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.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Guru Report: Connecticut Deals Quick Knockout To Oklahoma

By Mel Greenberg

The name of one of the teams changes and the setting goes back and forth between here in the XL Center and Gampel Pavilion up the road in nearby Storrs, but the Monday night storyline on ESPN-TV when the Connecticut women are involved is getting redundant.

A national power comes to town to challenge the Huskies and it doesn’t take long to wonder how the opposition earned whatever ranking they’ve carried into the game.

Two weeks ago Duke arrived at UConn’s campus home with a No. 3 ranking and the last unbeaten record in Division I.

Then in rope-a-dope style to use the boxing comparisons of that night, the Huskies opened with an explosive salvo that ended with an 87-51 victory that wasn’t that close and Blue Devils coach Joanne P. McCallie bemoaning her teams lack of fight.

In the final hours of Valentine’s Day Monday night, Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale was striking a similar theme after the No. 2 Huskies (25-1) decimated her No. 14 Sooners (18-7) of the well-regarded Big 12 conference with a lopsided 86-45 triumph.

“UConn had a competitive fire on every possession and I am embarrassed, I am embarrassed by our lack of fight,” Coale exclaimed looking visibly distraught. In 15 years I have to say this is the worst loss.

“We just played scared. I don’t want to take away anything from UConn, they are fantastic. If not the the No.1 team in the country, they are 1A,” Coale added with perhaps an intended comparison to top-ranked Baylor, whom the Huskies beat in this building by a point back in November in the second game of the season.

“They are really, really good and what makes them better is their competitive swagger. They just believe that they are going to make plays and they are going to get it done and we crumble under the competitive swagger and that is what I am embarrassed by. I don’t want to take anything away from them but they played 5-in-0 tonight.”

It seems like almost every UConn game does manage to have a subplot to hold attention during these massacres, Valentine’s Day or not, and Monday night was no different.

During the count up of an expanding differential that built to 31-6 with 7 minutes, 27 seconds left in the first half was a parallel countdown of the 11 points needed by UConn all-everything senior Maya Moore to break the Big East scoring record of 2,779 points set in 2009 by former Louisville all-American Angel McCoughtry, now a WNBA All-Star with the Atlanta Dream.

With the onslaught under way from the opening tip, the wait did not take long for Moore’s milestone moment, which arrived with a neat little finger roll shot that made the score 29-6 with 7 minutes, 52 seconds left in the first half.

“It’s the icing on the cake, because if we had come out and played really poorly, it would be hard to celebrate,” said Moore, who will undoubtedly be selected as the overall No. 1 draft pick in the WNBA in April by the Minnesota Lynx.

“It makes me feel good because my teammates are excited for me. Just seeing them excited makes me excited. If nobody had told me anything, I wouldn’t have known and wouldn’t have thought about it. When I have their respect it makes me feel the best.”

By halftime Moore and the Sooners each had 18 points – UConn had 46 -- with the native of Georgia in the Atlanta suburbs finishing with 27.

That brought Moore’s career total to 2,796 – a total also reached in 1993 by Mercer’s Andrea Congreaves for 15th on the all-time NCAA career list.

Six players in NCAA history have reached 3,000 topped by Missouri State’s Jackie Stiles total of 3,393 reached in 2001.

Additionally, former Kansas All-American Lynette Woodard, a Hall of Famer and the first woman to play for the Harlem Globetrotters touring comedy squad, is the overall modern era leader, scoring 3,649 points through 1981 – the next to last year of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW).

Also, Hall of Famer Carol Blazejowski, who starred at Montclair State and was the front office head of the WNBA New York Liberty for 14 years through last September, scored 3,199 points through 1978.

If the Huskies run the table to the NCAA title game in defense of their two straight national titles – 4 in the regular season, 3 in the Big East tournament, and six in the NCAAs for a total of 13 – Moore needs to average about 15.6 points per game to join the 3,000-point club.

Moore is just the centerpiece story of the seasonal growth of a young Connecticut roster that suffered just the loss at Stanford that ended the Huskies’ NCAA Division I win streak record for men and women at 90 in December.

There’s also the development of freshman center Stefanie Dolson, who had 15 points and nine rebounds. Bria Hartley, a freshman point guard, had 11 points and Tiffany Hayes scored 13.

Danielle Robinson scored 14 points for Oklahoma, which is 0-9 including the 2002 NCAA championship in efforts to beat Connecticut in the nonconference meetings of the two schools.

Oklahoma was held to 29.7 percent shooting from the field, while UConn shot 56.3 percent and held a dominant 49-28 advantage on the boards.

“I thought our defense in the first 20 minutes was as good as it has been all year,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said when asked about highlights of his team’s performance. “That kind of got us going in the other direction as well.”

At one point, a check of the games being played in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference at the same time at similar stages of the game here showed that nine of the 10 MAAC teams in action had all outscored Oklahoma.

However, Auriemma contradicted Coale’s assessment of her own team, citing her being influenced by the way the Sooners succumbed to the Huskies.

“I don’t think their intensity level is any less than I’ve seen,” Auriemma said. “It just snowballs on you. When we’re coming down and scoring, there are just too many places that the baskets are coming from and it’s hard.

“It’s not always about playing hard and competing. Sometimes it gets away from you and today was one of those days. It just got away from them.”

One team whom UConn didn’t get away from this season is Big East rival Notre Dame, who nearly upset the Huskies last month in South Bend, Ind.

On Saturday the Irish will return the visit but up the road at Gampel.

That perhaps is the last barricade to test Connecticut until whatever happens back here next month in the Big East tournament.

Weekly Winners

Temple junior Kristen McCarthy, the reigning Big Five player of the year, picked up another weekly award from the Big Five while Delaware sophomore Ellena Delle Donne, recently returned from missing 11 straight games suffering symptoms of Lyme Disease, picked up another player of the week award from the Colonial Athletic Association.

She was named both the rookie and player of the year in the CAA last season.

-- Mel


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Add Denise Curry to that 3,000 point club. Denise and Don Drysdale's widow knocked Blazejowski and Montclair State out of the AIAW Championship round. Denise's total is just shy of Blazejowski.

11:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The NCAA record book for 2010 shows 3,393—Jackie Stiles, Missouri St., 1997-01 (1,160 FGs, 221
3FGs, 852 FTs, 129 games) as the all-time career scorer. I guess there has to be a cutoff point and the NCAA chose 1981.

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