By Mel Greenberg
Temple and St. Joseph’s shot their way into a Big Five showdown with impressive victories Saturday and the outcome of Wednesday’s fight for local honors will be one of two marquee attractions this week involving Temple.
The other is a visit next Sunday from No. 7 Xavier at the Liacouras Center in a nationally televised contest, which most likely will determine the regular-season champion in the Atlantic 10.
Meanwhile, Rutgers upset a Top 25 team on the road and got back into the NCAA picture while Villanova now has a two-game win streak and Wildcats coach Harry Perretta is four wins from reaching 600 in his career.
Penn moved up in the Ivy standings but a lop-sided loss Saturday night in the Palestra to Yale reduced the weekend to a split concluding on a flat note. Princeton, however, made it a sweep over both Brown and Yale as the Tigers continue to pursue defense of their conference title.
As the conversation here begins with Temple and St. Joseph’s, the pre-dawn hour of this composition creates a need to avoid assumption in the discussion even though aspects carry a high probability of occurrence.
So let’s first focus on what’s just ahead as a result of Saturday’s victories.
St. Joseph’s shot 52.7 percent from the field in the Hawks’ Hagan Arena to beat La Salle 77-60 in a game counting in both the Big Five and Atlantic 10 Standings.
The visiting Explorers (9-18 overall, 5-7 Atlantic 10, 0-4 Big Five) had won 3-of-4 previous games heading into Hawk Hill, including an impressive upset at home Wednesday night of third-place Charlotte that put La Salle into the conference tournament for the first time in four seasons.
The Explorers had been in one of the two slots at the bottom of the 14-team conference that mean elimination from the A-10 tourney, which in two weeks will be under way at another neutral site at the Tsongas Center in Lowell, Mass.
A year ago, La Salle was eliminated via tie breaking coin flip with Fordham.
Saturday’s loss left the Explorers, picked last in the preseason A-10 coaches’ poll, all alone in ninth place after getting 17 points from Ashley Gale, 15 from Alexis Scott, and 12 from Nadia Duncan.
The Explorers trailed narrowly at the half at 38-36 before the Hawks gained solid control over the remaining 20 minutes.
“I’ll take responsibility, we weren’t prepared mentally for this game,” La Salle first-year coach Jeff Williams said. “We didn’t follow the game plan. We didn’t know what their key players did. They had kids that could just knock down the three and we were nowhere in sight.
“We just weren’t prepared. I’ll take responsibility; we’re a work in progress. I’ll have to continue to teach (his players) how to win and how to be consistent in winning.”
La Salle will finish up the regular season hosting Richmond Wednesday on senior night at the Tom Gola Arena at 7 p.m. and then traveling to Massachusetts Saturday.
In terms of the City Series round robin it will be a battle of Big Five undefeated schools at 3-0 with the winner taking all locally when Temple (21-6 overall) visits the Hawks (17-9 overall) Wednesday night at 7 p.m.
Temple had won four Big Five titles outright and then shared one with St. Joseph’s at 3-1 in Owls’ coach Tonya Cardoza’s first season in 2008-09 before Villanova won it outright at 4-0 a year ago.
In Saturday’s win over La Salle, the Hawks got 15 points from Michelle Baker, 14 from Dominique Bryant, 12 from Kelly Cavallo, and 10 from freshman Erin Shields.
Bryant was the lone Hawks player honored on senior day and she celebrated hitting 4-for-4 on three-point attempts, and 5-of-6 overall shooting from the field.
It was also St. Joseph’s turn to use the Pink Zone theme during the current and annual initiative from the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) in support of the Kay Yow Cancer Fund and to fight breast cancer.
Additionally, junior Katie Kuester scored nine points and dealt six assists.
Her father John Kuester, the NBA Detroit Pistons head coach and former 76ers assistant, took advantage of the All-Star break to come home and watch his daughter play.
St. Joseph’s (7-5 Atlantic 10) has won five in a row and moved into a four-way tie for fifth, which could become a five-way tie for fourth and the final A-10 tourney bye slot if Duquesne (20-6, 7-4) loses Sunday at preseason A-10 favorite Xavier (22-2, 11-0).
After Temple, which beat St. Joseph’s 53-43 on Jan. 19 at the Liacouras Center in the A-10 only game, the Hawks will finish up Sunday at George Washington (8-18, 3-9) in the nation’s capital at the Smith Center.
“We went into a slump, that’s what basketball is, you go on streaks, you don’t go on streaks, hopefully it’s going the right way, so that’s all that matters,” Kuester said of the Hawks’ struggles during the outset of the Atlantic 10 schedule last month.
“’Coach (Cindy Griffin) keeps talking about the teams that are spiraling up and the teams that are spiraling down right now, I think we’re on the up and up. We’ve got a lot more left in us. We’re not ready to be done yet.
“Temple is going to be a big game for us. We have to get them Wednesday night, so we’ll see.”
Griffin gave her analysis on how St. Joseph’s transformed from a quality performer during the non-conference phase of the schedule to lapsing last month and then soaring again in recent weeks.
“This team works so hard on defense we lost sight on working hard on offense,” Griffin said. “And they bought into the fact if we work harder on offense and do little things we’re going to be better.
“Our offense was struggling – we were in the 50s for a so many games – we needed more to get our offense going. They (her players) needed to do more without setting plays and those type of situations.
“When it’s time to do those, we do those, but it’s also about reading each other and it was very important that we got to that point and they’ve been working really, really hard at it.”
Griffin talked about the game against Explorers.
“La Salle is playing better – they just came off a great game with Charlotte. We were a little bit concerned. We were a lot concerned. Anytime a Big Five time is on the same floor you know it’s going to be a battle,” Griffin said.
“I thought we were a little flat the first half. But we really made some plays offensively in the second half.”
Meanwhile, Temple (21-6, 12-0 A-10) took a half-game lead over Xavier, pending Sunday’s outcome by the Musketeers against Duquesne before they host George Washington Wednesday.
NCAA forecasters have been projecting the Owls into the 64-team national tournament field as an at-large team.
The Owls, whose 14-game win streak is the longest since the famous 25-game run in 2004-05, ripped through another opponent, blasting Dayton 76-52 Saturday by shooting 51.7 percent from the field, including 8-for-15 on three-point attempts, while blocking 12 shots – three short of the all-time high.
Joelle Connelly, a transfer from Hofstra, had a career-high five blocks.
Though Justine Raterman, the top player for Dayton (16-10, 7-5) with a 16.0 scoring average, was sidelined with a concussion, the Owls shutout the Flyers’ second scoring leader Kristin Daugherty (12.7) and third in Parice Lalor (8.9) on a combined 0-for-10.
Olivia Applewhite scored 12 points, though shooting a paltry 4-for-14 while The Flyers overall were limited to 24.6 percent from the field.
“I thought we came out with a great defensive mindset, not allowing them to get anything easy,” Cardoza said. “And then going down the other end and scoring – and scoring in a bunch of different ways, whether it was threes or dribble penetration or points in the paint, but right now we’re playing great defense.”
Shey Peddy, a leading candidate for Big Five player of the year, scored 17 points; Victoria Macaulay scored 14 inside, tying a career-high for the second game in a row and also with a game-high eight rebounds; Qwedia Wallace scored 12 on 5-of-8 from the field; and Marli Bennett and BJ Williams each had 10 points.
Wallace, who needs two treys to tie the Temple career record of 154 by recent Big Five Hall of Fame inductee Stacey Smalls, is one of three 1,000-plus points career scorers in the Owls lineup along with Kristen McCarthy and Peddy, a newcomer whose first two seasons were at Wright State.
“Defensively, the way we’re playing now, it’s tough to beat us,” Cardoza said.
As daylight looms on Sunday morning, here are the scenarios to finish out the season and decide the A-10 top seed.
If Xavier wins Sunday against Duquesne, the Musketeers again tie with Temple. Then if both win or lose Wednesday, Sunday’s game at Temple determines a conference champion outright and Number One seed.
Neither team can finish worse than second and both have clinched first-round byes.
If Xavier loses Sunday and then loses Wednesday and Temple beats St. Joseph’s, the Owls win the top seed outright no matter what happens against the Musketeers, who have two WNBA high first-round draft picks in Ta’Shia Phillips and Amber Harris.
If Xavier wins the next two and Temple loses Wednesday, the Owls with a win against the Musketeers gain a regular-season tie and the top seed by virtue of the head-to-head triumph.
The loss Saturday by No. 22 Marquette to Rutgers and No. 23 Penn State’s loss to Ohio State on Thursday creates potential vacancies to be filled in the next AP poll with Texas Tech, which upset No. 1 Baylor Saturday, Conference-USA leader Houston, and Temple as strong candidates to fill the void if it occurs.
Elsewhere in the Atlantic 10 Saturday, George Washington played respectable after its drubbing by Temple at home, but was edged on the road at Richmond, 70-62, as the Spiders (16-10, 7-5) moved into the fifth-place deadlock with St. Joseph’s, Dayton via the Temple loss, and St. Bonaventure (17-10, 7-5), which grabbed a 62-52 win at Fordham (11-17, 3-9).
Charlotte (21-6, 9-3), holding third place by a game, recovered from its loss at La Salle to pick up a 70-53 win over visiting St. Louis (7-20, 1-11).
Massachusetts (7-20, 3-9) picked up a key 75-71 win against visiting Rhode Island (7-19, 1-11) to keep the Rams tied for last with St. Louis.
Neither team in the 13th and 14th place slots seems capable of overcoming the two-game deficits needed to be erased to avoid elimination from playing in the A-10 tournament. Rutgers And Villanova Pick Up Big East Wins
The Scarlet Knights (15-11, 8-5 Big East) got back into the NCAA picture with a 76-55 win at No. 22 Marquette (20-6, 8-5) in Milwaukee as Khadijah Rushdan of Wilmington, Del., a redshirt jiunior, had a game-high 20 points to move Rutgers into a three-way tie for fifth with the team it beat and Louisville.
Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer’s squad will have a chance to add another signature win when it plays nationally-ranked West Virginia (21-6, 7-6), which on Saturday won 90-79 at nearby-rival Pittsburgh (13-13, 5-8).
No. 2 Connecticut (26-1, 13-0), which leads the conference, put itself in position to move back to the top of the AP Poll after Sunday’s vote courtesy of No. 1 Baylor’s loss at Texas Tech in a Big 12 game and the Huskies’ 78-57 win at home in Storrs Saturday over No. 8 Notre Dame (22-5, 11-2).
St. John’s (18-8, 7-6), which visits Villanova Tuesday, suffered a tough 78-67 loss at home to Syracuse (19-7, 7-6).
It would be a record but in this particular year not shocking to see nine Big East teams make the NCAA women’s tournament.
Villanova (10-16, 2-11) moved up to 13th place from dead last by taking a 62-54 road win over Seton Hall (8-18, 1-12) in South Orange, N.J.
The Wildcats’ Lindsay Kimmel, who connected on 5-of-7 three pointers, scored 18 points, while Laura Sweeney scored 14, and Devon Kane had 12.
Villanova’s Perretta, who is in his 33rd season, is now 596-375 – four wins short of 600.
He could still get there this season by winning the last three over St. John’s, South Florida and Pittsburgh, and the first round of the Big East tournament next month in Hartford Connecticut. Penn Finishes With A Split While Princeton Holds Ground
Defending Ivy champion Princeton (19-4, 8-1), which moved back into first a week ago following a brief drop to second, held its ground with wins over Yale and Brown (7-17, 3-7) to stay a game in front of Harvard (15-8, 7-2).
The Quakers (10-13, 4-5) moved into fourth place Friday night by beating Brown 55-43 at The Palestra but the three-game win streak ended Saturday when Yale (11-13, 7-3) picked up a 66-53 win.
The Friday win over the Bears gave Penn a season’s sweep over an Ivy opponent, with opportunities for two more on the weekend trip ahead to Cornell and Columbia.
Freshman Alyssa Baron had 24 points against Brown while Caroline Nicholson scored 12.
Penn welcomed the alumni back for a throwback game earlier in the day but the Quakers were unable to show their progress later against the Bulldogs.
Brianna Bradford scored 13 for Penn.
“Tonight we got totally outplayed and the credit goes to Yale for making us not play well,” Penn coach Mike McLaughlin said.
“They put us on our heels from start to finish and took it to us in all phases of the game and we didn’t fight back very well.”
Baron got in foul trouble and only scored nine points while being limited to nine points.
Meanwhile, Princeton had beaten Yale 73-57 at home in Jadwin Gym with Megan Bowen getting a career-high 15 points Friday night while Devonna Allgood scored 14, Laren Edwards scored12, and Addie Micir and Lauren Polansky each scoring 10 points.
In the 75-38 win over Brown, Edwards had 20 points and Bowen had her first career double double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Allgood and freshman Ncole Hung each scored 12. Texas Tech One For The Books
Back in 1993, Texas Tech rocketed into its first and only NCAA championship with a senior named Sheryl Swoopes shooting the lights out of the ball in the Women’s Final Four.
Swoopes went on to become a three-time gold medalist with the Olympic team and coach Marsha Sharp, who has been retired, went on to Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame stature.
Now the Red Raiders under former Purdue coach Kristy Curry have drawn attention again with the upset of No. 1 Baylor Saturday – only the fifth time in the 35-yesr history of the ranking that a team outside the poll felled the leader of the pack.
Here’s the chart to close this discussion. The Guru on Sunday will be at Delaware for James Madison, the leader of the Colonial Athletic Association, while Drexel will be hosting Virginia Commonwealth.
Here’s the list of AP upsets: AP UNRANKED UPSETS NO. 1 TEAMS
March 1991 -
Penn State finished No. 1 in the final AP poll. The Nittany Lions then fell at home to unranked James Madison, 73-71, in the second round of the NCAA tournament at State College.
The loss, incidentally, helped pave the wave for UConn to eventually emerge from Philadelphia to advance to its first Final Four.March 1993 -
Unranked Georgia beat No. 1 Tennessee, 73-72, in the second round of the SEC tournament in Chattanooga, Tenn.Jan. 17, 1994 -
Rutgers 87, Tennessee 77 at Piscataway, N.J. An ice storm beset the region. The Scarlet Knights, then under Theresa Grentz, were at the other extreme shooting a torrid 80 percent through much of the first half to make headlines.Jan. 26, 2006 -
Kentucky 66, Tennessee 63. - Wildcats coach Mickie DeMoss, a former longtime assistant to Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, gains some notoriety at the expense of her former boss.Feb. 19, 2011 –
Texas Tech 56, Baylor 45 – Host Red Raiders pull a Big 12 Shocker after Baylor had reached the top for the first time in late December.