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.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Guru Roundup: Sugar Shoots Georgetown To Sweet 16 Upsetting Maryland

(Guru's note: An updated NCAA schedule is under this post or if you got here in melgreenberg.com, just click Mel's Blog to get over to blogspot. Reports from other regions and quotes are from wire service and email coverage.)

By Mel Greenberg

If what happened here Tuesday night had occurred in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament there would be a lot of David & Goliath references around the country in chronicling the outcome.

But since no historical version exists to apply to the women’s game, let’s call this one Sugar and the Terrapins.

While David may have used a slingshot to fell a mighty opponent, Sugar Rodgers’ weapon of choice was the three-pointer in leading fifth-seeded Georgetown to a 79-57 upset of fourth-seeded Maryland and a second-ever spot in the Sweet 16.

The 5-foot, 11-inch guard from Suffolk, Va., fired away to successfully score from long range 7-of-10 times and finished with a career-high 34 points. One crowd pleasure – at least to the Georgetown fans that had the option to ride the Metro from the nearby nation’s capital – was a heave and carom off the backboard and into the net as time on the shot clock was about to expire.

Monica McNutt was nearly comparable to her teammate in terms of accuracy by connecting on 4-of-7 treys and scored 14 points, while Rubylee Wright took the easy route to 14 points fueled by a perfect 12-for-12 effort from the foul line.

This is only Georgetown’s third NCAA appearance following up on last year’s participation and the 1992-93 Sweet 16 advance.

Maryland (24-8), youthful but still one of the mighty powers of the Atlantic Coast Conference, got 23 points from Alyssa Thomas, the conference freshman of the year out of Harrisburg. Laurin Mincy scored 12 points and Lynetta Kizer had 11 points and 10 rebounds.

The Terrapins suffered a player loss three minutes into the game in which Georgetown roared to an 11-0 lead – two treys by Rodgers and one by McNutt. Sophomore Diandra Tchatchouang, a forward, was sidelined with what was apparently an ACL knee injury, according to Maryland coach Brenda Frese.

The Hoyas (24-10) advance against another familiar foe – No. 1 Connecticut (34-1) – in a Philadelphia Regional semifinal Sunday afternoon at Temple’s Liacouras Center at noon.

Although geographical terminology is applied to the four sections of the 64-team NCAA Field, Sunday’s doubleheader just became the Big East Regional courtesy of Georgetown’s ambush.

Besides the conference rematch between the Huskies and Hoyas for a third time – both won by UConn – third-seeded DePaul, (29-6), which edged sixth-seeded Penn State 75-73 at the finish Monday night in State College, Pa., will meet ACC-champion Duke (31-3).

“We have so many teams in the field it seemed inevitable that we’d have a lot in the Sweet 16,” Georgetown coach Terri Williams-Flournoy alluded to the Big East and NCAA record nine teams of which five are still alive.

Seventh-seeded Louisville (22-12) also rode the upset trail, beating second-seeded Xavier (30-3) Tuesday night on the Musketeers’ floor 85-75 in Cincinnati.

The defeat of the Atlantic 10 champions, who were fifth in the final Associated Press poll while Louisville was unranked, ended the collegiate careers of senior posts stars Amber Harris and Ta’Shia Phillips, who are both expected to be taken quickly in next month’s WNBA draft.

Georgetown’s victory to an outsider may not seem much of an upset considering the closeness of seeds, though Maryland was 16th in the final poll and Georgetown 23.

Furthermore, the Hoyas had shot down the Terrapins 53-45 early in the season nearby at the Hoyas’ McDonough Arena.

But in terms of notoriety and the comforts of the Comcast Center, talk of a first-ever matchup between Maryland and Connecticut in the semifinals in Philadelphia began a week ago as soon as the bracket and pairings in the Philadelphia Regional were revealed.

Georgetown was hardly mentioned and it seemed that if the chief resident of the nearby White House were to be so impressed Tuesday night by the Hoyas’s bombing ability as to invite them on the next air strike, they might turn him down.

“For President Obama (in filling the women’s bracket) to say that we can’t beat Princeton (the Hoyas ousted the Tigers 65-49 here in Sunday’s opener), (ESPN’s) Kara Lawson to say we can’t beat Maryland, and people to doubt us gives us a reason to prove our doubters wrong,” said Willliams-Flournoy, a graduate of Penn State in 1991.

“I told you we weren’t scared,” the Hoyas coach said initially with a big smile to open her postgame remarks. “I thought our team came out right from the jump. We let our pressure defense dictate our offense.

“I told our girls in the locker room that if we made shots then we could easily get in our press. We just needed to do what we do and get into our press,” Flournoy-Williams continued.

“That’s what we wanted to do, force them to turn the ball over. We knew if we held them off the boards, which we didn’t, but we did a better job (40-38) than last time, that we would have the opportunity to stay with them. But we did better than that.”

Williams-Flournoy, the sister of basketball talent guru Boo Williams in Hampton, Va., signed a contract extension last summer through 2014-15 in case anyone begins to wonder if her name will jump onto candidates’ lists at several of the BCS schools that have openings.

The start of Tuesday night’s game was reminiscent of a Georgetown loss at Rutgers early in the season when the Hoyas and Rodgers fired an array of threes but the Scarlet Knights then crept back and went on to grab a key home win at the time.

“We told our players it was going to be a game of runs,” she said of the Maryland contest.

After the 11-0 lead by the Hoyas, Maryland worked its way back to a 14-14 tie with 10:35 left in the first half.

The Hoyas then went ahead again, hitting six treys and also scoring on two layups for a 36-22 lead with 4:17 left in the half.

“We talked about it as a staff,” Frese said of the early shooting barrage from the Hoyas. “We talked about it at halftime that we felt that the percentages were going to even out.

“We understand, watching enough game film and stats, that it’s a game of runs, and we said at halftime either the percentages are going to even out or we’re going to get beat pretty badly. When you look at the percentages – 52 percent from the three point line, 86 percent from the free throw— that’s a helluva night shooting the basketball.”

Especially for Rodgers, who earlier here spoke with bravado by saying one could not have a Sweet 16 without sugar.

“I think at the beginning she got hot and she didn’t really cool off,” Maryland junior guard Anjale Barrett said. “Sometimes we lost her but she was on fire today.”

Rodgers had 21 points in the first half and scored 18 of Georgetown’s first 26 with only 12 minutes expired on the clock.

“I knew it was my night when I hit two threes in a row and I was just in the groove,” Rodgers said.

Williams-Flournoy, who was hired in August, 2004, said Rodgers has played many games lighting up the scoreboard.

“Maybe people will begin to follow us,” she said. “They would have seen some other games like this. I recruited Sugar so I have seen her go off.

“Probably the best game was at Nike Nationals going into her senior year in high school. She absolutely went off. The thing with Sugar is when she is on, it really doesn’t matter what anyone else does. They can’t stop her. She could shoot with her eyes closed. She is unbelievable.”

Maryland and Georgetown had not played since 2003 when they met in the beginning of the season.

The Terrapins, without seniors, have everyone returning next season, while the Hoyas just lose McNutt.

Both McNutt and Williams-Flournoy alluded to changing the system since she was recruited and the Hoyas coach said, “I thank my players for buying into that.”

The Hoyas’ first piece of local notoriety came several years ago when they beat neighboring George Washington University.

Georgetown upset Tennessee earlier this season in a tournament in the Virgin Islands.

Still, the Hoyas couldn’t get much of a buzz in spite of a season-long appearance in the AP poll.

“Off the jump, absolutely,” McNutt said of the impetus to get off to a good start against Maryland. “We came out with an agenda. We thoroughly believe in ourselves. For some reason, we keep hearing people don’t believe in us and weren’t taking us seriously.

“Through the grapevine, we heard someone tell them they (Maryland) simply played bad when they came to McDonough.

“Absolutely, we had a little chip on our shoulders. We had something to prove.”

Georgetown plans to take that same attitude into Sunday’s game at Temple against the Huskies despite the 52-42 set back in Washington at home last month to the Huskies and the recent 59-43 defeat to UConn in the Big East quarterfinals in Hartford.

“Sugar is whispering to me, the third time is the charm,” McNutt said in the postgame press conference. “However, I think in our league teams respect one another and I think UConn respects us in a certain way because we have played them tough in the past.

“They are humans. They are a great team – it’s no secret, but they are humans, they’ve gone down. Why can’t we be the team to take them down again?”

Rodgers was more diplomatic.

“UConn is UConn. We are just going to come out and play hard. We will see what happens in the end.”

Meanwhile, Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma will get his third hometown NCAA experience of sorts when the Huskies meet the Hoyas.

Auriemma, whose team won the East Regional at The Palestra in 1991 and the NCAA title at the then-named Wachovia Center in 2000, grew up in Norristown just outside Philadelphia.

UConn advanced Tuesday night with a 64-40 win over ninth-seed Purdue (21-12) at Gampel Pavilion on the Huskies’ campus in Storrs.

Senior sensation Maya Moore had 16 points and she and her classmate Lorin Dixon became the first two UConn players to go unbeaten at home in their careers.

Fourty of the games were won at Gampel and the rest at the XL Center in Hartford. UConn extended its NCAA-record home streak to 83 straight.

Drey Mingo had nine points for the Boilermakers (21-12).


Elsewhere the Sweet 16 got set with the completion of second round games following the first qualifiers from Monday night’s matchups.

In the Dallas Regional, second-seeded Texas A&M (29-5) in Shreveport, Louisiana, beat seventh-seeded Rutgers 70-48 to advance after having beaten the Scarlet Knights in December by 29 points in the Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Danielle Adams had 28 points and 11 rebounds, the most points in NCAA tournament competition ever for an Aggies player, while coach Gary Blair’s squad forced Rutgers (20-13) into 29 turnovers.

Rutgers’ April Sykes had 21 points while Erica Wheeler scored 12.

“I do know we’ve gotten a whole lot better,” Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said. “It doesn’t look like it. It looks like the same old team. Maybe it’s that Texas A&M got a whole lot better too.

“In my opinion, they are one of the four top teams in the country, no question, not a two seed. There’s nobody in the country that applies (defensive) pressure like that. Nobody.”

Georgia (23-10), a sixth seed, advanced against the Aggies by edging third-seeded Florida State 61-59 at Auburn. The Seminoles (24-8) were ranked 15th in the final AP poll.

Jasmine James scored on a putback with 2.9 seconds left and then hit a foul shot for the win.

Top-seeded Baylor (33-2) at home in Waco, Texas, beat ninth-seeded West Virginia 83-68 as the Mountaineers, unranked in the final poll after dropping out several weeks earlier, finished 24-10.

Baylor, which finished third in the final poll and is after the Bears’ third straight Final Four appearance, got 30 points from sophomore sensation Brittney Griner.

Wisconsin-Green Bay (34-1), the fifth-seeded in the Dallas Regional, beat fourth-seeded Michigan State 65-56 in Wichita, Kansas, to finish off the regular season Big Ten champions (27-6), who were ranked 12th in the final poll.

The Phoenix, who were ranked 13th, got 20 points from substitute Adrian Ritchie to make the Sweet 16 for the first time.

“We’re every bit as good as Michigan State and we showed it today,” Wisconsin-Green Bay coach Matt Bollant said of his champions of the mid-major Horizon League.

In the Spokane Regional, Shoni Schimmel had a career-high 33 points to advance the Cardinal to their second Sweet 16 appearance in three seasons with the win over Xavier.

Xavier had won 19 straight and 25 consecutive home games.

Harris had 20 points for the Musketeers who had led most of the night until the closing minutes when the Cardinals took over.

While Xavier was playing for a trip away from Ohio, the last of the Dayton Regional participants was decided when sixth-seeded Oklahoma (23-11) upset third-seeded Miami 88-83 in Charlottesville, Va., as the regular-season co-ACC champion Hurricanes finished 28-5.

Miami was 11th in the final poll and Oklahoma 21st.

Danielle Robinson had 18 points for the Sooners and scored six straight late in the game after the Hurricanes tiled the score. Whitney Hand had a career-high 27 points.

Miami’s Shenise Johnson, the ACC player of the year, scored 25.

When the Sweet 16 begins Friday, besides the five Big East schools – UConn, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Louisville, and DePaul; the Big 12 will have three – Baylor, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma; The ACC has two – Duke and North Carolina; The Southeastern Conference has two – Tennessee and Georgia; while the Big Ten (Ohio State), West Coast (Gonzaga), Horizon (Wis.-Green Bay) and Pac-10 (Stanford) will have one each.

-- Mel


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Hey Mel, Maryland's ACC Rookie's name is Alyssa Thomas not Harris.

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