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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.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Fountain of Youth Drowns Rutgers

By Mel Greenberg

NORMAN, Okla. –
There were no revelations, only confirmations, at the State Farm Tip-Off Classic doubleheader Sunday afternoon where No. 9 Georgia overcame No. 11 Rutgers, 78-69, in the first game before host and No. 3 Oklahoma routed No. 20 DePaul, 105-71.

The Georgia-Rutgers game figured to be the more competitive of the two events, and it was. Both teams, which were missing key players, figure to be much better at midseason as they probably will be.

Most important, if Oklahoma doesn’t make it to Cleveland and the NCAA Women’s Final Four, the only acceptable excuse will be if the Sooners match-up early in the Sweet 16 with a similar bonafide national championship contender.

Sophomore 6-foot-4 center Courtney Paris, whom DePaul coach Doug Bruno has labeled a likely successor to Lisa Leslie’s long reign as a the dominant post player for USA Basketball, set a school record with her 34th double, scoring 23 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.

Senior 5-9 guard Chelsi Welch had a career high for the Sooners with 23 points and Courtney’s twin sister Ashley had 16 points.

Erin Carney had 19 rebounds for the Blue Demons and Jenna Rubino scored 18 points for the under-sized visitors in the match-up.

“We had only one player ready to compete and she’s sitting next to me,” Bruno nodded toward Carney.

Meanwhile, Coale used the sister-combo on the floor at the same time more frequently than she had done in the past.

Asked if that would continue, the personable Coale quickly retorted, “Unless I’m absolutely crazy, yes.”

Courtney Paris enjoyed the action inside the paint with her sister.

“It was pretty cool,” Courtney said of the assists that went back and forth. “Playing together all our our lives, it’s nice to see something that we have worked together on for so long come together like that. It was special.”

The only thing special about Rutgers was the Scarlet Knights’ ability to use their defensive prowess to erase a 10-point deficit in the second half and take a 65-62 lead with 3 minutes, 40-seconds left in the game.

However, Georgia recovered to launch a 10-0 run and regain control of the contest.

Bulldogs freshman Ashley Houts scored 18 points, a total matched by teammate Janese Hardrick.

Georgia was also 8-for-16 on three-point attempts vs. Rutgers’ 3-for-17 effort. The Bulldogs also shot 22-for-24 from the foul line, while the Scarlet Knights were just 6-for-8.

Kia Vaughan had 16 points and 10 rebounds for Rutgers, while Essence Carson matched the scoring total with 16 points. Freshman Epiphanny Prince had 14 points in her debut and freshman Brittany Ray scored 10 points but both youngsters were plagued by foul trouble and eventually were disqualified after their fifth miscue.

Tasha Humphrey, a 6-3 junior forward with all-America potential, is currently suspended for under-aged drinking, while on Rutgers’ side 5-8 junior guard Matee Ajavon has missed the preseason with a stress fracture.

If youth was not quite ready for prime time, Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer was in midseason form taking a long while after the final buzzer to address her team before appearing at the post-game press conference.

When she arrived, she bemoaned such mistakes as her players committing 14 of their 19 turnovers in the second half, including a few costly ones after Rutgers had taken the lead.

“We’re just not in condition right now, we couldn’t sustain,” Stringer noted her team’s inability to use its pressure defense more. “We’re just young and made a number of mistakes.

“Our freshmen are young and sometimes you don’t even know what you don’t know,” Stringer continued after team played its first official game in the post-Cappie Pondexter era.

“It’s early in the season and what’s most difficult for us is we have freshmen in all positions,” Stringer said. “It’s one thing if you just have them in the post, or if you have them just in the perimeter, but when you have them as a one, two, three, four, and five, then it’s like – in a couple of years it will be fine, but right now it’s the worst nightmare.”

Georgia hit a bunch of three-pointers at the outset.

“We found ourselves watching,” Stringer said of the Bulldogs’ early air attack. “We don’t play well in the man and we don’t play well in the zone. It’s a victim of the youth. To be honest, we don’t conceptually understand and this is a difficult game to play with our youth.”

Carson spoke of the frustration over problems getting things done with a young lineup around here.

“Like coach said, our youth at times can seriously hurt us,” the 6-foot junior guard said. “I mean, right now it’s just going to take some time. We have to get these concepts together. Once we get them together, I believe we’ll be fine.

“Once we turned up the defense, everything started to fall together. We just have to get points out of that. That’s the best we can do right now – be a defense team and get as many points from that. Hopefully, in time, everything will fall together on the offensive side.”

-- Mel

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