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, November 23, 2010

La Salle's Six Shooters Blast Oral Roberts

By Mel Greenberg

Coming out of a near-major upset of a Top 25 school, the La Salle women’s basketball team gave new coach Jeff Williams an effort at both ends of the floor Monday night on the way to an easy 87-67 nonconference win over Oral Roberts in the Explorers’ Tom Gola Arena.

The visiting Golden Eagles (2-4), defending regular season champions of the Summit League, were playing their third game in four days, most recently losing to Villanova 61-52 Saturday morning in the Navy Classic in Annapolis, Md., at the Naval Academy.

The Explorers (2-3), who faded in the second half at then-No. 13 Georgetown to take a 50-46 loss Friday night, had a scoring fiesta with six players in double figures against the Golden Eagles and led by as many as 32 points just seconds into the start of final half.

“The Drexel game woke us up a whole lot,” Williams alluded to last week’s home-opening loss to the Dragons. “We didn’t play well and didn’t present ourselves well on our home court.

“When we went out against Georgetown we wanted to make sure we gave maximum effort and we feel like if we play hard we can compete,” he continued.

“We definitely played hard tonight. We shared the basketball. I wasn’t happy how we closed it out, defensively. We let (Oral Roberts) get to the basket, but overall I’m pretty happy with the way we performed.”

Freshman guard Jess Koci, a graduate of Archbishop Ryan, had a double double with 10 points and 14 rebounds. She’s the first La Salle women’s freshman to accomplish that feat since all-time Explorer Crista Ricketts performed similarly in a home game against Xavier during the 2003-04 season.

“Jess is just one of those kids who will run through a brick wall for you,” Williams said. “She’s an under-sized post kid, but she’s our hardest worker in practice, hardest worker in the game and it pays off. She just lays it on the line. She’s a warrior.”

Koci said the Explorers’ effort against the Hoyas offered a degree of confidence going up against the Golden Eagles.

“We came out with the same confidence we did last game, knowing we could play a team as Georgetown,” she said. “We just tried to come out strong and play hard.”

Koci spoke of adjusting to a new coach from Tom Lochner, who recruited her last season before his contract wasn’t renewed after the final game. La Salle has given him a job elsewhere in the university.

“Tom actually recruited me but I was coming because I loved the school, and coach Williams is doing great with the team so I really like it,” she said.

Senior Ashley Gale, who played in the Philadelphia Dept. of Recreation NCAA Women’s Summer League in suburban Hatboro had a team-high 22 points and hit three 3-pointers.

“We tried to take the momentum from the Georgetown game into this one,” the graduate of Cheltenham High who lives in Glenside, said. “Summer League is great because you keep playing against college girls. You keep the momentum up. You just play against different levels. It’s a big help.”

Alexis Scott, a redshirt sophomore, had 19 points for La Salle, while Chelsea Connor scored 11, Nadia Duncan scored 13, and Ebonee Jones had 12 points.

The Explorers forced 25 turnovers while committing 15 themselves. Koci also had three steals and Gale blocked two shots.

Sophomore Kevi Luper, one of the top freshmen in the country a year ago, had a game-high 24 points for Oral Roberts, while Jaci Bigham had a doubious double double with 15 points but 10 turnovers. Jordan Pyle had 13 points.

La Salle will get to enjoy a break past Thanksgiving and then host a major game Sunday when Delaware and sophomore sensation Elena Delle Donne make their first appearance of the season in the city.

A year ago, in Delle Donne’s only city appearance, the Drexel game sold out for the annual rivalry war at the Dragons’ end in the Colonial Athletic Association.

In the Blue Hens 3-0 start, Delle Donne scored 36 against UMBC, 34 against Villanova and 41 at Yale. Delaware will host St. Francis of Pennsylvania Tuesday night in the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark before taking a holiday break heading into the La Salle game.

“it’s going to be a tough game,” Williams said of his first time going against the Blue Hens. “Delaware’s a very good team. I know Delle Donne is huge for them, they play very well together and have an excellent coach (Tina Martin).

“We have to get our kids fired up to play. It’s going to be a barn burner. It’s tough playing a kid like Delle Donne. What are you going to do with a 6-4, 6-5 kid who can shoot the three?”

The game will mark a homecoming against a Big Five school for Delaware newcomer Sarah Acker, who was the City Series freshman of the year for St. Joseph’s several seasons ago before suffering a back injury at the outset of her sophomore season. She later transferred out.

Acker became eligible last week and her first game was Saturday in the win at Yale.

“Wow. I tried to recruit Sarah when I was (an assistant) at Pitt,” Williams said. “She’s a pretty good player. That gives them a very, very strong team. Now they have someone in the post and someone outside, and they have some pieces around those kids that allow them to do what they do. And they’re a very well-coached team.”

Gale is familiar with Delle Donne. The Explorers met her last year early in the season when La Salle travelled to Delaware.

“I played with Elena a little on Fencor AAU and also against her most of the time,” Gale said.

Rutgers Evens Its Record

Speaking of players out of Wilmington, Del., as is Delle Donne, her former high school rival – Khadijah Rushdan of St. Elizabeth’s – had 26 points and 10 rebounds as Rutgers (2-2)routed Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) school North Carolina A&T 88-59 at home Monday night in the Louis a. Brown Athletic Center.

Rushdan’s shot with four seconds remaining stopped a major upset on Thursday by Princeton in a home game Thursday against the Ivy champions in their annual Garden State rivalry.

Monday's game produced the largest point total for the Scarlet Knights (2-2) since the 2003 season.

The visitors fell to 1-3.

April Sykes had 14 points for Rutgers, Monique Oliver had 12 points, and Erica Wheeler and Daisha Simmons each scored 10 points. Nikki Speed dealt 10 assists, the first to do that in double figures since the days of WNBA All-Star Matee Ajavon several seasons ago in 2007-08.

This weekend Oliver will enjoy a homecoming in Las Vegas when the Scarlet Knights play in a tournament that has UNLV has the host team.

“We shared the ball more, we knew what we were doing, and we pressed,” Rutgers Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer said after Monday’s win.

“I think we can be a Top 20 team … based on the level of competition we’ve played and what I’ve seen.”

Rutgers opened the season in Northern California, losing to Cal-Berkeley and at No. 3 Stanford.

Drexel’s Mythical Big Five Run Continues Against St. Joe’s

As is known here, Drexel is not a Big Five school, but the Dragons are getting a strong dose of City Series rivals to start the season.

The best schools within the Big Five can do is 4-0 but as an outsider, Drexel (2-0) has a chance for a 4-0 sweep going into Tuesday night’s home against St. Joseph’s (3-0) in the Dragons’ Daskalakis Athletic Center.

Drexel has already beaten La Salle on the road and Penn at home. The Dragons do not play Temple, but after Tuesday night they will host Villanova, coach Denise Dillon’s alma mater, on Friday afternoon.

It’s the first time Wildcats veteran coach Harry Perretta will be on the sidelines in the DAC, though he’s been in the stands for many games to watch Dillon’s Drexel teams compete.

St. Joseph’s is off to one of the Hawks’ better starts in recent seasons.

As previously mentioned, Delaware will host St. Francis of Pennsylvania, coached by former Penn State star Susan Robinson Fruchtl, whose Red Flashes won the Northeast Conference tournament last seasn.

Penn will travel to Lawrenceville, N.J., to meet Rider, coached by former St. Joseph and Drexel assistant Lynn Milligan. Temple will host Northern Illinois, another Mid-American Conference affiliate whom the Owls play along with a number of other MAC teams under the agreement that allowed Temple to join the MAC and compete in football. The other sports are still in the Atlantic 10.

St. Joe’s Cradle of Coaches in AP Poll Trivia

Though Notre Dame slid backwards in the most recent Associated Press women’s poll released Monday, coach Muffet McGraw reached 200 appearances, all with the Irish, in the rankings.

MGraw, who played at St. Joe’s, is a Big Five Hall of Famer who will be inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn., in June.

Ironically she is surrounded by Philadelphia-area contemporaries on the all-time list.

McGraw is 22nd, just behind former Immaculata star Theresa Grentz, who earned 225 appearances at Rutgers and Illinois. She also coached at St. Joe’s.

Marianne Stanley, a former Immaculata star who coached three national champions at Old Dominion, is 23rd with 183 appearances that include a stint with Southern Cal when Lisa Leslie played for the Trojans. The run also includes the caretaking roles when Stanley and Amy Tucker guided Stanford to a Final Four in 1996 when Tara VanDerveer was on a leave of absence in the year-long march to a gold medal with the Olympic team at the Atlanta Games.

VanDerveer is at No. 4 on the all-time list at 391, soon to pass former Texas coach Jody Conradt, a Hall of Famer who had 395 appearances with the Longhorns.

Tennessee’s Pat Summitt tops both all-time and active lists with 583 appearances, missing just 14 shots at what has been a 597-week poll history through last weekend’s vote.

Georgia’s Andy Landers, a 2007 Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame induction classmate of the Guru’s, is second on both all-time and active lists at 453, all with the Bulldogs.

Ohio State’s Jimn Foster, who also coached at St. Joe’s and Vanderbuilt, is at No. 8 on the all-time list at 335, just one behind former Penn State coach Rene Portland, a former Immaculata star who also coached at St. Joseph’s.

McGraw is 13th on the active list, behind Gary Blair (230), one of the elite triple-school club members with appearances at Stephen F. Austin, Arkansas and Texas A&M.



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