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.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Guru's College Report: Delaware and Drexel Win Big Heading To Sunday CAA Showdown

(Guru's note: Material and quotes from beyond Drexel game site drawn on team and wire reports)

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA – There was very little for Drexel coach Denise Dillon to find fault with her Dragons in a 66-39 win Thursday night over Northeastern at home at the Daskalakis Athletic Center.

At the same time to the south on a night that Elena Delle Donne was a bit off the mark No. 16 Delaware used balance to end Towson’s 7-0 home streak with a lopsided 65-46 victory and a season sweep of the Tigers.

Thus the stage was set for the first of two meetings between these neighboring rivals Sunday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. when Drexel travels to Delaware at the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark with a chance to knot things even tighter in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Drexel (9-7, 5-1 CAA) won its fourth straight and continued its recent combo of tough defense and balanced offense to handle the Huskies (3-14, 1-5) as Tyler Hale and Kamile Nacickaite each scored 14 points while Hollie Mershon, the reigning CAA co-player of the week, scored 13 and Taylor Wootton scored 12.

In yet another wild night in the CAA, Delaware (15-1, 6-0), the preseason favorite, finally broke free in the standings to takeover first place alone and unbeaten in conference play while Drexel’s second-place dynamics was altered.

The Dragons became tied with Hofstra (13-4, 5-1), which lost at home 81-63 to two-time defending CAA champion James Madison (13-4, 4-2).

Virginia Commonwealth (11-6, 4-2) was nipped 57-56 at North Carolina-Wilmington (10-7, 3-3) to fall into a third place tie with James Madison.

Alisha Andrews scored the game-winner for UNCW with 18 seconds remaining in regulation.

After Delaware plays Drexel Sunday, the Blue Hens will host Hofstra next Thursday night while Drexel will travel to VCU. Hofstra will host Northeastern on Sunday.

“It’s early in the year,” Dillon said. “You don’t get too worked up on positioning right now – especially with the stretch we have coming up, so I just told our players, `Sunday’s game is a game you’d love to steal but we have nothing to lose and everything to gain.’

“We’re trying to take care of the games we have a chance of winning and we’re doing exactly that.”

While Drexel was able to hold Northeastern’s Jewell Tunstell to five points – seven below her average, the Huskies broke free for several three-pointers early in the game but the Dragons tightened things up after Jamie Conroy nailed a trey for a 16-15 lead with 7 minutes, 39 seconds left in the first half.

“I was upset early with the threes we were giving up, but we made the adjustment defensively and our players responded,” Dillon said.

“Once we took them out of that game with threes, it made it hard and Taylor Wootton did a phenomenal job on Tunstell. We’re talking about how important post defense is and she single handedly took her out of the game.”

Northeastern’s Conroy and Deanna Kerkhof each scored 12 points for the Huskies fueled by their three-pointers in the first half.

Meanwhile, down at Towson, Delle Donne, the nation’s leading scorer with a 29.3 average, was held to 15 points by the Tigers (11-6, 2-4) and the Blue Hens still won with ease.

Delle Donne missed most of the first half of Sunday’s win at Northeastern but still scored 22 points playing with what has been diagnosed as a calf injury.

It was the first time in 19 games that Delle Donne did not score 20 or more points dating back to last season.

Delaware’s Lauren Carra had a season-high 15 points and in the first half the Blue Hens found the open person consistently in getting 13 assists on 13 baskets and a 39-18 lead at the half.

Akeema Richards added 11 points and Danielle Parker scored nine.

“We shared the ball and our defense set the tone,” Delaware coach Tina Martin said. “I knew this had to be about defense and rebounding. We got some really good looks, and the defense led everything from there.

“Elena is wrestling with an injury, which really showed the strength of the team tonight. It’s nice to see the team step up because I know they are capable of doing that. They proved it tonight. It’s a win-win all around.”

Lucas Leads Penn State Again

Germantown Academy graduate Maggie Lucas of Narberth, Pa., just outside of Philadelphia, had 19 points as No. 22 Penn State picked up its third straight win and first since returning to the AP Poll after a week’s absence by beating host Illinois, 71-65, in a Big Ten game in Champaign.

Alex Bentley, the preseason conference player of the year, scored 15 points for the Lady Lions (14-4, 4-2 Big Ten) against the Illini (6-13, 0-6).

Penn State’s Nikki Greene had 10 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots.

It was the 80th win for Lady Lions head coach Coquese Washington, whose team will host Iowa Sunday. Lucas crossed the 900-point milestone and now has 917 career points.

Elsewhere in the Big Ten, No. 13 Purdue got a season-high 20 points from fifth-year senior Antionette Howard as the Boilermakers topped in-state rival Indiana 82-60 to hold first-place at 16-3 overall and 6-0 in the conference.

She also had eight rebounds and four steals.

Indiana fell to 5-14 overall and remained winless in the conference at 0-6.

In a game between two ranked teams in the conference No. 10 Ohio State stopped No. 20 Nebraska 82-68 as Tayler Hill scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds while Samantha Prahalis scored 19 points and dealt nine assists for the Buckeyes (18-1, 5-1 Big Ten) at home in Columbus, Ohio.

Prahalis is the only senior on the Ohio State roster.

Emily Cady scored a career-high 24 points for the Cornhuskers (15-3, 4-2), new to the conference this season moving over from the Big 12.

Ohio State, which was tied with Nebraska and Michigan State for second place and now is all alone a game behind Purdue, while Penn State moved into a three-way tie for third.

Michigan State was upset by Minnesota 71-65, Michigan beat Northwestern 58-48, and Iowa beat Wisconsin 69-57.

Maryland and Miami Hold Ground

After Virginia narrowly lost at No. 9 Maryland Monday night Virginia coach Joanne Boyle, who is in her first year with the Cavaliers after a successful career in the Bay Area at California, said they were tired of moral victories and it was time to get a win.

But all Virginia had to show after a tough battle at home Thursday night was another tough loss, this time to No. 11 Miami, 56-53, at home in the John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville.

Shenise Johnson, expected to go high in the WNBA draft next spring, had 20 points, including a pair of foul shots with 18.2 second left in regulation for the Hurricanes (16-3, 5-1 ACC), who stayed within a game of first-place and No. 5 Duke, which was idle, in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Ariana Moorer had 18 points for Virginia (14-6, 2-4).

Elsewhere in the ACC, No. 8 Maryland stayed with Miami by defeating Wake Forest 86-58 at home at the Comcast Center in College Park as Tianna Hawkins set a school record with 24 rebounds for the Terrapins (18-1, 5-1)

With the outcome under control after a tie score at the half, Hawkins was on the bench when Frese learned of the potential record and re-inserted her star rebounder back into the game.

“I asked the team if we should let her come back in and they unanimously said yes,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. “That record has been in the record books for a very long time. It’s special for us to be able to break records.”

Angie Scott set the previous mark in February 1977 against Towson State and then 10 months later Debbie Jones matched it against Howard.

"It felt good. My teammates were pushing me to get that last rebound and the crowd was pushing me," said Hawkins, who scored 18 points and fueled a second-half surge by Maryland.

Hawkins finished with 18 points, Alyssa Thomas scored 16 and had 11 rebounds, while Lynetta Kizer, Laurin Mincy and Brene Moseley each scored 11 points.

"Obviously you look pretty good when you have rebounding machines like we have here," said Frese, who sat between Hawkins and Thomas for the postgame news conference.

Chelsea Douglas of Wake Forest (11-7, 1-4) had 15 points.

“I’m very disappointed the ACC voted down my proposal to play 20-minute games,” jested Demon Deacons coach Mike Peterson. “That would have made this evening very more enjoyable.”

Meanwhile No. 24 North Carolina recovered from its nonconference 86-35 thrashing at No. 3 Connecticut Monday night, the worst-ever defeat in the program’s history, to beat Virginia Tech 56-37 as Tar Heels coach Sylvia Hatchell, who is 872-308 overall, hit a UNC milestone with her 600th win at the ACC school.

Former Virginia coach Debbie Ryan and the late North Carolina State coach Kay Yow also got 600 victories at the same ACC school.

The win by the Tar Heels (13-5, 3-2) was the fourth try to get Hatchell to 600.

Virginia Tech (6-13, 2-4) is down to six scholarship players but trailed at the half just by four points at 25-21.

In other ACC results, North Carolina State beat Clemson, 62-46.

Mentee Caldwell Loses To Mentor Summitt

No. 9 Tennessee topped LSU 65-56 at home in Knoxville in game in which Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt in the Southeastern Conference game was on the sidelines against her former player and assistant Nikki Caldwell, who is in her first year with the Tigers (13-5, 4-2 SEC).

She previously coached at UCLA.

Meighan Simmons and Cierra Burdick, seeing more action than usual because of injuries at Tennessee (14-4, 5-1 SEC), had 19 points and 15 points, respectively.

Leading scorer Shekinna Stricklen departed with a streak of 121 starts at Tennessee because of a right knee sprain suffered Sunday against Vanderbilt while Taber Spani hasn’t played since Dec. 26 because of a bone bruise in her left knee.

The Lady Vols are headed to No. 2 Notre Dame Monday night in a nonconference meeting that will be the first between the two since last season’s NCAA tournament in which the Irish upset Tennessee in the elite eight and advanced to the title game in Indianapolis before losing to Texas A&M.

LSU’s Courtney Jones had 16 points in a game in which the Tigers lost two players with injuries.

Two minutes into the game starting Tigers point guard Jeanne Kenny went to the bench with what appears to be a concussion and later Destini Hughes went down three seconds before halftime with a serious knee injury.

“Obviously, it was a knock-down drag out type fight, but it was a very competitive fight,” Caldwell observed. “You saw two teams playing every possession like it was their last.”

In another SEC game that featured two ranked teams, No. 6 Kentucky (17-2, 6-0 SEC) outlasted No. 15 Georgia 69-64 on the road in Athens as former UConn player Samarie Walker had 18 points.

Georgia fell to 15-4 overall and 4-2 in the conference.

No. 5 Vanderbilt was upset 69-47 at unranked Arkansas (13-5, 2-4) as Sarah Watkins scored a season-high 21 points for the Razorbacks, who hadn’t beaten the Commodores (14-4, 2-3) since 2006.

Mentee Elliott Loses To Mentor Auriemma

Besides the matchup of familiarity on the coaching sidelines in the game at Tennessee, a Big East matchup in Storrs, Conn., had Geno Auriemma, coach of No. 3 UConn, going against his former star player and assistant Jamelle Elliott, who is running Cincinnati.

Like most games this season, it was another Huskies rout, this one 80-37 as Tiffany Hayes led the way for UConn (16-2, 5-1 Big East) with 17 points and the Huskies’ NCAA home win streak record was extend to 96 straight.

Cincinnati fell to 9-9 overall and 0-5 in the Big East.

“It only gets easier from here, I hope,” Elliott said after Cincinnati lost to three Top 10 teams in their last four losses.

The Bearcats will be at Villanova Tuesday night.

-- Mel

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