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, February 27, 2011

Atlantic 10 Fit To Be Untied By Temple-Xavier Showdown

(Guru's note: If you got here straight to blogspot, two posts below handle the entire big east and a breakout local with Villanova game coverage, the Ivies, the CAA locals and Penn State. If you are in melgreenberg.com, press the mel's blog tab on the left to get to the other two blogs. And press media links and then philly local for D2-D3 game action/news from Saturday).

By Mel Greenberg

Though the Guru thinks he has it all figured out, but maybe not, the Atlantic 10 is all tied up in knots with two games left Sunday to determine the final standings of the regular season.

One of those will determine first and second place for next weekend’s conference tournament at the Tsongas Center in Lowell, Mass. – the second straight season in which the Atlantic 10 will use a neutral site after hosting last year’s playoffs at the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro, Md., the site of this year’s Colonial Athletic Association tourney in two weeks.

That’s where Xavier edged Temple in overtime and went on to the NCAA Elite Eight, losing to eventual national runner up Stanford in the final seconds after missing two straight easy baskets.

Sunday will be the first time No. 6 Xavier (24-2, 13-0) and Temple (22-6, 13-0) will meet since then and the battle of unbeaten heavyweights in the conference showdown (4 p.m., ESPNU) at Temple’s Liacouras Center will determine the top two seeds.

The venue is also the site for the NCAA Sweet 16 finals in the Philadelphia Regional.

Both schools have been rolling – Temple is on a five-year high 15-game win streak while Xavier’s losses were a narrow 46-45 loss at then-No. 3 Duke and then an 89-52 wipeout at then-No. 8 Stanford, which has since climbed up to No. 2 for the first time this season.

The Musketeers have won 14 straight and feature senior post players Amber Harris and Ta’Shia Phillips, both likely to go very high in the WNBA draft.

No matter what happens Sunday both could meet again just over a week later in a repeat pairing in the championship for the NCAA automatic bid, though both Xavier and the Owls seem assured of berths no matter what the outcome is.

After that the conference remains a mess with a five-way tie for third as a result of Saturday’s games in which the key outcome was St. Bonaventure’s 80-65 win over visiting Charlotte in Olean, N.Y.

That left Charlotte, (21-8 overall), Duquesne (21-7), Dayton, (18-10), Richmond (18-10) and St. Bonaventure (19-10) all tied at 9-5 overall.

The unfortunate thing is at one time or another in the past several months, Charlotte, Duquesne, and Dayton were all being tabbed as NCAA teams and it seemed likely that maybe two of them would get picked as at-large teams.

But unless one of them makes a run in the conference tourney, none of them may get chosen.

Beyond the logjam, the rest of the conference is determined, though St. Joseph’s (17-10, 7-6) is the other Sunday game when the Hawks visit George Washington (8-19, 3-10).

Coach Cindy Griffin’s squad is locked into eighth in the 14-team conference no matter the outcome Sunday and is heading for a pseudo Big-Five game in the first round against No. 9 La Salle (10-19, 6-8), which finished its season on a high note Saturday with a 67-63 victory at Massachusetts (7-22, 3-11).

La Salle was picked last in the preseason conference coaches poll and finished four games better than a year ago in the A-10 when it was eliminated from the tournament by a coin flip with Fordham.

This season’s two elimination teams in the 13th and 14th slots are Rhode Island (7-21, 1-13) and St. Louis (7-22, 1-13).

This will be the first time in four seasons the Explorers participate in the conference tourney. This is also the first season at La Salle for coach Jeff Williams, the former associate head coach at Pittsburgh.

In Saturday’s win, La Salle broke away from a 60-60 tie and freshman Michea Bryant scored five of the Explorers’ last seven points.

Ashley Gale clinched the win with a pair of foul shots and she and Bryant each finished with 12 points. Alexis Scott had a team-high 15 points for the Explorers.

Gale also had three steals to break the season record at La Salle with 91 – one more than Jennifer McGowan’s 90 thefts in 1992-93.

Jasmine Watson had 22 points and 14 rebounds for Massachusetts.

Going down the rest of the known finishes; Fordham (12-18, 4-10) will be 10th after a 69-51 loss at Dayton.

The winning Flyers got 18 points and 10 rebounds from Justine Raterman, who recently returned from a concussion injury. Kristin Daughtery scored 12 points.

If George Washington beats St. Joseph’s, the Colonials tie Fordham for 10th but become the 11th seed because of a first-ever loss to Fordham during the season.

If the Hawks win, GW is still the 11th seed because of a win over Massachusetts.

Duquesne gained an 88-49 win over Rhode Island at home in Pittsburgh as Wumbi Agunbiade scored 16 points to top five Dukes scoring in double figures. Megan Shoniker had 22 points for the Rams.

The Dukes are the first team to break out of the five-way tie and will be the third seed because of common records among each other in the quintet give coach Suzie McConnell-Serio’s team a 3-2 record helped by a split with St. Bonaventure, which Duquesne meets twice.

The Bonnies likewise suffer with a 2-3 mark for the same reason and fall to the seventh seed.

In the Saturday win over Charlotte, Jessica Jenkins set a team record with nine three-pointers for the Bonnies and Chelsea Bowker tied a career high with five to aid an overall total of 16.

Jenkins set a career high with 33 points and Bowker finished with a 21, which ties as a career high as the Bonnies won their fourth straight.

Epiphany Woodson scored 19 for Charlotte.

Now, as for the fourth, fifth and sixth seeds among Charlotte, Dayton, and Richmond, stay tuned and the Guru will be back because he is holding two different interpretations from unofficial sources. In one scenario, it is Charlotte, Dayton and Richmond, per common records among the remaining trio after the first tie was broken, but in another it is Richmond, Charlotte and Dayton because of Richmond’s win against Duquesne.

-- Mel

Rutgers and Marquette Upsets Highlight Big East Frenzy

(Guru’s note: If you are in womhoops blogspot, there is a post below this with extensive Villanova game coverage beyond the Wildcats mention here, as well as Ivy coverage and look aheads for Penn State, Delaware and Drexel.
Temple and La Salle are addressed in the A-10 post above this.

Some information in this post was obtained from Associated Press reports and school emails.

Also, over in melgreenberg.com by pressing the media link and philly local will lead to D2 and D3 coverage off Saturday games.)

By Mel Greenberg

Rutgers rallied to upset No. 19 West Virginia, 67-58, at home Saturday afternoon at the Louis A. Brown Athletic Center Saturday in Piscataway, N.J., and in the process perhaps moved off the bubble and likely into the locked field for an NCAA tournament berth.

If there had been doubts about No. 24 Marquette (22-6, 10-5), the Golden Eagles Hall did likewise later Saturday night, avenging an earlier loss to DePaul that occurred in Chicago and upsetting the No. 7 Blue Demons 60-53 at home in Milwaukee.

Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer’s Rutgers group is on another late-season arrival in terms of the start of February when NCAA appearances have not seemed likely, though this time the wake-up call has taken longer.

In fact, it is the second straight game on the current three-game win streak in which a comeback effort was needed following a near disaster against South Florida at home on Wednesday.

Though Rutgers (17-11, 10-5) has a strong RPI number (25) as well as strength of schedule (7), quality wins had been hard to come by until last week’s win at Marquette and Saturday’s over the Mountaineers (21-8, 7-8), which may have put the visitors in a dicey situation in terms of the NCAA field.

The Scarlet Knights moved into a three-way tie for fourth with Louisville (19-10, 10-5), and Marquette, which got 16 points from Tatiyiana McMorris in the win over DePaul.

Keisha Hampton scored 17 points for DePaul (25-5, 12-3) but fouled out in the last few minutes as the Blue Demons suffered
their second straight loss.

Rutgers is likely Monday night to win at Seton Hall (8-20, 1-14), a 59-49 loser Saturday at Louisville. The Scarlet Knights should then pick up at least one more win in the conference tournament pending on byes and the bracket determination.

Marquette at Cincinnati and Louisville at Providence will be favored to win their Monday games also. The team declared fourth gets the last available double bye for next weekend’s Big East tournament in Hartford, Conn., at the XL Center.

DePaul fell to third but hosts No. 8 Notre Dame Monday night and the winner will finish second and the loser third.

In Saturday’s Rutgers game, the Scarlet Knights dropped 11 points behind West Virginia in the first half but were able to ride Erica Wheeler’s career-high 22 points to victory.

April Sykes added 18 points and Khadijah Rushdan scored nine of her 11 in the second half.

The Rutgers defense yielded 22 points off 22 West Virginia turnovers while the post play dominated with a 26-16 advantage in the paint.

Liz Repella had 20 points for the Mountaineers, who had been in the Top 10 of the Associated Press poll earlier in the season but has dipped caused by a 2-7 record since late January.

West Virginia was picked second in the preseason poll by the Big East coaches.

The slide apparently is affecting coach Mike Carey’s temperament because after the game he screamed at referee Angela Lewis, storming the court. She assessed him with a technical foul in the closing seconds.

Rutgers had 21 foul shots in the second half while West Virginia only had seven.

He referred in the postgame press conference to Lewis’ calls as “unbelievable,” though he did not cite her name.

Carey did make a gender reference and she was the only female in the crew.

He did credit Rutgers for making plays down the stretch and his team’s failure to do so.

Although there has been speculation of as many as what would be an NCAA tournament record nine teams out of the Big East, eight might be the limit by the selection committee, which puts the Mountaineers further out on the bubble pending the situation in other power leagues.

West Virginia, which is locked into a 10th place finish in the regular season, has a huge game at home Monday night with St. John’s (20-8, 9-6).

The Red Storm’s 72-63 win over visiting Pittsburgh (13-15, 5-10) Saturday featured 15 points and eight rebounds from D’Shena Stevens, although Pittsburgh’s Ashlee Anderson scored 20 points.

In other Big East games Saturday, Syracuse (21-7, 9-6) stayed in the traffic jam in the middle of the conference with a 63-47 win over visiting Providence (12-15, 5-10).

The winning Orange, in a three-way-tie for seventh with No. 18 Georgetown (21-8, 9-6) and St. John’s, finishes up at top-ranked Connecticut (28-1, 15-0).

The Huskies won their19th regular season Big East title outright in the last 23 years Saturday by besting host Georgetown 52-42 at McDonough Arena in Washington.

No. 8 Notre Dame (24-5, 13-2) had an easy 66-48 win at home in South Bend, Ind., over Cincinnati (8-19, 1-14) as senior Becca Bruszewski scored 12 points in her farewell home game – a total also collected by Skylar Diggins.

The Irish’s game at DePaul Monday night besides determining second and third in the conference may also potentially impact NCAA decisions on the second and third seeds in the 64-team national field.

Villanova (10-18, 2-13), which finishes at Pittsburgh, Monday, held a 14-point lead at home and a 13-point lead at the break only to fade in the second half and lose 59-58 to South Florida (11-18, 2-13) when Andrea Smith drove for a layup with six seconds left in the fame.

South Florida and Villanova are tied for 13th but the Bulls win a tiebreaker if the deadlock is not broken Monday because of Saturday’s head-to-head win.

The Bulls will be at Georgetown, which forced Connecticut into a season high 26 turnovers in Saturday’s game. However, the Huskies stayed perfect in the conference by holding the Hoyas to 26 percent shooting at the end of the first week since returning to the top of the Associated Press poll.

Connecticut had dropped to No. 2 behind Baylor in late December followed a loss at Stanford that ended the Huskies’ NCAA Division I record win streak for men and women at 90.

The point total Saturday at Georgetown was UConn’s lowest in almost four years. The Huskies were also playing with one less player after backup post player Heather Buck was declared Thursday sidelined with a stress fracture in her left foot and will miss at least two weeks.

Maya Moore, the top player in the nation, scored 20 points for UConn, while Sugar Rodgers scored 16 points for the Hoyas.

The Big East tournament opens Friday night, continuing with a second-round Saturday and then moving daily into the following Tuesday night’s championship.

-- Mel

South Florida Foils Villanova at Finish; Princeton Nears 2nd Ivy Title

(Guru’s note: Two blogs above this separately handle Atlantic 10 and Big East coverage with Temple and La Salle addressed in the A-10 post and Rutgers handled in the Big East post. All other local D-1 news is right here, including the Ivies, CAA, and Penn State and Nova game coverage.
Over in melgreenberg.com pressing the media links tab and then Philly local, will give you D2 and D3 local news from Saturday.)

By Mel Greenberg

The final home game of the season featured a great start and heartbreaking finish for Villanova in Saturday’s 59-58 loss to South Florida in a Big East game at The Pavilion.

Several minutes before the tipoff seniors Heather Scanlon, a 6-foot-3 center and Cardinal O’Hara graduate; and Amada Swiezynski of Exeter, N.H., were honored for their careers with the Wildcats.

At stake for Villanova was the top of invisible basement division of the powerful Big East, though the Wildcats will still finish either 13th or 14th in the 16-team conference.

Coach Harry Perretta’s squad then raced off to one of its better openings, shooting 50 percent from the field and taking a 14-point lead that was still comfortable enough at 35-22 when halftime arrived.

But the Bulls (11-18, 2-13 Big East) methodically began to slice the advantage and eventually took a 57-55 lead over the Wildcats (10-18, 2-13) on Leondra Doomes-Stephens’ jump shot with 1 minute, 6 seconds left in the game.

Villanova attempted to counter but Devon Kane missed a three-pointer with 34 seconds left. South Florida’s Jasmine Wynne grabbed the rebound, was fouled by Laura Sweeney and went to the line shooting 1-and-1 with with 32 seconds left.

Wynne missed the shot, Villanova grabbed the rebound and for the moment, Lindsay Kimmel, the transfer from Temple, became the potential heroine for Villanova when she nailed a trey from well beyond the arc for a 58-57 lead with 15 seconds remaining.

But that was still plenty of time for South Florida, which became the winner when Andrea Smith, the 2010 national junior college player of the year, drove inside with a layup with six seconds left.

The Wildcats had one last chance and Kane drove the length-of-the-court and heaved a shot, which went off the rim and for the third straight season South Florida had rallied for a win over Villanova.

“We knew they are going to run a screen and she beat our kid to the hoop,” Perretta said of the winning play for the Bulls. “She just made an individual play.

“You know they’re going to drive it – that’s what they’re good at. We just tried to stay in front of (Smith) and she beat our kid off the dribble,” he continued. “There’s not much you can do about it at that point.

“Today was a game not having Rachel (Roberts) really hurt us,” Perretta noted of her recent season-ending thumb injury.

“Because not having another guard – they were guard oriented. In the second half when Jesse (Carey) got in foul trouble, we’re playing forwards at the guard spot – and we even had a forward – Amanda – playing at the guard spot at one point.”

Doomes-Stephens finished with 19 points for the Bulls while Tiffany Conner scored 13.

Kimmel had 17 points and shot 5-for-10 on three-point attempts. Kane scored 16 points, her third career high in the last four games, and Sweeney had 15 for Villanova.

Two seasons ago here South Florida grabbed a 52-50 win at the finish, though Villanova finished in a three-way tie for fourth in the conference and earned the top tie-breaker and double bye in the conference tournament.

“We’ve always had very good games, we just come out on the positive end every time we’ve played,” South Florida coach Jose Fernandez said.

“The last two games here on the road have been very exciting. The only difference was in the second half, we dictated tempo more on the defensive end – we started to press and that helped us speed things up rather than them running their offense for 25 seconds.”

Villanova finishes up at Pittsburgh (13-15, 5-10) Monday night while South Florida will be at No. 18 Georgetown (21-8, 9-6), which lost to top-ranked Connecticut 52-42 at home at McDonough Arena in Washington.

That win gave the Huskies (28-1, 15-0) another Big East title outright – it’s 19th in 23 regular seasons.
Pittsburgh lost on the road 72-63 at St. John’s (20-8, 9-6).

The Big East tournament opens Friday night at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn., continuing with a second-round Saturday and then moving daily into the following Tuesday night’s championship.

Princeton Sweeps, Penn Swept

The Quakers (10-15, 4-7) were reduced to a split on the season with two Ivy foes this weekend, losing road games at Columbia Friday night in New York and at Cornell in Ithaca Saturday.

The Tigers (21-4, 10-1), on the other hand, completed a 4-0 sweep of the two Empire State schools and now own a two-game lead in the loss column over Yale (13-13, 9-3) and Harvard (16-9, 8-3) in defense of last season’s Ivy title.

Yale shocked Harvard again, this time Saturday night 78-64 at the Crimson’s Lavietes Pavilion in Cambridge, Mass., as Megan Vasquez scored 23 points for the Bulldogs’ first season sweep of Harvard in 17 years and first win at Harvard since Feb. 17, 2001.

Coach Chris Gobrecht's squad also owns an upset out of conference over nationally-ranked Florida State, which could finish either tied for first, or second, or third Sunday when the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season concludes.

A Princeton win over Dartmouth (7-18, 3-8) at home in Jadwin Gym Friday night knocks Yale out of the race while it ends completely if Penn avenges its double overtime road loss to Harvard against the Crimson the same night at The Palestra.

Otherwise, Princeton can finish off Harvard Saturday night at home.

In Penn’s weekend road trip, coach Mike McLaughlin’s group fell deep behind in the second half of both games but rallied only to fall short at the end.

On Friday, the Quakers lost at Columbia’s Levien Gym 61-54 in New York City and dropped a half-game behind the Lions (6-20, 5-7) to fifth in the Ivy standings.

Columbia held a 13-point lead with five minutes left but a Quakers rally brought Penn within a basket at 56-54 on freshman Alyssa Baron’s shot with 1:53 left in the game.

Brianna Branford missed a long trey on Penn’s next possession, which would have given the Quakers the lead.

Melissa Shafer, who had 15 points for the Lions, then hit a shot and a turnover by Penn on the next possession enabled Columbia to go to the foul line and get two more.

Baron, who had 18 points, then missed a trey and Columbia went to the line and scored on one of two free-throw chances to finish off.

Penn’s Erin Power grabbed 12 rebounds, but ball handling doomed the Quakers with 21 turnovers to Columbia’s 10.

Against Cornell (6-20, 3-9), Bradford nailed a trey with 1:03 left to bring the Quakers to a 51-51 tie after trailing 43-31 midway through the second half. However, the Big Red then busted the full court press to go ahead. Penn missed shots on ensuing possessions and Cornell was successful at the foul line after each one to go 4-4 in the last minute and get a 57-51 victory.

Baron scored 17 points against Cornell, Jess Knapp had a season-high 15 points, and Bradford scored 10.

Meanwhile, Quakers’ traveling partner Princeton started the trip at Cornell with an easy 71-44 win Friday night as Lauren Edwards scored 16 points and Addie Micir scored 14 at Newman Arena.

On Saturday night the Tigers hit New York City and beat Columbia 65-52 as Micir scored 17 points and Kate Miller scored 13.

Penn will be looking to avenge two tough road losses next weekend with the Harvard visit and on Saturday against Dartmouth.

Harvard at home beat Princeton for the Tigers’ only league loss earlier this season but the following weekend, Crimson losses at Yale and Brown tossed the race back into Princeton’s direction when the Tigers swept Columbia and Cornell.

The Tigers finish at Penn on Tuesday, March 8.

Looking Ahead

Penn State (21-8, 10-5 Big Ten) finishes its regular season Sunday with a combo Senior/Pink Zone Day at the Bryce Jordan Center when Northwestern (17-11, 6-9) visits the Lady Lions in a key Big Ten game.

Coach Coquese Washington’s team is tied with Wisconsin (15-12, 10-5) but can take the second seed for next weekend’s conference tournament in Indianapolis by beating the Wildcats and if the Badgers lose to Ohio State (18-9, 9-6), which is looking to stay on the road back from a recent disaster stretch of games.

Wisconsin otherwise takes the tiebreaker over the Lady Lions off a head-to-head win in Madison.

Also, there is an outside chance for a five-way tie for second if Penn State and Wisconsin both lose, which jumps up Ohio State to a three-way and then Iowa and Michigan could join the fray.

Penn State, by the way, will be a host site for first and second round NCAA tournament games and can play in the Lady Lions’ arena, though Temple, which will host one of the four regionals at the Sweet 16 level at the Liacouras Center, must be slotted elsewhere for potential advancement per NCAA rules that don’t allow a regional host to play on its own campus.

No. 10 Michigan State wrapped up the conference title outright and has a two-game lead.

Devon’s Julie Trogele, who will be honored, is the only senior on the roster and had been recruited by former coach Rene Portland before her departure after the 2006-07 season.

Delaware (16-11, 9-7), meanwhile, will be seeking to solidify itself as a conference championship threat, despite the Blue Hens’ record in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA).

Coach Tina Martin’s team gained a major upset Thursday with a home win against fourth-place Virginia Commonwealth and Sunday travel to Old Dominion’s Ted Constant Center in Norfolk, Va., to meet the Lady Monarchs (19-8, 13-3), who are tied for second with UNC Wilmington (21-6, 13-3).

James Madison (22-6, 15-1), the defending CAA champion, can clinch the regular season title with a win at Hofstra (16-11, 8-8), which is tied for sixth with Drexel (16-11, 8-8).

Coach Denise Dillon’s Dragons will be at Towson (9-18, 3-13), near Baltimore, seeking to stay at least tied with Hofstra or perhaps catch Delaware.

Drexel wraps up the regular season Wednesday in the Daskalakis Athletic Center against Old Dominion, while Delaware will host Towson.

-- Mel

Friday, February 25, 2011

Guru Report: Delle Donne Leads Delaware To Break-Thru Win

By Mel Greenberg

NEWARK, Del. –
When Delaware hosted Virginia Commonwealth Thursday night the Colonial Athletic Association contest at the Blue Hens’ Carpenter Center was more about the immediately future than nearly everything else.

While Delaware’s 75-67 victory did for the moment halt wrapping up fourth place and the final bye for next month’s CAA tournament by the visiting Rams (16-10, 11-5), VCU with a two-game advantage is still likely to edge the Blue Hens in the standings considering coach Beth Cunningham’s group needs only one win and will be the favorite in both its last two games of the regular season.

The win also enabled Delaware (16-11, 9-7) to hold the fifth spot one game ahead of Drexel (16-11, 8-8) and Hofstra (16-11, 8-8), which also captured games Thursday night.

But most important, the Blue Hens finally departed with the frustration of the last two seasons of coming up short in the final minutes against any of the front four in the CAA standings.

A year ago, for example, VCU in Richmond broke Delaware’s heart with a three-pointer at the buzzer after the Blue Hens had already endured similar narrow losses.

As recent as Sunday, a busted play in the final minute here ruined any shot at upsetting James Madison, the defending CAA champion and current frontrunner.

“It’s huge for our team and a big confidence builder after coming off of two losses,” said sophomore star Elena Delle Donne. Who made shots early and scored 31 points. “Have we ever beaten a team in the top four?”

Well, it’s been a while, though it used to happen regularly.

Delle Donne’s performance showed she is getting closer to being herself after missing 11 straight games and a 12th one earlier suffering from symptoms of Lyme disease.

She is still experiencing lapses of fatigue and coach Tina Martin rested her in practice for the VCU game with an eye toward the four-straight games the Blue Hens will have to play to win the CAA tournament and get an NCAA automatic bid.

Beyond that, the more wins the better to at least land another trip to the WNIT since Delaware’s record precludes any shot at an at-large NCAA bid.

“I talked to (Tina Martin) on Tuesday and said, `Coach, I’m feeling horrible. I don’t know what I’m going to do.’

“And she was like, `Today, you’re not practicing, you are just going to shoot a little bit.’

“So it was huge tonight to do that because I was feeling exhausted. Even tonight, I wasn’t feeling that great but I was able to push through and my teammates were phenomenal.”

Delle Donne, who was 2-for-2 on three-point attempts and 9-for-17 from the field overall, showed she is getting her mid-range shots back to where they were early in the season.

“I’ve been working on my shot a lot because having however long off, my timing was off. Not having my legs wasn’t the problem, it was just my timing. I’ve been spending a lot more time in the gym on my shooting but not a lot to get tired.”

Jocelyn Bailey added 15 points to the Delaware attack, while defensively the Blue Hens outrebounded the Rams 36-34.

Courtney Hurt, one of several candidates for player of the year, had a double double with 16 points and 11 rebounds but Delaware forced her into a 4-for-18 shooting night from the field.

However, transfer Andrea Barbour, who came to VCU from junior college after being an all-Atlantic Coast Conference rookie at Virginia Tech, put down 28 points.

Conceivably, Delaware and VCU could meet in the CAA quarterfinals at the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro, Md., near Washington, so the Blue Hens’ ability Thursday night to twice cut Rams rallies after holding double digit leads was important.

“Our kids know we can beat the top four teams, it’s actually a matter of doing it,” Martin said. “I just felt like tonight that when the lead got down to three or four, our kids put their foot down and said, `No, not this time.’

“I saw determination in this team. Almost a calmness,” Martin said. “I felt they did a really good job of (1) following the game plan, what we were trying to do defensively, we wanted to make sure we made it as difficult as possible for Courtney Hurt, because she’s such a good player in the high post.

“I felt the guards really pestered her. We tried to make sure she couldn’t get into the lane. She’s going to get her share because she’s been good all year, but I thought our guards did a really nice job keeping her out of the paint and as much as we could, keep her off the boards.

“I thought our zone did a really good job. We clogged the middle and we made every shot a contested shot. And I thought we did a nice job on their ball screens.”

Delaware shot 51 percent while VCU shot 37.3 percent.

The Blue Hens go to Old Dominion Sunday and then finished up Wednesday at home against Towson.

Nacickaite Collects a Grand in Drexel Win

Meanwhile, Drexel, which has been playing with a short roster in the wake of several knee injuries, recovered from its tough loss at home Sunday to VCU by registering a 61-53 win at Northeastern (8-19, 3-13) in Boston.

Kamile Nacickaite reached her 1,000th career point and finished with 15 against the Huskies. Jasmina Rosseel and Tyler Hale each scored 12 points and the Dragons overall shot 53.7 percent from the field.

Drexel travels to Towson Sunday and finishes Wednesday against Old Dominion at home in the Daskalakis Athletic Center.

Elsewhere in the CAA, James Madison (22-6, 15-1) stayed two games in front with two left by winning 93-45 at Georgia State, while Old Dominion (19-8, 13-3) and UNC Wilmington (21-6, 13-3) stayed tied for second with wins.

In the JMU victory – the 13th straight by the Dukes – Dawn Evans scored 26 points and dealt seven assists against the Panthers (10-17, 5-11), moving closer to the CAA all-time scoring record by former Drexel star Gabriela Marginean with 2,581 points. Evans, at 2,554, needs just 28 to break the mark set last year.

Old Dominion gained a narrow 70-65 win over William & Mary (3-23, 2-14) at home in Norfolk, Va., as Tia Lewis scored 17 points and had nine rebounds in the Ted Constant Center.

Jo Gilford scored, had a steal and blocked a shot on the Tribe in the last minute to keep them from gaining an upset.
UNC Wilmington had an easy 76-47 win at Towson (9-18, 3-13) as Kristen Hanzer scored 20 points.

Hofstra kept pace with Drexel by pushing George Mason (12-15, 6-10) two games behind the sixth place duo with a 77-69 win over the Patriots in Hempstead, N.Y.

West Chester’s Shante Evans, a graduate of Henderson High, had 19 points and a near-school record 23 rebounds.

-- Mel

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Guru Report: Q's Shot Gives Temple Big 5 Crown And Sets A-10 Showdown

By Mel Greenberg

– Qwedia Wallace was a bit player as a freshman on the Temple bench for former coach Dawn Staley when the Owls won their last Big Five title outright in 2008.

On Wednesday night she was the star of the show. The senior 5-foot-9 guard nailed a critical three pointer – the Owls’ only trey of the game after nine failed attempts -- from deep in the corner with 24 seconds remaining to carry Temple to a 52-49 victory over St. Joseph’s at the Hawks’ Hagan Arena for bragging rights in the city with a 4-0 sweep.

It was the 15th straight win for Temple, the Owls’ longest streak since the 25-game run in 2004-05 when they also earned their first national ranking.

Wallace, of Wilmington, N.C., had 15 points, grabbed six rebounds, and had four of Temple’s 11 steals, while junior Kristen McCarthy, the reigning Big Five player of the year, had a game-high 16 points, and Shey Peddy scored 10.

Ashley Prim scored 12 points and Kelly Kavallo scored 11 for the Hawks (17-10, 7-6 Atlantic 10, 3-1 Big Five), who had a five-game win streak snapped.

“I kind of knew it was going in when I let it go,” Wallace said of her shot that made the score 50-46. She had rebounded a missed shot with 52 seconds left as Temple maintained possession.

“I just knew on the previous play, they threw the ball to me in the corner and I should have let it go and I didn’t – I opted to put the ball on the floor but for them I knew I had to shoot it and I had to be confident, so that’s what I did – I shot it with confidence and it went in.”

The game was not quite over in the closely fought contest.

Kavallo missed a layup on the Hawks’ ensuing possession, but Michelle Baker kept things alive for St. Joseph’s with an offensive rebound, then Prim missed a trey attempt with nine seconds left and Peddy grabbed a rebound for Temple.

She was immediately fouled by Prim and hit both free throws for a 52-46 lead before St. Joseph’s Katie Kuester hit a long three-pointer just before time expired.

“This feels really good,” Wallace said. “We have a lot of pride in kind of keeping the legacy alive in what Temple has built over the years and we didn’t get it last year (Villanova went 4-0) and tied the year before (with St. Joseph’s) so we wanted to bring it back to Temple to show we do run Philly.”

It was Temple’s 11th straight win in the series with the Hawks and the 17th in the last 18 – the only setback being a 65-64 loss here on January 27, 2006 in an Atlantic 10-only game when freshman Hillary Klimowicz scored before time expired in her only season with St. Joseph’s.

Wednesday’s game also was an Atlantic 10 confrontation, which carries Temple from one heavyweight bout in the city to a national one Sunday.

That’s when Temple (22-6, 13-0) will host No.6 Xavier (24-2, 13-0) at 4 p.m. at the Liacouras Center (ESPNU-TV) on the final day of the regular season to determine the top seed for next week’s conference tournament at the Tsongas Center in Lowell, Mass.

The Musketeers stayed perfect in the Atlantic 10 Wednesday night by beating George Washington 67-41 as Amber Harris had 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds on her senior night in Cincinnati against the Colonials (8-19, 3-10), who will host St. Joseph’s Sunday in Washington.

“They’re still tough despite their record and we can’t take GW for granted,” Kuester said of the Hawks’ game Sunday.

George Washington got 11 points from Tiana Myers and had only eight players with leading scorer Danni Jackson (10.3 ppg) sidelined with a concussion.

Xavier’s Harris and sister senior Ta’Shia Phillips are expected to go high in the first round of the next WNBA draft.

The Musketeers edged Temple 57-55 in overtime in last season’s Atlantic 10 title game when Wallace’s shot, attempting to extend the game, bounced off the rim.

“It would really hurt if we got to this point and walked away if we didn’t win everything,” Wallace said looking to Sunday’s showdown.

Both teams seem certain to be NCAA tournament bound without regard to results in the next week, though the conference champion earns an automatic bid.

“I feel like Sunday everyone’s going to come ready to leave everything on the floor because we worked too hard to get to this moment so everybody’s ready to get it,” Wallace said.

Xavier went on to advance to the Elite Eight and fell in the final seconds to eventual national runner up Stanford, missing two easy shots at the finish that could have meant a first-ever trip to the Women’s Final Four.

Temple was trounced in the second round by eventual two-time champion Connecticut, on the way to a second straight unbeaten season.

“We feel like the team we have this year we can go really far if we work as hard as we’ve been working,” Wallace said. `Coach’ (Tonya Cardoza) stresses every day we have to work this hard – no one is going to hand us anything. We’re looking to go really far (in the NCAAs) by using our hard-working defense, so that’s the plan.”

Wednesday’s win gave Cardoza her first outright Big Five title and second overall including the 2009 tie after she succeeded Staley as coach.

But early in the game, it seemed the Hawks might avoid the ongoing frustration of losing to the Owls almost every time in the 17-of-18 setbacks in the closing minute as they were on fire from the field early to forge a 27-20 lead at the half.

Temple, however, opened the second half with a 13-2 run to go ahead 33-29 in the first five minutes and went on to extend the differential by as much as nine points at 47-38 with 7:22 left in regulation before the Hawks made one final rally down the stretch.

“I said this game was going to come down to someone making a big play – that both teams are going to play really good defense and it was going to take someone stepping up and making big plays,” Cardoza said afterwards.

“Qwedia definitely did that down the stretch. It was a huge three but even before that she made a layup for us. It’s a tough place to play being down seven points and coming back and take the lead.

“Our guys just fought. We worked too hard to get to this point to let someone else win the championship and we felt we deserved it for all the hard work that they put in and I’m glad they were able to get this.”

As far as changes made on the Temple side during the break, Cardoza explained: “It was just letting (her players) know they need to relax – the thing that got us to this point was playing defense and we didn’t stop them at all in the first half – everything they tried to get, they were able to score on us.

“Just make sure to buckle down on the defensive end and be smarter on the offensive end but we knew that if we play solid defense it will transfer into easy opportunities for us on the other end and it definitely did.

“St. Joseph’s is a tough team to play against – I mean they’re solid, they’re disciplined, they play really hard and they really bear down on the defensive end and don’t let you get anything easy – just like we try to do.

“We try to take certain players out of the game and they do the same thing – they try to limit our top guys from getting shots they want and they do a good job at it.”

Temple forced St. Joseph’s into 20 turnovers while only committing 10 and was able to outscore the Hawks 22-11 points off those mistakes, while also going 11-0 in second chance points off a 16-7 advantage on the offensive boards.

“It’s the same story, offensive rebounds and points off of turnovers,” said St. Joseph’s coach Cindy Griffin (nee Anderson), who won three Big Five titles for the Hawks as player (1990-92).

“We went through a stretch there with nine possessions – we only score once and they took advantage of that and we missed some key box outs and that’s disappointing because a lot of it was in our control.

“We wanted to stop them from shooting the three and of course they were 0-for-9 until (Wallace) hit the last one and you have to give her credit for stepping up and making the last shot.”

The loss left St. Joseph’s in eighth place with one game left in the regular season. Depending on the Owls’ placement in the final standings – they are guaranteed a bye and can be no worse than second – and how the Hawks finish, the two could meet against in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals.

Mathematically, St. Joseph’s could finish in a five-way tie for fourth when the regular season ends but in terms of the favorites in this weekend’s games as well as tie-breaking procedures, the Hawks most likely cannot avoid playing next Friday when the conference tournament begins.

La Salle Rally Falls Short

The Explorers’ recent revival almost carried them to a second stunning upset in a week when they rallied from a 12-point deficit to within two of Richmond in the final minute in an Atlantic 10 game in their Tom Gola Arena.

But that was as close as they could get, losing 69-65, to drop into ninth place at 9-19 overall and 5-8 in the conference heading into Sunday’s regular season final at Massachusetts (7-21, 3-10).

La Salle was picked last in the 14-team conference in the coaches preseason poll but the Explorers, under new coach Jeff Williams, are now heading to the A-10 tournament for the first time in four seasons.

A year ago, they lost out on a tie-breaking coin flip with Fordham.

La Salle’s Ashley Gale celebrated her last home game with a senior night total of 18 points, the same points scored by junior Jess Koci.

Senior Chelsea Conner was also honored in the pre-game ceremony.

Abby Oliver scored 20 points for Richmond (17-10, 8-5) and Crystal Goring had 11 points and 11 rebounds.

Massachusetts lost at Fordham, 62-53, to drop into an 11th-place tie with George Washington for the final two slots in next week’s conference tournament. Fordham (12-17, 4-9) is in 10th and travels to Dayton (17-10, 8-5) Saturday.

Richmond is now in a four-way tie for fourth and the final A-10 tournament bye slot with Dayton, a 63-43 winner at Rhode Island (7-20, 1-12); Duquesne (21-8, 8-5), which rallied for a 76-63 win at Charlotte (21-7, 9-4); and St. Bonaventure (18-10, 8-5), a 60-55 winner at St. Louis (7-21, 12).

If St. Bonaventure were to beat visiting Charlotte Saturday, there could be a five-way tie for third, which would mean using procedures to determine two teams with byes to join Temple and Xavier.

What the logjam has done is weaken recent projections of any two in this group getting at-large bids to the NCAA tournament though it’s still possible a third or fourth can join Temple and Xavier in the NCAA field.

Rhode Island and St. Louis are tied for 13th and neither can move higher thereby causing both schools to be eliminated from the A-10 tournament.

In some of the A-10 games played on Wednesday, Dayton’s Justine Raterman, who had been sidelined with a concussion, returned to score 15 points against Rhode Island, whose Megan Shoniker (19.5 ppg), the conference’s top scorer, was shut out.

Duquesne’s Orsi Szecsi scored 18 of her career-high 23 points in the second half as the Dukes matched their best-ever win total of 21.

St. Bonaventure erased a 13-point deficit in the second half at St. Louis as Chelsea Bowker scored all 12 of her points in the period and Megan Van Tatenhove finished with 18 points.

Rutgers Escapes South Florida; UConn Backs In – Sort Of

The Scarlet Knights (16-11, 9-5) of Rutgers tried awfully hard Wednesday night to erase the positives gained out of Saturday’s upset at nationally-ranked Marquette when they fell behind South Florida (1-18, 1-13) by 17 points early in the second half of a Big East home game at the Louis Brown Athletic Center.

A loss to the Bulls heading into a tough home game Saturday against No. 19 West Virginia would have had Rutgers bubbling the wrong way on NCAA forecasts.

But coach C. Vivian Stringer’s squad found a way to rally to a 52-46 win as Chelsey Lee scored a career-high 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Khadijah Rushdan also scored 18 points for Rutgers.

Andrea Smith had 20 points for South Florida, which visits Villanova at noon Saturday.

Meanwhile, No. 18 Georgetown (21-7, 9-5), which hosts No. 2 Connecticut (27-1, 14-0) on Saturday, turned back visiting Pittsburgh, 67-57, overcoming a nine-point lead by the Panthers (13-14, 5-9).

Sugar Rodgers scored 16 points for the Hoyas in McDonough Arena while Taneisha Harrison scored 16 for Pittsburgh.

But the big story of the night was at unranked Louisville (18-10, 9-5), which knocked off No. 7 DePaul, 68-55, as Monique Reid scored 28 point for the Cardinals.

DePaul (25-4, 12-2), which had been in the hunt for a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, had won four straight and 12 of 13 – the lone loss at Connecticut.

Ah yes, the Huskies.

While they sat home Wednesday night, the DePaul loss gave them the No. 1 seed in the Big East tournament since they have the tiebreakers over the Demons and Notre Dame in case they were to finish deadlocked with either in the final standings.

A win Saturday at Georgetown will give them the Big East title outright to go with the top seed they now own for next week’s fiesta in Hartford.

Upset and Recovery in the Big 12

Two other ranked teams out were in action Wednesday night, both in the Big 12.

No. 14 Oklahoma (19-8, 9-4), still looking for consistency, didn’t find it in a 73-68 loss at unranked Colorado (13-13, 4-9) in Boulder, where the Buffaloes got 24 points from Brittany Spears.

Sooners senior Danielle Robinson reached the 2,000th point of her career as she finished with 21 points.

Meanwhile, less than a week after being upset by Texas Tech and knocked down from No. 1 to third in the AP Poll, Baylor (25-2, 12-1) got back on the winning track, beating visiting Kansas State 75-48 as Brittney Griner had 21 of her 26 points in the first half in Waco, Texas.

Jalana Childs scored 21 for Kansas State (18-8, 8-5).

Looking Ahead

The Guru most likely heads back to Delaware Thursday night for an intriguing game against Virginia Commonwealth, looking to
lock up the No. 4 seed and last available bye for next month’s Colonial Athletic Association tournament at the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro, Md.

Two weeks ago the Blue Hens had a chance to catch VCU in the standings playing the game at the Carpenter Center in Newark.

But Delaware has lost two straight while VCU has knocked off Old Dominion, sweeping the Lady Monarchs, and Drexel.

However, this is a game that will tell the Blue Hens if they are good enough to challenge the frontrunners if they get to the quarterfinals.

Drexel, meanwhile, trying to stay near Delaware (5th place) and at least tied for sixth with Hofstra, will visit Northeastern in Boston.

Penn State can no longer gain the No. 1 seed in next week’s Big 10 tournament, but the Lady Lions are still alive for a standings tie for first at the moment as they try to improve their potential seed position in the NCAA tournament.

They get the chance Thursday night when Purdue visits.

And that’s the way it is before sunrise Thursday.

See you back in 24 hours.

-- Mel

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Guru Report I: St. John's Survives Big East Visit To Villanova

(Guru's note: If you are in melgreenberg.com, press mel's blog to go to an updated interview with Carol Blazejowski in the post over there under this one. Press media links and philly local to read new Dicision II-Division III news.)

By Mel Greenberg

St. John’s made sure Villanova would not be the one Tuesday night to derail the Red Storm’s NCAA tournament hopes with a 57-46 victory in the Big East at the Pavilion that virtually ensured the Wildcats having all summer to plan the celebration for veteran coach Harry Perretta’s 600th career victory.

Perretta, in his 33rd season, began the night needing four more victories to hit the milestone and ended it the same way meaning the only way it could come about before the Wildcats (10-17, 2-17 Big East) close shop is to win Saturday’s senior day game against South Florida, Monday’s trip to Pittsburgh, and two rounds in the conference tournament.

Villanova had topped the four-team invisible basement division of the conference with a two-game win streak over similar cellar dwellers in Cincinnati and Seton Hall, which both lost Tuesday night.

But in St. John’s (19-8, 8-6), the Wildcats faced a squad in and out of the rankings that is trying to make sure it has enough of a resume to not be the one Big East team among nine NCAA contenders to suddenly be given a WNIT party hat.

St. John’s hosts Pittsburgh Saturday and then visits No. 19 West Virginia Monday night. The Mountaineers (21- 7, 7-7), in a similar situation to St. John’s, lost to No. 8 Notre Dame Tuesday night and visits Rutgers Saturday night.

A few sips of hot Coco as in Centhya “Coco” Hart and Da’Shena Stevens helped lead the way for the Red Storm on the offensive end with 15 points each, while Nadirah McKenith scored 12 points and Shenneika Smith went for double 10s in points and rebounds.

Laura Sweeney, shooting 4-for-14 from the field, was the only Villanova player in double figures with 10 points and also was limited by foul trouble.

Sarah Jones had one of her better games with nine points off a 4-for-7 effort from the field, but Lindsay Kimmel, the transfer three-point shooting ace from Temple, had seven points and was just 1-for-6 launching treys as compared to the seven each she had made in recent

Furthermore, before the game, the school announced starting guard Rachel Roberts would miss the remainder of the season because of a right thumb injury.

“At least it’s only one major injury and not like last year,” said Perretta, whose teams in recent seasons have suffered key injuries in February, if not earlier.

“Thank God she didn’t get hurt three games ago or maybe we don’t beat Seton Hall or beat Cincinnati,” Perretta said.

As Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw and West Virginia coach Mike Carey have stated on visits here this season, so did St. John’s Kim Barnes Arico utter relief on overcoming Villanova’s methodical style.

“I was just happy to grind it out and escape,” Barnes Arico said. “Because you know, in a nine or 10-point game, it’s only three shots and they can get back in it the way they shoot.”

St. John’s held a 38-28 rebounding advantage although several scrums in the second half made one wonder if Villanova had already made a declaration to play Big East football and was applying the move to all sports in case someone missed the memo.

“Yeah, can you believe it?” Barnes Arico said with a smile. “They killed us.”

Perretta, meanwhile, had to resort to discuss another night of struggles on the offensive end, a recurring theme through most of the Wildcats’ Big East schediule.

“It was brutal,” he said. “I told our team at the beginning we were not ready to play – we were lethargic, slow, and now we get down 10-3 and we’re trying to dig our way out of the hole the whole game.

“We’re not a good enough offensive team to get behind anybody by a lot of points. And then when Laura gets in foul trouble that kills us because we can’t score. And then Rachel not playing tonight hurt us.

“You take an eight-point scorer (Roberts) out of a 52-point scoring team and it’s a lot of points. And St. John’s a pretty good team. They play decent defense. They’re aggressive. They break you down off the dribble, they’re very good at that. And we’re not good at defending that kind of stuff.

“We can defend their plays but not when they take it off the dribble because they’re quicker.

“Our defense was decent, but most of the time we are very inconsistent at executing our offense. The last two games we executed our offense very well and we scored 62 points. Today – St. John’s had something to do with it, don’t get me wrong – but we’re not mentally focused.

“The first two possessions – like Lindsay Kimmel is supposed to set a back screen and she doesn’t set it. I said, `What are you doing? I said, `You didn’t set the back screen.’ She said, `I did set it.’

“They’re mentally out of the game. The last three games she’s been very mentally focused and today she kind of reverted back to a first-year player. Now in the three games before this, she played extremely well within the system. Today, she didn’t play well within the system and you saw when she doesn’t play well within the system.

“Now the last three games, she played very well. She moved without the ball. She knew where she was going. And she made 16 threes or something like that? Today nothing was in the flow. She got some shots but nothing was in the flow.

“When we’re not in the flow, we look worse.”

Perretta talked about needing more players to throw into the guard spot.

“We’ll know next year – if we don’t show improvement, I hate to say it but maybe this group of kids aren’t good enough to get it done in the Big East.”

Perretta keeps hoping this group may be like the one that struggled several years ago but eventually improved enough to land a spot in the NCAA tournament.

The Other Dance

Because some conferences such as the Southeastern that used to land a slew of teams in the NCAA are not as strong this year, here’s what to know about the Women’s National Invitation Tournament, which also has a 64-team field.

There are two ways to earn bids. The automatic qualifier for each conference goes to teams that finish first in the regular season standings but get upset in conference tournaments and then get bypassed by the NCAA.

If any of those teams make the field, then the AQ goes to the second-place team, if it doesn’t land an NCAA bid, etc. If a tie exists, the conference designates its best team of the two, usually by overall record.

In terms of picking at-large squads, schools have to be .500 or better in their overall records but can have a losing record within the conference.

A year ago, Florida was behind South Carolina in the SEC but went because when the Gamecocks lost in the first round of the SEC tournament, Florida then had a better overall record.

Temple In Print

Your Guru was requested by his former place of employment to whip up a feature on the Owls in light of the 14-game win streak and showdown games with St. Joseph’s for the Big Five title on the Hawks’ turf Wednesday night and the womano-womano grand finale Sunday at home against No. 7 Xavier that will determine the top seed in the Atlantic 10 tournament no matter what happens in Wednesday’s games.

You can find it over in Philly.com though with the cyber revisions, the Guru can’t tell you exactly where. But he’ll be back with Wednesday’s action, which also includes a key game in the Big East with South Florida visiting Rutgers.

The Guru, obviously, will be at St. Joseph’s.

-- Mel

Guru Report II: Blazejowski Heading To Academia

(Guru's note: This is an update with a brief talk with Carol Blazejowski about her new job. There is a post above this one covering the Villanova-St. John's game and some WNIT info. And press the media links and go to philly local for a new Division 2-3 report inside melgreenberg.com).

By Mel Greenberg

Just about five months to the day after she was ambushed by her MSG Sports superiors and let go from a 14-year run as the president and general manager of the WNBA New York Liberty, Carol Blazejowski has found employment again back at her roots at Montclair State.

Blazejowski’s alma mater made the announcement official Tuesday, giving her the title of vice president of university advancement.

Though some of her titles changed over the years, Blazejowski had been at the helm of the Liberty since its outset as one of eight charter members when the WNBA launched in the summer of 1997.

John Whisenant, who was coach and general manager of the former Sacramento Monarchs, in both positions replaced Blazejowski and Anne Donovan, who is now coaching the Seton Hall women.

Ironically, former Immaculata star Theresa Grentz, who went on to coaching success at St. Joseph’s, Rutgers and Illinois, has held a similar title to Blazejowski at her alma mater since she retired from Illinois.

Montclair State, located in Upper Montclair, N.J., near New York, is an NCAA Division III school that competed as a major women’s basketball power in the late 1970s under the former AIAW.

Blazejowski was a terrific scorer, won the first Wade Award, and in her senior year led the squad to the Final Four won by UCLA and Ann Meyers-Drysdale in the Bruins’ Pauley Pavilion in 1978.

She still holds the Madison Square Garden scoring record for men and women with 52 points, which was set in a game against Queens College on which former WNBA president Donna Orender played.

“It’s amazing, this job came along just when I needed one,” Blazejowski told the Guru in a quick phone call Tuesday afternoon. “I’m still getting settled and have only been in it a couple of days, but it looks like it will be really great.

“I did give Theresa a call when I got the offer.”

The release from Montclair State announcing Blazejowski is listed below this report, but her duties to a certain degree are similar to ones with the Liberty in terms of overseeing marketing, public relations, and the other aspects of the entire university.

Back in New York, trainer Lisa White and marketing head Melissa Abbe are the only holdovers from Blazejowski’s original front office staff. Kym Hampton, director of fan development, was a star center on the early Liberty squads.

“I really was still looking for something in sports,” said Blazejowski, who is a member of both the Naismith and Women’s Basketball Halls of Fame.

“But (Montclair) came after me really hard and said I could be involved with athletics along with everything else and it feels great to be wanted.

“And it’s only a 10 minute ride from the house,” she added.

Blazejowski isn’t ready to discuss her final hours in New York, but her remark sort of confirmed that she did not know when she awoke on the morning of Sept. 20 that it would be her last day on the job.

In fact, MSG Sports officials reportedly did not even give Blazejowski time to inform her staff, according to a source familiar with her departure.

No one knows exactly what the deal breaker was – she had her supporters and detractors in terms of running all aspects of the Liberty organization – but it could have been over the venue the WNBA team at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., will temporarily call home the next three summers during renovations of Madison Square Garden.

She was not known to be enamored of the site early last season when the search for a temporary home was being conducted.

“It’s still not like this place, look at the atmosphere here,” she said during the playoffs when New York advanced to the Eastern finals won by the third-year Atlanta Dream.

New York, with the addition of former Rutgers star Cappie Pondexter, and former Stanford star Nicole Powell, among others, finished tied with the Washington Mystics on top of the rugged Eastern Conference but landed the No. 2 seed from which the Liberty ousted the .defending conference champion Indiana Fever.

When the office of WNBA president was vacated on Dec. 31 by Orender to run her own company, Blazejowski’s supporters thought she might be a candidate because of her earlier life working for the NBA.

“If they were interested, they would have called quickly,” Blazejowski said last fall when the still ongoing search got under way.

Since her departure, Blazejowski has appeared in public and has attended Seton Hall women’s basketball games coached by Donovan.

Meanwhile, speaking of Immaculata earlier, the moment the long-awaited movie about the team’s first national title, now called The Mighty Macs, will have a $250 red-carpet debut at the Franklin Institute 6 p.m. on March 29, the same night as the NCAA regional title game at Temple’s Liacuras Center.

For those that missed it in the earlier post, here’s the Montclair State release on Blazejowski’s new job, which is a bit more than the terse five-or-so paragraph release from MSG that announced her departure:

Carol Blazejowski, one of the most legendary trailblazers in women’s basketball and a Montclair State University alumna, has been named associate vice president for University Advancement at Montclair State, effective February 21, 2011. In her new position, Blazejowski will help advance the University’s mission by developing outreach opportunities and forging strategic relationships. She will oversee a variety of functions, including marketing, communications, alumni relations, university relations, and partnership development.

“Carol Blazejowski's return to Montclair State following an impressive career as a Hall of Fame basketball player, professional sports executive, and business leader is an exciting opportunity for the University,” said Montclair State University President Susan A. Cole. “We are very pleased to welcome her back, and we believe that her professional reputation and stature as an alumna provide her a unique platform for engaging a variety of constituencies in the dynamic life of the University and for being an exceptional advocate for the importance of public higher education.”

Blazejowski was most recently the president and general manager of the New York Liberty, one of the founding Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) franchises. As general manager of the team since 1997, she was responsible for building one of the league’s most successful franchises with ten playoff appearances, three Eastern Conference Championships, and four WNBA Finals appearances.

Prior to heading up the Liberty, Blazejowski held a variety of roles at the National Basketball Association including the director of women’s basketball programs and director of licensing for NBA Properties, Inc.

“I am honored to be returning to Montclair State and to give back to the University that provided me with such an important and enduring foundation as a young student athlete,” said Blazejowski. “I have been privileged to learn from outstanding mentors and to be associated with premiere businesses over my long career, and I look forward to bringing those skills to MSU, to help the university build on its rich legacy.”

Blazejowski’s athletic accomplishments are numerous. She was named an All-American in 1976, 1977, and 1978, and won the first Wade Trophy for the Women’s Basketball Player of the Year in 1978. She was the U.S. Olympic team women’s basketball captain in 1980 and holds the men’s and women’s collegiate single game scoring record in Madison Square Garden with 52 points. She was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999, the James A. Naismith National Basketball Hall of Fame in 1994, and the Montclair State University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1989.

Blazejowski graduated from Montclair State with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education. She resides with her family in Nutley, New Jersey.

-- Mel

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Blazejowski Gets A New Job - Not That One

By Mel Greenberg

This just in - here's the announcement of Blaze going the Theresa Grentz alma mater route.

For Immediate Release
Basketball All-American and Alumna Carol Blazejowski Appointed
to University Advancement Position
February 22, 2011—Carol Blazejowski, one of the most legendary trailblazers in women’s basketball and a Montclair State University alumna, has been named associate vice president for University Advancement at Montclair State, effective February 21, 2011.  In her new position, Blazejowski will help advance the University’s mission by developing outreach opportunities and forging strategic relationships.  She will oversee a variety of functions, including marketing, communications, alumni relations, university relations, and partnership development.
“Carol Blazejowski's return to Montclair State following an impressive career as a Hall of Fame basketball player, professional sports executive, and business leader is an exciting opportunity for the University,” said Montclair State University President Susan A. Cole. “We are very pleased to welcome her back, and we believe that her professional reputation and stature as an alumna provide her a unique platform for engaging a variety of constituencies in the dynamic life of the University and for being an exceptional advocate for the importance of public higher education.”
Blazejowski was most recently the president and general manager of the New York Liberty, one of the founding Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) franchises.  As general manager of the team since 1997, she was responsible for building one of the league’s most successful franchises with ten playoff appearances, three Eastern Conference Championships, and four WNBA Finals appearances.
Prior to heading up the Liberty, Blazejowski held a variety of roles at the National Basketball Association including the director of women’s basketball programs and director of licensing for NBA Properties, Inc.
“I am honored to be returning to Montclair State and to give back to the University that provided me with such an important and enduring foundation as a young student athlete,” said Blazejowski. “I have been privileged to learn from outstanding mentors and to be associated with premiere businesses over my long career, and I look forward to bringing those skills to MSU, to help the university build on its rich legacy.”

Guru Musings: Will Evans Be The One In The CAA?

By Mel Greenberg

For the second straight season The Colonial Athletic Association has a wide-open race for player of the year.

The one difference this time around is that the media covering the conference no longer joins the coaches in the vote, as was the case in the preseason vote.

That's not a complaint, just a note for people who may not be aware of the change made.

A year ago, with Elena Delle Donne making a sensational debut at Delaware the 2008 national high school player of the year dominated the CAA statistics and won not only rookie honors but player honors as well.

This time around Delle Donne may still be in the mix though her absence from 12 games due to dealing with symptoms of Lyme disease has precluded her from eligibility to be among the NCAA stats and likewise she is not listed in the CAA weekly report.

But she is eligible to be considered for the postseason awards by the conference so it's possible she'll draw votes if one is making a player evaluation for the on-court performance even if her appearances are less than other worthy candidates.

Virginia Commonwealth's Courtney Hurt picked up a another CAA player of the week award, her fifth of the season which is tops in the conference. She is fourth in the nation in scoring with a 23.4 average and leads the nation with 21 double doubles off of 13.0 rebounds.

Meanwhile, James Madison's Dawn Evans is No. 1 in the nation with a 23.9 average and the Dukes, who won the postseason tournament a year ago, seem likely to win the regular season crown.

Evans will soon make former Drexel star Gabriela Marginean's reign as the all-time scorer in CAA short-lived, an achievement Dragons coach Denise Dillon predicted several years ago would happen.

Evans currently has 2,528 points and just needs 54 to reach 2,581 points to rewrite the record book.

Another candidate potentially is Hofstra sophomore Shante Evans who is fourth in the conference in scoring with a 17.8 average and second in rebounding at 10.8.

Will Naismith HOF Voters Be More Liberal?

Way back in the beginning of women being included in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame voting for indiuction honors in the annual ceremonies in Springfield, Mass., for the most part the women's subcommittee was regularly getting both nominees through the final vote by the honors committee.

In recent years only one women's candidate at a time has been picked even when both candidates would seem to be no-brainers picks to those who follow the sport.

For example, when Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer was on the ballot and was selected, the also-ran was former WNBA star Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, who eventually was chosen last year and, by the way, is a strong candidate for CAA coach of the year in her first season at UNC Wilmington.

The action in different years has caused the subcommittee to submit a single candidate to make sure the vote didn't get split and both candidates cancel each other from getting the number of required votes.

One year when the late great North Carolina State coach Kay Yow was a first-time nominee and holding an Olympic gold medal pedigree, no one was chosen, which caused a modest boycott of the ceremonies to send a message. She was chosen the next time around, though the honors committee was probably unaware any action had occurred.

The Guru mentions this in light of this year's list of nominees which includes both Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer and former Georgia and Olympic great Teresa Edwards.

Considering the success record of both individuals, it will be interesting to see if both make as well they should.

The Guru is glad to see VanDerveer was finally put forth to be considered because when he was on the subcommitee and wondered why she hadn't been recommended there were different reasons whispered ranging from she didn't want the honor why she was still an active coach to a confession of a missed deadline for submitting her name.

Atlantic 10 Logjam

Interesting that in the final week of the regular season a five-way tie exists for fourth in the Atlantic 10, which also carries a bye into next week's tournament at the Tsongas Center in Lowell, Mass.

The Guru will not get into the tie-breaking process until after Wednesday's games since it is possible the one large tie will reduce to separate deadlocks depending who wins or loses, but since St. Joseph's is one of those teams, the Hawks have something else to play for when they host Temple Wednesday night besides the Big Five title and snapping a long string of Owls victories, most of which have been decided in the closing seconds.

Incidentally, if St. Joseph's lands in the Women's National Invitation Tournament, two intriguing matchups if either team also lands in the field instead of the NCAA would be a visit from Boston College, which then would have the Eagles Kerri Shields going against her sister Erin, who has been among the top newcomers in Philadelphia Division I this season.

Another would be a visit from Dawn Staley's South Carolina team, although the Gamecocks would likely get a home game if they are in the field.

Weekly Honors

La Salle seniior Ashley Gale was named Atlantic 10 player of the week, while St. Joseph's Michelle Baker was named Big Five player of the week.

Manhattan's Monica Roeder of Marlton and Cherokee High was named the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference player of the week, which reminds, there's another possibility for the WNIT if Loyola, Md., continues to run second in the MAAC to nationally-ranked Marist.

The Greyhounds are coached by Joe Logan, a former assistant at St. Joseph's, so that matchup would create a bit of a homecoming considering that Erica DiClemente, a graduate of Wissahickon High from Blue Bell is on the squad.

Looking Ahead

St. John's, trying to stay off the NCAA bubble, will be visiting Villanova at 7 p.m. Tuesday night, as well The Guru.

The Wildcats have won two straight bringing longtime coach Harry Perretta to 596 victories going into the Big East game against the Red Storm..

And in terms of the No. 600, with Tennessee likely to stay in the AP poll through the final vote in three weeks, coach Pat Summitt andThe Lady Vols, who have missed only 14 appearances in the 35-year history, will be at 599 appeaeances when the records meter stops for this season.

And now it is time to see if the overnight snow has stopped and the ice has melted to head home for some shuteye.

-- Mel

Monday, February 21, 2011

Guru Report: Busted Play Dooms Delaware Against James Madison

By Mel Greenberg

NEWARK, Del. –
On Delaware’s day to Think Pink for breast cancer awareness, coach Tina Martin was internally seeing red over her Blue Hens’ inability to think at all at the finish.

And by the time another episode of the Colonial Athletic Association’s women’s basketball season was officially posted, Delaware’s narrow 69-64 loss to James Madison (21-6, 14-1) at the Carpenter Center Sunday afternoon in front of a lively crowd of 3,316 placed the victors and defending conference champions on the doorstep of a regular season title.

As for Delaware (15-11, 8-7 CAA), less than a week after it seemed the Blue Hens had a chance to catch Virginia Commonwealth (16-9, 11-4), which visits here Thursday, for fourth place and the final bye slot in next month’s CAA tournament at the Showplace Arena in Upper Marlboro, Md., the squad remains the best of what has become a black-and-really-blue invisible Central Division in the standings well below the leaders but unable to break away from each other.

Delaware is still fifth, now three games away from VCU and one ahead of Drexel (15-11, 7-8) and Hofstra (15-11, 7-8), tied for sixth, who had their own sad stories to tell as did eighth place George Mason (10-16, 8-10).

Drexel squandered a 10-point lead to VCU in the second half to post its second home loss of the season 73-67 at the Daskalakis Athletic Center in Philadelphia.

Hofstra fell to second-place Old Dominion 79-77 at home on Long Island, while home was also no comfort to George Mason (12-14, 6-9) where the Patriots dropped a 59-53 defeat to the Towson (9-17, 3-12) bunch from up the road in Maryland.

Thus Old Dominion (18-8, 12-3) and N.C. Wilmington (20-6, 12-3), which gained a 48-33 win over visiting Northeastern (8-18, 3-12), remained tied for second two games behind front-running James Madison and one ahead of VCU.

Focusing on the dialogue out of here first, from the James Madison side of things came another in an ongoing of stellar performances from senior point guard Dawn Evans, an all-American candidate among the nation’s scoring leaders who produced 27 points for the Dukes’ 12th-straight win.

Lauren Jimenez had 14 points, Tarik Hislop scored 11, and Jalissa Taylor grabbed 11 rebounds.

Delaware sophomore sensation Elena Delle Donne, on her seventh game back from missing 11 straight suffering from symptoms of Lyme disease, scored 21 points while Lauren Carra scored 17 points.

Sarah Acker, the transfer whom three seasons ago was Big Five rookie of the year at St. Joseph’s in nearby Philadelphia, scored 10 points.

Delle Donne and Evans didn’t quite match the scoring fireworks of a year ago in Harrisonburg, Va., when Delle Donne, the eventual CAA player and rookie of the year, smashed the JMU Convocation Center record with 54 points and Evans tied the all-tiime team high mark of 38 in the 88-83 overtime victory by the Dukes.

That loss was part of a trend, which continued here Sunday, in which Delaware showed it could hang with the best teams of the CAA but not prevail in the closing minutes.

JMU coach Kenny Brooks was glad to take the win, move near the regular season title, and perhaps have a team suddenly build enough of a resume to be the lone CAA school capable of landing an NCAA at-large bid if the Dukes don’t win the automatic bid at next month’s conference tournament.

“All of a sudden you’re creeping (into the picture), your RPI is in the high 30s or low 40s and you continue to win, you get a chance and that’s why today’s game was so big,” Brooks said.

“The kids have really bought into one game at a time, and when they do that, the focus is on what’s right on hand,” he said.
Brooks spoke of his star and Delle Donne.

“They’re two of the better players in the country,” Brooks noted. “Obviously they have to do more for their teams than most superstars in this league.

“I watch Elena Delle Donne on film. I watch her half the time as a fan and half the time as a coach and then I get to see Dawn Evans every day in practice. I’m blessed with a kid of that caliber.

“This league has been fortunate with (former Drexel star Gabriela) Marginean, Delle Donne, Evans, and now (VCU’s) Courtney Hurt.”

Delle Donne was the focal point of what became a busted play at the finish for Delaware when the Blue Hens still had a chance to win near the end.

But before getting to that moment, let’s take it to where the Blue Hens were up 64-62 in what hand been a terrific contest, with just over three minutes left.

Hislop tied the score at 64-64 after a Delaware turnover and then the Blue Hens committed three more miscues without getting a shot off before Evans’ layup gave the Dukes a 66-64 lead with 1:45 left in regulation.

Somewhere in there also appeared to be a missed travel call against JMU by the officials.

Acker, with a chance to cause another deadlock, missed both foul shots.

Taylor, making one of two foul shots, extended the lead to 67-64.

With 27 seconds left, Delaware called time. But the play drawn up never happened. Delle Donne, who has had trouble with her three-point shot because of the effects of her recent illness concerning stamina off her legs, launched a desperation trey that hit the front of the rim with 12 seconds left.

Evans grabbed the rebound and then was fouled and went to the line to score the last two point of the day.

Martin, afterwards, went through what was supposed to happen, uttering her despair but also tempering her emotions.

“We messed up the play,” Martin said. “Meghan (McLean) was supposed to have the basketball. We were supposed to bring Elena off a double screen. If Elena had a good look at a three, she was supposed to take it. If not, we were going to run a ball screen and she was supposed to go to the rim.

“HOWEVER, that never happened because Meghan never came and got the ball and Elena took the ball and took it off the top screen,” Martin said.

“But bottom line, they’re kids. I love them to death. We didn’t execute the play it was supposed to be executed. And again, you hear it all the time in the world of sports.

“You draw up a play, and we practice it all the time, too. It wasn’t something I drew up on the scene. We had practiced this particular play for weeks. We did not run it. She was going to go to the rim unless she had an open look at a three. The second option was Carra.

“But because we never came back and got the ball, we never set up the play. Elena ended up with the ball in her hands and did what she thought was best at that moment.

“She came off the top of the screen and didn’t get a good look. She shot it and rimmed it. This is what happens in college basketball. That’s just the way it is. You write something up. They don’t always do it.

“I’ll live with it. I’ll go home and have plenty of sleepless nights because we didn’t do what we were suppose to do.”

Delle Donne was philosophical.

“You can take away positives instead of negatives but it still hurts to lose that game,” she said.

Incredibly as this sounds, Martin can still dream after the nightmare ending.

The reason is for those who live on the prairie and look at the numbers in the CAA and get one impression, the reality is that in this particular year, though it appears that there is a clear cut frontal group, on a given day the forlorn middle of the pack crowd have the capability to wreak havoc in the CAA tournament, especially in the quarterfinals.

Martin spoke to that very concept.

“From where we’ve come from, from all the crap we’ve had this year, JMU hasn’t had near the issues that we’ve had, they’re a great team and we had a chance on our home floor to beat them.

“So yeah, I’m disappointed. I’m extremely disappointed for the kids. I’m proud of the kids. They battled their tails off but when we needed to execute again, the three sophomores that were on the floor – we’ve got to be able to execute.

“We’re playing without a starting point guard. We’re playing with Elena, who’s been back for fifth games and who has missed half our season.

“We’re in a position now, we won’t be in the top four (with byes). But the bottom line is there are some teams in this league that can win four games in four days and we’re one of them.

“We gotta be. That’s what I have to believe now and that’s what I have to sell to my team. And that’s what we’re going to do,” Martin continued.

“We played three games last year, two of which we won and in the semifinal we lost at the buzzer and my kids said they would have had enough to play in the championship.

“So the bottom line is: Why not us be the first one to win four games in four days. I’m not counting my team out at all.

“This is like our second season. We had Elena for the first part of the season. And then for 11 games we didn’t have her and we tried to find ourselves.

“And now we’re in, what the fifth game or sixth game, we have her back again. So we’ve had three different segments of our season.”

Actually, on a count, it’s been seven and the Hens are 4-3 in that stretch.

“That’s really hard. I’m not giving up. Our team’s not giving up. We have another game on Thursday we have to try to win. We have to win as many as we can win (three left including trip to ODU). All three are going to be tough.

“We’re the ones scrambling and trying to put people all over the place. We’re going to flip the coin and try to get as good as we can in the next two or three weeks and then we’re going to go after it.

“There’s teams in the middle – Drexel, Hofstra – teams in this league are very, very competitive. The teams that have been able to have stable seasons both physically and mentally, they’re in the top four.

“Teams that have had to battle all kinds of adversity like us because of illnesses and injuries – we’re not in the top four. But guess what? We’re going to strap our shoes on and when it comes tournament time on that neutral floor, we’ve got just as good a chance as anyone else.”

Dragons Fire Cooled By VCU While Monarchs Rule Pride At Finish

Drexel’s Kamile Nacickaite equaled her career high with 30 points only to have the effort by a 22-2 run by VCU in the second half to gain a 73-67 win.

Courtney Hurt, a top candidate with Evans and Delle Donne for CAA player of the year to be voted by the coaches, had 29 points and 11 rebounds.

Andrea Barbour, a transfer from Virginia Tech, had 24 points.

Jasmina Rosseel had 15 points and Tyler Hale scored 10 for Drexel.

Kquanise Byrd’s shot with three seconds remaining gave Old Dominion a 79-77 win at Hofstra that kept the Lady Monarchs tied with N.C. Wilmington for second two games behind James Madison, while the Pride stayed tied for sixth with Drexel.

Shadasia Greene had 17 points for ODU, topping three other teammates in double figures.
Hofstra’s Shante Evans had 18 points and 10 rebounds while the Pride’s Nicole Capurso scored 19 points.

Nationally Notable

No. 11 Michigan State (24-3, 12-2 Big Ten) clinched a share of its third Big Ten title and first since the 2005 season when the Spartans reached the national title game by beating Illinois 69-56 as Kalisha Keane scored 27 points.

The Illini’s Karisma Penn had her conference-leading 16th double double with 33 points and 11 rebounds.
Idle Penn State is now two games back with two left.

Though Ohio State won’t win the Buckeyes’ seventh-straight regular conference title in the Big 10, they are becoming a force again, beating Purdue 76-74, while Northwestern beat visiting Minnesota 62-55.

La’Keisha Sutton’s career high 24 points helped South Carolina to a 65-49 win over visiting Auburn as the Gamecocks’ record improved to 16-11 overall and 8-6 in the Southeastern Conference.

The win total is the best in the three seasons Dawn Staley has coached South Carolina since leave Temple.

No. 7 Xavier’s 77-51 win over visiting Duquesne (20-7, 7-5) put the Musketeers (23-2, 12-0) back into a first-place tie in the Atlantic 10 with Temple, while Duquesne’s loss now makes it a five-way tie for fourth and the last bye for next month’s A-10 tournament at the Tsognas Center in Lowell, Mass., near Boston.

Ta’Shia Philllips had 26 points and 11 rebounds for Xavier, which also got 16 points and 12 rebounds from Amber Harris.

Samantha Pollino had 11 points for Duquesne.

In the Big East, No. 10 DePaul (25-3, 12-1) stayed in second by blowing away No. 18 Georgetown 82-57 in Chicago as Katherine Harry had 10 points and 12 rebounds to give the Blue Demons the most conference wins since becoming a member.

Sugar Rodgers had 20 for the Hoyas (20-7, 8-5).

Chiney Ogwumike’s 18 points helped No. 3 Stanford (24-2, 15-0) stay first in the PAC-19 with a 67-53 road win at No. 9 UCLA (22-3, 12-2), which got 14 points from Darxia Morris.

No. 7 Duke (24-3, 10-2) held its share of the lead in the Atlantic Coast Conference beating visiting Virginia Tech 90-40 at Cameron in Durham, N.C. Jasmine Thomas had 27 points for the Blue Devils against the Hokies (11-16, 1-11).

No. 15 Florida State (22-5, 10-2) stayed locked with Duke by beating No. 16 Maryland 72-66 in Talahassee, Fla., as Cierra Bravard and Chelsea Davis each scored 14 points.

Maryland (21-6, 11-5 ACC), which was coming off a big home win over Duke, got a career-high 26 points from freshman Alyssa Thomas, while Lynetta Kiser had 17 points and 10 rebounds.

Boston College (18-9, 5-7 ACC) stayed in the NCAA picture beating Virginia 73-50 in Charlottesville as Kerri Shields, this sister of St. Joseph’s freshman Erin, had 17 points, and Carolyn Swords had 14 points and 10 rebounds.

The Cavaliers (15-13, 4-8), who host Duke Thursday, were outrebounded 51-36.

Kentucky (20-7, 9-5 SEC) took a Southeastern Conference win 80-71 at Vanderbilt (18-9, 9-5) as Kayla Snowden scored 22 points for the No. 19 Wildcats.

Boston U stayed in the America East race with a 72-68 win over Stony Brook. Houston won the regular season Conference USA outright with a 77-61 win over Texas-El Paso.

That’s plenty to chew so the Guru will be back in more than a few with the next post.

-- Mel

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Guru Report: Temple-St. Joseph's Shoot Way To Big 5 Showdown

By Mel Greenberg

Temple and St. Joseph’s shot their way into a Big Five showdown with impressive victories Saturday and the outcome of Wednesday’s fight for local honors will be one of two marquee attractions this week involving Temple.

The other is a visit next Sunday from No. 7 Xavier at the Liacouras Center in a nationally televised contest, which most likely will determine the regular-season champion in the Atlantic 10.

Meanwhile, Rutgers upset a Top 25 team on the road and got back into the NCAA picture while Villanova now has a two-game win streak and Wildcats coach Harry Perretta is four wins from reaching 600 in his career.

Penn moved up in the Ivy standings but a lop-sided loss Saturday night in the Palestra to Yale reduced the weekend to a split concluding on a flat note. Princeton, however, made it a sweep over both Brown and Yale as the Tigers continue to pursue defense of their conference title.

As the conversation here begins with Temple and St. Joseph’s, the pre-dawn hour of this composition creates a need to avoid assumption in the discussion even though aspects carry a high probability of occurrence.

So let’s first focus on what’s just ahead as a result of Saturday’s victories.

St. Joseph’s shot 52.7 percent from the field in the Hawks’ Hagan Arena to beat La Salle 77-60 in a game counting in both the Big Five and Atlantic 10 Standings.

The visiting Explorers (9-18 overall, 5-7 Atlantic 10, 0-4 Big Five) had won 3-of-4 previous games heading into Hawk Hill, including an impressive upset at home Wednesday night of third-place Charlotte that put La Salle into the conference tournament for the first time in four seasons.

The Explorers had been in one of the two slots at the bottom of the 14-team conference that mean elimination from the A-10 tourney, which in two weeks will be under way at another neutral site at the Tsongas Center in Lowell, Mass.

A year ago, La Salle was eliminated via tie breaking coin flip with Fordham.

Saturday’s loss left the Explorers, picked last in the preseason A-10 coaches’ poll, all alone in ninth place after getting 17 points from Ashley Gale, 15 from Alexis Scott, and 12 from Nadia Duncan.

The Explorers trailed narrowly at the half at 38-36 before the Hawks gained solid control over the remaining 20 minutes.
“I’ll take responsibility, we weren’t prepared mentally for this game,” La Salle first-year coach Jeff Williams said. “We didn’t follow the game plan. We didn’t know what their key players did. They had kids that could just knock down the three and we were nowhere in sight.

“We just weren’t prepared. I’ll take responsibility; we’re a work in progress. I’ll have to continue to teach (his players) how to win and how to be consistent in winning.”

La Salle will finish up the regular season hosting Richmond Wednesday on senior night at the Tom Gola Arena at 7 p.m. and then traveling to Massachusetts Saturday.

In terms of the City Series round robin it will be a battle of Big Five undefeated schools at 3-0 with the winner taking all locally when Temple (21-6 overall) visits the Hawks (17-9 overall) Wednesday night at 7 p.m.

Temple had won four Big Five titles outright and then shared one with St. Joseph’s at 3-1 in Owls’ coach Tonya Cardoza’s first season in 2008-09 before Villanova won it outright at 4-0 a year ago.

In Saturday’s win over La Salle, the Hawks got 15 points from Michelle Baker, 14 from Dominique Bryant, 12 from Kelly Cavallo, and 10 from freshman Erin Shields.

Bryant was the lone Hawks player honored on senior day and she celebrated hitting 4-for-4 on three-point attempts, and 5-of-6 overall shooting from the field.

It was also St. Joseph’s turn to use the Pink Zone theme during the current and annual initiative from the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) in support of the Kay Yow Cancer Fund and to fight breast cancer.

Additionally, junior Katie Kuester scored nine points and dealt six assists.

Her father John Kuester, the NBA Detroit Pistons head coach and former 76ers assistant, took advantage of the All-Star break to come home and watch his daughter play.

St. Joseph’s (7-5 Atlantic 10) has won five in a row and moved into a four-way tie for fifth, which could become a five-way tie for fourth and the final A-10 tourney bye slot if Duquesne (20-6, 7-4) loses Sunday at preseason A-10 favorite Xavier (22-2, 11-0).

After Temple, which beat St. Joseph’s 53-43 on Jan. 19 at the Liacouras Center in the A-10 only game, the Hawks will finish up Sunday at George Washington (8-18, 3-9) in the nation’s capital at the Smith Center.

“We went into a slump, that’s what basketball is, you go on streaks, you don’t go on streaks, hopefully it’s going the right way, so that’s all that matters,” Kuester said of the Hawks’ struggles during the outset of the Atlantic 10 schedule last month.

“’Coach (Cindy Griffin) keeps talking about the teams that are spiraling up and the teams that are spiraling down right now, I think we’re on the up and up. We’ve got a lot more left in us. We’re not ready to be done yet.

“Temple is going to be a big game for us. We have to get them Wednesday night, so we’ll see.”

Griffin gave her analysis on how St. Joseph’s transformed from a quality performer during the non-conference phase of the schedule to lapsing last month and then soaring again in recent weeks.

“This team works so hard on defense we lost sight on working hard on offense,” Griffin said. “And they bought into the fact if we work harder on offense and do little things we’re going to be better.

“Our offense was struggling – we were in the 50s for a so many games – we needed more to get our offense going. They (her players) needed to do more without setting plays and those type of situations.

“When it’s time to do those, we do those, but it’s also about reading each other and it was very important that we got to that point and they’ve been working really, really hard at it.”

Griffin talked about the game against Explorers.

“La Salle is playing better – they just came off a great game with Charlotte. We were a little bit concerned. We were a lot concerned. Anytime a Big Five time is on the same floor you know it’s going to be a battle,” Griffin said.

“I thought we were a little flat the first half. But we really made some plays offensively in the second half.”

Meanwhile, Temple (21-6, 12-0 A-10) took a half-game lead over Xavier, pending Sunday’s outcome by the Musketeers against Duquesne before they host George Washington Wednesday.

NCAA forecasters have been projecting the Owls into the 64-team national tournament field as an at-large team.

The Owls, whose 14-game win streak is the longest since the famous 25-game run in 2004-05, ripped through another opponent, blasting Dayton 76-52 Saturday by shooting 51.7 percent from the field, including 8-for-15 on three-point attempts, while blocking 12 shots – three short of the all-time high.

Joelle Connelly, a transfer from Hofstra, had a career-high five blocks.

Though Justine Raterman, the top player for Dayton (16-10, 7-5) with a 16.0 scoring average, was sidelined with a concussion, the Owls shutout the Flyers’ second scoring leader Kristin Daugherty (12.7) and third in Parice Lalor (8.9) on a combined 0-for-10.

Olivia Applewhite scored 12 points, though shooting a paltry 4-for-14 while The Flyers overall were limited to 24.6 percent from the field.

“I thought we came out with a great defensive mindset, not allowing them to get anything easy,” Cardoza said. “And then going down the other end and scoring – and scoring in a bunch of different ways, whether it was threes or dribble penetration or points in the paint, but right now we’re playing great defense.”

Shey Peddy, a leading candidate for Big Five player of the year, scored 17 points; Victoria Macaulay scored 14 inside, tying a career-high for the second game in a row and also with a game-high eight rebounds; Qwedia Wallace scored 12 on 5-of-8 from the field; and Marli Bennett and BJ Williams each had 10 points.

Wallace, who needs two treys to tie the Temple career record of 154 by recent Big Five Hall of Fame inductee Stacey Smalls, is one of three 1,000-plus points career scorers in the Owls lineup along with Kristen McCarthy and Peddy, a newcomer whose first two seasons were at Wright State.

“Defensively, the way we’re playing now, it’s tough to beat us,” Cardoza said.

As daylight looms on Sunday morning, here are the scenarios to finish out the season and decide the A-10 top seed.
If Xavier wins Sunday against Duquesne, the Musketeers again tie with Temple. Then if both win or lose Wednesday, Sunday’s game at Temple determines a conference champion outright and Number One seed.

Neither team can finish worse than second and both have clinched first-round byes.

If Xavier loses Sunday and then loses Wednesday and Temple beats St. Joseph’s, the Owls win the top seed outright no matter what happens against the Musketeers, who have two WNBA high first-round draft picks in Ta’Shia Phillips and Amber Harris.

If Xavier wins the next two and Temple loses Wednesday, the Owls with a win against the Musketeers gain a regular-season tie and the top seed by virtue of the head-to-head triumph.

The loss Saturday by No. 22 Marquette to Rutgers and No. 23 Penn State’s loss to Ohio State on Thursday creates potential vacancies to be filled in the next AP poll with Texas Tech, which upset No. 1 Baylor Saturday, Conference-USA leader Houston, and Temple as strong candidates to fill the void if it occurs.

Elsewhere in the Atlantic 10 Saturday, George Washington played respectable after its drubbing by Temple at home, but was edged on the road at Richmond, 70-62, as the Spiders (16-10, 7-5) moved into the fifth-place deadlock with St. Joseph’s, Dayton via the Temple loss, and St. Bonaventure (17-10, 7-5), which grabbed a 62-52 win at Fordham (11-17, 3-9).

Charlotte (21-6, 9-3), holding third place by a game, recovered from its loss at La Salle to pick up a 70-53 win over visiting St. Louis (7-20, 1-11).

Massachusetts (7-20, 3-9) picked up a key 75-71 win against visiting Rhode Island (7-19, 1-11) to keep the Rams tied for last with St. Louis.

Neither team in the 13th and 14th place slots seems capable of overcoming the two-game deficits needed to be erased to avoid elimination from playing in the A-10 tournament.

Rutgers And Villanova Pick Up Big East Wins

The Scarlet Knights (15-11, 8-5 Big East) got back into the NCAA picture with a 76-55 win at No. 22 Marquette (20-6, 8-5) in Milwaukee as Khadijah Rushdan of Wilmington, Del., a redshirt jiunior, had a game-high 20 points to move Rutgers into a three-way tie for fifth with the team it beat and Louisville.

Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer’s squad will have a chance to add another signature win when it plays nationally-ranked West Virginia (21-6, 7-6), which on Saturday won 90-79 at nearby-rival Pittsburgh (13-13, 5-8).

No. 2 Connecticut (26-1, 13-0), which leads the conference, put itself in position to move back to the top of the AP Poll after Sunday’s vote courtesy of No. 1 Baylor’s loss at Texas Tech in a Big 12 game and the Huskies’ 78-57 win at home in Storrs Saturday over No. 8 Notre Dame (22-5, 11-2).

St. John’s (18-8, 7-6), which visits Villanova Tuesday, suffered a tough 78-67 loss at home to Syracuse (19-7, 7-6).

It would be a record but in this particular year not shocking to see nine Big East teams make the NCAA women’s tournament.

Villanova (10-16, 2-11) moved up to 13th place from dead last by taking a 62-54 road win over Seton Hall (8-18, 1-12) in South Orange, N.J.

The Wildcats’ Lindsay Kimmel, who connected on 5-of-7 three pointers, scored 18 points, while Laura Sweeney scored 14, and Devon Kane had 12.

Villanova’s Perretta, who is in his 33rd season, is now 596-375 – four wins short of 600.

He could still get there this season by winning the last three over St. John’s, South Florida and Pittsburgh, and the first round of the Big East tournament next month in Hartford Connecticut.

Penn Finishes With A Split While Princeton Holds Ground

Defending Ivy champion Princeton (19-4, 8-1), which moved back into first a week ago following a brief drop to second, held its ground with wins over Yale and Brown (7-17, 3-7) to stay a game in front of Harvard (15-8, 7-2).

The Quakers (10-13, 4-5) moved into fourth place Friday night by beating Brown 55-43 at The Palestra but the three-game win streak ended Saturday when Yale (11-13, 7-3) picked up a 66-53 win.

The Friday win over the Bears gave Penn a season’s sweep over an Ivy opponent, with opportunities for two more on the weekend trip ahead to Cornell and Columbia.

Freshman Alyssa Baron had 24 points against Brown while Caroline Nicholson scored 12.

Penn welcomed the alumni back for a throwback game earlier in the day but the Quakers were unable to show their progress later against the Bulldogs.

Brianna Bradford scored 13 for Penn.

“Tonight we got totally outplayed and the credit goes to Yale for making us not play well,” Penn coach Mike McLaughlin said.

“They put us on our heels from start to finish and took it to us in all phases of the game and we didn’t fight back very well.”

Baron got in foul trouble and only scored nine points while being limited to nine points.

Meanwhile, Princeton had beaten Yale 73-57 at home in Jadwin Gym with Megan Bowen getting a career-high 15 points Friday night while Devonna Allgood scored 14, Laren Edwards scored12, and Addie Micir and Lauren Polansky each scoring 10 points.

In the 75-38 win over Brown, Edwards had 20 points and Bowen had her first career double double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Allgood and freshman Ncole Hung each scored 12.

Texas Tech One For The Books

Back in 1993, Texas Tech rocketed into its first and only NCAA championship with a senior named Sheryl Swoopes shooting the lights out of the ball in the Women’s Final Four.

Swoopes went on to become a three-time gold medalist with the Olympic team and coach Marsha Sharp, who has been retired, went on to Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame stature.

Now the Red Raiders under former Purdue coach Kristy Curry have drawn attention again with the upset of No. 1 Baylor Saturday – only the fifth time in the 35-yesr history of the ranking that a team outside the poll felled the leader of the pack.

Here’s the chart to close this discussion. The Guru on Sunday will be at Delaware for James Madison, the leader of the Colonial Athletic Association, while Drexel will be hosting Virginia Commonwealth.

Here’s the list of AP upsets:


March 1991 -
Penn State finished No. 1 in the final AP poll. The Nittany Lions then fell at home to unranked James Madison, 73-71, in the second round of the NCAA tournament at State College.
The loss, incidentally, helped pave the wave for UConn to eventually emerge from Philadelphia to advance to its first Final Four.

March 1993 - Unranked Georgia beat No. 1 Tennessee, 73-72, in the second round of the SEC tournament in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Jan. 17, 1994 - Rutgers 87, Tennessee 77 at Piscataway, N.J. An ice storm beset the region. The Scarlet Knights, then under Theresa Grentz, were at the other extreme shooting a torrid 80 percent through much of the first half to make headlines.

Jan. 26, 2006 - Kentucky 66, Tennessee 63. - Wildcats coach Mickie DeMoss, a former longtime assistant to Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, gains some notoriety at the expense of her former boss.

Feb. 19, 2011 – Texas Tech 56, Baylor 45 – Host Red Raiders pull a Big 12 Shocker after Baylor had reached the top for the first time in late December.

-- Mel