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

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


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