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, December 05, 2010

Delle Donne Shrugs Illness: Scores 20 In Delaware Win

(Updating with detail in first item from earlier Sunday afternoon and completing rest of the report.)

By Mel Greenberg

Delaware coach Tina Martin received a nice surprise Sunday when sophomore star Elena Delle Donne returned to action and scored 20 points as the Blue Hens held off Navy for a 60-55 non-conference victory.

The game was preserved for Delaware (6-1) when Lauren Carra, who finished with 16 points, nailed two foul shots with five seconds remaining in the game at Alumni Hall on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

Delle Donne, a week ago Sunday, removed herself six minutes into the Blue Hens’ win at La Salle in Philadelphia and did not return, though she remained with the team.

The 6-foot-5 forward, who was the 2008 national high school player of the year at Wilmington’s Ursuline Academy, sat on the bench in street clothes Wednesday night when the Blue Hens lost to defending Ivy champion Princeton at home.

Jocelyn Bailey, another starter, also missed Wednesday’s game because of a concussion suffered at La Salle, but she also was back in uniform at Navy (4-4), playing 30 minutes and scoring four points and grabbing six rebounds as Martin regained two important weapons to handle the Midships.

Martin, after the La Salle game, said Delle Donne had been feeling fatigued and Martin hoped that Delle Donne was not about to suffer another bout with mononucleosis that caused her to miss 10 games her senior season.

“I did not know if she was going to play or not,” Martin texted the Guru Sunday night, answering an inquiry after the team returned home from Navy. “But she wanted to give it a try. Hopefully as days pass here she will keep improving, but we’ll see.

“We believe Elena has a virus infection and she was rundown. She gave it a go and helped us win,” Martin said of the 38 minutes Delle Donne played also grabbing seven rebounds, dishing three assists, blocking two shots and grabbing a steal.”

However it should also be noted Delle Donne shot 7-for-23 from the field, including 1-for-6 on three point attempts for Delaware, which was ranked 10th last week in the Mid-Major women’s poll.

“She obviously is still not 100 percent,” Martin said. “However, now we break for exams. So hopefully she will continue to feel better.”

Navy’s coach Stefanie Pemper, in the Midship postgame report, said of going against Delle Donne, "I thought we did a nice job of team defense today, including a pretty good job on number 11 (Delle Donne).”

Voted both the rookie and player of the year in the Colonial Athletic Association last season, Delle Donne had a 27.4 scoring average, tops among Division I women, prior to the game at Navy.

She was at 34.6 before going scoreless in her limited appearance at La Salle.

Delaware’s next game is a big one for the Blue Hens, who will visit Penn State on Sunday, Dec. 19. That’s the same day Connecticut is expected to be playing No. 6 Ohio State in Madison Square Garden in the Maggie Dixon Classic in New York attempting to tie the men’s basketball win streak record of 88 games set by the UCLA men’s team under the late John Wooden.

The Huskies were the original collegiate choice of Delle Donne until she reversed herself at the end of the summer of 2008 and decided to remain close to home at Delaware, where she played volleyball that fall. UConn (8-0) moved forward, not having lost since and adding two NCAA titles.

The streak stayed alive Sunday as Connecticut had an easy time in Hartford, the Huskies’ second home, beating Sacred Heart 86-32 as Maya Moore, expected to go No. 1 in the draft, scored 17 points and became the UConn women’s all-time scorer with 2,355 points. Tina Charles, No. 1 in the last WNBA draft to the Connecticut Sun, had a one-year reign with the Huskies record, reaching 2,346 last season.

Back at the Delaware game, Danielle Parker had nine points and 11 rebounds, while newcomer Sarah Acker, a former Big Five rookie of the year at St. Joseph’s, was 3-for-3 off the bench, scoring six points for Delaware. She blocked three shots and had three rebounds in 17 minutes.

Martin, in her postgame comments at Navy, praised Carra’s effort.

“I really thought Laren Carra was the star of the game,” Martin said of her 5-9 guard who had been a backup to point guard Kayla Miller, who is currently sidelined with a back injury.

“Carra’s playing out of position all year,” Martin said and relating that she originally expected Carra to play 10 minutes a game at point. “Now every game she has to play 35 minutes at point guard.”

La Salle Regains Shooting Touch

It may not be that the Explorers have discovered oil, but unlike their male counterparts on campus, something is fueling the La Salle women when they play schools from Oklahoma, specifically the city located right in the path of Tornado Alley.

New coach Jeff Williams’ bunch beat Tulsa, 86-73, at the Explorers’ Tom Gola Arena Sunday after bolting to a 14-0 lead at the start of the game and shooting an overall average of 46.4 percent from the field.

It’s the second of a two-game visit to Philadelphia in which the Golden Hurricanes (2-4) got defused early following Friday’s loss at Drexel.

La Salle (3-4), meanwhile, had previously beaten another Tulsa-based school, Oral Roberts 87-67, at home.

The win over Tulsa was the Explorers’ first game since Sunday’s 59-48 loss a week ago to Delaware in which La Salle shot 25 percent in a game in which the Blue Hens’ Elena Delle Donne was on the bench most of the way because of what now is being called a viral illness.

Five La Salle players scored in double figures against Tulsa paced by Ashley Gale’s 19 points and 10 rebounds. Michea Bryant, a freshman who had scored a total of 14 points collectively in the Explorers’ first six games, finished with 16 points, while Ebonee Jones scored 15 points, and Jess Koci and Chelsea Connor each scored 14 points.

Tulsa’s Tatum Beer had 18 points, while Loren McDaniel had 13 points and 10 rebounds.

The game was messy with a total of 50 fouls assessed – 27 to Tulsa compared to 23 to La Salle. But Williams was pleased to see improvement and now the Explorers will have another week before traveling to meet Lafayette in Easton. The Leopards have a new coach in Dianne Nolan, a former Fairfield coach who grew up in Gloucester across the river.

“Our kids got off to a great start early shooting the basketball,” Williams said. “Got some confidence and began to roll.
“I was happy to see Michea Bryant making shots (6-for-10), because she is a good shooter and had been struggling and it was great to see her knock down some shots and get her confidence up,” he added.

“We didn’t feel like we played our best against Delaware – you know, when you play against a team that has a phenomenal talent like Delle Donne and she doesn’t play, I think we had a letdown.

“I think that’s on me. I should have been able to keep these kids up, keep these kids motivated to do their best. I think we played our best today and hope this can carry over to Lafayette. The ladies have begun to pick it up in practice and they’re beginning to see the results of when you work hard and compete in practice, it carries over. We’re excited over the way we shot the ball. It’s a good win.”

Meanwhile Tulsa coach Charlene Thomas-Swinson, a previous head coach of St. John’s, is heading back home to revamp a few things.

“We have to figure out how to go back to the drawing board and boxing out,” she said. “Rebounding is the difference in every ball game, being able to get opportunities and finishes,” she continued.

“We were better from the free throw line once we got there,” she said.
Tulsa was 14-for-20 while La Salle was 26-for-32.

“But just being able to hit layups, the open, the mid-range, and the high-percentage shots.”

Thomas-Swinson, who played at Auburn under Hall of Famer Joe Ciampi, praised Bryant and the Explorers’ coach.

“My hat’s off to Jeff, he’s done a tremendous job with this ball club. I think the biggest difference maker in reference to who’s game got better was Bryant. She was really struggling before we came here and she really stepped up big for them.

“Connor hadn’t stepped up her game until today. We knew Ashley was going to do her stuff. Ashley Gale is very good. But my hat’s off to Jeff. He’s patient with them. He’s teaching them. That’s all we are having to do right now is teach early in the season.”

Rutgers handles Central Connecticut; Penn State tops Texas Tech

The state schools of New Jersey and Pennsylvania came up winners Sunday afternoon with Rutgers routing Central Connecticut 73-32 while Penn State beat Texas Tech 76-68 in a Big Ten/Big 12 Conference match, both games at home.

Rutgers was coming off of Wednesday’s 60-58 loss in the final seconds at Temple, while Penn State lost Thursday at Boston College in another conference challenge match, this one involving the Big Ten and Atlantic Coast Conferences.

In the game at Rutgers at the Louis Brown Athletic Center in Piscataway, N.J., April Sykes had 18 points for the Scarlet Knights (5-3) while Nikki Speed had a career high 17 points. Khadijah Rushdan scored 14 points and Monique Oliver scored 10.

Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer praised her team’s play though she’d be the first to say that the game Thursday at home against No. 12 Georgetown – the first Big East encounter of the season – will be the next big test.

Actually she did say that: “I have not been a happy camper on the defensive side of things. I’ll feel much better than the Georgetown game. It will tell me a lot.”

The win over CCSU (5-1) made Rutgers 20-0 against schools from the Northeast Conference.

In the win by Penn State (7-2) at the Bryce Jordan Center, Mia Nickson had 26 points and 14 rebounds for her first career double double. Alex Bentley had 16 points and eight assists, while freshman Maggie Lucas from Narberth and Germantown Academy had 10 points.

Texas Tech (8-1) suffered its first loss of the season.

Penn State next hosts Army Wednesday.

Holy Family Tigers Rammed By West Chester

Catherine Carr, who missed several games with an ankle injury is back with No. 8 Holy Family (4-2) but the Tigers lost at another local D-II power - West Chester (5-1), which prevailed Saturday at home at Hollinger Field House 74-69 as the Golden Rams got 26 points from sophomore Alex Lennon. Erin Mann scored 20 for Holy Family in the nonconference encounter.

Nationally Noteworthy

How about the Ivy League? Brown made it a dark day for Florida Sunday beating the Gators 56-50 in the Bears’ own tournament in Providence, Rhode Island to improve to 3-6 while Florida fell to 7-2. … Dayton beat Toledo 102-69 as Jim Jabir became the Flyers’ all-time winningest coach with 119 victories, one more than Linda Makowski, whom the Guru believes also coached at George Washington (1986-88).

Amber Harris, expected to be taken high in the next WNBA draft as is teammate Ta’Shia Phillips, had 20 points and 12 rebounds while Phillips scored 12 as No. 4 Xavier (8-0) beat crosstown rival and host Cincinnati 69-61. The Bearcats fell to 5-2.

Jantel Lavender, also expected to go high in the next WNBA draft, had 32 points and Samantha Prahalis had 15 points and a career-high 15 assists as No. 6 Ohio State (7-0) had a high-scoring 95-84 win in Columbus over visiting No. 11 Oklahoma (7-1), which got 18 points from Carlee Roethlisberger, whose older brother Ben is the NFL Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback.

Ohio State’s Jim Foster coached his 1000th game and is now 732-277 in 32 seasons at St. Joseph’s, Vanderbilt and with the Buckeyes.

The game was another Big Ten/Big 12 challenge event. Besides Penn State’s win over Texas Tech, other inaugural series challenge results saw host Indiana beat No. 24 Nebraska 67-61 to drop the Cornhuskers to 6-1 and end their regular season win streak at 37; No. 19 Iowa State (6-1) beat Michigan 60-47 to drop the Wolverines to 4-4; No. 18 Iowa (8-1) gained a 68-62 win at home over Kansas State (6-1); No. 25 Michigan State (7-1) at home got a 71-57 win over No. 17 Texas (4-2), while No. 2 Baylor (9-1) got 22 points from Brittney Griner at home in Waco, Texas, for a 103-56 win over Minnesota (5-4). Northwestern beat Missouri 79-68 while Oklahoma State had a 50-42 win over Wisconsin. … Illinois beat host Colorado 63-59 Saturday to give the Big Ten a 7-3 lead in the inaugural challenge with Purdue meeting Texas A&M later this week.

No. 16 Notre Dame (7-3) had the 1,000th game in school history and beat visiting Purdue 72-51 as the Boilermarkers fell to 6-2. … Denver (4-4) beat its first ranked opponent ever, upsetting No. 23 Vanderbilt 70-65 at home and the Commodores fell to 4-3 and are likely to drop out of the rankings.

In another state rivalry, host Georgia Tech (7-4) upset No. 21 Georgia 69-53 as Tyaunna Marshall scored 20 points and the Bulldogs fell to 6-2 in Atlanta. … In New Jersey in another neighborhood tussle, defending champion Princeton beat visiting Rider 87-45, while back in the South, Richmond stayed in town to beat Virginia Commonwealth 68-53.

-- Mel

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