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.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Guru's Local Report: Temple Squares Away UCLA And Season Record

By Mel Greenberg

Temple got even on the season and even with UCLA beating the Bruins 59-53 Tuesday night in a nonconference game at McGonigle Hall in the second meeting between the two schools in women’s basketball.

A year ago the Owls (5-5) suffered a 71-61 competitive loss to the then-nationally ranked Bruins in Los Angeles.

Senior Shey Peddy provided both bookends to secure the win while scoring a game-high 18 points.

After UCLA (5-5) took its only lead of the night at 2-0, Peddy got Temple going with the first of her three treys and the Owls never trailed again though the Bruins tied it five minutes later 10-10 as Markel Walker celebrated her return to her native city with a field goal.

Peddy also scored on a spectacular player to cut short a UCLA rally at the finish.

The Bruins had trailed 54-43 with 6 minutes, 26 seconds left in the game when they launched a 10-2 run to come with three on Walker’s basket with 47 seconds left.

But then with 15 seconds remaining Peddy tossed an off-balance shot that zipped through the net while she fell over on the floor at the same time on the play.

Jokingly asked how many times she has practiced that winning shot, Peddy smiled and responded, “Everyday. You have work on some shots. It might come in handy some time.”

To which Cardoza interrupted, “So basically, never.”

Peddy described the play from her vantage point as it unfolded.

“I was going to try to beat (the defender). – It was trying to be a step-back move but then my knee buckled and I was falling over, so I didn’t want to turn it over, so I knew if I threw it on the rim someone would get it, but it just went in.”

The visitors then missed a three-point attempt and Kristen McCarthy grabbed the rebound, got fouled, and made 1 of 2 attempts at the line to complete the scoring by both teams.

The win made it three straight after Temple had been idle for 14 days following a home victory over Kent State.

“UCLA, they’re really a tough team, they really pushed us to the edge, and they were down a man, too,” Temple coach Tonya Cardoza said afterwards. “The fact they were able to do what they did today without one of their best players (Atonye Nyingifa) is a credit to them.

“But today I thought our guys fought to the very end. We didn’t back down. (UCLA’s) a great offensive rebounding team but we limited them to nine and a lot of those were team offensive rebounds,” Cardoza added.

“I thought we did a good job of taking care of the ball and keeping our composure, especially down the stretch. And we had guys step up. Whether it was Monaye (Merritt), who hadn’t played a lot, stepping in and playing 20 minutes and doing a really good job against a really good team.

“Shey, obviously scoring and playing defense, (Brittany Lewis) – she’s been a big addition to us, her being able to knock down a jump shot and playing defense, and then BJ (Williams) distributing the ball. I thought we did a really good job playing team basketball today.”

Merritt, a freshman from Friends Central, talked about dealing with UCLA’s pressure on defense.

“`Coach put me in the game because she believes in me and has confidence in me and gives me a boost to have even more confidence in myself. So for them to put full court pressure on me, it’s just like practice when Shey and BJ are guarding – it’s just get the ball up the floor and do what you have to do.”

Lewis had 15 points and Williams scored 13 for Temple while dealing nine assists.

Thea Lemberger scored 13 points and Walker finished with 10.

UCLA has switched coaches since the Owls’ visit a year ago with Nikki Caldwell taking the LSU job after Van Chancellor was let go and her being replaced by Cori Close, who had been the associate head coach to Sue Semrau at Florida State.

But Close has not had the best of luck in Tinseltown since her hire
Jasmine Dixon, a transfer from Rutgers who helped lead UCLA back into the limelight, suffered a season-ending knee injury in September.

Just before Tuesday night’s game it was announced the Bruins would have to go the rest of the season without Nyingifa, their leading rebounder (8.9) and second-leading scorer (14.7).

Nyingifa missed the 2009-10 season with an injury on her other knee which was suffered the previous summer at USA Basketball team trials.

Close was somewhat familiar with Temple having visited here with then-nationally ranked Florida State several seasons ago.

“We watched (on film) the game last year, they’re a good team,” Close said of the Owls. “It’s not like we came in here and didn’t understand what kind of team they have.

“They’re battle tested. They played a great schedule. They have great guard play. I really believe that guard play and rebounding had a lot to do with both games and they brought their strengths and we didn’t,” she continued.

Describing Peddy’s shot ruining her team’s rally, Close said, “It’s a matter of do you hope the other team doesn’t make a play or are you going to go make plays.

“That was our mentality but credit to Temple. They dictated what was going to happen in the game, they moved the ball better.

Obviously, I want to give credit that they made the plays that fit their strengths.

“But I want us to take responsibility for what we allowed to happen instead of make what we need to happen.

“They had a couple of wrinkles we hadn’t seen. Credit to them for using that (long layoff) to surprise us a little bit,” Close added and then addressed her roster situation.

“It was our first game without our leading scorer and rebounder. Everybody talks about how many kids we’ve lost, we lost a lot of kids, but we need to focus on what we do have and I think today we focused on what we don’t have.”

UCLA will stay in town to go to St. Joseph’s on Thursday at 1 p.m.

A contingent of Hawks players attended the game to take their own in-person scout. Drexel players were also in the house because Dragons star Kamile Nacickaite went to the same Regis Jesuit high school in Colorado as UCLA’s Mariah Williams.

Though Temple continues to recover from its five-game losing streak on the road in November and earlier this month, the Owls must now change up to their first City Series game defending last season’s Big Five title when Villanova visits McGonigle Hall Thursday at 4 p.m.

The Wildcats are 2-0 with wins over La Salle and St. Joseph’s. Temple and Villanova are the only ones with a chance to take the local rivalry among the schools by going unbeaten; so much will be riding on the outcome.

Coach Harry Perretta’s squad (8-2) is vastly improved from a year ago and Cardoza spoke of the perils of familiarity compared to playing UCLA from another part of the nation.

“It’s a different type of team you have to get ready for,” Cardoza said. “This type of team we just played against, now we’re going to have to defend in a different way.

“We’re going to have to really communicate, really be smart, because they’ll expose you. Today there were some breakdowns and (UCLA) might not have caught them but on Thursday if we have those same breakdowns, they’ll make us pay for them.

“So we just have to make sure we’re communicating, we’re smart and we’re focusing on the defensive end.”

-- Mel


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