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 16, 2011

Guru Report: St. Joe Fades While Temple Blasts On Way To Wednesday Showdown

By Mel Greenberg
PHILADELPHIA –
Sometimes the uncontrollable part of scheduling can be a quite the pain when it comes to navigating a season.

Coaches usually have a handle on the nonconference phase of their competition, working out dates and then shuffling some things around for flow until everything is in an apparent proper place.

Then it becomes a matter of waiting to see what hand the conference office deals to fill in the rest of the slates.

Take St. Joseph’s, for example, which had been humming along for the last several weeks looking very much like the Hawks may have a shot at returning to the NCAA tournament for the first time in over a decade.

Coach Cindy Griffin and her staff decided that nationally-ranked Maryland would be just right to test her team at home in Hagan Arena just before the start of the annual Atlantic 10 race for regular season honors.

Then the conference office came along and handed the Hawks their A-10 slate revealing St. Joseph’s would have to play three of its first four games against some of the toughest challengers for the conference crown.

Coupled onto the Maryland game, next up was a trip to St. Louis against the Bilikins and then two at home against A-10 favorite Xavier, a nationally ranked Top 10 team; and Charlotte, followed by a crosstown trip to North Philadelphia for the first of two against Temple.

Maryland and Xavier loomed as likely losses meaning that the Hawks needed to get the next two into the win column to stay in the public speculation discussion about which teams nationwide were at-large worthy for the NCAA tournament.

But Charlotte had its own idea about things Saturday afternoon and the 49ers took care of business with a 66-57 victory in Hagan Arena.

Suddenly, things have changed dramatically for the Hawks (11-6, 1-2 A-10) in terms of postseason prospects.

Charlotte (14-4, 2-1) is another team chasing a safety-valve NCAA at-large spot if the conference tournament title and NCAA automatic bid goes elsewhere like to favored Xavier.

In Saturday’s game, the 49ers separated themselves from St. Joseph’s with six minutes left in regulation.

Saddled with a three losses in four straight games, though none of the setbacks are embarrassing, the Hawks must now take on a Temple opponent that has just crushed two A-10 opponents from the lower rungs.

“In the long-range scheme the losses haven’t knocked us off in terms of where we want to be as a program this season.,” St. Joseph’s assistant Chris Day said several hours later watching the Philly.Com Rally high school women’s tournament at Philadelphia University.

“But, yeah, the way it’s playing out in the short-range, we may need to sweep Temple to stay in the at-large discussion.”

Now if the cards in the A-10 schedule had been dealt differently, such talk might not be necessary right now in terms of the mindset about the Temple games in the regular season.

Shannon McCallum had 20 points for the 49ers, who were picked fourth, while the Hawks were a seventh-place pick in the preseason conference coaches’ predictions of the Atlantic 10 race.

Paige McCallum scored 16 points, Kendra Holmes had 13 points and Jennifer Hailey had 10 rebounds all for Charlotte, which became another opponent of recent vintage to dominate rebounding, this time with a 47-32 advantage, including 16-9 on the offensive glass.

Samira Van Grinsven, out of the Hawks’ frontcourt, scored 17 points, and junior guard Katie Kuester scored 10 points. But the Hawks starting backcourt was hounded into a woeful 8-for-36 among Michelle Baker (2-for-17), freshman Erin Shields (3-for-10) and Kuester (3-for-9).

“This is a tough place to play,” said Charlotte coach Karen Aston, a former longtime aide to two Hall of Famers in former Texas coach Jody Conradt and Baylor coach Kim Mulkey.

“We didn’t play all that well but a win is a win. They’re a good team and this wasn’t a team we could come in here and blow their doors off,” Aston said of the Hawks. “I thought it would be a methodical game in which we would have to grind it out, which is what happened. We made free throws down the stretch, which has been a problem for us. I was really excited about that.

“ We had to give up something, but I don’t know that we gave up intentionally those points from Van Grinsven, but we had an effort to slow their guards down because they’ve been scoring a lot of points and Baker’s been playing well.

“We’re real young in the posts – we’re all freshmen and sophomores. My two sophomore post players played terrible and they had 19 rebounds between the two of them. You look at that and you go, `OK, maybe I’m being too hard on them.”

Before the game, St. Joseph’s coach Cindy Griffin, and assistants Susan Moran and Stephanie McCaffrey were among a who’s who in the Hawks’ storied history, who played in an alumnae exhibition.

St. Joseph’s recently won its 700th game as a program.

Shields’ mother Renie, the Hawks director of compliance and broadcast color commentator, also played. Katie Gardler, the director of operations, by passed the game due to recent surgery. Such stars of the past as Mary Sue Garrity and Kathy Langley were also in the house as was Ellen Clark and Janine Reynolds.

The only missing persons of note were former WNBA All-Star Debbie Black, now an assistant at Ohio State to former St. Joseph’s coach Jim Foster, and Muffet McGraw, a 2011 Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame inductee who has been the longtime coach at Notre Dame.

Temple Takes The Bronx

The Owls (11-6, 3-0 A-10) won their fourth straight, crushing host Fordham 71-28 in making the host Rams (9-10, 1-2) at Rose Hill Gym the lowest scoring Temple opponent since 1984.

The 1984-85 Owls contingent beat Maryland-Eastern Shore 71-23 but since then Temple has held only one other opponent below 30 points, which was Dartmouth in a 65-29 win in 2008.

In getting ready for the first of two showdowns with St. Joseph’s at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Liacouras Center – this game is not also a Big Five contest – Kristen McCarthy and Shey Peddy each scored 13 points.

Temple opened with a 15-0 run as coach Tonya Cardoza was again able to provide extra minutes of action deep down the Owls’ roster.

Tiffany Stokes had 15 points and 12 rebounds for Fordham.

Qwedia Wallace and Natasha Thames each scored 11 for Temple, which forced Fordham into 24 turnovers and also had 12 steals.

La Salle Gets A Conference “W”

The Explorers, who won only two Atlantic 10 games last season, got four players in double figures at their Tom Gola Arena in stopping St. Louis 82-77.

Ashley Gale scored 21 points, Alexis Scott scored 20, Chelsea Connor had a career-high 15 points along with a career-high four blocks, and Nadia Duncan scored 11 for La Salle (5-12, 1-2 A-10) against the Billikens (6-12, 0-3).

“I thought it was a total team effort out there,” first-year coach Jeff Williams said in postgame remarks posted at La Salle’s website. “We played well. We usually shoot well at home.”

Lauren Woods scored 22 points for St. Louis.

La Salle next will travel to Penn at The Palestra Wednesday night at 7 p.m.

Rutgers Gaining Momentum

Is Rutgers rounding into traditional form this time of year with another Big East victory in winning 55-44 at Cincinnati?

Maybe it’s too early to tell off a short roster and wins yet to be registered against the true Big East heavyweights but the Scarlet Knights (11-6, 4-0 Big East) remained unbeaten in conference play after Khadijah Rushdan and Monique Oliver each scored 16 points against the Bearcats (8-8, 1-3).

Chelsey Lee scored 15 points for Rutgers, which gets a week off before hosting Providence Saturday at the Louis A. Brown Athletic Center in another Big East game that the Scarlet Knights will be favored.

Though Rutgers has no bad losses, only the Temple game was competitive, but the Scarlet Knights also now have quality wins over Georgetown and Syracuse, which have been ranked.

National Re-Cap

Leading the array of Big East teams in the Associated Press Poll No. 2 Connecticut (16-1, 6-0 Big East) downed Louisville 78-55 at the XL Center in Hartford as the Cardinal fell to 12-7 and 3-2 in the conference.

UConn’s Tiffany Hayes suffered a mild concussion early in the game and doctors will determine Sunday if Hayes can make the key road trip for Monday night’s major showdown in Chapel Hill, N.C., against Atlantic Coast power North Carolina.

Maya Moore had 26 points for the Huskies and freshman Bria Hartley scored a career-high 24 points while Shoni Schimmel had 15 points for Louisville.

In one Big East contest involving ranked teams on both sides, No. 6 West Virginia (17-1, 4-1 Big East) downed No. 25 Syracuse by a score of 70-61 in Morgantown.

Madina Ali had a career-high 32 for the Mountaineers while Liz Repella added 12 points. Elashier Hall had 20 points for the Orange (13-4, 1-3).

No. 12 Notre Dame (15-4, 4-1 Big East) routed host Pittsburgh 82-50 as Skylar Diggins scored 20 points for the Irish. The Panthers fell to 9-8 overall and 1-3 in the Big East.

Monica McNutt’s first double double of the season with 17 points and 11 rebounds helped No, 18 Georgetown to a 49-45 victory over host Providence (8-8, 1-3).

Big 12 action, which also involved a slew of ranked teams, was highlighted by Colorado (10-6, 1-2) getting a career-high 19 points from Brittany Wilson and 18 from Brittany Spears as the host Buffaloes in Boulder upset No. 17 Iowa State 66-60 in overtime.

Kelsey Bolte, who scored 26 points, forced the overtime with a game-tying three-pointer for the Cyclones (13-4, 2-1) in regulation with 10 seconds left.

Danielle Adams had 19 points for No. 7 Texas A&M (15-1, 3-0 Big 12), off to the best-start in school history, which downed host Missouri 85-40 as the Tigers fell to 9-8 overall and 1-2 in the conference.

In another Big 12 game, top-ranked Baylor (16-1, 3-0) got 18 points and nine rebounds from Brittany Griner in a conference 70-39 victory over visiting Oklahoma State (12-4, 0-3) in Waco, Texas.

Meghan Simmons had 17 points for No. 5 Tennessee (17-2, 5-0 SEC) in the lone Southeastern Confeence game, a 68-56 victory over visiting Vanderbilt (12-6, 3-2) in Knoxville.

Out West, No. 10 UCLA (15-1, 5-0) Pac-10) kept pace with idle Stanford, ranked No. 4, by holding off Oregon 87-57 in a Pacific 10 game in Los Angeles as Markel Walker had 14 points against the Paul Westhead-coached Ducks (11-5, 2-3).

And back in the Midwest among ranked teams, Julie Wojta had 23 points for No. 23 Wisconsin-Green Bay (17-1, 6-0 Horizon League) in a conference win at home 60-51 against Illinois of Chicago (7-9,. 2-3).

Among unranked teams continuing to do well, Duquesne (15-2, 2-0 A-10) continued to win on the road under coach Suzie McConnell-Serio, this time with an impressive 61-57 triumph over Atlantic 10 rival Dayton (10-7, 1-2), which got 18 points from Justine Raterman for the host Flyers.

Also in the Atlantic 10, St. Bonaventure (12-6, 2-1 A-10) got its first-ever win at George Washington (5-11, 0-2) in the Colonials’ Charles E. Smith Center in the nation’s capital b y a score of 72-48.

Chynna Brown’s layup with 0.01 left on the clocks kept Texas Tech 16-1, 3-0 Big 12) unbeaten in conference play in the Big 12 with a 68-66 home win over Kansas State (11-5, 1-2) in Lubbock, Texas.

TCU (12-6, 4-0 Mountain West) forced 31 turnovers, beating Colorado State 66-40 at home in Fort Worth, Texas, as the Horn Frogs’ start in the conference is the best since the 2005-06 season.

Ali Heller’s foul shot with 3.1 seconds left in overtime gave host Rider (2-15, 2-4) a 70-69 win over St. Peter’s in Lawrenceville, N.J., in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

Former La Salle star and former Penn coach Kelly Greenberg picked up her 200th victory as her Boston U. squad (7-9, 4-0) stayed perfect in the America East with a 72-56 win at Albany (10-7, 3-1). Chantell Alford scored 20 points for the Terriers.

Southern Cal (12-4, 4-1 PAC-10) stayed perfect at home (7-0) in the Galen Center in Los Angeles, beating Oregon State 53-45 as the Beavers fell to 7-10, 0-6 with the loss.

Sunday’s Local Action

The Guru, who was at Philadelphia University Saturday night with AP national writer Doug Feinberg and DePaul coach Doug Bruno for the high school women’s tournament, returns to East Falls or Roxborough, depending on where the line is drawn, as Rams coach Tom Shirley takes his third shot at gaining his 600th career victory.

The Rams will host District of Columbia

Elsewhere in two important Colonial Athletic Association games Delaware will host first-place Old Dominion as Blue Hens star Elena Delle Donne remains sidelined with back problems.

Drexel is at William & Mary as Tyler Hale is set to return from a recent concussion injury.

Illinois at Penn State in the Big 10 as the host Nittany Lions attempt to win at the Bryce Jordan Center and make a bid to crash the next Associated Press women’s poll.

Penn steps up in competition, traveling to play ACC power Virginia in Charlottesville at the John Paul Jones Arena.

-- Mel

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