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.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Outsider Drexel Beats 3rd Straight Big Five School

By Mel Greenberg

Drexel is one win away from becoming the first to make the fastest early season 4-0 blitz of Big Five opponents since the women’s City Series round robin began three decades ago.

Actually a 3-0 start is probably worth something in itself.

The Dragons (3-0) have begun their schedule with a steady diet of Big Five opponents and on Tuesday night in one week’s time they made St. Joseph’s join La Salle and Penn on the victims list after Drexel beat the Hawks 50-47 in a tightly-fought game at the Daskalakis Athletic Center in West Philadelphia.

Kamile Nacickaite, a native of Lithuania who had a career high 26 points in the season opener at La Salle a week ago in the 86-55 win over the Explorers, had 19 points and 10 rebounds against the Hawks (3-1).

“It’s exciting to win against Big Five teams because we’re not part of the Big Five,” she said.

Her parents, incidentally, back across the Atlantic can look on their computers in the middle of the night and watch Nacickaite play because of Drexel’s ability to video stream men’s and women’s games, as many other schools are now doing.

Drexel will remain home Friday at 5 p.m. to meet Villanova, the alma mater of Dragons coach Denise Dillon. It will be the first time Wildcats coach Harry Perretta will be on the sidelines in the DAC, though he has attended many games to watch his former star player guide the Dragons.

It just happened that way,” Dillon said of the local opponents on the front of the schedule. “With scheduling, it’s always difficult, putting people where you need them.

“We knew our girls would be up for these games. They’re going against girls they’re used to playing against. The competition is always intense. So we knew they would be up for these games and it’s just important for our team to prepare early in the season,” Dillon said.

“They were ready to roll tonight. It was just a little more of an aggressive battle than both teams might have thought it would be, but the refs allowed them to play. Finally, we got into the flow of things into the second half.

“I love people are saying we’re playing good team defense where I think we’re playing good team offense, also. We are going to continue to get better on the floor each day. We’re playing every possession like it’s a tie game no matter what the score is for the other team or us.”

Within the Big Five Villanova has been the regular early bird champion when the Wildcats have gone 4-0 because of the necessity to get nonconference games out of the way before competing in the Big East Conference.

But there would be a degree of smugness among the fan base if the Drexel women could complete the sweep. However, some asterisk would have to be applied to note that they do not play Temple, the alma mater of assistant coach Melissa Dunne, this season.

The Dragons gained one level of satisfaction last season when their own former senior Gabriela Marginean became the all-time women’s scorer among all classifications – Divisions I, II, and III – in the Philadelphia area. Former Penn star Diana Caramanico owns the Big Five women's record.

With Marginean graduated, so far the Drexel has done anything but level off.

“I proud of how we played in the past and how ‘Gabby played for us and everyone contributed in their own way,” Dillon said after Tuesday’s game. “We had a lot of young players and now it’s their turn.

“You have girls who started as sophomores last year who are now juniors. When you move into your junior year I think your game expands – your understanding of the game becomes easier so your game becomes better,” Dillon explained.

“’Jassy (Belgium’s Jasmina Rosseel) as a senior is playing significant minutes so now it’s their turn. With Gabby, yeah she was a dominant player from early in her career but we didn’t have the success we had her junior and senior year when she became a smarter, more confident player in what we were doing.

“So now it’s just more players than just that one, so it helps.”

Taylor Wootton, a sophomore, had 12 points for Drexel, while Marissa Crane, a junior from Emmaus, Pa., hit a pair of foul shots down the stretch to keep the Dragons ahead.

The Hawks had gotten closer on a long three-pointer by freshman Erin Shields, a graduate of Archbishop Carroll, whose mother Renie Shields is a former Hawks star who now works in St. Joseph’s as a compliance director.

Kelly Cavallo had 12 points for St. Joseph’s and Michelle Baker scored 10. Junior Katie Kuester, the daughter of NBA Detroit Piston coach John Kuester, was limited to five points and fouled out near the end of the game.

In the first half, Drexel bolted to a 10-3 lead but the Hawks rallied and went into the halftime break ahead 21-16.

Kuester’s trey at the start of the final period made it 24-16 and the lead later grew to nine on a layup by Cavallo.

But then Drexel struck back with Nacickaite’s six-point eruption putting the Dragons ahead 35-32 with 7:16 left in the game.

A trey by Nacickaite broke a 39-39 deadlock with 4:43 left in the game and her ensuing layup extended the advantage to five points.

With Drexel ahead 47-44, the Hawks were called for a shot clock violation with 11 seconds remaining. Rosseel hit a pair of foul shots to keep the Dragons ahead before Shields’ trey made it 49-47. Crane then hit her foul shot for the final score.

“It was very much a defense game,” St. Joseph’s coach Cindy Griffin said. “We were happy where the score was from that end. But from the offensive end we had no value for the basketball and no court awareness. And that comes from being young in a lot of ways but certainly it would have helped given us a little more of a chance at the end if we had valued the possession of the basketball.

“We’re young in so many ways. We’re 3-1, we’re in as good place. We want to win the games that we should and can win. We just don’t want these games to come back and haunt us later on.”

St. Joseph’s next travels to Patriot champion Lehigh for a noon game Tuesday in Bethlehem, Pa.

Delaware Bulking Up

Since last season, most Delaware stories have also been Elena Delle Donne tales as the former 2008 national high school player of the year out of Wilmington’s Ursuline Academy made her college debut and quickly took her place alongside the nation’s scoring leaders.

On Tuesday night, however, someone else joined Delle Donne in the spotlight as Delaware (4-0) beat Northeast Conference tournament champion St. Francis of Pa. 68-52.

Sarah Acker, a transfer from St. Joseph’s who was Big Five player of the year several seasons ago before being injured and having other difficulties, in her second game for the Blues Hens had 13 points and 12 rebounds in her home debut at the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark, Del.

Delle Donne struggled early but finished with 26 points and 12 rebounds. The Blue Hens dominated the boards against the Red Flashes (1-4)

Daniel Parker matched a career high with 12 rebounds and Delaware dominated the boards 56-37 and blocked 10 shots.

Delaware next makes the first of two Philadelphia visits Sunday when the Blue Hens travel to La Salle at 2 p.m. They later play at Drexel on January 9th as part of competition in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Owls Back on Course

Temple (2-2) won its second straight, beating Northern Illinois 79-56 in McGonigle Hall as newcomer Shey Peddy scored 23 points. The Huskies – not those Huskies – fell to 3-2 out of the Mid-American Conference.

BJ Williams added 13 points off the bench and now Temple heads West for a Friday game at Pepperdine and a Sunday date at No. 13 UCLA, which is experiencing a renaissance under former Tennessee assistant Nikki Caldwell.

A sweep would go a long way to bury the effects of Tuesday’s loss at Seton Hall.

‘Nova Holds Off LehighFormer Temple star Lindsey Kimmel, the Big Five player of the week who transferred to the Wildcats two seasons ago, continues to bring value in her debut on the Main Line.

The native of Binghamton, N.Y. scored 16 points as did Rachel Roberts, tying a career mark, and Villanova (4-1) held off the Patriot League champions 69-68 in overtime.

Jesse Carey had 12 points for the Wildcats and Laura Sweeney scored 10.

Roberts’ layup with 40 seconds remaining forced the game into overtime.

Villanova held a 69-61 lead in the extra period with 2:13 left after Kimmel’s trey, but the Mountain Hawks scored seven straight points only to miss a pair in the final seconds to let Villanova escape.

Emily Gratch had 22 points for Lehigh (1-4), while Erica Prosser scored 19 and Courtney Dentler scored 13.

Penn Matches Last Year’s Win Total

Every win will be an improvement over coach Mike McLaughlin’s first season the rest of the way after Penn (2-1) traveled to Lawrenceville, N.J. Tuesday night and beat host Rider 60-45 as freshman Meghan McCullough, a native of Havertown from the Academy of Notre Dame, scored 17 points and was 4-for-4 on three point attempts.

A year ago the Quakers’ first win came on New Year’s Eve and the second occurred in the second to final game, beating Ivy rival Dartmouth on the road. The night before, Penn nearly upset Harvard in Cambridge, Mass.

Penn also showed resiliency against Rider (0-4) bouncing back off of Friday’s 62-31 loss at Drexel. Jess Knapp had 12 rebounds.

Millersville Upsets Holy FamilyThe fourth-ranked Tigers (3-1) dodged one team Saturday winning at American University without team leader Catherine Carr (ankle). But they were unable to dodge another Tuesday night, losing at No. 19 Millersville 61-51.

It’s the first time the Marauders (3-0) have beaten that highly ranked an opponent.

Samantha Thompson had 12 points while Lindsey Tennett had 15 rebounds.

-- Mel


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