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 23, 2012

Gurus' WNIT Report: Temple Handled By Syracuse; Villanova Nipped At Colorado

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA – Like Drexel several nights earlier, Temple had several minutes to contemplate the end of the Owls’ season and careers of four seniors at the hands of Syracuse in an 82-68 loss to the Orange Thursday night here in McGonigle Hall in a Women’s NIT game in the Sweet 16.

Like St. Joseph’s on Sunday, the end for Villanova (19-15) occurred in the final moments, also Thursday night, as the Wildcats fell Rocky Mountain short at Colorado losing to the Buffaloes 48-47 in a similar round of the WNIT.

With those setbacks, the women’s collegiate season in the immediate Philadelphia area came to an end for 2011-12, though many here have local interest in Penn State’s fortunes in the NCAA Sweet 16 where the fourth-seeded Lady Lions (26-6) will meet top-seeded Connecticut (31-4) Sunday afternoon at the University of Rhode Island’s Ryan Area in the Kingston Regional.

Two Germantown Academy graduates and former teammates will face each other as red-shirt junior Caroline Doty plays for the Huskies and sophomore Maggie Lucas plays for Penn State.

Meanwhile, after getting over the disappointment of being bypassed for an at-large pick by the NCAA women’s basketball tournament committee, Temple (23-10) made its deepest postseason run since the 1980s in getting home wins over Quinnipiac and Harvard to stay home again and meet Syracuse (21-14).

A three-pointer from senior Shey Peddy as time was expiring that seemed to be launched from downtown a mile away at City Hall had Temple in contention going into the break and trailing Syracuse 33-32.

The teams then switched leads for a bit at the outset of the final stanza before Syracuse’s inside game began to dominate. Nikki Works’ two foul shots gave the Owls a 43-42 lead with 14 minutes, 50 seconds left in the game but then the Orange went on a 14-3 run in which Works’ 3-pointer was the only Temple score in that stretch.

A rally got it back down to a six-point deficit but that would be as close as the Owls would get as Syracuse pulled away and headed into the quarterfinals where the Orange will travel to play Toledo on Saturday afternoon.

It’s the second Big East school the Rockets of the Mid-American Conference will face after ousting Cincinnati earlier.

Toledo (24-9), the defending WNIT champion, beat a Virginia Commonwealth squad 81-64 at home in Ohio that had advanced Sunday on a steal and score by Andrea Barbour of the Rams (19-15) in overtime at St. Joseph’s Sunday as time expired.

Villanova suffered a similar last-second fate at Colorado in Boulder in losing in the last seconds but in the Wildcats’ situation in regulation they expired when Devon Kane drove the lane to attempt a game-winner but her running left-handed lay-up attempt was off the rim.

Colorado (21-13), which moved to the expanded and re-named Pac-12 this season, will travel in the quarterfinals to play former Big 12 rival Oklahoma State (19-12), which advanced with a 70-57 win over Missouri State (24-9) of the Missouri Valley Conference.

In the other two games this weekend in the WNIT, Virginia, a 74-58 winner at home Thursday night over Appalachian State (27-7), will meet the winner of Friday’s night’s Sweet 16 game between host James Madison (26-7) and South Florida ((19-15) at a date and site to be determined.

The Cavaliers, another team that just missed making the NCAA field, are now 25-10.

Washington ((20-13), which had previously advanced, will host San Diego (25-8), which beat Texas Tech 60-51 to end the season of the Red Raiders (21-14).

Villanova again had to play without junior and statistical leader Laura Sweeney, the all-Big East forward who broke her hand during the Wildcats’ win at home over American a week ago in the opening round.

“It was a very good game,” Villanova coach Harry Perretta said from the Denver airport before his team boarded a redeye flight to return home. “Colorado had leads, one time they were up 11 and we kept coming back.

“We had the ball with nine seconds left and called time and then Devon tried to score and the ball was off the rim in a play that was like Temple’s missed layup when the Owls lost to Dayton in the semifinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament.”

Villanova’s Emily Leer tied a career-high with 16 points and was 6-for-12 from the field, getting 13 of her points in the second half, while Megan Pearson scored nine points and Lindsay Kimmel had 8 points to concluded a collegiate career with two seasons at Temple and two with the Wildcats.

Colorado’s Chucky Jefferey had 19 points and 17 rebounds.

For Villanova, the Wildcats made strides off last season and were not too many games away from being NCAA-bound out of the powerful Big East Conference.

Perretta earned his 600th victory at the start of the season in the second game after upsetting then-ranked Michigan State in Iona’s tournament to get 2011-12 under way.

Over here, however, there was an expectation that the Owls might last longer in the WNIT after the NCAA committee had revealed after the draw was announced on Selection Monday that Temple was one of the first four schools not to make the cut in the 64-team national tournament.

Senior Shey Peddy, the Atlantic 10 player of the year and defensive player of the year, had 20 points, while center Victoria Macaulay had 11 points, senior Kristen McCarthy had 11 points and 10 rebounds, and Nikki Works, whose home is Syracuse, scored 10 points.

Syracuse’s Kayla Alexander was an imposing force with 29 points and 10 rebounds while Carmen Tyson-Thomas, a graduate of Conwell-Egan Catholic High, had 15 points and 11 rebounds, Iasia Hemingway scored 13, and Elashier Hall had 11 points.

The Orange dominated the paint 42-26 though Temple won the overall battle of the boards by a slight 43-42 advantage.

Still, the Owls gave up 20 second-chance points while scoring 15, and, just as important was Syracuse holding a 17-9 edge in points off turnovers.

As the final minute arrived, Temple coach Tonya Cardoza pulled Peddy, who had starred here for two years after transferring from Wright State; McCarthy, and BJ Williams from the floor to a final standing ovation. Joelle Connelly, a transfer from Hofstra, did not play.

McCarthy and Williams were freshmen when Cardoza took over the program in 2008-09 after Dawn Staley left for South Carolina, where she now has the Gamecocks, who have advanced to the Sweet 16, in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2003.

Temple continued the five-year run existing from Staley to three straight seasons before this one in the NCAA field.

“We’re very happy to come out of here with a `W,’ Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman said. “We have a lot of respect for Temple as a basketball team.

“(Temple is) a team, I think that shouldn’t be playing here today, they should be in the NCAA tournament. Peddy’s a handful. We tried to keep her under control, which we could not do but I felt we had a lot of offense with Kayla in the paint where we overtook them inside.

“We knew we had a size advantage but Temple is still athletic enough to contest shots. We just wanted to play strong and play at the rim. I give the kids a lot of credit. We’ve been on the road a long time, playing hard and they’re competing but I just can’t say enough about Temple for the kind of team they are.”

The Orange spent the week in town, staying after beating Drexel on Monday night, making the trip more enjoyable than on Big East visits to Villanova.

“We have to get out of here,” Hillsman said. “We’ve been eating too many cheesesteaks. I know we’re eating good. It’s just fun winning in the postseason.”

The mood, as expected was glum on the Temple side because of the loss and the farewell to the seniors.

“This is a disappointing loss,” Cardoza said. “We expected to go all the way and win this thing and we came out on the losing end. Syracuse was too much to handle inside. We didn’t have an answer for their big kid (Alexander).

“We just didn’t take advantage of opportunities when we did have them. We talked about making sure we would limit them on the offensive boards and we gave them too many points off offensive rebounds and too many points off turnovers.”

Cardoza talked about it being the last game for the seniors.

“It’s always disappointing sending your seniors off on a loss,” she said. “Actually, a lot of people do it, but as a coach you never want your season to end on a sour note.

“The fact we didn’t play great makes it much harder to swallow, but I couldn’t ask for a better group. What these guys have been able to do over the number of years that they’ve been here, and more importantly, the effort and the passion they play with – it’s going to be hard to replace them. But I know there’s a brighter future down the road for all of them.”

Speaking of her final moments, Peddy said, “It’s a disappointed feeling knowing there’s nothing else you can do. This will be the last time we were a Temple jersey, so for me it hurts.”

Peddy transferred from Wright State to be near Cardoza, who grew up in the same town of Roxbury, Mass., near Boston, an athlete she idolized growing up.

“I’m going to miss coming around here every day,” Peddy said. “It hurts we couldn’t bring her a championship of some sort. I appreciate everything the rest of the coaches have done.”

McCarthy had been recruited by Staley and after initially trying to withdraw when Staley left, she changed her mind and decided to come and give Cardoza a chance.

“I don’t know how much this really hit me yet,” McCarthy said, “but I was saying as time was winding down, `I’ll never wear a Temple jersey again. I’m done with college.’ That moment you think will never really come.

“I definitely enjoyed my time here and learned so much. I took a chance coming all the way from California. But I just give nothing but thanks to the university for this opportunity, this once in a lifetime. I enjoyed it and will miss it as well.”

Asked about what next year might look like trying to replace the graduates, Cardoza said, “You cross your fingers and hope and pray.

“Obviously, we’re losing one of the best senior classes ever so it’s going to be hard to replace them. You hope the younger guys that have been here have taken something from each one of them and they’re able to now pass it on to the younger guys,” Cardoza said.

“But it’s going to be a different kind of team because you have a lot of new guys learning. It will be exciting in different ways so you’ll be able to grow together. Whereas the leadership is not going to be one true leader. It’s going to be a lot of young guys learning from each other.

“In some ways it’s going to be exciting to see because there’s so many spots that need to be filled and competition at practice is going to be different because everybody is going to be out there trying to earn playing time.

“Obviously, with these guys, everybody knew who our leaders were and they showed it by example. Next year we’re looking forward to seeing who steps up and becomes one of those leaders.”

Cardoza said Macaulay has the most promise among the future vets given her development in the post, but she also noted, “Obviously, the one thing tonight is that she has to get better at being physically stronger to battle those posts. Obviously, in the (Atlantic 10) there’s not a lot of posts like that but I think she’ll take from this that she needs to get stronger and once she gets stronger she can dominate every single night.”

Next year will Temple’s last in the Atlantic 10 before moving to the Big East in 2013-14. Only four of the current group will still be on the roster and Syracuse, bound for the Atlantic Coast Conference, may not be there when the Owls arrive though at the moment the Orange is still being held to stay in the Big East the next two seasons.

Hillsman was asked how he felt Temple might fare, though the two teams may not be conference rivals by then.

“They’re going to be fine because Tonya’s a great coach and Tonya’s a great recruiter,” Hillsman said. “Going to the Big East will help them in recruiting and they’ll be able to touch some different kids. I think that’s the most important thing for them as they continue to do what they do.

“Tonya is not a stranger to the league nor is Way (Waynetta Veney, former Providence assistant). They’ll be fine and do well.”

There may not be a post on the blog till the weekend because of travel and other activities but tweeting will continue off the news and other events at @womhoopsguru.

-- Mel

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