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.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Guru's College Roundup: Villanova Bolts To Big Five Win At La Salle

(Guru’s note. Reports and quotes beyond the game site in the top of the post steam from team and wire service filings.)

By Mel Greenberg

Villanova jumped to a dominating 20-4 start and never got into serious trouble the rest of the way to beat host La Salle 67-51 Sunday afternoon at the Explorers’ Tom Gola Arena in the first Big Five encounter of the season for the Wildcats.

Junior Laura Sweeney, a graduate of nearby Cherokee High in South Jersey from Marlton, scored 24 points for the Wildcats (6-2, 1-0 Big Five), a total that was matched on the La Salle side by redshirt junior Brittany Wilson, who sat out last season, per NCAA eligibility rules, after transferring from Northeastern University of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA).

Sweeney was also the top rebounder overall with 11 while Wilson had a team-high eight for the Explorers (2-7, 1-1 Big Five).

Redshirt freshman Taylor Homan had 11 points for Villanova, shooting 5-for-7 from the field, while Emily Suhey scored 12 and was 4-for-6 on 3-point attempts to keep Villanova out of danger.

The Villanova win in the Big Five race sets up a key matchup Saturday when the Wildcats host St. Joseph’s at 2 p.m. at The Pavilion. The Hawks have yet to play in the City Series and will first travel to Lafayette Wednesday night for a nonconference matchup with the Leopards in Easton, Pa.

Nadia Duncan was the next top La Salle scorer with nine points.

“(La Salle) is a much improved team from last year and so are we but I was concerned how you saw in stretches we could not guard them – we had to go zone,” veteran Wildcats coach Harry Perretta said about defending the Explorers.

“We could not guard them off the dribble. We did a good job of playing the zone, then they hit a couple of threes, we had to get out of it and you saw never the end of the first half, once we got out of it, they were passing by us like we were standing still.

“In the second half, the zone worked for eight to 10 minutes and we were able to get the lead up,” Perretta said of beginning the final 20 minutes ahead 31-20 and then increasing the differential to a 19-point lead at 58-39 with 7 minutes, 18 seconds left in the game.

La Salle then rallied but got no closer than 12 points the rest of the way.

“It was one of those games when you had to make shots and we made enough to win it,” Perretta said.

How well is Villanova doing compared to a year ago at this time?

The Wildcats won the game even though Rachel Roberts and Lauren Buford, the next two leading scorers, were shutout.

“We have more weapons than we had last year,” Perretta said. “We also have more depth than Salle so we probably wore them down a little bit.”

Sweeney has been on a tear since the start of the season.

Sunday was her third 20-point game over the last four games and her second straight double double. Overall, it was her fifth career 20-point game and she has scored in double figures in 19 of her last 22 dating back to last season.

Sweeney and several other Villanova and La Salle players performed well several months ago in the Philadelphia/Suburban NCAA Women’s Summer League in Hatboro, Pa.

“Everything was working for us today,” Sweeney said. “Aside from summer league we worked a lot alone on learning to play together. So just getting used to playing with the new girls and getting them used to the system is going to help us, especially today because they stepped up big.”

La Salle had its problems handling Villanova.

“They pushed it on us, we went man, and we couldn’t defend them,” second-year coach Jeff Williams said. “Sweeney hurt us, we couldn’t stop her, we went zone and slowed them down a little bit and and they figured out it, started moving the ball well and hitting shots.

“They’re tough. They’re scoring the ball well this year, they’re playing well together and they’re a little more talented than they have been.”

La Salle’s record is a consequence of an upgraded nonconference schedule as the Explorers prepare for the Atlantic 10 wars when January arrives.

They have seen such notables out of the Big East in St. John’s, Rutgers and West Virginia, and also lost to Florida and host Long Island in a recent tournament.

Long Island, which also opened the season in the WNIT winning at Drexel, also has a win over Atlantic 10 contender Charlotte.

“I hope we didn’t beat (his players) down with the schedule,” Williams said. “This has been tough but you say you want to come and be competitive and compete at the highest level, well that’s what we’re trying to do.

“The A-10 is very tough so we’re playing tough competition to get ready for it. Long Island was a lot better than I expected – they’re very tough. They’ll do well and win 20 games, which will help us out.

“The pace of the game is good for us when we play this competition so hopefully when we get to conference we can get some wins. That was our mentality when we set the schedule up.”

Clearing The Record On The Last Post

The Guru has since made the fix in the previous blog but for those who read it earlier the Temple-Kent St. game Tuesday night is in the Liacouras Center and not McGonigle Hall next door across Montgomery Avenue.

Drexel and Delaware Soar To Wins In CAA Openers

Drexel recovered from last Wednesday’s setback at St. Joseph’s with a pulsating 58-43 win at UNC North Carolina in Wilmington while No. 24 Delaware completed its initial week with a first-ever Associated Press women’s ranking by spanking William & Mary 73-57 before a near-capacity crowd of 3,051 at the Blue Hens’ Bob Carpenter Center in Newark.

In a scheduling quirk that unintentionally simulates back-to-back games in invitational tournaments this time of year Delaware will be back on its home floor Monday night to host Yale (4-2), which finished in a tie for second with Harvard in the Ivy League last season.

Delaware will be in that same configuration later this month when they play in No. 6 Maryland’s tournament in College Park, potentially meeting the Terrapins the second night.

The Blue Hens on Thursday won at two-time defending Ivy champ Princeton in a battle of two of the nation’s very best mid-major programs.

In three other notable results on the lone December date on the CAA schedule before full weekly competition begins next month, Hofstra continued to light up the scoreboard, beating host Georgia State 86-71, while host Towson upset defending champion James Madison 65-58, and host George Mason beat Old Dominion 85-69.

Drexel (4-2, 1-0 CAA) held the Seahawks (2-4, 0-1) to a 29.1 percent effort from the field.

Kamile Nacickaite had 17 points for the Dragons while Hollie Mershon added 16 points and Taylor Wootton scored 10. UNCW’s Karneshia Garrett had a game-high 21 points.

The command of the game enabled Drexel coach Denise Dillon to go deep into her bench resulting in freshman Tiffany Johnson getting her first collegiate point from a foul shot near the end of the game.

The Dragons, who have one more road stop, next visit improved Seton Hall a week from Monday night (tonight).

Down at Delaware (6-0), junior Elena Delle Donne continues to light up the scoreboard and at one point William & Mary combined for 17 points, which was two less than Dellle Donne’s 19 during the first half.

The graduate of Wilmington’s Ursuline Academy is leading Division I with a 30.6 scoring average.

She scored 32 against the Tigers and settled for 23 Sunday against the Tribe (4-3, 0-1), though she only played 28 minutes as Delaware moved to its best start in the 41-year history of the program.

The previous best was 5-0 last year and in 1992-93.

Delle Donne also had nine rebounds, five assists, and blocked three shots wil topping the 20-point mark for the 10th straight game since last season.

Jocelyn Bailey scored 11 points and grabbed five rebounds coming off the bench while Lauren Carra scored 10 points.

William & Mary outscored Delaware 38-29 in the second half as coach Tina Martin continues to stop the only flaw the Blue Hens have shown so far in terms of closing out games after building big leads.

Janine Aldrige had five treys for the Tribe and scored 17 points.

“We played very well in the first half but the intensity dropped in the second half,” Martin said. “We need to shut the door when we have that kind of lead. We just need to learn to get it (intensity) back no matter how much we are up or who is on the floor.

“We’re trying to become a really good team so the intensity always has to be at a high level. With our current players, we can get to that next level,” Martin continued.

“It was great to see all the fans come out and we hope that they will continue to do so. They are our sixth man. There’s an excitement in the air about this team right now and the more the merrier.”

In Hofstra’s win in Atlanta, senior guard Nicole Capurso became the 22nd member of the 1,000-Point Club on the Pride (6-1, 1-0 CAA) and scored 100 points against Georgia State (2-4, 0-1).

Hofstra also got 16 points, eight assists, five rebounds and four steals from senior guard Candice Bellocchio and the points were her season high.

Towson (5-2, 1-0), at home in Maryland, had five players score in double figures in gaining just the Tigers’ third win ever in the series with JMU (5-1, 0-1), which had a five-game streak on the season ended.

Deree Fooks had 13 points and 13 rebounds for Towson and her teammate Nyree Williams had 11 points and 14 rebounds.

JMU’s Tarik Hislop scored 14 points.

George Mason (6-1, 1-0) has won six straight since dropping the season opener and had three players score in double figures at the Patriot Center in Fairfax, Va., against the Lady Monarchs, who are under first-year coach Karen Barefoot.

Taleia Moton had a career-high 33 points, her third straight 30-point game and what is it about the drinking water in the conference that annually produces leading scorers in the NCAA statistics. Rhaneeka Saunders scored 17 points and Janaa Pickard scored 16.

The last George Mason player to score 30 or more in three straight games was Cindy Lundberg in 1975 during the presidency of the late Gerald R. Ford.

ODU fell to 1-8 overall and 0-1 in the CAA.

Broncos Challenge Hoyas

A week after hosting Princeton in a neighborhood game in Lawrenceville, N.J., Rider of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference traveled to the nation’s capital and extended No. 20 Georgetown (7-2) before losing to the Big East member 58-51 at the Hoyas’ McDonough Arena.

Sugar Rodgers gaver Georgetown a sweet finish with 21 points as the Hoyas rallied from a double digit deficit of 12 points at 37-25 early in the second half.

Georgetown has not lost at home in nonconference play in the regular season since Dec. 17, 2006.

Sironda Chambers scored 20 points for Rider (3-3), which got 16 points and 13 rebounds from MyNeshia McKenzie.

Georgetown, which forced Rider into 24 turnovers, was again missing their second-leading scorer for the second straight time as Tia Magee sat out to rest.

No. 4 Texas A&M, the defending national champion, was tripped up by No. 13 Purdue in a nonconference game in West Lafayette, Ind., as the Boilermakers pulled a 60-51 upset as part of the Big 12/Big Ten Challenge.

Purdue’s Courtney Moses scored 15 points and Brittany Rayburn scored 14 to help prevent Texas A&M setting a school record, which would have been 13 straight wins if the Aggies (6-1) had beaten Purdue (7-1).

"When that target gets on your back, you've got to play a little bit better than we did today," Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said.
The Aggies next head to Hartford for a matchup with No. 2 Connecticut as part of the Jimmy V Classic involving men’s and women’s games.

"If I'm UConn, I can't wait for us to come in, because right now, we've got to become a better basketball team," Blair said. "Right now, we've got a team full of excuses. We've got to find the solutions."

Speaking of the Huskies on the East Coast, the Huskies of the Northwest are making a little stir as Washington (5-2) topped Long Beach State 80-46 at home in Seattle to move their record to 5-2, the best start since a 9-2 bolt in 2005-06 when June Daugherty was coaching.

Jazmine Davis had a career-high 18 points for Washington, which is under first-year coach Kevin McGuff, formerly with Xavier, the two-time defending Atlantic 10 champions.

The 49ers’ Alex Sanchez scored 20 points as Long Beach fell to 2-6.

"I don't think you can get too high after a game like that," McGuff said. "I think you have to get in there and watch the film and address some things. It's easy to feel good right now, but I don't want our team to feel complacent.

"With a new system, I still just think we have so much room to grow."

There was no new system for No. 5 Stanford (6-1) Sunday, just a lot of rebounds to grab by the Oguwmike sisters against host Fresno State in a 93-59 victory by the Cardinal.

Nnemkadi Ogwumike scored 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds and Chiney Ogwumike added 13 points and a career-high 16 boards as the Bulldogs fell to 5-3 after the nonconference matchup.

Stanford dominated the boards 67-28 collecting a total just one short of the program’s single-game record for total rebounds.

The Cardinal cashed in on 28 offensive rebounds for a 37-6 advantage on second-chance points. Stanford also shot 50.7 percent from the field.

"Second-chance points are always a good way to imprint your stamp on teams," Nnemkadi Ogwunike said. "Getting those o-boards in the beginning really helped us."

Madison Parrish, Alex Sheedy and Veronica Wilson scored 11 points each for Fresno State, which has made four straight NCAA tournament appearances out of the Western Athletic Conference.

No. 1 Baylor handled host Minnesota as part of the Big 12/Big Ten challenge in a game in which WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve was going to attend and see the downside of repeating as champs next season.

Unless a deal can be made, and she has been good in that department, the Bears' Brittney Griner will going elsewhere as the No. 1 or No. 2 overall pick.

Meanwhile the Guru will be down at Delaware Monday night. Also, the new national women’s player of the week award joining the men’s weekly honor will not begin until next week.

Winners are picked from the collection of ongoing conference players of the week announced on Mondays and Tuesdays.

The Guru will return in a few hours with breaking tweets, if warranted, and will be tweeting from Delaware at @womhoopsguru.

He recommends for those who have intent of making the trip to leave early, beat the rush hour crowd and enjoy the pit barbecue offerings at the concession stand on the second level.

-- Mel


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