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 -- Temple shook off a sluggish first half and George Washington edge of 32-30 to bolt to a 75-54 victory over the Colonials in an Atlantic Ten Wednesday afternoon matinee at the Owls' Liacouras Center for their 10th straight victory.
Though a bit more competitive than Temple's 89-36 wipeout in Washington a year ago, the Owls (17-8, 10-1 A-10) unleashed a similar fury across an eight-minute 21-1 stretch in the second half to enable coach Tonya Cardoza's group to produce five players scoring in double figures for the second straight game.
Later at night involving two other local teams in the conference, St. Joseph's pounced on last-place Rhode Island for a 64-53 victory at the Hawks' Hagan Arena, the site of next month's Atlantic Ten tournament.
La Salle built an 11-point halftime lead over third-place Dayton but couldn't sustain in it in the second half and fell to the Flyers 58-49 at the Explorers' Hagan Arena.
Meanwhile, in the Big East, No. 21 Rutgers' woes continued as the Scarlet Knights lost their fifth straight in a 60-50 setback to West Virginia on the road in Morgantown.
It would be six straight but for a last-second comeback win at home last month from a 16-point deficit in the second half to DePaul.
In the Temple game, Kristen McCarthy scored 21 points, Shey Peddy had 15, Brittany Lewis scored 14, Rateska Brown had 10, and Victoria Macaulay posted a double double with 11 points and 10 rebounds against the Colonials (11-14, 4-7) to move a game behind idle St. Bonaventure (24-2, 11-0), which moved up to 22nd after a debut at 25 a week ago in the Associated Press women's poll.
George Washington's Tiana Myers and Tara Booker each scored 15 points, while Dani Jackson scored 10.
A loss to the Bonnies marred a near-perfect run across the top of the Atlantic Ten by Temple, which now for the most part is finishing up against the lower portion causing a drag to the Owls' RPI ranking the NCAA tournament committee uses to select and seed schools in the 64-team field.
Though Temple could take the absolute way into a ninth-straight NCAA tournament appearance by winning the Atlantic Ten and automatic bid, the Owls still seek a safety net to gain one of 33 at-large invitations if their quest falls short.
The Owls' strength of schedule indicator is strong because of a slew of nationally-regarded opponents out of conference in November and December, though Temple couldn't produce any signature triumphs, but the weaker part of the A-10 slate is causing Temple's RPI to drop into the 50s with a trip to Rhode Island Sunday before finishing up at home next week against St. Joseph's at home Wednesday in the second game against the Hawks and then a visit to La Salle the following Saturday.
The two teams against city foes will help determine who finishes second in the Big Five behind Villanova, which completed a 4-0 sweep last month to dethrone Temple as local champs.
So how might Cardoza plead to the NCAA if she could to gain the committee's acceptance for a return to the tourney?
"We're a better basketball team," she said. "If we had to start over from this point on, our record would be different -- I believe that.
"I believe we're playing really could basketball right now -- we have a lot of guys contributing -- they've jelled. Like BJ (Williams) said last game, they know where each other is at on the court.
Defensively, we're a better team and more important we have 'Vic that's contributing right now and we're playing with a lot of confidence."
Williams dealt six assists to compensate for her 1-for-5 from the field.
In the St. Joseph's game, Kelly Cavallo matched a career-high seven field goals, leading to 14 points for the Hawks (17-8, 7-4), who are in a three-way tie for fourth but perhaps need to win out to earn the fourth seed and final first-round bye in the conference tourney.
They travel to Charlotte (15-10, 7-4) Saturday in North Carolina before the Temple visit and then final game of the regular season at home hosting George Washington Sunday Feb. 26.
Michelle Baker scored 12 points and Ashley Prim, the reigning Big Five player of the week, scored 10.
Emilie Clouter had 17 points for URI (1-25, 0-11), while Ashley Rivera and Sherrie Session each scored 14 points.
"I was pleased with the way we executed the beginning of the first half, the beginning of the second half, I thought we did a really nice job of creating opportunities for our shooters and our bigs (Cavallo and Samira Van Grinsven)," St. Joseph's coach Cindy Griffin said.
"Our bigs really came through when we needed them to, and obviously Kelly and Michelle had wonderful games and were efficient at both ends of the floor with rebounding and making shots."
The Hawks quickly built a 20-point lead and ran up the differential to as much as 21 late in the second half.
Meanwhile, La Salle (12-14, 6-5) fell into a seventh-place tie with Duquesne (18-8, 6-5) after it seemed the Explorers might upset the Flyers (17-6, 9-2), who were made co-favorites with Temple by the conference coaches in a preseason poll.
Brittany Wilson had 15 points and Alexis Scott scored 10 for La Salle, which visits Duquesne Saturday.
Dayton's Andrea Hoover had 22 points and Justine Raterman scored 20.
WNBA Chicago Sky assistant Jeff House, looking for candidates to select in the second round of April's draft, was at the Temple game to view Peddy and at the Dayton game to view Raterman.
In other key A-10 games, two-time defending champion Xavier moved closer to avoid being one of two teams facing elimination fro the conference tourney field by finishing in the bottom of the standings.
The Musketeers (7-17, 4-7) upset visiting Richmond 76-60 to drop the Spiders (20-6, 7-4) into the fourth-place tie with Charlotte and St. Joseph's.
Xavier visits St. Bonaventure Saturday and Dayton Wednesday before hosting Massachusetts (6-20, 1-10) Feb. 26 in a game might determine who plays in Hagan Arena and who stays home between the two schools.
Massachusetts lost 63-59 at Saint Louis (9-17, 3-8) Wednesday afternoon before hosting George Washington Sunday and Rhode Island Wednesday prior to the trip to Xavier.
In the other game on Wednesday's A-10 slate, Duquesne gained a 56-50 win at Fordham (11-15, 2-9).
Rutgers Slump Continues
In the lone game on the Big East conference slate, West Virginia (19-6, 8-3) moved into a third-place tie with idle St. John's after following up Sunday's startling upset at then-No. 2 Notre Dame by taking down another ranked opponent in the Scarlet Knights (17-8, 6-6),who are now still in eighth place.
Junior center Monique Oliver scored 14 points to lead Rutgers while senior guard Khadijah Rushdan scored 13 points and nine rebounds, junior guard Erica Wheeler and senior guard April Sykes added 11 and 10 points, respectively.
The Scarlet Knights' losing streak is the longest since 2001-02.
Christal Caldwell scored 16 points for the Mountaineers, while Asya Bussie had a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Rutgers, which visits Villanova, Saturday, has only beaten Louisville at home in overtime and DePaul in the last second at home in terms of conference teams ahead of the Scarlet Knights in the Stadium.
Thursday night Delaware, in a gamd the Guru will be at, visits Hofstra and Drexel will be at Old Dominion.
No. 12 Penn State will be after first place in the Big Ten when the Lady Lions visit Purdue.