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.
(Guru’s note: A fuller account of St. John’s-Rutgers is in the other post. If you are in melgreenberg.com, click mel’s blog on the left to get the blogspot archives This post also contains CAA, St. Joseph’s, Penn State/Big Ten coverage)
By Mel Greenberg
PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Two Philadelphia area coaches were involved with career milestones Sunday while a third, who has gained many achievements in her own distinguished career, was on the opposite side of a winning mark by the coach of the visiting team.
In two other games of area interest not involving total coaching achievements No. 18 Penn State beat host Northwestern 77-63 in Evanston, Ill., near Chicago, to return by a half-game to the top of the Big Ten conference the Lady Lions were picked to win, according to preseason coaches and media polls.
St. Joseph’s defeated visiting Saint Louis 69-50 at the Hawks’ Hagan Arena to stay in the hunt for a first-round bye awarded to the top four teams in the Atlantic 10, whose conference tournament will be held next month at the same site.
In the games involving coaching milestones and records, Drexel defeated host William & Mary 78-59 in a Colonial Athletic Association game in Williamsburg, Va., that enabled Denise Dillon, a former Villanova star in the mid-1990s, to tie Lil Haas at 144 for the most Division I victories in the Dragons’ history.
Dillon, who first took charge of the Dragons with a promotion to interim head coach for the 2003-04 season, will attempt to set a new record Thursday night when Drexel visits Old Dominion in Norfolk, Va.
Her record of 144-122 is identical to that of Haas, who was on board when Drexel moved to Division I in 1982-83 and stayed until the 1992-93 season.
At the same time Dillon matched Haas’ mark, in another CAA game further South, No. 12 Delaware also lit up the scoreboard, beating host Georgia State 94-56 to give Tina Martin her 300th victory.
Junior Elena Delle Donne, the nation’s leading scorer (28.2 points per game, 10.2 rebounds) who has helped the Blue Hens accelerate the path to Martin’s total in Martin’s 16th season, had 31 points in 25 minutes of play as Delaware (22-1, 13-0) maintained its three-game lead over James Madison (19-5, 11-3) in the CAA standings.
The Dukes edged host Virginia Commonwealth 65-64 in Richmond, Va., when Tarik Hislop hit a shot with 1:09 left in regulation to beat the Rams (14-10, 7-6), who are in sixth place right behind Drexel and UNCW.
Meanwhile in a Big East game here putting a New York-New Jersey Metro accent on ESPN’s rivalry week, St. John’s shut down a rally by No. 17
Rutgers at the Scarlet Knights’ Louis A. Brown Athletic Center to give the Red Storm a 51-52 victory and make Kim Barnes Arico of St. John’s the winningest coach in the program’s history with 169 triumphs.
The victory also completed a season sweep of Rutgers and Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer, whose Scarlet Knights have now lost four straight to their conference rival from outside New York City in Jamaica after running a 17-0 streak from January 1997 through February 2009.
Barnes Arico, now in her 10th season, bettered the previous St. John’s women’s mark of 168 held by Joe Mullaney Jr. (1984-1996), who has since become a longtime aide to Villanova’s Harry Perretta and holds the title associate head coach.
In Drexel’s win, Kamile Nacickaite had 24 points and Tyler Hale tied her career mark with 18 points to improve the Dragons to 12-11 overall and 8-5 in the conference.
The Dragons shot 50.9 percent from the floor and connected on 8 of 20 3-point attempts.
Taysha Pye scored 25 points for the Tribe (9-15, 2-11) while Drexel moved into a tie for fourth with UNC Wilmington (15-9, 8-5), which fell at home 59-57 to Old Dominion (9-16, 6-7).
The Dragons beat the Seahawks on the road in December. If the CAA tournament were held now instead of next month in Upper Marlboro, Md., at the Showplace Arena, Drexel would have the fourth seed and final bye in the 12-team field.
Meanwhile Martin’s milestone at Delaware – her 16-season record is now 300-176, including 145 wins in the CAA -- came 24 hours ahead of some new historic moments for the Blue Hens.
A slew of losses including setbacks by No. 8 Maryland, No. 9 Wisconsin-Green Bay, No. 10 Ohio State and No. 11 Tennessee in the last week makes it likely that Delaware, which has won 12 straight and lost only at No. 8 Maryland, will move into the Top 10 of the Associated Press women’s poll during the season of the Blue Hens’ first-ever ranking.
Furthermore, the Wisconsin-Green Bay loss almost assures Delaware to move up a step to first in the College Insider Mid-Major poll.
Following top-ranked Baylor, which is the lone unbeaten team remaining in Division I, the Blue Hens are one of just three teams in the nation to have just one loss.
Martin is the winningest men’s or women’s basketball coach in Delaware history, according to the athletic department’s records, which also indicate she is the second Delaware coach overall to reach 300 in the last week, following men’s lacrosse coach Bob Shillinglaw.
The 94 points in Sunday’s win are the most ever under Martin besides being Delaware’s highest total to equal a 94-90 win in overtime against Bucknell on Feb. 21, 1989. They’re also the most regulation points since a 95-47 win over Loyola of Maryland on Dec. 28, 1986.
“We’ve got a great team chemistry and we’re a team through and through,” Martin said after the win in Atlanta in which Lauren Carra had another outstanding effort with 19 points. Danielle Parker added 11 points and matched Delle Donne’s eight rebounds against the Panthers (7-16, 1-12).
Delaware has been to the NCAA tournament twice under Martin, including once when the Blue Hens won the America East title, and missed a third when they were the top seed in the CAA tournament in 2004-05 but lost in overtime to Old Dominion and weren’t picked as an at-large squad. They finished 25-6.
They’ve also appeared in six Women’s NIT tournaments.
“It’s been a lot of work by a lot of people,” said Martin, whose current staff includes longtime aide Janine Radice, former La Salle coach Tom Lochner, and former Blue Hens star Tiara Malcolm.
Additonally, operations director Allie Fedorowicz starred at Cornell and is a niece of Boston U. coach Kelly Greenberg, a former La Salle star and Penn coach who next week will be inducted into the Big Five Hall of Fame.
“A team is not just one person and a program not just one coach,” Martin said of putting her win total in perspective. “It means so much to get that number, but like anything else in sports, you move on.
“You can smile about it, but records and numbers fall. This is a great group of kids. I’m blessed to be in this position where I can hopefully be a positive influence on these young people and have a great staff.”
In the win over Georgia State, the Blue Hens had good ball movement with Trumae Lucas tossing around nine assists and Parker tying a career high with six assists while she also had a career high six steals as part of Delaware’s season high of 19 thefts.
Delaware next heads to Hofstra Thursday night in Hempstead, N.Y., at 7 p.m.
The Pride (17-7, 9-4), who fell at Delaware earlier this month, held third place Sunday, four games in back of the Blue Hens, by winning at George Mason 82-70 in Fairfax, Va., to stop a two-game losing streak and drop the Patriots to 12-12 overall and 6-7 in the CAA.
Shante Evans, a West Chester native and graduate of Henderson High, had a game-high 28 points. Candice Bellochio reached her 1,000th career point at Hofstra.
The Blue Hens’ trip to Hofstra will make them the highest ranked team Hofstra has ever hosted.
Delaware also visits Drexel on Sunday in a game likely to join a previous visit from the Blue Hens as the second sellout in the history of the women’s program.
Drexel’s visit to Delaware last month produced a first-ever sellout at the Blue Hens’ 5,000-seat Bob Carpenter Center.
Hawks’ Baker Cooks Saint Louis
St. Joseph’s made it two straight wins by beating Saint Louis 69-50 in an Atlantic Ten game at home in Hagan Arena as Michelle Baker had a season high 21 points for the Hawks (16-8, 6-4), who moved back into a sixth-place tie with idle La Salle.
Coach Cindy Griffin’s squad, with four games remaining, could still finish fourth and get a bye for next month’s conference tournament they will host but the Hawks need to keep winning, including beating Charlotte, and they need Richmond to lose twice.
Baker made 10 of 16 shots from the field in the win over the Billikens (8-17, 2-8), who are fighting to avoid not finishing in either of the bottom two spots, which would mean missing the A-10 tourney.
Kelly Cavallo added 10 points to St. Joseph’s total while sophomore Erin Shields tied a career high with three steals.
Desirae Morgan scored 14 points for Saint Louis and Lorreal Jones scored 12.
St. Joseph’s next hosts last place Rhode Island (1-24, 0-10) on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. and travel to Charlotte Saturday.
Lady Lions Tame Wildcats
No. 18 Penn State is now back in control of its own destiny in terms of winning the regular season Big Ten title and the No. 1 seed for next month’s conference tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
The Lady Lions (20-5, 10-3) beat host Northwestern 77-63 to move to the top of the Big Ten a half-game ahead of No. 10 Ohio State (22-3, 9-3) and No. 16 Purdue (19-6, 9-3).
Ohio State beat visiting Purdue 80-71 to drop the Boilermakers into a second place tie though the two schools Penn State and No. 13 Nebraska (19-4, 8-3) are all tied in the conference loss column.
Nebraska meets Minnesota Monday night.
The Lady Lions will visit Purdue Thursday, host Ohio State next Monday and finish up hosting Minnesota on Feb. 26.
In the win over Northwestern (13-12, 3-9), Alex Bentley, the preseason conference player of the year, topped three Penn State teammates scoring in double figures with 18 as the Lady Lions won their fourth straight.
Zhaque Gray in her final homecoming visit added 17 points to Penn State’s total while matching a career high in assists with six.
Maggie Lucas of Germantown Academy and Narberth, Pa., in suburban Philadelphia, had 11 points while matching career highs in assists with seven and rebounds with nine. Nikki Greene scored 10. Talia East of Philadelphia had 10 rebounds in a reserve role.
Penn State matched its most wins away from the Bryce Jordan Center at nine, which last occurred in 2003-04 when the fabled Kelly Mazzante, the Lady Lions’ scoring sensation, was a senior.
In the Ohio State win at home in Columbus, senior Samantha Prahalis had 21 of her 26 points in the second half, including a key 3-pointer with 41 seconds left to get the Buckeyes to safety.
Brittany Rayburn had 22 points for Purdue.
That’s the local news till the next set of blogs.