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.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Here we go again: If you didn't happen to live in South Jersey Thursday, you didn't get this story either at philly.com or in Pennsylvania.

So if you thought I wrote something about Rutgers for print, that is a winning guess. :)

Another public service reprint brought to you by the guru.

By Mel Greenberg

When the Rutgers women’s basketball team quickly fell behind, 8-2, against Texas Christian University Tuesday night at Trenton’s Sovereign Bank Arena, the Scarlet Knights appeared to validate the worst fears of coach C. Vivian Stringer.

“I learned that I do not judge well what they look like coming out of the locker room, because I did not think they looked ready,” Stringer said after Rutgers reversed its slide and grabbed an explosive 82-48 victory.

The win was Stringer’s 750th and it came in her 1,000th game on the sideline.

The Cleveland Regional contest was part of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament’s second round.Rutgers (27-4) is the third seed and TCU (19-12) was the 11th seed.

Stringer’s evaluation afterward was much different than her earlier concerns.

“I thought it was the most complete game we played all year,” she said with a smile. “We didn’t lose our intensity. [The Scarlet Knights] were playing with an attitude, being stingy on defense and executing on offense. There is no question that this was our most complete game all year.”

Rutgers also surprised with a seldom-used zone defense.Fifth-year senior Cappie Pondexter, an all-American who likely will be the first or second overall pick in next month’s WNBA draft, led a balanced attack with 24 points.

Sophomore Matee Ajavon had an impressive floor game with 18 points and 13 rebounds, and freshman center Kia Vaughn had 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Next comes a matchup Sunday in Cleveland that Stringer thought would happen before the Women’s Final Four in Boston.Rutgers will meet a powerful Tennessee bunch (30-4) that needed anger management after coach Pat Summitt learned on Selection Monday that the Vols had been given the lowest No. 2 seed in the overall 64-team field.

North Carolina (31-1), the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA, and also the top team in the final Associated Press women’s poll, will meet fourth-seeded Purdue (26-6) in the other semifinal game in Cleveland.

A year ago, Tennessee eliminated Rutgers in the Philadelphia Regional title game at Temple’s Liacouras Center.

The NCAA slight aside, the Vols have been a happy bunch with the return of point guard Alexis Hornbuckle, who had suffered a broken wrist last month and was expected to be out for the rest of the season.

Tennessee then tossed its weapon of mass destruction at Army in the tournament opener.

That would be freshman sensation Candace Parker, who delivered the first dunk in tournament history, followed by a second one.

“Somehow, I’ve known for a long time we’d meet [before the Final Four],” Stringer said of facing Tennessee.

Pondexter shrugged it off, saying, “I guess that’s the way the basketball gods want it to be.”

Contact staff writer Mel Greenberg at 215-854-5725 or mgreenberg@phillynews.com


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