Womhoops Guru

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

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Siroky's SEC Extra: Collision in Columbia Goes to the Home Team

By Mike Siroky

The Game of the Conference Season and National Game of the new ratings week, No. 4 Mississippi State at No. 5 South Carolina, just barely went to the home team, 64-61.

It opened with State getting a layup from Chimwe Okorie on four tries and then Victoria Vivians hitting a 3 and a layup. Another jumper and it was 9-2.

The Bulldogs had nine of the first 11 rebounds.

A’ja Wilson had played 15 minutes in the previous game after missing two games with a high ankle sprain. She had seven of the first nine and four rebounds in the quarter.

She rallied the Gamecocks to a two-point deficit but Okorie answered again. Suddenly, Mississippi State missed some shots and SC concentrated on rebounds.

But State had speed working. Dominique Dillingham hit a 3 while Vivians rested and it was 14-7 with 3:37 left.

No one was backing down. Okorie had two fouls. Inside of 1:15, 6-7 Teaira McCowan claimed a mishandled rebound and laid it in to maintain a one-point lead. She was already off the bench to help balance the front line.

State worked for the last shot, missed it and it was 16-15 for State at the first break.

Early in the quarter, Wilson gave SC the lead for a moment but State scored again.

State dribbled well, but couldn’t get it to go. SC turned it over right back.

State had the passing lanes figured out. Brianna Richardson deflected and stole it down deep, drove the length of the floor, scored and was fouled.

 But Wilson snaked between defenders, used her height and tied it at 20. Wilson and Coates had 17 of the home team points.

State worked two plays for four points, But Wilson cut the lead to two. State never had an inside defensive answer.

Dominique Dillingham hit a 3 and the lead was five with five minutes until halftime. SC had eight turnovers and trailed by eight with three and a half minutes left.

But State was limited to one and done on offense. McCowan also had two fouls. Wilson cut it to five.

McCowan was not afraid. laid it in and it was again a seven-point advantage.

With two minutes to go, State worked the weave and Vivians drew a foul. Coates saved a wild pass. Wilson made it three turnovers in a row, running over a guard for her second foul.

 But with 1:26 left, State traveled. SC missed again. McCowan drew Coates into a second foul.

The two bigs were out for SC with less than a minute left. SC charged again and guaranteed they would be behind at the half for the first time this season. McCowan made the mental error of the game with her third foul with a second left.

It was 35-28 at the break, the Gamecocks’ lowest half of the season.

“I’m so proud of my kids,” said State coach Vic Schaefer. “Our offense is aggressive as we asked them to be. But on defense, we’re playing so well.

“If we can hold them to 28 again, we’ll take it.

Coates and Wilson were 9-of-10 from the floor.

The trends they were chasing: the No. 1 vs. No. 2 conference scoring offense (SC 80.8, MSU 79.4), the No. 1 vs. No. 2 scoring defense (MSU 53.5, SC 55.1), the No. 1 vs. No. 2 margin of difference (MSU 25.9, SC 25.6), the No. 1 vs. No. 2 field goal percentage (SC .469, MSU .464).

At the half, SC had 11 turnovers to Mississippi State’s 3.

SC guards Kaela Davis and Alisha Gray are new to this particular battle, having become eligible after transfer seasons.

 Davis made it more than forwards scoring with a 3 to open the second half, obviously, a halftime directive from coach Dawn Staley.

This led to a 17-8 spree and SC ahead by two with 2:30 left in the third.

Vivians and Richardson each had eight. But Wilson had 20 and Gray had 13, with two 3s. As much as State denied Coates, they could not corral Gray.

The home team was ahead by two as the final quarter started, hitting half of its shots, or 10 percent better than the gutty visitors.

It was soon tied at 53. But Vivians had three fouls, as did Dillingham. Okorie and McCowan each had four. Too much time – eight minutes -- was left.

Vivians missed consecutive 3s and a closer shot, then turned it over.  SC missed everything as well. It burned two minutes.

Coates fed Wilson for a basket. Still no inside answer once the bigs had the ball. Morgan William fed McCowan for a layup, then a steal.

But McCowan fouled out, as if SC needed more of a frontcourt advantage. Okorie also fouled out, 10 rebounds but just four points.

You could easily call the game with four minutes left. But no.

Schaefer railed on the sideline. His daughter, Blair, hit a 3 for their last lead at 58-55.

Vivians missed another 3. They didn’t dare go inside.

SC took its time.

 State tried rolling the ball inbounds to conserve clock. Two free throws and it was 60-59. An exuberant dash after a steal rolled off the rim for Vivians.

Wilson got the ball and eventually fed Coates for a layin and 62-59 with 27 seconds left.

State used a time out.

They didn’t go quietly. Each coach was hollering at their own teams.

A 3 rimmed out at 16.5. A foul was called anyway. Vivians made two of three  free throws, 62-61.

State appeared to drop the rebound out of bounds. There was a long film study anyway and State was awarded the ball.

With six seconds left, a Vivians corner 3 bounced out. She was 4-of-15 from the field.

One last play, either way. The game had lived up to the hype.

Bodies hit the floor. Wilson grabbed her seventh defensive rebound, waited to be fouled and hit the last of her 26 points at the other end, 6-of-8 from the line for the 64-61 final She also had three blocks in a game where every defensive stand counted.

It was the lowest point total of SC’s season, 16 below its average. State was 18 below, .17 percentage points off its usual shooting. There were 10 missed 3s and six missed free throws.
Coates and Wilson played 38 minutes.

“We hadn’t been pushed to 40 minutes before, didn’t know if we had it in us,” said Staley. “Now we know.

“I knew Mississippi State was gonna scratch and claw so this was the fight we had. I’m glad it showed up today.

“This is what we had been looking for. If this game wasn’t here, we don’t win it.

As for Gray, “What I told her we were gonna put the ball in her hands. We set up plays for her and she delivered,” Staley said.

“But she chased Vivians everywhere and sometimes you’re going to give up offense for defense.

“We’ve been looking for this team to play 40 minutes and, thanks to Mississippi State we now know we can.”

They drew the women’s record attendance in South Carolina and the best in America this season, 13,120.

“It was a wonderful basketball game,” Schaefer said. “South Carolina made one more play than we did. I am heartbroken for my kids. I couldn’t be prouder of 19 offensive rebounds. South Carolina and Tennessee are the two biggest teams in our league. We really competed from the opening tip.

 “I know how hard our kids work. It came down to one play and we were in a position. We forced three second-half turnovers and that wasn’t enough. Once we got calmed down (in the second half), I was proud of how we responded.”

Usually, this signals the end of the Southeastern Conference race, as the team that wins all its home games wins the league.

Not so fast my friend. Mississippi State could still win all their home games, with Texas A&M on Sunday and even Tennessee to close the season.

SC is at Georgia on Thursday and welcomes in Tennessee on Sunday.

Even if SC should stumble on the road, they have the tiebreaker now. Being undefeated at home for the third straight season means a likely title and a top seed in the NCAA tournament.

The national seeding committee should alter their phony excuse of last season and send them to an SEC site, Kentucky, for their regional, which means they avoid UConn until the Final Four, though UConn will wax them in the regular season in a few weeks.

These two plus Kentucky are the clubhouse leaders for the NCAA right now as favored to host the Sweet 16 qualifiers. Both are projected No. 1 seeds, third place UK a No. 4. Another team is likely to make it four from the SEC.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Guru's Overniter: Drexel and Villanova Gain Easy Wins

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA – Drexel doesn’t usually make quick work of Hofstra and vice versa in their long-running wars in the Colonial Athletic Association.

But Sunday afternoon was the exception to that depiction as the Dragons handled the Pride 65-43 here in Drexel’s Daskalakis Athletic Center. The 22-point differential was the widest in nine years without regard to the winning team, though Drexel grabbed that previous one, also, in 2008 by a score of 59-30.

The game began some 15 minutes late caused by orders to clear the building within the hour of the opening tip because of what became a false fire alarm.

The win kept coach Denise Dillon’s team (14-4, 5-2 CAA) right on the heels of the conference leaders, moving back into a second place tie with defending champion and preseason favorite James Madison, which was upset a second time by Towson, this time with the score being 60-55 at home in Harrisonburg, Va.

The Dukes (12-6, 5-2) had just handed Elon their first CAA loss Friday night, getting the victory on the road in North Carolina. But now the Phoenix are back all alone atop the conference standings after escaping William & Mary 60-58.

Both Drexel losses in the CAA are to Elon (14-5, 6-1) but had William & Mary pulled the upset and caused a three-way tie for first, the Dragons would be in the projected third-seeded slot for the conference tournament for the moment.

Second place will get untied quickly on the weekend ahead because Drexel on Friday night will travel to JMU, which will be the host for the CAA tourney.

Meanwhile, a far as the stars of Sunday’s game for Drexel, there were an array with hot shooting hands.

Sarah Curran had 17 points and seven rebounds and excited the crowd shooting 7-for-12 from the field, including 3-for-4 on three-point attempts.

Meghan Creighton lit the DAC on 4-of-8 attempts, including 3-for-6 on attempted treys for 11 points and freshman Bailey Greenberg was 5-for-9 with a pair of foul shots to pick up 12 points.

Sara Woods helped from the bench, shooting 4-for-6, and picked up nine points, and reserve Tereza Kracikova added seven points. Kelsi Lidge keyed the defensive stand with six turnovers and the Dragons also forced 23 turnovers and picked up a 22-8 advantage from them while yielding eight to the Hofstra (8-9, 1-5).

Drexel’s bench, a big factor, outscored the Pride reserves 24-7.

Krystal Luciano was the only Hofstra player in double figures, scoring 19 points and connecting on 4-of-12 connected treys while the rest of Hofstra was 1-for-11 from beyond the arc.
Ashunae Durant was held to 8 points, below her 15.6 scoring average though defensively she was right at her number grabbing 11 rebounds.

“Just the presence our players had on her,” Drexel coach Denise Dillon said of stopping one of Hofstra’s top players. “We put Bailey on her from the beginning. The one thing I am impressed with that kid, she’s always rebounding the basketball. She had an off night offensively but she does not stop and she’s relentless on those boards.”

“Defensively, we were disruptive and that showed with (Hofstra’s) 43 points,” Dillon said.

Her only dismay was over Hofstra’s 22-7 advantage on the offensive glass.

Hofstra was through here at the end of last month, beating Saint Joseph’s of the Atlantic Ten and seemingly coming together for conference play.

“Drexel does what Drexel does here,” said Hofstra veteran coach Krista Kilburn Stevesky. “I mean they shoot in the 40s at 45 percent – they shot 53 percent in the fourth quarter. I thought we had a lot of defensive possessions where we got stops and we had a lot of wasted possessions on the offensive end.

“We had 23 turnovers to a team that’s very efficient. They don’t turn the ball over very much and then they capitalize on your turnovers and your mistakes.”

Drexel heads to JMU Friday, site of this season’s CAA tournament now that the event is going from a neutral venue back to the individual schools, followed by Drexel hosting next year and Delaware the following year.

Besides snapping the second-place deadlock the Dragons will be seeing to up the record overall to 15-4, which after 19 games would be a first in the program’s history. After the JMU game, Drexel will be back here on Sunday hosting Northeastern.

In JMU’s loss, which ended a home streak of six straight wins, Towson (11-7, 4-3) closed out the Dukes with a 17-3 run and connected on six free throws in the final minute.

Precious Hall, the preseason player of the year,  had 20 points for James Madison, which used a 19-0 run across the first two periods to take an 11-point lead. The Tigers countered with an 11-2 advantage to cut the score early in the third period.

The last team to sweep JMU in a season was Delaware in 2013.

The Blue Hens (10-8, 4-3 CAA) won their third straight Sunday, beating Charleston 71-66 in the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark.

Nicole Enabosi had 23 points, shooting 8-for-9 from the field and connecting on all seven foul shooting attempts for Delaware () and also grabbing 12 rebounds to make it her fifth straight game with a double double.

Erika Brown scored a season-high 26 points, shooting 9-for-12 from the field for the Blue Hens, who finally broke from a tight game in the fourth and final period outscoring the opposition 11-2 to go on to an 11-point lead.

Breanna Bolden had 23 points and nine rebounds for Charleston (5-13, 2-5).

"This was a pure team victory today," said Delaware coach Tina Martin. “Everyone played exceptionally well and we executed the game plan. We did what we needed to do to win this game. Every game is big in this league and all of the teams are closely matched.

Delaware next plays at William & Mary Friday night at William & Mary and then on to Towson on Sunday afternoon.

In the Elon game, Lauren Brown scored her 1,000th point for the Phoenix and hit two foul shots with 1.4 seconds remaining allowing Elon to edge William & Mary 60-58 on the road in Williamsburg, Va., and go back alone into first place in the CAA after James Madison fell to Towson.

Brown, Malaya Johnson, and Shay Burnett each scored 10 points for the winning Phoenix (`4-5, 6-1 CAA)

Abby Rendle had 13 points and eight rebounds for the Tribe (13-4, 3-3).

Elon next heads to New England visiting Norheastern Friday and Hofstra Sunday.

Villanova Cruises Over Xavier

The Wildcats had a much easier time Sunday beating the Musketeers 72-47 in Cincinnati in a Big East game at the Cintas Center than on Friday night’s overtime win at Butler at the finish.

Freshman Mary Gedaka continued her outstanding play for Villanova (11-9, 6-3 Big East), which won its fifth straight, scoring 18 points to top three other teammates who also scored in double figures. She also grabbed eight rebounds.

Xavier fell to 10-10 and 2-7 in the Big East.

Freshman Kelly Jekot had 13 points, Alex Louin scored 11, and Megan Quinn had 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Jannah Tucker had nine points off the bench for the Wildcats in her first game back after missing several with an injury.

Villanova outscored Xavier in each quarter setting the pace at the outset with a 20-6 advantage.

Gedaka has 60 points and 34 rebounds in her last four games while Quinn has 35 points and 26 rebounds in her last three.

The Wildcats next head to  Georgetown Saturday for a 1 p.m. contest in the nation’s capital.

Rutgers Fades at No. 3 Maryland

The Scarlet Knights reduced a 20-point deficit which grew after a close first half to under 10 points but were held off by the Terrapins 80-71 in a Big Ten game at the Xfinity Center in College Park, Md.

Shrita Parker had 19 points, one below her career high, for Rutgers (6-15, 3-5 Big Ten), while Jazlynd Rollins had a career-high 15 points and Aliyah Jeune had 13 points.

Brionna Jones had 13 points and 11 rebounds while freshman Destiny Slocum had 11 points and 11 assists for the Terrapins (19-1, 7-0), whose only loss was to top-raned Connecticut at home last month.

Shatori Walker-Kimbrough scored 19 for Maryland, which is alone atop the Big Ten standings, and Kaila Charles scored 16.

Rutgers is off until Sunday when Northwestern visits at 2 p.m. At the game, the 1982 AIAW champions and 1987 Atlantic 10 champions, two of the program’s greatest teams,will be honored at halftime.

Looking Ahead

Penn State is at Indiana Monday night looking for a split in their season series in the Big Ten while the big game nationally is the SEC first-place showdown between No. 4 Mississippi State and host No. 5 South Carolina.

On Wednesday Temple is at Penn in The Palestra going for a sweep and outright win of the Big 5 otherwise the Owls, who have won 11 straight overall games will have to share the City Series title with Villanova at 3-1.

La Salle hosts Massachusetts at noon that day in an Atlantic Ten game while Saint Joseph’s plays at Rhode Island at 11 a.m., also in the conference.

On Thursday, Rider hosts Manhattan at 7 p.m. in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

We’ll do the rest later in the week.


Mike Siroky's SEC Report: If Seedings Were Done Now for the Conference Tourney

By Mike Siroky

Six games into the 14-game Southeastern Conference march, the top two teams are the expected ones, No. 4 and already at 20 wins Mississippi State and No. 5, 16-1 South Carolina.

They meet Monday in Columbia where the Gamecocks are likely to be undefeated at home for the third straight season. SC leads the series 17-16, but 8-3 in the Dawn Staley era.

We’ll report here Monday night.

Regardless of the Collision in Columbia, these will again be the top two seeds in the post-season conference tournament, with both likely undefeated at home and one headed for a No. 1 NCAA seed with the other a No. 2.

The game features the No. 1 vs. No. 2 conference scoring offense (SC 80.8, MSU 79.4), the No. 1 vs. No. 2 scoring defense (MSU 53.5, SC 55.1), the No. 1 vs. No. 2 margin of difference (MSU 25.9, SC 25.6), the No. 1 vs. No. 2 field goal percentage (SC .469, MSU .464).

A good question might be how much they threaten the SC world-best home attendance record.

All they each want to do is not be in UConn’s Regional.

The conference is as strong as ever against everyone else even as they tear up each other within the league.

 That’s why the SEC is likely to get six in.

 With unranked teams, the RPI is not as big. So not eight, like last season.

The SEC is 10-10 against the Atlantic Coast, thanks to Tennessee’s upset of No. 5 Notre Dame. It is 134-29 against the rest of America. UConn will whomp South Carolina next month and that’s it until the NCAAs.

If an “other” rises up and, and unlikely wins the league conference, then an extra without 20 wins gets in.

If the conference tournament started today, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Texas A&M (3) and Kentucky (4) would all be locks for the NCAA and would all have byes into the quarterfinal round.

Yes, this could change, but a good trend is set.

The openers would be Ole Miss (12) vs. Florida (13) with the winner getting Auburn (5) and Georgia (11) vs. Vanderbilt (14) with the winner getting Missouri (6).
The other games in the next round would be Arkansas (10) vs. Tennessee (7) and LSU (9) vs. Alabama (8). The Tide, with 15 wins, has the fourth-best overall record.

The Top four seeds step in next.

Last season, Georgia (6) Missouri (8) and Arkansas (10) lost their first games and got in.

Texas A&M (2), Florida (4) and Auburn (9) lost their second games and got in. But all of those hit 20 wins. Florida, Georgia, Missouri and Arkansas have already missed that chance this season.

Tennessee (7) won twice, got to 19 wins and pulled three road upsets in the NCAA to advance to the Elite 8, actually the last league team eliminated.

No. 4 Mississippi State

The Bulldogs are the first prominent team to 20 wins and they have done it without a loss.

They edged up to Monday night’s Collision in Columbia with two more wins in the rankings week, 73-62 vs. Ole Miss and at pesky Alabama. They are 6-0 in conference.

When it was 12-4 in StarkVegas, State was shooting 67 percent and Ole Miss 28. Victoria Vivians had her first 3 and five of the dozen points. That was in the midst of an 8-2 run in which Chimwe Okorie had two blocks for the home team.

The quarter ended 22-8, another single-digit defensive effort.

 It was already clear who was going to win.

 It was 36-25 at half.

 Dominque Dillingham had eight, hitting all four free throws.

Coach Vic Schaefer had begun to rotate in the bench, building depth for future considerations.

Vivians scored 10 in the third as the lead grew to 15. She finished with 20. Dillingham had 16.

State went 18-of-21 at the line.

“I’m really proud of my kids and proud of the (8,840) crowd,” Schaefer said. “It was a tough basketball game. Credit to Ole Miss for playing hard for four quarters. We kind of struggled there in the end. Really proud of our kids. In the first half, they answered the bell and played really well.

“We controlled the game,” Schaefer said. “We forced 22 turnovers – 11 in each half. It was such a great atmosphere. That is how Mississippi State does women’s basketball. It’s not like that everywhere. There are 10 or 11 places in the nation like that.”

Alabama is team that can be competitive with any visitor. Mississippi State this season is just not anyone.

The Bulldogs started on an 8-4 spree as Okorie had six in the middle and Morgan William a steal and full-speed layin.

It was 18-13 after one quarter and Vivians had yet to score. Alabama’s 14 wins have come on good defense, but they had just lost two straight at home. It was 32-24 at half, a nice enough start and still not much from Vivians, one basket.

It was like distant rumblings of an approaching storm. Vivians suddenly had six in a 16-2 run and the team was 20 points ahead in her support. Separation again in mid-game. They were winning rebounds and had nine steals while causing two more turnovers.

Teaira McCowan, the backup center, was 5-of-7 from the floor.

It ended a sensible 67-54.

 Vivians had 14, with two steals and two defensive rebounds. Okorie had 15 with eight rebounds. Each side had 11 free throws, but Alabama muffed 14.

“My hat is off to Alabama, they played very hard,”  Schaefer said. “It’s always a knock-down, drag out. Even the score may not indicate that, I thought they really took it to us in the first half. I am really proud of how we responded in the second half.

“The things we aren’t doing correctly are my fault.

“I am awfully proud of our kids. Again, you guys have no idea how hard it is to be where they are today at 20-0,” Schaefer said.

“I am really proud for them. We really didn’t play that well in the first half and came out in the third quarter – Carly Thibault told me we had turnovers in five of our first possessions – after that we got the press going, made some really good decisions and executed offensively.

“I am really proud of our crowd. We had 1,000-1,500 (of 2,605) there, at least. Mississippi State folks drove over in some not-so-good weather and really made it a good atmosphere for our kids on the road.

“Again, that’s a part of building the program. We obviously have a big one on Monday night and are excited about that opportunity, because if you’re a competitor, you love having these opportunities going against one of the best teams in the country, tremendous coach and coaching staff, but a team that has played well all year long.

“They are very similar to us. They have had some of this team together for a while and other pieces of it are new, and they have really added on to that. Some ways we have some similarities there but they are so talented, so well-coached and disciplined.

“This will be a tremendous challenge for us going in there. There will be 15-16,000 people in there hanging from the rafters, and there will be none of them hollering for us.

“Again, as a competitor, these are opportunities that you embrace and why you play the game. I am excited as a coach. I know that our staff and our players are excited to have that opportunity. Hopefully our time on the road this year, as well as years past, that our seniors have prepared us for this opportunity.

“I think now, because of what we have done and the experience that we had, we’re getting more comfortable about where we’re at. I thought we were tight in the first half (at Alabama), but in the third quarter, I thought we turned it loose.

“I think there’s a little bit of growing accustomed; I wouldn’t say that we’re comfortable yet. The bottom line is, if we go in there all tied up Monday night, it’s going to be ugly.

“ We’re going to have to go in there and turn it loose, relax, play and enjoy the opportunity. I know I am.

“As a coach, enjoy the opportunity that’s in front of us, just embrace it, do our very best we can, do what we do, do the best you can, do your job, but know that’s enough. We now been in the hunted role for a while and I think we’re getting a little accustomed to that.

“I think the 20-0 is much different than the No. 4 (national ranking). That always gives your opponent the extra incentive. I think that’s what we’re running into right now. Everybody we play, it’s the 20-0 and we want to be the first to hang a one on there.

“I think for both us and South Carolina, I think we’re both past that, and we’re trying to win a championship. This game is going to go a long way and maybe decide that.

“This is the only time that we will play each other this year in the regular season. I know for us, we’re more about trying to go on the road, beat a Top 5 team in the country and beat the team that’s picked in front of us in the SEC.

“They were picked in front of us, so that’s our challenge. We’ve played in front of some pretty hostile places and responded pretty well, so I am hoping we can draw from that. I know this,

I’ve been in that arena and it gets really loud and we gone have to do a good job at managing that.

“I feel like I know my team pretty well. I don’t know what more there is to learn about them. I think the exciting thing for me is I love watching my kids play. I love watching them compete. I love watching them go into a different environment. I love seeing them respond in tough situations. I’ll be shocked if our kids are not dialed in.

“I think that’s the respect that they have for South Carolina. We respect them tremendously. I also think that our kids have confidence. We played them last year very well here, and in the conference tournament, we feel like they really came after us and caused us some problems.

“We turned the ball over, they had a lot of stuff in transitions, a bunch of layups, and that’s really how the game got away from us. It was their aggression versus our nonaggression, which is typically not how we are. I just love watching our kids in this type of environment because I like to see that competitive spirit You guys know that we got a completive spirit with this group.

“I think winning masks your problems. You could call it fool’s gold, masking or whatever. I know what this team’s potential is. We are 20-0, but I’m thinking big picture. Let’s reach our full potential. I want these kids to reach their full potential. I don’t want them to settle.

“You can’t come out and play like we’re playing sometimes against South Carolina expecting to win. That’s what I want and that’s what we want as parents is for our kids to be successful, what’s best for them, and that’s what we want as coaches.

 “We want what’s best for these kids. We want them to reach and attain their full potential. We know that we still have a long way to go.

“When I say I have to do a better job of getting them dialed in and having them ready to play, there seems to not be enough time in the day. They are doing a great job in the classroom. We want them to be students first, but we want to win a championship.

“It’s very difficult.

“At the end of the day, whatever our shortcomings are, they fall on my shoulders, and that’s what I want them to know and everybody else. I’m in charge and I don’t want shortcomings; I want us to reach our full potential.”

Nine road wins is a program record. The undefeated 6-0 in conference is a program record. The 20-0 start is a program record. The No. 4 national ranking, which they have for another week regardless of the next game, is a program record.”

In the never-ending signee season, Mississippi State added a former SEC starter, Jordan Danberry. Coming on now allows her to start the next SEC season. She is practicing with her new team.

What this says about Arkansas is an interesting subject, She played every game of the 30-game NCAA freshman season at Arkansas. She was the top recruit of Arkansas’ incoming 2015 class.

“Jordan is a great fit for our program,” Schaefer said. “I’m really excited about her joining us at Mississippi State.

“We recruited her hard out of a very good Conway High School program, and once we heard that she was looking to transfer, we were excited about having the opportunity to possibly have her join us at Mississippi State. She’s a young lady who will be very effective in our style of play.

“I love the energy and effort she has already brought to practice. She’s going to be a great addition to our team.

 “Anytime you can add the Gatorade Player of the Year from the State of Arkansas, you are getting a quality player. She will do a great job in the classroom as well as on the court and, as hard as we recruit the state of Arkansas, we are excited to be getting an outstanding player.”

 “I’m extremely excited to be here. I feel like Mississippi State fits my style of play, and coach Schaefer has developed a winning program here,” Danberry said. “My teammates and the coaches have made me feel welcome. It’s a great environment where I can focus on my studies and basketball. Everyone on campus from the bus drivers to the fans have been genuinely nice.”

No. 5 South Carolina

The second wakeup call for Ole Miss was the visit to Columbia and the home team’s 16th win in their only game of the rating week.

A’ja Wilson had the cast cut off her right high ankle and has been running. Obviously, she wants to be ready for Monday’s showdown. So her Thursday play against Alabama, their only game before that, was not surprising.

She scored the first two points of a 65-46 runaway, 58-1 at home in the latest seasons, the one loss to UConn. She got in 15 rehab minutes, then rested for Mississippi State.

Alaina Coates, her frontline mate, scored the next four of another double/double (she had that by the end of the third), which she is averaging for the league season.

Four of five starters scored in the 20-11 first quarter. Of course, Bianca Cuevas-Moore was back among the reserves with the return of Wilson. She scored 73 points in the five SEC games, 60 percent from the floor.

For reasons known only to them, Ole Miss leading scored Medinah Muhammad did not start. Early in the second quarter, wide-body forward Taylor Manuel got unbalanced and walked to the training area, but came back ASAP.

Despite hitting one-third of their shots, SC maintained a lead as Staley got animated on the sideline.

SC was winning rebounds. Defensive pressure allowed the lead to grow to 12, then 14.

Breakaway speed helped on the nine turnover takeaways. Superior athleticism is how these games slip away, how the separation season continues.

It was 37-22 at break.

Coates had a dozen points and eight rebounds. Muhammad had no points and played five total minutes. The superior team was easily ahead.

At the end, Coates had 15 and 15, 12 of the rebounds defensive. Splendid guards Kaela Davis had 14 and Alisha Gray scored 12.

They attracted a world best for women’s college basketball, 12,518.

“We just wanted (Wilson) to get some minutes, get back to her game and then rest,” said Staley. “The shots we got were good shots, all good shots, we just have to get them to fall.”

 Hopefully, they will someday.

“I’m a defensive coach and will say Mississippi State plays defense. They will guard you. They will stay and play. I am just glad the game is here in Columbia.”

With all the jumble of the lineup, Staley said she wouldn’t know how to prepare for her team because, game by game, after Coates, anyone can get off.

“Every day it gets better. I don’t know how you prepare for us. Our defense is coming. It’s not where it used to be. But it gets better every day in practice, and it transfers to the game.”

So who will she assign to Vivians?

“E.V.E.R.Y.B.O.D.Y,” she said.

Significant Losses 

Tennessee followed its national upset of Notre Dame by flopping at Auburn. Hard to explain how a 14-0 start led to a 28-11 second quarter and a 21-6 third which just killed them.

 They only drew 2,290. They are 3-5 on the road. It is why Holly Warlick has more grey hairs every day.

They came back to deflect Vanderbilt at home to get to 13 wins, 4-2 in conference. But Vanderbilt has no SEC wins and has never won in Knoxville. UT is at woeful Florida before challenging South Carolina.

 These 1-1 weeks are not indicative of a solid team.

 Tennessee has not yet adjusted to the idea other teams play hard. The faithful 10,106 turned out, still the second-best home support in America after South Carolina.

Texas A&M fell behind early at Missouri and bumbled the endgame, failing to inbounds with 17 seconds left, having their 84 percent free throw shooter miss one and then allowing Mizzou to drive uncontested to tie it in regulation with a few seconds left. They lost in overtime.

 This should drop them out of the national polls again.

They came back home, defeating LSU at home for a 15th win. They drew 4,639. Ariel Howard’s layup with 3.6 seconds left gave A&M its only lead since 2-0. They were down by as many as 15. They remain third in conference.

Georgia lost at home as Florida won its only SEC game so far. With 10 wins, the Bulldogs are out of the NCAA discussion. There is no path to 20 wins.

Ole Miss lost at home ending its NCAA hopes. Alabama improved to 15 wins.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Guru Overniter: Temple Rally Over Memphis Extends Win Streak to 11

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA – Donnaizha Fountain and Ruth Sherrill exploded for a combination of all the points in a 16-0 outburst in the third period that carried Temple to a 66-51 victory over Memphis in an American Athletic Association at McGonigle Hall.

The run came after the Owls (15-3, 6-0 AAC) had fallen one more point behind the six points they trailed Memphis (8-11, 1-5) at the half 33-27 to a Tigers team they had to go into overtime to beat in the conference opener on New Year’s Day.

Once ahead Temple kept it going to an advantage by as much as 22 points late in the fourth period and the current win streak stayed alive to reach what is now 11 straight.

Next up the Owls step out of the conference briefly on Wednesday night, traveling to the Palestra to meet Penn, when a win would earn a 4-0 sweep of the Big Five and avenge a series of losses to the Quakers in the last several seasons.

Should Penn win and snap Temple’s ongoing run then the Owls would have to share the local crown at 3-1 with Villanova, even though they handily beat the Wildcats when they met on the Main Line at the Pavilion last month.

It’s longer a secret that Sherrill has been a key reason for Temple’s transformation from a team that struggled last month with upset losses at Harvard and Hampton to one that is now being forecasted to return to the NCAA tournament after several absences in recent seasons.

“She keeps making some of those step back jumpers that she made today, they’re a whole different team,” said veteran Memphis coach Melissa McFerrin.

Sherrill finished with 13 points and five rebounds, shooting 6-for-9 from the field and blocking four of the five Temple rejections the Owls delivered to the Tigers.

Fountain had 19 points while Feyonda Fitzgerald was held to a 1-for-4 shooting night but along with just five points also delivered nine assists. Alliya Butts was also in double figures with 12 points while Tanaya Atkinson scored seven and grabbed eight rebounds.

"We're to a point now where (Fitzgerald) doesn’t have to score points as long as she’s getting assists,” Temple coach Tonya Cardoza said.

B. Wilder-Cochran had 11 points and 11 rebounds for Memphis.

“I thought we came out in the first half lackadaisical,” said Cardoza, whose team at the moment have a half-game lead on UConn in the American, courtesy of a conference schedule that doesn’t have the Huskies taking the floor until Sunday afternoon hosting Tulane for likely NCAA extended-record win No. 93 in the current streak that would know Temple and UConn once again at the top.

“We allowed (Memphis) to gain a lot of confidence and making a lot of shots. I just felt we were a step slow and not really focused on the defensive side. Against their zone we were struggling to find open areas,” Cardoza continued.

“I felt in the second half, we changed up how we defended them and caused them some problems and we were able to get out in transition and really drive. I felt the way we started the second half defending them, we just gained a lot of confidence and started making shots and usually that’s what happens with us when we are allowed to get out in transition.

“Usually it builds a lot of confidence. It’s a good win for us to be down and come back. That’s a tremendous credit to these guys to changing their approach after the half.”

Though Temple is getting a couple of votes in the weekly polls, Cardoza isn’t campaigning for a ranking, preferring to focus on the longer goals.

"We're not worried about where we are, we're just worried about making sure we're good every single night, getting better and putting ourselves in position to get to our ultimate goal.”

As for Sherrill’s play, the Temple coach continued to praise her performances.

“(Sherrill’s) mind set is completely different and that’s why she’s in the starting lineup,” Cardoza said of the coincidence of her play and the streak occurring at the same time.

“I said this the last couple of weeks, during the Hampton game I saw something in Ruth I hadn’t seen and I really felt that after that game she was distraught about her losing and her approach since then has been, `This is my team,’ and she has taken ownership, she’s invested in 110 percent. She’s taken the focus off making mistakes, not scoring, and just doing what her team needs her to do and I think she’s thrived in this role.”

As for Wednesday night’s looming confrontation with the Quakers, Cardoza observed, “It’s happy that we put ourselves in this position. Now we just have to go out and take care of business.”

After the Penn game, Temple hosts nationally-ranked South Florida next Sunday back in conference play and then there’s the first part of the UConn home-and-home on Feb. 1 when the Huskies will visit in the Liacouras Center.

I’s the first time in several seasons Temple will play UConn in the larger arena after sellouts and near-sellouts in the 2,000-seat McGonigle Hall.

Saint Joseph’s Falls in Overtime at Dayton

The Hawks had their four-game win streak, all in Atlantic 10 play, stopped in a tough loss to Dayton 64-59 in another conference game, this one in the Midwest at UD Arena.

Saint Joseph’s (7-12, 4-3 A-10) might have pulled this one out at the finish but Chelsea Woods was 1-for-2 on foul shooting, though the second shot after missing the first did keep the Hawks alive 50-50 with five seconds left in regulation and extended the game into the extra period.

The Flyers (12-7, 6-1), tied with George Washington atop the conference, did try a game-winner before regulation ended but the Hawks’ Adaisha Franklyn blocked a shot to send the game into overtime.

Just under two minutes were left in the overtime and the Hawks were ahead 57-55 when Dayton then exploded on an 8-0 run to take command.

Woods had 14 points and 11 rebounds while Franklyn also scored 14 points while Alyssa Monaghan and Sarah Veilleux each scored 11 points.

Four Dayton players scored in double figures led by Jenna Burdette collecting 18.

The Hawks did show depth in this game, outscoring the Flyers, 25-2 in points off the bench.

Saint Joseph’s next travels to Rhode Island for a morning game Wednesday at 11 in Kingston.

La Salle Wins at Davidson

The Explorers made it two straight road wins in the conference, beating Davidson 65-58 in North Carolina in the Atlantic 10 with another strong Amy Griffin performance with 26 points and 11 rebounds.

The win improved La Salle to 11-8 and 4-3 in the A-10 while Davidson dropped to 3-16 and 1-6.

In the last minute she helped deliver La Salle’s win, going 4-for-4 from the line and breaking free for a layup with 14 seconds left in regulation.

La Salle’s Jasmine Alston had game highs of 12 rebounds and eight assists and scored 11 points. She also had a pair of 3-pointers in the final 3.09 of the third quarter when the Explorers rallied from a six-point deficit to a five-point advantage.

The Explorers come home to play against Wednesday in a conference game in the afternoon at 12 p.m. hosting Massachusetts at Tom Gola Arena.

Elsewhere in the A-10 add George Washington to the list of teams this weekend with deep deficits in the second half to rally to victories.

The Colonials trailed Massachusetts by 15 with a minute left in the third quarter on the road at Amherst, Mass., but tossed a fourth-quarter shutout, holding the Minutewomen scoreless over the final 10 minutes while going on to a 60-54 win in double overtime.

“I am very pleased with how poised they stayed and how determined they were to figure out a way to win,” said GW first-year coach Jen Rizzotti, the former UConn star who previously coached Hartford. “It says a lot about the personality of this team and how willing they are to fight for each other.

"We didn't make a lot of shots, but we dug in defensively and got 30 offensive rebounds. So the effort was there and for me that is what is most important.”

Lexi Martin, a former Lehigh star allowed to play right away after transferring to GW (13-6, 6-1 A-10), had 25 points and 10 rebounds. The offensive rebound effort helped a lopsided 58-35 rebounding advantage over Massachusetts (9-12, 3-5).

The Minutewomen were 0-for-16 in the fourth quarter and both overtimes at the Mullins Center.

Hannah Schaible had seven of her nine points in the second extended period and grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds overall.

GW attempted a program-record 44 treys but connected on just nine.

Lehigh Gets First Patriot Win Edging Lafayette

In the battle of nearby Patriot League rivals who were both looking for their first conference win, Lehigh edged Lafayette 56-53 on the road at the Kirby Sports Center in Easton, Pa.,

The Mountain Hawks (6-13, 1-7 Patriot), who had lost 10 straight overall for worst run in 22 seasons, got game-highs 17 points and nine rebounds from Gena Grundhoffer while Camryn Buhr, Hannah Hedstrom, and Bernadette Devaney each scored 11 points.

Lafayette, now at 8-8 in the Patriot, is 1-19 overall, having won at La Salle opening night and losing 19 straight since then. The Mountain Hawks next travel to Boston U. Saturday.

The Leopards still had a chance, trailing 54-53 with 16 seconds left before Devaney extended the Lehigh advantage to 56-53 on two foul shots.

Lafayette missed a shot on the ensuing possession, but Lehigh missed a pair of foul shots next with a chance to lock it up. However the Leopards’ desperation shot was off the mark at the finish.

Sammy Stipa was the only Leopard in double figures, scoring 13 points in the 90th game in the long-running series between the two.

Lafayette is now off until Saturday when it travels to Loyola of Maryland in Baltimore at 2 p.m.

Rider Falls at Quinnipiac

The Broncs’ bid to move into a first-place tie in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference with the host Bobcats went for naught in a 79-53 defeat at the TD Bank Sports Center in Hamden, Conn.

The win gives Quinnipiac (16-4, 9-1) a sweep of the two games with Rider (13-6, 7-3).

Robin Perkins scored in double figures for the fifth game in a row, collecting 15 points as the Broncs’ unbeaten road streak in the conference was halted at six.

“We need to make sure we learn a really hard lesson from this,” Rider coach Lynn Milligan said. “We need to be able to bounce back. This game was about us not being ourselves. We weren’t getting the looks we wanted and we missed some shots today we normally make.

“We need to make sure we are ready to go moving forward.”

Kamila Hoskova, with 12 points, was the only other Rider player to score in double figures.

Jen Fay has 21 points for Quinnipiac.

Rider next hosts Manhattan Thursday in Alumni Gym at 7 p.m. in a MAAC game after having beaten the Jaspers earlier at Draddy Gymnasium.

National Notes: DePaul Stopped by Marquette in the Big East

The front-running Blue Demons, ranked 19th in the AP women’s poll, fell at home in Chicago with the two highest scoring Big East teams living up to their statistical reputations and the Golden Eagles coming out on top 102-101 in overtime.

DePaul had won 10 straight.

Brooke Schulte had a career-high 35 points for DePaul (16-5, 8-1), while teammate Jacqui Grant also had a career-high 27 points and career-high 17 rebounds.

Danielle King scored 27 for Marquette (16-4, 7-2), which with a loss would have dropped into a third-place tie with Villanova, though owning the breaker pending the outcome of the second game to be played with the Wildcats.

The Golden Eagles trailed by 10 in the fourth period before making a run to close the gap and Marquette’s Allazia Blockton, who had 24 points, scored as time expired to force the overtime.

Schulte fouled out in the overtime.

In a tight game in the Big-12 No. 2 Baylor edged No. 24 West Virginia 79-73 at home in Waco, Texas.

Cincinnati, holding down third place and having its best season under Jamelle Elliott, a good friend of Temple’s Cardoza who spent a long stint at UConn on Geno Auremma’s staff, beat East Carolina 74-64 at home in the AAC.

Looking Ahead

In action Sunday involving ranked teams, in the Atlantic Coast Conference, No. 6 Notre Dame is at North Carolina while No. 17 Virginia Tech is hosting No. 7 Florida State, and No. 15 Duke is visiting Boston College, while No. 21 North Carolina State is hosting Clemson, and No. 14 Miami is at Syracuse.

In the American as mentioned Top-ranked Connecticut hosts Tulane on campus at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, while in a non-conference tilt, No. 23 South Florida of the AAC hosts No. 9 Louisville of the AAC.

In the Big 12 No. 20 Oklahoma is hosting Oklahoma State in Nrman.

In the Big 10 and also one of the Guru’s local representatives in Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights travel to College Park to meet No. 3 Maryland at the Xfinity Center. Also in the conference, No. 16 Ohio State hosts Illinois at the Value City Arena in Columbus.

In the Pac-12, No. 13 UCLA hosts USC in Westwood, Caif., at Pauley Pavilion while No. 10 Stanford hosts No. 18 Arizona State in Maples Pavilion, No. 11 Oregon State hosts Colorado, and No. 8 Washington is at Washington State.

In the Southeastern Conference, No. 25 Texas A&M hosts LSU. In other SEC matchups of note, Tennessee hosts Vanderbilt.

In the CAA and in Guru local world, Drexel, where we will be at, hosts Hofstra while Delaware hosts Charleston. In the Big East, Villanova, off its big rally over Butler, visits Xavier in Cincinnati.

And that’s the report.


Saturday, January 21, 2017

Guru Report: Stirring Road Rally Carries Villanova Past Butler in Overtime

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

It was sweeps night among the Guru’s local group on Friday highlighted by a tremendous rally from a 22-point deficit in the third quarter to give Villanova a 70-69 victory in overtime at Butler in the Big East in Indianapolis in the fabled Hinkle Fieldhouse.

Drexel got back on the winning side at home in the Daskalakis Athletic Center beating Charleston in the Colonial Athletic Association 70-57 while Delaware also took a CAA win, beating Northeastern 65-53.

Also in a first-place showdown things got knotted up as defending champion and preseason pick James Madison hit Elon with its first loss, beating the Phoenix, 76-70.

Incidentally, the Guru was not at any game because of attending a center city farewell party for Inquirer departing sports editor John Quinn, who, by the way, is tuned in knowledge wise to the women’s game.

So this report is drawn off all the reports via email, wires, and  school website postings from the various teams of interest.

Furthermore, because of traveling back from Jersey City Thursday night, the Guru did not get to file, but will here, the Rider win, coach Lynn Milligan’s 100th, over Saint Peter’s in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference he attended, and the Penn State win in the Big Ten in which Lindsey Spann scored her 1000th career point.

He will be back on the case Saturday afternoon when Temple hosts Memphis in an American Athletic Conference game in Monigle Hall going for the Owls’ 11th straight win.

Now, moving on to the Wildcats’ win, their fourth straight overall, and coming just two days after taking the Big 5 contest against Penn in the Palestra.

Out in the Midwest, Butler (5-14, 2-6 Big East), opened a 10-0 lead that expanded four more to a 19-5 advantage at the end of the first period. The two teams played dead even across the next two, each scoring 14 points in the second and 10 in the third, leaving Villanova (10-9, 5-3) in an anemic total of 29 points for the game.

And then the Wildcats, as they did in several games early in the season, exploded in the final quarter, outscoring the Bulldogs 30-16 to even it all up.

Credit the Butler account for the Guru rewrite since Nova being on the road, the Guru did not yet see the Wildcats’ post as of 15 minutes ago (it’s 2:13 a.m.).

After previous exchanges of foul shots inside six seconds, Villanova’s Alex Louin, who may be nominated for a sports emmy for the play, was near mid-court and felt a bump and sent the ball in the air with two seconds on the clock.
The official ruled it an act of shooting, giving the former Mount St. Joseph’s star three shots on the foul line and Louin connected on all three to force the extra period.

In the five-minute overtime, Butler scored first but Villanova’s Grace Stant countered with a triple to give the Wildcats their first lead.

Then ‘Nova freshman Mary Gedaka, who starred in the win over Saint John’s at home last Sunday, scored on a layup to extend the differential by three points.

Megan Quinn, one of the stars in win over Penn, nailed a trey to put Villanova ahead by four points with 36 seconds left in the overtime.

Tori Schickle of Butler, who had a game-high 28 points and 20 rebounds, had eight points in the overtime but the Wildcats would prevail connecting foul shots in the closing minute.

Gedaka hit what became the game-winner with a foul shot with seven seconds remaining for a four-point advantage, enough to sustain Sydney Buck’s trey as time expired.

Villanova rode this one the Wildcats had thrived in other games this season, going to multiple connecting 3-pointers route, which in this one produced 11.

Gedaka, the daughter of former Villanova great Lisa Angelotti, agains off the bench, had a standout game with 20 points while Louin’s foul shooting helped her to collect 16 points while grabbing 10 rebounds for a double double. Quinn had 12 rebounds.

Adrianna Hahn, who exploded in the second half in the win over Penn, was held down in this one, also, for a longer stretch, but rose to score eight points late and finish with nine.

It’s probably one of the bigger comebacks in ‘Nova women’s history – the Guru recalls a game in which Providence eons ago had a lead in the 20s and then rallied with Sue Glenning hitting a three to win the game.

Stant connected on four of the treys and reached 14 points for Villanova, which is now 7-1 in the series with Butler.

With Saint John’s losing to Creighton, the Wildcats are alone in fourth in the Big East, a game behind Marquette, which travels to league leader and 19th-ranked DePaul (16-4, 8-0) Saturday night in Chicago.

The Wildcats next head to Cincinnati to play Xavier in the Cintas Center Sunday  at 5 p.m.

Drexel and Delaware Take CAA Wins

The Dragons used a balanced attack and got fortified help from their bench to get past Charleston 70-57 in the Daskalakis Athletic Center.

Though close throughout, Drexel (13-4, 4-2) led all the way and though Sarah Curran was the only player in double figures with 10 points, seven others scored seven or more points.

Sara Woods, off the bench, tied her career high with eight points, while Tereza Kracikova did likewise with seven points. Woods also matched a milestone with five steals.

Overall, the Dragons swiped 12 steals and clamped down defensively, forcing a season-high 28 turnovers.

Meghan Creighton, who had nine points off 3-for-5 shooting from beyond the arc, reached her 500th career assist and is one player best of all time in the category, needing to top the 584 in the books from Barbara Yost.

Jessica Pellechio also hit a trio of threes to score nine points.

All seven of freshman Bailey Greenberg’s seven points came in the first quarter.

The Cougars (5-12, 2-4)  got 21 points and 13 rebounds from Breanna Bolden.

Drexel will stay home for Sunday’s conference visit from Hofstra.

Meanwhile, Delaware made it two straight wins, beating Northeastern 65-53 at home in the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark, where possibly the Blue Hens could see more in the stands from famed alum Joseph Biden, now that his vice presidential days have ended.

He made several appearances to the Bob during the Elena Delle Donne era, including the second round win over North Carolina in the 2012 NCAA tournament that sent coach Tina Martin’s team on to the Sweet 16 against Kentucky at Connecticut.

In Friday’s game, Sade Chatman had a career high for Delaware (9-8, 3-3)  while Nicole Enabosi had her fourth straight double double, scoring 15 points and grabbing 13 rebounds.

Francesca Sally had 14 points for Northeastern (6-12, 2-4).

“I feel really good about where everybody’s focus is right now,” said Martin, who picked up her 400th career win, all at Delaware, on Sunday.

“Our defense was outstanding tonight, especially in the first half. If we keep playing team defense like this, it will take us a long way. Defense helps the offensive end as well.

“We’re really playing like a team right now and that shows in everything we’re doing. We have to keep this rolling as there’s still a long way to go in the season.”

Enabosi is the first sophomore since Christina Rible (1999-00) to register at least four straight games with a double double – that’s what the notes from Delaware say, friends, so EDD didn’t exactly do it all, just most of the heavy lifting.

Charleston heads down from Friday’s loss at Drexel to play the Blue Hens Sunday at 2 p.m.

Elsewhere in the CAA, in the JMU-Elon showdown, redshirt senior Precious Hall made the rode trip less weary in scoring 41 points to give the visitors the win and hand Elon its first conference loss of the season in the game played in North Carolina.

The two teams are tied for first at 5-1 with Elon one more overall win (13-5) better than the Dukes (12-5). Drexel, with two losses, both to Elon, is a game behind the leaders, having to still play JMU home-and-home.

Until the third period, there had been eight ties and nine lead changes in the game.

Elon had won nine straight overall.

JMU goes home Sunday to greet Towson, which upset the Dukes two weeks ago in Maryland.

Rider Smokes Saint Peter’s for Milligan's 100th

On Thursday night, the Broncs took the short ride from their Lawrenceville campus up to Jersey City in the Garden State and bounced back off last Saturday’s tough loss at home to Fairfield to down Saint Peter’s 56-43.

Rider’s Robin Perkins had a game-high 24 points in the MAAC game played at the Yanitelli Center.

The Broncs (13-5, 7-2 MAAC) are perfect on the road this season, an achievement that gets tested Saturday afternoon when they visit league leader Quinnipiac in the second part of the home-and-home series.

Quinnipiac’s loss the other night means Rider can move into a first place tie in the MAAC and split the two games in the regular season series.

“I think we bounced back pretty well,” Rider coach Lynn Milligan said. “Another road win in the MAAC, we’ll take it.

“I thought our defensive intensity was good, we forced multiple shot-clock violations and did a good job with switches to keep their players out of their comfort areas.”

Julie Duggan had 10 points, her seventh straight game scoring in double figures.

Freshman guard Safie Tolusso of Switzerland came off the bench to score eight points.

Milligan gained her 100th win with the program where she is in her 10th season.

Talah Hughes was the only opponent player in double figures, scoring 12 points for the Peacocks (3-15, 2-7), who had won two straight at home.

Sammy Lochner, in 38 minutes, scored seven points, dealt six assists, and made both foul shots for Saint Peter’s. She is the daughter of former La Salle women’s coach and current Delaware assistant Tom Lochner.

Penn State Roars Past Nebraska

In the other game in the Guru’s group in action Thursday, the Lady Lions downed Nebraska 86-69 at home in a Big Ten game played in the Bryce Jordan Center as junior Lyndsey Spann reached her 1,000th career point, joining the 36th in the program who have hit that milestone.

Spann had 14 on the night for Penn State (13-6, 3-4 Big Ten), while Teniya Page had a team-high 18 points and scored her 800th career point as a sophomore.

Peyton Whitted was also in double figures for the home team with 14 points.

It’s the second straight game and third time this season that the Penn State bench contributed 30 or more points.

Jessica Shepard had 20 point and 12 rebounds for Nebraska (5-14, 1-6).

Next up is a Monday trip to play Indiana in Bloomington on the Big Ten. TV network with a chance to get revenge for the 89-70 setback dealt by the Hoosiers earlier this season in Happy Valley.

The Wild Pac-12 West

Friday night means the a strong dose of the rankapalooza conference aka The Pac-12, is in action and this week No. 10 Stanford topped visiting Arizona 73-46 while No. 18 Arizona State on the road beat California 54-45, and No. 11 Oregon State beat visiting Utah 70-44.

It’s also travel partner week so No. 8 Washington is off until Sunday, playing Washington State while going for a sweep this week No. 13 UCLA hosts Southern Cal, whom the Bruins already beat several days ago.

In the Stanford game, the countdown continued as Tara VanDerveer, a Hall of Famer,  got closer  with career win No. 996 to joining the late Tennessee legend Pat Summitt with 1,000 victories.

The Cardinal beat Arizona 73-46 as Karlie Samuelson, the older sister of UConn star Katie Lou, had four treys and 15 points in the win over the Wildcats (11-7, 2-5 Pac-12).

“The reason she makes them is she practices them a lot,” VanDerveer said of Samuelson’s long-range ability, which was demonstrated before the morning shootaround when she made a shot from half-court. “Karlie this year is more than 3-point shooting. She has a complete game. She’s working hard on the defensive end.”

Brittany McPhee and Erica McCall each scored 13 points for Stanford (), which has beaten Arizona 15 straight times at home in Maples Pavilion. Overall its 29-1 in the last 30 in the series in terms of Cardinal victories.

Next up Sunday is a visit from 18th ranked Arizona State, whom Stanford (16-3, 6-1)  beat 64-57 at Temple in the desert last month to open the Pac-12 season.

The Sun Devils won at their first stop in the Bay Area Friday night, beating Cal 54-45 in the Golden Bears’ Haas Pavilion in Berkeley in a Pac-12 game that had nine lead changes and nine ties.

Asha Thomas had 13 points for Cal (14-5, 2-5 Pac-12), which had been in the rankings several weeks ago. Kristine Anigwe had 15 rebounds and blocked three shots.

Sophie Brunner had 14 points and 10 rebounds for Arizona State (14-4, 5-2).

Cal is now 1-2 against ranked teams, including a sweep from the Sun Devils. The previous win stopped the Golden Bears’ 13-game win streak with Arizona State emerging in double overtime 72-62.

“Arizona State is one of the toughest teams we face all year,” said Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb. “I thought we were really good for 36 minutes but not good enough … We will be better every single day, starting with Sunday and going from there.”

In the only other Pac-12 games on the books involving ranked teams in the conference, No. 11 Oregon State handled visiting Utah 70-44 at home in Gill Coliseum in Corvalis.

Marie Gulich had 14 points off 7-for-10 shooting from the field and 11 rebounds while Sydney Wiese was 5-for-7 shooting 3-pointers to collect 17 points and deal six assists for the Beavers (17-2, 6-1 Pac-12).

Emily Potter had 12 points and Wendy Anae scored 11 for Utah (13-5, 2-5).

“We knew the key tonight was going to be loosening up their defense,” said Oregon State coach Scott Rueck. “For part of the first half, it was tough to get good looks, but then we started to settle in. I loved the way our team moved the ball, saw the floor and made shots. Overall it was a great performance and a great win.”

Looking Ahead

Besides Temple-Memphis State and Rider-Quinnipiac on Saturday, Saint Joseph’s travels to Dayton, looking for a fifth straight win and a chance to move up in the Atlantic 10 standings. Also in the A-10, La Salle travels to Davidson.

In the Patriot League, the nearby rivals upstate hook up with Lehigh traveling to Lafayette in Easton, Pa., for the 90th game in the long-running series, with Lehigh having won 15 of the last 19.

But it’s been a tough year for both schools, which arrive at the game with a combined 28-game losing streak. Lehigh has lost 10 straight, the longest in 22 years, while Lafayette has lost all 18 since an opening night win at La Salle.

Both have had tough losses. On Wednesday night at home in Bethlehem, Pa., the Mountain Hawks of Lehigh fell 66-64 to Navy after rallying from an 18-point deficit, only to have an inbound pass stolen in the final seconds that resulted in Navy hitting a three-pointer from near mid-court as time expired.

Lafayette had a loss in triple overtime at Army and lost a lead at Colgate.

On Sunday, besides the CAA games mentioned, as well as the Villanova-Xavier game, Rutgers is at No. 3 Maryland in the Big Ten.

No. 1 UConn, which is coming to Temple, Feb. 1 at the Liacouras Center, hosts Tulane, going for win No. 93 to extend its recently acquired NCAA win streak record from the 90 straight the Huskies previously owned.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Hahn's Hot Second Half Help 'Nova Halt Penn in Women's Big 5

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA – It took a dominant second half by sophomore Adrianna Hahn Wednesday night, scoring all 23 of her game-high points in the final 20 minutes, to enable the Villanova women to live up to their dominant play in the Palestra and stay alive to earn a piece of the Big Five title by beating Penn 60-48.

Now the the ultimate outcome in the city series will come down to Temple’s visit here next Wednesday night. The Owls, who won their 10th straight overall Wednesday night on the road against Houston in the American Athletic Conference, are 3-0 in the city and a win over the Quakers gives them a sweep.

Otherwise, a Penn win will force Temple and Villanova to share the crown at 3-1.

Meanwhile, in total games played in the Cathedral of Basketball, the Villanova women (9-9, 3-1 Big Five), who share their home court with the top ranked and defending NCAA champion men, are now 24-2 all-time in the Palestra and 42-2 against the Quakers (9-5, 0-3), who had a six-game win streak snapped.

Hahn, a product of the same Ursuline Academy program in Wilmington, Del., that produced all-time women’s great Elena Delle Donne, had been on a tear reaching 20 or more points in four of the last seven games, including 31 at home against Marquette, Dec. 28.

But by halftime Wednesday night, Penn had Hahn under lock and key, shooting and missing her only shot over the first 20 minutes as the Quakers and Wildcats went to the break in a 23-23 tie.

Hahn then became a scoring Houdini, escaping Penn’s defenses to produce 14 of the Wildcats’ 18 points in the third period, including a pair of three pointers, but the Quakers still were in contention, though trailing 41-37 after a Hahn three-pointer closed out the period.

Then early in the fourth, Hahn nailed her third long-range shot from beyond the arc, and teammate Megan Quinn followed with a trey of her own and the Wildcats went to a 10-point advantage never to be seriously threatened the rest of the way.

Fortunately for the Wildcats, Hahn and Quinn were the two-engine attack to get them back to .500 since the rest of the Villanova offense sputtered.

But on the defensive side, the Wildcats kept Penn’s Michelle Nwokedi out of double digits, holding her to eight points while Sydney Stipanovich was limited to 11 and Anna Ross got 12, fueled by three treys.

“I thought when we had control of the game, we were very effective,” said Penn coach Mike McLaughlin, who has yet to beat Villanova in his eight seasons with the program though he has wins over the other three rivals in the City Series.

“I thought when we started the game, we played the first half the right way, the first four, five, six possessions of the second half, the third quarter we had a nice flow and then we lost control – the gap when we didn’t score, things became a struggle, their scoring led to us to have some bad possessions, and then Hahn just took over and slowed us down and took us apart at her pace and we just could never get back into any offensive flow.”

Hahn, who was 7-for-9 in the second half after the one missed shot, connected on 3-of-5 three-pointers, hit all six of her foul shots and dealt three assists. Quinn scored 18 points, connecting on 6-of-13 shots, including 4-of-7 treys.

Penn was missing one of its three-point aces in Lauren Whitlatch, who suffered a knee injury in Saturday’s win over Brown and is not likely to return the rest of the season.

“I don’t know what to really say about that,” Hahn laughed about how things sputtered in the first half. “I don’t know, we were just lackadaisical on offense, our defense is what kept us in the game so that’s good on our part.

“Penn really played us tough, they were bothering me from creating my shot and I just had to keep pumping it and play the game the way I do.”

The win extended Villanova’s current streak to three heading into a return to the Big East wars the rest of the way, beginning at Butler in Indianapolis Friday night.

“I thought we played very good defense,” Villanova coach Harry Perretta, “and it kept us in the game early, and in the second half, Adrianna got it going, and the floor started opening up, she started scoring the ball and then other people got open.

“I wanted Adrianna to split their defense to force them to help so we could start dishing the ball and get other people easier shots because they weren’t getting any easy shots. So by doing that, it opened up the floor and we were able to get the ball to different people.

"Megan came through big time because we had a bad shooting game from everybody else.”

“Sometimes, when you have a tough player like that, you get it going. It was a good win.”


Guru's Local Roundup: Temple Win Streak Hits 10; St. Joe and La Salle Post A-10 Wins

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

It’s getting like old times, at least until the end of the month for Temple, which claimed its 10th straight victory Wednesday night, winning an American Athletic Conference at Houston 69-57.

In other action, Saint Joseph’s kept its positive reversal going as the Hawks beat Fordham 47-44 at home in an Atlantic 10 game in Hagan Arena, while on the road also in the Atlantic 10 La Salle beat Richmond 63-58.

Thursday night Nebraska visits Penn State while Rider tries to recover from Saturday’s tough overtime loss to Fairfield when the Broncs visit Saint Peter’s in Jersey City, N.J.

Meanwhile, down in Houston Temple (14-3, 5-0), which is in the forecast field in the latest ESPN bracketology for the NCAA tournament, had to withstand Cougar runs in the second and third period, but also had their own runs to provide answers.

The Owls, who can wrap up the Big 5 title outright with a win next Wednesday, shot 9-for-21 for 42.9 percent in three-point attempts and owned the boards with a 49-31 rebounding advantage.

Senior Feyonda Fitzgerald was at it again with another double double, scoring 22 points and dishing 11 assists. Donnaizha Fountain had a game-high 23 points and grabbed nine rebounds while Ruth Sherrill had another standout night on the boards establishing a new career high with 19 rebounds.

Alliya Butts also scored in double figures with 14 points.

Houston (8-10, 1-4) had four players in double figures with Serithia Hawkins scoring 12 points, Jasmyne Harris scoring 11, and Angela Harris and Jacqueline Blake each scoring 10 points.

Temple next hosts Memphis in an AAC game  in McGonigle Hall at 2 p.m. Saturday. The Owls had to go into overtime on New Year’s Day in Tennessee to beat the Tigers when the two met on the front end of the their home-and-home series.

Saint Joseph’s Hand A-10 Leader Fordham Its First Loss 47-44

A tight game throughout came down to the final minutes the way many have had in the series since former Hawks coach Stephanie Gaitley arrived in the Bronx from her previous job at Monmouth.

In this one, Saint Joseph’s led 45-38 with 1 minute, 30 seconds to play, but a run by the Rams got the visitors within two at 46-44 when Fordham’s G’mrice Davis scored on a three-point play.

Early in the season there is a good chance the home team wouldn’t have left the building smiling, considering the number of leads that were yielded until the current four-game streak began.

Even then, with a chance to increase the advantage to four, the Hawks missed two foul shots with 26 seconds left, but after Fordham (15-6, 6-1 Atlantic 10) took possession, the Hawks(7-11, 4-2) got the Rams to commit a turnover with 7.8 seconds left.

Adashia Franklyn’s foul shot made it a three-point advantage and Fordham missed its final chance to force it into overtime.

Chelsea Woods had 14 points and nine rebounds for Saint Joseph’s, while Franklyn scored eight points, had a team-high 13 rebounds, and blocked four shots.

The Rams were held to 25.4 percent from the field.

Depth has become a factor in this latest turn of events with the Hawks mining 26 points from their bench.

Saint Joseph’s heads to a revitalized Dayton squad Saturday and will Fordham again Feb. 9 in the Bronx.

La Salle Edges Richmond

The Explorers broke away at the finish in a tight game on the road, using a 6-2 run with less than three minutes to beat the Spiders 63-58 in an Atlantic 10 game in the Robins Center.

Amy Griffin, the leading scorer in the conference and top scorer last season, hit a couple of jumpers while Adreana Miller hit a pair of free throws.

Ashanti Freeland, who had 10 rebounds for La Salle (10-8, 3-3 Atlantic 10), provided security stealing an inbounds pass after Miller’s foul shots.

Jasmine Alston had 15 points – 11 in the first half – and 13 rebounds, of whch eight came in the first half for the Explorers. Griffin was explosive again, scoring 22 points, of which 13 were collected in the second half.

Miller had 10 points.

Janelle Hubbard had 23 points for the host Spiders (9-10, 3-3).

La Salle stays on the road in the conference and heads to Davidson on Saturday for a 2 p.m. tip.

 Iowa Downs Rutgers in Second Half
The Guru is adding this to the report because in having to catch a train back Tuesday and getting back late he didn’t have a chance to file.

So much for the Scarlet Knight’s three-game win streak at home and forward progress in recent weeks.

Iowa, which was once coached and built into prominence by Rutgers’ C. Vivian Stringer, left the Hall of Famer to deal with wonderment over her team’s Tuesday night performance in a Big Ten game in the Rutgers Athletic Center.

Iowa emerged wth a 71-59 win as Megan Gustafson was a perfect 7-for-7 from the field and had 19 points for the Hawkeyes (12-7, 3-3 Big Ten) while Tania Davis had 15 points, built over a hefty 0-for-11 at the line, and Makenzie Meyer scored 10.

Shrita Parker matched her career mark with 20 points for the Scarlet Knights (6-14, 3-4) and Khadaizha Sanders scored 11.

Each team made 25 fields goals but Rutgers took 32 more shots and also had a dominating 23-4 on the offensive glass and on second chance points outscored Iowa 19-6.

But Stringer knows what produced the stats and it certainly wasn’t anything worth boasting over.

“If you have offensive rebounds, it probably means you need to finish layups, know what I mean?” She said. “That’s so sad. That’s so sad. We knew they were going to take drives. We knew they were going to get to the free throw line.

“There were a number of things that could have been done that we didn’t do, weren’t able to do. They’re a good team. They never stop. There’s nothing they did that surprised us,” Stringer said.

“But at the end of the day, we have to finish layups. We’re missing layups when nobody is … quite frankly we have to do better. And we have to have a lot more control. We just have to learn win games. We’ve come from behind before. I thought we could today. But we were tired and they kept coming at us.”

Rutgers heads to No. 3 Maryland Sunday.

AP Women’s Poll Trivia: Streaking UConn Beyond Wins and Losses

Besides the NCAA continuous streak-breaking actions being exercised by the University of Connecticut women, now at 92 straight, the Huskies continue to put up impressive poll numbers.

They have not missed being in the Top 10 the entire decade, now at 138 weeks, and within that group, nor have they missed being in the Top 5.

They were rolling in both categories at the end of the last decade, so add the 54 Top 5 appearances and the streak is 192 while even further back add 86 straight dating back to 2005 and its 224 straight Top 10 rankings.

Maryland is now sixth all time with 448 appearances having just snapped a tie with Louisiana Tech.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Guru's Guide to Reducing the 12 WBHOF Finalists to Six Inductees

By Mel Greenberg @womhopsguru

Under the new rollout on the path toward induction into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn., 12 finalists were announced for the first time during the break in the Notre Dame-Tennessee game that was the first in the Big Monday package on ESPN2.

Until this year, the women’s hall had been the only one of the major sports halls of fame in which finalists were not first named prior to the group of inductees.

In recent summers the inductees were named during the WNBA All-Star game but many times it got lost among everything associated with the annual classic.

Now the class of six inductees from these finalists will be named on Feb. 12, along with the Trailblazer Award winner, and those that can attend will be introduced during the Women’s Final Four weekend in Dallas.

The induction ceremony will be on June 10 in Knoxville, the weekend it has occurred, but expect that to be moved since with more WNBA retired stars soon to be eligible, the league has been unhappy with festivities occurring at a time when the regular season is under way and many officials and others can’t attend because of the schedule.

For complete information here is the web site wbhof.com of the hall.

But to do things differently, the Guru will mention each of the 12 and prospects for those who might emerge as one of the six inductees.

Sheryl Swoopes – A recent inductee to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., in September, having been a super scoring star at Texas Tech, in the Olympics and part of the four-time WNBA champion Houston Comets, Swoopes is already being called the headliner, in part because many of today’s generation does not have ties to all the names.

To answer what you’re thinking: The Guru is aware of 11 of 12 and has met or dealt with all of them.

Joan Bonvicini – Coached Long Beach State and Arizona to high profile standings and has over 700 career victories. At the moment among the first 19 coaches on the list in terms of appearances in the AP Poll, Rene Portland (Penn State) at 10th and Bonvicini at 19th are the only two not already in the women’s hall. So consider chances strong.

Sally Bell – Having had a 33-year career in the profession, the Guru can tell you in terms of officials who worked many big games and can be known immediately in conversations just by hearing Sally. She also would be considered a strong candidate.

By the way, it is the WBHOF board of directors who call the shots on the 12 finalists and the ultimate inductees.

Rick Insell – A coach now at Middle Tennessee and who also coached the famed Shelbyville Central High power house, he would be a familiar name to the board and being operational in the Volunteer State means he would draw enough of an entourage buying up tickets for induction weekend.

If all four of these make it that means two out of the rest of the group.

So let’s do a cluster:

Evelyn Blalock, a well-known junior college coach who died in 2014, Rose Marie Battaglia, won over 700 games, a junior college coaching hall of famer, but well known for her Paramus Catholic High powerhouse in North Jersey.

Usually someone in this categorical mix makes it but unless the board decides Insell serves as well as this category because of Shelbyville, the Guru nods to Battaglia because two of her prized Paramus stars were the Donovan sisters – Anne and Mary. Rose also could be seen at many Penn State games in her time.

Christine Grant, under contributor, a founder of AIAW, chief women’s administrator at Iowa, a major meeting/ballroom is named for her at NCAA headquarters by the way, Louise O’Neal, veteran, coached Southern Conn., (not in the bio but was once the SWA at Dartmouth early in the NCAA women’s era, Nora Lynn Finch, once Kay Yow’s top assistant, but as an administrator, first chair of the NCAA committee. Currently, the top women’s exective in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Veteran, a category, means people from pre-Title IX days.

The Guru believes one of these three will make it – likely Grant because she was the power in her day and part of the Midwest philosophy that used to drive a young coach at a Catholic university in suburban Philadelphia … Shocked everyone though, when she plucked Vivian Stringer out of Cheyney to coach the Hawkeyes into a national power. As for O’Neal, she was Connecticut in that state before UConn and if the poll existed well before the Guru introduced it, her program would have gaudy numbers. O’Neal was also a person with an open mind who helped the Guru get the AIAW out of the 16-team finals circus into a Final Four format.

You want more: The Guru remembers like yesterday when the battle to survive the coming of the NCAA was on and the vote was taken in Miami to start championships, Grant stood up after the vote when reps were allowed to speak and Grant said forcefuly into the mike, “I hope you remember what you did today.” The little speech caused the Guru to quip, “It didn’t long for Grant to burn the bridge but Lopiano was smart enough to stop at the tollbooth.”

If the Guru had to vote, yes he thinks all had merit, he’d go for Finch, for one, she understood the importance of media and media partnership and selling the sport big time when people still weren’t paying much attention. It depends how many oldtimers versus the modernists go between Finch and Grant.

So who’s left for the last spot – all players:

Yelena Baranova – Russian who played on the NY Liberty in the early days of the league;

Crystal Robinson, another early Liberty player not mentioned in the bio,  also a star on the ABL’s Colorado Xplosion: Here’s a snippet from the Blaze signing Robinson to stay in NY: In my mind Crystal is one of the best two-way players in the WNBA -- it was one of my top priorities to ensure she remains in a Liberty uniform,” said Blazejowski. “And, while Crystal may be best known for her offensive prowess, she is one of our strongest defensive players, there’s no question she brings value to our team on both ends of the court.”

Kara Wolters, one of the stars of the first UConn powerhouse --- actually the third, not already inducted as are Rebecca Lobo and Jen Rizzotti. If one of these three make it, something has to give from the other category blocks – knowing the board Bonvicini could lose out this time around.

For now, the Guru would vote Robinson first out of the three when you take the WNBA career under consideration, but, Wolters means Geno comes to Knoxville. Pre-Candace Parker flap what Guru observed when Rizzotti went in is that with Pat no longer the public force because of the illness, in the land of movers and shakers – not those who live on internet social media debates – you want to make money at an event and draw a crowd – even here Geno’s the one.

As for who didn’t make it – the Guru was aware of campaigns for former Queens coach Lucille Kyvallos, who has been way overlooked for her contributions out of New York City, in fact in the arrival days, she was a major factor in helping the Guru quickly become the Guru, she also coached at West Chester.

The other that started several years ago was Brian Agler, who the Guru thought might have a great shot at least getting this far with the recent Los Angeles Sparks WNBA title to go with one wth the Seattle Storm, and the two ABL crowns with the Columbus Quest.

  And that’s the report.

Tennessee Pulls Its Upset of the Season Beating Notre Dame

By Mike Siroky
Reports contributed to post

Holly Warlick finally got a statement win at home, erasing No. 6 Notre Dame’s personal win streak in the series Monday night and defeating the Irish, 71-69, in Knoxville

Several times, UT fell behind. Each time they rallied.

Diamond DeShields scored 20.

“She’s a marked woman, so she had to step it up,” Warlick said. “I was more proud of her defense. When she’s on, she’s on and we just follow her.”

On a tie up caused by Mercedes Russell, Tennessee had possession on their end. After a timeout, Jamie Nared made a jumper for the final points.

“If it was a zone, we went inside, if they were in man, we went for the screen,” said Warlick.
“Jamie has ice in her veins.”

And the biggest shot of the UT season. She scored a dozen, including all four free throws.

Jordan Reynolds also had 12 and Russell 13.

The most impressive statistic underlines the winning comeback. As Warlick was proud to point out, they won the final quarter, 19-7. They won the half, 40-25.

No one has done that to ND in many seasons.

Russell had two blocks and two steals in the final quarter. She also had the composure to leave the paint and come out to commit a foul as UT burned the clock with three successive fouls they had available in the final nine seconds, leaving just four.

The Irish could not get a shot off quickly enough.

ND coach Muffett McGraw has often said this season she has the best player in America and the best point guard in America.

There was none of that talk this time.

“I thought Tennessee did a great job down the stretch. When they made their run, they rebounded,” she said.

“They held us to one shot, and I thought that was the difference in the game. We were outrebounding them in the first half, but in the second half, we could not get a rebound, especially at the offensive end.

“We were disappointed in our effort defensively and our inability to guard the ball screen really killed us down the stretch. We talked about it, but we weren’t able to guard them in the ball screen.

“ We just made a lot of mistakes. To their credit, they took advantage of all of the mistakes we made.”

She complimented DeShields.

“I thought she got to the free throw line, and made her free throws. She couldn’t shoot the ball particularly well, but we had difficulty staying in front of her. We had a freshman guarding her, and that was probably a mistake on my part. We couldn’t find her in the zone, and we let her run free. She’s incredibly talented.

“I thought it was a lot of layups. We missed a lot of layups. We drove the ball like we wanted to, but we couldn’t get to the free throw line.

“That was really bad. In the fourth quarter, they only had one team foul going into the end of the game. That won the game for them. So, if we could have gotten to the free throw line in the fourth quarter, I think that it would have been a different finish.”

The best crowd in America this week – 10,517 – made an impression as well.

“I thought it was a great atmosphere,” McGraw said.

“Anytime you make a run like that, the crowd gets excited. The crowd gets into the game. You have to be really poised when you have possession of the ball. You have to really value the ball. You have to take care of the ball. The crowd was very influential for them.”

Warlick said, “We were tired of getting beat by Notre Dame and tired of getting beat in general. If we had lost, a lot of people would have said that we should have lost but we cannot go out and lose three games in a row.

“Our team is full of winners and I think that our heart showed tonight. We were willing to sacrifice and do what we needed to do for each other to get this win. It was not about any individual, tonight we played team basketball and I think that is where the offense came from.

“We found who was open and those players delivered.”

So, after the win, this particular team can fashion an identity.

“I believe we can go somewhere we have never been,” Warlick said. “Regardless of what that looks like, I do think we can go there and we can get there as a team. We cannot look back. The Stanford and Kentucky wins were great but we have to move forward. There’s no turning back now. Our team sometimes just falls back into a slump and we cannot afford to do that.

“So moving forward hopefully we can keep the momentum going and continue playing the way we did tonight.”

Nared also looks for continuity

“I know we are a mentally tough team. The story of our season has been which Tennessee team will come out.

“Tonight just showed that we are mentally tough, despite our record. We needed to get this win. We got stops when it counted. It was not the most perfect game but when it counted we got stops. It shows that we are tough and we compete.”

The Irish had won every game in this annual series since 2008.

The win evens the SEC’s 20-game season against the Atlantic Coast Conference.

It gives UT 11 wins and an outside chance at 20 regular-season wins, but a definite chance at 20 after the league post-season tournament. That would guarantee an NCAA berth, as any SEC team with 20 wins has always gotten into the NCAA elimination tournament.

It might, in a few weeks, move them back into the national rankings. With some fortunate wins, they move close to hosting the Sweet 16 qualifying rounds.

All this on an inconsequential (for conference) win. Warlick must now reign in the emotions before they resume the conference hunt with three winnable games before going to South Carolina.

The cautionary tale is they were outhustled at Ole Miss in the previous game.

To The Future

The McDonald’s High School All-America teams confirm Tennessee has the best incoming freshmen next season.

The Lady Vols have four state players of the year and more McDonald’s elite selections than any team in America.

This class is second only to a legendary Pat Head Summitt 1980 class which had five state players of the year and ultimately two All-Americans in college.

 In the interim, Summitt produced McDonald’s groupings of five twice, with Holly Warlick as the top recruiter.

The newbies: Rennia Davis (Jacksonville, Fla.), Anastasia Hayes (Mufreesboro, Tenn.), Kasiyahna Kushkituah (Alpharetta Ga.) and Evina Westbrook (South Salem, Ore.)

This class, combining with the outstanding juniors among six this season, has potential to elevate back among the elite. Former statirng point guard T’ea Cooper will return after sitting out a season rehabbing a knee

Plus, two junior college players are coming, guard Jazmine Massengill, Chattanooga,  and forward Amira Collins, Fairfax, Va.

 Will name tags be needed with half of the roster first-timers?

It can be traced directly to hiring respected recruiter Sharonna Reaves.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Guru Report: Villanova DNA Aids Wildcats Win Over St. John's

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

VILLANOVA, Pa. – Mom got cited at halftime while her daughter was the rest of, but not entire, show on the Main Line Sunday afternoon as Villanova held back Saint John’s for a narrow 55-50 victory in a Big East game in the Wildcats’ Pavilion.

Freshman Mary Gedaka stepped off the bench to score career-highs of 16 points and eight rebounds to help lead Villanova (8-9, 4-3) to its fourth win in its last five games and complete a weekend sweep at home in the conference.

Saint John’s (12-6, 4-3) came roaring in here having won 10 of 12 and helped along the way by another former Neumann-Goretti star – starting freshman Alisha Kebbe, who already has three weekly Big East newcomer citations to her credit.

But it was the Villanova newcomer who was the talk of the arena, ironically occurring during  the program’s annual Alumni Day when the stars of past glories are honored.

“I’m feeling very confident right now,” said Gedaka, a graduate of Gloucester Catholic in South Jersey who is from Mullica Hill. “More important, it was a great team win. Saint John’s is a really good team.

“I think we played really well together. Defense was a key for this win today and I think everybody locked down.

“ I’m typically not a scorer but it went in my favor today. Some of my shots were hitting. I tried to look for the basket but when (Saint John’s) were helping me or guarding me, I looked to kick  it, it was a good thing.”

Gedaka comes from great Wildcats DNA, especially among the long list of outstanding players who thrived in coach Harry Perretta’s system.

Her mom, Lisa Gedaka, may not ring any bells in the memories of veteran Villanova fans, but apply her maiden name – Lisa Angelotti – and instant acknowledgement will surface of a star from the Shelly Pennefather era who claimed her own Big East player of the year award in 1987 when the league two eras ago was comprised much like it is today.

After struggles early in the season with a young roster, the Wildcats freshmen are starting to blossom. Kelly Jekot had a big game Friday afternoon in the win over Seton Hall in the annual Education Day promotion.

On Sunday, it was Gedaka who stepped up.

“I think that’s a big key for our team this year,” Gedaka said. “The majority of the players are inexperienced. It’s big, obviously Alex (Louin) and Andrianna (Hahn), need to step up with Jannah (Tucker) out (concussion), points wise, Megan (Quinn) and Samantha (Wilkes), too.

“But if we have players who usually don’t score as many points in games start contributing, that’s going to make us much more of a bigger threat, because we’re going to lock in on defense and our defense is going to hep our offense in a way and vice versa,” she added.

“So hopefully, if we keep this trend of players who don’t usually score double digits keeping going, we can be very dangerous later on in conference.”

The win put Villanova in a fourth-place tie with Saint John’s behind front-running DePaul, Creighton and Marquette, all of whom are responsible for the Wildcats’ three losses in the Big East to date.

Louin had a game-high 19 points and Hahn scored 13, but with the Red Storm leading the nation in limiting three-pointers, the long-range ace was just 2-of-3 from beyond the arc on Sunday.

However, several times Gedaka and others were able to give up their air attack and go with the ground game dribbling inside to score.

“We needed help from other people besides Adrianna and Alex and we got it today from Mary,” Perretta said. “It really helped us.

“(Gedaka) came off the bench and played very well. It’s something that probably wouldn’t have happened earlier in the year.”

The Wildcats had a productive day at the line shooting 17-of-19 free throws.

Akina Wellere had 16 points for the Red Storm while Jade Walker scored 13, including her 1000th career score, and Imani Littleton grabbed 10 rebounds.

The game was close throughout with the visitors’ only gaining a two-point lead while Villanova’s largest advantage in the game grew to seven points.

Villanova had a slim 46-45 lead with 4 minutes, 18 seconds left in regulation but Saint John’s missed its next five shots while Gedaka and Louin drove inside for layups and a 50-45 advantage with 1:35 left in regulation.

Louin went 1-2 from the line for a six-point advantage with 29 seconds left.

“I thought that was our best defensive effort of the year,” Perretta said.

Aaliyah Lewis’ layup reduced the differential to four points but Hahn then connected on a pair of free throws with 14 seconds left.

The six-point ‘Nova advantage was sliced in half by Wellere’s trey with seven seconds left before Gedaka, who made all six of her attempted free throws in the game,  appropriately locked it up for the home team with a pair of shots from the line.

 Next up is a visit to the Palestra Wednesday at 7 p.m. to step out of conference and play Penn in a Big Five game. The Wildcats have dominated the series with the Quakers and two years ago prevented them from winning their first title outright, forcing a three-way tie.

Villanova needs a win to clinch at least second place at 3-1. A loss gives the crown to Temple outright with the Owls at 3-0. Should the Wildcats beat Penn then Temple needs to do likewise the following Wednesday for an outright crown or the two will share this year’s local bragging rights.

“I just hate to play a Big Five game in the middle of the Big East schedule,” Perretta said. “They’re on a break (from the Ivy slate). We have to jump on a plane the next day and go to Butler (in Indianapolis).”

The logistics are not as big a concern to Gedaka, who is experiencing her first go-round in the City Series alongside the Big East and rest of the non-conference schedule.

“It’s exciting,” she said. “My mom harped about how big and exciting those Big Five games were. We will focus on Penn now and see how far it takes us.”

In those games, mom was usually one of the talks of the town.

Now everyone is starting to talk about mom’s daughter.

Elsewhere in the Big East, No. 21 DePaul won its 10th straight beating Xavier 85-69 at home in Chicago for the Blue Demons’ longest win streak since the 2010-11 season.

DePaul (16-4, 8-0) also had 10-game winning runs during back-to-back seasons in 2006-07 and 2007-08.

Brooke Schulte scored 28 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for the home team.

Xavier fell to 10-8 overall and 2-5 in the conference.

Elon Foils Drexel Again While Delaware Ends Skid to Give Martin Victory No. 400

The Dragons’ bid to get into the first-place mix in the Colonial Athletic Association and avenge a setback to Elon back in Philadelphia last weekend went for naught Sunday in North Carolina as the Phoenix, the only unbeaten team in CAA play, turned aside Drexel 75-65.

Jessica Pellechio had a game-high 24 points but Drexel (12-4, 3-2 CAA) was destroyed by early foul trouble and an Elon 11-2 run at the close of the third period.

Prior to this season the Dragons had not lost to the Phoenix (13-4, 5-0), a recent addition to the CAA.

Meanwhile, Delaware coach Tina Martin in her 21st season with the Blue Hens, picked up career-win No. 400 – she has spent her entire head coaching career with the program – as her group snapped a two-game losing streak to win at Hofstra 73-56 at the David S. Mack Sports Exhibition Complex in Hempstead, N.Y.

“A lot of people really worked hard,” Martin said about her milestone. “This is a team sport. This isn’t for one person. This accomplishment is attributed to the hard work that some terrific coaches and players have put in through the years.

“They really established such a great winning tradition for Delaware women’s basketball. I especially want to thank associate head coach Jeanine Radice alongside our current assistants Tom Lochner, Jade Singleton and Kayla Miller,” Martin continued.

“I can’t say enough about the administrators I’ve had in my time; they’ve all been great and supportive. I bleed blue and gold; I love this place.

"It's a proud moment for this women's basketball program and I’m very proud of my players and staff over the past 21 years.”

Elon coach Charlotte Smith, a former North Carolina star, also reached a milestone, picking up her 100th career victory with the win over Drexel.

“I’m really pleased the way the team is playing right now,” she said. “We’re playing with a lot of confidence and that makes all the difference in the world. I’m just really proud of this team and the effort we put forth today.”

The loss drops the Drexel two games off the pace in the CAA standings and one behind preseason favorite and defending champion James Madison, who wiped out Northeastern at home in the JMU Convocation Center 74-54.

Pellechio’s performance was her best since scoring 30 against Penn State in the season-opener at home back in November. She shot 6-for-12 on three-point attempts, and had six rebounds and three assists.

Sarah Curran was in double digits with 15 points while Meghan Creighton and freshman Bailey Greenberg each scored seven.

The Dragons were perfect from the line making all 12 attempts but Elon got there more at 27 times and connected on 16 attempts.

Drexel got hit with five offensive fouls by halftime.

Lauren Brown had 19 points for Elon, while Jenifer Rhodes scored 13, Maddie McCallie, the daughter of Duke women’s coach Joanne P. McCallie, had 11 pints, and Shay Burnett scored 10.

Malaya Johnson grabbed 10 rebounds.

Drexel got killed on the boards with Elon holding a 42-35 advantage, including 21-10 on the offensive glass.

The Dragons next head home to the Daskalakis Athletic Center to host Charleston Friday night at 7 and then stay there for Sunday’s visit from Hofstra at 2 p.m.

In the James Madison game, freshman Kamiah Smalls from Neumann-Goretti in Philadelphia, tied her career high with 18 points for the Dukes (11-5, 4-1), while redshirt senior Precious Hall scored 18 points.

Northeastern fell to 6-11 overall and 2-3 in the CAA.

JMU heads to Elon Friday night for another first-place showdown in the conference.

Delaware, meanwhile, exploded with a 17-2 run at the close of the third quarter to get its win and Martin to her historic moment.

“We got win number two in the conference today and that’s what really matters right now,” she said of the outcome. “We’re trying to climb the ladder and hopefully this will give us a little bit more confidence. We need to build upon this race in the conference.

“I have to give credit to our point guards, and, well, really all our players as they controlled the tempo. We went strong to the rim today., there was definitely a better effort on the glass, and we took better shots.”

Nicole Enabosi had a career high 24 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for her eighth double double of the season. Another career high for the Blue Hens (8-8. 2-3 CAA) was registered by Makeda Nicholas with 19 points while Erica Brown had 10 points and six assists.

Delaware ruled the boards with 45 rebounds to 29 for the Pride (8-7, 1-3) and held a lopsided 18-1 advantage on the offensive glass.

Ashunae Durant had 15 points and 12 rebounds for Hofstra.

The Blue Hens had lost two straight and five of their last six before beating Hofstra.

Delaware is back home in the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark next weekend, hosting Northeastern Friday night at 7 and then Charleston at 2 p.m. Sunday.

Nationally Noted: Late Buckets Help Plum Check Arizona State Off Her Pac-12 Bucket List

After becoming the 12th Division I player to reach 3,000 points in a win at Arizona Friday night, Washington senior scoring sensation Kelsey Plum had one more thing to take care of Sunday night to call it an enjoyable weekend in the desert with the rest of the eighth-ranked Huskies of the Northwest: Bring home a first-ever win in her Pac-12 career over Arizona State.

For a while, though, it looked like she might have to wait until the 19th-ranked Sun Devils visit Seattle in the other part of the conference home-and-home series to get her wish.

Though leading the nation with a 31 points per game scoring average, Plum was a long way off the mark toward another night in the 30s at the end of the third quarter in Tempe.

Not to worry, even with Arizona State down just a point at 51-50 with 6:02 left in regulation.

Plum, giving a whole new meaning to light up time, scored eight points in a Washington 10-0 run, 15 overall in the final quarter, and made all six of her shots in the period to lead the Huskies to a 65-54 triumph.

Finishing with 34 point for the game, Plum’s latest exploit enabled the Huskies (18-2, 6-1 Pac-12) to stay all alone atop the conference.

“She’s just so tenacious,” Washington coach Mike Neighbors observed. “She has that wearing effect on defenses, too, and she’s so well-conditioned that she’s at the advantage at the end of games.”

Arizona State’s Reili Richardson had 11 points for the Sun Devils (13-4, 4-2).

Overall, Plum’s career total is now 3,041 after jumping from 11th to seventh on the all-time list.

 On the way toward the top she pushed her way in the line in front of such notables as Cheryl Miller (USC), Chamique Holdsclaw (Tennessee), Maya Moore (Connecticut), and Elena Delle Donne (Delaware).

Washington also has the leading rebounder and Chantel Osahor did her part grabbing 20, well above her 13.5 average while on the offensive side of things she made it a double double with 10 points.

“I try to forget,” Plum explained in the postgame comments reported by the Associated Press, among other organizations. ”I have amnesia. When the clock struck zero and it was the fourth quarter, I was like, `Hallelujah, let’s go to work.’”

Arizona State coach Charlie Turner Thorne believes Plum belongs among the best.

“She can shoot the 3s, mid-range, get to the rim,” she said. “She’s developed her game. Every year she’s gotten better.”

Neighbors is ready to back the cause of his star. “Man, if there’s a conversation about the best scorers and she’s not in it, give me a chance to debate that person.”

Wth six ranked teams in the current poll, which might be reduced in the new one Monday, there was other action in the Pac-12 to take notice.

Utah upset No. 24 California 63-57 at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Sat Lake City as Emily Potter and Malia Nawahine each scored 15 points for the Utes (13-4, 2-4 PAC-12).

“In our six conference games that we have played so far, this was our fifth ranked opponent,” said Utah coach Lynne Roberts. “It is a tough conference and I’m proud of our team for chipping away and sticking with it.”

The visiting Bears fell to 14-4 overall and 2-4 in the PAC-12.

No. 13 Stanford shook off a slim 42-41 halftime deficit to top host Colorado 84-70 in Boulder as Karlie Samuelson and Brittany McPhee combined for 38 points for the Cardinal (15-3, 5-1 PAC-12). The Buffs, who were ranked several weeks ago, fell to 11-6 overall and 1-5 in the conference.

No. 10 Oregon State recovered from Friday’s loss across town at No. 17 UCLA in Los Angeles and beat host Southern Cal 74-60 Sunday at the Galen Center as Kolbie Orum had 16 points on 8-of-11 shooting along with nine rebounds for the Beavers (16-2, 5-1 PAC-12). Sadie Edwards scored 17 points for the Trojans (10-7, 1-5).

UCLA made it a weekend sweep of the Oregon schools in the conference Sunday, beating Oregon 79-63 at Pauley Pavilion as Monique Billings had a career-high 30 points. It was the 22nd straight home win for the Bruins (13-4, 4-2 PAC-12), who are tied with South Dakota for the fourth active streak behind, who else?, the 57 put together by Connecticut.

Ruthy Hebard had a career-high 29 for the Ducks (12-6, 2-4).    

The Rest of the Nation

 In the Atlantic Coast Conference, No. 23 North Carolina State upset No. 12 Duke 55-52 at the Wolfpack’s Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, N.C.

The Blue Devils (15-3, 3-2 ACC) trailed by 14 before the end of the first half and rallied before falling short to N.C. State (14-5, 4-2). Duke’s Rebecca Greenwell had 11 points.

Dominique Wilson had 16 points for the Wolfpack and Chelsea Nelson had 13 points and 10 rebounds.

No. 9 Louisville edged No. 14 Miami 63-59 in the Yum Center as Mariya Moore had a game-high 24 points for the host Cardinals (16-4, 4-2 ACC) while Adrienne Motley had 13 for the visiting Hurricanes (14-4, 3-3).

No. 7 Florida State crushed host Clemson 86-27  as Ama Degbeon had a career-high 13 points off the bench for the Seminoles (17-2, 5-1 ACC) beating the Tigers (11-6, 0-5).

Kauai Bradley had career highs of 17 points and 10 rebounds to lead Pittsburgh over visiting North Carolina 68-48 in the Petersen Events Center. It was the fewest amount of points the Panthers (1-7, 2-3 ACC) have allowed the Tar Heels (12-6, 1-4) in the teams’ all-time series dating back to 1981.

In the Big 10, No. 11 Ohio State edged host Purdue 61-57 as Stephanie Mavunga had 11 points and 12 rebounds for the Buckeyes (15-5, 5-1 Big 10) in West Lafayette, Ind. Ashley Morrissette had 13 for the Boilermakers (12-7, 3-2).

Penn State (11-6, 1-4 Big 10) on Monday night at 7 will host Wisconsin (5-12, 0-4) in the Bryce Jordan Center in State College.

In the Big 12, second-ranked Baylor got 16 points from Kalani Brown and 15 from Nina Davis as the Bears beat host Kansas 92-43.

 Baylor (17-2, 6-0 Big 12) rode to a 23-point halftime lead over the Jayhawks (6-11, 0-6) in Allen Fieldhouse.

Looking Ahead

The Big Monday national series of games on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. gets under way this week and appropriately with it being “We Back Pat,” week, the first game originates from Knoxville where Tennessee will host No. 6 Notre Dame.

Competition wise, with the Lady Vols having been out of the poll for the second longest in-season stretch in Tennessee history, an upset of the Irish is imperative toward finding a way back to the rankings but Notre Dame has been on a streak of wins in the series.

Special attention will also be made to the new Pat Summitt Alzheimer’s Clinic, which just opened. This is the first season the “We Back Pat” theme has been carried since the Tennessee legendary Hall of Fame coach passed away last June after a nearly five-year battle fighting the disease.

Also airing from Knoxville, the home of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, comes a first – at halftime during the telecast will be the announcement of the 12 finalists for this year’s class.

Unlike other halls, the WBHOF had never named finalists prior to the actual announcement of the induction class, which, in recent seasons, occurred usually in July at halftime of the WNBA All-Star game.

This time, the class will be named next month and then those available will be welcomed at the Women’s Final Four in Dallas to be celebrated.

The actual induction is still set for June, though that date is likely to be changed because as more notables start to retire from the WNBA, having the ceremony in June when the league is under way prevents many from that sector from attending the event.

At this writing, the Guru does not have the 12 – he’s been very busy this weekend and no need prior to mid-day Monday to know ahead of time – but names that have been mentioned in recent times by backers as worthy candidates are former Queens College coach Lucille Kyvallos from the AIAW era, Los Angeles Sparks coach Brian Agler, who may have gained momentum off the WNBA title in October; Former Penn State coach Rene Portland.