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.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Guru's College Report: Bad Start Foils Temple Hopes Of Upsetting Duke

(Guru's Note: Quotes beyond game site from team and wire reports)

By Mel Greenberg

The Temple women’s basketball team is about to make a switch on the season’s schedule moving from an underdog role in many of the Owls’ games on a rugged nonconference schedule to a perceived top dog from rivals in the Atlantic 10.

But after giving up another chance Friday night to produce a major upset, coach Tonya Cardoza said the names of Temple rivals aren’t the way to judge the worth of the Owls but rather what they are doing to fulfill their own expectations.

"Everyone's talking, 'Oh, we had a tough schedule,'" Cardoza said after Temple fought back from a deep deficit but fell short against No. 8 Duke 65-54 at McGonigle Hall to drop to 5-7. "Well, we were in just about every game but the Rutgers game. We had chances to win and we didn't. So it doesn't matter about the competition -- it's about what we do.

"If we don't do it against guys in our conference, wer're going to end up losing games to them, too."

After a trip to Western Michigan Monday night, Temple will be involved in conference play the rest of the way except for a Big Five game hosting Penn on Jan. 21.

A year ago Temple staggered out of a diet of nationally-ranked teams into 2011 but then blitzed through the conference with a perfect record until losing to eventual champion Xavier on the final day of the regular season.

But despite a loss in the A-10 semifinals to Dayton, which is a conference co-favorite, the run was enough to gain an at-large bid and eighth-straight appearance in the NCAA tournament.

Based on simulations of the RPIs, the Owls seem to be in need of a similar effort the next two months and it is going to be difficult because a bunch of A-10 teams have performed well to date making the conference outlook now projected as a wide open race to gain an automatic bid.

For example Richmond, whom Temple opens with on the road Saturday, was expected to be in rebuilding mode with a young roster, but the Spiders are now 12-2 after winning Lehigh’s tournament Friday.

Temple’s schedule strength in the RPIs is in the 20s, but their overall ranking is in the 90s because of a record that could have been much better.

Friday’s game against Duke (9-2), which was playing just its third game the past 20 days, was typical of a pattern Temple has displayed in most games against national powers.

The Owls trailed the Blue Devils 37-20 at the half following a layup from Victoria Macaulay four seconds earlier that moved them two points lower from their worst deficit of the night.

Then Temple opened the final period with a 6-0 run and moved within five points of Duke with 1:07 left in regulation before the Blue Devils finished with a 6-0 run to stay perfect in the series with the Owls at 7-0.

"Just another disappointing loss," Cardoza said in her opening summation in the postgame press conference. "We dug ourselves in a hole. We were a little intimdated in the first half, how we played. In the second half we came out and played how I knew we would and made it a game.

"But we ran out of gas and had opportunities and didn't take advantage of them. And when you're playing a team like Duke, whenever they are not at their best and you have opportunities you have to take advantage of them."

Cardoza clarified that she didn’t mean Temple wasn’t in awe of the Blue Devils, which would seem incredible considering the Owls have faced defending NCAA champion Texas A&M, Ohio State, St. John’s, an improved Villanova team, UCLA and Rutgers in the past two months.

But she was dismayed over Temple’s lack of aggressiveness until the second half, willing to settle for jumpers and not attacking the basket.

Asked what turned things around in the second half, Cardoza responded, "I basically cursed them out. I told them that wasn't the game plan to come out and play that way and they needed to change and I guess they listened that time."

Tricia Liston scored 20 for the Blue Devils, Chelsea Gray scored 12, and Haley Peters, a graduate of the Peddie School in Lawrenceville, N.J., and Richa Jackson scored 10 each,

Freshman Elizabeth Williams, one of the top newcomers in the nation, had nine points and 10 rebounds.

Temple's Brittany Lewis and Shey Peddy each scored 13 points, while Kristen McCarthy scored 12. The Owls were outrebounded 37-21 and although they forced Duke into the 25 turnovers but committed 22 miscues themselves.

Because games played this time of year can be difficult considering the time spacing on schedules, Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said playing a perceived tough Temple team was preferred to something easier as a way of preparing for Atlantic Coast Conference competition, which begins Monday night when Virginia visits Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C.

"Playing them was by design, a lot of people play lesser teams coming back from Christmas," McCallie said of playing the Owls heading into 2012. "We had one full practice as a team since the holiday."

Former Duke assistant and 1985 graduate Joanne Boyle, who turned down the Duke opening several years ago before McCallie moved from Michigan State, will be making her first appearance against the Blue Devils as the new coach of the Cavaliers.

She had been coach of California and previously at Richmond.

Duke had a roster switch before the game returning senior Shay Selby, who was suspended five games for breaking a team rule, but losing Chloe Wells, who is out indefinitely resolving an academic matter, the school said.

As for the way the game played out, McCallie said, “"I really like our punch at the end.

"We did a great job in the first half dictating, you want to keep up that kind of game. We didn't tackle it in the first five minutes in the second half as we would have liked, but I loved our team's resolve. We learned a great lesson in making stops and taking over the game at a critical time."

The Blue Devils visited here last March losing to Connecticut next door in the Liacouras Center in the title game of the NCAA Philadelphia Regional leading to the Women’s Final Four.

Duke visited McGonigle Hall two seasons ago and hosted Temple last season.

Rutgers Routs George Washington For 800th Win

The No. 11 Scarlet Knights head into the remaining Big East portion of their schedule Tuesday night hosting Syracuse with much more momentum than in the past few seasons.

Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringers’ squad (11-2) wrapped up nonconference play with an easy 75-54 victory over the Colonials (6-7) in the nation’s capital at the Smith Center.

The matchup used to be one of the top rivalries of the Atlantic 10 when Rutgers was a member before switching conferences in 1995-96.

Monique Oliver matched her season high with 23 points for the visitors, while April Sykes scored 17 points and Khadijah Rushdan had 13.

Tara Booker scored 18 points for the Colonials, including 14 in the second half when GW briefly lowered a 19-point deficit at the break to 12 points.

George Washington hosts local rival American U. of the Patriot League on Monday and then opens A-10 play Saturday, hosting Fordham.

Rutgers pressure hounded the Colonials into 23 turnovers, leading to 28 points by the Scarlet Knights, who also outscored GW in the paint 36-10.

Rushdan became the second player in Rutgers history to collect over 1,000 career points, 500 rebounds and 400 assists.

WNBA All-Star Cappie Pondexter of the New York Liberty is the other player who achieved similar statistics.

It was a big day across the board for Rutgers with the football team capturing the Pinstripe Bowl over Iowa State 27-13 in Yankee Stadium in Bronx, N.Y., for a fifth straight bowl win.

Former Scarlet Knights star Ray Rice of the NFL Baltimore Ravens attended the women’s basketball game.

La Salle Gets Tourney Sweep

The Explorers (5-9) got their second straight win, beating Vermont 68-59 in Dartmouth’s Blue Sky Classic Final in Hanover, N.H., though the format previously determined matchups for both days.

In the other game, No. 15 Georgetown (12-2) beat the host Big Green 77-38 as the Hoyas’ Sugar Rodgers scored a career-high 39 points.

"We've seen her do this before. We've seen her in a rhythm and just shoot the lights out," Georgetown coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. "This tournament, she seemed to just do so much more. She rebounded. She got steals. She played defense. She just had her all-around game.
Rodgers matched her previous high collecting 34 points Thursday night in a win over Vermont, which is now 6-7.

Dartmouth fell to 2-10 and was forced into 32 turnovers.

Georgetown continues into the Big East resumption Tuesday hosting No. 21 DePaul (12-2), which will finish nonconference competition Saturday hosting Northern Illinois.

This seemed to be an event for setting career marks.

The Explorers’ Brittany Wilson topped her career best scoring 29 points against Vermont. Alexis Scott added 14 points to La Salle’s total.

La Salle will wrap up nonconference competition Monday night at Northeastern in Boston and then open Atlantic 10 competition Saturday at Saint Louis.

Nebraska’s Big Ten Debut Successful At Expense of Penn State

The No. 23 Cornhuskers splashed into their first-ever Big 10 game in a varied amount of ways in opening on the road and stopping No. 16 Penn State 71-63 at the Bryce Jordan Center by holding the Lady Lions (10-3, 0-1) to just seven points in less than the final 13 minutes.

The winners outscored their hosts 24-7 in that final spurt to rally for the win.

Nebraska (12-1, 1-0), which had previously competed in the Big 12, got 31 points from Jordan Hooper, who has been on a tear recently in twice gaining conference player of the week honors.

It was her third 30-point game in her last four contests.

"To be honest, I don't know how we won this game," Nebraska coach Connie Yori said. "We gave up 25 offensive rebounds and turned the ball over 26 times. The key was we hung in there."

Alex Bentley, the Big 10 preseason player of the year, scored 22 points and set a career high with eight steals, a total previously matched by a Penn State star when All-American Kelly Mazzante grabbed the same total against Fairfield in December 2001.

Maggie Lucas of Narberth in suburban Philadelphia, scored 18 points and the former Germantown Academy star, a sophomore, passed her 800th career point while teammate Nikki Greene had 15 rebounds.

"We just didn't have patience on the offensive end," Penn State coach Coquese Washington said. "We rushed a lot of our shots."

Penn State continues conference play Monday with a road stop at Wisconsin. The host Badgers (4-9) lost at home Friday night in their conference opener, falling to No. 9 Ohio State, 77-61, as Tayler Hill scored 21 points, while Samantha Prahalis added 12 points and 11 assists.

The Buckeyes, who were making their conference season debut, are now 14-0.

Villanova Shocked by Monmouth

Being known to dabble in horses, occasionally, setbacks for Villanova coach Harry Perretta at Monmouth Park in central New Jersey come with the betting territory.

However, having his Wildcats get edged 49-48 by Monmouth University, now that is a proverbial horse of a different color.

But that’s what happened in the title game of the Hawk Holiday Classic in West Long Branch as Villanova (10-3) reverted to the offensive struggles of a season ago.

The Wildcats had won their seventh straight Thursday in the opening round beating St. Bonaventure, one of the stronger Atlantic 10 teams, and were poised to head into the remaining Big East schedule Tuesday night at home against Pittsburgh with the likelihood of winning another invitational tournament.

But the only hands still tossing heat belonged to junior Laura Sweeny, who had 20 points against the Hawks (5-8), while Megan Pearson scored 12.

Otherwise the dye was cast in the first half when Villanova struggled with a 25.9 percent effort from the field shooting 7-for-27 as well as 2-of-13 three pointers.

The Wildcats held a 9-4 lead before things went dry and Monmouth soon went on a 16-6 run to go ahead 27-20 at the break.

Villanova rallied near the end in the final minutes but couldn’t get shot down after Monmouth missed several opportunities to seal the win ahead of the finish.

Abby Martin had 14 points and eight rebounds for the Hawks, who are under first-year coach Jenny Palmateer, a former star and assistant to the late Kay Yow at North Carolina State and who was on Anne Donovan’s staff last season when Donovan was hired at Seton Hall.

The win makes Monmouth of the Northeast Conference 40-6 against Big East schools since 1982-83 and the first since beating Georgetown in a season opener 66-64 on Dec. 1, 1987.

Carly Thibault, the daughter of WNBA Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault, is on Monmouth.

"I can't even tell you how excited I am - one, for the team because they've been working really hard," Palmateer said.

"Defense is something we've really been stressing,” she added. “We really found a renewed belief that defense is how we're going to win games, and I think today was our best defensive effort we've had all season.

“Second, I'm just really proud to be able to pull this one out for Monmouth, for the fans who were here and for the NEC."

Penn Streak Stopped On West Coast

Stepping up a notch in competition, Penn fell to host San Diego State 51-37 in the Aztec’s Surf ‘N Slam championship in California though at 7-3 the Quakers’ won-loss record is still a best start over 10 games in the program’s history.

San Diego State is 5-1 at home at Viejas Arena and 8-4 overall and crushed Penn on the boards with a 49-24 rebounding advantage and also outscored the Quakers 28-6 in the paint and 15-4 off second-chance points.

Penn’s Alyssa Baron, who had 15 points, earned all tournament honors as did Jess Knapp, though she left Friday’s game early with an injury.

Freshman Kara Bonenberger was held to eight points.

Penn next opens Ivy play Saturday hosting two-time defending champion Princeton at The Palestra 7 p.m.

The visiting Tigers (9-4) will also be in West Philadelphia Saturday afternoon (today) at 2 p.m. meeting Drexel (5-5) at 2:30 p.m. after the Dragons men play at noon against St. Francis, Pa., in a second-straight doubleheader.

The Guru will be covering the men's game for the paper and tweeting and posting the women's game right here and @womhoopsguru .

-- Mel

Friday, December 30, 2011

Guru's Musing: Delaware Gains A Sense Of Victory In Loss To Maryland

(Guru’s note: Quotes come from wire reports in this post. The local roundup is directly underneath. If you came first here by bookmark or link to melgreenberg.com, just click the mel’s blog link on the left panel to get to blogspot and the full archive. And yes, the Guru will be on the scene at Temple-Duke.)

By Mel Greenberg

When Thursday morning arrived 24 hours ago the Guru looked ahead in a previous post to that ensuing night’s major showdown between No. 5 Maryland and No. 19 Delaware in the title game of the host Terrapins’ tournament in College Park, Md., in a battle of unbeaten.

In terms of the visiting Blue Hens’ historic season, he said three possibilities existed in Delaware’s toughest test to date.

Maryland could run roughshod over the CAA favorites and Mid-Major power and the Blue Hens would then at least know what had to be done to go deep into the NCAA tournament.

Didn’t Happen.

Coach Tina Martin’s squad could pull a stunning upset and soar to a height that would have seemed improbable several years ago.

That didn’t happen either, though progress continues.

The third was the Blue Hens could cope with the tremendous overall talent of the Terrapins and lose with valor in defeat but gain even more respect across the country as well as added self-esteem.

Consider it done.

Delaware (10-1) fell 85-76 but the Blue Hens are now Mid-Major in name only.

They have earned their right to reside in a neighborhood considered occupied by the nation’s best.

Elena Delle Donne’s powerful 24-point second half to lift her above her 29 point scoring average with a finish scoring 32 puts her in the national discussion along with the other elite names such as Baylor’s Brittney Griner, Stanford’s Nnemkadi Oguwmike, and Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins.

Moreover, in the wake of defeat veteran coach Tina Martin could speak in sentences of triumph after the Blue Hens showed they could compete with the unbeaten Terrapins (13-0).

“There’s no doubt in my mind, we’re a Top 20 team, if you really want to know how I feel,” Martin said in the postgame press conference.

“We deserve our ranking right now.”

They also deserve a second NCAA at-large invite in their history if they fall short of the CAA title they are favored to win.

That’s the phase of their schedule the Blue Hens are headed next.

Hofstra is another team proving to be at-large worthy, and there are several others out there in the Mid-Major identification, such as Princeton and Wisconsin-Green Bay, who also should be in the keep-an-eye-on-them mix.

Delaware is not likely to see the overall amount of talent from CAA teams that Maryland presented with Laurin Mincy surprising her own ACC folks with a career-high 25 points, Alyssa Thomas with 23 and Anjale Barrett with 16 points.

And understand, Lynetta Kizer is also on Maryland.

Now that doesn’t mean the Blue Hens can just show up against CAA opponents.

The conference is anything but weak.

And with Delaware the new target, Martin’s group will get enough challenges to stay focused and prepare for what could be an interesting showing when the time to go dancing arrives.

Considering the way Old Dominion teams of yesteryear would dominate the league, if the Blue Hens perform similarly the next two months maybe they should be nicknamed New Dominion.

“Delaware is going to go far in the (NCAA) tournament,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said afterwards, as she also gets ready for the ACC wars just around her corner. “They’ve got all the pieces. I think Tina does a tremendous job.”

Incidentally, not previously mentioned in the buildup to the game is the fact that Chris Campbell, Maryland’s director of operations was an assistant to Martin two seasons ago when Delle Donne played her freshman season.

He could feel happy on two fronts – that Maryland is on the way perhaps to the power they were several seasons ago, including the 2006 national championship, and that Delaware is fulfilling the vision the staff back then possessed when Delle Donne returned to the sport of her acclaim.

“The fight we showed tonight is definitely promising,” Delle Donne said, knowing she and her teammates can only get better.

For all the skills she has possessed dating to her formative basketball years, Delle Donne has shown the ability to adjust on nights that things don’t seem to be going her way.

For example, there have been the hot starts such as when she scored so many points in the opening minutes against Yale recently it seemed like NCAA individual game records were in jeopardy that night until Martin sat her star down with the game well under control.

And then there was Thursday night when at halftime Delle Donne’s total was a mere eight – which would great for players in many other locales.

“In the first half I wasn’t attacking enough,” she said. “In the second half I was able to attack the glass more and get into the paint.”

Martin needed an off night from Maryland along with whatever defenses she could mount for the upset. But if the two teams took the floor again, all doubts would be eliminated in terms of whether the Blue Hens could compete.

“Hats off to them for doing an outstanding job, but also to my team,” she said.

“We’ve come a long way at Delaware.

We need to grow and learn from this experience … (Maryland) been blowing people out of this building, and this game was hotly contested from the beginning to the very end.”

-- Mel

Guru's College Local Report: St. Joseph's Dispatches Boston College

(Guru’s note: Commentary on the Delaware-Maryland game is in the post above this.)

By Mel Greenberg

It is not possible to edit the final chapter of a previous season, already in the record books for posterity, to alter the result or anything else that contributed to the outcome that might erase feelings of dismay from a loss.

Scores can’t be changed, performances can’t be altered, and injuries, if they existed, can’t be restored to full health.

But next time around when facing the name of the same team again, if not the exact roster, the chance is offered to exact a piece of revenge and inject a mood of personal satisfaction.

St. Joseph’s was able to do just that Thursday night before a lively crowd of 2,781 persons at Hagan Arena where the Hawks handled Boston College 74-57 at home to close out the 2011 portion of their schedule at what is also the site of the Atlantic 10 women’s basketball two months from now.

The last time St. Joseph’s (8-4) met the Eagles (4-8) was in the second round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament where Boston College racked up an 86-59 win at home in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, to close out the Hawks’ business for 2010-11.

“If we would have played well up there last year and given it our best, then it would have been sitting with us a little better,” St. Joseph’s coach Cindy Griffin said in contrasting the two games. “We just did not play well up there.

“This team is about revenge and redemption and that’s a motivating factor and certainly protecting our home court is very important and beating an (Atlantic Coast Conference) team is always important, not only for St. Joe’s but also for the Atlantic 10,” she continued.

“We felt this was a great opportunity to get all those things in one night and we did.”

The win was the Hawks’ third straight and sixth out of the last seven with one more nonconference game Tuesday night at
Quinnipiac before entering primarily Atlantic 10 competition the rest of the way.

The lone exception is a Big Five game against an improving Penn squad at home January 14.

Thursday’s game between B.C. and St. Joseph’s was already on the books ahead of the WNIT matchup that appeared out of nowhere last March by virtual of the pairings created for the 64-team field draw.

The more recent game was considered to be part of the Jesuit Basketball Spotlight project, which is highlighting more than 90 games this season between men’s and women’s teams from the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities across the nation.

But the extra reason that helped draw one of the better crowds was the second reunion on the court of Hawks sophomore Erin Shields and her sister Kerri of B.C., a junior, going against each other after being teammates at Archbishop Carroll when both played at the Catholic League school.

When the two played against each other last spring, they lit up the scoreboard as Erin produced a career-high 21 points and Kerri led the Eagles, scoring 26.

The big offensive numbers came elsewhere Thursday night as Kerri was held to eight points and Erin scored seven but still considered the extra competition as part of family fun.

“It’s always fun but its kind of nerve wracking,” Erin said with a smile. “Because I always want her to do well separate from her team. It’s weird practicing against her every day and then coming up and playing against her but it was fun.

“She helps me as well, but it’s weird (considering) the backyard games and always shooting in gym and then being on the other side of it.”

It’s even more nerve wracking for their mom – Renie (nee Dunne) Shields, a former Hawks star and Big Five Hall of Famer, who broadcasts the women’s games at her alma mater and since last spring has been promoted to Associate Athletic Director for Varsity Programs.

Michelle Baker topped the St. Joseph’s scorers against Boston College with 17 points, while Kelly Cavallo scored 14, Ashley Prim had 13, and Ashley Robinson, who had 10 points, was 6-for-6 from the line.

Katie Zenevich had 18 points for Boston College and grabbed 11 rebounds, while Joy Caracciolo scored 13 and Kristen Doherty had 10 points.

The Hawks also won the battle of the boards, outrebounding the Eagles 30-22. They also were 21-for-22 from the line compared to Boston College shooting 11-for-17.

“Tonight we got great production from a lot of different players and we were solid across the board,” Griffin said. “I thought we played consistently for 40 minutes and we were in attack mode, shooting the ball well (50 percent from the field). Getting good shots and shooting the ball well had a lot to do with how we played, and shooting from the free throw line was a great thing for us.”

Though St. Joseph’s has had good play in some recent December months the ability to have a veteran lineup is giving them extra momentum heading into Atlantic 10 competition.

The Hawks had an RPI ranking of 37 prior to Thursday’s game, a decent number that if maintained or lowered could go a long way to ending their 11-year drought of not appearing in the NCAA tournament.

Villanova Upends St. Bonaventure

The Wildcats continue to bedevil Atlantic 10 teams, this time stopping St. Bonaventure 55-44 in the opener of the Monmouth Holiday Tournament in West Long Branch, N.J., to advance against the host Hawks 4 p.m. Friday.

At this rate it will be intriguing to see what Harry Perretta’s group does against Big East competition, which opens at home Tuesday night against Pittsburgh, which recently lost an inter-city showdown with A-10 power Duquesne.

The Wildcats were picked 12th by the conference coaches, but there appears to enough of an underestimation that Perretta could end up as Big East coach of the year. Villanova also just needs to beat Penn to win the Big Five outright after going 3-0 as of now.

Thursday’s win, including a rally from a 20-12 deficit, was the seventh straight overall and Villanova (10-2) is also 4-0 against A-10 schools, previously beating preseason co-favorite Temple, St. Joseph’s, and La Salle.

The Bonnies fell to 11-2, a record that will add more luster to Villanova’s RPI, which had been 14th in one simulation of the ranking used by the NCAA tournament committee to seed the field and also pick at-large squads.

Laura Sweeney topped the Wildcats in scoring against the Bonnies with 16 points, her 23rd game in her last 26 placing in double figures, including 10 of 12 this season.

Megan Pearson had a season-high 14 points and Emily Leer scored eight off the bench.
Doris Ortega had nine for the Bonnies.

Monmouth (4-8) advanced with a 69-62 win over Norfolk State.

Penn Still On Fire

The Quakers (7-2) now are at an all-time best nine-game start in their history after beating UNC-Greensboro 47-36 in San Diego State’s Surf ‘N Slam Classic in Southern California and will meet the host Aztecs Friday in Viejas Arena.

Sophomore Alyssa Baron had her first career double double with 16 points and 10 rebounds, the only player in double figures in either category for the Quakers, who led by as many as 23 points but again held off a rally by the opposition as UNCG fell to 2-10.

Penn opens the Ivy season next Saturday at home in The Palestra 7 p.m. against two-time defending champion Princeton.

The Tigers in a meeting of two of the better Mid-Majors beat host Hofstra 74-69 as Kate Miller drew a pair of charges and hit two key foul shots for Princeton (9-4), which played in its closest game to date in either wins or losses.

Lauren Edwards had 17 points, Niveen Rasheed scored 14, while Devona Allgood, Nicole Hung, and Megan Bowen each scored 10 points.

Lauren Polansky had 10 rebounds.

The Tigers have a nonconference stop Saturday afternoon playing another member of the Colonial Athletic Association when they visit Drexel.

Ncole Capurso had a career-high 24 points for Hofstra (9-3) in the game at the Mack Sports Center while Shante Evans of Henderson High in suburban Philadelphia double doubled again with 14 points and 13 rebounds.

Katelyn Loper and Marie Malone each scored 10 points for the Pride, who were outrebounded by a slim differential 38-37.

La Salle Handles Dartmouth

The Explorers (4-9) scored the first nine points quickly in the opening minute and stayed in front all the way to a 60-47 win over the host Big Green (2-9) of the Ivy League in the opening round of the Blue Sky Classic in Hanover, N.H.

La Salle faces Vermont Friday in the event that is not in true tournament format. No. 15 Georgetown was the other winner Thursday in beating the Catamounts the Explorers will face.

Three Explorers scored in double figures as Alexis Scott scored 14 points, Jada Payne had 13, and Nadia Duncan scored 12.
Faziah Steen was Dartmouth’s high scorer with 12 points.


Besides the teams of interest in the Philadelphia area continuing in tournaments, Friday, Temple will host No. 8 Duke Friday night in McGonigle Hall in one last shot at a major nonconference victory.

Penn State opens Big 10 competition at home hosting new member Nebraska, which has moved from the Big 12.

Rutgers visits George Washington before launching Big East play next Tuesday.

-- Mel

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Guru's Musing: Another Delaware Game-Changing Moment Awaits At Maryland

(Guru’s note: A separate story for the print part of the Inquirer sports section is on Philly.com with Guru coverage of the Drexel-South Carolina game and Dawn Staley’s homecoming so the Guru is going a different direction here with a column on the anticipation of Delaware’s showdown Thursday night with host Maryland in the Terrapins’ tournament title game.

Because of non-basketball business early Thursday afternoon that precludes the Guru getting out of town fast enough to make the drive down to Maryland, he will be tweeting from the St. Joseph’s-Boston College game but will be tracking the action to the immediate south. )

By Mel Greenberg

Since the season got under way back in early November the Delaware women’s basketball team has been akin to someone heading off the beach to do a little body surfing in uncharted waters.

Several times out the Blue Hens have looked at a wave unlike most they had ever seen and after successfully navigating across the crest an even bigger one would lie ahead.

With junior Elena Delle Donne healthy and happy, Delaware (10-0) is getting a rush from playing in an environment and setting challenges that not too long ago existed in another galaxy from where the Blue Hens dwell.

The schedule is the toughest it’s ever been in meeting nonconference foes away from the Colonial Athletic Association.

The night the Blue Hens upset then-No. 11 Penn State at home in the Bob Carpenter Center, the triumph brought them hours later to a morning wake up where dreams and fantasies had become reality.

Several weeks later the gates of approval lifted for the first time and Delaware had become a nationally ranked squad in both the AP and USA Today/ESPN polls determined by media and coaches voting panels.

But as they churned along leaping over Ivy power Princeton, turning back an improved Villanova team, winning at Atlantic 10 contender St. Bonaventure besides attracting new admirers, the Blue Hens knew the end of December offered the biggest test they would face before going after the CAA title they are favored to win.

And on Thursday night No. 5 Maryland (12-0) awaits in the title game of the Terrapins’ tournament at the Comcast Center in College Park.

There was little doubt the host team would be waiting for No. 19 Delaware as Maryland proved Wednesday afternoon winning its first round game – an 84-36 thumping of Lafayette.

The Terrapins have been on the other side of the mountain for quite a while since Brenda Frese left a single season of success at Minnesota to sign on as their coach soon after the Women’s Final Four in the spring of 2002.

Frese knows about game-changing moments for a developing program though her situation in College Park was to bring one back to national prominence.

The day Crystal Langhorne and Laura Harper of suburban Philadelphia signed their letter of intents on the dotted line, Frese could envision what the future might bring and it arrived two years later in April 2006 when the Terrapins rallied to beat Atlantic Coast Conference rival Duke in overtime in Boston to win a first-ever NCAA title.

That concept might not be an exact match for Tina Martin’s expectations the day Delle Donne told the veteran coach she desired to return to basketball after a season hiatus spent playing Blue Hens volleyball.

But Martin knew down inside the potential existed for a place her program had never been, even though she suppressed those feelings in favor of thinking first of Delle Donne’s welfare and her comfort as a collegian at Delaware.

And besides, it would not be enough alone to hope Delle Donne could fulfill the promise she held as the national high school player of the year in 2008 out of Ursuline Academy in nearby Wilmington.

Besides, before Delaware could take the floor for this caliber competition that is the Maryland game Thursday night there were some necessary details to attend to the way pilots in the cockpit go through a list rolling down the runway.

Foremost, a supporting cast of quality teammates was needed to complement Delle Donne, who found a personal new dimension last summer when she helped lead the USA squad of prime collegiate talent to the World University Games gold medal in China.


Beef up the schedule to raise the RPI in case, which also would help if the CAA title and ensuing NCAA automatic bid weren’t claimed.


And get some wins along the way to make a national impression and land in the national rankings.

Check. Check.

And deepen the roster to protect leads and possess a killer instinct.

Martin addressed that issue Wednesday afternoon after Delaware rolled to a 60-40 win over East Carolina in the opening round at College Park.

Though Delaware soared to a 25-point halftime lead and Delle Donne, the nation’s leading scorer, cleared the 20-point individual game plateau for the 14th straight time, there’s still a concern for the deeper reserves to do their part.

“The second half I was frustrated because we should be more efficient offensively, especially when we start going 10, 11 deep on our bench,” Martin said.

“I feel like we should be able to hold on to those 25-30 point leads,” Martin added.

“Good programs do that. Players coming off the bench need to play with the same intensity as the starting rotation of eight to nine.”

And then Martin looked to the big Kahunas who will be sitting on the other bench.

“We came here to accomplish one thing, and that was to get to the championship game. We have a chance to play one of the best teams in the country in Maryland and that’s where we are, so we’re very happy about that. It should be a good game tomorrow.”

And so, in many ways, Delaware’s matchup with Maryland Thursday night is similar to that winter day in 1995 when a team looking for the next level and wearing the uniforms as the University of Connecticut, ranked No. 2, took on the visiting top-ranked team named Tennessee – the one with decades of tradition and NCAA titles.

Just two things are different, to be fair.

That was No. 1 vs. No. 2.

This is No. 5 vs. No. 19.

And the ambience on press row will be different in that it won’t be crammed with media members from across the nation.

In part that’s because there are less of them at the mainstream offices because of the decline of the newspaper industry.

And in part because expense accounts are not what they used to be and those on their own have to hold back to invest in travel to Denver in April for the Women’s Final Four.

But with technology much advanced since 1995, once the opening tip goes up at 7 p.m. EST, look for a spike in internet traffic checking on the game’s progress besides Delle Donne’s performance. Twiter traffic could also be expected to be quite heavy with tweets from and about the game.

The Guru can tell you that in the last four seasons the blog posts in the top 20 in terms of drawing traffic to this site are loaded with events involving Delle Donne.

Looking to Thursday night, Delaware will lose what’s not gained, but nothing more, if Maryland prevails
And at the moment a Terrapins triumph would be the betting expectation in Las Vegas if there were a line on the game.

A lopsided loss by the Blue Hens brings a reality check and the knowledge of what to do better to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament.

Between now and then the CAA games will fulfill enough because of the quest for the conference title. Furthermore, for those not knowledgeable of schools in the conference such as Drexel, Hofstra, James Madison, Virginia Commonwealth and several others, they may be considered mid-major but they are anything but chopped liver.

If the loss, if it occurs, is narrow, there will be a sting and feeling of heartbreak but that will quickly be replaced with the knowledge Delaware can play among the best of Division I– BCS schools or not.

But if Delaware wins, the world will quickly become a different place for the Blue Hens, whose previous acclaim this season will pale in comparison.

This doesn’t mean Delaware becomes an immediate threat to win an NCAA title, though all kinds of things could occur to make that concept a reality.

A month before last season’s bracket rolled out, whoever believed Texas A&M – not UConn, Stanford, Baylor or Tennessee – would become national champions?

Lauren Boots, the new women’s contact at Delaware who is doing an admirable job at her alma mater, is 40 minutes away from having her cell phone go into a ringing frenzy with little letup to occur.

Just ask Barb Kowal, the media contact at UConn in 1995, what happened to her nice peaceful existence within hours or less after the Huskies beat the Lady Vols that day and then hit No. 1 for the first time.

Thus Thursday morning arrives with the question of whether the Blue Hens are ready for real prime and hours later Thursday night they will try to provide an answer in the affirmative.

-- Mel

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Guru's Year In Review: The Pat Summit Story Dominated A Momentous 2011

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA -- Overall, one could say 2011 saw success for the most part in both the collegiate and pro women’s game.

But when it comes to looking back at the top stories, which because of the way the calendar works covers both the end of 2010-11 and start of 2011-12, we find that life off the court dominated as much as what happened in the 40 minutes or slightly more after opening tipoffs to produce the headlines of the past 12 months.

And so it was right near the end of the summer offseason in August in the collegiate world that the top story of the year emerged when one looks back retrospectively.

On a day in which unexpected tremors that are more accustomed to the West Coast struck near the nation’s capital, a bigger shock wave rippled across America with the news of Hall of Fame Tennessee coach Pat Summitt revealing that at the young age of 59 the possessor of eternal energy announced she had been diagnosed several months earlier suffering from early onset Alzheimer.

The stunning news brought an outpouring of support from all walks of life as Summitt expressed she was going to fight this disease as hard as she could and would continue to be at the helm of the Lady Vols – hopefully for several more seasons.

Adjustments have been made and will continue to be made along the way with longtime associate head coach Holly Warlick now doing an admirable job handling postgame press conferences while Summitt appears on the Tennessee network wrap up at the same time.

The revelation is the top story of 2011 but the next chapters at Tennessee will surely work their way to be the top events of 2012.

At the moment it is a 50-50 situation whether Summitt’s extremely talented squad, dedicating a quest for a ninth NCAA title, will get the job done, though it is hard to use the phrase Cinderella in association with the Lady Vols’ longtime success.

Virginia, which was awarded with a brief appearance in the national rankings, struck from nowhere to hand Tennessee a loss last month none expected.

Top-ranked Baylor, which has one superstar in Brittany Griner and another in Odyssey Sims, rallied for a win against Summitt’s bunch and then several weeks later Stanford dominated on a sensational performance by senior Nnemkadi Oguwmike.

As Tennessee has hit the road, media coverage in towns along the way has already begun alluding this season as a farewell tour, though perhaps that characterization may be premature.

The Summitt story alone would be considered head of the pack in a look back to 2011 but because of the theme of life being bigger than the game itself then right behind came another shocker early last month.

That’s when Oklahoma State coach Kurt Budke, who also previously coached Louisiana Tech, was killed along with his assistant Miranda Serna in a crash of a single-engine private Piper plane about 45 miles west of Little Rock, Arkansas while on a quick recruiting trip.

Olin Branstetter, 82, a former Oklahoma state senator who also had his wife, Paula, on the trip, piloted the plane and they also died when the plane went down.

Associate head coach Jim Littell was quickly named interim coach and then several weeks later the university gave him the job outright as Budke’s successor, calling him “a rock” for the grieving Cowgirls.

As the season resumes following the Christmas break Oklahoma State is unbeaten at 7-0 as it heads to open a tournament in Reno, Nev., against Mississippi State.

But when 2012 arrives things will begin to get tougher with the rugged Big 12 conference portion of the schedule just ahead.

Surprise Coaching Moves

Player stats gave way to performance stats after last season ended and though administrators in each situation tried to put window dressing on the move, it was nevertheless stunning to see the exits of two Hall of Fame coaches in Van Chancellor at LSU and Debbie Ryan at Virginia.

Right along with them deserving of the same Hall of Fame stature at some point in the future was the departure of Wendy Larry at Old Dominion.

And so the annual game of musical chairs began with Nikki Caldwell moving to LSU from UCLA after bringing the Bruins back to prominence in a short amount of time.She was replaced by former Florida State associate head coach Cori Close and Larry was replaced by former assistant Karen Barefoot, who had been the head coach at Elon.

On her own move Karen Aston left Charlotte to return to the Lone Star State at North Texas. Cathy Andruzzi’s exit at Fordham brought Stephanie Gaitley, a former Villanova star, back to the Atlantic 10 from Monmouth.

Former players at perennial nationally-ranked schools moved into head coaching ranks with former UNC All-American Charlotte Smith replacing Barefoot at Elon and former North Carolina State’s Jenny Palmateer replacing Gaitley at Monmouth.

Tia Jackson, now an assistant at Rutgers, was let go at Washington and replaced by Xavier’s Kevin McGuff, who had made the Musketeers into a top 10 power but was losing Amber Harris and Ta’Shia Phillips to graduation and the WNBA. Amy Waugh, a former Xavier star who had been a McGuff assistant, replaced him.

Joanne Boyle left California to replace Ryan at Virginia and Cal-Santa Barbara’s Lindsey Gottlieb, who had been previously on Boyle’s staff, replaced her.

Two other long-time associate head coaches besides Close got their own programs with Carlene Mitchell moving from Rutgers and Hall of Famer C. Vivian Stringer to replace Gottlieb at UCSB and Nicci Hays-Fort leaving DePaul and Doug Bruno to coach at Colgate.

Another shock came right from the heart of the NCAA where Sue Donohoe, who had guided the women’s tournament for the past decade, announced her departure, which occurred last month leaving the position vacant for some time to come in the months ahead.

But Donohoe didn’t stay unemployed long being hired to replace Marsha Sharp, who had returned to an administrative position at Texas Tech, to oversee the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.

And then there’s impending movement of teams involved in conference realignment but that is more a story for 2012 in terms of women’s basketball.Consider the total movement of everyone as an ongoing annual story.

Delle Donne Newsworthy String Continues

In terms of individual trials and tribulations and ultimate redemption, so far, Delaware junior Elena Delle Donne stands out.

The former Ursuline Academy star and national high school player of the year out of Wilmington, Del., has been among the top stories for several years now.

In 2008 it was her decision to forego a scholarship to UConn and enrolling at Delaware but to play volleyball.

Then in 2009 she decided to return to the sport of her acclaim, joining up with Tina Martin’s Blue Hens and earning both conference player and rookie of the year in the Colonial Athletic Association following the 2010 portion of the season.Delle Donne then spent most of last season missing a chunk of 12 games while fighting her way back from the effects of Lyme Disease.

She was able to lead the Blue Hens to two upsets and the CAA title game after she began to recovery.

Then restored to full health she made the USA World University Games squad helping a squad loaded with the best collegiate talent win a gold medal.

The momentum from that success has carried to this season where she is again the nation’s top scorer and has carried Delaware into a first-ever national ranking beating Penn State and Villanova out of the BCS leagues while also beating Princeton and St. Bonaventure among mid-major teams doing well.

A major test looms potentially Thursday night in No. 5 Maryland’s tournament assuming the Blue Hens and host Terrapins get to the title game.

Then we shall see what happens when CAA play gets under way in a chase Delaware is favored to finish first.Next on the top stories list is basically a tie out of the collegiate and pro worlds but since we’ve been speaking about collegiate life we will keep it there first.

Upsets In Indy

The Women’s Final Four brought more surprises than expected.

When 2011 began Stanford had just beaten Connecticut to end the Huskies’ 90-game NCAA record win streak.

They were expected to potentially meet again the NCAA title game, though it was projected that Baylor would return to potentially make its way to the championship and there was an expectation when the bracket was revealed that Tennessee would also be in the mix.

None of the above happened. Notre Dame paced by Skylar Diggins upset Tennessee in the Regional title game while Texas A&M guided by ageless Gary Blair upset its Big 12 rival Baylor in the fourth meeting of the season between the two.

Diggins became somewhat of a social phenom in terms of picking up followers on her twitter account.

Then at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis in the semifinals Texas A&M rallied to edge Stanford while Notre Dame on its fourth try upset Connecticut and get to the title game where the Aggies upset the Irish to win a first-ever title.

Several months later Texas A&M made it known it was heading to the SEC.

The semifinal results brought to the end the collegiate career of UConn great Maya Moore, but she helps us transition here to the pro world where one more championship lost later became one new championship gained.

WNBA: Moore The Final Lynx In Minnesota Title Run

Moore became the overall top pick of the forlorn WNBA Minnesota Lynx, who with a stockpile of talent acquired through several years of lotto picks, rose to domination all the way to a first-ever title with the prospects of more to come.

She was named the rookie of the year and her new coach is former La Salle star Cheryl Reeve.

Injuries continued to be a part of the WNBA mantra with Los Angeles’ Candace Parker and Seattle’s Lauren Jackson missing most of the summer before returning near the end of the regular season.

Indiana lost starting point guard Brian January early on but the Fever made it to the East title round and sentimental favorite Tamika Catchings won her first-ever MVP title for the season.

Atlanta though had a Dream finish, living up to its nickname in gaining a second Eastern crown before being swept again.

But coach Marynell Meadors’ squad had to fight its way back from a tough start because of injuries.

The Dream’s resilience in the opening round of the playoffs came at the expense of the Connecticut Sun, whose former UConn star Tina Charles had quickly become one of the league’s top players.

The Sun finished in a tie for first with Indiana in the East but fell to a second seed due to losing the season series to the Fever.

It was also later revealed that former UConn star Sue Bird, who had been part of the defending champion Seattle Storm, was playing with hip injuries.

The Tulsa Shock couldn’t win and by early July coach Nolan Richardson was gone and replaced by Olympic and University of Georgia star Teresa Edwards.

Two days later Jennifer Gillom was out at Los Angeles and Joe Bryant moved up from assistant for a second tour of duty,

At this hour it is still unknown what the coaching situation for 2012 is at either place.

Though lack of wins couldn’t cheer Edwards at Tulsa, in late summer she enjoyed the prominence of induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame with Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer in Springfield, Mass.

Former Houston star Sheryl Swoopes came out of a two-year hiatus to play with Tulsa, which ended the Marion Jones experiment early in the season.

The summer also saw the first of three seasons with the New York Liberty relocating across the Hudson River to the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. while Madison Square Garden undergoes a series of renovations.

Attendance dipped but not enough to negatively affect league numbers as a whole.

TV viewership was also up and the real star of the summer might have been on the technical side where an Apps from the league enabled many across the nation to watch games for free on their mobile phones and iPads.

There was also a mega-deal involving Boost Mobile said to be for 10 figures.

The WNBA presidency was part of the 2010 landscape when Donna Orender left at the stroke of 2011.

Several months later the league went a different route from the previous hires of basketball-backgrounded Val Ackerman and Orender by naming prominent advertising executive Laurel Richie as the new head of the league.

Though she had never been to a WNBA game, that background actually gave her a focus on which way to go to attract new fans and Richie became a quick learner.

A Film Of Our Own

After years in the making and marketing The Mighty Macs about Hall of Fame coach Cathy Rush and Immaculata's first national championship finally made it to movie houses in October and November for a successful run and will most likely find its way to DVD and online sales in 2012.

More Famers

Recalling the upset of Tennessee by Notre Dame, Irish coached Muffet McGraw exlaimed "You picked a good year to invite me to Knoxville" upon being inducted to the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame along with former WNBA president Val Ackerman, former Auburn star Ruthie Bolton, former Maryland star Vickie Bullett, Pearl Moore and Lometa Odom.

McGraw is also a former St. Joseph's star and is in the Big Five Hall of Fame in Philadelphia sharing two halls with the Guru.

Locally Retrospective

Locally, here in Philadelphia, Temple extended its NCAA appearance run to eight straight and the Owls’ Tonya Cardoza was named both Big Five and Atlantic 10 coach of the year.

Temple won another Big Five title and after struggling in November and December, ripped through the A-10 before being stopped by Xavier on the final day of the regular season.

St. Joseph’s began to make a comeback and went to the WNIT with a prospect that the NCAA could be a legitimate possibly in 2012.

Tom Shirley at Philadelphia University won his 600th game on the front end of 2011 and Villanova’s Harry Perretta did likewise last month as the Wildcats are poised to win a Big Five title and perhaps do some damage in the Big East.

Rutgers struggled but returned to the NCAA and now the Scarlet Knights are in the power form of several seasons ago when they advanced to the NCAA title game and contended for it again in 2008.

Penn State, with a sensational freshman in Maggie Lucas from Narberth and Germantown Academy, returned to days of prominence and now the Lady Lions are the Big 10- favorites as conference play begins this week.

Up the road Princeton won another Ivy title and became one of the nation’s top mid-majors while Penn had its best turnaround ever and the Quakers have been even hotter on the nonconference portion of their schedule.Alyssa Baron was a star rookie at The Palestra and now her new teammate Kara Bonenberger is quickly following in her footsteps at Penn.

La Salle under first-year coach Jeff Williams surprised by making the A-10 tourney for the first time in several seasons.

Drexel made the postseason again going to the WNIT and of late the Dragons have been on a rollercoaster heading into Wednesday’s home game with South Carolina, coached by local legend Dawn Staley, who last month was inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame.

In 2012 Staley will have big things going with an induction into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and maybe a return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since leaving Temple.

There’s also the potential of being named a Naismith inductee.

In closing the Guru's recap that was plenty to recall from 2011 though something may have been left behind.

One thing is certain, though.

When it comes to 2012, which is also the year of the Olympics -- the USA squad is headed by UConn coach Geno Ariemma, who grew up in Norristown -- it won’t take long after the ball drops on top of Times Square in New York for notable events to begin happening in what will probably be even a more exciting year and hopefully less tragic than the one going out the door.

-- Mel

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Guru's College Report: Penn Holding The Broom These Days

(Guru's Note: It's a local lede but USBWA weekly candidates and other notes down below in a mixed local-national report. Also added Big 10 co-players updating from original post.)

By Mel Greenberg

Two seasons ago when Penn coach Mike McLaughlin made his debut, moving over from the Division II power he built at Holy Family in Northeast Philadelphia, the Quakers were nearly swept off their schedule, winning just two games.

These days, however, Penn is holding the broom in varied ways for the moment, after making the pre-Christmas week one-game schedule a sweep across the board.

The 67-65 overtime win against nearby Drexel at home in The Palestra to capture the Battle of 33rd Street brought the Quakers to a 6-2 record – the best-ever start in the program’s history.

The Penn delegation quickly re-assembled after the holiday on Monday to fly out to San Diego, Calif., where they will play in San Diego State’s Surf ‘N Slam tournament meeting UNC Greensboro on Thursday at 5 p.m. EST and then the hosts on Friday at the same time.

The Quakers’ win over Drexel also enabled Penn to clean up the weekly awards. Kara Bonenberger, Penn’s sensational freshman who had 27 points and 11 rebounds against the Dragons, was named Big 5 women’s player of the week and also for the fourth time this season claimed the Ivy rookie of the week award.

That’s an honor Quakers sophomore Alyssa Baron monopolized last season. This week off her 26 points against Drexel, Baron picked up the Ivy player of the week honor.

This is a third Ivy awards sweep by Penn including two by Baron, a native of Miami, Fla., last season winning both player and rookie honor before the Ivy wonks made freshman winning the player award a no-no.

However, Baron’s performance and honor puts her in the pool for this week’s United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) new national women’s player of the week award that comes from candidates who earned the week’s conference player honor.

The USBWA award, baring any holdups on the men’s side, will be announced early Tuesday afternoon.

Two other people with Philadelphia area connections are also in the pool with a touch of irony because they met against each other in one of their games helping to produce a conference award for each.

It is the second time in two weeks a game has produced dual conference winners.

Hofstra’s thrilling win to hold off Marist at the finish and caspture its own New York Life Insurance Invitational was made possible by West Chester and Henderson High’s Shante Evans, the tournament MVP, who had 29 points and 18 rebounds in the triumph over the Red Foxes.

Coupled with an opening round win over Central Connecticut to give Evans a 20 point and 15 rebound average in the two games earned her Colonial Athletic Association honors.

Incidentally, Hofstra hosts two-time defending Ivy champ Princeton Thursday afternoon in Hempstead, N.Y., on Long Island in another confrontation of nationally prominent mid-major schools.

Meanwhile, Readings’ Corielle Yarde of Marist in the confrontation with Hofstra and a win in the opening round over Auburn gave her a two-game average of 17.5 points and 7.5 assists to earn Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference honors.

Looking at other high performances Southeastern Conference winner Jennifer George of Florida amassed 34 points and 23 rebounds in two games to help the Hurricanes win their own tournament.

Georgetown’s Sugar Rodgers had 24 points in the Hoyas’ upset of then-No. 7 Miami at home to win the Big East player of the week.

The Big 10 selected co- players in Nebraska's Jordan Hooper with another 30-point performance and Ohio State's Tayler Hill averaging 23.3 points in three Buckeyes victories.

In a game watched by many nationally involving two Top 10 teams in the AP Poll, Stanford senior Nnemkadi Oguwmike poured 42 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in a win over Tennessee before scoring eight points and grabbing four rebounds in 13 minutes before being rested in an easy home win over Cal State Bakersfield.

That easily earned her Pac-12 player of the week honors and also boosted her stock as a potential No. 1 overall pick in the next WNBA draft. Los Angeles owns the rights to the pick.

Morgan Frame has only been eligible for two games since transferring mid-season a year ago to New Hampshire from St. Anselm College. But in Game 2 she scored 35 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in a win over Wagner in overtime to earn America East weekly player honors.

Stephen F. Austin’s Tammara Marion scored 20 points and her shot with 0.9 seconds sent the Ladyjacks into overtime and a win over Rice to earn Southland weekly honors.

The Western Athletic Conference award went to Louisiana Tech’s Whitney Frazier for a 20-point performance in a win over Tennessee Tech.

In the Philadelphia area local front not involved with the USBWA award that goes to a Division I conference winner, Stockton, near Atlantic City in south Jersey, swept the weekly New Jersey Athletic Conference honors with Lauren Alwan being named player of the week and freshman Brittany Muniz from Cherry Hill East being named the rookie winner.

AP Poll Notes

Next week Notre Dame Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame coach Muffett McGraw will tie retired St. Joseph’s-Rutgers-Illinois coach Theresa Grentz, also a Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer that includes her days as a star at Immaculata, for 21st on the total appearance list at 225, which is just two on the all-time list behind retired Maryland coach Chris Weller.

Tennessee, which has long led the category, reached 550 appearances in the Top 10 out of an overall total of 621 weeks.

That means only 71 times in 36 seasons have the Lady Vols not been in the upper echelon, including the only 14 times they weren’t ranked and that includes the first-ever poll in November, 1976.

Louisiana Tech is second at 373 and Connecticut, which got a very late start behind the two leaders but has been dominate for almost two decades, is third at 327, which is six Top 10 appearances ahead of fourth-place Stanford.

Connecticut, Duke, Stanford and Tennessee are the only teams ranked in the Top 10 in all 38 weeks since the decade arrived with the first poll of January 2010.

They’re followed by defending champion Texas A&M (32), top-ranked Baylor (30) and Notre Dame this week with 27 tied Xavier – remember the Musketeers?

Connecticut is also the only team to be in the Top 5 all 38 weeks this decade followed by Stanford (36), Tennessee (29) and Baylor (28).

Coaching Changes Part II – Hires Of Experience

A few posts ago in discussing a struggling field for the WBCA’s Maggie Dixon Division I Rookie Coach Of The Year, the Guru gave you records of the newbies as of that point in time.

With the last few days being quiet, here’s how new coaches with previous Division I experiences are doing – last job in parenthesis with “not directly” meaning in past year or more was an assistant or coaching high school or on the sidelines.

Joanne Boyle (California) Virginia 10-2 Last Year overall 19-16

Kevin McGuff (Xavier) Washington 8-2 Last Year overall 11-17

Lindsay Gottlieb (UC Santa Barbara) California 9-3 Last Year overall 18-16

Nikki Caldwell (UCLA) LSU 8-3 Last Year overall Last year overall 19-13

Stephanie Gaitley (Monmouth, N.J.) Fordham 7-4 Last year overall 12-19

Regina Miller (UNLV – not directly) Ill.-Chicago 7-4 Last yr overall 14-16

Anthony Levrets (Interim promoted) Utah 6-4 Last year overall 18-17

Karen Aston (Charlotte) North Texas 7-6 Last year overall 5-25

Mark Trakh (USC – not directly) New Mexico St 2-9 Last yr overall 18-14

Tim La Kose (CS Bakersfiield – DI Idp) San Jose St 3-9 Last Yr ovrall 2-27

Richard Barron (Princeton – not directly) Maine 3-9 Last Year overall 4-25

Matilda Mossman (Arkansas – not directly) Tulsa 3-6 Last Yr overall 5-20

The Week Ahead

Locally in the DI world, it is a big week once action resumes on Wednesday, which is when Dawn Staley makes her second homecoming bringing South Carolina (10-2) to visit Drexel at 5 p.m. on the first game of a doubleheader with the Dragons men’s team.

The former Temple coach, of course, is a basketball legend from her playing days from Dobbins High, through college at the University of Virginia, with the ABL (Richmond-Philadelphia Rage) and WNBA (Charlotte-Houston), and, of course, internationally with three Olympic Gold Medals.

The Gamecocks recently had a stunning lopsided win over nationally-ranked North Carolina while Drexel suffered the tough loss to Penn.

Delaware, 19th-ranked, opens in No. 5 Maryland’s tournament on Wednesday against East Carolina and a win will most likely put the Blue Hens on Thursday night against the Terrapins (they open with Lafayette) in a game with NCAA implications on it as well as potentially even enhancing more the statue of Blue Hens junior Elena Delle Donne.

Incidentally, Delaware is having an advance-ticket only $1 Ladies Night special for its CAA game next week on Jan. 5 against Townson. Check the Delaware website for details.

Also on Thursday, besides the Princeton-Hofstra game on Long Island and the Delaware game, Boston College visits St. Joseph’s at 7 p.m. in a game pitting the Shields sisters (Sophomore Erin on the Hawks, senior Kerri on the visiting Eagles) for the second time in less than a year.

The Archbishop Carroll grads met last spring in a game won by B.C. in Chestnut Hill, Mass., in the second round of the WNIT.

Thursday’s game was already on the books. The Shields’ mom Renie is a former Hawks star now associate athletic director at her alma mater replacing the retired Ellen Ryan.

La Salle will be in Dartmouth’s tournament playing the host Big Green on Thursday and Vermont on Friday in Hanover, N.H.

No. 15 Georgetown is the other visitor but La Salle, which gave the Hoyas a scare in Washington a year ago, will not meet them.

Penn has already been noted way above this item.

Villanova, which has been on a tear, on Thursday, meets another red-hot team in St. Bonaventure in the first round of Monmouth’s tournament.

Friday the Wildcats meet either the hosts or Norfolk State.

On Friday also No. 7 Duke visits Temple in McGonigle Hall at 7 p.m. in the Owls’ last chance to get a signature nonconference win prior to Atlantic 10 conference play.

New Big 10 member Nebraska is welcomed to conference play by No. 16 Penn State the same night.

No. 11 Rutgers on Friday visits George Washington.

On New Year’s Eve Saturday, there’s just one game but it’s a dandy with Princeton visiting Drexel in another key game for both schools prior to conference play.

Nationally, but not previously addressed through local competition, in Pac-12 openers heavily-favored Stanford will visit Southern Cal Thursday and UCLA on Saturday.

Three SEC games on Sunday are also strongly expected to go to AP ranked teams – No. 6 Kentucky is at Florida; No. 7 Tennessee is at Auburn – the Lady Vols host Old Dominion Wednesday several days before; and No. 17 Georgia is at Arkansas.

It would be major shocks if any of the ranked teams lose to schools that are on the schedule but not mentioned here – including Fairfield visiting No. 2 Connecticut on Thursday.

-- Mel

Friday, December 23, 2011

Guru's Report: Mighty Macs Movie A Success

By Mel Greenberg

So with the Guru's women's world at rest until after the holidays, not counting Friday night's Wis-Green Bay -- Wisconsin game which is a big cheese in the northern Midwest, he decided to come downtown and take in a Penn men's game on press row against Marist and test an ESPN scoring Apps on the iPad in the process.

But back in the media room, the Guru crossed paths with Vince Curran, one of the co-producers of The Mighty Macs movie about Immaculata's run to the first women's collegiate championship.

Though the film is no longer in theaters except perhaps in a few scattered places, the Guru asked how things have gone and was told that Sony's theaterical expectation was about $2 million and it hit at about $1.9 something.

"So they're thrilled. We have one more event in February associated with the Kay Yow fund in February," Curran said of the month where Pink Zone events have been held to raise money to fight cancer in memory of the late great North Carolina State women's coach.

Curran said then at some point the movie will definitely be available in DVD, etc.

So if you didn't get to see it, you'll still have a chance.

-- Mel

Guru's College Report: Villanova Tops Temple And Clinches Big Five Tie

(Guru's note: Since this goes deep, way below are national results on such teams as Hofstra, Richmond, St. Bonaventure, St. John's, and George Mason.)

By Mel Greenberg

Temple became the latest victim of Villanova’s renaissance season Thursday afternoon as the Wildcats clinched at least a tie for the Women’s Big Five title with a 56-47 win over the Owls (5-6) at Temple’s McGonigle Hall.

The Wildcats (9-2), who struggled to score last season and finished 12-19 overall, made it three straight over City rivals and six straight overall and they are the only team in the Big Five still unbeaten and just have Penn left in the local round-robin at home on January 17th.

Two other city teams hit the break Thursday afternoon with impressive wins – Penn, another team making major progress, won the Battle of 33rd Street in West Philadelphia, shaking off a Drexel rally to beat the neighboring Dragons 67-65 in overtime at The Palestra.

St. Joseph’s in the Hawks’ first-ever meeting with UCLA held off the Bruins to triumph 64-60 at home in Hagan Arena.

Meanwhile, La Salle trailed by 16 against visiting Fairfield before rallying to within a point but falling short against the Stags 55-52 at the Explorers’ Tom Gola Arena.

Meanwhile, in the Villanova game the Wildcats, who were picked 12th in the preseason by the Big East coaches, jumped to a 9-0 lead and never trailed while repulsing several attempted Temple rallies.

The Owls had won three straight, all at home, following a five-game slide on a six-game road trip, and less than 48 hours earlier had beaten UCLA.

It was Temple’s first Big Five game of the season in defense of last season’s title. Villanova won in 2010 after the Owls had won four straight and then tied for the City Series crown with St. Joseph’s in 2009.

“This really hurts,” Temple’s Kristen McCarthy said of the loss. “This was an important game for the Big Five championship. Villanova just has to play Penn and we haven’t played anyone yet so this was a chance for us to take it.”

Two newcomers helped the Wildcats’ cause Thursday with Villanova redshirt freshman Emily Leer, a graduate of Abington High, getting a career-high 13 points, a total matched by redshirt freshman forward Lauren Burford of Fairfax, Va., in suburban Washington.

Junior Laura Sweeney, a leading contender for Big Five player of the year, had 11 points to also score in double figures for Villanova.

Sweeney, who is in double figures 22 of her last 25 games, calls home in Marlton, N.J., across the Delaware River and she is a graduate of Cherokee High.

Temple’s senior combo of McCarthy (14 points) and Shey Peddy (13) each scored in double figures but struggled from the field with Peddy shooting 3-for-14 and McCarthy 5-for-14.

“They just weren’t falling like I wish they were,” Peddy said.

Overall the Owls shot 25.5 percent from the field while Villanova shot 37.7 percent but also connected on seven three-pointers, five more than Temple.

“We played a very good game today,” Villanova coach Harry Perretta said. “We play according to how our bigger kids play. When Emily and Laura play well what happens is it forces the other teams to double us and if they make the right passes it opens us up to take easier shots on the perimeter.

“In the course of the game today we took 19 threes and I would say 15 of the 19 attempted threes came from kickouts from the post where (Temple) doubled and our kids made the right pass,” he added.

“When we play Temple we have trouble running our offense against them because they are a good defensive team in terms of their lateral movement. So our motion doesn’t work very well against them because how well they can move laterally,” Perretta discussed the game plan.

“So what we tried to do is take that out of the game, throw the ball to our post kids and if the post kids could establish themselves, now what happens is they (Temple) double and we don’t need to run an offense.

"(The posts) just have to make the right pass and obviously we have to make shots and we did. Emily came out big today. She had been struggling and we had a talk yesterday and I told her to keep doing the things she had been doing and she turned around and had a good game and I was happy for her.”

Leer, who along with many Villanova players on squads in the Philadelphia/Suburban NCAA Women's Summer Basketball League, spoke of the way things went for she and her teammates.

“I thought today was a battle, as they always are. Everybody played really, really hard – it was a team effort. I just think we really worked hard after every rebound after every lose ball and made the right passes to make the open shots.”

Villanova was able to limit Temple offensive rebounds to eight and was only outscored 16-12 in the paint.

“That’s big for us but that’s because we’re better inside.”

In light of the ongoing conference musical chairs, especially involving Temple in the Big East discussion, it was suggested to Perretta that perhaps just his Wildcats ought to think about applying to play in the Atlantic 10.

Villanova has wins over St. Joseph’s, La Salle and Temple and next play as very hot St. Bonaventure team in the opener of Monmouth’s tournament next Thursday in central New Jersey.

The Wildcats’ two losses have been on the road to two-time defending champion and Ivy favorite Princeton and at home to Colonial Athletic Association favorite Delaware, which features junior Elena Delle Donne, the nation’s leading scorer.

Villanova also won at Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference favorite Marist and opened the season in Iona’s tournament upsetting then-ranked (USA Today/ESPN coaches) Michigan State enabling Perretta to gain his 600th win in 34 seasons, all on the Main Lline, the next day with a win over the host Gaels.

Temple was picked by the Atlantic 10 coaches as a co-favorite with Dayton to win the conference – each team drew seven first-place votes.

“It’s been a brutal nonconference schedule but the good thing is our RPI is 14. The nonconference schedule is great if you win those games,” Perretta said.

Combine that with a competitive run in the Big East in the upper middle of the 16-team power conference and Villanova would find itself in discussion for an NCAA tournament berth.

That has been an ongoing achievement for Temple but Thursday’s loss was tough setback considering perennial Top 10 and Atlantic Coast Conference power Duke is next up on the schedule with a December 30th visit to McGonigle Hall next Friday night.

“That is not how we wanted to come out and perform today,” Temple coach Tonya Cardoza said. “I thought we would definitely been smarter defensively and defended them better than we did.

“But credit to them. They did a really good job taking advantage of mismatches and clogging the lane and not letting our guys get clean looks on drives inside.”

Cardoza had fears the other night that despite the win over UCLA there were breakdowns Villanova could capitalize against the Owls.

“When we were playing UCLA, we talk about how we’re going to defend situations, plays, players. And when you’re not doing them properly, that is going to come back and bite you in the butt,” she said.

“We made some mistakes (against UCLA) and if we make those same mistakes against Villanova, they’re going to capitalize off of them. And that definitely took place.

“We said if we made mistakes not defending them properly that we would get burned and we did.”

Cardoza has had a long history of dealing with Villanova after previously serving 14 seasons as an assistant to UConn coach Geno Auriemma, whose perennial national championship contending Huskies are a rival of the Wildcats in the Big East.

Villanova started Lindsay Kimmel, who made her first appearance at Temple in uniform since transferring from the Owls to the Wildcats two seasons ago.

Cardoza noted one reason Temple’s three-point shooting is below last season’s record production is moving the arc back.

“Moving the three-point line back, I’m sure a lot of people are struggling with the three-point line and definitely we are and that’s why we put the ball on the floor as much as we can until we can get accustomed to the move.

“It’s definitely affected us.”

Villanova, known for its traditional skill beyond the arc, does not seem to be affected and has now scored at least one trey in 248 straight games.

Among the crowd were Villanova former greats Laura Kurz, Sibohan O’Connor and Courtney Mix.

Fresh off the 16th ranked Penn State’s 78-54 win at Bucknell Wednesday night before the break, hot-shooting Maggie Lucas, a graduate of Germantown Academy, Talia East of the Lady Lions (10-2) were at the game.

East is a former Friends Central teammate of Temple freshman Monaye Merritt.

Penn State opens play in the Big 10 on December 30th against new comference member Nebraska, which is ranked

Villanova is now 95-35 all-time in Philadelphia Big Five play topping the other four teams in total victories in the City Series begun in 1980.

The Wildcats, who lead the all-time series with Temple 26-12, are 6-1 on the road this season.

Hawks Ruin Bruins

St. Joseph’s took advantage of a short-handed UCLA squad that grew even less populated in the first half of the Hawks’ 64-60 win over the Bruins (5-6) in the first meeting between the two at Hagan Arena.

Coach Cindy Griffin’s squad (7-4) never trailed, though it was tied several times, and as Temple did in the Owls’ Tuesday win over the Bruins, the Hawks were able to repulse an attempted comeback by UCLA late in the game.

Samira Van Grinsven and Ashley Prim each scored 12 points for St. Joseph’s, who next host Boston College on Dec. 29 when for the second time and first since last season’s WNIT Hawks sophomore Erin Shields will play against her sister Kerri on the Eagles.

The sisters are Archbishop Carroll graduates.

Prim was 6-foor-10 from the line where overall St. Joseph’s was 17-for-23 against the Bruins’ 8-for-11. UCLA also shot an array of long-range blanks, going 0-for-10 on three-point attempts, while the Hawks were 3-for-13.

Michelle Baker scored 10 points for St. Joseph, which overcame a Bruins 40-28 rebounding advantage.

UCLA is under former first-year coach Cori Close, who previously was associate head coach to Sue Semrau at Florida State.

Prior to the season, the Bruins lost star player Jasmine Dixon, a former Rutgers player, to a knee injury, which also befell Atonye Nyingifa before UCLA played Temple.

Markel Walker, a native of Philadelphia, missed UCLA’s first seven games because of a thumb injury but also did not play in the first half of the game against St. Joseph’s because of what Close called “a violation of a team rule.”

When Walker appeared in the second half, she helped the Bruins’ effort with a game-high 16 points, shooting 6-for-10 and grabbing nine rebounds, while also getting one steal and dealing three assists.

Thea Lemberger had 12 points and Rebekah Gardner scored 10.

“I thought today we were very focused, we played very solid, and the thought on this game was who wants to go home faster for Christmas and go home with a win,” Griffin said.

“We were very focused and disciplined. UCLA’s a great team and it’s a quality win for our program and a quality win for our kids.”

UCLA had a 22-13 scoring advantage off the bench, dominated 38-24 inside, and also led 18-8 in second chance points.

But Griffin pointed to stats that aren’t kept in terms of what worked.

“It was a lot of little things. We won the battle of 50-50 balls, we had enough of a cushion that when they went on their run to catch up – our defense did a nice job on Gardner, who we had a high concern for, and I thought we did a nice job Lemberger, who also was putting up some big numbers.

“Obviously Walker was out the first half for whatever reason but either way we were ready.”

Griffin said she did not know of Walker’s situation until 10 minutes before the game when starters have to be sent to the table.
Van Grinsven spoke of her contribution.

“UCLA is a well-known team and I worked hard in practice with my teammates and we all got ready for this game,” she said.
“Today we proved we are able to play at that level.”

Prim said: “Their guards were pretty tough, we hadn’t seen that except for the Maryland so this is a good test what conference play is going to be.”

UCLA next week opens Pac-12 play against California.

Quakers’ Youth Stop Dragons’ Experience

Sophomore was outstanding as a freshman for Penn a year ago and now Kara Bonenberger is playing even better.

The Quakers newcomer had a career-high 27 points and grabbed 11 rebounds while Baron continued to do her thing as the Ivy scoring leader poured in 26 points as Penn held off a stirring Drexel rally for a 67-65 win in overtime in the Palestra for its first triumph over its neighbor of several blocks away on 33rd Street since 2006.

Kamile Nacickiate led the Dragons with 24 points, including a trey with 0.1 seconds left in overtime that provided the game’s final points. Drexel’s Hollie Mershon added 13.

The Guru was at the two previous games in this post but talked to Penn third-year coach Mike McLaughlin Thursday night about the win in front of a massive kids day crowd, explaining the noon start.

“The great thing about this win is Drexel comes back after we had an 11-point lead and you’ve seen it in the past. The other team comes back and gets you and then takes control in overtime,” McLaughlin said.

“But our kids just got resilient in the extra period and didn’t want to lose.”

Commenting on the Penn website, McLaughlin, who previously coached longtime Division II power Holy Family in Northeast Philadelphia, stated,

"That was a tremendous college basketball game. It was a great atmosphere. To play in front of a good crowd, a lively crowd, it's only going to help us moving forward and in a positive direction,” he said.

"Just to play in The Palestra any day is a great thing, but with the people here and the atmosphere with Drexel being the next block over, this is what Philadelphia basketball is all about," McLaughlin added. "Both teams competed really hard and I'm just really happy we found a way to win."

Penn (6-2) is off to its best start in the team’s 42-year history and though one can say that while the absence of Big Five games until January has been helpful, the Quakers are gathering enough momentum to cause some concern out of St. Joseph’s, Temple, and Villanova, who have yet to play McLaughlin’s group.

The squad is also 5-0 in the Palestra for the first time since 2003-04 when the Quakers won their second Ivy title.
League-favorite Princeton, incidentally, opens Ivy play at Penn January 7.

The Dragons (5-4) parted with a four-game win streak over Penn, which Drexel defeated by 31 points last season in the Daskalakis Athletic Center.

Both teams are quite familiar with each other and have played in numerous pickup games between the two squads.

Two seasons ago the Quakers won just two games and the second came at Dartmouth on the final weekend of the season.

Marisa Crane gave Drexel a chance to win in overtime when she connected with 2.2 seconds left in regulation to tie the game.

“(Drexel coach) Denise (Dillon) drew up a great play for them,” McLaughlin said of the Dragons extending play.

Meghan McCullough hit a long shot in the extra session to give Penn a three-point lead with 1:02 left in the overtime.

The issue was finally decided when senior Jess Knapp blacked Drexel’s attempted trey to tie the game with 15 seconds left and then Baron grabbed the rebound, got fouled and went to the line to secure the win.

For the game, Drexel was 22-of-55 (40.0%) from the field, while Penn was 20-of-55 (36.4%). Penn entered the game No. 7 in the NCAA in three-point defense at 22.1 percent. Drexel entered ranked 22nd in the nation from beyond the arc at 36.7 percent. On Thursday, the Dragons were just 7-of-24 (29.2%).

The Quakers won the rebounding battle, 39-36, and forced 19 turnovers - well above Drexel's average of 13.9 which also ranked 22nd in the nation. Meanwhile, Penn had 14 assists and just 14 turnovers. In the last two games the Quakers have 30 assists and 26 turnovers, and are +10 in turnover margin.

Penn after the holiday break heads to the West Coast to meet UNC-Greensboro in San Diego State’s Surf ‘N Slam Classic on Thursday and then play the host Aztecs on Friday.

Drexel next hosts South Carolina on Wednesday at 5 p.m. in the Dawn Staley-coached Gamecocks’ first-ever visit, though it is a homecoming trip for the Philadelphia basketball legend who last had South Carolina here to play St. Joseph’s two seasons ago in the Hawks’ holiday tournament.

The Drexel men play Fairfield at 7:30 p.m. and Dragons coach Bruiser Flint and his wife Renee are longtime friends of Staley’s, who previously coached Temple.

La Salle Rally Falls Short

The Explorers, coming off a tough loss at Drexel, whittled a 16-point deficit to one with 1:20 left in regulation but Fairfield held them off for a 55-52 victory as La Salle fell to 3-9.

Brittany Wilson had 15 points for La Salle while Alexis Scott, who had a career night Monday against Drexel scoring in the 30s, scored 14 against the Stags and Nadia Duncan had 10.

Katelyn Linney had 19 for Fairfield (7-3), including five treys.

The Explorers after the break play host Dartmouth in the Big Green’s Blue Sky Classic on Thursday and then meet Vermont the next day in Hanover, N.H.

Worth Noting Nationally

In a battle of New York metro area teams host Hofstra survived Marist 71-69 when a video review caused officials to rule a potential game-tying basket to be too late and the Pride (9-2) won their own New York Life Holiday Invitational at the Mack Sports Complex in Hempstead, N.Y.

Former West Chester Henderson High Shante Evans had a three-point play with 12 seconds left that stood up for Hofstra and dropped Marist to 5-5.

Hofstra is ranked 14th and Marist 22nd in the Collegeinsider.com Mid-Major women’s poll.

Evans, the tournament MVP, finished with her fifth double double of the season and 36th of her career with a game-high 29 points and 18 rebounds, including a career-tying 13 on the offensive boards. Katelyn Loper had 14 points and Hofstra of the CAA had a 60-38 rebounding advantage over the Red Foxes, who got 14 points each from Corielle Yard and Casey Dulin.

The Pride’s Candace Bond had 15 points and a career-high 14 rebounds.

Hofstra next hosts Princeton in another battle of Mid-Major nationally prominent teams next Thursday.

Harvard Upsets St. John’s: The Crimson Harvard made it a 2-0 sweep for the Ivies against the outside world by stopping Big East power St. John’s 61-56 at home in Cambridge, Mass., in the first-ever regular season meeting between the two teams.

Amber Thompson had 13 points and a game-high 13 rebounds for St. John’s (7-6), which now has Da’Shena Stevens back in the lineup. She dealt five assists.

Eugenia McPherson had 14 points for the Red Storm, while Shenneika Smith add 12 points.
The Crimson (5-5) had four players net 12 points each, Emma Golen, Victoria Lippert, Brogan Berry and Christine Clark.

Bonnies Still Booming Traditional Atlantic 10 powers are struggling but St. Bonaventure continues to impress in the Mid-Major shadows.

The Bonnies, who Villanova meets next week in the Monmouth tournament, reached 11-1 following a 68-49 win at Colgate (2-11) in Hamilton, N.Y.

“That’s what I told our team, `We just beat Temple and now we have to play an 11-1 St. Bonaventure team,” Villanova’s Harry Perretta noted.

“I put these teams on the schedule and they’ve all gotten good.”

St. Bonaventure is the only 6-0 road team in Division I.

Armelia Horton and Chelsea Bowker each scored 15 points for the Bonnies, who stopped a two-game Colgate win streak.

George Beats George: Host George Mason of the CAA in Fairfax, Va., beat neighboring George Washington of the Atlantic 10 from Foggy Bottom in the nation’s capital as Taleia Moton scored 20 points for the host Patriots (7-3) in the Patriot Center.

Chakecia Miller scored 20 for the Colonials (5-6), who host No. 12 Rutgers next Friday.

Spiders Spin Hartford: Rebuilding Atlantic 10 contender Richmond continues to surprise prior to conference play as the Spiders’ record reached 10-2 with a 69-56 win at home in the Robbins Center over perennial America East power Hartford, which fell to 8-4.

Ruthanne Doherty making a homecoming return to the Virginia city scored 12 points for the Hawks, who will be looking for revenge next week from last season when they host Harvard.

Richmond’s Genevieve Okoro scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for Richmond.

Next up for the Guru with the women’s teams at rest until next week is a visit to the Penn men’s game Friday night at The Palestra.

But he’ll be back with some national observations before the next sunrise.

And happy holidays for the record.

-- Mel

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Guru's Local Report: Temple Squares Away UCLA And Season Record

By Mel Greenberg

Temple got even on the season and even with UCLA beating the Bruins 59-53 Tuesday night in a nonconference game at McGonigle Hall in the second meeting between the two schools in women’s basketball.

A year ago the Owls (5-5) suffered a 71-61 competitive loss to the then-nationally ranked Bruins in Los Angeles.

Senior Shey Peddy provided both bookends to secure the win while scoring a game-high 18 points.

After UCLA (5-5) took its only lead of the night at 2-0, Peddy got Temple going with the first of her three treys and the Owls never trailed again though the Bruins tied it five minutes later 10-10 as Markel Walker celebrated her return to her native city with a field goal.

Peddy also scored on a spectacular player to cut short a UCLA rally at the finish.

The Bruins had trailed 54-43 with 6 minutes, 26 seconds left in the game when they launched a 10-2 run to come with three on Walker’s basket with 47 seconds left.

But then with 15 seconds remaining Peddy tossed an off-balance shot that zipped through the net while she fell over on the floor at the same time on the play.

Jokingly asked how many times she has practiced that winning shot, Peddy smiled and responded, “Everyday. You have work on some shots. It might come in handy some time.”

To which Cardoza interrupted, “So basically, never.”

Peddy described the play from her vantage point as it unfolded.

“I was going to try to beat (the defender). – It was trying to be a step-back move but then my knee buckled and I was falling over, so I didn’t want to turn it over, so I knew if I threw it on the rim someone would get it, but it just went in.”

The visitors then missed a three-point attempt and Kristen McCarthy grabbed the rebound, got fouled, and made 1 of 2 attempts at the line to complete the scoring by both teams.

The win made it three straight after Temple had been idle for 14 days following a home victory over Kent State.

“UCLA, they’re really a tough team, they really pushed us to the edge, and they were down a man, too,” Temple coach Tonya Cardoza said afterwards. “The fact they were able to do what they did today without one of their best players (Atonye Nyingifa) is a credit to them.

“But today I thought our guys fought to the very end. We didn’t back down. (UCLA’s) a great offensive rebounding team but we limited them to nine and a lot of those were team offensive rebounds,” Cardoza added.

“I thought we did a good job of taking care of the ball and keeping our composure, especially down the stretch. And we had guys step up. Whether it was Monaye (Merritt), who hadn’t played a lot, stepping in and playing 20 minutes and doing a really good job against a really good team.

“Shey, obviously scoring and playing defense, (Brittany Lewis) – she’s been a big addition to us, her being able to knock down a jump shot and playing defense, and then BJ (Williams) distributing the ball. I thought we did a really good job playing team basketball today.”

Merritt, a freshman from Friends Central, talked about dealing with UCLA’s pressure on defense.

“`Coach put me in the game because she believes in me and has confidence in me and gives me a boost to have even more confidence in myself. So for them to put full court pressure on me, it’s just like practice when Shey and BJ are guarding – it’s just get the ball up the floor and do what you have to do.”

Lewis had 15 points and Williams scored 13 for Temple while dealing nine assists.

Thea Lemberger scored 13 points and Walker finished with 10.

UCLA has switched coaches since the Owls’ visit a year ago with Nikki Caldwell taking the LSU job after Van Chancellor was let go and her being replaced by Cori Close, who had been the associate head coach to Sue Semrau at Florida State.

But Close has not had the best of luck in Tinseltown since her hire
Jasmine Dixon, a transfer from Rutgers who helped lead UCLA back into the limelight, suffered a season-ending knee injury in September.

Just before Tuesday night’s game it was announced the Bruins would have to go the rest of the season without Nyingifa, their leading rebounder (8.9) and second-leading scorer (14.7).

Nyingifa missed the 2009-10 season with an injury on her other knee which was suffered the previous summer at USA Basketball team trials.

Close was somewhat familiar with Temple having visited here with then-nationally ranked Florida State several seasons ago.

“We watched (on film) the game last year, they’re a good team,” Close said of the Owls. “It’s not like we came in here and didn’t understand what kind of team they have.

“They’re battle tested. They played a great schedule. They have great guard play. I really believe that guard play and rebounding had a lot to do with both games and they brought their strengths and we didn’t,” she continued.

Describing Peddy’s shot ruining her team’s rally, Close said, “It’s a matter of do you hope the other team doesn’t make a play or are you going to go make plays.

“That was our mentality but credit to Temple. They dictated what was going to happen in the game, they moved the ball better.

Obviously, I want to give credit that they made the plays that fit their strengths.

“But I want us to take responsibility for what we allowed to happen instead of make what we need to happen.

“They had a couple of wrinkles we hadn’t seen. Credit to them for using that (long layoff) to surprise us a little bit,” Close added and then addressed her roster situation.

“It was our first game without our leading scorer and rebounder. Everybody talks about how many kids we’ve lost, we lost a lot of kids, but we need to focus on what we do have and I think today we focused on what we don’t have.”

UCLA will stay in town to go to St. Joseph’s on Thursday at 1 p.m.

A contingent of Hawks players attended the game to take their own in-person scout. Drexel players were also in the house because Dragons star Kamile Nacickaite went to the same Regis Jesuit high school in Colorado as UCLA’s Mariah Williams.

Though Temple continues to recover from its five-game losing streak on the road in November and earlier this month, the Owls must now change up to their first City Series game defending last season’s Big Five title when Villanova visits McGonigle Hall Thursday at 4 p.m.

The Wildcats are 2-0 with wins over La Salle and St. Joseph’s. Temple and Villanova are the only ones with a chance to take the local rivalry among the schools by going unbeaten; so much will be riding on the outcome.

Coach Harry Perretta’s squad (8-2) is vastly improved from a year ago and Cardoza spoke of the perils of familiarity compared to playing UCLA from another part of the nation.

“It’s a different type of team you have to get ready for,” Cardoza said. “This type of team we just played against, now we’re going to have to defend in a different way.

“We’re going to have to really communicate, really be smart, because they’ll expose you. Today there were some breakdowns and (UCLA) might not have caught them but on Thursday if we have those same breakdowns, they’ll make us pay for them.

“So we just have to make sure we’re communicating, we’re smart and we’re focusing on the defensive end.”

-- Mel