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 30, 2007

Guru's Notes for Quotes and the AP Voting Link

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA _ Hi All. Here is the AP voting link to get to this week's individual member balloting. Also, be sure to drop by the item below your Guru's report in which Acacia filed her most recent report from Balogna, Italy. If we can solve the technology, some photos of her travels will appear soon.

There's some interesting notes from the ongoing data base of AP polling history.

K.B. initials become magic: Did you notice that if you were a coach with the initials K.B., as in Wis.-Green Bay's Kevin Borseth and James Madison's Kenny Brooks, you were able to get your teams into this week's list.

The Big Cheeses: The appearance of Green Bay and Marquette marks the first time that two teams from Wisconsin have appeared in the rankings at the same time. One other team from the Badger State -- Wisconsin -- has also appeared previously.

It's Points - Not Votes: One of the Guru's pet peeves in viewing message boards, releases, etc., is the way the also-rans are tracked.

For the 1,000th-time repeat after me, class: "Points and votes are not the same." Points are derived from the ranking in each voter's list. The points are equal in reverse to the ballot, thus a No. 1 vote is worth 25 points, etc., all the way down to No. 25 at 1 point.

In fact, some teams will have more support with less points. Example: Three people vote for Team A and rank it 20th. That gives the team a total of 18 points. Six people vote for Team B and rank it 24. That gives that team a total 12 points. Notice, team B had more support.

Believe It or Not. On Tuesday night No. 19 Louisville will be in the neighborhood at Villanova for a Big East game that we'll be covering for print. Oddly, in the update just completed by your Guru, Louisville's Tom Collen has just moved ahead of Villanova's Harry Perretta on the active list of coaches' appearances in the poll. Collen, who also had a ranked team at Colorado State , is 40th with 45 appearance. Perretta, all with the Wildcats, is 41st with 44.

Incidentally, Rutgers' return, precisely at the time your Guru predicted back when all those Scarlet Knight fans were jumping off the bandwagon, also marks coach C. Vivian Stringer's 350th appearance, which is fourth behind Tennessee's Pat Summitt (516), Georgia's Andy Landers (408), and Texas' Jody Conradt (395), whose Longhorns dropped out this week.

Stringer is also one of eight coaches and the leader in that category with three different teams in the rankings, including Cheyney and Iowa. Ohio State's Jim Foster, is second on the three-team list with 268 out of St. Joseph's, Vanderbilt, and Ohio State. He is also 10th on the all-time active list, behind, get this, Connecticut's Geno Auriemma, his one-time protege, who has 292.

Stanford's Tara VanDerveer just went ahead of North Carolina State's Kay Yow at seventh on the overall list at 324, just one behind former Louisiana Tech coach Leon Barmore, which doesn't count his combined associate-head coach totals with Sonja Hogg.

VanDerveer is sixth on the active list, behind Penn State's Rene Portland at 336.

And, speaking of Kay Yow, it is great to see her back on the sidelines again with the Wolfpack.

CAA Props. James Madison, which returned to the poll for the first time in 18 seasons, is one of only two teams from the Colonial Athletic Association to appear in the poll. Old Dominion, however, back in the national title glory era, also spent time as a member of the Sun Belt Conference, as an independent, and also in the AIAW days as a school from Region 2.

That's It For Now.

-- Mel

Monday, January 29, 2007

Molto Monday: Come si dice “Nice shot” in italiano?

Guru's Note: The following is the second in a series of reports from our Vassar student-basketball player-turned star foreign correspondent from overseas where she is providing commentary and other reports on her experiences while particpating in a five-month education program based in Balogna, Italy.

Despite one of Acacia's experiences of which she writes further down, the Italian equivalent to the NCAA, as well as FIBA, do not have committees formed at the present time to examine the issue of American female practice basketball players.

By Acacia O'Connor

BOLOGNA, Italy -- Last week, after the first installment of Molto Mondays, Mel suggested I write my next piece in both Italian and English.

I’m not quite sure I’m entirely proficient enough writing-wise to do that (without embarrassing myself to native speakers).

At least not just yet

But, hey, give me a couple of weeks.

However, for now, I hope the following will be a fun step in that direction:

When I was in the Bologna Public Library, I picked up a little pamphlet.

The cover reads: Bologna 10 storie. 10 Bologna Stories.

The stories offer a little insight into different parts of the city.

One of the stories, I was delighted to find, is entitled Bologna Come Basket or Bologna As Basketball.

This is the story of basketball in Bologna.

I'm sure WNBA Phoenix Mercury star Diana Taurasi will find the following an easy read:

“Lo sport più amato a Bologna è forse la pallacanestro.

Negli anni Novanta la città si è guadagnata l’appellativo di Basket City, grazie alla contemporanea presenza ai vertici della Serie A1 delle due squadre bolognesi Virtus e Fortitudo.

Ma la pallacanestro a Bologna ha origini lontane.

Le principali società sportive cittadine vennero fondate già nell’Ottocento.

La Società Sezionale di Ginnastica in Bologna, che poi divenne la Virtus, nacque il 17 gennaio del 1871 in un’aula delle ex scuole San Domenico, per merito del maestro e divulgatore dello sport Emilio Baumann…

La Virtus vinse il campionato cittadino nel 1934, e negli anni successive dispute il torneo di Divisione Nazionale, valendosi anche del primo “straniero”, l’italo-americano Nunzio Stallone…

[Negli anni Sessanta fu costruito] il nuovo palazzetto di Piazza Azzarita (chiamato il Madison o la Bombonera del Basket), ai mitici derby tra i “cugini” della Virtus e della Fortitudo, con la presenza di tanti giocatori di levello internazionale.”

Now, in English for the American crowd.

Basketball is perhaps the best-loved sport in Bologna.

In the 1990s the city garnered the nickname “Basketball City,” thanks to the modern-day presence of the apex of Serie-A1 basketball with the two Bolognese teams, Virtus and Fortitudo.

(From what I can gather, Virtus is from the same latin root of the Italian word virtù, meaning virtue; My best guess with Fortitudo is “fortitude” from the latin root of “forte” meaning strong. Both are men’s teams.)

However, basketball in has a long history in Bologna.

The first athletic society was founded before the 1800s.

The “Società Sezionale di Ginnastica” (Sectional Athletic Society of Bologna), which would later become Virtus, was founded on January 17, 1871 in a room of the old school San Domenico, thanks to director and sport proponent Emilio Baumann.

Virtus won an inter-city championship in 1934, and in the years following competed in the National Division Tournament, making use as well of their first “foreigner”—Italian-American Nunzio Stallone.

In the 1970s the new stadium Piazza Azzarita (called The Madison – I imagine after Madison Square Garden?) was built, alongside the mytical “derby” between the “cousins” –Virtus and Fortitudo, now with the presence of many skilled players at the international level.

Consider this your Bolognese history lesson for the day.

Foreign Affairs or Pick-Up Italian Style

In other news—Sunday I had a great basketball-related social experience.

No, not that kind of pick-up -- but now that I have your attention:

It was an uncommonly beautiful day (it is grey and foggy six days out of seven) and just warm enough to necessitate outdoor exercise.

A couple of my friends and I walked to the nearby “Central Park” of Bologna, Il Giardino Margherita.

They went for a jog and I headed toward the basketball court, bag slung over my shoulder containing the ball I recently purchased from the Nike Store on the main Via.

When I got up to the court, a group of middle-school aged boys were playing a half-court game, and some guys my own age were messing around on the other half. I began shooting around with them.

Soon it became apparent that they were going to begin a half-court game as well.

“Posso giocare con voi?” I asked one kid. “Can I play with you guys?”

They nodded—I had demonstrated I could at least make a shot, so they were game. Plus, with me there were teams for 4 v. 4.

We shot for teams and I introduced myself to my teammates.

“Americana?” a tall kid in sweatpants asked after I pronounced my name.

“Si. Americana.” I replied.

I played with them for over two hours.

My friends had to go on home without me when they were done. But hey, when pickup is good, you stay.

Especially when you haven’t played in over a month.

Playing with these guys was a lot like playing Recreational Intramurals at Vassar.

Except, honestly—at the risk of insulting American basketball playing guys the nation-over—this was probably the most positive pick-up experience I’ve ever had.

My teammates passed me the ball, looked for me to be open, got open themselves; my opponents actually played defense on me (as much as anyone plays defense in pick-up ball).

The fact that I was female seemed to be a non-issue, something that I’ve rarely experienced in a life of playing sports against boys from time to time.

It was strange, since I don’t expect these guys know girls who want to play Basket with them.

But I guess I shouldn’t jump to conclusions.

More than anything, it was fun.

I left the park at dusk, smiling broadly. I might have to make
this a Sunday afternoon ritual.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Big Five Hall of Fame Notes

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA _ Your Guru was at the Big Five Hall of Fame induction ceremonies Thursday night to cover for print the event honoring former Penn star Diana Caramanico and former La Salle star Jen Zenszer, as well as John McAdams, the famed public addressed announcer who passed away in June 2005.

That story is at Philly.com where Jonathan also might have a thing or two at his own blog site in that platform.

Since your Guru managed to leave his ipod in the car, which has a better-sounding tape, and it its quite cold outside, we will come back early Friday afternoon with additional comments from acceptance speeches, although not all in their entirety.

Zenszer, now an FBI agent, and Carmanico were teammates at age 11 and years afterwards for the AAU Fencor team, then were opposing players in high school and college.

It was also the first time that a Big Five men’s player was not inducted in a given year.

Local sportscaster Don Tollefson emceed the ceremonies.

-- Mel

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Temple Aids Rutgers' Recovery

Guru's Note: Space limitations slimmed our print coverage, which is also at Philly.com. This version for the blog also has some enhanced Rutgers items.

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA _ A one-woman show by Temple senior Kamesha Hairston was not nearly enough for the Owls, who dropped a 62-48 nonconference game to Rutgers Wednesday night at the Liacouras Center and parted with an 11-game win streak.

Hairston scored 20 points, the only player in double figures for Temple (15-5), which had beaten the nationally-prominent Scarlet Knights (11-6) twice in their two previous regular season meetings.

Rutgers used a balanced effort with four starters scoring in double figures, led by freshman Epiphanny Prince, who also had 20 points.

Kia Vaughn celebrated her 20th birthday with 13 points, while Heather Zurich and Essence Carson each scored 12 points for Rutgers.

The win enabled the Scarlet Knights to enjoy somewhat of a recovery from Sunday night's Big East visit to then-No. 15 Louisville, where they squandered a 16-point lead in the second half and lost, 53-50.

“I’m much happier than I have been,’’ Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said. ``We were disciplined. And we executed. And we haven’t done that in a long time. It was good to see Epiphanny handle the ball and run the offense.’’

Prince was used at the position by necessity because junior point guard Matee Ajavon, the other starter, spent much of the game on the bench in foul trouble.

As much as the final score might be reflectively of Stringer’s tenacious defense, Temple did enough to implode on its own.

``They just wanted it more,” Hairston said afterwards of a Rutgers squad loaded with high school all-Americans. The group includes freshman Rashidat Junaid, a 6-foot-4 center from Camden Catholic who was the Inquirer’s South Jersey player of the year last season.

Temple’s undoing occurred after the Owls’ senior guard Fatima Maddox’s layup tied the score at 34-34 with 13 minutes, 45 seconds left to play.

Rutgers then went on 21-6 run to grab the outcome as Temple missed a bunch of shots and also made some crucial turnovers.

The Owls, who held a slim 25-24 halftime lead, shot 36.8 percent from the field in the second half, while Rutgers sizzled at 60.9 percent.

``We took too many jump shots early in the second half and we didn’t make them, we didn’t convert,” Temple coach Dawn Staley said. ``Against a team like that, you have to play a little more aggressive and try to get to the basket.

``We got Matee into foul trouble and took a definite threat off the floor and we tried to capitalize on that.’’

Other parts of Staley’s strategy backfired, however.

``We wanted the ball in Zurich’s hands all night,’’ Staley said of the Rutgers sophomore forward. ``We just didn’t want Vaughn to get off a little bit. We played the perfect first half, we just couldn’t duplicate it. We just had turnovers at bad times.’’

Zurich, a sophomore, took advantage by scoring a career-high 12 points, and also set career marks for assists with five, and field goals made on 5-for-7 shooting.

"Heather made a big difference because she was able to take the pressure off of Kia," Stringer said.

"The minute we put Heather in there, she started opening it up," Stringer said of Zurich's outside shots opening the inside. ``If they (Temple) still double downed on Kia, she was hitting the shots.''

Zurich said of her performance, ``I just tried not to hesitate as much on my shot, I guess. My teammates were getting me the ball in places I could score, especially with people doubling on Kia down low.

``My problem is I hesitate too much. I guess that comes under the confidence category. If the shot is there I have to take it. If the pass there, I have to give it up. But, yeah, definitely this will help my confidence.''

Vaughn said of her teammate, ``A lot of people say, `Kia Vaughn,' but without Heather, I wouldn't be there. When Heather is in there, she is the key. She passed very well today. She's calm. Very calm.''

Among Temple teammates who provided little help to support Hairston, was junior center Lady Comfort, who has had some career nights this season, but had just eight points – three in the second half -- and seven rebounds.

``Lady Comfort, I don’t know where she was second half,’’ Staley said. ``She’s got to bring it every night. This is what it is about being a great player. You have to do it on a consistent basis. She didn’t get it done on either side of the ball. She’s working on it, but we needed her.’’

Rutgers next hosts Michigan State Sunday night, while Temple has a major Big Five and Atlantic Ten confrontation at St. Joseph's.

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

Monday, January 22, 2007

Molto Monday: Bologna - A Beautiful City, Not A Lunch Meat

Guru's Note: First, Here's Your Weekly AP Voters Peformance Link.

Secondly, what follows is Acacia's debut as our first foreign correspondent, where she'll be reporting live from Italy.

While the title of the weekly Monday report is what it is at the moment, per her idea, she's willing to change if someone has some other "corny, cutesy" suggestion relating to Italy.

Furthermore, although in a bit Acacia will speak at the top of her story about the nuance of some reports not being directly related to basketball, the Guru points out that since Acacia is a women's basketball player as a member of Vassar's team, that alone is enough to make everything she writes from here on out relative to the Guru' s domain in the cyber world.

-- Mel

By Acacia O’Connor

BOLOGNA, Italy -- I have been living in Italy for about two weeks now, two wonderful weeks – where can I begin?

Let me say, first off, that it seemed strange to me to write what is basically a travel journal piece to add to the blog.

Mel assured me that, as part of the blog’s staff, it is all relevant and to some degree I agree – the beauty of weblogs is that it is as much about the people as the story.

Stories are told by people, and while journalists try to write around this fact by being (hopefully) as impartial as possible, its always an issue. If you’re reading this, you’re probably interested in the points of view as much as the stories.

That said, I will be attending some actual basketball games and covering them as well, very happily.

In fact, Bologna has a lively men’s program, with semi-pro teams as well as amateur leagues and what they call “mini-basket” (Basketball is called simply “basket” here) for young people.

The premier team is called Virtus; it plays in Italy’s Serie A and is somewhat successful from what I can tell. NBA vet Travis Best is on the Bologna squad, and they play teams with scores of American players.

On the women’s side, there are three or four teams within an hour from the city here including one in Parma. The star of the Parma team is the WNBA Connecticut Sun's Megan Mahoney, who also starred at Kansas State.

Parma is a short train ride from Bologna, very accessible and home of the most delicious pasta I have ever tasted in my life – tortelli filled with zucche (pumpkin) courtesy of the Trattoria dei Corrieri restaurant.

Back to Bologna. (By the way, it is pronounced boh-loh-nya not—for the love of Italy—baloney.)

I’m living in a suite in a University studentato (dormitory) with three Italian roommates. While this does present a challenge from the get-go, it is in my opinion one of the best things the Eastern College Consortium Program, run by Vassar, Wellesley and Weslyan, has to offer.

If I were on any other program here I’d be living with American students, speaking English the majority of the time and learning half as much.

For another two weeks I’ll be taking an intensive language course with my program peers that serves as a sort of refresher or grammar band-aid. Once this ends, I’ll begin courses either with the ECCo Program or at the actual University.

Many many people have said that the pace of life in Italy is very different than that from the States. I am here to tell you that truer words have never been said.

I’ve found myself getting up earlier and going to bed earlier, eating at odd hours and having large chunks of free time.

In the states, our work is our lives (*cough*Mel?); here you work to live, but the pressure isn’t nearly as strong. That is not to say either is right or wrong or preferable, just that they are entirely different.

There are definite drawbacks to the Italian pace—if you need something done (say, a wireless connection added in your dorm room…), it will get done, but how long it will take before it gets done is a big question mark.

And you have to accept it, as much as you may be used to instant accountability and gratification.

I find it agrees with me though—it’s certainly a nice break from last semester’s pressurized life of deadlines, dates and little sleep.

I could go on for probably about 10,000 words—food, the city itself, my excursions so far, the University—but I’ll take a few days pause for now.

From here on out I plan to drop a feature weekly, with Mel’s help and approval.

So until next week, pace, amore e tortellini dalla bella Bologna.

-- Acacia

Duke-Tennessee: The Polls Are Closed - For Now

By Mel Greenberg

The first of two major clashes this week will occur Monday night when No. 4 Tennessee hosts top-ranked Duke in Knoxville.

Media voting for the new Associated Press women's poll closed Sunday night, so even though some of the populace will see a result of the game and then the next poll afterwards, they'll find the balloting totals not reflective of the outcome of the game.

The new poll will be released Monday afternoon.

Ah, but some of you are thinking, didn't everything get put on hold in 1995 when Tennessee and Connecticut met in the famous 1-2 match on a Monday afternoon?

That is correct, but the dynamics were slightly different.

The game that year in Storrs, Conn., was the only significant game being played on a Monday.

On the original schedule, the new poll, then on an alternating first-release cycle between afternoon and and morning editions, was not going to make its first appearance until the middle of the night.

The voting would have been completed, as usual, on Sunday.

However, the thinking back in 1995 was if Connecticut upsets Tennessee in the afternoon and the weekly voting results would be released a few hours later with the Volunteers still holding the top spot, it would have looked a little awkward.

This time, the new week of competition will be well under way. Besides, Monday night's result is only a piece of the equation to determine the upper spots over the next seven days.

On Sunday night, North Carolina, currently the No. 2 team to Duke, will visit No. 3 Maryland before a sellout crowd of 18,000 plus at the Comcast Center in College Park, Md.

It will be the first meeting of the Atlantic Coast Conference rivals since the Terrapins upset the Tar Heels in the national semifinals in Boston on the way to the NCAA title. That triumph carried Maryland to the No. 1 spot in the poll to start this season and the Terrpins stayed there until a little over a week ago when they fell to Duke in Durham, N.C.

So the logic seems to work this way. If Duke wins Monday night, No. 1 will be settled for next time around a week from now.

But if Tennessee wins, well, a North Carolina win over Maryland would seem to put the Tar Heels at the top because they'll still be unbeaten, assuming the other games this week play out as expected, and Ivory Latta and company already own a victory over Tennessee.

Now if Tennessee wins its game, but North Carolina loses its game, depending how both results are achieved, the top spot will be thrown wide open.

Rutgers' Rocky Road

Just when the Scarlet Knights seemed poised to return to the rankings, Rutgers managed to squander a second-half lead to then-No. 15 Louisville, Sunday night, in a Big East game in Kentucky that continued to accent Rutgers' problems away from home.

That setback sets the scene for a dandy here in Philadelphia on Wednesday night when Rutgers visits Temple, a team that has upset the Scarlet Knights twice in the regular season the last two years.

``It's one of the few times this year, we'll be the team with a little more experience,'' Temple coach Dawn Staley said after the Owls beat Rhode Island in an Atlantic Ten game at the Liacouras Center.

This game didn't seem to have doubt in the outcome back in November in terms of Rutgers' ability to prevail.

Although the Scarlet Knights had lost all-American Cappie Pondexter to graduation, Rutgers seemed to be more loaded on talent that would have life figured out in terms of C. Vivian Stringer's defense by the time the two would meet.

Temple was re-grouping after the graduation of its all-American Candice Dupree.

Although Rutgers' nonconference schedule could be considered tougher, Temple still saw its share of seasoned outside opponents and grew to believe in itself when a second-half comeback almost topped Maryland here in Philadelphia.

"We learned we could play with anybody," Staley said of her team's pre-Atlantic Ten opponents.

Senior Kamesha Hairston has taken over the leadership role with Dupree now going against Pondexter in the WNBA.

Incidentally, with Dupree in the stands Wednesday night and former Scarlet Knights star Chelsea Newton as part of Stringer's staff, there will be at least two members of the Chicago Sky in the house since the two are teammates in the pros.

Since the Maryland game, Temple has won 11 straight and a win over Rutgers would put the Owls back on the national radar. Staley's bunch, if they lose, still has a few opportunities to gain at-large consideration if they continue their Atlantic Ten run straight into an end-of-the-regular-season game in the nation's capital against George Washington.

A Rutgers loss would make the Scarlet Knights' Big Dance prospects a little shaky, but with two games against Connecticut, at least, still on the horizon, it won't be the end of the world.

One note of disappointment is that somehow the Temple women will be playing at the same time that the Temple men's team will be at The Palestra with new coach Fran Dunphy going against Penn, the team he coached prior to moving to North Broad St. in the offseason.

And, the Penn women will be at St. Joseph's at the same time playing a Big Five game.

Sunday, the local fan base will get some separation. George Washington will be at La Salle at 1 p.m., while St. Joseph's will be hosting Temple at 5 p.m. If the Hawks beat Penn, they will be in position to dethrone Temple as Big Five champions on Sunday.

Incidentally, former Temple men's coach John Chaney was at the women's game Saturday and Staley had this to say about the Hall of Famer:

"He always tells me he loves me, so that's always a good thing," Staley said. `Coach' is `coach.' He has certainly helped me develop into a feisty coach, a cussin' coach, take no holds barred, and a discipline coach. He's someone I looked at to instill discipline in our players, and to approach the game a certain way.

"When you do it that way, you put yourself in position to get a few wins that you would not otherwise."

Chaney will be at the game Wednesday, also in part, because he and Stringer go back years ago to when they coached together at Cheyney out in the suburbs.

'Fame Comes to Caramanico and Zenzser.

The late John McAdams, the longtime Palestra and Big Five announcer, will be inducted into the Big Five Hall of Fame later this week along with Penn all-time scorer Diana Caramanico and La Salle star Jen Zenzser, who was a four-time All Big Five Team Member and Academic All American.

Caramanico was a three-time Big Five women's player of the year who led the Quakers to their first Ivy title. A year ago, she married former Penn men's star Jeff Owens.

Depending who's handling this week's print coverage of the event in The Inquirer, we'll have more to say either here or at Philly.com.

Items from Italy

Acacia will be filing her first report from Balogna later Monday and is dreaming up some ``catchy, corny phrase,'' for a weekly report from overseas until she completes her studies at the end of May.

-- Mel

Friday, January 19, 2007

Maryland Leaps Over Virginia Back to Win Column

Guru's Note: A shorter Inquirer print version of the Maryland-Virginia Game is at Philly.Com

By Mel Greenberg

COLLEGE PARK, Md. _ Maryland made it three straight over Virginia Friday night for the first time since the end of the 1980s by thumping the Cavaliers, 95-68, in an Atlantic Coast Conference game in front of an animated crowd of 11,118 at the Comcast Center.

True, the Terrapins (18-2, 2-1 ACC) had a week of pent-up anger to build over the recent upset loss to Duke that knocked the defending NCAA champions from the unbeaten column.

But Virginia (12-6, 2-2) is its own animal on Maryland's list of traditional rivals. In the early 1990s both schools were at the top of the conference and among the nation's best leading to the famous 1-2 game -- the Terrapins- first-ever sellout, which was in the former Cole Fieldhouse facility.

But beginning in 1993, the Cavaliers launched a 23-1 stretch that finally began to reverse after Brenda Freese's arrival here. Maryland has now won five the last seven in the series.

The Terrapins led most of Friday night except twice in the early going and built a 42-27 halftime lead. In the second half, the Maryland advantage moved into the 20s and stayed there the rest of the way.

Laura Harper, the MVP for Maryland in last season's NCAA Final Four, had 28 points, eight rebounds, and five blocks in 23 minutes and was the proud recipient late in the game of a behind-the-back inside pass for a layup that had her dancing around after she scored.

Crystal Langhorne had 17 points and 12 rebounds, Marissa Coleman scored 16 points, and Kristi Toliver had 20 points. She had a trio of three-pointers, including one that just beat the shot clock, which recalled her shot in the national title game against Duke that sent the action into overtime before Maryland prevailed.

When one of the reporters in the post-game referred to the play and the Maryland perimeter shooter as "Cool Hand Kristi," Harper and Langhorne burst into laughter thinking a new nickname had been coined for Toliver out of the blue.

It was later explained to both of them, the phrase came in reference to the Paul Newman movie "Cool Hand Luke," a film never seen by either Harper or Langhorne. And no, this reporter was not the one to suggest the nickname.

Returning to the statistics, Lyndra Littles had 23 points for the Cavaliers, Siedah Williams scored 12, and Monica Wright and Paulisha Kellum each scored 10. Junior Sharnee Zoll, who has proclaimed herself to be chasing Dawn Staley's 729 career assist record at Virginia, dealt 11 Friday night to bring her total to 463.

Wright was limited in the first half by two personal fouls.

Maryland used its inside strength for a 49-32 advantage on the backboards and also shot 22-for-27 from the line while Virginia was 6-for-10.

When some discussed the growing strength of the Atlantic Coast Conference, Harper responded that she and her teammates were not threatened

Elsewhere this weekend, Rutgers is at Louisville, Sunday, for a major road test in the Big East for the suddenly resilient Scarlet Knights. South Florida is at Pittsburgh, Saturday, in another major Big East clash. Connecticut makes a Madison Square Garden appearance Sunday against St. John's.

Hofstra has a big advance sale for Delaware Sunday and expects to set a program attendance record for the showdown in the Colonial Athletic Association.

George Washington, whose coach Joe McKeown just won his 400th career game, is at Xavier in a key Atlantic Ten contest.

-- Mel

Imperfect Win Keeps Delaware Perfect in CAA

By Mel Greenberg

NEWARK, Del. - Back in the days of not so long ago when William & Mary was a doormat in the Colonial Athletic Association, there used to a backroom joke about making the match fair with a doubleheader.

In the first half, the other team was going to play Willam and then play Mary in the second half, or vice versa.

The Tribe is no longer a laughing matter to opponents, but we thought about that old saying in watching Delaware's struggle until the Blue Hens emerged with a 68-55 win Thursday night at the Bob Carpenter Center.

Delaware (15-2, 6-0 CAA), which has designs on a spot in the NCAA tournament, had all kinds of difficulty controlling William & Mary in the first half and went to the break trailing the Tribe, 30-24.

"I was not happy at halftime," Delaware coach Tina Martin said after the Blue Hens won their 10th straight.

No kidding.

With a re-match at Hofstra ahead Sunday followed by a visit to James Madison, two of the CAA's top contenders, this was not the time to get tripped up, especially with perennial champion Old Dominion returning to life in conference play following a dismal effort against non-CAA foes.

Despite Martin's appeal to urgency, it still took a while for her team to look like the conference power it had been.

William & Mary (11-6, 3-3) continued to prevail early in the second half and seemed in solid control with a 40-30 advantage with 15 minutes, 44 seconds left in the game Kyra Kaylor, the CAA player of the year last season, nailed a three-pointer.

But then the Blue Hens went to a man-to-man defense, intensified the pressure in the backcourt and began snipping away at their deficit.

"We play the match-up more, but we can use the man-to-man," Martin said of her defensive strategy.

Alena Koshansky, who had five steals, used one of them to score and put Delaware ahead, 46-45 with 9:39 left. Tyresa Smith, who finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds, kept the Blue Hens ahead with a basket and from that point on, William & Mary seemed to deflate.

Chrissy Fisher also scored in double figures for Delaware with 15 points, while Kyle DeHaven parked her pre-game emotions to score 10 points and deal five assists off the bench.

DeHaven is a first-year transfer from William & Mary and played against her former team for the first time.

"I thought the first half was one of the worst halves we've played defensively all year," Martin said, but brushed aside any suggestion Delaware was looking ahead.

"It wasn't that, I'm not quite sure what it was. But we seemed to be out of step and we took too many chances, and that created openings for William & Mary," Martin explained.

"We did what we needed to do to win, and that's what good teams do," she added. "Now these next two games will tell us a lot more about ourselves playing on the road. Hofstra went to wire here and I'm sure it will go to the wire again.

"It's a quirk in the schedule we're seeing them again so soon, but that's the way it is."

Guru's Note. Friday night we'll be on the scene in College Park when Maryland hosts Virginia in an Atlantic Coast Conference tilt.

"It's the Terrapins' first outing since being shot down from their No. 1 ranking by ACC-rival Duke on Saturday in Durham, N.C., in a game that rematched last season's NCAA title game won by Maryland in Boston.

Temple survived Massachusetts in Amherst, Saturday, for the Owls' 10th straight win. Coach Dawn Staley's squad will host Rhode Island Saturday afternoon and then prepare for a visit from Rutgers on Wednesday in a game that will have some kind of NCAA-implication attached to it.

The Scarlet Knights will be at nationally-ranked Louisville Sunday night in a Big East Conference game and a win might return Rutgers to the rankings in time for the Temple game.

-- Mel

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

AP Voting Link Week 11

By Mel Greenberg

Here is the AP voting link for week No. 11, which will show which way we all went in handing over a No. 1 to a new team after Duke's upset of Maryland.

It appears the next two weeks will be interesting.

We hear about the Minnesota controversy from some sources that a decision will be announced Wednesday. Although it is not likely that the game would be reversed in Minnesota's favor if it is ruled the officials erred at the end of the game Sunday, it happened once in baseball.

That was the famous pine tar incident involving the bat of former Kansas City star George Brett in 1983 when he hit a homer to seemingly win a game in the ninth inning against the New York Yankees.

The Yankees then protested excessive use of pine tar on the bat and the umpire disallowed the homer. But the league reversed the ruling and the game was continued from the point of the homer.

It's possible that other ways a ruling may go if a remedy for Minnesota is to put an asterisk on the game or count it as a no-game.

What Minnesota is looking at is a long-range effect on the Gophers' chances to get in the NCAA tournament if Sunday's game goes against them. But, one would think, that if the NCAA selection committee is trying to pick apart teams for spots and the loss with a last-second shot against Minnesota should not have been allowed, and that factor is the difference between invite and no invite, someone would be smart enough to let justice prevail.

But, the Guru later in his life many times in these situations refers to the old adage about putting games in the hands of officials, which, based on Minnesota coach Orton's postgame comments, sounds like that is just what the Gophers did.

Incidentally, we forgot to give a local-girl-makes-good shout out to Sarah Lowe, a former Florida star who graduated last season and also went to Lower Merion in the Philadelphia suburbs.

Lowe was recently named a winner of the Woody Hayes national scholar athlete award, a scholarship that goes to a man and woman in each of the three NCAA divisions.

Her brother Ben is a friend of ours who did an outstanding job reporting here at The Inquirer, but was a victim in the recent layoffs. He is now working at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

We'll be back with more later Tuesday.

-- Mel

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Guru's Musings for a Monday Morning

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA -- Sometime later Monday afternoon, the new AP poll will be out and with it a new No. 1 team after Maryland's loss to Duke on Saturday. I'll put the link in current blog later Monday but it's the same one every week so if you don't want to wait until your Guru saunters back in here in the afternoon, you can use last week's ap link to get there. If you see a week 11, you'll know you're looking at the votes for Jan. 15.

Speaking of Durham doings, answer to a frequently-asked question on Sunday: Yes, I made it to the Angus Barn and the meal was great as always.

No, I did not stay down in the triangle for the Carolina-Connecticut game, but we may have someone on the scene.

Speaking of the scene, Acacia has sent a quick note of arrival in Italy so the bureau is up and running and she hopes to file something short real soon.

Jonathan's new blog - why do I feel like a TV series with spinoffs -- launches today (Monday) and we'll provide details in the next post later Monday.

On Sunday, 48 hours after watching Penn squander a 16-point lead Friday night in the Palestra, St. Joseph's managed to give up a 15-point second-half advantage in losing at home to Richmond in double overtime.

Our print story is at Philly.com. But since second-year Spiders coach Mike Shafer mentioned to us he's a fan of the blog, we'll give our thanks by publishing his postgame quotes here that got cut from our print story.

"Our schedule helped us a little bit there," Shafer said. "We've been in this situation many, many times and have been able to overcome.

"For us to be able to come up here and beat St. Joes on their home court is just a huge win. And for us to be able to come back is overwhelming.

"This gives you the thought we can do this anytime, any place. I'm not saying we can beat any team in the country but the experienced team wins like this."

On the big performance by former Archbishop Carroll star Katie Holzer's performance in her first homecoming visit (Richmond returns her soon against La Salle), Shafer smiled and said, "Isn't that how it's supposed to be? It's great she was able to do in front of her family."

Froim the whatever happened to department: We noticed a blurb from Texas-Commerce over the weekend noting that: "Sophomore Britney Jordan recorded her second double-double of the season and paced four Lions in double figures as Texas A&M-Commerce won its school record seventh in a row with a 80-51 win over Texas A&M-Kingsville on
Saturday afternoon.

The Peoria, Illinois native had 16 points and 10 assists as Texas
A&M-Commerce raised its record to 12-6.''

Yes, that's the same Britney Jordan who arrived at Temple several years ago as the first super blue chip player to commit to a Big Five school. She left a year later, however.

Ironically, she was going to be the player to get the Owls to the next level. Temple eventually got there, but on the work of all-American Candice Dupree.

But the item reminds us that at the time of her announcement to go to Temple, former assistant coach Ed Baldwin mentioned another recruit in the same class that may ultimately make the bigger name for herself -- That would be one Kamesha Hairston, the Toledo native who now finds herself in contention for Atlantic Ten and Big Five player of the year.

Temple has now won nine in a row, proving that there would be life after Dupree.

We can't predict the outcome of DePaul's visit to Villanova in a Big East game Tuesday night, but are sure our good friend Blue Demons coach Doug Bruno will be deservedly moaning about his roster shrinkage due to injuries.

If he can make it in time, Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw may be in the house since he had a long association with Bruno when he was the athletic director at DePaul.

And on that note, it's time to beat the sunrise home.

-- Mel

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Harding Powers Duke's Upset of Maryland

By Mel Greenberg

DURHAM, N.C._ Duke senior guard Lindsey Harding made sure her No. 3 Blue Devils would be the ones standing instead of top-ranked Maryland in the battle of unbeatens Saturday afternoon at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Harding delighted most of the sellout and vocal crowd of 9,314 by scoring a career-high 28 points as Duke stopped the defending NCAA champion Terrapins, 81-62.

``I knew today that when I had my mind made up to get to the basket, then I knew I could get there,” Harding said of the showdown, both nationally and in the Atlantic Coast Conference. ``I had a little trouble finishing at times, but I felt in the zone. I felt just take it and take it because they weren’t stopping me, so I just kept attacking.”

Maybe it shouldn’t be surprising the way Harding energized the place.

In an answer to a question in the Blue Devils’ media guide, the native of Houston, Texas, said her favorite Halloween costume was when she once dressed as a Duracell battery.

Harding wasn’t a one-woman show, either, by the Blue Devils (18-0, 4-0 ACC).

Senior center Allison Bales did nothing to detract from WNBA Phoenix coach Paul Westhead’s evaluation in his hunt for a post player in next April’s draft. The Mercury have the top pick.

``I’m here looking for No. 1,” Westhead joked about being on the trail searching for prospects.

No one knows for sure, including Westhead, that Bales’ name will be the first he’ll call when the selection process begins.

But Bales certainly seemed an attractive candidate, Saturday, with 18 points, 12 rebounds, and seven blocked shots to disrupt Maryland’s attack. Wasnisha Smith added 15 points for Duke, and Abby Waner scored 11.

Seattle Storm coach Anne Donovan, who will also coach the 2008 Olympic team in Beijing, was also on press row as was Indiana Fever coach Brian Winters.

The Terrapins (18-1, 2-1), who are likely to be replaced by the Blue Devils at the top of the Associated Press poll, got 14 points from Willingboro High’s Crystal Langhorne and 11 from senior guard Shay Doron, who was limited to 19 minutes due to foul trouble.

Cheltenham High’s Laura Harper was held to 7 points.

Bales was responsible for a lot of futility dealt to the talented Maryland post players.

``Langhorne and Harper are really, really talented players, and I think for our team to step up, I’m really the only veteran post player. We have three, but not with a ton of big game experience and I think they really did well today,especially Carrem (Gray), just executing Coach’s game plan and really stopping what they wanted to do.’’

Maryland took an early lead in a closely-fought first-half that turned in the Blue Devils’ direction near the break as they rode to a 41-30 advantage.

Of course Duke had a sizeable lead in the Blue Devils’ last meeting with the Terrapins when they went ahead by 13 points in the NCAA title game in Boston, only to lose in overtime last April and add to their history of heartbreak in postseason play.

“I said, `I don’t care about a lead,’” Duke coach Gail Goestenkors joked with recollections over last year’s loss. ```I don’t care about a lead right now. I don’t want a secure lead or hold on to a lead.’

```We started the game being aggressive and attacking. We’re going to finish the game being aggressive and attacking.’ I don’t care what the score is. And I thought we came out in the second half and did that, as well,” Goestenkors added.

Maryland had been riding off a great postseason run to the championship and into the front end of this season until Saturday’s setback.

``I thought this game, we were outworked, outhustled, outplayed, outcoached, you name it,’’ Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. ``I thought Duke obviously was the dominant team. They made a huge statement coming into this game and played hard and very aggressive for 40 minutes.’’

There was a time when matchups such as Saturday’s with the sellout ambience were only a rare occurrence such as the annual Connecticut-Tennessee battle.

But with three ACC teams monopolizing the first three spots in the AP poll, more mega-sellouts involving high-powered schools are still ahead.

Maryland, for example, has already sold out in advance its two home games with Duke and North Carolina in the 18,000-seat Comcast Center in College Park.

The Blue Devils are finally over getting stage fright when playing in front of large home crowds, such as the first sellout in 2003 when Connecticut came here as the No. 2 team and beat Duke, then ranked No.1.

``The first time when you play in front of a sellout, whether at home or on the road, it’s a new experience,’’ Goestenkors said. ``I remember that UConn game, our players were so nervous, even though we were at home, for it to be our first sellout, it was tough for us.

``And UConn, at that time, it was so comfortable because every game they had was a sellout,” Goestenkors continued. ``Now, we’re used to it. We’re comfortable with it. We love when we have a sellout. And it actually elevates our level of play.’’

Speaking of UConn, the next big attraction in this area is just two days away. The Huskies will visit North Carolina down the road Monday night in nearby Chapel Hill.

-- Mel


By Jonathan Tannenwald

So here I was, sitting in my hotel room after covering the Penn-Cornell men's game for the Inquirer ... in the middle of writing a post wishing Erin a happy birthday and writing something about the Duke-Maryland game and a little teaser (as it's called on the print side) about the blog ...

And I look on the site and all of a sudden there's a post from Mel blowing the cover off it all. Oh well. But I can throw in a bit of an extra angle on the Duke-Maryland game, which Mel is fortunate to be attending given that it's the seventh sellout for a women's game in Cameron Indoor Stadium history.

(As an aside, this writer has been in that storied venue before, having covered last season's Penn-Duke men's game for the Philadelphia Daily News as well as Penn's student newspaper. I have a feeling that the buzz among the Cameron Crazies tomorrow will be a nice sight to behold, given the ferocity of the recent rivalry between Duke and Maryland on the men's side. Probably better than it was when I was there, which was an early-December game against a non-conference opponent of relatively little consequence by Duke standards.)

Anyway. The 12:30 p.m. ET showdown will air on your local Fox Sports Net affiliate, but it will not air in the Philadelphia region. The relevant station, Comcast SportsNet, will be fulfilling its Atlantic 10 contract instead with a men's game between Temple and Massachusetts. Now of course, the Owls are of some consequence to the Philadelphia college hoops scene, even in their down years, so that decision is understandable. Nonetheless, it's too bad for fans of the women's game, not least because two of Maryland's players -- Crystal Langhorne and Laura Harper -- are from the Philadelphia area.

Finally, there will indeed be more news to come on the subject of the aforementioned new Philly.com blog. I'll let Mel handle the media relations side of the thing, and that will all take place Monday.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Guru Punches In As Penn Punches Out

Guru's Notes: Teenage memories are about to become part of Erin's history. On Saturday, she will turn 20 and celebrate her birthday in Boston, where she is rowing for Northeastern University.

Wish her happy birthday. She'll also be on the scene Sunday at Northeastern for us when the Drexel women's team visits. Incidentially, we noticed her recent post on last week's Connecticut-Tennessee game has drawn heavy traffic, especially from Huskies nation.

Meanwhile, yet another contributor will soon join the blog.

Karen Tucker, the former UConn women's and WNBA Connecticut Sun sportswriter for the New Haven Register, who is now director of basketball relations for the
Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn., will get a chance to keep her writing muscles in shape.

As a member of the Guru's Tennessee local organizing committee for his induction to the Women's Hall in ceremonies, June 8-9, Karen is in position, obviously, to directly inform you of related events in addition to the Guru's announcements in several months when the countdown begins to get serious.

Her previous occupation enables Karen to write features as she has time for us, offer additional stories on Knoxville events and even provide coverage of key Tennessee home games in the same way Erin has been on the scene for us in Storrs and Hartford with UConn.

Oh, and Jonathan, who is running around somewhere in upstate New York and whatever this weekend with the Penn's men's team for our print edition, has a new blog of his own appearing, we think, on Philly.com, and we'll tell you more when his email appears.

That said, the Guru presents Friday's log before it becomes Saturday and wish Erin happy birthday through whatever contact means available.

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA _ How long does it take to book a last-minute flight on the internet to Duke in Durham, N.C., for Saturday’s Atlantic Coast Conference showdown with NCAA defending-champion Maryland?

Long enough for the Penn women’s team to squander a 16-point lead here in the Palestra on the way to an Ivy League loss to Cornell, 67-58.

Yep, that’s what happened Friday night in a quick sequence of events.

Penn (4-9, 0-2 Ivy) jumped off to a 22-6 lead over the Big Red (5-9, 1-0) with 10 minutes, 50 second left in the first half Friday night.

Cornell then managed to shave a chunk of that deficit off before the half and went to the break, trailing 34-27.

At that precise moment, the Guru learned through the magic of blackberry email that his second of several travel options for Saturday was no longer in play.

He quickly scurried for the media room to see if a very cheap Saturday early morning flight to Raleigh-Durham Airport was still alive.

One seat was still available. So with a tentative credential already in place at soldout Cameron Indoor Stadium and the distant scent of the Angus Barn Steakhouse near the RDU airport inside the Guru’s mind, he hit the keyboard of the laptop and became part of the flight’s passenger list.

The meeting will be the first between Duke and Maryland since the Terrapins’ thrilling upset victory over the Blue Devils in April in overtime to win their first NCAA title.

That triumph and a roster virtually intact with even more talented additions enabled coach Brenda Frese’s bunch to hit this season as the No. 1 ranked team, a spot they’ve held unbeaten into their first major showdown.

Duke, also unbeaten, has worked its way to the No. 3 slot, and it has been a 1-2-3 hold on the top of the Associated Poll by the Atlantic Coast Conference for the last several weeks with North Carolina, also unbeaten, located between the other two powers.

Meanwhile, on Friday night as the Guru returned to the game a few minutes in the second half after punching the airline ticket, the scoreboard reflected that Penn was having trouble punching a victory into its won-loss record.

Quakers coach Pat Knapp looked at the Quakers’ dismal second-half shooting from the field at 25 percent after a torrid 59 percent in the first half as a cause of his team’s demise.

Kayleen Fitzsimmons of Cornell tied Penn’s Joey Rhoads for game-scoring honors with 17 points each. Jeomi Maduka scored 13 points for the Big Red and Gretchen Gregg had 11.

Monica Naltner had 12 points for the Quakers, well below her 19.1 average, and Lauren Pears and Anca Popovici each had 11 points.

“We obviously didn’t show up to start the game,” Cornell coach Dayna Smith said. ``Defensively, we didn’t stick to our game plan.’’

It was a homecoming of sorts for Smith, who was an assistant to former Penn coach Kelly Greenberg, who is now at Boston U.

Several Cornell players also call the area home, including freshman Allie Fedorowicz, a St. Basil’s Academy graduate who is a niece of Greenberg’s.

Freshman Virginia McMunigal is a graduate of Penn Charter, Claire Perry is a graduate of Mount St. Joe’s Academy, and junior Lindsay Krasna is a graduate of Pennsbury High.

“This game was obviously a gut check for us,” Smith said of her team who will play at Princeton, Saturday night. Columbia will visit Penn.

Asked about getting over the loss in a quick turnaround, Rhoads began by stating, ``We’re pretty (ticked) off right now,’’ she said.

St. Joseph’s tops La Salle in afternoon Atlantic Ten/Big Five game on Hawk Hill.

Earlier our day began with a noontime game at Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse between the Hawks and Explorers.

That coverage went to print to top Friday night’s women’s roundup in The Inquirer.

Because the story probably shrunk between editions due to space constraints and later games at night, here is the original pre-edited version with an extra quote thrown in the story that we couldn’t fit at the time of our submission.

By Mel Greenberg


St. Joseph’s turned La Salle’s best weapon of recent games against the Explorers Friday afternoon to gain a 71-60 triumph at Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse.

The victory by the Hawks (8-7, 1-1 Atlantic Ten) counted both in the Atlantic Ten Conference and Big Five title chases.

St. Joseph’s and Temple are the only teams still unbeaten in the City Series round-robin at 2-0. La Salle (13-4, 1-1) fell to 2-1 in the Big Five.

``Actually, getting the first Atlantic Ten home win is what we were concentrating on more,’’ St. Joseph’s coach Cindy Griffin said. ``But being 2-0 is also a great place to be and puts us in contention to win the Big Five.’’

La Salle had tied a school record recently with 11 three-pointers in the Explorers’ previous two games to add to three other times they hit that total in their history.

That long-range number re-appeared in the statistics yesterday, but this time the total was achieved by the Hawks, who shot 11-for-24 from beyond the arc.

St. Joseph’s senior Ayahna Cornish, who scored 20 points, was 3-for-7 in three point attempts, while Jen Oyler shot 5-for-8 in the category on the way to 18 points. All nine of Jenna Loschiavo’s points came off of a 3-for-5 effort shooting the three. Whitney Ffrench also scored in double figures with 10 points.

La Salle, which was only 4-of-7 on three point attempts, got 20 points each from Carlene Hightower and Crista Ricketts, and 11 from Jamie Walsh. Melanie Gibbons and Ricketts each grabbed 12 rebounds for the Explorers, who had a 43-30 advantage on the backboards.

``We showed a lot of toughness on the part of our shooters, especially Loschiavo’’ Griffin said of the Hawks’ long-range scorers. ``She was 0-for-4 in the first half and then it became 0-for-5, but then she was 3-for-3. That just shows the mental toughness in coming back and taking that sixth shot, take that seventh shot, and that eighth shot.’’

St. Joseph’s trailed only once in a closely-fought first half in which the Hawks held a 30-27 lead at the end of the period.

They stayed ahead the rest of the way, turning aside several La Salle rallies. Oyler’s trey got the Hawks’ lead into double digits at 57-45 with 8 minutes, 16 seconds left in the game.

``I hadn’t been shooting that well or getting that may looks (shots at the basket) the last couple of games,” Oyler said of her performance. “So, yeah it felt good.’’

It didn’t feel that great for La Salle coach Tom Lochner.

``We spent two days identifying them as the shooters (Oyler and Loschiavo) and we made mistakes and they made us pay for it,” he said.

Although Hightower had another outstanding effort, the loss nullified any joy over her performance.

``When shooters can shoot, we just have to be in their face and make them do something else,’’ Hightower said. ``Our coaches pounded that into our heads for three days. So we just have to get better at that.’’

Temple 73, St. Bonaventure 55 – Kamesha Hairston scored 20 points, Fatima Maddox had 16, and Lady Comfort scored 12 as the Owls (12-4, 2-0 A-10) won an Atlantic Ten Conference game against the Bonnies (10-7, 0-2) in Olean, N.Y. Temple had won eight straight.

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

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Candace Parker and Tennessee Overcome UConn in Hartford

by Erin Semagin Damio

I'd like to preface this article by saying that I did grow up in Storrs. I did go to high school on the UConn campus, and occasionally ran into Huskies while I was doing research at the UConn Library, or eating at a cafe on campus. In other words, I was raised in the epicenter of the Connecticut women's basketball mania, and I am a Huskies fan.

That said, Saturday's game was one of the best basketball games I've seen in a long time, regardless of the outcome. If you didn't see it, and you have the chance, I'd highly recommend it. Tremendous effort by both teams, and all the players, who really left it all out on the court. Also, the fans in the Hartford Civic Center were excellent. It's great to remember what it was like when all the games sold out. It was nice to see the Tennessee fans who drove or flew up to support their team (and they didn't even have to deal with cold weather!).

The point of the first paragraph was simply that I have tried very hard to look at this game objectively, and I think succeeded for the most part (though certainly not to the extent that Mel, who lives in between the schools and is friends with both coaches, would). Behind that objectivity though, I'll always be from Connecticut, and I just want readers to be aware of that.

Hartford, Conn. – When Connecticut and Tennessee played each other on January 4, 2003, in Hartford, Tennessee had an eight-point lead with five minutes to play.

Tennessee had led for most of the second half, expanding their lead, and their eight points should have been solid, but Diana Taurasi fueled a Huskies run, hitting a three-pointer to send the game into overtime, and a jumper to win the game.

This time, there was no Diana Taurasi. There was Candace Parker.

The redshirt sophomore had 30 points, 12 rebounds, 6 blocks, 4 assists, and a steal, playing all 40 minutes to give Tennessee a 70-64 victory over Connecticut in Hartford this past Saturday.

The Huskies didn’t seem to be operating on all cylinders. Only Charde Houston (23 points, 8 rebounds) scored in double figures for UConn, and leading scorer Renee Montgomery shot 2-11, finishing the game with 4 points.

Tennessee was operating on Parker’s cylinder. Outside of Parker, the Lady Vols scored just 40 points, and only Sidney Spencer (14 points, 9 rebounds, 3 steals) joined Parker in double figures.

“As the game went on, she just got better and better,” Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said about Parker, “and she’s better under pressure. To have a go-to player like Candace opens up other players.”

Of course, the play of the game that got replays on CBS and ESPN -- that those who don’t follow women’s basketball, and don’t know that the UConn-Tennessee game is THE game will remember -- was the sixth dunk of Candace Parker’s college career.

Parker, who is 6’4” and touted as able to play every position, is certainly one of the most athletic women playing college basketball, and the only current college player to dunk a basketball in a game. Before Saturday, she hadn’t dunked against a highly ranked opponent or on national television.

Just under two minutes into the second half, Spencer stole the ball and passed it to Parker, who sprinted down the court. Wide open, indeed, the only player on that half of the floor, she went for the dunk.

“I had a chance to dunk on Connecticut’s court, and I did,” Parker said after the game.

Without a doubt, Parker is one of the most skilled basketball players in the country, and the dunk, though it might be exciting to watch, is the tip of the iceberg. Ironically, her dunk in this basketball game actually backfired against Tennessee, sparking a Connecticut run that closed an eighteen-point deficit to tie the game with about five minutes remaining. It was Parker’s blocking ability and strong post play that won out in the end.

The dunk put Tennessee ahead by 16, and a Nicky Anosike layup on the next possession increased the lead to eighteen. Huskies coach Geno Auriemma put juniors Ketia Swanier and Brittany Hunter into the game, two players that had just gotten angrier watching Parker’s dunk and Tennessee’s run from the sidelines.

“Of course I was mad,” Hunter said. “It shouldn’t take that, however, to get anyone going.”

Hunter, who is playing on an almost entirely reconstructed knee, hadn’t played for two weeks before Saturday due to swelling in her knee, but she stepped up as the primary defender on Parker during Connecticut’s second-half run.

Hunter’s defense and Charde Houston’s offense combined to take over the game for a few minutes, almost getting it back.

Like Taurasi, who went 7-1 against the Lady Vols in her four years at UConn, Hunter and Houston hate to lose. They played their way out of an 18-point deficit and showed that they could play with the best in the country, but ultimately, they were outplayed.

Connecticut will have the chance to bounce back. Tonight the Huskies play Seton Hall at 7:30, and if this team hates to lose as much as Taurasi-era teams, Seton Hall should prepare for a vengeful game from the Huskies.

In a week, Connecticut will face another test, when they play undefeated North Carolina in North Carolina. If Tennessee got the jitters of the first big game out of the freshmen’s systems -- and some bad basketball out of the team’s -- it should be an interesting game.

Taurasi herself, after all, thinks that this Huskies team is capable of a lot. When she was at Gampel Pavilion December 21, getting honored with a banner on the wall as one of 10 first-team All-Americans that had played at Connecticut, Taurasi called this team out. She asked Houston to represent California (Taurasi is from Chino, Houston from San Diego), and get another banner added as a first-team All-American. Taurasi’s next vision was a broader team goal.

“We’ve been coming back the last two or three years, and we’re getting tired of seeing the same banners,” Taurasi said, looking at the five National Championship banners hanging in the middle of one wall. “Hopefully this year we can add another special one. I’m looking at the space at center court.”

Guru's Tuesday Muses and AP Voting Link

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA _ Once again, for those of you who are too tired to reel back, here is the Associated Press voting link offering how board members cast their ballots in week No. 10.

We had another newcomer hit the list this week and rather high, also, in terms of crashing in from the outside with Middle Tennessee arriving at No. 21.

A new team means the Guru most make some historical check points. Coach Rick Insell never played for an AP-ranked women’s team for obvious reasons.

However, Middle Tennessee is the first team from the Sun Belt Conference to get ranked while still in the conference since Florida International made a two-week appearance at Nos. 25 and 23 in the final two weeks of the 2001-02 season.

Prior to that, former member Louisiana Tech was still in the Sun Belt when it last hit the rankings with that affiliation in the final vote of the 2001 season.

Western Kentucky has been ranked in the past as a Sun Belt member, as was Old Dominion.

Meanwhile, another weekly major showdown looms on Saturday when Maryland visits Duke – the first super test for the Terrapins since they upset the Blue Devils in overtime for the NCAA title in Boston last April.

Two nights later next Monday in the Research Triangle – (Ah, bet you thought I was going to say "on Tobacco Road" and show my age but smoking is not allowed) -- anyhow Connecticut travels to North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

We may be on the scene in Durham on Saturday depending what our hot gender-equity men’s team at Drexel does against CAA pre-season favorite Hofstra at home Thursday night. The Hofstra women will also be here playing the Dragons a few hours earlier.

If Drexel wins, I may be asked to make a nostalgic trip to Old Dominion on Saturday.

You Got Males and Text Messages Too

I’m sure at this hour, other sites are busy notifying you all, unless this is your first stop today, that Division III at the NCAA convention tabled for now the male practice player issue. Also put on the shelf for an other year was another proposed ban or limitation -- this one on text messaging for recruiting.

Charlotte Implosion Accomplished

We’ll be at the local Temple-St. Joseph’s opener Tuesday night at Temple in the Atlantic Ten – the rematch later this month will be the Big Five game – so we’ll ask former Owl star Candice Dupree what she thinks of getting some post help after former Duke star Monique Currie was taken first by the Chicago Sky in the dispersal draft of the Charlotte Sting roster.

Two Penn State alumnae were involved with guard Helen Darling going to the San Antonio Silver Stars and her former Cleveland Rockers coach Dan Hughes, while Nittany Lions scoring ace Kelly Mazzante was picked by the Phoenix Mercury.

Mazzante’s acquisition gives Phoenix some options in that they can see if she can fit into coach Paul Westhead’s explosive offense or perhaps be packaged with the regular No. 1 draft pick if Phoenix can get a prized post player who will contribute immediately to the Mercury defense.

Speaking of posts, Minnesota decided to take Tangela Smith and bypass local favorite Janel McCarville, who, if improved as has been reported, could help the New York Liberty who took her third Monday after the Linx grabbed Smith.

That’s the only observations we have in that area for the moment.

Quirk of History – What Goes Around …

Speaking of Penn State, coach Rene Portland will make her second straight attempt to join the 600 victory club when Ohio State visits Happy Valley Thursday night.

The Buckeyes, of course, are coach by Jim Foster, who succeeded Portland at St. Joseph’s three decades ago when she left the Hawks for a stint at Colorado prior to her move to Penn State.

“Don’t worry,” Portland told worried St. Joseph’s officials on her way to her interview in Boulder. “I’m going to ask for the sky.”

She returned several days later to announce her resignation on Hawk Hill.

What happened?

“I asked for the sky and they gave it to me,” Portland said at the time.

Foster was then hired to replace her and asked a friend from the high school ranks to join him on the bench that first season.

So, if you follow the bouncing ball of cause and effect – Portland asked for the sky at Colorado and it started a chain of events that ultimately resulted in Geno Auriemma giving Connecticut the world.

And that leaves us with a transitional comment that Erin will attempt to offer some thoughts in this space later Tuesday off last Saturday’s Connecticut-Tennessee game.

By now Acacia should have arrived in Italy and may check in the next several days.

And in a few seconds Jonathan, on his way to Philly.com, will hear this blog update on his program and again wonder what I am doing up at this hour.

I won't be for long, but Fordham at La Salle looms at 11:45 a.m.

-- Mel

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Staley Reacts to Latest WNBA News

By Jonathan Tannenwald

Before starting this post, the author would like to briefly note two things. First, that he suspects that this blog and the Inquirer now have the same number of foreign bureaus, for better or worse; and second, that he just saw a television ad for the Inquirer's forthcoming jobs supplement, which gives him some optimism about the marketing department. Now, on with the show.


As Mel noted previously, I filled in for him covering the Brown-Temple game on Friday night. Yes, that might be a reflection of one 23-year-old Philadelphian's social life, but I hope it's not too much of one.

Anyway, I had a few reasons for wanting to attend this game. First, those of you who've read this blog for a while know that I always enjoy watching Ivy League teams, no matter their level of talent relative to the opposition. A family commitment kept me away from the Princeton-Penn game last night at the Palestra -- though, from what I've heard, the same cannot be said for now-former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher. His daughter, Meagan, is one of the Tigers' top players, and one of the main reasons why Princeton is considered among the favorites to win the Ancient Eight title this year.

Anyway, to return to the point, I figured Friday's game would be a good time to ask Temple coach Dawn Staley for her views on two pieces of recent news to which she is connected -- the folding of the WNBA's Charlotte Sting, where she played from 1999 to 2005, and the retirement of Houston Comets coach Van Chancellor, who coached Staley in her final season as a player.

It turns out I was beaten to the punch. Credit is due to the reporter for the Temple News, the school's student newspaper, who asked Staley the Charlotte question before I did.

Staley admitted that she had "not much" of a reaction because she has been so tied up in her coaching duties of late.

"I'm in Temple mode -- when I'm in Temple mode, anything outside Temple really doesn't affect me," she said. "I know I'm not playing anymore, and I just keep up with players and not really any organizations or franchises."

But the media pack sensed that this was not the end of the subject, and indeed, Staley elaborated just a bit.

"I actually talked to one Charlotte Sting player, Kelly Mazzante -- she's from this area -- she's got to go into the Expansion Draft," Staley said. "I think she's looking forward to it, but Charlotte's a good city."

Mazzante is in fact from Montoursville, Pa., which isn't really in the Philadelphia region; it is, however, close to Williamsport, which you all might know as the home of the Little League World Series. It is also not far from State College, which I am sure you all know is where Penn State, Mazzante's alma mater, is located.

The odds from here are that there will be more to come on this subject later if events warrant.

On the subject of Van Chancellor's retirement, Staley said that the longtime coach is "going to be sorely missed."

"I spoke to him before he announced it," she said. "It's sad, because he's given a whole lot to women's basketball, and to see a career come to an end, it's always sad. He's my last coach that I played for, so I'm always going to be forever indebted to him for giving me the opportunity to come to Houston and try to win a WNBA championship."

Finally, one of the things I forgot to mention to Mel in relaying the events of Friday was that Temple celebrated the birthday of Staley's mother, Estelle, with a surprise ceremony during the game's final media timeout.

"I thought that was pretty sweet," Dawn said. "I always try to come up with different surprises for my mother's birthday and I think this might have topped it."

I overheard at one point a Temple staffer saying that it took quite a bit of effort to coax Mrs. Staley out of her house, but that after the celebration she admitted that it was a good thing that she came.

"She actually was late getting to the game," Dawn said of her mother. "I was trying to get her here because it was supposed to be at halftime. But that's my mom -- she gets here, and she'll celebrate whenever she gets here."

The aforementioned Temple News reporter asked Dawn -- simply for the purpose of reporting to the public, of course -- to disclose her mother's age. Dawn did not hesitate, and said that her mother turned 64.

So happy birthday to Mrs. Staley from all of us in Guru-land.

Acacia Opening Guru's First Foreign Bureau

Guru’s Note: As previously mentioned, Acacia is off to Italy Monday to study and to open the first foreign bureau at the Guru’s blog.

She wanted to check in, however, and offer some background and other nuances, while still stateside in her hometown, before heading across the Atlantic.

By Acacia O’Connor

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- This weekend I made final preparations for my five months studying and living in Bologna, a city in the Emilia-Romana region of Italy.

I’ve made these preparations twice before now, having visited Italy for the first time in 2002 and having studied in Tuscany this past summer.

However, one thing came up which I’ve never had to deal with before – hives.

It’s still unsure what exactly was the cause of the hives, whether allergies or anxiety or a combination of the two.

But their appearance marked the height and end of my growing panic of the adventure that lay before me.

On New Year’s Eve, I watched the ball drop in a antihistamine-induced daze from the comforts of my living room couch.

I’ve never really had any qualms about challenges or unknowns in the past, so my fear in this case was a little surprising.

Jitters are only natural, I see now – and I’ve been much more at peace and more excited than ever before about my trip and how it will affect me.

So now, with all of my belongings stacked neatly in air-tight ziplock bags within two large suitcases (which I pray do not weigh more than my allotted 23 kgs), I face my last day at home and stateside for awhile.

As for that, earlier Saturday I was writing a ‘good luck’ e-mail to my Vassar basketball teammates, who begin the second half of the season Sunday with a game against Morrisville State.

“How far is Morrisville from here?” I yelled to my parents in the other room.

Turns out, Morrisville is just a quick jaunt from Syracuse – a forty-five minute drive. So I’ll be driving down there for the Brewer’s 1 p.m. tip-off and to surprise my teammates, and see them all once more before I leave .

It won’t be the last ball game I see this season, however, I’m sure – Mel has already supplied me with locations of the Italian developmental teams to check out, something I’m pretty psyched about.

Much more so than writing about myself, truthfully.

At any rate, Bologna is a beautiful city that will offer a true experience as an Italian student.

UniBo, or Universita di Bologna is the oldest university on earth, founded in 1088, and it boasts 100,000 students (the population of Syracuse is something around 150,000, while Vassar College has about 2,400 enrolled students)

In Italian, Bologna is referred to as la rossa, la grossa, e la dotta: The Red (red = communist, leftist), The Fat (for the amazing food; Bologna is in the breadbasket of Italy) and The Learned or The Wise (for its brilliant students, *cough cough*)

It isn’t as renowned as Rome or Venice, but that may also be another one of its assets.

It will be amazing to spend time in Italy’s cities during the tourism off-season, so to speak. I hope to check out Carnivale, the famed Venetian pre-lent celebration which takes place the first week of February.

As far as my actual purpose goes, I’ll be studying language for the first six weeks and then my program courses begin.

All my classes will be conducted 100% in Italian and will cover a variety of subjects: history, women’s studies, art history.

In fact, I had to sign a pledge when I enrolled in the program promising I would speak only Italian for my entire stay.

Hopefully I can get an amnesty to conduct an English-language interview with Megan Mahoney or Laura Summerton, among others.

I’m extremely grateful just for the opportunities and Guru blog space I’ve been granted this past month and in the future.

I hope as the foreign bureau chief, I can prove myself worthy of the support I’ve received.

Grazie mille and arrivederci, for now!


Saturday, January 06, 2007

Temple Tops Brown - A-10 Defense Begins Tuesday

By Mel Greenberg and Jonathan Tannenwald

PHILADELPHIA _ After playing in former Temple all-American Candice Dupree’s shadow last season, senior forward Kamesha Hairston has become the new spotlight attraction in the Owls’ attack.

On Friday night, the native of Toledo, Ohio, scored 20 points, grabbed nine rebounds, blocked three shots and had a steal in Temple’s easy 71-37 win over Brown in a nonconference game at the Liacouras Center.

The triumph extended the current win streak of Temple (10-4) to six straight heading into the Owls’ Atlantic Ten Conference opener at home Tuesday night against St. Joseph’s.

The first of two meetings with the Hawks will not be the one that decides the Big Five title. That comes with the return match on Jan. 28.

In Friday night’s game, Candice Burrows, off the bench, was 3-for-6 on three-point attempts to help gain her career-high 11 points. Lady Comfort added 10 points.

Brown (2-11) had only one player in double figures with Shae Fitzpatrick’s 13 points.

Hairston continues to be story of consistency for Temple as demonstrated by Temple coach Dawn Staley’s praise after the game.

“Kamesha’s just – she’s got the eye of the tiger,” Staley gushed. “She's in a groove. She's playing good basketball, she's taking good shots and she's finding ways to be effective on both sides of the ball

“She’s defending, she's doing it all,” Staley continued. “Se's just playing like a senior should be playing.”

The spark for Temple’s current burst began with the rally against No. 1
Maryland, the defending NCAA champion, last month that gave the Owls a brief lead in the closing minutes at the Liacouras Center.

“I think this team found an identity,” Staley of giving the Terps one of the tougher games to date.

“Being down by 15 points to Maryland and coming back, taking the lead, we told them after that game, just hold on to that moment of coming back and knowing that if you play every team like you played (Maryland) in the second half, you're going to win a lot of basketball games. I think they really bottled that and they're using it every time they step on the floor.”

Now with the exception of the Rutgers visit on Jan. 24, Temple goes after defense of its three-time conference title the rest of the way.

Philly.com’s Jonathan Tannenwald supplied the interview from the game.

Huskies of Honor Part Two

by Erin Semagin Damio

This is the second and last installment of the ‘Huskies of Honor’ Speeches. We left off last time with Kara Wolters, but I’m actually going to begin this by going back to Kerry Bascom, since a Uconn fan, Stephen Philbrick, had the speech on DVD and offered the transcript to me.

A quick note before the speeches:

On Saturday, Uconn and Tennessee will meet in Hartford.

Because of staffing shortages in the wake of this week's layoffs at The Philadelphia Inquirer and Mel's other role as the lead writer of the very hot Drexel men's team, who play at home, the Guru has informed, reluctantly, he won't be on the scene.

But I'll be there in his stead…

So here goes as he has allowed me to create my own shot the same way he's done for the others on our team and I'd like you to get involved, also, as I'll soon explain.

There’s been a lot of press leading up to this game, as being the biggest rivalry in women’s basketball.

The two teams lead the NCAA in championships, by a large margin. Tennessee has six, Uconn has five, and the University of Southern California, Stanford, and Louisiana Tech have two trophies each.

I love watching competitive rivalries, and I think that Uconn and Tennessee often bring out the best in each other for an exciting game.

In honor of tomorrow’s game, I’d like to ask readers of this blog to post comments about their favorite rivalry memories – not necessarily just Uconn and Tennessee, just your favorite memory about two teams in a fierce rivalry.

We’ll post some of the comments as an entry sometime Saturday. The Guru thanks you and I thank you for your participation.

Kerry Bascom’s Speech

(thanks to Stephen Philbrick)

“Thank you very much

“I just want to start off by saying, actually, that I think the crowd here tonight equals the crowd that I had for four years that I played.

“But in all seriousness, I want to thank the University for this incredible award, and I'm very honored. It is a privilege to stand up here tonight with the rest of the players who are going to be honored, and especially with Coach, who made me the player that I was. Thank you very much.”

Nykesha Sales

Nykesha Sales played at Uconn from 1994 to 1998, playing on the undefeated 1994-1995 team…First Team All-American in 1997 and 1998…

Sales was the 1997 Big East Championship Most Outstanding player…1998 Big East Player of the Year…

Finished her college career as Uconn’s all-time scoring leader with 2,178 points…currently plays in the WNBA for the Connecticut Sun, where she has been the franchise’s leading scorer for all but one season of its existence…Sales’ banner was unveiled by Uconn sophomore Kalana Greene…her speech:

“A lot of people always ask us if the things we took out of Uconn are always basketball and sometimes they aren’t. I was thinking back 10-12 years ago, and if you had told me I’d have to speak in front of one of these sections, I’d probably have asked for a transfer. …

“But that just says a lot about the fans here. They’re so warm and vibrant, and what I’ve learned from the coaching staff – not only basketball, but like Kara said, they teach you a lot about how to act off the court as well. I can say all of us here are … role models off the court. People tonight came from out of town, they’ve all showed continued support, and I want to thank all of you, I hope you continue to come to the games.”

Svetlana Abrosimova

Svetlana Abrosimova played at Uconn from 1997-2001…was a key player in Uconn’s 1999-2000 run for the championship…also Uconn’s first three-time All-American in 1999, 2000, and 2001…

Abrosimova was named a member of the 2000 NCAA Final Four All-Tournament Team and was the 2000 NCAA Regional Most Outstanding Player…also named the Big East Conference Player of the Year in 1998-1999

Abrosimova currently plays for the Minnesota Lynx in the WNBA, as well as Dynamo Moscow in Russia…has played for the Russian National Team…unfortunately had to miss the ceremony due to a previous commitment in Russia, but will be honored during a game this season…banner unveiled by Uconn sophomore Cassie Kerns…

Shea Ralph

Shea Ralph played at Uconn from 1996-2001 (redshirted one season)…1999-2000 First Team All-American…2000 NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player

Ralph was the 1999-2000 Big East Conference Player of the Year…1999 Big East Championship Most Outstanding Player…

Ralph played in the WNBA for the Utah Starzz…currently serves as an assistant coach for the University of Pittsburgh women’s basketball team…couldn’t attend ceremony due to a coaching commitment, but will be honored when Pittsburgh plays Uconn at Gampel Pavilion…sophomore Tahirah Williams unveiled Ralph’s banner…

Sue Bird

Sue Bird played played at Uconn from 1998-2002…won two championships, in 2000 and 2002, when Uconn was undefeated…2001-2002 National Collegiate Player of the Year…2002 First Team All-American

Bird was the 2002 NCAA Regional Most Outstanding Player…2001-2002 Big East Conference Player of the Year…started every game she appeared in at Uconn…finished collegiate career with a record of 114-4…

Bird won a gold medal with the USA 2004 Olympic Team…plays in the WNBA for the Seattle Storm…2004 WNBA champion…also playing in Russia for Dynamo Moscow, and flew in from Moscow for the ceremony…banner unveiled by junior Ketia Swanier…her speech:

“I’d like to make a correction to what Bob said about our flight: it wasn’t 18 hours, though it sounds really nice, it’s like your mom and dad saying they walked three miles through the snow to get to school – it was more like 10.

“It’s such an honor to be here in front of you guys. Playing here in Gampel, when I think back, deciding to come here was the best decision I ever made. Not only to play here… The honor is tremendous and I’m just so thankful to be here. Also my mom … my family, I’ve just got to thank them.

“Whether it was players that I played with, Shea and Svet, or the players that came before me, they’re the reason why I’m here, they always will be, and I love you guys.”

Swin Cash

Swin Cash played at Uconn from 1998-2002…part of 2000 National Championship and 2002 Undefeated Season…2001-2002 First Team All-American…

Cash was the 2002 NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player…member of the Big East Championship All-Tournament Team in 1999, 2000, and 2002…

Cash was a 2004 USA Olympic Gold Medalist…currently plays for the Detroit Shock in the WNBA…2003 and 2006 WNBA Champion…junior Brittany Hunter unveiled Cash’s banner…her speech:

“Well first of all, I just want to thank all the fans. You guys were great for four years. Having the opportunity to play in here, packed out, every single game, that really meant a lot. To the coaches staff, Coach, CD, JJ, Tonya, I just want to say from that bottom of my heart that you guys made me a better basketball player, but you also made me a better woman. It’s the reason I can do the things I’m doing in the business world, because of what I learned here at Uconn. It wasn’t just about the basketball, it was the total package so thank you.

“At Uconn, we graduate in our degree, and we have to do that for the professors, for the teachers, for the administration. … It’s because of the work they put in day in and day out to help us to graduate, so thank you.

“I want to say thank you to my family, my mom’s here today, I love you guys, so thank you so much… [My family went to all the games in groups of 20 or 30 in Pittsburgh or West Virginia] You guys made it. Even though I cried my whole freshman year, I was so homesick, my mom was always there.

“My partner, (inaudible) is here today, I love you, thank you so much for supporting me. He dropped everything, all his business trips, to be here today and it means a lot to me.

“And last but not least, to the ladies who came before, from the top to the bottom, you guys made it possible, paved the way, laid the foundation, so that we can have all these banners here, for those behind, Diana, you kept it going, and the two ladies that aren’t here today that should be up here next to us, Tamika and Asjha. … Thank you!”

Diana Taurasi

Diana Taurasi is often called the best women’s college basketball player ever…member of national championship teams in 2002, 2003, and 2004…Three-time First Team All-American in 2002, 2003, and 2004…

Taurasi was the National Collegiate Player of the year in 2002-2003 and 2003-2004…NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player in 2003 and 2004…Big East Conference Player of the year in 2002-2003 and 2003-2004

Taurasi won an Olympic Gold Medal for the US team in 2004…currently plays in the WNBA for the Phoenix Mercury, where she broke the league single-game and season scoring record in the 2006 season…plays for Dynamo Moscow and flew in from Russia with Sue Bird for the ceremony…banner was unveiled by junior Charde Houston…her speech:

“It really is special to come back – I had to travel 28 hours to get here. It’s great to be back. Coach Auriemma looks great, lost a little weight. It’s good to be back. …

“I’d like to thank everyone here. Hopefully we can add a lot more of those (Huskies of Honor banners) next year. Charde Houston, you’re from California. We’ve been coming back the last two or three years, and we’re getting tired of seeing the same banners. Hopefully this year we can add another special one. I’m looking at the space at center court.”

Geno Auriemma

Geno Auriemma has been coaching at Uconn since 1985, and turned the program into the national powerhouse it is today…record at Uconn stands at 601-116…has coached five national championship teams (1995, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004)…five –time National Coach of the Year…inducted into both the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006…banner unveiled by Uconn co-captains Mel Thomas and Renee Montgomery…his speech:

"Folks are leaving. Come on now, I stayed here for you guys. It’s always tricky to decide how you’re going to this, and obviously it’s important to get it right. Obviously it’s important that we do this the right way. There are, as Jamelle will remind me a lot, Jennifer certainly, there a lot of players whose names are not up there, and they’re not up there yet because I thought it was important that initially we have to recognize those in this room who I think stand out above and beyond what normally a college basketball player would do.

"I would like to think that I coached the same way when I coached Kerry Bascom as when I did Diana Taurasi. I would like to think that, but unfortunately that’s probably not the case. Diana mentioned that I did lose a little bit of weight, and if she’d turn around and look behind her, she’d see where it went.

"It’s incredibly important that those of you that are here tonight will go out and tell everybody basically what you just heard tonight. If you come to Connecticut, you’re going to play basketball in the greatest environment there is in this country, you’re going to play against the best teams in America, you’re going to play with the best players in the country. You’re going to graduate, you’re going to go on and do things, that you would never ever imagine that you’d be able to do when you were a senior in high school. And we tell that to kids, we tell that to their parents, and this is living proof right here.

"Obviously these young ladies have their families here. My wife is here, my son had a big game tonight, and my daughters are old enough now that they feel that they don’t have to give up something that they’re doing for their dad. But other than their family, and for me and my coaching staff – Chris, Tonya, Jamelle, Jack – and anybody else that had an awful lot to do with all this – Jeff Hathaway, Todd, and (inaudible), I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you really really give out an unbelievable round of applause for President Austin and what he’s done for the University of Connecticut.

"And finally, Dee, I know you’re here, I want to thank you for being a mentor to me the whole time I’ve been here. He’s someone that I look up to, and I know Dee (inaudible). He’s a coach’s coach, and a man’s man, and I’ve been fortunate to get to know him.

And finally I’d like to thank the parents of all these players – and the other players I’ve had, but these players in particular. I want to thank them because they believed in us when we told them if they’d just let us have them for four years, I promise you, we’ll do something special with them. I made that promise to them, and I made the same promise to those knuckleheads up there. They took it seriously, so I hope you learned something. But it’s because of the support that these kids got from their parents, while they were here. Because of the support that I got. They didn’t have two coaches when they were here, they had one. They had the opportunity to play for us, to go to school here, and when they went home they got unconditional love, unconditional support, and because of that they are what they are today, so thank you all very much, I appreciate everything."