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


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