Womhoops Guru

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

Saturday, 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

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