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

Monday, November 15, 2010

Homecoming Party And Rally Lead to La Salle Win

By Mel Greenberg

BALTIMORE –
Two nights after Jeff Williams’ inauspicious debut against Villanova as La Salle’s new coach, sophomore Ebonee Jones hosted her own homecoming party, the Explorers launched a stirring second-half rally and by the time it all ended Sunday the former Pittsburgh assistant entered the victory for the first time in his own right courtesy of a 64-57 win over Loyola of Maryland.

The Explorers (1-1) had been holding a slim in the Greyhounds' Reitz Arena for quite a while before the Greyhounds (0-2) moved to a 50-43 lead with 7 minutes, 42 seconds left in the game.

Then La Salle, which dominated the boards 50-40 and 23-13 on the offensive end, suddenly exploded with a 16-0 run over the next six minutes to take control. The Explorers also outscored the Greybounds 23-3 on second chance points.

“Huge difference. Huge difference,” Williams said of the Explorers’ turnaround from Friday’s 57-42 Big Five loss to the Wildcats on the Main Line. “Kids really played hard today. Took a tough loss and responded well.

“We were up, we were down (Sunday), but we didn’t quit,” Williams said of the comeback. “We had had an exhibition game and we got down and we couldn’t response. So I was happy to see our girls battle and close it out.”

Jones, a graduate of nearby Arundel High, had her first double double with a career high 10 rebounds and 11 points while also grabbing a pair of steals.

“I was very excited,” she said of the trip home. “Today, we played as a team and everybody brought their energy. I’ve been looking to be here for a long time. It’s my hometown so I try to represent it.”

Among Jones' supporters at the game was former St. Joseph's star Audrey Codner who is an assistant coach at Arundel High.

Junior guard Nadia Duncan had a career high 15 points and scored 19 points – one short of her career high. It was the first time the Explorers have had two double doubles in the same game since former stars Crista Ricketts and Carlene Hightower did it twice in the 2006-07 season.

“It feels really good to bounce back,” Duncan said. “We just needed to slow down as a team and play our game. That was it.”

Relating what Williams has brought to the team, Duncan said of the new coach: “He gives everybody an opportunity. He tells everybody to shoot. He tells everybody there’s no such thing as a bad shot. He lets everybody who makes a mistake recover.

“He’s a good coach. He has good principles. He has a great coaching staff, everything.”

Duncan’s rebounds were the most by an Explorers player in a game in two seasons.

Overall, La Salle had only three double double performances last season.

Additionally, Senior Ashley Gale scored 12 points for La Salle while freshman Jess Koci from Archbishop Ryan scored 11. Gale also had five steals as the Explorers forced the Greyhounds into 24 turnovers.

Freshman Michea Bryant had a quick homecoming, herself, scoring three points. She is a graduate of Bishop McNamara High and lives in nearby Cheltenham, Md.

The Greyhounds’ Miriam McKenzie had 11 points and 15 rebounds, but fouled out with 2:35 left in the game. Erica DiClementi, a graduate of Wissahickon High, scored 15 points.

“McKenzie fouling out hurt us and then we got in a little scoring drought,” said Loyola of Maryland coach Joe Logan, a former St. Joseph’s assistant to Cindy Griffin. “We sent them to the free throw line 34 times, we can’t have that. We have to clean that up.

“(La Salle’s) an undersized team, they look to attack the basket, but we got outrebounded by 10 and they went to the free throw line 34 times. You’re not going to win many games doing that.”

The Explorers next host Drexel Tuesday night at Tom Gola Arena as the Dragons make their season debut.

Points-a-Popping at Penn State

The Nittany Lions (2-0) completed a weekend scoring fest by destroying Rider 95-21 in the season home opener at Bryce Jordan Center. The win comes after Friday night’s pulsating 111-107 win at Dayton in double overtime.

Defensively, it’s the fewest points allowed by PSU since 1971, a year that many schools had yet to start women’s basketball programs. It’s also the seventh best defensive stand for the program.

The Broncs were forced into 37 turnovers.

Zhaque Gray had another sizzling game, scoring 22 points as did freshman Maggie Lucas, a graduate of Germantown Academy, off the bench.

The game was the season opener for Rider.

Penn State travels to Oakland in Michigan Thursday and then returns Sunday to host Dawn Staley’s South Carolina squad. The former Temple coach lost her first game with USC on a visit to State College two seasons ago but she gained a home win in Columbia last season.

Rutgers Downed Again by Stanford

The West was not the best place for Rutgers to start the season. After falling at Cal in Berkeley Friday night the Scarlet Knights were clipped by the No. 3 Cardinal 63-50 in Maples Pavilion.

Stanford, which held second place in the weekly Associated Press rankings behind UConn all last season before losing to the Huskies in the title game, pulled away from a slim 32-29 halftime lead to win its season opener.

Sophomore Erica Wheeler had a career-high 16 points for Rutgers.

“We at least know what we have to do and we’ll work on it and we’ll be better,” Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer promised.

The Scarlet Knights in Thursday’s home opener will host defending Ivy champion and favorite Princeton, whose campus is about a half-hour away. The Tigers challenged Rutgers last season.

While Stringer may have commented, “Oh Brother!” to herself in the play of her team in the second half when the Scarlet Knights committed 10 turnovers, she could have easily exclaimed “Oh Sisters,” to describe Stanford’s attack.

Nmemkadi Ogwumike has 20 points while her freshman sibling Chiney had nine points and 12 rebounds.

Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer needs six wins to reach 800, a total Stringer eclipsed several seasons ago. The Cardinal have now won six straight over Rutgers.

Roadblock Ahead At Home For UConn?

No. 1 Connecticut, the two-time defending and unbeaten NCAA champion, and second ranked Baylor got ready for their 1 vs. 2 showdown in Hartford Tuesday night by gaining easy victories Sunday.

The Huskies made it 79 straight wins with a season-opening 117-37 Holy Cow victory over Holy Cross in Gampel Pavilion on UConn’s Storrs campus. Tiffany Hayes, no relation to Gabby, rustled up a UConn record with 30 of her 32 points in the first half.

Baylor topped Rice 95-51 as Brittney Griner had 14 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocks in 23 minutes of action.

Return of the Monarchs?

No, not the WNBA Sacramento Monarchs.

Make that the Lady Monarchs of Old Dominion.

Coach Wendy Larry’s squad edged Georgia Tech 65-63 in Norfolk, Va., in the season opener for both teams at the Ted Constant Center as Jasmine Parker scored 13 points, including two foul shots with 4.5 seconds left to account for the win.

Alex Montgomery had 18 points for the Yellow Jackets, who fell to 1-1 and host Connecticut in Atlanta on Sunday.

A year ago ODU’s performance on its nonconference schedule was virtually nil.

-- Mel

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