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, January 02, 2011

Guru Report: Maryland's Board Work Stifles St. Joseph's

(Guru’s note: If you arrived here at the melgreenberg.com link, click the Mel’s blog button to read a previous post evaluating the NCAA picture at midseason in conference-by-conference profile. Prior to that is the commentary on the end of the UConn 90-game win streak).

By Mel Greenberg

Back on Pennsylvania soil, Maryland freshman Alyssa Thomas, a native of Harrisburg, was more than a bit much for St. Joseph’s to cope with Sunday afternoon in a lively 74-60 defeat to the No. 18 Terrapins at Hagan Arena before a crowd of 1,334 persons.

Thomas, a 6-foot-2 forward scored 22 points for Maryland (12-1) in the final nonconference outing heading into Thursday’s Atlantic Coast Conference opener at No. 3 Duke.

The pesky Hawks (10-4), who parted with a seven-game win streak, found themselves at a major disadvantage in size and numbers, enabling Maryland to be an overwhelming presence on the boards by outrebounding St. Joseph’s 48-30.

Diandra Tchatchouang, a 6-3 sophomore forward from France, had 12 points and 13 rebounds fortifying Maryland’s attack and defenses while Lynetta Kizer had 11 points and 10 rebounds, and Kim Rodgers scored 10 points.

“It took us a while to get into our rhythm in the first half but they really made us work for this win and that’s what you want to have getting ready to go into conference play,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said.

“We hope that with our depth and our size that we can absolutely wear down opponents and I thought that proved true in the second half. We were relentless on the glass and we take pride in being a great rebounding team.”

Freshman Natasha Cloud, a former Cardinal O’Hara star in the Philly western suburbs, made her first homecoming visit but only played three minutes.

“St. Joseph’s was physically though and they can shoot it and they have a high IQ, so they present a different matchup,” Frese said. “At times we went to a smaller lineup to defend their three-point shooting.

“Any time you are going to play against Cindy and St. Joseph’s they are going to be well prepared and well coached,” Frese said of her Hawks counterpart Cindy Griffin, who played for the Hawks in the early 1990s. “They tried to get to a lot of loose balls. They are very aggressive and scrappy. They make you have to earn a win.”

On New Year’s Day the Terrapins finished practice in College Park and then headed north for dinner at the Cloud home.

The Hawks, using an outside attack, were able to compensate the inside size inferiority with some nifty three-point shooting, particularly from Katie Kuester, who connected on 4-of-10 attempts of treys and finished with a game-high 23 points. Michelle Baker added 12 points.

Though the marksmanship kept St. Joseph’s in the contest through the middle of the second half, the attrition began to set in as the Hawks began to slip further behind in the closing minutes.

“They outsize us by three inches in every position,” Griffin said. “And physical. They keep having more kids coming in and that’s the depth we do not have.

“We were able to hang with them, but then we made some mistakes early, and missing a couple of layups. We needed to have almost a perfect game and it just wasn’t happening today.

“I think our starting guards were tired and at that point in time we needed them in there and we just couldn’t afford to give them a blow and that hurt us. That hurt us.”

Still, the Hawks had to be pleased with their overall work heading into their Atlantic 10 opener Saturday at St. Louis. The game will then be followed on January 12th by a visit from conference favorite Xavier, which had been in the top five in the polls prior to Monday’s next release.

“This team is fun to coach and we were in some tough situations throughout this none conference with close games and overtime games and one-point games. And that’s when you find ourt who you are and what kind of kids you are coaching. I thought this time showed a lot of maturity in that respect.”

Kuester saluted Maryland’s effort as well as that of her own team.

“They were really big,” Kuester said of the Terrapins, who seemed more likea WNBA team against the Hawks. “But we played really hard. We have no regrets. Congratulations to them. They played their butts off – especially on our home court. We tried to battle but we came up short.

“However, 10-4 is good place for us to be right now,” Kuester said of the Hawks’ overall won-loss record. “We’re happy with that. We’re going to St. Louis and hopefully we’ll play as hard against them as we did today and come out with a win in the first game.”

Elsewhere involving local Atlantic 10 teams, Temple (8-6) got ready for Friday’s tough conference opener at Charlotte by dominating a weaker opponent, beating Akron 81-60 as Satoria Bell came off the bench in the home contest to score 22 points against the Zips (7-5).

Kristen McCarthy scored 17 points and Qwedia Wallace scored 13. Temple shared the ball well in totaling 22 assists, nearly a two-year high.

Meanwhile La Salle senior Ashley Gale keeps setting career highs and on Sunday she outdid herself scoring 31 points but the Explorers (4-9) fell at defending Patriot League champion Lehigh 85-67 in Bethlehem.

Ebonee Jones had 13 points for La Salle and Chelsea Connor grabbed 10 rebounds.

Courtney Dentler had 21 points for the Mountain Hawks (10-5).

La Salle still has another tough nonconference encounter, traveling to defending Ivy champion Princeton on Tuesday night in Jadwin Gym.

Gale’s effort was the first 30-point performance by an Explorer since Carlene Hightower scored 32 at Rhode Island on Feb. 20, 2008.

La Salle will open conference play Saturday at Fordham.

In non-local Atlantic 10 news, Duquesne (12-2) continued to roll, winning at Ball State 86-51 in Muncie, Ind., as Jocelyn Floyd narrowly missed a quadruple-double. She had career highs in points (12) and rebounds (10), while also grabbing nine steals and dishing eight assists.

The Dukes have won a program-best eight games on the road.

Wumi Agunbiade had a game-high 16 points for Duquesne, which is coached by former WNBA, Olympic and Penn State star Suzie McConnell-Serio.

Prior to the start of conference play the Dukes will host Pittsburgh Wednesday night for bragging rights in the Steel City.

Penn Breaks Even

Anyone can win 90 games in a row as long as the one is UConn but the Penn Quakers now have a three-game streak and have made it to .500 at 5-5 after beating Lafayette 59-52 on the road in Easton, Pa.

It’s been six seasons since Penn was 5-5 at this point on the calendar.

“Yeah, well, we have Villanova, Virginia and Princeton ahead, so this was a little important to get today,” second-year coach Mike McLaughlin said.

“Near the end of the game we were almost in a similar situation to the one that got away last month at the finish to Niagara so we talked about it in the huddle and the kids took it to heart,” McLaughlin said.

Jerin Smith tied a career high with 16 points off the bench against the Leopards (6-8).

Meghan McCullough had 13 points and Jess Knapp scored 12 for Penn.

The Quakers will open Ivy play Saturday at defending champion Princeton.

Penn State Breaks

Well, the Big 10 may be wide open but a potential door to this week’s AP rankings closed for Penn State Sunday as the Nittany Lions (12-4, 1-1) fell to Wisconsin 77-62 in Madison.

The Badgers (7-7, 2-0) shot 51.9 percent from the field, including 8-for-14 on three point attempts, which had become a PSU specialty this season.

Nikki Green ands Zhaque Gray each scored 12 points for Penn State, while Renee Womack of Lansdale, Pa., had a career-high 10 points.

Penn State says on the road Thursday, visiting Northwestern.

Drexel Down and Delaware Up

It was a mixed day for the two area teams diving into the start of play in the Colonial Athletic Association.

After having the best nonconference record in the Denise Dillon era, Drexel was victimized by the debut of new North Carolina-Wilmington coach Cynthia Dyke-Cooper, the former WNBA and Olympic star who guided the Sea Hawks to a 69-61 victory. UNCW (9-3, 1-0) shot 64.4 percent from the field.

Drexel (8-4, 0-1) got 19 points from Kamile Nacickaite while Jasmina Rosseel and Hollie Mershon each scored 12 points.

The Dragons will host Georgia State Thursday and Delaware on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Delaware rallied at home to down Hofstra 71-66 as sophomore Elena Delle Donne remained sidelined with back problems for the Blue Hens.

Without the nation’s leading scorer, coach Tina Martin’s team (8-4) got new life from Lauren Carra’s 29 points and Jocelyn Bailey’s 19 points at the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark. Danielle Parker added 11 points and 13 rebounds.

Hofstra (8-4, 0-1) lost its third straight, yielding a 16-point lead the Pride held early in the first half at 45-29.

Delaware travels to Northeastern Thursday before visiting Drexel on Sunday.

The Guru will be on the scene Monday night when Rutgers hosts George Washington, a game that will have a much different feel than when the two were rivals when the Scarlet Knights were in the Atlantic 10 until the mid-1990s.

-- Mel


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