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 13, 2012

Guru's Local Roundup: Delaware and Drexel Deliver

(Guru’s note: There are two posts above and below this, the one above is a sidebar discussion with UNCW coach and former WNBAS great Cynthia Cooper-Dyke about Delaware’s Elena Delle Donne. The post beneath covers other significant national games not in this post. In this and the national post, material and quotes beyond the game site are drawn on team and wire reports.)

By Mel Greenberg

NEWARK, Del. – Mark down Thursday night as one of satisfaction for both Delaware coach Tina Martin and Drexel coach Denise Dillon in terms of how far their Colonial Athletic Association teams might soar when everything is going right.

Delaware, the 20th-ranked team in the nation, demonstrated the Blue Hens could be a blend of a one-woman crowd pleaser within a multi-player attack as they locked down UNC Wilmington 69-37 in front of another near-sellout crowd of 3,552 at the Bob Carpenter Center.

Drexel on the site of the Dragon’s two-greatest moments in the program’s history, added perhaps No. 3 on the list with a stunning 60-43 victory at two-time defending champion James Madison in Harrisonburg, Va.

The Dragons rallied from an eight-point 25-18 halftime deficit caused by being held without a field goal the final 9:25 of the opening period.

Back here, junior sensation Elena Delle Donne continued to dwarf everyone else in the game stats for Delaware (13-1, 4-0 CAA) and the opposition, scoring 23 points while Lauren Cara was also in double figures for the Blue Hens with 12 points.

But the Blue Hens also shared the basketball quite well at the same time compiling 19 assists, five each by Delle Donne and her former Ursuline Academy teammate Kayla Miller at the nearby Wilmington High School.

Defensively, Delaware held the Seahawks (8-7, 1-3) to a season-low and beyond on the scoreboard in depriving anyone of double figures and also harassing UNCW into 21 turnovers on the night of the opposition’s 1,000th game in the history of its program.

The miscues and the Blue Hens’ 46-37 rebounding advantage enabled Delaware to double the Seahawks’ production inside the paint 36-18 and do likewise on fast break points 12-6.

Delaware’s Danielle Parker and UNCW’s Karneshia Garrett shared game rebounding honors at nine each while Garrett and Abria Trice each had team highs of eight points.

The game stayed lopsided most of the way enabling Martin to give Delaware’s bench plenty of action and get a 20-6 response compared to the points scored by Seahawks reserves.

Jocelyn Bailey, in 19 minutes of action, scored six points, a total also produced by Kelsey Buchanan in 15 minutes of playing time.

While Delaware shot 47.7 percent from the field, including 51.5 percent in the first half on a night that Delle Donne’s outside shooting was off the mark (1-for-5 on three-point attempts), UNCW was limited to 23.7 percent from the field.

“I’d like to see our younger players – we got some freshmen and sophomores – I’d like to see them get time and get a chance to see what they really can do, and nights like this when we play defense like this we’ll have an opportunity to get those players some minutes,” Martin said.

As for the 19 assists, Martin noted, “Once we get out on the break, sometimes we over pass, they want to pass so much to each other, so I told them don’t be too fancy, we tried to thread the needle a couple of times, but overall, yes, we shared the ball very nicely, we looked for each other – we’re looking for the best high percentage shot we can get.

“The two biggest things about this team, I think, when they are focused, those are the two biggest areas – we defend and we do share the ball. It’s something they’ve learned to do over the last two years. And it’s really good to see it come all the way full circle when we have a game like tonight.”

Martin said her team is enjoying its new status this season as a nationally ranked team – this week is the seventh since making its debut in The Associated Press women’s poll. The Blue Hens are also 18th in the USA Today/ESPN coaches’ poll.

“I think they’re excited about it,” she said. “It’s a source of pride for them right now. Certainly, the fans are awesome. I think there’s just a lot of pride right now – the fact that we are in the Top 20. I think the kids feel really good about it and they want to stay there.

“So each and every night they’re bringing the focus they need to be that kind of team right now. And we just need to keep that going. So just they continue to understand its about defense then offense will take care of itself and we’re going to be just fine.”

Delle Donne, named on Tuesday as the United States Basketball Writers Association women’s national player of the week, was honored before the game for her participation on the USA Basketball squad that won a gold medal at the World University Games last summer as she led the Americans in scoring and rebounding.

She was more thrilled at her squad’s ability to excel when she realized she wasn’t her exact best – Delle Donne is currently the nation’s scoring leader with a 30.3 average before the game.

“That was a phenomenal win for us,” Delle Donne said. “Defensively, we were incredible tonight. Akeema (Richards) was able to guard their best player (Alisha Andrews who scored six points, well below her 13.8 average and hounded into five turnovers). And everyone else on help side and I just thought our defense was phenomenal and that makes our offense go and it really got our transition game going well.

“We also wanted to play two strong halves,” she said. “My shot was really off tonight – I don’t think I could have thrown it in the ocean if I tried, but everyone else was stepping up and really getting open and (coming off screens) I thought I was able to find those people since they were hitting their shots.”

Delle Donne, who last week set the Blue Hens’ all-time career mark in just over half the time the previous mark was established, now has 1,748 points – just 13 away from hitting the Top 10 in all-time career scoring in the CAA.

James Madison’s Meredith Alexander, who scored 1,760, holds the 10th spot behind frontrunner Dawn Evans, who graduated last season from JMU as the all-time CAA leader at 2,667 career points.

Former Blue Hens men’s star and current men’s assistant coach Mke Pegues holds the combined men’s-women’s career record at Delaware at 1,030, just 272 above Delle Donne, who still has 14 games left in the regular season.

Delaware next heads to Northeastern in Boston on Sunday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Drexel (7-7, 3-1) stayed tied for third with idle Virginia Commonwealth (10-5, 3-1) and a game behind frontrunners Delaware and Hofstra (12-3, 4-0) in gaining the Dragons’ first-ever regular-season win at James Madison (11-4, 2-2) since becoming a member of the CAA for the 2001-02 season.

In March 2009 when the JMU Convocation Center was the site of the CAA tournament leading to an automatic berth in the 64-team NCAA field, Drexel won it all.

The Dragons created history, ending Old Dominion’s 17-year rule of the CAA tournament with a win over the Lady Monarchs in the semifinals and then the next day finished the job with a win over the host Duchesses for the championship.

Philadelphia-area all-time scoring leader Gabriela Marginean, who graduated two seasons ago from Drexel, dominated those two wins.

On Thursday night it was junior Hollie Mershon, the graduate of Archbishop Carroll who had a career-high 27 points.

It was the most points JMU has yielded to any individual opponent this season.

Kamile Nacickaite was also in double figures for Drexel, scoring 15 points as the Dragons snapped a 17-game home win streak by JMU, who fell into a fifth-place tie with idle Old Dominion (5-11, 2-2) and Towson (11-4, 2-2).

Towson topped visiting William & Mary, 77-75, as senior Sheree Ledbetter scored the winning basket with four-tenths of a second left in regulation.

The Dragons won this game playing Villanova-style basketball – the alma mater of Dillon – holding the ball until the shot clock entered single digits before going for the basket.

Drexel, which trailed 25-18 at the break, pulled away in the second half with a sizzling 58.3 percent over the final 20 minutes and also took care of the basketball with a season-low eight turnovers.

Defensively, the Dragons limited JMU to just three points – all by Jasmine Gill – over the final 7:36. Lauren Whitehurst scored a team-high 14 points for the Duchesses.

Drexel returns home Sunday to host Georgia State at 2 p.m. at the Daskalakis Athletic Center.

In another CAA game of note, Hofstra stayed locked in first with Delaware by beating Georgia State 80-67 at home in Hempstead, N.Y., on Long Island.

Shante Evans, the Henderson High graduate out of West Chester in suburban Philadelphia, had her seventh straight double double with 26 points and 12 rebounds for the Pride, whose 4-0 conference start is their best since becoming a member for the 2001-02 season.

Nicole Capurso scored 10 points.

Kendra Long had a team-high 19 points for the Panthers (6-9, 0-4), who will still be looking for their first conference win Sunday when they visit Drexel.

Hofstra next travels to Norfolk, Va., Sunday to play Old Dominion.

Elsewhere in the CAA, Towson’s narrow win, its fourth overall in the last 10 seconds, dropped William & Mary to 8-7 overall and 1-3 in the CAA, as the Tigers snapped a two-game losing streak at the hands of Drexel and Delaware.

"I'm proud of the way we responded,” Towson coach Joe Matthews said. “You can't simulate [late game situations] in practice. This league is full of close games and our team is really confident that if we have the ball at the end of the game we can find a way to win."

Tysha Paye’s layup with six seconds tied the game at 75-75 for William & Mary before Tanisha McTiller whipped the ball inside to Ledbetter for the game-winner.

McTiller finished with a career-high 23 points for Towson, which travels to James Madison Sunday after remaining unbeaten at home at 7-0.

The Tigers will host Delaware next Thursday.

In the only other game on the CAA schedule, Northeastern at home beat George Mason 58-54 for the first conference win of the season by the Huskies (3-12, 1-3).

Penn State Dominates Michigan

Maggie Lucas, the sophomore scoring sensation out of Germantown Academy and Narberth in suburban Philadelphia, scored 22 points – her ninth 20-point game of the season, to spur Penn State to a 78-63 win over Michigan (13-4, 2-2) in a Big Ten game at home in the Bryce Jordan Center.

The Lady Lions (12-4, 2-2) fell out of the AP Poll for the first time this season but clung to No. 25 in the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll.

Lucas has 55 points in her last two games.

Zhaque Gray scored 15 points for Penn State while Alex Bentley, the preseason conference player of the year, had 12 points, a team-best six assists and also had four steals.

Nikki Greene grabbed nine rebounds for the Lady Lions and Mia Nickson had eight rebounds.

Penn State will be looking for revenge for one of its two conference losses Sunday when it travels to former Big 12 member and newcomer Nebraska, which outlasted host Wisconsin 75-69.

The No. 15 Cornhuskers (15-1, 4-0 Big Ten) got 28 points from Lindsey Moore against the Badgers (5-12, 1-4), who got 20 point from Taylor Wurtz.

“There’s no panic in her game,” new Wisconsin coach Bobbie Kelsey, a former Stanford assistant at Kelsey’s alma mater, said of Moore’s night. “We can learn a lot from her game.”

Nebraska has rallied in each of its four conference wins.

In two other Big Ten games involving ranked teams, No. 17 Purdue topped host Minnesota 72-55, while No. 11 Ohio State beat visiting Northwestern 82-72.

In the win by Purdue (14-3, 4-0 Big Ten), the Boilermakers’ Brittany Rayburn tied an NCAA record with 12 three-pointers and finished with 38 points against the Gophers (10-8, 2-2) in Minneapolis.

LSU’s Corneilia Gayden set the original record in 1995.

“It was timing,” according to Purdue coach Sharon Versyp. “Every time (Minnesota) made a run, I called a play to set her up coming off the backside. Our post players make great screens and you have to have a great passer who makes a great pass. As I always say, `Passers make shooters.’”

Minnesota coach Pam Borton spoke of the job Rayburn did against her team: “She’s a great player, a great shooter. I though her teammates did a great job setting screens for her to get open and she just couldn’t miss. She could not miss tonight.”

Rayburn sizzled with a 12-for-16 effort beyond the arc.

Ohio State’s Tayler Hill had 19 of her 24 points in the second half as the Buckeyes (16-1, 3-1) stopped the Wildcats (11-6, 1-3) in Columbus.

Samantha Prahlis helped Ohio State recover from the weekend loss to Michigan in Ann Arbor by scoring 20 points against Northwestern, which got 20 points from Danielle Diamant.

In the only other conference game scheduled, Michigan State (12-5, 4-0) cruised over visiting Indiana 67-47 as the Hoosiers fell to 5-13 overall and stayed winless in the Big 10 at 0-4.

Looking Ahead

On Friday night the Guru will be tweeting on @womhoopsguru from Princeton in the Tigers’ Ivy contest at home against Cornell at 7 p.m. in Jadwin Gym.

-- Mel


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