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, November 28, 2010

Drexel Suddenly Best In Philly Going 4-0 Against Big 5

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA - With a just-completed almost unheard of sweep of four Big Five schools to start the season, the Drexel women's basketball team has emerged, for now, as the best in town.

The Dragons got underway a week ago with lopsided wins at La Salle and over Penn before rallying at home for a narrow 50-47 win over St. Joseph's Tuesday night in the Daskalakis Athletic Center.

They remained there Friday night and mounted a late rally to beat Villanova 56-50 for the first time in two meetings against coach Denise Dillon's alma mater and her mentor Harry Perretta.

The fabled DAC Pack student section quickly rolled out a banner proclaiming "DU Women╒s Basketball Unofficial Big 5 Champs" with the Big 5 letters painted red against a yellow background.

Drexel had already completed a first-ever three-in-one season series of triumphs after the win over the Hawks in terms of playing Big Five schools. But the win over Villanova (4-2) made it that much sweeter considering both the men's and women's teams have remained outsiders in the official City Series round robin.

Not much had been expected of Dillon's team, at least at this point, following the graduation of Gabriela Marginean, who became the all-time women's scorer at Philadelphia area colleges, no matter which classification, before finishing her senior season in March.

Drexel, which bolted to its first-ever championship of the Colonial Athletic Association and NCAA appearance in 2009, was in the hunt again12 months later as the preseason favorite before fading down the stretch and losing a first-round game at home in overtime to East Carolina in the Women╒s National Invitation Tournament.

In a coaches-only poll this time around in the conference the CAA mentors forecasted a sixth place finish for the Dragons.

"People thought when Marginean left, they were going to collapse," Perretta said after coaching his first game in the DAC and going against one his stars in the 1990s for the Wildcats. "They have three solid players. The point guard (junior Marisa Crane) is solid. Jas (senior Jasmina Rosseel) is solid. The kid from Colorado (Lithuanaian sophomore Kamile Nacickaite) is solid and now what happens is their role players - all they have to do is make open shots, which they did do today. But their other kids are creating on who we╒re helping on them (defend three players) and then 20 (Taylor Wootton) gets a wide open shot.

"But that╒s what good players do -- they make good players around them better. We don't have anybody who's doing that right now. There's nobody we can give the ball to - we tried different kids today. We took it one-on-one with Megan (Pearson), we took it one-one with Rachel (Roberts), but we don't have one kid who we can say, `Hey, here's the ball, go create offense.

"I thought our younger players did ok, but the bottom line is they still make too many errors."

After Drexel had stymied St. Joseph's Katie Kuester in the win over the Hawks, the Dragons were also effective shutting down Lindsay Kimmel, the three-point shooting ace who had made an impressive debut in Villanova╒s earlier games following her transfer from Temple a year ago.

"Lindsay Kimmel still does not understand the offense," Perretta, whose team hosts Marist, Sunday at noon at the Pavilion, said of his multiple, patient ball movement before launching shots. "She hurt us today because she didn't understand the offense. She has to learn that if she's going to get shots, she has to learn how to move without the ball, which she doesn't know how to do yet.

"So, we╒re trying to teach it to her, but it's difficult when you transfer in, you haven't played for a year, and even though she was averaging a lot of points (Drexel) knows our offense," Perretta continued.

"I told our kids before the game, that the game was going to be decided by who could make the most individual plays. Because both teams know the other team's offense so well who ever makes an individual play will win the game. And their kids made individual plays down the stretch and we didn't."

Wootton broke a 50-50 tie late in the game and then Nacickaite hit four fouls shots in the final 30 seconds.

The game had an extra local flair besides the matchup of a school from the Main Line meeting a school from just outside center city in West Philadelphia.

Six players - three on each side - had reunions against former high school teammates.

Villanova's redshirt sophomore Megan Pearson and Drexel's Hollie Mershon played at Archbishop Carroll; Dragons redshirt freshman Fiona Flanagan was a high school teammate of Wildcats redshirt freshman Devon Kane at Notre Dame Academy; Dragons freshman Tory Thierolf and Wildcats sophomore Jesse Carey both were at Germantown Academy most of the same time.

However, despite the ambience of local outsider against a Big Five school, two foreigners had key moments to help Drexel complete the sweep. Incidentally, the Dragons rarely play Temple so should the Owls later win the regular round robin perhaps the two schools could play an exhibition pickup game next summer in the Dept. of Recreation League.

Besides Nacickaite's fouls shots, Rosseel, a native of Belgium, knocked down 4-of-5 three pointers in the first half and six in the game.

"They don't have the emotional investment that some of the girls in the area have," Dillon said. "So they come out really to play. It takes some time for the other players to settle in. But with the experience Jas has as a senior and with Kamile coming into her own, it╒s great to have her want the ball in the end, step up to the foul line and knock down some key shots."

Dillon noted one element off of a year ago that has now been productive in being able to rally after giving up leads.

In Friday's game Drexel led by as many as 11 points near the end of the first half, only to fall seven points behind the Wildcats near the midpoint of the second half before launching a comeback.

"I learned a lot last year as a coach, just the understanding of the never quit attitude," Dillon explained. "I could continue to tell them what needs to be done but they need to learn it and understand it and they╒ve really bought into it.

"I said to them downstairs, win or lose, you gave everything you had and thankfully we got enough stops again. Stepping up to the foul line was crucial at the end."

Rosseel expressed delight over the way her team has played to date, especially considering the start against four locals seemed to be daunting without Marginean back in uniform.

"Our season has started off great - 4-0 - against everyone in Philadelphia, but Temple," Rosseel said. "But it's definitely a confidence booster for the rest of the season and we'll try to keep it that way.

"It's my fourth year, in the summer we try to play pickup against different teams and you go to different camps and you always meet them but it's always fun to actually play them and beat them."

One of Drexel’s arch-rivals of the CAA will be in town Sunday when Delaware (4-0) visits La Salle (2-3) at 2 p.m. at the Tom Gola Arena with the high-scoring sophomore sensation Elena Delle Donne and former St. Joseph’s star Sarah Acker, who recently became eligible with the Blue Hens.

It’s too soon for the Dragons to think far ahead to conference play considering visits to Virginia, Penn State, Princeton and a road trip out West to play Texas A&M will come first.

But asked if Rosseel and her teammates might stop by the sneak a peak at their longtime rival, she winked and said, “You never know, we just might.”

Penn State And Penn Flip Switches In Opposite Directions

Over the years and even to this day the Guru runs into people who sometime confuse Penn (as in University of Pennsylvania) with Penn State).

So to get it straight for this report, on Saturday Penn State recovered from Friday's loss in Mexico to Wisconsin-Green Bay in the Caribbean Challenge and beat Hartford, coached by former UConn star Jennifer Rizzotti, 71-65, to finish second. Freshman Maggie Lucas from Germantown Academy continued her hot start for the Nittany Lions (6-1), scoring seven treys and finishing with 17 points.

The Hawks, who will visit Temple next month, are struggling and fell to 1-6.

Penn (2-2), which has already matched its season total of wins of a year ago, was unable to sustain the Quaker' recent success, fell at New Jersey Technical Insitute in Newark.

Freshman Alyssa Baron, one of the impressive newcomers in the Big 5 to date, had 20 points against the Highlanders (1-4), who got their first win and shot 57 percent in the first half. Jourdan Banks scored 12 for Penn.

Rutgers Hits The Jackpot In Vegas

The Scarlet Knights had a little more success this time West of the Mississippi River than they had two weeks ago to start the season when they suffered losses at California and No. 3 Stanford.

Junior April Sykes had a game-high 18 points and Rutgers beat Oregon State 65-52 to win the Hyatt Place Lady Rebel Round-up in Las Vegas at UNLV’s Cox Pavilion Saturday night.

Sykes scored 19 points Friday night in the 71-39 triumph over Pacific (2-3 after Friday) to spur Rutgers (4-2) on to what is now a four-game win streak.

Monique Oliver had 16 points and blocked six shots against the Beavers (4-2)

Rutgers next visits Temple Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in McGonigle Hall. The Owls, who lost to Pepperdine Friday night in Malibu, Calif., will remain in Southern California Sunday to visit No. 13 UCLA, which is coached by former Tennessee assistant coach Nikki Caldwell.

Princeton After Another Milestone

The Tigers (3-1) edged Southern California, 60-59, on Friday night at Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tenn., as Niveen Rasheed scored 18 points, while Devona Allgood had 12 points and 11 rebounds against the Trojans(3-2).

It is the first time the defending Ivy champions have ever defeated a member of the Pac-10 conference. Princeton narrowly missed upsetting host Rutgers two weeks ago when they fell as Khadija Rushdan hit the game-winner with four seconds remaining.

The No. 22 host Commodores (3-1), who will host Princeton, Sunday, have never lost their own tournament, going 23-0 in their 12-year history with the event.

Nationally-Noticed

Less than two weeks after bagging nationally-ranked Maryland at home, the No. 12 Georgetown Hoyas (5-1) got a landmark victory for the program, beating No. 4 Tennessee, 69-58, in the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.

A year ago the Hoyas also beat a No. 4 team, but that was a familiar foe in Notre Dame, a conference rival in the Big East.

The Hoyas collected 31 points off 29 turnovers by the Vols (6-1), who dropped their first game of the season.

Had Georgetown not lost to Missouri 54-45 on Friday in the tournament, the Hoyas would be looking at a potential Top 10 ranking when the next Associated Press women’s poll is released Monday.

What is likely to happen is Atlantic 10 favorite Xavier (5-0) will probably jump to No. 4, which would be an all-time high for the Musketeers.

All-America candidate Sugar Rodgers had 28 points for the Hoyas.

Meanwhile, top-ranked Connecticut (5-0) made it 83 straight with an easy 81-38 win over Lehigh (1-5), the defending Patriot League champion, hosting the second game of the World Vision Challenge at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs on campus.

Maya Moore scored 29 points for the Huskies, who meet LSU in the final game Sunday.

The Tigers are coached by Van Chancellor pitting the 2004 U.S. Olympic coach against UConn’s Geno Auriemma, the 2012 Olympic mentor.

In other years, LSU might be a threat to the UConn streak, but not right now.

-- Mel

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