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.

Monday, November 22, 2010

UConn Prevails Over Georgia Tech In Maya Moore's Homecoming

By Mel Greenberg

ATLANTA –
Back in the 1970s when then-called Immaculata College, now a university, and Delta State were the rivalry of the day in women’s collegiate basketball, they made part of their calling to play each other at times and appear individually in different locations around the country.

One reason was to give these places a taste of the highest levels of the sport and another was to provide exposure for hometown teams to increase attendance and perhaps leave somewhat of a lasting impact without regard to how lopsided the final score might be.

From an individual viewpoint, top-ranked Connecticut journeyed into Dixie Sunday with a local girl who played the role of Union General William Sherman’s march through Georgia.

Maya Moore left her native Peachtree state four years ago as the top prospect out of high school to join the Huskies and bring them a pair of national titles.

Now she was back in the neighborhood with a much younger collection of allies than those who had romped over the nation, excepting the narrow win over Stanford in last season’s championship in San Antonio, Texas.

However, by the time their day’s work was done in Alexander Memorial Coliseum, the outcome was similar to what has been done in the past rather than the narrow 65-64 escape that occurred Tuesday over No. 2 Baylor in Hartford, Conn.

Moore, expected to be the No. 1 overall pick in next April’s WNBA draft by the Minnesota Lynx, torched Georgia Tech for 30 points as she drew many cheers from the program-record crowd of 7,325 on the way to a 71-51 victory.

It’s the first time she has scored 30 or more points in two consecutive games.

In the wake of Moore and the Huskies (3-0), another historical marker was left here in the ongoing winning streak that now stands at 81 straight and is headed full steam ahead toward reaching the 88 achieved, if not more, by the UCLA men’s team under John Wooden.

That 81 total matched the all-time number in any women’s collegiate competitive classification achieved by Division III Washington University of St. Louis.

“I know they’re a great team and they’re probably a little pissed that nobody talks about them, all anybody talks about is Connecticut,” coach Geno Auriemma quipped. “And they’re probably like, `We’re a pretty good academic school – hard to get into – and there’s UConn, a state school, getting all the attention.’”

Auriemma talked about the way the mixed crowd of fans for both the Huskies and Yellow Jackets cheered Moore’s performance.

“It was pretty unique, it was pretty amazing,” Auriemma said. “The way the people down here feel about Maya and really all over the country everywhere we go. She has just made an impact on the game and on the fans. Everybody is just drawn to her, the way she plays and the way she carries herself. And she made some spectacular plays today.”

Moore also spoke of the reception she received.

“It’s always good to know we have fans all over the country,” she said. “Especially being back in Georgia, familiar territory, it feels good. I haven’t gotten a chance to see any of my family but knowing that they were there, family and friends and people who have supported me come out to see me and support my team. That means the world to me.”

Freshman Bria Hartley, who had eight points in just less than the final four minutes Tuesday to save UConn against Baylor, had 15 against Georgia Tech (3-2).

The Yellow Jackets have a freshman star of their own in Tyaunna Marshall, a guard from Upper Marlboro, Md., in the Terrapins’ back yard, who scored 23 points.

“I was obviously very impressed with Ty Marshall to step up and make the plays she did against a very good UConn team bodes well for the future,” Yellow Jackets coach MaChelle Joseph said. “I thought she put us on our back at times and carried us. That’s what a big time player does in big time games. And I thought for a freshman, she showed a lot of guts out there, today.”

Alex Montgomery had 13 points for Georgia Tech.

Expressing disappointment in the outcome, Joseph, a former Purdue star, talked about the residual effect of her team’s effort and also praised Moore.

“Maya Moore showed why she’s the best player in women’s college basketball,” Joseph said. “She puts the team on her back. She carries them. She makes big plays at the right time. She’s all over the floor.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect on what she brings to the game.”

As for her own team, Joseph’s noted, “To out-rebound Connecticut (40-38) is a major accomplishment for us and to hold them for 3-for-23 from the three-point line, I thought our matchup zone was pretty effective.

“But we have to develop an inside game. UConn is the No. 1 team in the country and now we know what we have to do to get to where we want to be. They go as hard in warm-ups as they go in a game.

“This is teaching us a lot about ourselves. This is not going to hurt us in January, it’s only going to help ourselves.”

As for getting the crowds back down here, Joseph said, “I hope they saw how hard we play, how we compete. Obviously women’s basketball is played at a very high level.

“I thought you saw some tremendous basketball plays out there. But one thing we’re missing here is we’ve been in the (NCAA) tournament the last four years. We’ve won 27 games the last four years.

“The one thing we’re missing to get this program over the hump is our attendance, getting people to support this team. We’ve been one of the best kept secrets in Atlanta. Obviously getting 7,000 people in here – we’re not a secret any more. As long as we continue to win and be competitive I think that will happen.”

-- Mel

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