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, March 03, 2012

Guru's College Report: La Salle A-10 Drought Ends By Expelling Xavier

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA -- La Salle’s seven-year winless drought in Atlantic 10 tournament competition is over and so is Xavier’s two-season reign as conference champions.

Brittany Wilson, a red-shirt junior transfer from Northeastern, scored 19 points, including the winning three-point play with 22 seconds left in regulation Friday afternoon to give the eighth-seeded Explorers a 52-49 victory over the ninth-seeded Musketeers (8-20) in the opening game of the first round at St. Joseph’s Hagan Arena.

“I’m excited about it,” La Salle second-year coach Jeff Williams said. “The kids played hard. We felt like Xavier wasn’t the same Xavier team we played the first time. (Coach) Amy (Waugh) has done a great job. They’re big. We had problems inside with them. But our kids buckled down and got the win. I guess they know it’s do or die now.”

The host Hawks (20-9), seeded fifth, followed with a 63-52 victory over 12th-seeded Fordham (12-18).

In the other two opening round games, seventh-seeded Duquesne topped 10th-seeded George Washington 69-55. The one upset occurred in the nightcap with No. 11 Saint Louis eliminated No. 6 Charlotte 64-59 as Courtney Webb scored 19 points and the Billikens (11-19) mined 28 points off 18 turnovers by the 49ers (16-13), who remain hopeful of a bid to the Women's National Invitation Tournament.

Second-seeded Temple (20-8) had a first-round bye into Saturday’s quarterfinals, as did top-seeded and 19th-ranked St. Bonaventure (27-2), third-seeded Dayton (20-6), and fourth-seeded Richmond (22-7).

La Salle (14-16) had not won an A-10 opener since 2004. That span includes a three-year period 2008-10 in which the Explorers were one of the two schools in each of those seasons in the 14-team conference that did not qualify to play for the title and NCAA automatic bid.

The Explorers, who beat the Musketeers 63-51 at home in January, railed from a 12-point 38-26 deficit that existed with 13 minutes, 16 seconds left in the game.

Jada Payne, who was on the A-10 all-rookie team, scored 13 points for La Salle.

It’s the first time since 2008 that defending tournament champion, that was also Xavier that season, lost their first game tough the Musketeers still earned an invite as an at-large team to the NCAA tournament.

Amber Gray, a former Tennessee player, had 14 points to top three other teammates who also scored in double figures for the Musketeers on Friday.

“We were dealt with a lot of adversity today but I felt we played hard with the six players that we had,” said Xavier coach Amy Waugh, who was promoted last spring when Kevin McGuff left for Washington in the Pac-12. “Unfortunately, at the end of the game we started to be passive and play not to lose.”

Xavier, which was fifth in the final AP poll a year ago, was decimated by graduations, tranfers and injuries.

Amber Harris and Ta'Shia Phillips were drafted in the first round by WNBA teams last April with Harris landing with eventual league champion Minnesota after both had completed their final year of eligibility at the collegiate level.

Katie Ruttan, a graduate of Springside High in suburban Philadelphia, transferred to Maryland, while two others also left the team and injuries took their toll among the rest of the roster.

St. Joseph’s had it a little easier than Fordham’s last trip here when the Rams forced the Hawks into overtime before St. Joseph’s prevailed.

Michelle Baker had 20 points, Ashley Prim scored 13, and Ashley Robinson and Katie Kuester each scored 10 for the home team Saturday.

Abigail Corning scored 17 for Fordham.

“I thought we really scored in a lot of different ways,” St. Joseph’s coach Cindy Griffin said. “We got a good jump early and were able to sustain it throughout the game.”

Meanwhile, Orsi Szecsi (CQ) had 20 points for Duquesne (20-10), while Alex Gensler scored 14. Chakecia Miller had 17 for the Colonials (11-18).

On Saturday, La Salle will open the quarterfinals at noon against St. Bonaventure before St. Joseph’s meets Richmond at 2:30 p.m.

“I don’t think we played our best basketball when we met them last time,” Griffin said of a 78-59 loss at Richmond last month.

Temple will meet Duquesne at 5 p.m.

“They’re very good and very talented,” said Duquesne coach Suzie McConnell-Serio, a former Penn State all-American, of the Owls. “They have a very good backcourt and their post players can score and rebound.”

Dayton at 7:30 p.m. will meet Saint Louis.

St. Bonaventure is likely to land in the NCAA as an at-large team if the Bonnies get upset along the way in the tournament whose winner earns an automatic bid.

Temple is still solid as of now to land in the NCAAs for the ninth straight year while Dayton has an outside shot to return to the Big Dance.

Both schools would each be taken by the WNIT if bypassed by the NCAA tournament committee while Richmond, St. Joseph's and Duquesne are also strong candidates for WNIT invites.

Princeton and Penn Take Ivy Wins In Lower New England

Already holding a third-straight Ivy title claimed last weekend, Princeton made a bid to become the first Ivy team to be ranked in the Associated Press women's poll by grabbing a 71-53 win at Yale Friday night.

The Tigers (22-4, 12-0) missed cracking the Top 25 by one-point a week ago.

Coach Courtney Banghart's squad is also bidding to gain a second Ivy season unbeaten in the last three, which were marred by one loss a year ago at Harvard.

Princeton, which won its 15th straight overall, is now 39-1 the last three seasons in league play with a visit Saturday night to Brown and a home game Tuesday against Penn remaining before planning to make a run in the NCAA field.

Yale (16-11, 8-5), which hosts Penn Saturday night, fell a game behind Harvard in the loss column in the race for second, which would bring an automatic slot in the 64-team WNIT field.

Niveen Rasheed, a junior who missed most of last season with a knee injury, including the game at Harvard, had 20 points and 14 rebounds for her 10th double double of the year for the Tigers.

Devona Allgood had 13 points and Lauren Edwards scored 10 while Yale's Megan Vasquez scored 15 points, and Michelle Chasen and Hayden respectfully contributed 14 and 11 points to the Bulldogs' attack in New Haven, Conn.

Up the road in Providence, R.I., Penn topped host Brown 72-66 in a closely fought contest though the Quakers (12-14, 5-7) led all the way after a brief deficit in the first 19 seconds.

It is the first time since 2003-04 that Penn, which won just two games two years ago in Mike McLaughlin's first season, has improved in back-to-back seasons.

Sophomore Alyssa Baron had her fourth straight game scoring 20 or more points by tallying 23 against the Bears (16-11, 7-6), who remain two games behind Harvard in the loss column in the hunt to finish second.

Senior Jess Knapp, who has continued to play with the knee injury she suffered in late December which knocked her out of the lineup for several weeks, had nine points as did Katy Allen while rookie sensation Kara Bonenberger scored eight points.

Brown's Sheila Dixon scored 18 points and Hannah Passafuime scored 13.

Villanova Edges Seton Hall In Big East Opener

The 10th-seeded Wildcats held off 15th-seeded Seton Hall 61-60 to win the opening round of the Big East tournament at Hartford's XL Center in Connecticut Friday afternoon.

Lauen Burford, a member of the all-rookie team in the conference, had 15 points for the Villanova (17-12), which is likely to earn a WNIT bid unless the Wildcats make a deeper run in the conference tournament.

They will meet seventh-seeded Louisville at 6 p.m. The Cardinals (21-8), who had a first-round bye and ranked 20th in the current AP Poll, edged Villanova 62-58 at home in January.

Laura Sweeney, an All-Big East second team pick of the conference coaches, had 13 points for the Wildcats, while Rachel Roberts scored 11 points and Devon Kane had 10.

Seton Hall's Jasmine Crew had a game-high 21 points for the Pirates (8-23), who completed their second season under Hall of Fame coach Anne Donovan, who previously headed the WNBA New York Liberty.

Villanova coach Harry Perretta is the only one of the conference coaches to appear in all 30 years of the Big East tournament.

Rutgers (21-8), seeded sixth, also had a first-round bye and will meet 14th-seeded Marquette (14-16), which upset 11th-seeded Cincinnati 54-51 as the Bearcats finished their season 15-15.

Eighth-seeded DePaul (21-9), which has been in and out of the AP Poll in recent weeks while playing short-handed due to injuries, plays its first round after a day off and will meet ninth-seeded South Florida (17-14), which held off 16th-seeded Pittsburgh 60-59 as the Panthers (8-22) lost all regular season conference games and one in the opening round.

Fifth-seeded West Virginia (21-8) also had a first-round bye and will face 12th-seeded Syracuse (18-13), which advanced by beating 13th-seeded Providence 57-47 as the Friars finished their season at 13-17.

Top-seeded Notre Dame (28-2), ranked third, nationally and regular season Big East champion, had a double bye into the quarterfinals and will meet Saturday's winner between DePaul and South Florida on Sunday.

Second-seeded St. John's (21-8), whose Kim Barnes Arico is the Big East coach of the year, with a double bye into Sunday's quarterfinals will face either Louisville or Villanova. The Red Storm are currently ranked 18th in the AP poll.

Third-seeded Connecticut (26-4), relegated to the slot off it's last-second home loss to St. John's several weeks ago, with the double bye meets either Rutgers or Marquette on Sunday.

The Huskies, likely held on to their projected No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, in the wake of upset losses in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament by No. 5 Duke (24-5), the No. 1 ACC seed, to unranked North Carolina State 75-73, and No. 7 Miami (25-5), the No. 2 seed in the ACC, which fell to unranked Wake Forest 81-74.

Sixth-ranked Maryland (26-4), the third seed in the ACC field, which advanced to the conference semifinals beating Virginia 70-58, does not seem capable of passing UConn into a No. 1 slot in the NCAA field.

Georgetown (22-7), ranked 12th in the AP and seeded fourth, had the last double bye and in Sunday's quarterfinals will meet either West Virginia or Syracuse.

Penn State Advances In Big Ten

The top-seeded Lady Lions (24-5) moved into the Big Ten semifinals in Indianapolis by holding off eighth-seeded Minnesota 78-74 to relegate the Golden Gophers to a 15-17 season finish barring a pick for postseason play in the WNIT or WBI.

Maggie Lucas scored 24 points for Penn State, which is assured of an NCAA bid as an at-large entry if the Lady Lions fall short in the conference tournament. They will meet fourth-seeded Purdue (22-8), which ousted fifth-seeded Michigan State 73-64 to send the Spartans to a 20-11 finish pending an invite to either the NCAA or WNIT tourneys.

The other semifinal will have 14th-ranked and second-seeded Ohio State (24-5) meeting No. 24 and sixth-seeded Nebraska (23-7), which advanced upsetting third-seeded Iowa 80-68.

The Buckeyes advanced beating Michigan 57-48 as the seventh-seeded Wolverines finish 20-11 pending an extended appearance in the postseason.

Zhaque Gray added 19 points to the Penn State attack while Alex Bentley scored 12.

Holy Family and University of Sciences Advance to Title Game

The University of Sciences stopped Dominican College 62-59 at Caldwell College in Caldwell, N.J., to advance to the title game of the Division II Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) against perennial championship contender Holy Family, which rallied to a 61-53 win over the tournament host (17-11).

The Devils (19-10) got 17 points from Carolyn Edwards, while CACC rookie of the year Brianne Traub had 15 points and Becca Ruggear scored 14 points and grabbed 15 rebounds.

Holy Family (23-7) got 16 points from Erin Mann, an All-CACC first team honoree as was Philadelphia University's Christine Wooding, the CACC player of the year.

Kelly Brady had 16 points and Maggie Serratelli scored 15 points for the winning Tigers.

That's it until the next sunrise brings more Big East, Atlantic 10 and Big Ten action as well as the outcome of the CACC championship.

-- Mel

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