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 28, 2012

Guru's Report: Kuester Keeps St. Joseph's In A-10 Title Race

(Guru's Note: Updating for later Saturday games and a note about Tiffany Hayes not making the midseason Wooden watch list.)

By Mel Greenberg
   
PHILADELPHIA --
St. Joseph's senior Katie Kuester went bananas on the scoreboard Saturday afternoon scoring a near-career high 20 points as the Hawks beat Duquesne 72-51 in a key Atlantic 10 game at Hagan Arena to stay in the top of the tightly-packed conference standings.

 "It's funny, our other shooting guard Shelby Smith gave me a banana before the game as she swears that's what made me shoot better," said Kuester, who was 7-for-11 from the field and 6-for-9 on three-point attempts.

  "But I haven't been shooting well, that's obvious from the stats, but shooters keep shooting and that's what my coaches have been telling me so I just tried to execute and stay with the game plan and luckily they fell today."

St. Joseph's (14-6, 4-2 A-10) was coming off a tough 68-61 loss Wednesday night at conference frontrunner St. Bonaventure.

"We battled. They're a very talented team. We hope we get another chance at them at the A-10 tournament (at St. Joseph's) but to bounce back going into Temple Wednesday, it was a good win."

  Kuester is the daughter of John Kuester, the former NBA Detroit Pistons coach who is now an assistant with the Los Angeles Lakers.

   The Hawks moved into sole possession for fifth place though the standings will change again Sunday following the conclusion of the battle between Temple (11-8, 4-1) and Charlotte (13-7, 5-1) in town at the Owls' Liacouras Center.

   St. Bonaventure (20-2, 7-0) stayed unbeaten a game in front after winning in town here 75-57 at La Salle (9-12, 3-3).

    Dayton (14-5, 6-1) is in second after a 74-56 win at George Washington (10-11, 3-4) followed by Charlotte, Temple and then the Hawks.

    Duquesne fell to 15-6 overall and 3-3 in the conference.

     St. Joseph's, which had not been shooting well, sizzled Saturday with a 53.7 percent effort from the field as Michelle Baker added 13 points, and Samira Van Grinsven and Ashley Prim scored 10 each.

     Kelly Cavallo grabbed 10 rebounds.

     Duquesne's Alex Gensler scored 17 points and Carly Vendemia scored 13.

      "I thought it was a great game to come home to -- Katie Kuester got us off to a great start making shots early, giving us momentum, giving us some cushion and the other kids stepped up," St. Joseph's coach Cindy Griffin said.

     "To have 20 field goal assists out of 29 (made shots) says a lot about this team and how we moved the ball today," Griffin said.

       "We're taking it one game at a time. We had a chance to beat 'Bonnies and we beat ourselves in a lot of regards and certainly we wanted to learn from that and move on and that's what we did today," she noted.

       "We were very efficient with our offense and our defense was tremendous again. We did a nice job on their top three kids."

        Duquesne was held to 34.4 percent.

         Discussing Kuester's performance, Dukes coach Suzie Serio-McConnell, the former Penn State all-American, Olympic gold medalist, as well as WNBA all-star and coach, noted, "She hadn't had a game like that all season.

         "But still the type of shooter she is and what she is capable of doing, obviously we didn't challenge her like we needed to -- she made great plays. We couldn't finish. A lot of disappointing things in my mind. St. Joseph's played a great game and we didn't compete."

         In one of the ironies of life, one of the officials working the game was former Tennessee star Dawn Marsh, a contemporary of Allentown's Michelle Marciniak on the Lady Vols back in the day.

      "Yeah, I played against her," McConnell-Serio said. "We beat them my senior year."

      Meanwhile, in the La Salle game, the Explorers' Jada Payne was held to 11 points, while Nadia Duncan and Alexis Scott scored 10 each,

       The Bonnies' Jessica Jenkins, selected national player of the week Tuesday by the United States Basketball Writers Association, scored 28 points, while Megan Van Tatenhove had 16 points, while Doris Ortega scored 12.

        Coach Jim Crowley's squad had been nearing a first-ever appearance in the Associated Press women's poll with the Bonnies' only loss were to Villanova in Monmouth's tournament and at home to No. 15 Delaware.

        In another Atlantic 10 game of note two-time defending conference champion Xavier, decimated by the graduation of two all-Americans and the transfer of the Musketeers' best outside shooter finally won a conference game as well as snapping an 11-game losing streak.

     Xavier (4-15, 1-5) got a career-high 27 points from Tyeasha Moss in a 67-57 win at Rhode Island (1-20, 0-6) while Jessica Pachko scored 14 points.

In two Atlantic Ten games later in the day stretching into the night Fordham topped host Massachusetts 56-54 as the Rams reached .500 overall at 11-11 and improved to 2-5 in the conference. The Minutewomen fell to 6-15 overall and 1-5 in the A-10.

Richmond (16-5, 4-3) picked up a 63-45 win at Saint Louis (7-14, 1-5).

      Villanova Edged at Louisville

    The Wildcats (13-8, 3-5 Big East) nearly stole one at No. 16 Louisville (17-4, 6-2 Big East) in Kentucky, losing down the stretch 62-58.

      Asia Taylor, who had a season-high 14 points, scored 12 of them in the second half for the Cardinals, while Shoni Schimmel scored 18 for Louisville and Bria Smith had 10 points and 10 rebounds.

       Villanova held a 38-32 lead with 11:30 left in the game.

        Laura Sweeney had 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Wildcats.

        In other highlight games on a heavy card out of the rugged Big East, No. 2 Notre Dame won at St. Johns, 71-56, No. 3 Connecticut beat visiting South Florida, 77-62, No. 23 DePaul won at Seton Hall 71-59, while Cincinnati edged hosted Syracuse 55-54, and Providence topped visiting Pittsburgh 66-50.

          In the win by Notre Dame (21-1, 8-0 B ig East), Skylar Diggins followed up her 27 points in Monday night's lopsided nonconference win over Tennessee at home by scoring 24 against the Red Storm (13-8, 5-3).

        Deveraux Peters had 18 points and 15 rebounds for the winning Irish along with five blocked shots and four steals.

         The Irish, whose only loss is at top-ranked Baylor, next visit No. 11 Rutgers Tuesday night following the Scarlet Knights' trip Sunday afternoon to Washington to play No. 20 Georgetown.

         In Connecticut's win at the Huskies' second home in the XL Center in Hartford, Tiffany Hayes, who scored 35 points in Wednesday's win at Syracuse, scored 33 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in Saturday's win over the Bulls (12-10, 4-4).

          The 68 points over the two games are the most ever by a long line of prestigious all-Americans at UConn.

          Stefanie Dolson, the sophomore center for UConn (19-2, 8-1) whose only losses are at Baylor and Notre Dame, got 22 points and 18 rebounds.

          It was the 790th win for Huskies coach Geno Auriemma, which is sixth on the all-time list and just ahead of Georgia coach Andy Landers.

          Connecticut next heads for a major nonconference meeting Monday night at No. 5 Duke in Durham, N.C.

            The game will be one which has a major implication in NCAA tournament pairings since both the Huskies and Blue Devils are in contention for No. 1 seeds, though their will be much to be played yet over the next month in Duke's Atlantic Coast Conference and UConn's Big East.

             DePaul (16-6, 4-4) was returning to the Garden State days after losing an excruciating one-point loss before the buzzer at Rutgers after holding a 16-point lead earlier in the second half.

             Jasmine Penny scored 19 points for the Blue Demons against the Pirates (7-15, 0-8).

             DePaul, down to seven players, had lost three straight and needed a win Saturday ahead of playing two other ranked teams in the conference in Louisville and Notre Dame.

             Seton Hall, under second-year coach and Hall of Famer Anne Donovan, have lost 21 straight conference games at home dating back before her hire after she had been head coach of the WNBA New York Liberty.

UConn's Tiffany Hayes Misses Wooden Watch List -- Yes and No

In the wake of UConn senior Tiffany Hayes completing the best back-to-back scoring efforts in the Huskies' long and storied history some individuals in coverage of Saturday's win over South Florida took time to note that Hayes was not on the midseason Wooden Award watch list of 20 players.

In the interest of journalistic enhancement the Guru feels compelled to bring some clarity to the situation before the fan base begins running amok and thinking those who vote are a bunch of dopes.

Understand that ballots were due prior to last weekend at a time when Hayes was being overshadowed by her teammates, especially Bria Hartley and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis.

Between that deadline and the release of the 20 names, election central will usually come back around the horn if a gray area develops involving the lowest totals of those holding the the last few spots and highest of those who just missed the cut.

If the break was clear cut between No. 10 and No. 11 then it's end of story.

But if, say, only a very few points separate No. 8 -- it could be a little higher depending on the totals -- and No. 12 there is a chance for re-consideration so the best candidates at this point in time are in the mix.

Also understand between now and the actual end game producing the winner there will be another go round and then a paring down to five finalists.

There are people not on the list who might be next time and vice versa.

When the Guru got a call Wednesday for his turn to provide input he was aware of what Hayes was doing in the Syracuse game and asked where she was in terms of the also rans.

The reply was Hayes nowhere near the high also rans which means to lift her into the mix this time would play havoc with the integrity of the ballot because, remember, the vote was based on the national picture at the time of the ballot.

Also, sports reporting off the first of the two games depicted Hayes making a dramatic improvement in her production, which inherently certifies there hand't been much offensive production compared to others at the time of the vote.

After the adjustments, only election central internally knows the final result and then releases the list.

So the list of 20 was in the books before Hayes' effort in Saturday's win over South Florida.

Thus to start implying Hayes was bypassed is technically correct in not making the list but incorrect in terms of Hayes' performance at the time of the initial ballot.

If Hayes had had a couple of 15-point games instead of the two monster games it would seem the allusion to not making the Wooden ballot would not even had occurred.

If she continues to be more of an prolific scorer, Hayes would definitely be a stronger candidate the next time around. And as the five finalists go, barring major alterations between now and the end of the season, most believe that four spots are virtually locked up -- not only in the Wooden vote -- with Baylor's Brittney Griner, Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins, Delaware's Elena Delle Donne, and Stanford's Nneka Oguwmike getting the nod. Then it becomes a tight race among perhaps six or seven persons, if not more, right now for the fifth spot on the finalists list.

So that said, it's time to return to the rest of the roundup.

 Penn Gets Even In the Ivies

     There will be a further update after the Quakers host Cornell Sunday but in a Friday night game at The Palestra Penn evened its overall record at 8-8 and Ivy record at 1-1 with a 75-50 win over Columbia (2-15, 0-3).

        Renee Busch had a career-high 20 points while Alyssa Baron scored 13 and Jackie Kaites scored 10.

        Tyler Simpson had 19 points for Columbia.

        Penn shot 10-for-21 on three-pointers, including 4-for-6 by Busch but the highlight was the return of senior leader Jess Knapp, who suffered an ACL injury on the trip to San Diego State's tournament at the end of December, but has fought her way back on the floor.

        Knapp returned to practice this past week.

       "It certainly is inspirational to see her do that," said Columbia coach Paul Brown.

       The National Scene

     In a major upset in the Big Ten host Iowa upset No. 13 Purdue 59-42 to knock the first place Boilermakers from the unbeaten column in the conference.

     No. 12 Wisconsin-Green Bay stayed overall unbeaten with a 65-37 win at host Valparaiso in the Horizon Conference.

     Top-ranked Baylor, the only other unbeaten Division I women's team, beat visiting Kansas 74-46 in a night game in the Big 12 as Brittney Griner scored 28 points and had five blocks to move into second place on the all-time rejections list with 506.

Former Michigan State star Alyssa DeHaan had been second while the all-time NCAA leader is former St. Mary's, Calif., star Louella Tomlinson, who had 663 blocked shots.

     Elsewhere in the Big 12, No. 21 Texas Tech edged Texas 75-71, Oklahoma beat Missouri 62-59, and Kansas State beat Oklahoma State 67-56,

      The two teams out of the West Coast Conference that made the poll last Monday had major conference challenges before No. 22 Gonzaga beat host St. Mary's, Calif., 75-70 and No. 23 BYU pulled away in the closing minutes to beat host Santa Clara 74-64.

And in a Pac-12 neighborhood battle in the Bay Area in northern California No. 4 Stanford at home survived California 74-71 in overtime.

Chiney Oguwmike, the sister of Nneka who is the two-time reigning Pac-12 player of the week, had a career-high 27 points and a career-high 18 rebounds for Stanford (18-1, 9-0 PAC-12), whose only loss came in a non-conference trip to No. 3 Connecticut early in the season.

California (15-6, 6-3) got a career-high 19 points from Brittany Boyd, while Toni Kokenis scored 18 points and Layshia Clarendon scored 17, including her 1,000th career point.

  Looking Ahead

      No. 15 Delaware will try to stay unbeaten in the Colonial Athletic Association Sunday when the Blue Hens visit James Madison, the two-time defending conference champion who is in a three-way tie for second with Drexel and Hofstra

      The other two will meet each other Sunday afternoon at Drexel's Daskalakis Athletic Center.

     The Delaware game is a rematch of last year's conference title game when the Blue Hens rode upsets of Old Dominion and N.C.  Wilmington to meet the Duchesses for the championship won by JMU.

      Temple, trying to keep a streak going to gain a safety valve at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, hosts Charlotte Sunday at 2 p.m. in a game betwen two upper tier teams in the Atlantic 10.

       Rutgers, as mentioned, is at Georgetown, while No. 18 Penn State, the preseason favorite in the Big 10, has a chance to gain some ground with a win at Michigan State.

In other games involving ranked teams Sunday, No. 6 Kentucky will host Alabama in a Southeastern Conference game, while No. 7 Tennessee will go for a sweep visiting No. 17 Georgia in another SEC game.

No. 9 Ohio State will be looking to move into a tie with Purdue in the Big 10 when the Buckeyes visit Minnesota while in another Big 10 game No. 19 Nebraska visits Illinois..

No. 10 Miami visits Boston College in the Atlantic Coast Conference while No. 14 Texas A&M will host Iowa State in the Big 12. Also, in the ACC, No. 25 North Carolina will visit Wake Forest.

That's it for now.

     -- Mel 







 

        

     
  


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad10

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