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.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Guru's College Report: Philly Teams Capture 4-0 Sweep in WNIT Openers

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA – It was a Philly sweep in the first round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament Thursday night with all four teams getting first round victories.

Maybe St. Joseph’s had the toughest time of the quartet because the Hawks here at Hagan Arena ran into another team with some local roots but in the closing minutes coach Cindy Griffin’s bunch moved away to a 67-56 victory over Boston University, the regular season champions of the America East Conference.

The Terriers (23-8) are coached by Kelly Greenberg, the former La Salle star and Penn coach who several weeks ago was part of the 2012 induction class to the Big 5 Hall of Fame in ceremonies at The Palestra.

Several of Greenberg’s former Penn stars, including all-time Quakers great Diana Caramanico, who brought the school its first of two Ivy women’s basketball titles in 2001, were at the game.

Though Greenberg’s brother Chip, a former La Salle men’s star also in the Big Five Hall of Fame, was also in the house, the usually large contingent of family and friends were less so on Thursday night.

“A bunch of them are bartenders and tonight’s one of the biggest nights of the year,” Greenberg said before the game alluding to the first full day of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

Joe McGeever, her former Quakers assistant and high school coach at Archbishop Wood, who is often on press row here, as an officials observer for the Atlantic 10, wasn’t around either because he was attending a softball meeting.

Elsewhere Drexel, which fell to No. 7 Delaware in Sunday’s Colonial Athletic Association title game, used a 22-2 run on the road at Fairfield (24-9) in Connecticut to beat the Stags of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference 57-41 as the Dragons (19-13) won their first-ever postseason game following an NCAA tournament appearance as CAA champions in 2009 and two appearances in the WNIT in 2010 and 2011.

It was Drexel’s program best 10th win in 15 true road games.

Coach Denise Dillon’s squad will meet the winner of Friday’s game between host Hartford (19-12) of the America East and Syracuse (18-14) of the Big East.

The date and site of the contest, to be played most likely Sunday or Monday, will be determined following the outcome.

Temple (22-9) shook off its disappointment as one of the last cuts by the NCAA tournament committee to use a balanced attack at home in McGonigle Hall and beat Northeast Conference representative Quinnipiac 75-60.

Shey Peddie, the Atlantic 10 player of the year, scored her 1,000th point in her two years at Temple, collecting 21 for the game in the win over Quinnipiac (22-10).

It’s the first win in the WNIT since 1983 for Temple, whose last appearance in the tournament in 2001 was an opening round 59-57 loss at James Madison.

The Owls on Saturday night at 6 p.m. in McGonigle Hall, will play Ivy runnerup Harvard (18-11), which held off host Hofstra of the CAA 73-71 Thursday night in Hempstead, N.Y., near Manhattan to advance to the second round.

Temple, which has never played Harvard, had not originally bid to host a second-round game.

Harvard’s win was the first WNIT triumph for an Ivy school member while the 1998 Harvard squad has the only Ivy win in the NCAA tournament – the famous NCAA first-round upset by the 16th-seeded Crimson over top-seeded and host Stanford, which lost two starters to injuries the week before the first round was played.

On Saturday in the NCAA tournament, three-time Ivy champion Princeton (24-4), a ninth seed, will try to get the second NCAA win for the Ivies when the Tigers meet No. 8 Kansas State in an opener in Bridgeport, Conn.

Coach Courtney Banghart’s team on Monday became the first Ivy school to be ranked in the AP Poll when Princeton landed at 24th in the final vote of the season.

“Since both of us won and not Hofstra, we and Harvard would have had to take a long bus ride to Boston and the WNIT people perhaps felt it would be pretty unfair to do that so playing here in Philly is much easier,” Temple coach Tonya Cardoza said.

Villanova (18-14), which has had past success in this tournament and is on the Western side of the WNIT’s 64-team field, at home in the Pavilion completed the Philly sweep by gaining a 58-39 win over American University (23-8) to eliminate the Patriot League representative.

The Wildcats on Sunday will travel to Illinois State at 3:05 p.m. EST for a second round game. The Redbirds (19-12), who beat Mid-American Conference tournament runnerup Central Michigan (20-16), belong to the Missouri Valley Conference.

Illinois State won its game 69-68, one of five opening round games decided by three points or less. Candace Sykes three-pointer with 17 seconds left won it for the Redbirds and she finished with a career-high 23 points and 10 rebounds.

The Chippewas, who last weekend lost to Eastern Michigan at the buzzer in the MAC title game, got 23 points and 11 rebounds from Crystal Brandford.

Illinois State is coached by former North Carolina State assistant and interim head coach Stephanie Glance.

Meanwhile, it’s the sixth time in nine appearances St. Joseph’s has won the opener with the best run occurring in 2004 all the way to a 66-58 quarterfinal loss at Iowa State in Ames.

St. Joseph’s (22-10), one of five Atlantic 10 teams in the WNIT, will play its second round game at home 2 p.m. Sunday, when the Hawks will meet a familiar foe in Virginia Commonwealth (18-14) of the Colonial Athletic Association.

The two schools have met the previous two opening rounds here with VCU ousting the Hawks in 2010 and St. Joseph’s winning the opener last season.

The Rams, whom Drexel ousted last weekend in the quarterfinals of the CAA tournament, rallied Thursday night on the road from a 17-point deficit in the first half to down Bowling Green 72-71 as Andrea Barbour scored on a layup at the buzzer.

Senior Courtney Hurt, considered a potential first round pick in next month’s WNBA draft, scored 30 points for VCU and grabbed 17 rebounds while Barbour scored 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.

Bowling Green (24-7), whose athletic director Greg Christopher is the first-ever male chair of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Committee, got 23 points from Jessica Slagle to top two other teammates scoring in double figures.

The Rams, whose coach Beth Cunningham is a former Notre Dame star who played for the Philadelphia Rage in the former ABL, cut their deep deficit to nine points at the half.

But they still trailed by 11 with 5:34 left in the game and were behind 69-62 several minutes later before launching an 8-0 run to briefly take the lead before Slagle’s two foul shots put Bowling Green back in front with five seconds left.

That was plenty of time for VCU to get the ball to Barbour, who went coast-to-coast for the win.

Rams assistant Trena Trice-Hill is a former North Carolina State star who was a teammate of Dobbins High scoring sensation Linda Page, who died of a heart attack in October.

St. Joseph’s in its win over Boston U. enjoyed a strong performance from the senior class as Michelle Baker scored 20, Katie Kuester scored 13, and Kelly Cavallo set a career mark with 19 rebounds and scored nine points. She also connected for her first career three-pointer.

Cavallo’s tenacious rebounding, especially with seven on the offensive glass, enabled the Hawks to have a 20-10 advantage on second chance points.

Her rebounds matched six other Hawks in program history for the third most individually in a game.

Boston U. was held to 35.3 percent shooting from the field as Rashidat Agboola scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, while Mo Moran scored 12, and Chantell Alford, the two-time consecutive reigning America East player of the year, scored 11 points.

“I thought we executed our game plan very well today, taking away their three-ball and it allowed us to really get us going a little more, offensively, by doing that,” Griffin said.

St. Joseph’s had not played for 12 days since being eliminated here in the Hawks’ arena by A-10 regular season champion St. Bonaventure.

In that game Baker set a Hawks record with her 125th appearance.

“Once we got back into the flow of playing a game again, we got some easy looks offense and opened up the game,” Griffin said. “But they kept chipping away and Boston University never gave up but we were able to hang on and it was a strong finish.”

The first half was close most of the way with St. Joseph’s hitting the intermission break with a 30-24 advantage. In the second half, the Hawks twice built eight-point leads but Boston U. fought back to cut it to 51-50 with 7:22 left in the game.

St. Joseph’s, however, went on a 8-0 run to go up 59-50 with 1:05 left and then protected the lead the rest of the way.

The loss was a disappointing finish for Boston U., which had dominated the America East most of the season but was upset by UMBC in the conference semifinals.

“Second chance points for St. Joes and we didn’t make shots,” Greenberg said. “We missed a lot of layups and we missed a lot of free throws (5-14).

“It is going to be hard to win any game with them getting so many second chance opportunities and with us just not connecting the gimmes. So it was disappointing we didn’t score the way we usually do.

“I thought our players were excited to play. We have a lot of women on our team with a lot of character. We came down here focused and ready but unfortunately we just didn’t make shots. Certainly Baker hit a lot of tough shots overall and that was the difference.”

Baker said the opportunity to keep playing is motivating even if the Hawks seniors missed the NCAA tournament their four seasons.

“Our dream is to be in the NCAA tournament but we don’t want to lose either so whoever comes on that court wherever we go, we want to win the game,” she said. “I don’t care if it’s NCAA, NIT, backyard basketball, I want to win the game.”

Temple Good For Openers Once More

The Owls have not been to the WNIT since 2001 when Dawn Staley, now at South Carolina, made her career-coaching debut and gave the program its first winning record in a decade.

However, it’s the third straight year Temple has advanced out of the first round in the postseason, including two previous appearances in the NCAA field.

Overall Peddy has scored 1,855 points, dating to two previous seasons at Wright State before transferring to the Owls and gaining 1,001 points at Temple.

Brittany Lewis narrowly missed a triple double against the Bobcats (22-10) with 11 points, 11 rebounds, and a career-high nine assists.

Kristen McCarthy had 13 points and a game-high 12 rebounds while Victoria Macaulay had 17 points, shooting 7-for-8 from the field in the game in which the Owls built a 25-point lead early in the second half.

Samantha Guastella had 11 points for Quinnipiac and Felicia Barron scored 10 points.

Harvard, the next opponent for the Owls, got 19 of her 26 points from Brogan Berry in the first half against Hofstra (19-12), while Christine Clark scored 23 overall and Emma Golen grabbed 10 rebounds.

Junior guard Elle Hagedorn is a graduate of Mount St. Joseph’s Academy.

The Crimson finished second to powerful Princeton in the Ivy League.

Hofstra’s Shante Evans, a graduate of Henderson High who lives in West Chester, scored 24 points and grabbed 16 rebounds for one of the four CAA representatives in the tournament, including Drexel. It was her 50th career double double.

Candace Bond scored 18 points and Nicole Capurso scored 13.

The Pride trailed by 13 points in the second half before a rally moved them within a point at 69-68 with 1 minute, 26 seconds left in the game.

Clark’s putback made it 71-68 and then Capurso missed a trey for Hofstra with 43 seconds left and Berry hit two foul shots for a 73-68 lead.

Loper’s trey with nine seconds left got the Pride within a basket but unable to get a steal Hofstra sent Clark to the line for the Crimson.

She missed the front end of a one-and-one but Bond, with the chance to force a tie and overtime, never got a successful shot off and the Pride, which seemed NCAA bound in early January, completed their late-season fade that included a 94-87 upset loss to fifth-seeded UNC Wilmington in the CAA quarterfinals a week ago.

UNC Wilmington, which then lost to Delaware in the semifinals, was eliminated Thursday night in the WNIT with a 79-73 loss to Appalachian State.

Drexel Late-Season Run Continues

Following last week’s quarterfinal win over sixth-seeded VCU in the CAA quarterfinals and upset of second-seeded James Madison in the semifinals before the loss to Delaware in the title game, Drexel quickly got back on the winning side Thursday night at Fairfield.

Kamile Nacickaite scored 12 points and set a Drexel record with her 126th appearance snapping the tie she held with Gabriela Marginean, all-time Dragons and Philadelphia collegiate women’s career scorer.

Tyler Hale scored 18 points for Drexel, which tied a career-high, while the Dragons, who tied a CAA tournament record a week ago shooting 18-for-18 from the line in the semifinals, were perfect again at 11-for 11.

Desiree Pina had 11 points for the Stags, who had their first-ever meeting with Drexel.

James Madison (25-7), the other CAA team in the WNIT, beat Davidson 64-49, at home Thursday night and will host Wake Forest (20-13) of the Atlantic Coast Conference on Sunday.

The Demon Deacons advanced Thursday night by winning at Charlotte 72-61, eliminating the host 49ers (16-14) of the Atlantic 10.

Temple and St. Joseph’s were joined by Richmond (23-8) among A-10 teams moving to the second round after the host Spiders won 76-54 over Miami of Ohio (21-10) of the MAC also on Thursday night.

Duquesne (20-11), the other A-10 team in the field, will open play Friday night at Cincinnati (15-15) of the Big East with the winner in the second round facing either host Toledo (21-9) of the MAC or Detroit (20-13) of the Horizon League, who will also play Friday night.

Villanova Whips American

Holding a slim 20-19 lead with 7:05 to play in the first half, the Wildcats went on a 12-2 run to go up 32-21 at the break and never trail again after continuing on a 16-5 run when the two teams returned for the final 20 minutes.

Rachel Roberts and Lauren Burford each scored 10 points for Villanova, while Burford’s points all came in the second half.

The Wildcats did not allow any American player to score in double figures. Alexis Dobbs had a team-high eight points.

More Coaching Vacancies

Former North Carolina star Sylvia Crawley resigned from Boston College of the ACC Thursday night, citing health reasons that are being categorized as non-life threatening.

Assistant Tim Eatman will be the interim head coach until a permanent succesor is found, the Eagles said.

Valparaiso, Loyola Marymount and Delaware State also joined the growing list of schools with coaching vacancies.

Meanwhile, the Guru will be commuting between Bridgeport, Conn., for the NCAAs and here for NIT action all weekend.

Tweeting will originate from the Guru’s handle @womenhoopsguru.

-- Mel

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