston and hosting Towson.

As for the CAA co-leaders, tied record-wise in first place, Elon at home beat William & Mary 70-57 while James Madison won at Charleston 84-78.

Drexel has lost both Elon games and one James Madison game so it is not likely, barring upset losses by the leaders, that over the closing stretch that the Dragons can finish higher than third, though in the race at the top, in a potential CAA semifinal Elon might be the better deal.

James Madison swept Elon during the season.

In the James Madison game at Charleston, key foul shots down the stretch gained the win for the Dukes (20-6, 13-2 CAA), who have won eight straight.

JMU nearly squandered an 18-point lead that existed before the break.

Though ineffective from the field the final 6:01 of the game, the Dukes went 13-for-16 on foul shooting attempts.

Precious Hall had 25 points while Amber Porter scored 18 for JMU, Lexi Barrier scored 16, and Tasia Butler scored 11 in the game at TD Arena in South Carolina.

Charleston fell to 9-17 overall and 6-9 in the CAA.

In the Elon game, the Phoenix under former North Carolina star Charlotte Smith, reached an overall mark of 21-6, the best ever in the program in which a 20-win total was reached in 2011 before Smith was hired.

“I didn’t know how we would come out today on Senior Day,” Smith said, “but it’s kind of surreal to see it all come full circle for the seniors.”

Jenifer Rhodes scored 11 point, Essence Baucom scored 10, Shay Burnett scored 11, ans Malaya Johnson scored 10 points and 12 rebounds.

Bianca Boggs scored 13 for William & Mary (16-10, 6-9).

By the way before the final seeding for the tournament, as a fallout from Charleston discovering it had used a men’s ball most of the season, William and Mary will gain one win and erase one loss in the CAA as will UNCW while Charleston will have two more losses and two less wins.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Mike Siroky's SEC Report: Gamecocks' Loss Yields New Big Dogs in SEC

By Mike Siroky
As we are almost done with the regular season, little mystery remains for the Southeastern Conference of women’s basketball.

It seems evident Mississippi State will win the conference regular season title, by staying unbeaten at home, a conference reality for three seasons.

They match South Carolina with only one road loss.

The top four get a double-bye in the conference tournament.

South Carolina started the ratings week by being the designated loser to UConn’s magnificent 100-game winning run.

It makes the conference 144-40 against America leading into the NCAA elimination games. But SC looked baffled at Missouri and also lost the unbeaten on the road thing, falling into second place.
No. 3 Mississippi State

The Bulldogs set their highest ever ranking, all but assured of a top seed in the NCAAs. 

The three teams already at 25 wins, with the best chance at chance at 30, lead the Associated Press parade. All the other top teams have at least 20 wins. 

State has 51 straight weeks in the AP poll, the seventh-longest active streak in the nation. 

The Bulldogs also have a program best 15th consecutive weeks in the Top 20 and 11th in the Top 5. Every win is a school record, overall and in conference.

The final game of the conference tournament will be interesting as either State or South Carolina are likely to lose in that title game for the SEC title recognized by the NCAA seeding committee.

That means the other will be the rare No. 1 seed awarded such as an at-large bid. No other conference has this strength.

It showed in a very competitive game this ratings week.

 Mississippi State started so slowly against Georgia, with the almost always deadly first quarter, six points. Thirteen percent from the floor is a program record you don’t want to have. And at home. The 5,431 in attendance were stunned.
They started the second quarter with three straight misses and a turnover. Now shooting 11 percent, the score was an electrifying 17-8. Four State starters combined for zero points.

They dug in and cut the lead to two at halftime. The bench – Teaira McCowan and Katera Chapel -- bailed out the starters with nine and five points. They were 5-of-8 from the floor; the starters were 1-of-17.

There was still no energy in the third quarter. They needed a bailout.

They got it in a 19-7 fourth, returning the single-digit defensive stand and thus avoiding the jinx their ownselves and defending the only undefeated home court.

 They were outrebounded and outshot and had 16 turnovers. McCowan and Chapel had a steady 14 each. McCowan had three blocks.

Years from now we will only remember State won by nine, as expected, vs. Georgia, 5-8 in conference.

 If there is an eighth SEC team in the eliminations it will be one with a losing conference record.

 Georgia, 14-13 overall is playing the best of those.

“God presents challenges for us every day and we will give Him the glory for victory No. 26 and try to grow from it,” coach Vic Schaefer said. “This team is not immune to off games. They have bad days in practice.

 “You give credit to Georgia. I am proud of our toughness down the stretch.

“We were fortunate and lucky to win. We allowed seven points in the fourth quarter and that was important. These kids made some real plays down the stretch.”  

At newly ranked Texas A&M, the third-place team in conference, it was also a struggle. The home team in this series had won the past four confrontations.

The State coaches had an advantage of knowing South Carolina had already lost before they closed the Sunday games.

McCowan was in early. She had half the points in a 12-11 opening quarter. Vivians was 0-fer. A&M was 31 percent from the floor.

It was 30-30 at half, each side winning a quarter by one. A&M coach Gary Blair puts an emphasis on the endgame, saying every SEC game should come down to the last minute. He was right again.
By the middle of third, Vivians warmed up to 11. 

But Okorie, McCowan and point guard William each had three fouls in a one-point game. A&M had three in double figures and no foul trouble.

So here came Blair’s fourth, the home team five up.

“You go in and make the junkyard plays, Blair said. “If you gotta get to the line, do it. If we get to the one and one we’re back in it.

“One play, one stop at a time. No turnovers. You have zero this half.”

It did not work out. For the second straight game, Mississippi State looked like champions and won the fourth quarter, this time 22-12 for a 72-67 win.

Vivians had 25 in the final three quarters, 10-of-11 from the line. 

In case anyone doubted, McCowan can play, with the double/double on the road, 16 points and 11 rebounds. No one fouled out.

They were down seven with 8:43 left. After a rebound scramble, William fed Blair Schaefer for a 3.

A&M scored, but Vivians had an answering drive for a layup. The Aggies hit a 3, but Vivians drove and scored again.

Enough of this trading baskets, William stole it back They fouled Vivians and she was automatic. 

Another A&M 3 and it was still a six-point edge.

McCowan claimed a defensive rebound. With five minutes left, Vivians rebounded and was fouled. Two more free throws.

William stole another. In the next sequence, Chapel got a rebound. State missed again but caused another turnover and Vivians hit a jumper.

Three minutes to go. McCowan had another defensive board.

 Jazzmun Holmes kicked it back to Chapel for a 3 and the visitors were up by one. Chapel had two other 3s all season.

Timeout at the two minute mark.

Khaalia Hillsman  made a layup to take back the lead. Holmes fed McCowan for a jumper.

Vivians got the rebound off a miss. Holmes fed McCowan again, her third assist within three minutes and her only assists of the game. The visitors were up by three. Each side used a timeout.

The shortest player on the court, 5-5 William, got the rebound off a miss, got it to Vivians and she was fouled. It was her third feed in the closing minutes.

Vivians’ free throws sealed it. The 5,243 in attendance had seen a wonderful show. The Aggies hit a school record 7-of-7 3s.

“Every time we would make a run tonight they would answer right back,” Blair said.
“Then before the first half ended, we let Danni (Williams) commit a foul on a 3. I put Jasmine (Lumpkin) in to not give up the right-hand drive and Vivians runs right by her. You can’t give them five free points. 

“When we got up seven, Vivians wanted the ball down the stretch and Vivians beat us with her right hand in that fourth quarter. 

“This was just like guarding (Mercedes) Russell of Tennessee. You have to contest shots and get the rebounds when they miss or at least make it harder on them.”

He took the loss personally.

“I went back and told my kids that effort was great but I’m not in this thing for moral victories. We were up seven and we are supposed to win that game at home. We ran the wrong play on the last two possessions. 

“That’s my job in those end of game situations. Mississippi State played with a lot of poise and this was a great game for national TV. We are trying to hold on to our standing in the SEC.

“We are going to have to play better against South Carolina, they are even more polished than Mississippi State. 

“I don’t know if South Carolina can play as hard as them, though. You don’t get very many opportunities to play two Top 5 teams at home. Hopefully, the fans will be back Thursday night because this was a hell of an effort.” 

Of Vivians, he said, “Great scorers look for their next points, not their next shot. She’s not a shooter, she’s a scorer. She made the baskets that counted and that’s why she’s first team All-SEC. 

“She’s just a hard player to defend and we work on taking away the right-hand drive away all week. When you give that up, it makes you think what are we doing as coaches after all we do to prepare for that all week. This was a ballgame we should have won, and that's on me.”

“It was a heck of a basketball game,” Schaefer said. “You hate that someone had to come out on the losing end.

 “I'm very proud of my kids. It was a game of runs. There were a lot of runs. We just happened to get the last run. There was no bigger shot in Ketara's career than the one she made in front of our bench.

“We have kids who embrace wanting to be in the moment. Teaira was phenomenal. She has been on a tear here of late.”

At the end . .. “We were switching everything. We went through that play yesterday where the two can’t beat you. I’ve always had a lot of confidence in my half-court defense. Much rather give up the basket and put the faith on my defense. I thought we really contested the shot well. 

“Both teams played so hard today and I’m proud of my kids. They‘ve done it all year. It was a great atmosphere for college basketball, it got loud and it got rowdy and I thought the key was we were able to respond to all the runs.”

 Vivians said, “We been down in plenty of games.  ‘Coach told us to come out there and defend and make shots. We were done, ‘coach said, ‘They can’t guard you, so be more aggressive.’ So I did. They did not want to foul. When I see them on their heels, I go for it.

“Defense is our key. We stop them from scoring and then we go ahead an score.”

They retain their national ranking and prospects for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA eliminations. They can check off the 5-for-5 finish.

They are now favored to take the regular-season title. They can win at not-deep and very tired Kentucky, then launch an unprecedented party in StarkVegas when Tennessee comes to close the season.

They can earn 29 wins before the SEC tournament.

The Bulldogs close as spoilers at Kentucky’s senior night then have their own Senior Day against Tennessee.

Last season, Mississippi State defeated Tennessee for the first time in program history. This season, they have another record opportunity to defeat them twice.

If they win out, Schaefer can gain his 200th as State coach in the quarterfinals of the league tournament.

If not for the Georgia game, this would be heady stuff for the big dogs of the toughest conference in the nation.
No. 6 South Carolina

Will SC fall as a No. 6 losing at No. 1? 

Certainly also losing at an unranked team makes their proposed No. 1 seed in the eliminations shaky. They can recover with the automatic bid by winning the league tournament.

The Gamecocks failed to shake off the competitive loss at UConn, losing two of three for the only time this season. That was the immediate challenge for coach Dawn Staley.

Surely women’s college basketball is beyond needing to interrupt conference seasons just for a TV game.

You risk an injury in a game which means nothing in your primary goal of winning your league.

You risk an artificial high if you win and an equally meaningless low when you lose.

 OK, so now you know under game conditions what it means to play UConn but you can’t see them again until the fourth game of a five-game title run, if you both survive, to the national semifinals.

So it was back to business, with a terrible Vanderbilt team at home then onto an inspired Missouri team which earned a second straight NCAA bid, fifth in conference and assured of 20 wins.

The Gamecocks ended the Vanderbilt threat early, allowing a six-point first quarter. One again, no competitive SEC team has had a single-digit quarter and survived.

Before the 44-25 half, the guards got a workout as Kaela Davis had 13. 

A’ja Wilson was content to rebound, with seven. She and fellow-forward Alaina Coates were each a basket away from 10 points. Vandy was hitting 27 percent from the floor and had 13 turnovers.

This is not what lured Vandy coach Stephanie White from the WNBA, yet the team is still better than last year’s edition and that year’s coach is now director of coaching analytics in Columbia.
It spun into the 31-point win. Four of five starters in double figures.

 South Carolina had likely won the conference. Everybody knows their role. All they have to do is hit their averages. No drama. 

The best attendance for the women’s game in America hit again, 13,089.

“We have a 24-hour rule,” said Staley. “Twenty-four hour to celebrate or 24 hours to sulk. Either way, we put it behind us.

“If you live in the past, it will come back to bite you where you don’t want to be  bitten.”

She said they do not take anyone in the league lightly.

“You get back on the pony and we do what we do,” she said.

“We got up and down the floor, we shared the ball and we just competed. We didn’t do anything different. Our guards attacked well. Kaela Davis just used all of her skills.

“She took it upon herself to impose her will, driving to the basket, taking outside shots. We need more of that. Now we gotta get Allisha Gray going. She has been concentrating too much on defense. I like seeing her process all of this. But I’d like to see her elevate the other areas of her game.

“Everyone wants to feel the ball. Everyone wants to feel like they’re gonna contribute.”

The crush almost continued at Missouri. But they stumbled late.

Wilson tried to carry them. Late in the third quarter Coates had one basket on one shot and Wilson was 6-of-7 from the field, 2-of-3 at the line in a game featuring half of SC’s usual offensive output. Maybe everyone is giving into the grind. Gray took her coach’s advice and had scored 13.

Winning every quarter but hitting 40 percent from the field, they were tied at 44. They fell behind on free throws – and Coates’ fourth foul – with six minutes to go. Coates fouled out. 

Mizzou would win the final quarter by six.

It was up to Wilson. She hit two. She scored 23.

 Diminutive Sophie Cunningham – Mizzou’s best – grabbed a rebound, laid it in and was fouled. 

She missed the crucial free throw. She is an 84 percent free throw shooter.

But Davis steamrolled into a defender with 24 seconds left. Mizzou earned possession and worked for a late shot.

Who else but Cunningham, recovering an errant pass and driving right up the gut for a winning layup, giving her 26 points. SC could not get a shot off.

Missouri won rebounds by six, shattering for the moment the SC title defense. They drew a respectable 5,789.

“They packed it in in us,” said Staley. “If the other team is gonna get calls in the paint then my big girls need some of that too.

“That’s not me calling out officials. I am just calling what I see. My big girls have gotta be as protected as other players.

“We turned the ball over and let them have extra possessions. I think we fouled too much and let them back in.

“They stayed in it. The crowd got them engaged. It was a game of runs.

“This is life in the SEC. It’s what we signed up for. If you can’t get up for the SEC, you are probably playing the wrong sport.”

Amazingly, the Gamecocks are 1-2 to start their final five games.

Missouri used a very weak pre-conference season (though they did lose against a tiny extension school IUPUI) to get 10 wins.

 They have two winnable conference games left to get to 21 and reserve a second NCAA invitation at 10-5 in conference, winning the final five games. They are alone in fifth.

SC could punish Texas A&M on the road and then monitor Mississippi State. 

This underlines why A&M will not win 20 in the regular season, with both the top teams during the closeout games.

The Gamecock’s emphatic season ends at home against Kentucky. SC does not have to leave the state to win the automatic bid, as the league tournament is at Greenville.

SC will need one conference tournament win to tie last season’s seniors with 121 wins in their four years, with more post-season games left.

Between the end of the season and that series, the league will award its season honors, with SC having two first-teamers.

If transfers qualified for rookie of the year they’d win that too. The first year big impact player is unmistakably Allisha Gray, a junior in class standing.

Alabama’s has had the freshman player of the week more than any other program.

Then again, Evelyn Akhator of UK has won more outright league Player of the Week honors – three --than anyone else and she will not be the Player of the Year. She has faded down the stretch.

The coach of the year should be Schaefer.

All you gotta  do is close out road wins.
No. 23 Texas A&M

A&M’s win at Tennessee returned them to the rankings in UT’s place and the inconsistent Lady Vols spun back into the revolving door, out but still getting the next-most votes in the league.

The Aggies spiraled back out with two losses and the league is left with two ranked teams.

Hillsman , who scored the winning points against UT, was selected SEC Player of the Week
Of course, A&M started its ranking week by losing by two at LSU. 

The Ben-Gals started their week losing at Vandy, the team with one conference win, cementing the idea no conference team will win three in one week this season.

A&M posted a 16-14 lead after one quarter, which is in itself an accomplishment.

 Hillsman already had 10. They were hitting 89 percent from the floor. LSU won the second quarter by seven and had a five-point edge.

Raigyne Moncrief led the upset with 23. They drew 1,926.

“I thought we were doing a good job when we were coming back in the second half, but we made a lot of uncharacteristic bad turnovers,” said Blair.

“We just didn't get the job done. I told the team before the game that this game was going to come down to the last minute, like so many other of our conference games."

The Ben-Gals can still win 20 with two winnable games to close its season 9-7 in the league, a definitive NCAA entrant again.

 A&M will not win 20, but are 9-5 in conference, alone in fourth. A&M has the tiebreaker after winning their third conference game of the season on the road

This final week, the Aggies have South Carolina at home on their Senior Night then the closeout at Ole Miss.

 They will be 2-3 in the final five which will impact their NCAA seeding.
Also Rans

No longer ranked Tennessee coach Holly Warlick does not have the depth of the top two in conference. 

They lost leading scorer and likely All-Conference performer Diamond DeShields to a stretcher removal during first quarter of the loss at woeful Alabama.

The Tide had lost five straight tries at win No. 16, a number they hadn’t seen this century, three coaches ago. They drew 2,221.

Tennessee is no doubt an NCAA entrant. Even if they are sent to UConn’s regional, all it means is it about time for the two pre-eminent programs in the history of women’s NCAA hoops to start playing each other again.

The business at hand was to return home for a third  1-1 week by defeating Arkansas for a 17th win, or just where they were last season, 8-6 in conference, sixth place. 

The Lady Vols were seventh in conference last season. They drew the best in the nation 10,613.
They won without DeShields. Even the sports information department was not advised of her status. 
She did dress out and participated in shootarounds before each half. Warlick said she is day-to-day.

Their final games are Senior Day vs. long-disappeared Florida and then the nice clash at Mississippi State. This likely means 18 wins once again in the regular season. Two marquee wins are the difference on this plateau.

 Losses at Ole Miss, Alabama, Auburn and Georgia are the embarrassments which define this team. 

UT has the 14th best RPI in America. SC is No. 3 and Mississippi State No. 4.

 The Lady Vols surpass teams ahead of them in league play, Kentucky (15) and A&M (16).

 Only LSU (24) is also in the RPI Top 25.
But the best they can hope for is 2-3 in their Final Five, seeded as an also-ran in the NCAA eliminations.
Kentucky won No. 18 at awful Arkansas and 19 at home vs. equally unspectacular Florida. 

That leaves Senior Night vs. Mississippi State and then the designated meat grinder at South Carolina’s finale and a 10-6 SEC finish.

 They are tied with A&M for fourth. 

Their first five games against weak competitors and still the lack of 20 wins is why they are not ranked. 

Coach Matthew Mitchell earned his 100th win as an SEC coach. They are likely 3-2 in their final five which will set their NCAA seeding.
If three more conference teams get into the NCAA eliminations, they are truly gift recipients because of the conference reputation. 

Alabama and Auburn are arguing with each other about a 10 seed, though neither will have a winning conference record.