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 22, 2010

Guru Report: A Streak Stopped Near Hartford

By Mel Greenberg

That's right. The Guru is writing back in the hotel near the end of of what is on the other side of the window beyond the adjoining mall rush hour outdoors. Now that he has your attention with the teaser headline, it was not anything associated with the Huskies involving a streak being snapped.

First, the Guru's game story was done as a guest star again for the Inquirer sports print section, so there's probably a zillion links as part of a zillion links on everything UConn this Wednesday morning after the Huskies claimed the 89-win streak record as their own Tuesday night with a 93-62 win over No. 21 Florida State in front of a sellout crowd of 16,294 at the XL Center.

You can find it in philly.com and click on the inquirer link and head to sports.

By now most everything that happened is probably posted by the stories from the local horde media beat writers as well as elsewhere among the 100 plus persons in attendance that were the credentialed media representatives. That's more than the Final Four gets these days from newspapers -- much more.

The highlights beyond UConn's version of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (Maya Moore with a career-high 41 points to go with 10 rebounds, singlehandedly trailing the Seminoles just by one27-26 at the half; and freshman Bria Hartley's 21 points, a career-high fueled by 5-of-6 three pointers) were as follows:

A pre-game interview by the media with Greg Wooden, a grandson of the late UCLA men's coach John Wooden, who guided the Bruins to the 88-game streak (1971-74) the Huskies tied in New York Sunday. He said everyone connected with the Wooden family including the Wizard of Westwood himself, had he still been alive, offers blessings to the effort by the UConn women.

He also said it was his first women's game, ever, "but I picked a good one." Well, not really in terms of a game in which the Huskies crossed 89 twice Wednesday night -- the first is when the Huskies registered points 89 and 90 near the end of regulation and the second, of course, is the new number attached to the streak.

From this moment forward, the number will continue to change until put a stop by either someone like Stanford next week, Duke or North Carolina or Oklahoma down the road or Notre Dame in one of two Big East games. No, sorry Harry, the Guru doesn't think Villanova will get it done this time as is 2003 when the previous women's mark held by UConn stopped at 70.

There was the call from President Obama creating Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma's humorous interaction with the resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington, D.C.

The Guru was treated kindly by the sports department editors but the original quip in his story from the Guru was actually: It was a seminal night for women's basketball and basketball in general but a long one for the Seminoles of Florida State.

Auriemma showed his age, saying ESPN's mega coverage on Tuesday was like "(President John F.) Kennedy's funeral, which a majority of media in the room and his entire team were probably not alive to watch back in 1963.

He did comment on the reaction to his postgame Sunday's comments about persons being forced to cover the event who had never been to a women's game. He said he was not criticizing -- just stating the facts. "But if we got your attention," all is well and good, however little it will last.

Now about the broken streak -- the Guru must first take you back to 2005 near here -- in East Hartford -- where the Guru wrote his very first blog about life on the road and that the morning began with a conversation with a member of the room crew who did not speak much English.

The Guru gave a greeting upon departing for an interview and noted to her that a light bulb needed to be changed that was located alongside his bed.

Returning hours later, the Guru determined that the sentence in the maid's language must have meant -- "It's ok. You don't have to make up my room."

Anyhow, to continue, since 1997 when at the Women's Final Four in Cincinnati, the Guru has always made a point of getting several keys upon hotel checkin after leaving his lone one on the other bed continuously throughout the week in Cincy.

So a spare was always kept somewhere on the Guru's person, especially the way the electronic cards get de-magnitized if placed near cell phones, credit cards, etc.

The Guru noted in the previous post about making the midnight ride to here and upon finishing the previous post headed off to sleep and never made it to Reins Deli. Will try in a bit before heading South.

So with Reins about to close at the time near leaving the XL Center -- they're open till midnight -- the Guru headed off to the nearby Vernon Diner -- located in the last civilian outpost on the way to the Storrs campus alongside Route 84 about a half-block from Reins.

And so he spent the time with a light meal and using the iPad to check on everything else associated with the game and other events Tuesday night.

Now upon returning to the hotel entrance one needed a room key to open the second door after entering the tweener area -- it was warm there, don't worry. At that moment the Guru noticed that he had left his keys in his room.

Not to worry, just dial the desk on the door phone to gain admittance -- except that the nice young lady at the desk was not responding. So the Guru waited a bit, thinking she might have been detained -- we've all been in that situation -- hers maybe -- in life.

Still, no response. The Guru looked from an outside window to the other side of the desk and it was definite that no harm had befallen her. But still, no answer.

Finally, after 15 minutes the Guru remembered that the general on-site number from making the reservation on the way up to here might still be in his cell phone and he dialed. The young lady answered on a cell as she was just returning to the front desk and said she had been putting away laundry.

Hey, it was 3 a.m., so just chalk it up to bad timing on the Guru's part -- it probably wouldn't have happened had he not been hanging around the diner for several hours, let alone have the backup key he always had until ending the streak.

Elsewhere In the Women's World

Two games Tuesday night might have gotten more attention had not everything been eclipsed on the longest night (Dec. 21) of the year by the Huskies' date with history.

Actually, a third was Temple, which had been on a roll, losing at Eastern Michigan and the less said about that result the better except for the second straight night a member of a staff used some words in conversation -- this time via Facebook messenger -- not suitable to quote exactly in the Guru's post.

But how about Drexel and maybe the time has come to stop referring to the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) as a mid-major conference. At least it's a conference with teams superior to mid-major designation.

Just 24 hours after James Madison upset Virginia at the finish, Drexel (7-2) upset host Penn State (10-3) in Happy Valley, a major 87-73 or 84-73 -- can't read the scribble -- triumph for the Dragons who suffered a tough setback on Friday night at Princeton -- a team beyond what one usually one thinks about when the term Ivy League is used in the same sentence.

In the first year since the graduation of super scorer Gabriela Marginean, the Dragons continue to astound in their performance in what is a best start. Next game by the way is against Texas A&M at San Diego State so no expectations there.

Kamile Nacickaite tied a career high with 27 points and senior Jasmina Rosseel had 20, including the 1,000th point of her career. Drexel slammed down 13 three-pointers in a game between the top two teams in the nation in three-point shooting success in terms of percentage ability.

Nittany Lions freshman Maggie Lucas, the Germantown Academy graduate, had 20 after being named Big Ten rookie of the week for a fifth straight time -- a conference record.

Drexel, which had trailed in double digits early, came out of the locker room after the half and holding a one-point lead and blasted off to a 13-0 run.

Anybody can get a call from the White House upon achieving sports success but how many coaches on the team bus heading back home get a phone call from the Guru on the same night..

"They played us zone, which surprised us a bit since we expected them to use their bigger bodies to their advantage," Dillon said. "We didn't know about Jas' milestone until Britt (Britt Faulstick, the able media contact) told us afterwords because we don't put a lot of emphasis on that kind of thing, even when `Gabby played for us. But it's always great when something like that happens.

"Princeton was a tough loss but the team learned a lot in that game and so did we as coaches."

Meanwhile, down in Durham, N.C., in what would have been the story of the night had not the game conflicted with events here, No.3 Duke rallied to edge No. 4 Xavier 46-45 -- UConn here outscored both teams combined -- as Jasmine Thomas hit the second of two foul shots with two seconds left after missing the first. She then raced down the court and blocked what appeared to be a wide-open layup attempt as time was expiring.

While it was all happiness for the Blue Devils, who are starting to look as a candidate for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, it was a galling defeat for the Musketeers and coach Kevin McGuff, who apparently was not a happy camper according to reports reaching here.

An aside, the UConn new media relations person this year is Pat McKenna, who had been at Xavier and had already suffered a worst loss in what became his final game with the Musketeers when the team blew layups at the finish that would have resulted in a shocking upset of Stanford and a trip to the Final Four.

So now it's time to pack the bags, maybe hit Reins, and head to Delaware where the Blue Hens and St. Joseph's have a date at 6 p.m. That will either be a game story here or in print, depending on the outcome of a phone call to be made along the way.

Adios for the moment, though the Guru will tweet sometime later.

-- Mel


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