Guru's Local College Rdup: Drexel Tops La Salle On Career Nights From Both Sides
By Mel Greenberg
PHILADELPHIA – In some ways, the last seven days for Drexel women’s basketball coach Denise Dillon had amounted to a week of suspense trying to anticipate what she would get from her Dragons against La Salle Monday night in another city matchup that doesn’t count in the Big Five because Drexel is not included in the local fold.
A week ago Monday Drexel succumbed to a hot-shooting Seton Hall team in South Orange, N.J., that did a quick 72-hour turnaround recovery from a thrashing the Pirates at received at home at the hands of No. 2 Connecticut in the Big East Conference opener.
Dillon was distraught over Drexel’s failure to perform defensively in that setback.
Furthermore La Salle was going to come visiting the Daskalakis Athletic Center off an early rough schedule designed by second-year coach Jeff Williams to get the Explorers ready for the annual Atlantic 10 competition that is only a few weeks away.
In their last road trek to the Midwest before taking an 11-day break for finals prior to the visit to West Philadelphia, La Salle broke a four-game losing streak with a low-scoring 48-45 win over host Loyola of Chicago.
This time, though, Dillon was pleasantly surprised as Drexel shook off a career night from La Salle red-shirt junior Alexis Scott with some sharp-shooting of its own for a 72-59 victory heading into another local showdown Thursday when the Dragons travel a few blocks away to meet a highly-improved Penn team in a noon game at The Palestra.
Taylor Wotton had her own career-night with 20 points, shooting 10-for-15 from the field for Drexel (5-3), which shot 52.7 percent from the field for the game and 57.1 percent in the first half when the Dragons built a 12-point lead at 38-26 on Hollie Mershon’s layup two seconds before time expired.
Mershon finished with 13 points, while Kamilie Nacickaite scored 18 points.
“I had no idea,” Wootton said when asked if she sensed a big performance prior to the game. “I shot when I was open and I was open a lot.
She spoke of having to live with the after-effects of the Seton Hall before having a chance to for the Dragons to get back on the winning side.
“It’s tough,” Wootton explained. “Just going to practice every day playing against the same people. You want to play some other teams and compete.”
Scott, who played at Monmouth before becoming eligible this season, scored 33 points on 15-for-23 from the field for the Explorers (3-8), including 3-for-6 on three point attempts. Her previous best was 21.
Brittany Wilson added 11 points.
Jess Koci for La Salle played in her first game since suffering a back injury November 22, while Drexel’s Abby Redick played in her second game of eligibility since transferring from Virginia Tech.
Her brother J.J. Redick was a star at Duke.
La Salle rallied in the second half and got within a point at 44-43 with 13 minutes, 39 seconds left in the game and was still within range of tying things up with a field goal with 9:40 left after one of Scott’s treys.
But then Nacickaite scored on a layup, La Salle committed a turnover and Wootton scored and then Ayana Lee off the bench, who scored nine points, grabbed a steal and hit two free throws for a 54-46 advantage.
“We didn’t want to lose this game, so we stepped up our offense and defense,” Wootton said of cutting off the Explorers’ rally.
Scott got the differential back to six with a layup but then Drexel took over with a 10-2 run heading into the last minute to secure the win.
“What I was most pleased with was the adjustment we made defensively,” Dillon said. “I felt that La Salle came out and Scott knocked down some big shots and some tough shots.
“They’re athletic. They can shoot over you. But I knew it would be a back and forth battle and I was at least pleased how we were able to get looks for people we wanted,” Dillon said of the Dragons’ strategy.
“Taylor Wootton came out from the start and that helps us. Having three scorers is a must in what we do. We can’t rely just on Kamile and Hollie.
“It was nice to see ‘Tay step in there and free things up for other players.
“We had a lead and they cut it quickly, like they can. But we adjusted defensively. It helps when you can substitute players into the game and get what we’re asking,” Dillon said.
“Ayana Lee is a player you never look at and get wowed by her but she’s a coach’s player and a team player and our players know what they’re going to get from her. And it’s great having her out on the floor and she’s going to run the offense and do what you need her to do.”
La Salle will next host Fairfield Thursday at the Explorers’ Tom Gola Arena.
Delaware Climbs Up The Rankings and Stays Unbeaten
The unbeaten Blue Hens (9-0) maintained their best-ever start while being one of nine Division I women’s teams still unbeaten after a 68-47 road win at Providence Monday night that made Delaware 2-0 against Big East teams, including Villanova.
Earlier in the day in their fourth straight week on an inaugural run in the Associated Press women’s rankings coach Tina Martin’s group jumped up two spots to 19th.
Delaware could take a major leap next week after the Christmas tournament when it plays in No. 5 Maryland’s tournament in College Park.
Deep into the second half, Delaware junior all-American sensation Elena Delle Donne was in another spot in which her total, also her nation’s leading scoring average, was matched by the entire opposition at 29 points, which she had collected before being rested for the remainder of the game with things well under control.
Danielle Parker and Delle Donne each grabbed nine rebounds as the host Friars fell to 5-6.
Heading into the game Delaware continued to be ranked No. 1 at the Realtime RPI website, though the Blue Hens’ schedule strength, which had also been tops, slipped to No. 4.
They have been ranked No. 2 in the Mid-major poll behind Wisconsin-Green Bay in a vote by coaches from Mid-major schools, though the Ladyswish site, which includes Atlantic 10 teams for consideration, has listed them first.
It was Delaware’s first game since Dec. 11 because of finals and now the Blue Hens will be off nine more before the Maryland tournament.
Princeton Snaps Skid
The Tigers, who were upset at Navy before losses to nationally-ranked DePaul at home in Jadwin Gym and on the road Saturday at No. 4 Stanford finished the brief West Coast jaunt with a win Monday night, beating host Santa Clara 77-61 as Niveen Rasheed had 20 points, six rebounds and five assists.
The two-time defending Ivy champs (8-4), who are again the favorite to make it a three-peat, are another of the nation’s top Mid-majors with the other loss being at home to Delaware.
Princeton’s Lauren Edwards scored 13, while Kate Miller and Devona Allgood each had 12 points to drop Santa Clara in the nonconference game to 6-6.
The Tigers, incidentally, next week will host Hofstra and West Chester Henderson star Shante Evans before visiting Drexel on New Year’s Eve.
They open the Ivy schedule Jan. 7 at Penn.
St. Joseph’s Cools Red Flash
When Susan Robinson-Fruchtl was a star at Penn State, her visits to Hawk Hill were always a challenge for St. Joseph’s.
But as a coach of St. Francis, Pa., which has won a Northeast Conference title, there wasn’t much she could do as St. Joseph’s finished off the first half with a 21-2 Monday night and cruised to an 83-53 win in the nonconference game.
Katie Kuester had a season-high 16 points for the Hawks (6-4), who will host UCLA Thursday afternoon at 1p.m. following Temple hosting the Bruins Tuesday night.
Saint Francis, which has been shorthanded because of a series of knee injuries, fell to 4-5.
St. Joseph’s senior center Samira van Grinsven scored 14 points, senior Michelle Baker had 13 points and five assists, and sophomore Erin Shields had 13 while senior Kelly Cavallo grabbed 11 rebounds.
Wooding’s Career-Effort Leads Philadelphia University
Forward Christine Wooding also had a career night, this one at Division II Philadelphia University’s Gallagher Athletic Center where she scored 29 points as the Rams (8-3) topped Washington Adventist 83-31 in a nonconference game.
She also had 11 rebounds for her seventh double double for the season while setting a record for Central Atlantic Athletic Conference players shooting 15-for-15 on free throw attempts.
Former Rams star Jessica Romano had the previous mark at 13-for-13.
Taylor Peltzer helped the home team’s cause with 13 points and Megan Finn scored 10 to go with a career-high six rebounds. Kristen Blye got into the career act with 12 rebounds to help drop the opposition’s record to 3-5.
Wooding and Stephanie Agger of the Rams are now in the seventies short of each getting their 1,000th career point at the school.
Coach Tom Shirley’s group will be off until Dec. 30 when it will make a nonconference visit to East Stroudsburg.
Locals Making Good
Princeton’s Niveen Rasheed was the Ivy player of the week, while La’Keisha Sutton, a native of Trenton who plays for Dawn Staley’s South Carolina team was named Southeastern Conference player of the week after the Gamecocks’ major upset of North Carolina Sunday night.
DePaul’s Brittany Hrynko, a native of Philadelphia, was named the Big East freshman of the week.
There was no Big Five women’s award because each school was off for finals since the last honor.
Joe Logan, a former assistant at St. Joseph’s got his 100th win Sunday night coaching Loyola of Maryland to an upset at George Washington, the first win for the program in 15 attempts.
Former La Salle star Kelly Greenberg, who coaches Boston University, guided the Terriers to a first-ever win over Boston College, which will visit St. Joseph’s next week reuniting the Hawks Erin Shields and sister Kerri in another family showdown.