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.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Guru Report: Drexel and Delaware Stop Rallies in CAA; Shockers in the Pac-10

(Guru's note: Again if you are in melgreenberg.com click the mel's blog and then a Friday conference tourney schedule breakout and a complete conference roundup can be found below here.)

By Mel Greenberg

UPPER MARLBORO, Md. –
Appropriately, Friday’s quarterfinals in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament at the Show Place Arena will be a tale of who’s got the horses in a building known more equestrian events than women’s basketball.

The strong middle seeds – No. 5 Hofstra, No. 6 Drexel and No. 7 Delaware -- all advanced Thursday in CAA opening rounds to meet the more powerful front four on regular season performance.

However, all but Hofstra had to shut off late rallies by the opposition to survive and advance to the quarterfinals.

In a mild upset by seed designation No. 9 Georgia State (12-18) got the day started with a 68-64 victory over No. 8 George Mason (13-17) and the reward, unfortunately for the winner, is a matchup with top-seeded James Madison (23-7), which features CAA player of the year Dawn Evans, to get the Friday action under way.

Angelique Burtts had 15 points and 13 rebounds for Georgia State, topping three players who scored in double figures for the Panthers.

Redshirt junior Taleia Morton scored 19 points for the Patriots.

Hofstra (19-11) put away 12th-seeded William & Mary 89-67 in a game of winning Pride subduing The Tribe (3-26) by using a 19-0 run midway through the second half.

Nicole Capurso scored a season 22 points for Hofstra while West Chester Henderson High’s Shante Evans had 16 points and 12 rebounds.

Evans became Hofstra’s first sophomore to pass the 1,000-point career plateau and now has 1,015 points heading into Friday’s second game against fourth-seeded Virginia Commonwealth (18-10).

Emily Correal had 15 points and a team-high 10 rebounds for William & Mary.

Meanwhile Delaware (18-12), which beat 10th-seeded Northeastern 74-66, and Drexel (19-11), which beat 11th-seeded Towson 52-46, both built sizeable margins and then had to stand firm in the closing minutes of their games to stay alive for a shot at winning the CAA title and automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Delaware took a commanding 44-24 lead into the break and then had to deal with the Huskies (8-22) narrowing the gap to as few as five points with 3 minutes, 46 seconds left in the game.

The Blue Hens then clamped down and will play in Friday’s third game against second-seeded Old Dominion (20-9), which has managed to send Delaware to tough losses at the finish the last two seasons.

Elena Delle Donne had 18 points for the Blue Hens, who dominated the boards with a 44-23 advantage, including 26-3 on the offensive end.

Jocelyn Baily had 14 points and also got a bop on the nose while Delle Donne and Danielle Parker each grabbed eight rebounds.

Dani Iverloni had 14 points for Northeastern.

“I thought we played very well in the first half and got deep into our bench,” said Delaware coach Tina Martin, who had hoped for an easy first-round game to provide some rest for her key players considering the Blue Hens need to win four straight games to capture the CAA title, which has never been done.

“Give Northeastern credit – they came out and started hitting threes and getting the ball inside and they made a run at us, but I thought we stayed really solid and hit shots when we needed to down the stretch and our defense came through for us.

“I told the team if we are going to advance in this tournament we’re going to have to control the boards,” Martin added. “I really thought the first half set the tone and we did what we needed to do in the second half.”

As coach Denise Dillon pointed out after the Dragons’ third win over Towson (9-21) this season, 13 was a lucky number in the box score with Kamile Nacickaite, Jasmina Rosseel and Hollie Mershon each scoring that many points.

Drexel was also 13-for-14 on the foul line, a necessary effort consider the Tigers dominated the rebounds 37-20.

“Our problem has been our inability to score,” Towson coach Joe Matthews said of statistics that might lead one to believe his team won if the final score were not printed.

Drexel was able to shutout Krystal Parnell, who was 0-11 and is one of Towson’s top threats.

The Dragons had a 14-point lead at 37-23 with 12:19 left in the game but Towson rallied to tie the score at 44-44 with 2:51 left.

The teams then exchanged a pair of points before Rosseel hit a long three-pointer for a 49-46 lead and then Nacickaite hit two foul shots with 26 seconds left to secure the win.

“We knew facing Towson a third time would be a struggle. We stayed composed and did what we needed to do down the stretch to win,” Dillon said.

“To win a game when you get outrebounded by 17 shows a lot what our offense can do.”

Drexel will finish Friday’s action facing third-seeded UNC Wilmington (22-7), which tied Old Dominion for second in the standings.

The Dragons began conference play after 2011 arrived by losing to the Seahawks in North Carolina after a short turnaround from a holiday tournament trip to San Diego.

Though the loss looked surprising at the time, UNC Wilmington went on to prove its worth under first year coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, the former WNBA superstar who was voted CAA coach of the year by her peers.

Still, it was a game Drexel would have liked a second shot at and on Friday night, the Dragons have their chance.

Pac-10 Madness

Thursday had been a sort of calm before the storm kind of day for a long time prior to the finishing stretch that begins Friday to wrap up the 31 automatic qualifiers for the NCAA tournament.

Top-seeded Houston (25-4), currently 22nd in the Associated Press women’s poll, had a scare but went past ninth-seeded UTEP (15-14), holding on for a 68-64 win to advance to the Conference USA tournament semifinals Friday against fourth-seeded Tulane.

Then the results rolled in from out West from the Pac-10 and while, no, top-seeded Stanford (27-2), ranked second, and second-seeded UCLA (26-3), ranked seventh, were very safe – they had a double bye and begin play Friday.

But two other teams that had been in discussion for at-large bids – third-seeded Arizona State (20-10) and fifth-seeded Southern Cal (19-12) took hits in the quarterfinals.

Fourth-seeded Arizona (20-11) upset Southern Cal, 72-61, while sixth-seeded California (17-14) took down Arizona State 48-43.

In the medium run, Stanford and UCLA should win Friday and play for the Pac-10 title Saturday, per the original expectation.

But Arizona and California were not in anyone’s projection while neither Arizona State nor Southern Cal were considered the strongest of candidates, but it was conceded that the committee would go in at least one of those team’s direction.

Southern Cal is probably on its way to the WNIT after Friday’s disaster.

But what happens now is Arizona State or Southern Cal might be victimized by a thought process such as ready to return Texas to good graces despite the Longhorns’ ouster in the Big 12 tournament.

Also, it’s possible that a wrong loser in a one-bid perceived conference such as the CAA here might bump out one of the Pac-10 victims and earn an at-large bid.

Or, a fourth Atlantic 10 team might be back in the mix – Duquesne likely.

But if the one-bid crowd all hits the AQ dial successfully, Arizona State may stay alive by default considering the small size of the bubble right now.

Stay tuned.

-- Mel

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