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.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Guru's College Report: Drexel Victimized By Seton Hall's Quicky Recovery From UConn

By Mel Greenberg

SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. –
Mediocre teams as well as those who frequently reside in the national rankings have been known to go into what can be called Post-UConn funk after suffering blowout losses to Geno Auriemma’s national powerhouse Huskies.

On Monday night Seton Hall, at the expense of a strong Drexel team from Philadelphia, decided that was not a condition to their liking.

In the first five minutes junior Brittany Morris hit a pair of three-pointers and a jump shot to spur the Pirates under second-year coach Anne Donovan to an 8-4 lead an eventual 77-64 nonconference win at Walsh Gymnasium.

Though Drexel (4-3) is known as one of the more prominent defense-minded teams out of the Colonial Athletic Association, the Pirates (6-5) of the Big East shredded the Dragons for a 45-29 halftime lead shooting 65.4 percent and never looked back though Drexel mounted somewhat of a rally late in the game.

“For us, the last three games we shot the ball so poorly,” Donovan said afterwards describing the significance of the win. “We started the season, I thought we really had some good ball movement, good looks and knocked shots down, but for the last three games it completed disappeared.

“It felt good to get back on track. Obviously, Drexel was comfortable coming with a zone because we had been shooting so poorly so it was nice to take them out of that early.”

Jasmine Crew had a team high 22 points, while Terry Green scored 17 points, and Morris and Tajay Ashmeade each scored 13 points.

Drexel’s Kamile Nacickaite continued her hot pace, scoring 25 points, while Hollie Mershon scored 17 points, and Taylor Wootton scored 10.

The Pirates were 11-for-17 from behind the arc making one wonder whether Villanova coach Harry Perretta had paid a visit to a Seton Hall practice and teach the art of attacking from deep in the perimeter.

“What do we want to talk about – our horrific defense,” said a disappointed Drexel coach Denise Dillon, whose team had been off all week since opening the CAA last Sunday with a win at UNC Wilmington.

Dillon did not expect the Pirates to be suffering any doldrums here following Friday’s 70-37 loss to No. 2 UConn in what was the Big East opener for both schools.

The Huskies in that game blazed to a 27-3 lead.

“We’re on their home court. They have incredible athleticism. Crew’s doing a heck of a job leading the way. And a lot of other kids stepped up,” Dillon said.

“They were more than prepared for our zone. They knocked down shots early and that certainly gave them momentum and we didn’t make the adjustments,” she continued.

“I was so disappointed with our individual defense and obviously team defense and intensity. I was amazed – all we talked about was contain and contest this team. Rebound the basketball and execute our offense. And we certainly did not contain or contest any of the shots early.

“Forty-five points in the first half. We give up 52 a game and we give up 45 in the first half? We didn’t come out ready to play.

“And the girls have no idea what you’re going to get from one team to the next. If you’re watching women’s basketball you should be fully aware of that. Unfortunately, we don’t.”

Seton Hall opened the season with wins over Florida Gulf Coast and Army, a narrow loss to Michigan and Alabama along with wins over Louisiana Tech and Old Dominion, Donovan’s alma mater.

The Pirates then went into a three-game slide getting smoked by Hofstra of the CAA, Wake Forest and Friday’s blitz from UConn.

Jokingly asked which was worse, the UConn game or 7-foot-2 Uliana Semenova of the former Soviet Union guarding the 6-8 Donovan in international competition in the late 1970s, she responded, “This one Friday night. Not even close.”

The Drexel game was the only one among local Division I teams in the Philadelphia area and one of the few nationally Monday night as most of the schools are in their final exam portion of the fall semester.

But in terms of court tests, the Pirates passed to the delight of Donovan.

“We’re not a team that’s going to score 72 points often, let alone 77,” she said. “So our bread and butter until we get more talented scorers in here has to be defense.

“And with the exception of the Hofstra game and the UConn game, we really buckled down defensively and have become a much better team than last year. We talked about it at halftime – if the shots don’t fall like they did in the first half, let’s make sure we can rely on our defense.

“I’m really pleased how we’ve played this year,” Donovan stated. “We have a good schedule, we handled the schedule well. We needed to get back on track. It was essential to stop the bleeding and tonight we did that not only with a win but how well we played.

“For us to to get back, and Drexel is a really good team, I can’t say the last two days of practice had given me a ton of confidence so I was interested to see how we were going to start the game.

“So it says a lot how Brittany and Jas Crew have provided leadership in that light trying to get people on the right track. Last year we spent too much time worrying about what we didn’t do. And it would just snowball. And this year, we’re much better moving on and moving forward.

“We did not drop below .500. We had to stop the bleeding. I thought we were better today and tired of losing. I don’t know that we had that label last year. That’s a hard thing. When you’re in a program that’s lost for years, sometimes it doesn’t hurt enough to lose,” Donovan explained.

“That might have been our MO last year, this year it’s not. Jasmine Crew is a sore loser, which is as bad as I am. So that helps us, I think. Look to the next one,” the former WNBA New York Liberty coach said.

“After UConn, it took me two days to shake the coma I was in. But you have to learn from the experience or you’re going to stay in the doldrums for a week. But we have a competitive group. The ball is not always going to fall this well for us. But I do know our kids learn from the good and learn from the bad.

“It just makes this team more fun to coach this year. They understand things are better than they were a year ago.”

Drexel is off until hosting La Salle in a non-Big Five city rivalry game next Monday while Seton Hall next hosts Stony Brook on Saturday and William and Mary on Dec. 21 before the holiday break.

Repeat Winners

Penn’s Kara Bonenberger has won her third straight Ivy rookie of the week award following the Quakers’ rally Saturday night over Army at the Palestra that gave them a 5-2 record for their best-ever start over seven games.

Villanova’s Laura Sweeney was named the Big Five women’s player of the week for the second straight time following her 18-point performance in the Wildcats’ win over St. Joseph’s in a Big Five game Saturday on the Main Line at the Pavilion.

AP Poll Notes

Thanks to Nebraska’s move from the Big 12 to the Big 10 the Cornhuskers’ new conference has four teams in the Associated Press women’s poll for the first time since the final rankings of the 2005-06 season.

That year Ohio State was second, Purdue was 11th, Michigan State was 16th, and Minnesota was 25th.
This week Ohio State is 12th, Penn State is 16th, Purdue is 22nd and Nebraska, which has been ranked in the past, is 25th.

Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer is one appearance short of tying retired Texas coach Jody Conradt on the all-time list in fourth place for total poll appearances.

Stringer has 394 collected from three different programs in Cheyney, when the Wolves were in Division I, Iowa, and the Scarlet Knights. Conradt’s 395 were all earned with the Longhorns.

Stringer has also 154 appearances with Rutgers, one less on the all-time list of rankings at the same school, than the 155 she gained with the Hawkeyes.

On Tuesday night, Tennessee visits Rutgers matching up two Hall of Fame coaches – Pat Summitt, over 1,000 wins, and Stringer, over 800, making it a rarity to have a game in which the combined total of wins is that high.

And The First National USBWA Weekly Winner Is ---

Not just yet, but the women’s national player of the week from the United States Basketball Writers Association to go alongside the existing men’s award will be announced by Tuesday afternoon.

To earn the honor one must first be named a Conference women’s player or co-player of the week.

The Guru can tell you the first pool has some strong candidates in terms of frontrunners in terms of Big East winner Sugar Rodgers of Georgetown, Atlantic Coast honoree Riquana Williams of Miami, Southeastern winner A’dia Mathies of Kentucky, Hartford’s Daphne Elliott in the America East, Missouri’s Christine Flores of the Big 12, who had the Tigers’ first triple double since 1995; VCU’s Courtney Hurt of the CAA, which means that you know who is not eligible this week despite leading the nation in scoring – not saying that Hurt is not worthy just pointing out there are other players in the CAA; Fresno State’s Ki-Ki Moore of the Western Athletic Conference, and Nebraska’s Jordan Hooper of the Big Ten.

The Guru is camped out at a place in North Jersey following the Seton Hall game to be on the scene for Rutgers-Tennessee without having to go back and forth. More work gets done this way and bed is only several feet as opposed to several miles away.

Will be back with a quick post in late afternoon and then will be tweeting live from the Rutgers game.

-- Mel

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