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, June 24, 2011

Guru's WNBA Report: Rutgers Grads Have Their Way

(Guru’s note: This is his own spin off a rewrite of team and wire reports and quotes. A post below this recaps Thursday’s action in the Philly summer league in which the Guru did finally attend since all his immediate accessible WNBA teams were idle or on the road. If you are in melgreenberg.com, click mel's blog on the left panel and you will be taken to blogspot for the complete archival listings,)

By Mel Greenberg

It might have been a light schedule in the WNBA Thursday with only two games on the slate but it was one loaded with former Rutgers stars playing heroines in snapping losing streaks by both the New York Liberty and Chicago Sky.

Back home in Piscataway, N.J., Hall of Fame Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer added to the Scarlet Knights news of the day by announcing the assistant coach hiring of a former star player she guided at Iowa: Tia Jackson, who resigned in March as head coach of the University of Washington.

Jackson replaces Carlene Mitchell in vacancy but not in exact title after the former associate head coach headed West to become head coach of the University of California at Santa Barbara.

There will be more about the hire at the bottom of this post.

But back in the Rutgers festival in Thursday’s WNBA action, New York three-year pro Kia Vaughn scored 24 points on 12-of-14 shooting and grabbed 12 rebounds while former Rutgers all-American Cappie Pondexter scored 23 points and dealt 10 assists as the Liberty (3-4) snapped a four-game losing streak with a 94-82 win at Tulsa against the Shock (1-7).

Meanwhile, two-year pro Epiphanny Prince, who skipped her senior season with the Scarlet Knights to go overseas and be better prepared for the WNBA, scored 10 of her 25 points in the second overtime and the Chicago Sky beat the Eastern front-running Connecticut Sun 107-101 in suburban Rosemont, Ill.

The win stopped Chicago’s three-game losing streak, including a game at Connecticut on Sunday when former UConn star Tina Charles, the overall No. 1 pick of the 2010 draft and rookie of the year, scored a career-high 31 points.

On Thursday night third-year pro Renee Montgomery, another former Huskies star, matched a career-high and forced the first overtime with a three-pointer with 1.8 seconds left in regulation and scored 33 points but the Sun (4-2) were separated from a three-game win streak.

Charles continued her duel with the Sky’s Sylvia Fowles, a former LSU All-American, scoring 22 points and grabbing 13 rebounds.

Fowles countered with 24 points and 12 rebounds while former Tennessee star Michelle Snow had 17 points and 12 rebounds, and rookie Courtney Vandersloot, the number three overall pick of April’s draft out of Gonzaga, had 14 points and10 assists. Former James Madison star Tamera Young helped Chicago with 20 points.

The Sky also beat Connecticut two weeks ago in a narrow outcome in Illinois when Montgomery missed a long trey at the buzzer that would have sent that game into overtime. On Thursday she was loaded from long range, shooting 6-for-8 in thee-point attempts.

Former Alabama star Dominique Canty did not play for the Sky after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on her left knee Thursday and is expected to be sidelined three weeks

Fowles hit a shot with 3.9 seconds left in the first overtime to keep the Sky’s hopes alive.

The win tied Chicago with the Indiana Fever for second in the Eastern Conference a half-game behind the Sun, which travels to Indiana Saturday night.

Chicago will host Phoenix (2-3) Saturday night in a game in which the visiting Mercury will be traveling on a back-to-back after visiting the Atlanta Dream (2-5) Friday night.

Back in Tulsa, the visiting Liberty continued to be a work in progress but at least one with a more successful result against the Shock.

Vaughn is seeing more time in the post because of Taj McWilliams-Franklin’s free-agent departure to the Minnesota Lynx and former University of Minnesota star Janelle McCarvelle’s decision not to play this season, citing a need for rest after overseas competition last winter.

Pondexter in the third period was moved to point guard because New York’s Leilani Mitchell was in foul trouble and rookie Sydney Colson out of NCAA champion Texas A&M did not play because of a knee injury.

First-year Liberty coach-general manager John Whisenant, who had similar duties with the former Sacramento Monarchs, praised Vaughn’s contribution.

“She had a good day,” he said. “(The low post) is where the game is won. We lost our post players from a year ago and this is was a great opportunity for Kia.”

Plenette Pierson, who starred in Detroit but was acquired by New York after the franchise move to Tulsa before the 2010 season, had 14 points before fouling out.

Essence Carson, who played at Rutgers with Pondexter, a 2006 graduate, Vaughn and Prince, scored 12 points for the Liberty while former Stanford star Nicole Powell scored 10. She came to New York last season in the dispersal draft of the disbanded Sacramento roster and had played for Whisenant on that team.

Australian teenage sensation Elizabeth Cambage, the number two overall pick in the April draft behind UConn’s Maya Moore, scored 22 points shooting 8-for-9 from the field for Tulsa.

Rookie Kayla Pedersen out of Stanford scored 18 points and former North Carolina star Ivory Latta scored 13 for the Shock, which is now mired in last place in the Western Conference 2.5 games behind Phoenix and 3.5 behind Seattle for fourth and what would be the last playoff spot in the conference.

New York next hosts Los Angeles on Sunday at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., after having lost to the Sparks Tuesday night in the 15th anniversary game celebration of the launching of the WNBA.

Tulsa on Sunday visits the Washington Mystics (1-5), who are in last in the East after tying New York for first in the regular season in 2010 and earning the No. 1 seed in the conference playoffs.

In other games on Friday’s slate, revitalized Los Angeles (4-1) visits the San Antonio Silver Stars (4-1) with both teams a half-game behind first place Minnesota (5-1).

The Lynx will be back in Seattle (3-2) Friday night where two weeks ago Minnesota snapped the Storm’s 22-game home win streak that included a 4-0 run through the playoffs to a second WNBA title.

The visitors had not won at KeyArena since 2005.

Seattle will be without three-time MVP Lauren Jackson, who is listed, day-to-day with a strained left hip suffered in the first half of the team’s win at Tulsa on Tuesday.

Ironically, the franchise had already scheduled a promotional giveaway of Jackson bobblehead dolls.

In other Sunday games Indiana off a back-to-back but will visit Minnesota while San Antonio will visit Atlanta.

The Other Rutgers News

Having referenced Rutgers’ hiring of Tia Jackson as an assistant coach to C. Vivian Stringer near the top of the previous section, the Guru continues that coverage here.

The hire brings to four the number of persons on Stringer’s staff who played for her: Jackson and operations director Michelle Edwards at Iowa, while assistants Tasha Pointer and Chelsea Newton played at Rutgers.

Stringer, in a statement, cited Jackson as a former player (she was also a team captain), and noted, “Tia was an exceptional student-athlete. … She has a unique ability to communicate to our players what it takes to be successful.”

With a high-powered recruiting class arriving in the fall, expectations are high for Rutgers to return to national prominence, although a late charge down the stretch last season still enabled the Scarlet Knights to return to the NCAA tournament and continue its string.

Jackson, who had one year remaining on her contract and was succeeded in April at Washington by former Xavier coach Kevin McGuff, was 45-75 in four seasons with the Huskies of Seattle.

At the time of her departure after she did not post a winning record in any of the four seasons featuring competition in the Pac-10 conference, Washington athletic director Scott Woodward said in a statement, “I could not ask for a coach who committed more, worked harder, and cared more for her players. I wish Tia nothing but the best of luck in her future endeavors.”

Jackson previously had been an assistant at Duke, heading up recruiting, and while with the Blue Devils Stringer had commented to the Guru on a Rutgers trip to Durham, N.C., to play the Atlantic Coast Conference national power at Cameron Indoor Stadium that she had hoped several persons such as Jackson might soon get a head coaching opportunity.

Jackson, who will be on a media teleconference Friday morning hosted by Rutgers, played in the WNBA with the Phoenix Mercury when Hall of Famer Cheryl Miller was the coach. She also was an assistant at Stanford, UCLA and Virginia Commonwealth.

-- Mel

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