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, January 04, 2012

Guru's College Report: Villanova's Treys Carries 'Cats Over Pitt in Big East

(Guru's note: For those that missed it, directly under this post from the previous 24 hours is commentary on the Seattle-Chicago trade in the WNBA. If you are in melgreenberg.com simply click on the mel's blog button on the left side to get to blogspot and the full archive. Also, information and quotes beyond the game site drawn from team and wire reports.)

By Mel Greenberg

VILLANOVA –
After Villanova held off Pittsburgh 70-62 Tuesday night at The Pavilion both Wildcats coach Harry Perretta and his college from the Panthers, Agnus Berenato, held mathematical perspectives of sorts to discuss the outcome.

“One more win in the Big East is one less loss,” Perretta said as Villanova improved to 11-3 overall and 2-0 in the rugged conference.

As to the way the game played out with the Wildcats’ use of their impressive perimeter skills, Berenato noted in speaking to some Villanova parents she knew, “We can’t stop their threes.”

To which came the quick response, “And we can’t live without them.”

Indeed Villanova’s impressive nonconference run that produced a powerful 16th ranking in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) used by the NCAA tournament committee to help pick at-large teams and seed the field had been marred last Friday with a stunning 49-48 loss to host Monmouth in the title game of the Hawks’ invitational tournament.

In that matchup the Wildcats had shot a woeful 4-for-27 on three-point attempts.

But on Tuesday night against the Panthers (8-7, 0-2) Villanova shot a nifty 13-for-28 from beyond the arc aided by a new gunslinger who has helped the Wildcats’ resurgence from a 12-19 overall performance in 2010-11 that made it two straight losing seasons.

Actually, to use the Perretta math, one more win will match the overall total from last season.

Redshirt freshman Lauren Burford from Fairfax, Va., scored all of Villanova’s points in an opening 11-4 run as she connected on three straight three-point attempts and finished the night with a career-high 19 points that included making 5-of-6 attempted treys.

“I caught on fire,” Burford said of her performance. “We worked a lot on shooting the threes in practice since after we were kind of missing them the last game, we worked on shooting them a lot.”

Villanova was picked 12th in the Big East in the poll of the 16 conference coaches, a forecast that Burford didn’t see to be too much of an insult.

“The Big East is really tough but I think we’re going to do well,” she said. “Pitt is a big win for us. I kind of liked being there (12th) because we have more to fight for and so going into the game (the opponents) think they’re going to do better than us so let’s go out there and show them all.”

Asked what drew Burford to Villanova from her home in the suburbs of the nation’s capital in Washington, she responded, “I really liked the coaches. They’re really honest and all the players I really get along with them well. And I love the school, it’s really a great school.”

Villanova’s Devon Kane, a sophomore from Notre Dame Academy and Springfield in Delaware County near here was equally deadly, making 3-of-4 attempted threes and finished with a career-high 17 points, one more than her previous mark set last season.

Laura Sweeney of Cherokee High and nearby Marlton, N.J., who earlier in the day picked up her third Big Five player of the week award and is now the clear frontrunner for the postseason honor in the city, scored 10 points, as did Megan Pearson.

Brianna Kiesel, a member of the Panthers’ talented freshmen class, had a career-high 26 points, while while Marquel Davis off the bench scored 13 points and Asia Logan scored 12.

Pittsburgh had won six of the last seven in a long-running series with Villanova, which has an overall 36-19 advantage after Tuesday night.

The Wildcats shot to a 13-point lead in the first half and was still comfortably ahead 32-20 at the break.

Though Villanova shot 52 percent from the field in the second half, the Panthers rallied twice from double-digit deficits threatening to take over the game.

Pittsburgh sliced a 12-point deficit with 10:02 left in the game down to four at 49-45 with 7:21 left before Villanova responded with a 7-0 run on a trey from Pearson, two foul shots from Sweeney and a layup from Pearson.

Villanova still was capable of automatic pilot at 58-47 with 3:40 but the Panthers forced the Wildcats back into Perretta control with a 9-0 run spurred by Kiesel with six points and a trey from Davis that put Pittsburgh within a basket at 58-56 with 2:05 left.

“I’m really proud of my kids for coming back,” Berenato said. “They way they shot, I felt we were fortunate to be down only 12 at the half.”

But Rachel Roberts stopped the surge by hitting a trey for the Wildcats 25 seconds later, Sweeney scored on a layup and then swiped a pass and scored again to get Villanova to safety at 65-56 with 40 seconds left.

“The bottom lines are simple,” Perretta said. “We can’t beat them by driving the ball. They’re too fast for us. They’re too quick for us. But we have to beat them from the perimeter that’s what it is.

“That’s what we tried to do – shoot the ball from the perimeter and luckily we made enough shots to win.”

Perretta noted what wasn’t working when Pitt rallied twice in the second half.

“We’re not real quick. They started taking the ball by us, creating fouls. That’s our weakness. For us to win we have to play better defense against the Big East teams and we have to shoot the ball like we did today.”

While Villanova was 13-for-28 on treys, Pittsburgh was 3-for-5 negating a 30-26 advantage in the paint. The Panthers and Wildcats each committed 12 turnovers, one more than Villanova’s average of 11, which leads the nation in fewest miscues per game.

Perretta felt his team got tentative when Pittsburgh launched its comebacks.

“Our aggressiveness dwindled as the game went on. The problem is we have a team that doesn’t yet understand. Now that they’re decent, they don’t know how to handle it,” he explained.

“If you watched the game, we got the lead and then we became extremely nervous. We don’t execute. We commit dumb fouls. Because we’re just nervous now.

“We have to handle that somehow, some way. I don’t know what that is, but we have to learn to handle it. In the first half we looked like the Globertrotters passing the ball. In the second half, we looked like a CYO team passing the ball,” Perretta said.

“(Pitt) had at least four breakaways on steals. What that means is we are tentatively passing the ball. Like someone’s open, we hesitate, by the time we react to throw the ball, (Pitt) has recovered and steal the ball. That’s what tentativeness is.”

Nine of Villanova’s turnovers were committed in the second half.

“You look at Pitt and you say they are struggling. But they have some talent. They just need some time to jell. They are very much like we were a couple of years ago, but we weren’t as athletics.”

Villanova hit 70 point for the fourth time this year, which didn’t happen once last season. It is the fourth game with double-figure made threes and third straight game in which Pearson scored in double figures.”

The Wildcats, who had a win over Providence in December, resumed Big East play the rest of the way except for a home game later this month on Jan. 17 against Penn, which with a win would win the Big Five outright at 4-0.

Villanova now goes on the road to West Virginia Saturday and Marquette next Tuesday before returning home on Jan. 14 for a 2 p.m. visit from second-ranked Connecticut.

Pittsburgh doesn’t have any area players but it was still a homecoming for Berenato, who grew up in Gloucester City in South Jersey across the Delaware River.

Associate head coach Patty Coyle starred with her twin sister Mary at West Catholic and later went on to propel Rutgers to the last-ever AIAW title in 1982, the same year the NCAA began running women’s championships.

Coyle also was a head coach at Loyola of Maryland and the WNBA New York Liberty besides assisting at several stops, including St. Joseph’s and her alma mater.

Former Immaculata star Theresa Grentz, who coached Coyle at Rutgers, was at the game with her husband Karl. Former La Salle coach and current Mount St. Joseph’s coach John Miller also attended with his daughter, a graduate of Pitt who worked for Berenato.

Hawks Stay Hot

St. Joseph’s (9-4) made it four straight by controlling host Quinnipac 71-54 in Hamden, Conn., at the TD Banks Sports Center.

The Hawks will stay on the road to open Atlantic 10 competition Saturday at Massachusetts with the only nonconference left on the slate a Big Five game hosting Penn later this month.

Coach Cindy Griffin’s squad bolted to a 16-2 lead and stayed comfortably ahead the rest of the way as Samira van Grinsven and Ashley Prim each scored 12 points.

Kasie Parker off the bench scored 11 points and Michelle Baker scored 10, while Kelly Cavallo grabbed 13 rebounds to go with her seven points.

Quinnipiac (9-4) of the Northeast Conference got 16 points from Samanta Guastella.

Rutgers Grabs Big East Opener

Considering the damage the Scarlet Knights are expected to do in the Big East this season maybe that’s the reason the conference delayed the arrival time to the annual party and on the day the invite became effective coach C. Vivian Stringer’s group had to wait a few hours extra for the opening tip, which occurred at home against Syracuse in the Louis A. Brown Athletic Center.

Rutgers was one of only two teams along with South Florida not to play a Big East game in December and Tuesday’s time was later than normal with a 9 p.m. tipoff for TV purposes.

But once they took the floor the 10th-ranked Scarlet Knights were determined not to let their Monday return to the Associated Press’ Top 10 portion of the weekly poll for the first time in three seasons slip from their grasp.

April Sykes continued her stellar season with 14 points while Khadijah Rushdan scored 13 in a 55-44 win over Syracuse as Rutgers improved to 12-2 overall. The Orange fell to 11-5 and stayed winless in the conference at 0-2.

Rushdan and Sykes teamed on a 11-1 run midway through the second half to take control from a 31-31 tie.

"We didn't have people stepping up to make those plays," Sykes said. "In the past we'd lose those games. We knew we had to do whatever it took to help our team win."

The Scarlet Knights have a chance to make a nice run through the end of the month when they then host No. 3 Notre Dame Jan. 31 and then visit Connecticut Feb. 4.

Between now and then three other nationally ranked teams are on the schedule with a visit from No. 14 Louisville on Jan. 14, No. 20 DePaul on Jan. 24 and a visit to No. 15 Georgetown on Jan. 29.

Sweep those games and Rutgers can speculate on its NCAA seed instead of still fighting for access at the end of January, which has been the situation the last three seasons.

Next up is Saturday’s visit from Cincinnati, coached by former Connecticut star and assistant Jamelle Elliott.

In Tuesday night’s conference game, the Bearcats lost to South Florida 58-55 and fell to 9-6 overall and 0-2 in the Big East despite a game-high 22 points from Daveesha Hollins.

Jasmine Wynne topped her teammates with 18 points for South Florida (9-6, 1-0), which like Rutgers was playing in the Bulls’ first Big East game of the season.

Back in New Jersey in the game against Syracuse, Rutgers closed the Syracuse perimeter limiting the Orange to just four three-point attempts, a major drop from the previous 13 games when Scarlet Knights opponents averaged 17.46 attempts.

Question of curiosity: The Guru knows it’s the math in terms of averages but has anyone ever seen a 0.46 three-point attempt?

Carmen Tyson-Thomas of Syracuse had 12 points and 10 rebounds to be only the third opposing player to gain a double double against Rutgers.

The stingy defense against Syracuse, which was forced into a season-high 27 turnovers, was important considering on the offensive end the 55 points to win were the lowest total for Rutgers in any game this season.

“To lose by 11 you had a chance to win the basketball game if you take care of the ball," Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman said.

Iasia Hemmingway had 14 points for the Orange.


Elsewhere in the Big East, No. 20 DePaul got 17 points from Brittany Hrynko and in the final two minutes, Anna Martin scored five for a 59-50 win at No. 15 Georgetown (12-3, 1-1) in Washington.

Jasmine Penny added 13 points for the winning Blue Demons (14-2, 2-0), who also got 12 points and 12 rebounds from Katherine Harry. Martin finished with 11 points.

Georgetown’s Sugar Rodgers scored 28, grabbed seven rebounds and swiped six steals as the Hoyas’ 11-game win streak ended.

Earlier in the day the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) named Rodgers the women’s national player of the week.

Despite losing two players to season-ending injuries already, No. 14 Louisville remains on a hot streak.

In Louisville, the No. 14 Cardinals continued to shake off a pair of season-ending injuries in beating Marquette 70-53 at the KFC Yum! Center to snap the opposition’s four-game win streak.

"The one thing about our team right now — everyone's getting the chance to play," coach Jeff Walz said. "Then it's a matter of what are you going to do with your time?"

Bria Smith, a freshman, scored 14 of her 16 points in the second half for Louisville (13-2, 2-0) while Marquette fell to 9-6 and stayed winless in the Big East at 0-2.

All-American candidate Shoni Schimmel scored 17 to help extend Louisville’s win streak to six straight.

"We just play, and whoever's open is going to score," Schimmel said. "Whatever works."

Earlier this season guard Tia Gibbs injured a shoulder and Monique Reid hurt her knee to be sidelined the rest of the way.

DII Action: Peltzer Leads Phila. U. To End Holy Family Domination

A six-season winless streak by Philadelphia University against local Division II national power Holy Family came to an end at home Tuesday afternoon at the Rams’ Gallagher Center and credit some basketball DNA from St. Joseph’s for helping the cause.

Taylor Peltzer, whose father Lou starred for the Hawks in the early 1970s and also played at Archbishop Ryan, scored a career-high 19 points to lead coach Tom Shirley’s squad to a 69-57 victory against the Tigers in a game in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC).

It’s the first time Philadelphia U. (9-4, 4-1 CACC) has won a game in the series since joining the conference for the 2005-06 season. The Tigers (7-6, 3-1 CACC) had won 15 straight including three games in conference tournament matchups.

Additionally, Rams center Christine Wooding scored 14 points, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked three shots while in the backcourt Stephanie Agger collected 12 points and grabbed six rebounds, and off the bench Najah Jacobs scored 11 points and dealt a career-high five assists.

Holy Family’s Erin Mann had 13 points and six rebounds.

The Rams open a four-game road trip with a CACC visit to Post University Saturday at 1 p.m. in Middlebury, Conn., near Waterbury.

National Notes

The Southeastern Conference is supporting Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, the Hall of Famer who in late summer revealed she is suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s disease.

The 12 member schools of the SEC, which includes Tennessee, has declared a “We Back Pat” week to also help the foundation Summitt created with her son Tyler in November to fight the disease.

Grants to nonprofit organizations that research Alzheimer's, offer treatment to those with the disease or provide education about it, will be made from the foundation.

The schools will engage in support and raise awareness activities at men’s and women’s home games the week of Jan. 15-22.

Incidentally, Tennessee (10-3), which moved up a spot this week to sixth in the current AP Poll, easily defeated Chattanooga 90-47 in a non-conference game Tuesday night in Thompson-Bolling Arena as Ariel Massengale set a career-high with 19 points.

The Lady Mocs fell to 8-4.

Bonnies Set Record

Career-high 18-point performances from CeCe Dixon and Alaina Walker helped St. Bonaventure (13-2) set a school record for non-conference wins at 13 after edging Sacred Heart 67-63.

The losses by the Bonnies, who head off to Atlantic 10 competition, were to Villanova and Delaware.

Sacred Heart fell to 9-4.

Xavier Woes Continue

New Musketeers coach Amy Waugh continued to face challenges at her alma mater, which is 3-9 after finishing fifth in the AP Poll last season and sweeping the Atlantic 10 in regular season and conference play.

All-Americans Amber Harris and Ta’Shia Phillips graduated and went into the WNBA as first-round picks. Three-point shooter Katie Rutan of Ambler, Pa., a suburban of Philadelphia, transferred to Maryland.

And now Waugh announced that sophomore guard Lynette Holmes is suspended indefinitely “for not fulfilling all the responsibilities of a Xavier basketball player,” the coach said in a release by the school.

Holmes started 10 games averaging 12 points and 5.2 rebounds in the 12 games played by the Musketeers.

The Guru’s Travels

Besides heading to Delaware Thursday for the Blue Hens’ game against Towson, the Guru is tentatively looking at Notre Dame at Seton Hall Wednesday night, possibly heading to Maryland Friday night for the Georgia Tech game, though on the scene or not a surprise golden oldie bloggerette may be on that case, possibly zipping up to Rutgers early Saturday for the Cincinnati game before hitting the Ivy opener at night at Penn, which plays Princeton – that’s a definite – and then to Drexel’s game Sunday.
Will update on the twitter and will tweet from all sites.

-- Mel

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