Womhoops Guru

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

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Guru's College Report: Villanova and St. Joseph's Set To Collide On Higher Ground In Big 5

By Mel Greenberg

EASTON, Pa. --
Unlike the past several years St. Joseph's and Villanova are heading into Saturday's Big Five showdown at the Wilcats' Pavilion on equal footing with each team having made major strides since they met 12 months ago on Hawk Hill.

That was a game in which Villanova held a slim 12-11 halftime lead before shots started dropping for the Hawks, who went on to a 46-43 win at Hagan Arena.

Both teams got ready Wednesday night with impressive wins in different forms.

St. Joseph's here captured its third straight and first true road win of the year, beating an improving Lafayette squad 65-57 in a nonconference game at the Leopards' Kirby Sports Center.

Villanova, meanwhile, won its first Big East opener in six years, romping to a 69-42 victory over host Providence at the Friars' Dunlin Donuts Center in Rhode Island.

In the game here both teams had trouble getting untracked and were tied 2-2 with 16 minutes, 1 second left in the first half before St. Joseph's (5-3) inched ahead and eventually built a 13-point lead though Lafayette (3-6) was able to keep its deficit in single digits most of the second half.

"I was really happy with our post defense, today," St. Joseph's coach Cindy Griffin said. "I think our posts really stepped up, defensively, our guards made some big shots, Michelle Baker made some great shots down the stretch and (Katie) Kuester's three was hugh, Ilze's (Gotfrida) layup was timely and Lafayette is a good team. They weren't going to go away."

Baker finished with 18 points, Kuester scored 11, and Erin Shields and Kelly Cavallo each scored 10 points while Cavallo made it a double double with 10 rebounds,

Additionally, while Samira Van Grinsven scored just two points, her jumper with 18:24 left in the game was enough to reach the four-digit club taking her from 999 points before the game to 1,001 for her career, including two years at Casper College out West in Wyoming.

Kuester's trey with 6:46 left in the game got the Hawks back to a 10-point lead to blunt a Lafayette rally.

Gotfrida made it a 10-point game again at 55-45 with 2:54 left to play.

"Certainly, we have things to improve on going deeper into December but I thought our first road win was terrific."

The Hawks have a win away from home against Dartmouth but that came at Vermont University in Burlington on a neutral court.

Brya Freeland, a freshman for Lafayette, got a career-high 21 points, including 4-for-6 on three-point attempts, while 6-foot 7 sophomore center Danielle Fiacco had 16 points and 11 rebounds.

St. Joseph's is now 6-0 all time against the Leopards but Wednesday's win was the first here since a 90-62 triumph in February, 1985, before the Kirby Center was built and before any of the Hawks in the game were born.

Griffin was still in high school with intentions to play at St. Joseph's.

"Michelle's aggessiveness really helped keep our lead going," Griffin said of the Hawks' ability to avoid suffering an upset.

"When teams are going after you, you have to be aggessive, you have to be smart, but you have to be aggessive and I think we did that today."

Despite rare meetings between the two schools -- Lafayette competes in the Patriot League -- there is a familarity because players on both sides play in the Philadelphia/Suburban NCAA Women's Summer League in Hatboro, Pa.

A bunch such as Cardinal O'Hara grads Melissa Downey and Alicia Manning of Lafayette, Kuester and Baker were all teammates on the AAU Comets.

Both Lafayette and St. Joseph's have lost to two-time Ivy champion Princeton, while the Leopards a week ago played quite lethargic in a low-scoring 49-39 loss to Penn at The Palestra.

Lafayette then bounced back to beat Manhattan Saturday and play competitively here against the more experienced Hawks.

"Being a young team, we knew we were going to take some lumps," said Lafayette second-year coach Dianne Nolan, a graduate of Gloucester Catholic High in South Jersey who coached Fairfield for several decades.

"But when you have a young team you want to make sure you get better every day," Nolan explained. "And we grew a lot from our Penn game, our Manhattan, and we had an outstanding week of practice and our kids are just going to get better and better."

That's what Villanova (7-2, 1-0 Big East) has been doing this season right from the opening game upset of Michigan State, which was then ranked in the USA Today/ESPN coaches' poll.

Laura Sweeney, who has also been named the Big East player of the week as well as Big Five women's player of the week, scored 25 points against the Friars (4-5, 0-1), a total the graduate of Cherokee High in South Jersey also reached last season against St. Joseph's

She made 10 of 15 shots from the field and also grabbed 13 rebounds, blocked two shots and grabbed three steals.

Rachel Roberts scored 14 points for Villanova, which had a 32-18 lead at the half.

Teya Wright scored 17 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for Providence, which was held to 31 percent shooting from the field.

Change Of Venue

Here's how the conference roll call of current members would look like if the musical chair movement of teams going to new conferences went into effect immediately.

The Big 12 loses 188 appearances (Texas A&M -- 127, Missouri - 61) and picks up 93 (West Virginia -- 55, TCU -- 38).

The Southeastern Conference picks up 188 appearances (Texas A&M -- 127, Missouri 61),

The Big East loses 94 appearances (West Virginia -- 55, Pittsburgh -- 34, Syracuse -- 10) and picks up Houston's 33. SMU and UCF have never been ranked.

The Atlantic Coast Conference doesn't lose any and picks up 44 (Pittsburgh -- 34, Syracuse -- 10).

Conference USA loses 33 from Houston while the Mountain West loses 38 from TCU.

Some others are in flux at the moment in terms of whether and where Women's Basketball makes a move at such places as San Diego State and Boise State.

-- Mel














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