Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Guru's Local Roundup I : Ailing Sweeney Cures Villanova To Beat St. Joe's

(Guru’s note: A separate post from Guru’s triple-header Saturday on Penn’s rally win over Army is below this one. If you are in melgreenberg.com then click the mel's blog on the left to get to the archive. The precede there discusses other posts to come in the next 24 hours. The Drexel men’s story for The Inquirer print edition on the win over Princeton is at philly.com.)

By Mel Greenberg

VILLANOVA, Pa. –
What a difference a year has made for St. Joseph’s and Villanova.

Just 12 months ago in an ugly shooting encounter between the two in their last Big Five matchup, Villanova went to the locker room at the Hawks’ Hagan Arena with a slim 12-11 lead before St. Joseph’s dropped enough shots to eke out a 46-43 victory.

On Saturday afternoon, each team doubled its output from the first half of a year ago but this time in the long-played series between the two schools the second half belonged to Villanova, which made a late run to take a 52-46 victory at The Pavilion on the Main Line.

It was the fifth straight win for the Wildcats (8-2, 2-0 Big Five), whose two losses have been to Mid-Major powers Princeton, the two-time defending Ivy League champion, and Delaware, the favorite to win the Colonial Athletic Association title with junior sensation Elena Delle Donne.

St. Joseph’s (5-4, 0-1 Big Five) had a three-game win streak snapped.

This was also another game of familiarity among the players because of their participation in the Philadelphia/Suburban NCAA Women’s Summer League that was played for the second season in Hatboro, Pa., at the Kelly Bolish Gym, the home of the AAU Renegades.

“We know each other so well, but you never know. (St. Joseph’s) has a bunch of good players,” Wildcats junior Laura Sweeney said.

Sweeney, the reigning Big East player of the week who has been on a tear, was not feeling well before the game and scored just two points. But over the final 20 minutes she got 16 points for an overall total of 18 while grabbing nine rebounds, including several late in the game to stop the Hawks from regaining control.

“I was trying to push through it but it’s tougher to do it when you’re sick,” said Sweeney, a graduate of Cherokee High in South Jersey across the Delaware River in Marlton. “But my teammates kept us in the game the whole time so I was just trying to feed off the excitement they were providing.”

Sweeney has scored in double figures in 21 of her last 24 games and in eight of 10 games this season.

Devon Kane scored 11 points and dealt three assists while Megan Pearson and Rachel Roberts each grabbed eight rebounds.

Emily Suhey came through for the Wildcats again with clutch three-point shooting as she did in Sunday’s win at La Salle to keep Villanova out of harm’s way.

She had three three’s to account for all nine of her points.

“Laura played very well in the second half,” said Wildcats coach Harry Perretta. “It was a typical St. Joe-Villanova game. There’s nothing else to say.

“Both teams are better than last year – I really believe that,” Perretta explained. “They have more experience than last year. We have more experience than last year plus we added some talented players to our roster. But today those three freshmen of mine played like freshmen.

“But the problem is when Laura Sweeney is not scoring the ball for us, we have a problem scoring the ball,” Perretta noted. “And in the second half when she scored it we were a lot better.

“Without Suhey, we’re not even in the game at halftime. So we just have to go back and try to show up the next game, that’s all you can do.”

The Wildcats are off until Dec. 22 when they visit Temple, which has not yet played a City Series contest. The Owls, who are on a two-game win streak, both at home after losing five straight on the road, are off until Dec. 20 when they host UCLA.

St. Joseph’s, which was coming off a gritty win at Lafayette Wednesday night, jumped to a 7-0 lead over Villanova before Sweeney scored her only points in the first half.

This time, the Hawks could not get timely shots, missing a bunch of layups in the closing minutes after Villanova had gained the lead.

Michelle Baker finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds but she struggled from the field on a 4-for-19 afternoon. Erin Shields had a team-high 14 points.

“Sweeney came up big for them and that’s what we were fearful of,” St. Joseph’s coach Cindy Griffin said. “They made plays at the end and we weren’t able to convert on the offensive end.

“I thought we played them very well. I thought we played great team defense and we just didn’t convert. We got the looks we wanted to and we just didn’t convert.”

St. Joseph’s is off until hosting St. Francis of Pennsylvania, coached by former Penn State star Susan Robinson Fruchtl, on Dec. 19. UCLA will visit on Dec. 22.

La Salle Skid Ends

On Thursday night the Explorers put the defensive clamps on Loyola of Chicago in the Windy City for a 48-45 victory that plugged a four-game losing streak on what has been a challenging schedule.

Coach Jeff Williams’ team held their hosts scoreless over their final 1.19 seconds of the nonconference game at Gentile Arena.

It was the Ramblers’ first-ever game in the recently renovated facility.

Brittany Wilson had 13 of her 15 points in the first half for La Salle (3-7) while Jordan Mosley scored 12.

Alexis Scott, who had been a prime scorer for La Salle, got just four points but the quartet of scores were the final ones for the Explorers to emerge with the win.

Ruvanna Campbell, who was making a homecoming trip to Chicago, grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds for the Explorers and blocked three shots.

Patrice King scored 13 for the Ramblers (4-4) while Monica Albano had 10 points.

The key statistic was La Salle’s dominating 45-27 work on the boards.

The Explorers are now off for 11 days before visiting local rival Drexel on Dec. 19.

Navy Sinks Princeton

The road to greater heights for the two-time defending Ivy champions has become somewhat steeper with the Tigers’ second loss of the season – a 65-52 setback Friday night at the hands of the defending Patriot League champion Midshipmen in a nonconference game in Annapolis, Md.

Navy is now 6-3 having shaken off a 1-3 start with a five-game win streak.

The Midshipmen’s Jade Grief, the Patriot preseason player of the year, had 18 points, shooting 9-for-11 from the field while also grabbing eight rebounds.

Princeton’s only other loss occurred at home in Jadwin Gym a week ago when Mid-Major competitor Delaware won to maintain the Blue Hen’s national ranking in the Associated Press women’s poll.

Niveen Rasheed scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, the only Princeton player in double figures.

The Tigers were hoping to follow the path of Harvard’s men’s team, which is now ranked in The Associated Press poll.

They host No. 20 DePaul Tuesday night and then head West to play at No. 5 Stanford and Santa Barbara.

-- Mel

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