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.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Rutgers Stays Hot Off Cold Villanova Shooters

Guru’s Note: A print version of the Villanova-Rutgers game leading the roundup appears on Philly.com. This is a longer version to include more quotes, creativity in the lead, and other information.
Also, if I didn’t mention it earlier, although you readers arrived here through the usual links, the blog was migrated into a google atmosphere and in the process, Acacia’s name vanished from the signature list of correspondents.
At the hour we are writing this she is still asleep overseas and unaware this has occurred, but we still expect, unless told otherwise, to have another Molto Monday arrive in the next 24 hours.

Here’s the longer game story.

By Mel Greenberg
INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

VILLANOVA, Pa.
-- Villanova was doubled up by No. 23 Rutgers Saturday night and also outscored by the temperature in a Big East women’s basketball chiller at the Pavilion.

The Scarlet Knights iced the Wildcats, 62-32, to extend the team’s record losing streak to 11 straight.

While Rutgers was scoring twice as many points as the Wildcats, even Mother Nature was posting better numbers with a thermometer reading of 33 degrees during the game and higher figures earlier in the day.

The effect was somewhat of a heat wave off the week’s earlier frigid conditions.

“It’s brutal,’’ Villanova coach Harry Perretta said afterwards about his team’s 12-for-55 shooting performance for 21.8 percent from the field. ``Whether you guard or us, or don’t guard us, that’s how many shots we make. It’s amazing.’’

The Wildcats (7-19, 1-12 Big East) made three of their first five shots at the outset before missing 19 of their last 21 attempts in the first half.

Essence Carson had a game high 16 points and also grabbed 12 rebounds for Rutgers (17-7, 10-3). Heather Zurich added a career-high 13 points, while Kia Vaughn(CQ) and Matee Ajavon each scored 10 points.

It was the 10th time in the last 13 games that Rutgers held a team to its season low at the time the game was played.

Maybe the defensive effort should be called The Scarlet Curtain.

Stacie Witman was the lone Wildcat to score in double figures with 14 points, although she was 3-for-14 on attempted 3-pointers.

“Going into the game, if we slowed it down, I thought we could hold them into the high 50s or low 60s,’’ Perretta said. ``But if you can’t score the ball, it doesn’t matter how many you hold them to.’’

The veteran Villanova coach said the game got out of hand after the Wildcats trailed, 31-20, with 16 minutes, 22 seconds left in the game.

``They hit a three, we came down and missed a three, and then the flood gates opened up and within three minutes, we were down 25,’’ Perretta explained.

Though not likely to qualify for the first time in the program’s history, Villanova is still faintly alive for the Big East tournament, although one the three remaining games will be against Connecticut on Saturday in Hartford.

Meanwhile, Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer was pleased with her team’s ability to handle the Wildcats’ motion offense.

``It’s always a great test for us whether they’re going to be more disciplined and run their stuff or whether we’re going to impose our will and execute and run our stuff,’’ Stringer said.

The night did feature some Villanova glory of yesteryear with halftime ceremonies honoring the Wildcats team that advanced to the AIAW national tournament Final Four at the Palestra 25 years ago.

“I don’t know if today’s kids understand the tradition and what these people went through,” Perretta mused about his former stars, who all said at Friday night’s reception, they played for the glory.

Earlier Saturday night, Villanova hosted its annual alumni game, which produced more consistency than the current Wildcats with such former players as women’s athletic director Lynn Tighe and Marie Caramanico making shots.

``It’s great,’’ said Diana Caramanico, from a remote location. She is Marie’s daughter and is also Penn’s all-time scorer with 2,415 points. ``Not many 59-year old women can run up and down the court and score in an alumni game.

“She’s usually good for a basket every other year,” said Diana, who was recently inducted into the Big Five Hall of Fame and is married to former Penn star Geoff Owens.

Marie Caramanico was one of the first female students when Villanova went co-ed in 1969, and helped start the women’s basketball program, which was at club level that first season.

Back at the varsity game, Stringer, who usually is driven to headaches from having her team cope with Villanova’s complex passes, said she only had a near-headache this time guiding her team against the Wildcats.

She also gave the Wildcats some props.

``Harry’s group is young and I know he knows they’ll be there,’’ Stringer said. ``I know they have a young lady that transferred from Duke (three-point ace Laura Kurz), he’s an excellent coach, and as I said to my team, this (Villanova) is the smartest team in the country.

``They really are. I took my headache medicine before. Just because of the way they execute. I appreciate the way they play. A real credit to our team, I appreciate, is that for 40 minutes, we hunkered down and we took the switches. We did a great job.

``It doesn’t matter whether they (Villanova) made shots or missed shots. I was looking at positions. It was good to see Heather hit those shots from outside.’’

Former Villanova star Allan Ray and current NBA Boston Celtic, whose sister Brittany plays for Rutgers, was at the game.

Stringer was asked if she’d rather have played the Wildcats now than back in December when the Scarlet Knights were trying to find their way.

“Each game we’ve played, I thought that that has been the most perfect schedule for a team that is as young as this, to come along. With each of these games, it was perfect. The games that were home. The games that were away. The timing of the games. I thought we were ready for Connecticut. Back in December, no.’’

Zurich has had two her two best career games in the Philadelphia area after gaining her previous career high last month when Rutgers beat Temple.

Carson said her team still had to be cautious despite Villanova’s shooting difficulty.

``Great shooters, they’re going to keep shooting. Eventually, they’re going to start to fall,” Carson said. ``If you playing Michael Jordan and he misses his first couple of shots, just because he misses them, are you going to stop playing him?”

“No.”

Carson said what happens in a game is more on what Rutgers does or doesn’t do rather than what is happening with the opponent.

“At this point, we realize we’re our worst enemy,” Carson said. “Whenever we lose a game, it seems to be the things we didn’t do correctly. The cuts we didn’t make. The defense we didn’t play. So we see we have to play every game like it’s the last game of our lives. At this point, it is.”

Perretta said that he felt Connecticut and then Rutgers are the two teams in the Big East that have improved the most from the beginning of the season.

The problem with this particular (Villanova) team is when they fall behind, 11-15 points, they start playing on their talent and they’re not talented enough. When we play talent against talent, thffft, the lead (by the other team) just expands. When you see us executing, we may not win the game, but we can compete a little bit.

“But this team hasn’t figured that out yet.”

The 19th loss reached by Villanova Saturday night matches the most ever in a season.

-- Mel

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