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 30, 2011

Guru Report: Temple's Treys Keep Owls in First Place Tie

By Mel Greenberg

The Guru covered two in town, which explains the double dateline.

Until Saturday afternoon it was easy to believe how Temple coach Tonya Cardoza looked to UConn’s Geno Auriemma, her boss for 14 seasons with the Huskies, for mentoring her into running her own program.

However, judging by the Owls’ heady 84-56 Atlantic 10 victory over visiting Richmond at McGonigle Hall, when it comes to tactical execution she may have been using Villanova’s Harry Perretta as her secret role model.

What other way is there to describe Temple’s blitzkrieg of the Spiders (13-8, 40-3 A-10) in which the Owls (15-6, 6-0) set a program record with 14 three-pointers, connecting on 14-of-23 attempts from beyond the arc for 60.9 percent.

That’s very Villanova-esque indeed though not necessarily on the mark this season due to the Wildcats’ woes on offense.

“I thought this was probably one of the better games we played in a long time,” Cardoza said her after team won its eighth straight and stayed atop the Atlantic 10 standings with No. 7 Xavier as the only two teams still unbeaten in conference competition.

The Musketeers (17-2, 6-0), whose only losses have been a narrow one at No. 3 Duke and a blowout at No. 4 Stanford, kept pace with the Owls by defeating visiting Rhode Island 67-45 in Cincinnati as Ta’Shia Phillips had 12 points and 15 rebounds while teammate Amber Harris scored 16 at the Cintas Center to keep the Rams winless (6-14, 0-6) in conference play.

“I thought we did a good job of playing 40 minutes of good basketball and defensively, we really got at it, and tried to limit as many touches as possible on their past players,” Cardoza added.

“Abby Oliver, she’s really one of their best players – the fact she only had four shot attempts was a credit to our guys sticking with the game plan.

“I thought we really had a balanced attack and we were making shots and when we make shots like that and playing defense that is fun to watch.”

Kristen McCarthy had a season-high 25 points for Temple, which shot 52.7 percent from the field for the game. She also was 5-for-5 to lead the Owls’ long-range hit period in shooting treys.

Shey Peddy and BJ Williams each scored 12 points while Marli Bennett, who shot 3-of-4 on trey attempts, scored 11.

Peddy also had nine assists and quipped, “I wish someone would have told me so I could have tried to get a double double.”

Danielle Brinkley, a senior from the nation’s capital, came off the bench out of hiding with a career-high six points in the final seven minutes and in making her 2-of-3 effort on treys, one of them tied the Temple record set last year against Xavier and the other broke the mark.

Brinkley also had a chance at making a four-point play but missed the foul shot after connecting on one of the treys and that was the only Temple miscue in a 12-of-13 effort from the line.

“If she makes it we shoot 100 percent on the line,” Cardoza laughed after promising not to nit pick anything done in the game by her players.

Crystal Goring had 12 points for the Spiders while Brittani Shells and Genevieve Okoro each scored 10.

Temple next hosts St. Louis at noon on Wednesday to celebrate its annual Education Day promotion for school kids in a game requiring adults to wear ear plugs at the Liacouras Center if they are bothered by the screaming and yelling of young voices cheering in support of the Owls.

La Salle A-10 Tournament Bound?

It’s been several years since the Explorers have played in the conference tournament but despite the team’s struggles under first-year coach Jeff Williams they could be on their way to becoming part of the 12-team field after beating George Washington 73-64 at their Tom Gola Arena Saturday night.

The win moved the Explorers (6-15, 2-4) into an eighth-place tie with Fordham (10-12, 2-4) a half-game ahead of St. Joseph’s (12-9, 2-5), which lost at Dayton 79-68, and Massachusetts (6-16, 2-5).

La Salle also kept George Washington (5-15, 0-6) winless in conference play and holds a two-game lead over the bottom two teams, which at the end of the regular season, whoever lands there, do not qualify for the A-10 tournament, which will be held in March at a neutral site at the Tsongas Center in Lowell, Mass.

A year ago the Explorers lost a coin-flip to Fordham to be eliminated.

“I am pleased with the team effort and can’t ask for more than that,” Williams said in comments posted at the La Salle website.

Ashley Gale scored 26 points and her three-pointer with 2:30 left against the Colonials gave the Explorers a lead they held to the finish.

Overall Gale hit 5-for-9 on three-point attempts and her 184 career treys have made her tops at La Salle in that category ahead of the previous mark of 175 by Meghan Wilkinson (2001-05).

La Salle travels to Xavier on Tuesday.

St. Joseph’s held a 51-37 lead over the Flyers (14-7, 5-2) at the half before suffering a cold spell from the field the rest of the way.

Freshman Erin Shields had a career-high 22 points and hit 5-of-7 three pointers for the Hawks. Ilze Gotfrida had 16 points and Ashley Prim scored 13.

Dayton’s Justine Raterman, Elle Queen and Kristin Daugherty each scored 15 points while Raterman also grabbed 12 rebounds.

The Hawks next travel to Rhode Island Saturday in a must-win game to stay comfortably ahead of the two elimination spots in the conference involving the A-10 tournament.

Elsewhere in the conference Duquesne (18-3, 5-1) stayed in third a game behind the leaders by beating Fordham 87-65 at home in Pittsburgh as Kelly Britcher scored 16 points to lead six teammates scoring in double figures.

Fordham fell to 10-12 overall in being caught by La Salle in the eighth-place conference tie at 2-4.

St. Bonaventure (15-7, 5-2) stayed in the hunt for one of four first-round conference tournament byes with a 62-51 win over visiting Massachusetts as Megan Van Tatenhove had 20 points and tied her career highs in rebounds (13), and steals (six) and set her career game mark with three blocked shots.

Penn and Princeton Gain Ivy Wins

The Quakers (7-10, 1-2), who won just once in Ivy play last season, which occurred in their next-to-final game at Dartmouth, gained a split on their weekend New England trip by beating host Brown 52-32 in Providence, R.I., as they reached seven wins before February for the first time in six seasons.

The Bears fell to 4-14, and stayed winless in the league at 0-4.

“We talked about the fact that we didn’t win a league game until near the end,” said second-year coach Mike McLaughlin from the team bus.

“It was a great effort. We’re back on the road against next week – our first five games are on the road in the league – playing at Dartmouth and Harvard.

“Now we have to just keep building.”

Penn forced Brown into 23 turnovers and limited the Bears to a 27.1 percentage from the field.

The Quakers’ Alyssa Baron had 13 points and Briana Bradford scored 12.

The Bears’ Sheila Dixon scored 13 points.

Princeton (14-3), which swept the Ivies last season, is off to a 3-0 start after a weekend New England sweep that concluded Saturday night with a 52-37 win at Yale (7-11, 3-1) after trailing the Eli at the half 22-20.

Addie Micir scored 18 points for the Tigers and Lauren Edwards had 17 points, including 15 in the second half for the Tigers.

“We were totally out of rhythm in the first half,” said Princeton coach Courtney Banghart in remarks from after the game posted on the Tigers’ website.

“We knew defense was going to have to be our anchor until we settled into our looks … It was a hard fought battle and we’re thrilled to come out of it with a win.”

Princeton, as Penn’s traveling partner in the Ivies, stays on the road visiting Harvard and Dartmouth next weekend.

Notre Dame Keeps Villanova Winless In The Big East

Villanova coach Harry Perretta wants to win as much as anybody but with a Willdcats squad loaded with youth – four sophomores start – he’ll take the moral victories, which is what he thought his squad attained in a 58-43 Big East loss to No. 9 Notre Dame Saturday night at the Pavilion.

“It was maybe the best game we’ve played all year,” Perretta noted of the Wildcats (8-12, 0-7 Big East) being able to hold the Irish (18-4, 7-1) almost 25 points below their scoring average of 82.9 points per game.

Villanova stayed close early in the game but when Laura Sweeney went to the bench with two quick fouls, the Irish capitalized on a 17-7 run to gain the upper hand.

The Wildcats drew 2,327 but the crowd included two busloads from Baltimore to cheer Notre Dame guard Brittany Mallory.

Irish veteran coach Muffet McGraw, who will be inducted to the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in June in Knoxville, Tenn., is a St. Joseph’s graduate and Big Five Hall of Famer so the visit here always has a spice of homecoming atmosphere.

Sweeney scored 14 points for Villanova while Devereaux Peters paced Notre Dame with 20 points to head a group that included Becca Bruszewski (10 pts., 10 rebs.), Skylar Diggins (13 pts.) and Natalie Novosel (11 pts.).

McGraw thought stopping Villanova’s prowess for shooting three pointers helped counter the Wildcats’ ability to take time off the clock with Perretta’s ability to slow tempo to a crawl on his team’s possessions.

“For them to go 2-for-16 from the three-point line was key,” she said. “That was our keys to the game – guard the three point line and we were trying to go inside offensively and I thought we did those things pretty well.”

McGraw said she wasn’t ready to substitute much because of Villanova’s pace, a trait echoing many coaches who have to deal with the Wildcats’ strategy.

Perretta talked about coping with the competition loaded with ranked teams in the Big East.

“We are just a very young team and we’re trying to find our way and it’s difficult,” said Perretta, who is six wins from reaching his 600th career triumph. “We have very inconsistent spurts on offense.

“We’re also inconsistent executing but I thought today we executed I would say at a “B” level as to where we were before. But they’re just so skilled offensively that if you make a mistake (Notre Dame) just scores the ball.

“It’s almost that we have to do everything perfect and then make the shot. They don’t have to do everything as perfect because their players are a little more experienced and a little more talented so they can bail themselves out of trouble sometimes.

“If they make a mistake they can bail themselves out of trouble by making a skill shot,” Perretta added.

“But that’s the way it goes in the Big East – Life in the Big East.

“This year it’s a rebuilding year for us and it’s a teaching year for me. So I’m saying to myself, `Please can we not lose by 35.’

“But I know what we are this year. So I spend time during the game just trying to teach. I’m concerned about the scoreboard, don’t get me wrong, and I want to win the game. But I’m more concerned about just trying to teach them and make them a little better.

“For us this year – coaches get in trouble when they say this – it’s not about winning and losing this year. No matter what we do it’s going to be difficult to win this year.

“But if I can teach them, then maybe we can win next year and the year after.

“Was it five years ago we were 8-21. That same team, if you remember, finished fourth in the league two years later and went to the NCAA tournament.

“As a coach, do I want us to be good all the time? Yeah. But when you’re not good, you just have to take the other approach.

“Dry spells are part of youth. That’s what young teams do and you just have to get yourself through it.

“We’re a lot better than earlier this year. Today my kids weren’t nervous. But when we played Providence you would have thought we were playing for the national championship because my kids are in a game now and they think, `Oh my God, I think we can win this.’

“It’s when you think you can win you get nervous. In this league it’s tough to get it when you’re playing (ranked teams) 7, 11, 14, 23, 18.

“We’ve played seven in the league. We’ve already played UConn, Notre Dame, DePaul, West Virginia, Rutgers, and Georgetown. That’s six of our seven games.

“Sometimes you don’t see improvement because our opponents are so superior. But obviously we were better today because we were in the game.

“Will we get it this year? I don’t know. But all I can do is teach them, I can’t do anything else for them.”

Villanova travels Tuesday night to Marquette, another Big East school contending for an NCAA tournament bid after 74-70 overtime win at Pittsburgh improved them to 17-4 and 5-3 in the conference to stay in a three-way tie for fifth with No. 19 Georgetown and Louisville a half-game behind No. eight West Virginia.

Meanwhile Rutgers lost at Louisville 56-45 to drop to 12-8 overall and 5-2 in the league as April Sykes scored 20 points.

If one were to dissect the Scarlet Knights’ mark against real teams in terms of what Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer would call true tests then Rutgers is 2-8.

She probably didn’t think of Princeton, which could be a third win considering he Tigers’ worth but that win occurred right before the end of the game.

Syracuse had been ranked but although the Scarlet Knights beat the Orange, they could be removed as a true test. That leaves the win at home over Georgetown with many more tests to come.

-- Mel


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