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.
By Mel Greenberg
PHILADELPHIA -- In an Atlantic 10 game that was tightly fought wire to wire Wednesday night St. Joseph's survived La Salle 57-53 as sophomore Erin Shields sealed the "road" win with a pair of foul shots five seconds from the end of regulation at the Explorers' Tom Gola Arena.
The Hawks (15-8, 5-4 A-10) snapped a rough two-game losing streak at home to Temple and on the road at Richmond to tie La Salle (11-13, 5-4) for sixth but they would get the seed if the conference tournament began today because of the win over the Explorers.
"We really needed this in the worst way and our defense won it for us tonight," St. Joseph's coach Cindy Griffin said afterwards. "We missed a lot of shots tonight -- we got good looks but the difference in this game was we were able to defend and that won us the game."
Ashley Prim, who was a perfect 4-4 on 3-point attempts had a team-high 18 points, while Samir Vaan Grinsven had 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Kelly Cavallo blocked four shots and had two steals.
"This team is on the verge of doing something really special -- I just think we went through a tough week. We needed to get this game -- this game was a must."
Alexis Scott had 20 points for the Explorers, while Nadia Duncan and Brittany Wilson each scored 11 points and Wilson also grabbed 12 rebounds.
But La Salle missed some timely scoring opportunities that had second year coach Jeff Williams shaking his head.
"A bunch of easy shots, a bunch of layups, a bunch of missed free throws, we didn't execute offensively or defensively down the stretch. We just have to keep practicing, keep working, we're not there yet."
La Salle can clinch a return to the A-10 tournament Saturday with a win at Rhode Island, though Williams would like to improve upon the number of regular season league wins a year ago.
The game also counted in the Big Five in the battle for second place and the Hawks are now 2-1 while La Salle fell to 1-2.
The combo St. Joseph's at Temple and Temple at La Salle at the end of the regular season will determine how the teams finish behind champion Villanova as well as going into the Atlantic 10 tournament, which will be held next month at the Hawks' Hagan Arena.
The top of the conference remained in check with No. 25 St. Bonaventure carrying its first-ever AP ranking to a succesful 69-54 win at Massachusetts to stay unbeaten in the conference at 10-0 and 23-2 overall.
The Bonnies set a program record for road wins at 11, which makes them one of three unbeaten teams perfect in opposing arenas -- they lost to Villanova on a neutral court in the opener of Monmouth's tournament in December. The other loss was at home to No. 12 Delaware.
Coach Jim Crowley's team also set team marks for consecutive wins at 12 and for conference wins while also tying the all-time season wins.
Megan Van Tatenhove and Amelia Horton each scored 17 points in the win over the Minutewomen (6-18, 1-8) at the Mullins Center in Amherst, Mass.
Temple (15-8, 8-1) and Dayton (15-5, 8-1), co-favorites in the conference coaches' preseason poll, stayed a game behind St. Bonaventure in the loss column after the Owls won at Saint Louis 66-50 and Dayton rolled over visiting Charlotte 91-68.
Dayton will host St. Bonaventure in a major showdown Saturday that could see a three-way tie for first in the conference if the host Flyers win and Temple beats visiting Massachusetts.
Temple, which won its eighth straight, got a season-high 21 points from BJ Williams, while freshman Rateska Brown had a career-high 12 points and Victoria Macauley had 10 points and a career-tying 13 rebounds going against the Billikens (8-16, 2-7).
The Owls forced Saint Louis into 21 turnovers and harvested 22 points while committing a season low nine miscues.
Dayton had the numbers add up on the Flyers' "Math Day" matinee as Justine Raterman and Andrea Hoover scored 18 points, each; Sam MacKay scored a career-high 16 points, and Patrice Lalor and Ally MacKay each scored 10 points against the 49ers (15-9, 7-3).
Charlotte is holding fourth place by a half game ahead of Richmond (18-5, 6-3), which was idle. In another game, the woes of two-time defending conference champion Xavier (5-17, 2-7) continued, this time with a 54-44 road loss at George Washington (11-12, 4-5).
Tyeasha Moss had 15 points for the Musketeers while the host Colonials got 22 points from Danni Jackson and 18 rebounds from Brooke Wilson.
Duquesne (16-8, 4-5) stayed in the crowded middle with a 63-42 road win at Rhode Island (1-23, 0-9) as Alex Gensler scored 13 points. She and sidelined teammate Vanessa Abel became part of the senior class with the most wins in the program.
This is also the fifth year under Dukes coach Suzie McConell-Serio, a former Penn State all-American who also won an Olympic gold medal and gained All-Star status in the WNBA where she later had a coaching stint with the Minnesota Lynx.
Grand Funk Loss For Villanova
The number 1,000 came up big twice for Villanova in a Big East visit to DePaul in Chicago but grand was not the way to describe the Wildcats' feeling after narrow 79-73 loss to the injury depleted Blue Demons.
Wildcats' longtime coach Harry Perretta, who is in his 34th season, became the seventh mentor at any NCAA level to coach 1,000 games at the same university.
Accentuating the quadruple digits, Laura Sweeney, who had a team-high 22 points became the 23rd person in Perretta's program to reach 1,000 points in a career.
But in the battle for both teams to stay with the large middle pack in the rugged Big East, the points that meant the most were gained by the home team, whose active roster has been reduced to seven players because of injuries.
"That's what we have the rest of the way, God willing," DePaul coach Doug Bruno said recently following a tough loss at Rutgers in noting that more injuries would make matters even worse.
But the Blue Demons (18-7, 6-5) are finding ways to win such as a recent rout of nationally-ranked conference foe Louisville that recently dubdued Villanova in the final minutes. Bruno, incidentally, is on the Olympic staff as an assistant to UConn's Geno Auriemma for the summer games in London.
Anna Martin had a game-high 24 points for DePaul, while Katherine Harry had 20 and 14 rebounds. Jasmine Penny put in her two cents with 12 points.
Villanova (15-9, 5-6), which has excellent RPI numbers for at-large consideration to the NCAA tournament, but needs some wins to avoid the bottom tier of the Big East, got a career-high 16 points from Emily Leer off the bench, and Devon Kane scored 13.
Perretta has had better days at the racetrack in the Chicago suburbs than at DePaul where his team is 0-5 since the Blue Demons left Conference-USA for the Big East.
The Wildcats visit South Florida Saturday night in what could be considered a must win mission unless Villanova can steal a win or two to compensate as the regular season schedule winds down.
Elsewhere in the Big East, St. John's topped visiting South Florida 67-57 as Kim Barnes Arico tied for Red Storm coach Joe Mullaney Jr., now an associate head coach to Perretta at Villanova, for most wins in Red Storm history.
The game in Queens, N.Y., also drew over 5,000 fans, a program record, for the matinee attraction.
Barnes Arico now has 168 wins.
Da'Shena Stevens had 17 points and 11 rebounds while Shenneika Smith scored 16 points for the Red Storm (16-8, 8-3).
Sasha Bernard had 14 points for the visiting Bulls (12-13, 4-7).
St. John's will be looking for a season sweep when the Red Storm visit No. 17 Rutgers on Sunday.
Seton Hall remained winless in conference play as No. 14 Georgetown gained a narrow 56-51 victory at home in Washington at McDonough Arena.
All-American candidate Sugar Rodgers got 23 points and 11 rebounds for the host Hoyas (19-5, 8-3).
Jasmine Crew had 20 points for the Pirates (7-18, 0-11) whose 13-game losing streak ties a program record set in 1984-85. Seton Hall's Anne Donovan, a Hall of Famer who previously coached the WNBA New York Liberty is in her second season at the university located in South Orange, N.J.
Crew also set a school record for most free throws made in a season with 135.
Hurricanes Whip Tar Heels
The only thing keeping No. 6 Miami from being tied for first in the Atlantic Coast Conference with No. 5 Duke is a tough 65-63 road loss at No. 22 North Carolina on Jan. 2.
So only a few days after the Blue Devils had added to the list of worst-evers the Tar Heels (17-7, 7-4) keep experiencing around the wins, the Hurricanes played the revenge card on UNC for a stifling 61-37 win.
How bad was this one for the Tabacco Road resident?
Well, it was so bad that UNC was forced into a season-high 35 turnovers which resulted in 39 points by the Hurricanes (21-3, 10-1).
"They got great guards," said Tar Heels coach Sylvia Hatchell, who could teach a course in concession speeches this season. Among them was the litany after the nonconference pounding at the hands of No. 3 Connecticut on the road last month.
"They come at you, are extremely physical. That was basically the bottom line."
Great guards are the continuing line at Miami where the senior all-American candidacy of Shenise Johnson (19 points) and Riquna Williams (17 points) remained potent.
The Hurricanes have won 38 straight at home -- third best behind the continuing NCAA-record extending 98 of UConn and the 74 at Stanford.
Big 12 Mish Mash
On one had this is where the nation's No. 1 team Baylor resides with a perfect record, whose run is nearly matched in perfection at Wisconsin-Green Bay in the Horizon conference. But after the Bears and Brittney Griner make their presence felt, the rest of the conference may lead the country in unpredicatability.
On Wednesday night, Kansas handled visiting Texas, a former AP Poll member this season, 85-61, while host Oklahoma State gained a narrow 53-49 win over Texas Tech, which was dropped from the poll this week.
Iowa State won at Missouri, 65-52, which may not be a surprise and No. 15 Texas A&M, the defending national champion, beat visiting Kansas State 67-36.
In three key games in the Colonial Athletic Association Thursday night James Madison, tied with Hofstra for second, visits Drexel, which beat the Dukes last month for the first time in the regular season on the road.
Host Dragons coach Denise Dillon, in chasing a season sweep over JMU, will also be out to the the all-time Drexel Division I coaching record of 144 wins registered by Lil Haas.
Meanwhile, No. 12 Delaware, which is unbeaten in the CAA and has lost just one at Maryland, will be hosting Old Dominion, which owned the conference until recent seasons.
It's the first meeting since the upstart Blue Hens seeded seventh sent the Lady Monarchs packing for the first time ever last spring in the CAA quarterfinals.
Hofstra will seeking to stay at worst three games behind Delaware and tied with JMU, if the Dukes win, by trying to beat host Virginia Commonwealth on the road.
In the Big Ten, No. 18 Penn State will be seeking to stay close to the leaders when the Lady Lions host Wisconsin, while No. 10 Ohio State, in second place, visits Illinois.
No. 13 Nebraska, tied for first with idle Purdue, will host Michigan.
In the ACC, Duke is at Boston College and No. 8 Maryland is at Clemson.
In the Pac-12, No. 4 Stanford hosts Southern Cal while Cal, which is trying to hold second place, will host UCLA.
In the Southeastern Conference, No. 11 Tennessee is at Vanderbilt for a major in-state showdown, while No. 24 South Carolina, in its first game since upsetting Tennessee in Knoxville a week ago, will be visiting Arkansas.
The Guru will be at Delaware, in part to help a former Inky colleague get around for a story on some big time player on the Blue Hens roster. Don't worry Drexel, he'll be tracking and checking in.
Also, the first-ever United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) mid-season watch list for national women's player of the year, will be released either Thursday or Friday.
However, while the list was a board selection, the all-America ballot remains wide open to the entire membership and all Division I players are eligible for consideration.
In a couple of weeks or so look for an important announcement in having the player of the year award by USBWA have a name attached to the award in the manner of the Oscar Robertson Trophy the men's side gives to the national player of the year.
Several other initiatives if completed in time involving naming honors on the women's awards will also be announced next month.