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.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Guru's College Report: St. Bonnies Tops Temple; La Salle Streak Continues

(Guru’s note: There’s another post below this on former Auburn coach Joe Ciampi being hired as an assistant with the WNBA Eastern champion Atlanta Dream. If you are in melgreenberg.com, click mel’s blog on the left to get to blogspot and the full archive. Material and quotes beyond the live coverage at Temple and La Salle games drawn on team and wire reports.)

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA – St. Bonaventure demonstrated Wednesday night that the Bonnies may be more than just a weekly new sheriff in town when it comes to who will take over rule of Atlantic 10 women’s basketball in the wake of two-time defending champion Xavier’s demise.

Coach Jim Crowley’s squad stayed perfect on the road at 7-0 overall – best in the nation prior to Maryland’s ACC game Thursday night at Miami -- and took down a second-straight frontrunner in the Atlantic 10’s opening week of the regular season title chase beating host Temple 74-65 in the Owls’ Liacouras Center.

In another conference game in town earlier in the day La Salle rallied from an 11-point deficit in the second half at home to beat Fordham 68-62 and extend the Explorers’ current win streak to five straight,

The Bonnies (15-2, 2-0 A-10) arrived here at Temple off a 61-53 win over Duquesne in the conference opener at home and previously claimed such noteworthy victims as perennial Big East performers St. John’s and West Virginia in their home arenas.

The two losses have been to an improved Villanova team in the Monmouth tournament opener and at home to No. 20 Delaware, which is having the best year in Blue Hens’ history.

The same can be said for the Bonnies in the 12-year era of Jim Crowley, who has a one-season edge over St. Joseph’s Cindy Griffin as dean of the A-10 coaches.

His first six consisted of losing records. In those days, road trips by A-10 teams to play at the Bonnies’ Reilly Center in Western New York in the winter caused greater fear over being buried by snow than by Crowley’s crew.

But in the last six seasons, St. Bonaventure has slowly emerged as a conference heavyweight and the only unknown that has yet to play out is whether Crowley’s group will be the heaviest of all.

There’s too much potential A-10 balance to make assumptions right now that the Bonnies will ruin the coaches’ preseason forecast that resulted in Temple and Dayton as co-favorites and walk away from St. Joseph’s with the conference title and NCAA automatic bid.

But the performance to date makes it seem the Bonnies more likely than not can receive an at-large bid, something they pushed Temple just a little bit further away from in controlling the game.

“This is a really good win for us,” Crowley smiled. “Coming in here this is the first time any one wanted to talk to me after a game down here. We haven’t had a lot of success.

“This is a really good basketball team we played today. We were fortunate enough to make some shots in the first half and get a lead and our kids did a really good job of taking care of the ball and holding that lead and finishing the game off.”

Forward Megan Van Tatenhoven scored 20 points for the Bonnies, shooting 7-for-13 from the field, and she also grabbed seven rebounds.

Armelia Horton scored 15 points but extra help came from the reserves with Cece Dixon scoring 12 points and Chelsea Bowker scoring nine.

The two combined to nail 5-of-7 three-point attempts and help give the bench a decided 21-7 scoring advantage over the Temple reserves.

“It’s a disappointing loss because we talked about how we were going to defend them and we didn’t do a good job,” Temple coach Tonya Cardoza said.

Kristen McCarthy had a game-high 21 points for the Owls (7-8, 1-1), who slipped back below .500 overall. Shey Peddy scored 17 and BJ Williams scored 14.

Alluding to Brittany Lewis being held scoreless and taking just three shots while Victoria Macaulay scored just six, Tonya Cardoza said if her starters were more productive the shortfall on the Owls’ bench would be a moot point.

“We got `Vic’ shots (3-for-11) and she only came away with six points and they didn’t have anybody who could really defend her,” Cardoza said. “ So that’s not good. `B. Lew’ averages 10 points a game and she didn’t get any. And she only got three shots so that’s just from the lack of being aggressive.

“This is a disappointing loss,” Cardoza observed. “We knew coming into the game it was going to be difficult – St. Bonnies’ playing good basketball. They play to their strengths. They did an excellent job of attacking us on offense and then making it difficult for us to score on the other end. They’re a disciplined team. They don’t take bad shots.”

Unfortunately, the annual expectation that the Owls would at worst get an at-large bid is also quickly becoming a moot point but it is too early to discount Temple from the postseason.

The Owls go to co-favorite Dayton (10-4, 2-0) next game out on Sunday, which will be televised at 2 p.m. on ESPN2 and a quick string of wins on a killer opening portion of the schedule could get them back on track though the other direction would make things worse.

“I think everybody knew once Xavier lost their good players that the conference was wide open,” Cardoza said. “No one gave Temple or Dayton the trophy. We knew we were going to have to fight it out.

“We knew that it was a balanced league. And it’s tough competition throughout. And the way our schedule is set up, we have the bulk of it at the beginning of the conference season,” she added.

“You’re going to have to fight it out till the end. And that’s been different for the conference since I’ve been here. That’s what’s exciting about it. Every night out you have to play your best basketball to give yourself a chance in the end.”

Still the back end of the Temple schedule will offer an opportunity to get wins and build momentum heading into March when one hot weekend at St. Joseph’s could land an automatic bid.

“From top to bottom, the league is more balanced and everyone had a different mind set,” Cardoza said. “In the past everyone said, `OK, we have to try to beat Xavier.’ Now you just have to go out and try to win every single game and put yourself in position because it’s wide open.

“With that mind set, every game you play you have to play like it’s your last and everything is counting on that particular game because you never know what’s going to happen in the conference. Any one can beat any one. You have to make sure every chance you get you have to get you’re A game or you can find yourself hoping and praying that you win the (conference) tournament to try to get to the NCAAs.”

La Salle Streak Continues

Earlier in the day, Brittany Wilson, whose career started at Northeastern in Boston, scored 22 points in the second half and finished with 31 points, her best effort since transferring to La Salle, and Nadia Duncan had 13 as the Explorers rallied over Fordham 68-62 in an Atlantic 10 game at home at Tom Gola Arena that was held at noon being the annual Kids’ Day promotion.

Additionally, La Salle’s Ruvanna Campbell and Alexis Scott each grabbed game-highs of eight rebounds each.

Ironically, Scott played for first-year Fordham coach Stephanie V. Gaitley at Monmouth.

Gaitley, a former Villanova star and St. Joseph’s coach, was making her first Philadelphia appearance since returning to the conference with the Rams (9-8, 0-2).

La Salle’s five-game win streak in the longest since a seven-game run early in the 2006-07 season.

Fordam’s Arielle Collins scored 14, Becky Peters added 13, while Abigail Corning and Emily Tapio collected 11 apiece.

“We weren’t defending early and we gave up a lot of points – I think 35 points in the first half and they were shooting 56 percent,” La Salle second-year coach Jeff Williams said.

“We’d been defending pretty well the last four or five games. You have to be smarter down the stretch.”

La Salle next hosts Xavier Saturday.

“I know they don’t have the record they’ve had in the past but they played very good competition,” Williams noted. “The first game in the conference, they lost to a tough Charlotte team. So they’re still a pretty good team and they’re hungry and they’re going to come here and it’s going to be a great game. If we defend, we’re going to have a good opportunity of being successful.”

Later, Wednesday night Xavier dropped its eighth straight losing to Duquesne 68-49 in Pittsburgh.

Orsi Szecsi's 15 points led four players in double figures for the Dukes (13-4, 1-1), who next visit Temple 4 p.m. Wednesday in the Liacouras Center in the front end of a twin bill with the Owls men’s team.

Alex Gensler scored 15 and Wumi Agunbiade and Jocelyn Floyd added 10 apiece for Duquesne, who hadn’t beaten Xavier (3-12, 0-2 A-10) since 2004.

The Dukes, who are 9-0 at home, have been experiencing a renaissance under former Penn State star and Olympian Suzie McConnell-Serio, who also coached Oakland Catholic to state titles in her native city of Pittsburgh. She also played and coached in the WNBA.

Xavier's Jessica Pachko recorded a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds as the Musketeers are now mired near the bottom of the conference along with former power George Washington.

As for the current La Salle win streak, Williams said, “You have to keep harping on it. We’re not accustomed to winning. And sometimes when you’re not accustomed to winning you revert back to your ways – especially in practice that’s when it shows.

“We haven’t done anything (in conference) yet. The season’s early. It’s just two wins.”

Gaitley said the lead was lost by Fordham’s lack of depth.

“We just don’t have the depth to put people away,” she said. “We have such a short bench so therefore fatigue sets in and Wilson did a great job. She’s an outstanding player.

“So a lot of it is developing a defensive mentality. It was a game of runs. A lot of it is a change in culture. When you’re used to losing you don’t believe you can win. So it starts with believing you can win. We were down 19 to TCU and won by one.

“I said to them, `You think because we’re up by 11 we’re going to win the game. It’s a 40-minute game.’” Gaitley said.

Elsewhere in the Atlantic 10, Charlotte (10-6, 2-0) stayed unbeaten in league play with a 61-52 win over visiting Saint Louis (6-11, 0-2), while Richmond (13-3, 1-1), recovered from Saturday’s last-second loss to Temple to beat visiting George Washington 74-57 as the Colonials fell to 8-8 overall and 1-1 in the league.

Visiting Massacusetts (6-11, 1-1) beat Rhode Island 46-39 and the Rams fells to 1-16 overall and 0-2 in the league.

Penn Edged By NJIT

Senior captain Jess Knapp missed her second straight game with a knee injury suffered late last month in San Diego State’s invitational and the Quakers fell to NJIT 52-48 at The Palestra in a nonconference game.

The Quakers (7-5), who got routed at home by Princeton in the Ivy opener for both schools Saturday, will stay in nonconference mode for the next three games – all on the road – at Big Five schools.

Penn will visit St. Joseph’s Saturday, Villanova next Tuesday, and Temple the following Saturday.

The game was close throughout with neither side leading by more than six points.

Penn narrowly forced overtime for the third time but Katie Davies’ three-point attempt at the finish in a crowd was off the mark with two seconds left.

Penn sophomore Alyssa Baron had a game-high 17 points and freshman Kara Bonenberger grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds.

The Quakers dominated the boards 48-32 and forced 18 turnovers but the Highlanders shot 43.5percent from the field while Penn struggled at 27.9 percent.

Sophomore Kristen Kody off the bench for Penn had a career-high seven rebounds and Renee Busch scored 10 points.

Nicole Maticka had 15 points for NJIT (6-10) and Denise Domiterova scored 13.

The National Scene

While it is unknown how the NCAA committee will perceive the Atlantic 10 if the race turns into a taffy pull, conferences such as the Big East and Big-12 get a pass in terms of multiple at-large bids because of their reputation.

For example, in the Big 12 Wednesday night, Texas, which fell out of the AP poll this week, upset No. 12 and defending NCAA champion Texas A&M 76-71 on the road in College Station, Texas, while unranked Oklahoma upset No. 10 Texas Tech 71-68 and knocked the visitors from the unbeaten column in the game at home in Norman, Okla.

Chassidy Fussell had 22 points for the Longhorns (11-4, 1-2 Big 12), who snapped an 11-game losing streak to the Aggies (10-4, 1-2).

"This was one of our goals, to finally beat A&M," said Texas senior Ashley Gayle, who scored a career-high 17 points. "Everyone was in attack mode."

Gayle turned 22 on Wednesday.

It’s the first time Texas A&M lost at home to an unranked opponent since former Big 12 member Nebraska, now in the Big 10, won in February, 2005.

"(The Longhorns) were hungry and they used those last 11 games as motivation," said Texas A&M guard Sydney Carter, who totaled a game-high 25 points. "They played to win. This is a learning process for us. We'll get on the practice court and do what we can to fix those problems."

Her coach Gary Blair talked about being a target since its Cinderella run last March that pushed aside two No. 1 seeds in Baylor and Stanford before beating Notre Dame, a No. 2 seed, in the title game.

"We're getting everybody's best, and we knew that going in," Blair said. "We're a proud national champion, but that was last year. These rings don't mean much when I've got (opposing coaches) saying, 'Hey, that's last year. Bring it on, what do you have?' We have to practice better, not longer."

The rivalry between the Longhorns and Aggies is dwindling to zero with Texas A&M set to move to the Southeastern Conference next season.

Oklahoma’s win over Texas Tech (14-1, 2-1 Big 12) leaves just top-ranked Baylor, No. 5 Maryland, and No. 14 Wisconsin-Green Bay as the only unbeaten women’s teams remaining in Division I.

Whitney Hand scored 24 points for the Sooners (10-4, 2-1) and freshman Sharane Campbell, in the game because of an injured teammate down the stretch, had Oklahoma’s final seven points. The Sooners also overcame a 10-minute drought without hitting a field goal attempt.

"I would venture to say this is one of the gutsiest performances our team's had in a long time — not just this team but our program — to shoot the way that we shot and to hang around and put ourselves in a position to have a chance to win and then to make that happen," Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said.

Jordan Barncastle’s attempted trey to tie at the finish for the Red Raiders was off the mark as Christine Hyde’s career-high 21 points went to waste.

"You have to have a short term memory in this league. It's really important that you understand that right now, you've got 15 more games to play and so much more can happen," Red Raiders coach Kristy Curry said.

"It's going to come down to toughness and perseverance and staying positive and staying together and having a short term memory. If you don't have it, you better find it real quick whether something good happens or something like tonight happens to us."

Also, in the Big 12, top-ranked Baylor (16-0, 3-0) stayed unbeaten with a 71-44 win at home over Oklahoma State in Waco, Texas, as Brittney Griner had 28 points and eight rebounds along with blocking eight shots.

The Cowgirls (9-3, 1-2) trailed by just two at the half before the Bears opened the final period with a 20-4 run.

In the Big East, St. John’s continued to enjoy its return to full health and beat Syracuse 70-58 on the road as Shenneika Smith had 17 points for the visiting Red Storm (11-6, 3-1 Big East) and Kayla Alexander scored 22 for the host Orange (12-6, 1-3).

Shoni Schimmel had 16 points for No. 16 Louisville (14-3, 3-1) and the host Cardinals stopped visiting South Florida 63-57 rallying from an eight-point deficit to the Bulls (9-8, 1-2) midway through the second half.

In the Colonial Athletic Association game in Richmond, host Virginia Commonwealth trying to stay with the conference leaders, stopped visiting Old Dominion in overtime 76-72.

Tia Lewis had 21 points and Jackie Cook had a career-high20 for the visiting Lady Monarchs (5-11, 2-2 CAA) while Andrea Barbour had 24 points and Courtney Hurt scored 22 point for the Rams. (10-5, 3-1).

Looking Ahead

Speaking of the CAA, the Guru will be on the scene and tweeting live Thursday night when host No. 20 Delaware and junior Elena Delle Donne, the nation’s leading scorer, meets UNC-Wilmington, coached by former WNBA great Cynthia Cooper-Dyke.

Drexel visits James Madison in a game between two teams trying to stay in the upper portion of the conference behind frontrunners Delaware and Hofstra.

In the SEC, South Carolina takes its return to the AP Poll along for the ride when the Gamecocks visit LSU while No. 6 Tennessee visits No. 9 Kentucky. No. 19 Georgia will be hosting Florida while No. 25 Vanderbilt hosts Florida.

In the Big 10, Penn State, the conference favorite which was knocked out of the poll for the first time this season, hosts Michigan, coming off an upset of No. 11 Ohio State, which will be hosting Northwestern as two Philly guys meet on the sidelines.

Visiting Wildcats coach Joe Mckeown, who had been at George Washington, used to coach against the Buckeyes’ Foster in the Atlantic 10 when Foster was at St. Joseph’s.

No.17 Purdue is at Minnesota and No. 15 Nebraska is at Wisconsin.

Out West No. 4 Stanford visits Utah for the first time since the host moved from the Mountain West to the Pac-12 last summer along with former Big 12 member Colorado, who will host California and then play Stanford on the weekend.

In the Atlantic Coast Confeence, No. 5 Maryland will try to stay unbeaten visiting No. 12 Miami; No. 22 North Carolina will host Clemson.

No. 14 Wisconsin-Green Bay, the other of the three unbeaten teams, visits Wright State in the Horizon League.

-- Mel

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