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, November 20, 2011

Guru Report: Hofstra Turns St. John's Back To A Rivalry With an 92-83 Triumph

(Guru’s note: If this catch up from Friday night is your first stop, Saturday’s games are in the post above this.)

By Mel Greenberg
HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. –
It doesn’t take much to get to the water from here on the campus of Hofstra University.

Nevertheless, the Pride were able to finally stop what would have otherwise been a decade-long drought when they topped St. John’s 93-82 in a nonconference neighborhood scrum Friday night at the Mack Sports Complex on Long Island.

The win over the Red Storm was Hofstra’s first in 10 seasons and just the second in 13 meetings between the two metro area squads.

Sophomore Katelyn Loper fired away for 29 points, while junior forward Shante Evans of Henderson High out of West Chester in the Philadelphia suburbs delivered 27 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. Candice Bellochio had a double double also going in a different direction from the backcourt to score 12 points and dish out 12 assists. Nicole Capurso also joined in the scoring fiesta with 14 points.

The Pride (2-1) shot 48.4 percent from the field in the shooting frenzy that saw St. John’s (1-2) nearly equal the marksmanship with a 47 percent effort.

The win completed a two-night salvo out of the Colonial Athletic Association that began with Delaware taking down No. 11 Penn State on Thursday at home before Hofstra handled the Red Storm, which was one of seven Big East teams ranked in the Associated Press preseason poll.

St. John’s, which is still without All-America candidate Da’Shena Stevens, didn’t last long in the group, however, losing its season and home opener to St. Bonaventure of the Atlantic 10 conference.

Mid-Major teams may have been missing from the first two weeks of rankings but with these kinds of upsets, including Tulane of Conference USA taking down No. 20 LSU 65-62 in overtime Saturday night, look for one or two, perhaps, to break through after Sunday night’s vote.

That will come after two residents in the high-rent district -- No. 1 Baylor and No. 2 Notre Dame – collide in Waco, Texas, Sunday for the WNIT preseason tournament championship.

On Monday, No. 4 Connecticut will host No. 5 Stanford in Hartford in the first meeting between the two since the Cardinal took down the Huskies almost a year ago in Palo Alto, Calif., to stop UConn’s NCAA-record win streak at 90 games.

Both teams are still powerful enough but a little less so with UConn’s all-universe Maya Moore moved on to the WNBA where she became part of the Minnesota Lynx’s first championship.

Stanford’s Kayla Pedersen and Jeanette Pohlen also graduated and made worthy debuts in the women’s pro league.

But at the moment much of the entertaining games in the front part of the season have involved mid-major powers and BCS teams not in the poll.

“In many ways, the games involving all of us are probably more fun to watch,” said Villanova’s Harry Perretta last week after he earned his 600th victory and opened the season with an upset of Michigan State, ranked No. 25 in the coaches’ poll, and at Marist, the perennial winner these days of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Contest.

Villanova’s 3-0 start was blunted Saturday at Princeton, the two-time Ivy champion that plays far beyond the longtime perception of teams in the Ancient Eight.

Hofstra on Friday night blazed away from the outset jumping to a 25-12 after hitting 8 of 11 shots, including 4-for 5 from three-point land.

St. John ‘s bounced back to take brief leads but Hofstra fought back down the stretch and the Pride’s nine three-pointers compared to three from the Red Storm proved the difference.

Eugenia McPherson scored 22 points for the Red Storm while Nadirah McKenith scored 19 and Shenneika Smith scored 18.

Hofstra opened the season in the Northwest losing to Gonzaga, the recent power of the West Coast Conference, and then beating Eastern Washington.

“I challenged these guys this week,” said Hofstra coach Krista Kilburn-Stevesky. “As much as we’re putting up a lot of points, we have to play defense.

“Women’s basketball is changing. As much we’ve had that lockdown defensive mentality, we’re getting 20 or 30 more possessions,” she added.

“I’m growing and trying to understand what that magic number is. As much as we’re getting 30 more possessions, we still have to get stops down the stretch and that’s what we did tonight.

“We’ll become great when these guys stop those runs and still keep pushing.”

St. John’s had its spurts to keep the game competitive.

“We have a deep squad. I challenge this team to bring what you have even if you only play one or two minutes,” Klburn-Stevesky said.

“When you see 21 assists and 16 turnovers you know you’re playing good team basketball.”

St. John’s coach Kim Barnes Arico, whose roster is now a mixed bag of some veterans and much youth, is trying to find ways to keep her team competitive after two straight NCAA tournament appearances.”

“They did a great job,” she said of Hofstra. “They made shots from beginning to end. They made great plays. They rebounded the heck out of the ball.

“Evans killed us on the glass and Loper made every shot they had to.”

Barnes Arico thought Smith needed to do more down the stretch despite her point total on the night.

As for the scoring slugfest, she said, “We said, `What was more incredible – that we gave up 93 points or we scored 82.

“We felt at halftime we had sustained a punch in the face. (Hofstra) came out and they were making unbelievable shots. We came back and in the second half we were able to go ahead a little bit so we thought we held off their punch.

“Our game plan was not to step up on Bellochio and we stepped up. Our presence is young and inexperienced (in the post) and we showed that against Shante Evans.

“Everyone thought we were going to be deep and experienced coming back and we’re really not. We have Nidirah, Eugenia and Shennika who all play 30 minutes. After that everybody else is pretty much new and inexperienced.

“(Delaware transfer) Tesia Harris comes in, but she’s never played at this level so that’s an adjustment for her. But after those three, we’re all a bunch of babies and we’re just learning how to play. Now everyone sits in the paint and makes us take outside shots.

“We’re happy to score 82 but I’d rather score 40 right now and win. We need an inside game right now.

“They’re incredibly tough. They were impressive. I knew it was really going to be a challenge.”

-- Mel

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