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.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Guru Report: Rutgers and Villanova Continue Renaissance Start

By Mel Greenberg

Rutgers Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer unintentionally did a bit of an Andy Reid imitation at her postgame press conference Wednesday night after the 15th-ranked Scarlet Knights turned back Boston College 74-58 at their Louis A. Brown Athletic Center.

Storming to a 19-point lead early in the second half in the nonconference encountrer, Rutgers (2-0) squandered much of the advantage until the Eagles (1-1) whittled the differential down to five points at 51-46 with 8 minutes, 30 seconds left in the game.

Her players then righted the ship and got back into a double-digit lead the rest of the way.

"That was me, not them, I have to do a better job (using combinations)," Stringer echoed some phrases used by the NFL Eagles coach in Philadelpha, who team is in far worst shape.

That is not to say the Scarlet Knights are in any trouble at all in their early contests, something that was in quite opposite in recent seasons that launched with somewhat depleted rosters going against tough competition.

The influx of freshmen talent, highlighted by Betnijah Laney, the daughter of all-American Yolanda Laney, whom Stringer coached at Cheyney in suburban Philadelphia in the early 1970s, combined with the veterans has enabled Rutgers to have depth, speed, athleticism and whatever else is needed to play Stringer's vaunted "55" press start to finish.

And even with senior Chelsey Lee lost for the season with a shoulder injury, Rutgers is getting the job done in the post, which was much to the dismay of Boston College coach Sylvia Crawley, the former North Carolina star.

"We gave up too many points in the paint, at halftime, we looked at their shot chart and the majority of their points were inside the key," Crawley said.

Monique Oliver had 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Khadijah Rushdan of Wilmington, Delaware, also scored 15 points for Stringer's bunch, which all saw minutes in double figures.

Laney and Briyona Canty, another prized newcomer, each scored nine points as did senior April Sykes on a night that she struggled a bit from the field with a 4-for-12 effort from the field.

Boston College's Katie Zenevitch had 15 points, while Tessah Holt scored 12 points and Kristen Doherty scored 10.

A year ago the Eagles (1-1) got Rutgers at home for a win in Chestnut Hill, Mass.

"Last year we were the team with experience," Crawley said explaining how the teams have reversed roles after the departure of two talented post players in Carolyn Swords, now on the WNBA Chicago Sky, and Stefanie Murphy.

Rutgers, which next visits La Salle (1-2) Saturday night at 7 p.m. in Philadelphia, forced the Eagles into 21 turnovers while only committing 10. The Scarlet Knights also blocked 10 shots compared to just one by the opposition and when the offense flowed, Rutgers dealt 18 assists to 13 by B.C.

Incidentally, this week Stringer rang up her 150th appearance with Rutgers in the Associated Press women’s poll. That puts her five away from the same C. Vivian Stringer who made 155 appearances with Iowa in terms of most rankings at the same school.

But add her total at Cheyney and Stringer is among a handful of coaches with three different teams in the poll and her overall total is now 390, which is still way below Hall of Fame Tennessee coach Pat Summitt’s 601 appearances.

As mentioned in the past Tennessee and Summitt have missed only 14 overall AP appearances.

Villanova Renaissance Continues

Judging by the Wildcats’ early season success with a 3-0 start perhaps the university needs to be renamed Villanova at N.Y.

Coach Harry Perretta’s squad has opened with three road games near the banks of the Hudson River and the group, picked 13th in the Big East may be causing conference coaches to requesting a do-over in the vote they produced last month for media day.

On Wednesday night, the Wildcats traveled to Poughkeepsie and ruined Marist’s season opener with a 12-0 run in the second half that resulted in a 60-53 win over the perennial Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champions.

Junior Megan Pearson scored seven points in the run while four Villanova teammates scored in double figures.

“We had a bunch of people play great,” Perretta said.

Rachel Roberts, who was the MVP of the Iona Tip-Off Tournament after the Wildcats upset then-No. 25 Michigan State in the USAToday/ESPN coaches’ poll and followed with a win over the host Gaels on Friday and Saturday, scored 14 points against the Red Foxes.

She also shot a perfect 4-for-4 on three-point attempts.

Laura Sweeney of Marlton, N.J., scored 11 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, sophomore Devon Kane from Springfield, Pa., and redshirt freshman Lauren Burford each scored 10 points.

The game was the first played in the Red Foxes’ new NcCann Arena where their MAAC conference championship banner was hung from last season when Marist was nationally ranked, went 31-3, and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Marists’ Corielle Yarde scored 18 points.

Perretta entered the game fresh off his 600th career triumph.

Villanova hasn’t experienced this kind of start since a 4-0 liftoff of the of the 2005-06 season.

The Wildcats will try to match that start Saturday when they visit two-time defending champion Princeton, which has started hot with a win at hom in Jadwin Gym over St. Joseph’s and then a triumph Monday night at Lafayette.

On Tuesday, Villanova makes it home to the Pavilion where it will host Colonial Athletic Association preseason favorite Delaware.

St. John’s Red Storm Rages Over La Salle

It’s going to be a while before the youthful Explorers can find their footing.

Following a home-opening triumph over Lehigh and a road loss at Albany last weekend, La Salle traveled to St. John’s Wednesday night in Queens, N.Y., where the Red Storm did not need much to be motivated.

St. Bonaventure, a rival of the Explorers in the Atlantic 10 upset St. John’s in the season opener, dropping the Red Storm out of the rankings.

Coach Kim Arico’s squad responded with a total 66-45 wipeout of La Salle (1-2), which next hosts St. John’s Big East and Metro area rival Rutgers on Saturday night.

The Red Storm play Hofstra on Friday in a battle of Long Island.

St. John’s early 19-0 run took care of business early.

Alexis Scott scored 17 points for La Salle, while Nadirah McKenith scored 26 points for the Red Storm.

The National Scene

Maryland senior Lynetta Kizer is on a bunch of watch lists for national awards but to date all her watching has been from the Terrapins’ bench as she continues to serve an indefinite suspension by coach Brenda Frese for “breaking a team rule”.

Though she continues to practice, her absence on game day has had little effect as Maryland won comfortable games at home against Loyola of Maryland, then-No. 10 Georgetown, and now an 82-46 win at the Comcast Center Wednesday night as freshman guard Brene Moseley scored 26 points and veteran Laurin Mincy scored 15.

Maryland is 10th in the AP poll and hosts St. Joseph’s on Tuesday after beating the Hawks in Philadelphia in December.

Georgetown (1-2), which fell to No. 14 this week, might continue the plunge after losing at No. 20 LSU Wednesday night.

Dayton, which was co-picked with Temple by the conference coaches to win the Atlantic 10 has now dropped two games after Cincinnati (2-0) at home topped the Flyers 75-64 Wednesday night in the Queen City.

The host Bearcats are coached by former Connecticut player and assistant coach Jamelle Elliott, who is a good frined of Temple’s Tonya Cardoza from their days serving on UConn coach Geno Auriemma’s staff.

Delaware’s Moment Arrives

There isn’t much on Thursday’s schedule but in the only local Division I game on the slate, a trip to Newark, Del., is quite worthy.

The host Blue Hens will welcome No. 11 Penn State and in terms of Delaware, the CAA favorite of the conference coaches, this has the potential to be a program-changer with a victory.

Penn State, off to a 2-0 start, has its highest ranking since the 2004-05 season and is the consensus choice of media and conference coaches to win the Big 10.

Delaware, which could be heading for a first-evcr ranking with a win if the Blue Hens also win at St. Bonaventure Sunday, is loaded and junior sensation Elena Delle Donne, who starred on the USA Basketball gold medalists in the World University Games, is in the best shape since enrolling at the school near her home.

She scored 33 against Rhode Island – 28 in the first half -- in Friday’s opener at home in the Bob Carpenter Center.

Penn State , whose sophomore star Maggie Lucas is a Germantown Academy graduate, was less strong a year ago when the Lady Lions edged Delaware in State College.

The Lady Lions are the highest ranked team ever to visit the Bob Carpenter Center, which opened for the 1992-93 season back when Delaware played in what is now the America East.

They are also the highest ranked team to play Delaware, which also met PSU, then an 11th ranked team on Feb. 16, 1979 in State College at a time when the former Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) ran the show.

Four other ranked teams, who were also conference rivals of Delaware in either the CAA or America East, have visited the Bob.

Old Dominion arrived with a No. 13 in 2007-08 and No. 25 in 2001-02, while James Madison was 22nd in 2006-07 and Vermont was 17 in 1992-93
Next up here is the Delaware game Thursday night unless a guest star appearance in the print alma mater is requested.

-- Mel


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