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 12, 2010

Guru Report: Dutch Treats St. Joe's To Big 5 Win Over 'Nova

(Guru’s note: The Guru made a guest star appearance with the women’s roundup in print in The Inquirer using a different spin on the St. Joseph’s-Villanova game).

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA –
A foreigner helped St. Joseph’s get a stronghold on recapturing the Big Five glory that the Hawks used to monopolize.

Samira Van Grinsven, a native of the Netherlands and junior college transfer from Casper in Wyoming, scored on the inside Sunday afternoon with eight seconds to go, enabling St. Joseph’s to grab a thrilling 46-43 win over Villanova in a gritty City Series game at Hagan Arena.

“For some reason I thought she was right behind me, so I pump faked,” Van Grinsven said of being defended on the play, though the 6-2 forward was pretty much open. “But we won and that’s all that matters.

“It was good to be back after a seven-game road trip, but we had to kind of get used to the court again,” she added.
St. Joseph’s (6-3, 2-0 Big Five) had not been home since beating Providence in the season opener on Nov. 12, though the Hawks had played two of the seven games in the city. They lost narrowly at Drexel while getting their Big Five slate off to a successful start Tuesday with a win over Penn at The Palestra.

Van Grinsven, who scored 10 points, talked about what attracted her to Hawk Hill.

“It was the program – the coaches were awesome and the team was great,” Van Grinsven said. “I’m going to make it my second home.”

St. Joseph’s coach Cindy Griffin credited assistant coach Chris Day with finding the Dutch basketball player.

“He found her at a junior college tournament and we knew we needed a big body,” Griffin said. “She’s an academic kid and her sister plays at Colorado State.

“They weren’t recruiting her, so we said, `Want to come to Philly? It’s a little closer to the Netherlands.’”

Michelle Baker of Wilmington, Del., had a team high 15 points for the Hawks, while Katie Kuester, the daughter of NBA Detroit Pistons coach John Kuester, a former 76ers assistant, scored 12.

Laura Sweeney, a 6-2 sophomore forward from Cherokee High in Marlton, N.J., across the Delaware River near Philadelphia, had a career-high 25 points, shooting 10-for-19 from the field. Five of those came on a 7-0 run down the stretch by Villanova after St. Joseph’s had built a 44-36 lead.

The Wildcats (5-5, 1-1 Big Five) entered the game having had trouble scoring in the their previous two games, particularly in the first half when they held a 16-9 lead over Fairfield and trailed No. 9 West Virginia, 24-12, both games at home at The Pavilion.

The offense continued to stay out of sight in the first half though Villanova managed to stymie St. Joseph’s also in taking a 12-11 lead. The Wildcats were 23.8 percent from the field, making 5-for-21 attempts, while the Hawks shot 5-for-25 for 20 percent.

Both teams combined to be so cold that Mother Nature by comparison more than doubled their output registering temperatures in the 50s outside the arena.

“Brutal. What else can I say. Brutal,” Villanova veteran coach Harry Perretta shrugged afterwards.

When the two teams headed to the locker rooms Perretta could be seen saying something to Griffin.

“`Join the club,’ I told her, `I’ve been dealing with this for three games,’” he related about the conversation.

“We almost scored 20 field goals. We got over 40 points today. I know it’s a typical Big Five game but man, it’s brutal.”

Griffin wasn’t overly concerned about the drought, considering that the two defensive minded teams normally play low-scoring close-to-the-vest games.

Two seasons ago when the Hawks last beat the Wildcats, it was a triple-overtime affair at Philadelphia University when St. Joseph’s spent the season being local gypsies. They played home games off campus while Hagan Arena was being remade out of what used to be named Memorial Alumni Fieldhouse.

“We got the looks we wanted in the first half, we just couldn’t make them,” Griffin said. “We just had to keep going at it, we held them in check for a little while until Sweeney got off. We were fortunate to get enough ahead.”

The Hawks continued to dominate the series with the Wildcats, improving to 24-12.

One reason the games go this way is the familiarity many of the local teams have playing each other, particularly in pickup games and the summer league.

St. Joseph’s freshman Erin Shields and Villanova’s Meagan Pearson were teammates at Archbishop Carroll, while Kuester and the Wildcats’ Devon Kane played together at the Academy of Notre Dame De Namur.

Shields mother Renie (Dunne) Shields played for the Hawks – she was a freshman when UConn coach Geno Auriemma first got acquainted with women’s basketball as an assistant to Jim Foster in 1978-79 after Foster’s hire.

The older Shields is a compliance officer at St. Joseph’s and broadcasts Hawks women’s games. She was not on Hawk Hill Sunday however doing split parental duty by flying to Boston where Kerri, another daughter, was starring for Boston College in a win over Rutgers in a nonconference game.

The Hawks’ win ensures the Big Five champion may not be determined until St. Joseph’s hosts Temple in the next-to-the-last regular season game in late February.

Most times, 4-0 sweeps do the trick, though occasionally a City Series trophy is obtained outright at 3-1. Two seasons ago Temple and the Hawks tied at 3-1.

Temple, which visits Villanova on Sunday, has yet to play in the Big Five this season. The Wildcats, as mentioned, are 1-1, while La Salle is 0-1, and Penn is 0-1. The Hawks’ next Big Five game, which will also count in the Atlantic 10, is at home Feb. 19 right before Temple visits.

Kuester was thrilled to get the win over the Wildcats and stay on track for a potential City Series title.

“It was exciting,” she said of the game. “They have such a good team. “It is so hard to guard Villanova but I think we guarded their flare screens well.

“Basketball is a game of runs. They made their run. We made our run and kept battling. It was a good win for us. The Big Five is up for grabs right now so a Big Five title would be awesome.”

St. Joseph’s next hosts defending Ivy champion Princeton on Sunday while Villanova will be hosting Temple.

Drexel Shackles Pirates

The last time first year Seton Hall coach Anne Donovan was involved in a game in Philadelphia she was coaching the Rage, the local franchise in the former American Basketball League that collapsed under bankruptcy in December 1998. That was several months after her hire for a season that lasted less than two months.

Since then the Hall of Famer who starred at Old Dominion went on to win a WNBA title with the Seattle Storm (2004), guide the United States to an Olympic Gold medal in Beijing, China (2008), and revive the fortunes of the New York Liberty in the WNBA last summer.

However taming the red hot Dragons in West Philadelphia Sunday was not a deed Donovan was able to accomplish in a nonconference meeting.

Drexel got off to a quick start and cruised to a 66-43 win to run the Dragons’ season record to 6-1 while Seton Hall fell to 5-6.

“I know we had a lot of offense,” Drexel coach Denise Dillon said. “But it was our defensive play that was again that was the difference.

“When we looked at Seton Hall’s last couple of games they were an excellent rebounding team so boxing out and keeping them off the boards was really big for us.”

Kamile Nacickaite continued to be a pacesetter, scoring 15 points for Drexel, while Jasmina Rosseel scored 14, and Hollie Mershon scored 12. Tyler Hale had her first career double double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Next up for the Dragons is a visit Friday to defending Ivy League champion Princeton, whose only two losses have been a last-second setback at Rutgers and a narrow loss at Vanderbilt when the Commodores were still ranked.

Penn State Returns To The Nifty ‘90s

Coach Coquese Washington’s Nittany Lions (9-2) continue to pour the points.

Freshman Maggie Lucas, who has become a sensational newcomer to the Big Ten Conference, collected 22 points as Penn
State routed Maine 95-41 at the Bryce Jordan Center in State College, Pa.

It was their seventh game of 90 or more points, including two overtime encounters involving triple digits by both teams with Penn State going 1-1.

Lucas, who has had five games of 20-or-more points, is a resident of Narberth who starred at Germantown Academy.

The Black Bears (1-7) were coming off a lopsided loss at Penn Friday night at the Palestra.

Nikki Greene had 12 points and 14 rebounds for PSU, along with three blocked shots and a career-tying four steals.

Penn State next hosts Delaware Sunday in a nonconference game that is a major upgrade on the Blue Hens’ schedule.

Sophomore sensation Elena Delle Donne is likely to play for Delaware as she continues to recover from a viral infection that brought fatigue causing her to miss nearly two games before returning a week ago in a win at Navy.

Rutgers Clipped By Boston College

Ranked by the coaches in the USA Today/ESPN poll, Boston College should start drawing votes from the media off its best-ever 10-0 start including the Eagles’ 84-75 triumph in a nonconference win at home Sunday in Chestnut Hill, Mass, against Rutgers (6-4), a former rival when BC played in the Big East.

The Eagles led by as many as 28 points in the second half before the Scarlet Knights made a run down the stretch.

Carolyn Swords had 20 points for BC, while Kerri Shields scored 18.

Rutgers’ April Sykes had a career-high 32 points and Khadijah Rushdan of Wilmington scored 23.

The Scarlet Knights next host Kane Wednesday before meeting No. 7 Texas A&M, which will probably be ranked higher this week prior to the game Sunday to open the Maggie Dixon in Madison Square Garden in New York City.

The second game will feature No. 1 UConn, the two-time defending and unbeaten NCAA champion, going after No. 6 Ohio State, which will be ranked lower after Saturday’s loss at unranked Syracuse.

A sellout crowd is expected to watch the Huskies attempt to tie the 88-game basketball win streak record set by the UCLA men in 1971-74 under the legendary John Wooden, who died earlier this year.

-- Mel

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