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.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Guru's College Report: UConn Swarms Over Villanova To Big East Win

(Guru’s note: There is a separate post under this off the weekend Princeton games and below that is the interview that had been up with Cynthia Cooper-Dyke about Elena Delle Donne. Quotes in this post beyond the game site are from team and wire reports. If you are in melgreenberg.com click mel’s blog on the left column to get to the full archive in blogspot.)

By Mel Greenberg

VILLANOVA, Pa. – When it comes to Villanova playing a team like No. 3 Connecticut, where the outcome will be a foregone conclusion to many, many times to Wildcats coach Harry Perretta the win or loss takes a distinct back seat as to how the game is played.

And on Saturday afternoon before a lively crowd of 3,206 at the Pavilion though the result went heavily to the Huskies 72-49 in Villanova’s annual Big East matchup, Perretta felt from his perspective the game was played well enough.

“I thought we executed ourselves well – we were able to get shots, something we haven’t been able to do against them in a while,” Perretta said.

“I thought the game helped us a great deal and I thought it helped their young players a great deal because they don’t see (the way Villanova plays) – so I thought it was a good game for both teams.

“In the end you just couldn’t sustain it for 40 minutes. They did a good job – they disrupted us with their press, something that a lot of teams try to do – they try to not let us run our offense. I told the kids afterwards, we competed.”

Connecticut (14-2, 4-1 Big East), though, has answers to almost 96 percent of what the Huskies are presented with and even though Villanova (11-6, 2-3) is unique with its patient whip-around, shoot-from-the-perimeter style, Huskies coach Geno Auriemma went to a five-guard lineup when the Wildcats were making things difficult early in the contest.

The high watermark for Villanova came on Laura Sweeney’s layup for a 15-11 lead with 13 minutes left in the first half.

Then UConn went on a 15-0 run over the next six minutes to take control before Sweeney temporarily stopped surge with a pair of foul shots. The Huskies then scored six more points before Devon Kane’s three-pointer ended what had been a stretch of 9 ½ minutes without a field goal.

In that drought Villanova, which leads the nation with fewest turnovers at 11.1, was hounded into 11 of the Wildcats’ season-high 23 miscues.

“Our kids are not as athletic as they are so it’s tough,” Perretta said of Connecticut’s pressing defense. “Even though I know where they should pass it, they kind of know where they should pass, but they can’t get it there, and I made an adjustment, I did a poor job early not putting them in the right spot.”

Perretta’s group, though, was able to tough it out early in the second half slicing an 11-point deficit to five at 41-36 with 14:18 left in the game before the Huskies dominated the rest of the way.

Rachel Roberts, who grew up in Marlboro, Conn., watching the Huskies, was the only player in double figures for Villanova with 16 points, while Tiffany Hayes poured 22 points for UConn., freshman Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis scored 16 off the bench, and Kelly Faris scored 11.

Caroline Doty, the native of Doylestown, Pa., and graduate of Germantown Academy, celebrated her homecoming with nine points, shooting 4-for-9, including a three-pointer.

Doty and Villanova’s Jesse Carey were teammates here and played on the same AAU team. She had a large contingent of friends and family who got to see her play unlike UConn’s visit last spring to nearby Temple near center city in the NCAA Philadelphia regional.

The reason was Doty was still rehabbing from her third recurring knee injury that caused her to miss last season.

It was also another homecoming for Auriemma, who grew up in nearby Norristown.

“We’re so much better than last year,” Perretta said. “But sometimes we don’t concentrate and we kind of slip back into the last year when we don’t concentrate, we don’t make quick passes, we don’t do this or that.

“Today we were focused but they have to understand we have to be focused not just for UConn but every single time.”

Villanova, which connected on 11-of-24 three-pointers, was coming off an excruciating one-point loss at Marquette at the buzzer that occurred on a defensive lapse.

The Wildcats next step out of the Big East temporarily to host Penn Tuesday night when a win will give them the Big Five title outright at 4-0.

UConn also steps out of the conference to meet a struggling North Carolina team Monday night at Gampel Pavillion on campus in Storrs.

“Now you have to turn around and prepare for something entirely different,” Auriemma said of the different styles played by Villanova and the Tar Heels of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

He talked about the move to five guards to the Wildcats out of their rhythm.

“Villanova makes it very, very difficult on you to defend them because what they’ll do is take whatever big guy they think is the least mobile and they’ll make you come out on the perimeter and there’s nothing they can do about that. That’s how they play,” he said.

“We were hoping to have enough success where they missed enough threes and not hurt us and still play our regular lineup. But they shot the ball well from the perimeter today and forced us to go in another direction.”

Wheeler’s Shot Gives Rutgers Win Over Louisville

In an outcome that at times has gone against Rutgers in a similar fashion in recent seasons, Erica Wheeler capped her career-high 23 points with a three-point buzzer beater in overtime to give the eighth-ranked Scarlet Knights a 71-68 win over No. 16 Louisville at the Louis A. Brown Athletic Center in Piscataway, N.J.

The win moved Rutgers to 15-2 overall and 4-0 in the Big East keeping the Scarlet Knights on track for its end-of-the-month showdown hosting second-ranked Notre Dame and then visiting Connecticut in consecutive Big East games.

“One of the coaches were saying they hadn’t seen that kind of fight in us for a while,” Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said afterwards. “It’s good to see us grind that one out and we’ll be more confident because of this situation.”

The game had 11 ties and 11 lead changes as April Sykes added 19 points to Rutgers’ total and Monique Oliver had 17 points. Khadijah Rushdan had nine points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.

Rutgers next travels to improving St. John’s for a Tuesday contest on Long Island.

La Salle Downs Xavier

Reversal of fortunes continued for La Salle and Xavier with the Explorers beating the two-time defending Atlantic 10 champion Musketeers 63-51 at Tom Gola Arena for La Salle’s sixth straight win.

The rugged nonconference schedule drawn up by second-year coach Jeff Williams is paying off at the moment with La Salle, at 3-0 in the conference, making its best start in the Atlantic 10 since 1996-97 season while also evening the overall record at 9-9.

Xavier, which was hit by graduation losses, transfers and the departure of former coach Kevin McGuff to Washington in the Pac-12, fell to 3-13 overall and 0-3 in the conference.

Brittany Wilson scored 28 points for La Salle, including 15 courtesy of connected three-pointers, while Nadia Duncan scored 14 points and Jada Payne scored 10. Ruvanna Campbell grabbed nine rebounds, four steals and dealt two blocks and two assists.

La Salle forced the Musketeers into 21 turnovers and cashed the miscues by the opposition into 23 points.

Shatyra Hawkes had 14 of her team high 17 points in the second half for Xavier while Jessica Pachko had a career-high 16 points.

The Explorers will wade into deeper conference waters on the road visiting Charlotte at noon on Wednesday and at Richmond Saturday.

Xavier is off all week until St. Joseph’s visits Saturday.

Hawks Edge Quakers

St. Joseph’s used a 19-4 run to finally put away Penn for a 42-34 victory in a Big Five game at home at Hagan Arena to move to 11-5 overall and 1-1 in the City Series.

Katie Kuester and Samira van Grinsven each scored 10 points for the Hawks while Kelly Cavallo matched a career high with 15 rebounds.

Penn (7-6) struggled from the field shooting 13-for-50 as Kara Bonenberger had 10 points and 10 rebounds.

The Quakers are on a three-game stretch away from the Ivy League on the Big Five circuit with a visit to Villanova ahead on Tuesday followed by Saturday’s game at Temple.

St. Joseph’s next hosts Fordham Wednesday night and visits Xavier on Saturday.

Elsewhere in the Atlantic 10, St. Bonaventure continued its hot hand, beating visiting Saint Louis 64-52 to improve to 16-2 overall and stay perfect in the conference at 3-0.

It’s the fifth straight win for the Bonnies – the second time that’s occurred this season – and the 3-0 conference start is the best ever.

Jessica Jenkins had 15 points and Megan Van Tatenhove scored 14.

Janisha Gearlds was the only Saint Louis player in double figures with 19 points as the Billikens fell to 6-12 overall and remained winless in the conference at 0-3.

Charlotte edged George Washington 61-60, Fordham beat Rhode Island 69-49 and Richmond beat Masscusetts 73-54.

Temple travels to Dayton Sunday in a game between the two teams co-picked to win the Atlantic 10 according to the preseason poll of the conference coaches.

The Owls are coming out of a home loss to St. Bonaventure while the host Flyers beat St. Joseph’s on Wednesday.

Looking Ahead

In three key Colonial Athletic Association games Sunday Drexel, which is getting near the so-called NCAA bubble, hosts Georgia State while frontrunners No. 20 Delaware travels to Northeastern in Boston and Hofstra travels to Old Dominion in Norfolk,Va.

Princeton hosts Columbia before a three-week break will host Columbia to try to stay unbeaten in the Ivy League.

Penn State, looking to get back into the poll, makes a first-ever visit to No. 15 Nebraska in the Big 10. This is the host Cornhuskers’ first year in the conference after leaving the Big 10.

Elsewhere in the Big 10, No. 11 Ohio State is at Michigan State while No. 17 Purdue hosts Iowa.

In the Atlantic Coast Conference, No. 7 Duke will try to stay unbeaten in the league traveling to Virginia Tech while No. 13 Miami fresh off its upset of No. 5 Maryland will be at Florida State; The Terrapins will try to bounce back Monday hosting Virginia.

In the Southeastern Conference, No. 6 Tennessee coming off a one-point loss at No. 9 Kentucky will host No. 25 Vanderbilt while Kentucky visits No. 24 South Carolina, which is coming off a loss at unranked LSU. No. 19 Georgia travels to Mississippi State.

In the Big East, No. 18 Georgetown hosts Syracuse.

-- Mel

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