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.

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


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