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, December 29, 2010

Guru Report: Duquesne Gives McConnell-Serio Some Revenge

(Guru's note: If you got here first via melgreenberg.com click the mel's blog button to get back to blogspot to read the post under this one or if you are already in blogspot, there's a WNBA item of interest directly below).

By Mel Greenberg

The arrival of 2011 won’t become official until midnight Friday but plenty of fireworks lit the women’s basketball collegiate sky Tuesday with more to come after a return from the Christmas break except for delays of activity still being caused by Sunday’s winter blizzard along the Atlantic seaboard.

Suzie McConnell-Serio, the former Olympian, Penn State sensation, and WNBA All-Star, made a triumphant return to Ohio Tuesday where she once thrilled crowds along Lake Erie playing for the former Cleveland Rockers.

As the coach of Duquesne, McConnell-Serio settled some old scores from the days of the previous Atlantic 10 alignment in the late 1980s when the Nittany Lions hooked up with St. Joseph’s then coached by Jim Foster and she had some terrific guard battles on the court with the tenacious Debbie Black.

On Tuesday night Foster was on the bench in Columbus as the coach of No. 13 Ohio State, the Dec. 19th victim of the University of Connecticut’s consecutive game triumph 88 in New York at Madison Square Garden to tie the Division I win streak record of the UCLA men’s team (1971-74) under the late John Wooden, who died earlier this year.

Black was on the bench alongside Foster as one of his assistants.

What Duquesne did is virtually impossible at the Value City Arena where the unranked Dukes (10-2) upset the Buckeyes 71-67, rallying from an eight-point deficit in the final five minutes.

Ohio State (8-3) had been 115-2 at home against unranked opponents.

Wumi Agunbiade had 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Dukes who have won a program record seven straight home games. Samantha Pollini added 14 points.

McConnell-Serio, who has revived the Dukes’ fortunes since taking the job in 2007, played for Foster when he was an assistant to former Rutgers-Illinois coach Theresa Grentz on the 1992 Olympic team that won the bronze medal.

Samantha Prahalis had 22 points and Jantel Lavender scored 21.

“It’s really exciting,” McConnell-Serio left a message for the Guru from her car heading home. “I couldn’t be more excited.”

Suddenly going into Atlantic 10 play next week, a sort of new alignment is behind front-runner Xavier, the No. 4 team in the country that got buzz-sawed by No. 9 Stanford 89-52 Tuesday afternoon in Palo, Alto, California.

It was the 51st straight home win for the Cardinal (8-2), who play at Maples Pavilion, the scene of Thursday night’s showdown with UConn, which will bring a 90-game win streak to town after cruising at Pacific 85-42 in nearby Stockton, Tuesday night.

Charlotte, Duquesne, and St. Joseph’s are the Atlantic 10 teams with gaudy records and the Dukes’ win over the Buckeyes puts them on an NCAA tournament watch list pending their early weeks of action in the conference.

Always one to get fired up to a challenge, McConnell-Serio, who also has coached the WNBA Minnesota Lynx and won a zillion high school state titles out of Pittsburgh, had noticed that the Buckeyes were 70-2 coming out after a loss.

Long Time Coming For LSU

LSU and coach Van Chancellor did a little streak busting of its own, getting the Tigers’ first signature win in a while with a 55-53 upset of No. 8 UCLA (10-1) at Pauley Pavilion in Westwood, Calif., to snap a Bruins’ run of 10 victories.

Taylor Turnbow scored a career-high 18 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and hit the game-winner for the Tigers (10-4) with 14 seconds to play.

UCLA coach Nikki Caldwell is a former assistant of Tennessee’s Pat Summitt out of the Southeastern Conference where LSU also plays.

UConn Legacy Continues

It’s only season two for former UConn star and Huskies former assistant Jamelle Elliott at Cincinnati but she already has the Bearcats (6-5) challenging the nation’s best.

Her team wiped away a 10-point deficit in the second half against No. 23 Texas (9-3) in the Maggie Dixon Surf ‘N’ Slam Classic Tuesday night but the Longhorns had the final say in San Diego’s tournament opener with a three-pointer with 1.3 seconds left that gave coach Gail Goestenkors’ team an 80-77 win and a spot in Wednesday’s title game against the tournament hosts.

The winning shot came from Chassidy Fussell, who scored 20 points.

A three-pointer from Hofstra fell short in overtime against San Diego (9-3) and the Pride (8-2) were edged by the Toreros 85-83 despite 23 points from West Chester Henderson High graduate Shante Evans, a sophomore.

Drexel Shot Down By Aggies

Meanwhile at nearby San Diego State’s tournament No. 7 Texas A&M (10-1) accumulated little rust in a long layoff dating to Dec. 19 since the win over Rutgers in New York as the Aggies overpowered Drexel 74-45 in the opener as the Dragons fell to 7-3.

Danielle Adams had 16 of her 20 points in the first half for Texas A&M who will play the host Dons for the tournament title while Drexel will meet Texas-San Antonio for third place.

Although Drexel’s Kamile Nacickaite, the co-player of the week in the Colonial Athletic Association, was held to 11 points and Jasmina Rosseel to 10, the Dragons picked up more RPI juice playing the powerful Aggies of the Big 12 conference.

Drexel was forced into 24 turnovers.

Speaking of Drexel, after the Guru covered the opener of the St. Joseph’s tournament in another guest star appearance for his former place of employment (see the Inquirer print sports section at Philly.com), he shot down to West Philadelphia to watch Bruiser Flint’s men’s team demolish Niagara 84-39. The visitors scored two points less than UConn’s Maya Moore did with a career-high 41 against Florida State on Tuesday when the Huskies won set the new Division I win streak record at 89, which is now at 90 as previously mentioned.

Penn State Wins Valley War

Well, maybe it was a mountain war but freshman Maggie Lucas, a graduate of Germantown Academy, fired up 20 points as the Nittany Lions (11-3) recovered from last week’s home loss to Drexel to rout neighboring Bucknell 96-48 in the Bryce Jordan Center in State College and the Bisons fell to 2-8.

Coach Coquese Washington’s team has now the most nonconference games in a season since 1984-85 when Penn State had 17 under former coach Rene Portland.

Washington, the former associate head coach at Notre Dame, succeeded Portland in the spring of 2007.

Penn State is 11-0 against Bucknell and begins Big 10 play Thursday at home against nationally-ranked Iowa.

Down in College Park, Md., the No. 18 Terrapins (11-1) easily handled La Salle 83-45 in the opener of their own tournament and will meet nationally-ranked St. John’s on Wednesday. Ebonee Jones had 18 points for the Explorers (4-7) who will meet Liberty in the third-place game.

Maryland will visit St. Joseph’s Sunday afternoon.

Villanova experienced a one-day delay in Fordham’s tournament in New York because of the snow and will open against Siena on Wednesday before playing Yale on Thursday.

St. Joseph’s Rallies Over New Hampshire
(Here is the raw version of the Guru’s story for The Inquirer)

Junior guard Michelle Baker rescued the St. Joseph’s women’s basketball team from rough sledding against New Hampshire Tuesday afternoon by hitting the deciding shot with three seconds left for a 67-66 victory in the opener of the Hawk Classic at Hagan Arena.

The native of Wilmington, Del., who scored 13 points, had missed two foul shots with 47 seconds left in the game before redeeming herself. She drove inside for a layup on a length-of-the-court play after the Wildcats (2-8) had just taken the lead.

“I can’t even explain how I feel right now,” said Baker after producing her first collegiate game-winner. “`Coach’ set up the play and I just had to do it. And those missed shots were still in my mind.”

In Wednesday’s title game at approximately 4:30 p.m. the Hawks (9-3), attempting to win the 700th game in the program’s history, will meet Lafayette (6-6), which held off Quinnipiac (3-8) for a 56-54 victory. The third-place game begins at 2 p.m.

Katie Kuester, the daughter of NBA Detroit Pistons coach John Kuester, a former 76ers assistant, had a team high 14 points for the Hawks but deferred to Baker’s performance.

“She’s been doing that for us, possession after possession, game after game,” Kuester said. “She’s our go-to. I love playing with her. I’ve been playing with her since AAU and she’s just a great player.”

Samir Van Grinsven, a native of the Netherlands, had 11 points and a game-high 10 rebounds for St. Joseph’s. Kelly Cavallo scored 10, while Erin Shields, named Big Five women’s player of the week earlier in the day, scored nine points.

With St. Joseph’s beginning to look like legitimate NCAA tournament material for the first time in 11 seasons; this would have been a tough one for coach Cindy Griffin’s team to lose.

“New Hampshire is better than their record and we did not defend the three very well today,” Griffin said of the Wildcats’ 8-for-15 shooting from beyond the arc. “That gave them a lot of life and we just didn’t play smart.”

Before the game New Hampshire coach Maureen Margarity was hopeful of being able to stay with the Hawks. She is the daughter of Army women’s coach Dave Margarity, a native of Philadelphia.

The Wildcats exceeded her expectations, rallying from a 10-point deficit that existed with 15 minutes left in the game. Lauren Wells hit a trey with 31 seconds left and then followed with a jumper with 13 seconds left for New Hampshire’s brief lead.

Jill McDonald had a game-high 19 points for the Wildcats.

In the other game, Madeline Fahan made a steal in the closing seconds for Lafayette, which got a team-high 12 points from LaKeisha Wright. Danielle Fiacco blocked 12 shots. Quinnipiac’s Courtney Kaminski scored 14 points.

Be back with more in the next 24 hour.

-- Mel

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