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 27, 2011

Guru's Local College Report: Drexel Shoots Down Pitt

By Mel Greenberg

Though Pittsburgh invited a judge to be as guest coach in Saturday’s nonconference matchup with Drexel, it was the Dragons who ruled the Panthers’ court in what was a first-ever meeting between the two schools in the lavish Petersen Events Center.

Senior Kamile Nacickaite was deadly from long-range at the outset, quickly scoring 13 of her 23 points to spur Drexel to a 71-50 victory for the Dragons’ third straight, all on the road, after suffering an opening round upset loss at home in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament to Long Island University in what was also the overall season opener.

“That was a wake-up call for everybody,” Drexel coach Denise Dillon said.

The Dragons (3-1) shot 49.2 percent for the game doing their share of schools in the Colonial Athletic Association who have been winning games against opponents from BCS conferences.

Drexel nailed 6 of 15 attempted three-pointers.

“Our players, they’re making shots and understand the game plan on the defensive end so they stick with it,” Dillon said. “We made shots early and were able to get into the flow.

“We definitely try to stick with our motion offensives to get everyone involved and moving. And after our first game our players have bought into the understanding how important that is,” she added.

“When we play individual basketball, we don’t look pretty. We don’t have those players. You can break us down one-on-one and create your own shots. It takes a lot more for us to get open looks.”

Drexel snapped a three-game win streak all at home by the Panthers (3-2).

Three other Dragons also scored in double figures with Tyler Hale gaining a double double via her 11 points and 12 rebounds while Taylor Wootton scored 10 points and Hollie Mershon scored 13.

Starrting point guard Marisa Crane, recovered from her mid-season ending knee injury a year ago, dealt five assists.

“When (Kamile) is playing well, it opens it up for everybody else,” Dillon said of the performance by the native of Lithuania. “She’s realizing she needs to come in focused and just keep it simple.”

Pittsburgh’s Marquel Davis scored 19 points, while freshman center Chyna Golden grabbed 14 rebounds. However, Kyra Dunn, the leading shot blocker in the Big East in the early weeks of the season, didn’t stop anything from Drexel and was limited to two rebounds.

Though the two teams had not seen each other before, Drexel’s style of play was painfully familiar to Pitt coach Agnus Berenato, the South Jersey native who has to deal in the Big East with Villanova, which is Dillon’s alma mater.

“It’s just a very different offense and a different offense to try to explain to your team when you only have two days to do it,” said Berenato, whose sister Bernadette McGlade is commissioner of the Atlantic 10 Conference.

“They do a lot of backpick flares, backpick cuts, shuffle cuts, slice cuts, etc. When you make shots it does do a lot of different things to the game,” Berenato said.

“They have a nice player in 23 (Nacickaite), I won’t even try to butcher her name. And she’s really a great player. Her last outing she had 33 points, she’s 10 below that (Saturday).

“A couple positives for me. I thought (Davis) stayed within her game. And I thought ‘Quel stayed within her range. The other things, … anytime you can have a freshman (Golden) come up with 14 rebounds, that’s amazing.

“Our turnovers, we’re averaging 22 turnovers and I think that’s the most in my coaching career. We had 14 today. They hit a couple of shots in the beginning and we thought, `They can’t keep shooting like this.’ Well, they kept shooting like that in the second half.

“I think we fought to the very end and I don’t think our guys quit. And I’m proud of our team for that.”
Davis spoke of the challenge the Dragons presented.

“Drexel was different because they’re very fundamental. Like, they knew what cut to make, when to make it, how to get around the box out,” Davis said. “They’re very fundamental. I think that’s the different than the other two teams we played.”

Pittsburgh next will host Mount St. Mary’s, the alma mater of the energetic Berenato, whose program is rebuilding after making runs in the NCAA tournament.

Her associate head coach is Patty Coyle, who starred with her twin sister Mary at West Catholic in Philadelphia and at Rutgers.

She most recently was the head coach of the WNBA New York Liberty.

Drexel will continue to stay on the road, though some stops are short trips such as Tuesday’s visit to St. Joseph’s.
The Dragons will open conference play with one December CAA game on the fourth at UNC Wilmington and then will travel to surprising Seton Hall.

St. Joseph’s Rallies Over Sacred Heart

The Hawks snapped a two-game losing streak, beating Sacred Heart 63-54 at home at Hagan Arena as sophomore Erin Shields scored 12 points.

Their play in the second half, outscoring the opposition 37-23, enabled them to even their record at 3-3 heading into Tuesday’s home game against Drexel.

It was the first loss of the season by the Pioneers (4-1), who got a team-high 11 points from Blair Koniszewski.

Shields also had four rebounds and three assists. Senior center Samira van Grinsven scored 10 points and grabbed five rebounds while Kelly Cavallo grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds to go with seven points and six blocked shots. Sophomore Kasie Parker had 10 points and seven rebounds and junior guard Ashley Prim scored nine points and dealt five assists.

Villanova Handles USP

The Wildcats handled Division II University of the Sciences 77-44 at home at the Pavilion in what was the Devils’ first-ever game in their 25-year history against an opponent from Division I.

Villanova’s Lindsay Kimmel scored 15 points while Emily Suhey added 12 points, and Rachel Roberts was also in double figures, scoring 10 points.

Laura Sweeney grabbed a game-high eight rebounds and also dealt four assists to go with her six points. Devon Kane and Jesse Carey each dealt five assists for the Wildcats (4-2).

Brianne Traub and Carolyn Edwards each scored 11 points for the Devils (2-3).

Though it was the first-ever meeting of the two schools, the players were not total strangers to each other.

Several Villanova players were on teams in the Philadelphia/Suburban Women’s NCAA Summer League in Hatboro, while USP, which is located in Southwest Philadelphia, was able to compete as entire unit under NCAA rules which allow non-Division I schools that luxury.

The game was a homecoming of sorts for USP’s Bob Heller, a former member of Villanova coach Harry Perretta’s staff who does seemingly everything at his current school but coach.

The Wildcats originally planned to continue the recently begun series with Drexel but a finals date was changed and when it occurred the Dragons, with added games in the WNIT, were unable to find a date this season to accommodate a rearrangement.

Temple’s Woes Continue As St. John’s Rallies

The Owls, who stumbled in their nonconference schedule a year ago, are back to doing things the hard way in terms of having NCAA tournament aspirations.

Temple squandered a 12-point lead, which the Owls (2-4) held midway through the first half, to fall to St. John’s 59-53 in a consolation game of the Junkanoo Jam in Freeport, Bahamas.

The good news for Temple, which is a co-favorite with Dayton to win the A-10, is the conference is shaping up as a wide-open race unlike the domination by Xavier the last several seasons.

Shey Peddy scored 16 points for the Owls against the Red Storm (3-3), who have had struggles of their own since starting out with an appearance in the Associated Press preseason women’s poll.

The rough six-game road trip, which includes an upset loss to Northern Illinois, continues Wednesday when the Owls visit No. 13 Rutgers, which they edged a year ago in Philadelphia.

Nadirah McKenith and Eugeneia McPherson each scored 13 points for St. John’s, which is still waiting for the return of Da’Shena Stevens from an injury.

Rutgers Still Rolling

The 13th-ranked Scarlet Knights (6-0) have not had it this good this early in quite a while in terms of being unbeaten after senior guards April Sykes and Khadijah Rushdon of Wilmington, Del., scored in double figures in a 59-52 victory over Arizona State (4-1) in the title game of the San Juan Shootout in Puerto Rico.

Sykes, the MVP of the ecent in San Juan, Puerto Rico, had a game-high 14 points for Rutgers while Rushdon scored 13 points to join Sykes on the all-tournament team.

Monique Oliver grabbed 13 rebounds against the Sun Devils.

“I thought that we didn’t give up,” Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said. “When we got hit, we fell down and staggered a little bit but we came back. We seemed to be step slow.

“Arizona State is a team that plays extremely aggressive man-to-man defense. Their pressure created a problem and I thought we lost composure for a split second but we were able to battle back. We’ll be better when we see a team like that again.”

Penn State Trounces Nevada To Win Nugget Classic

The 17th-ranked Lady Lions (5-1) shot 57.3 percent to beat host Nevada 103-65 in Reno as Big 10 preseason player of the year Alex Bentley earned MVP honors in beating the Wolfpack 103-65.

Maggie Lucas, who joined Bentley on the all-tournament team, stayed hot as the Germantown Academy graduate from Doylestown, Pa., in the Philly suburbs, scored 26 points against Nevada (2-3).

Bentley scored 23 points and Zhaque Gray scored 21 points for Penn State.

Nikki Greene collected 11 points and seven rebounds, while Talia East, a graduate of Friends Central in Philadelphia, scored a career best eight points for Penn State.

Long Island Triumphs Over La Salle

Maybe the season-opening loss by Drexel to Long Island is not as bad as it seemed at the time considering what LIU (4-1) has done since that upset.

Having beaten Charlotte, a power in the Atlantic 10, the Blackbirds shot down another A-10 team, beating La Salle 69-53 in the final of Long Island’s Courtyard LaGuardia Turkey Classic in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Ashley Palmer, a preseason pick in the Northeastern Conference, scored 26 points for Long Island while Alexis Scott scored 14 points for the Explorers (2-5), who lost to Florida Friday in the opening of the tournament.

Jordan Mosley added 12 points for La Salle and Nadia Duncan scored 11.

Palmer was named the tournament MVP and Scott was named to the all-tournament team.

La Salle travels to West Virginia Wednesday.

-- Mel


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