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, November 30, 2013

Guru's College Report: Black Friday Turns Bleak For Rutgers in Loss To LSU in Brooklyn

(Guru’s note: A game story on the tournament is also appearing on hoopfeed.com)

By Mel Greenberg

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Black Friday, so-called for being a shopper’s delight, became Bleak Friday for the Rutgers women’s basketball team here at the still relatively new arena home of the NBA New York Nets.
Chalk up the Scarlet Knights’ narrow 69-65 loss to No. 15 LSU in the opening round of the Barclays Center Women’s Invitational Friday afternoon as a missed opportunity and now Rutgers (4-2) will try to avoid the whole weekend from being a disaster when Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer’s squad meets Texas Tech (3-2) Saturday night in the consolation game.

In the title game, Michigan (5-2), guided by former St. John’s coach Kim Barnes Arico, now in her second season with the Wolverines of the Big Ten, will play the Tigers (5-1) of the Southeastern Conference after beating Texas Tech 82-71.

Rutgers could have used a signature win that playing the Tigers offered for a myriad of reasons:

 -The first to help erase the bad taste from less than two weeks ago when the Scarlet Knights were shocked at lowly Massachusetts.

 - The second the fact that they beat just one ranked team a year ago in a short-lived Miami appearance in the Associated Press women’s poll and not many others in immediate preceding seasons since the glory years of who are now the esteemed alumni stars in the WNBA.

- Third, unless, South Florida or someone else rises to ranking prominence, following the LSU contest there are just three other teams and five other chances in regular season to beat elite opponents and two of those come home-and-home in conference against top-ranked Connecticut and No. 4 Louisville.

The other is Georgia of the Southeastern Conference, which visits Dec. 21.

A year ago when Rutgers got taken down by lowly Seton Hall, the in-state rival under the old Big East not on the schedule for this season, the local media buzzards were quick to start paying attention to Stringer’s contract, which is in its final season and still not finalized and renewed in terms of the future.

This time around she has been able to dodge the locals so far, not by her doing, but by the fact that given the dwindling newspaper print staffs who are busy concentrating on matters Rutgers football, for the first time in the Guru’s memory none of them have been around the past two games, including the tourney’s opening round Friday.

A win over the Tigers (5-1), whose only loss has been to Rutgers’ American Conference rival Louisville, would have been reduced last week’s mishap as one of those things.

In fact, Stringer said afterwards here that one of the reasons the nonconference schedule isn’t its usual beefy self was to build confidence on a young team that lacks seniors 

But that same youth proved to be Rutgers’ undoing Friday, committing 29 turnovers, including 17 in the first half, against a team that was missing two starting guards who were suspended for a game after being ejected for fighting last week during a win over in-state rival Louisiana Tech.

Incidentally, WNBA Connecticut Sun coach Anne Donovan, who could end up with the overall No. 1 pick and at worst No. 4, was on the scene.

Stringer said there were mental breakdowns, though different than the ones in the UMass loss, that one being lackadaisical over playing a lowly-regarded opponent and not finding energy to get the job done.

In this one, Rutgers mounted several surges that seemed promising only to have LSU cut them off before any damage could occur.

Stringer said some mistakes may have come from nervousness and excitement over playing a quality opponent as LSU.

One piece of good news was the return of Betnijah Laney, out the last two games with a right ankle sprain, and she scored 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds, but also committed eight of the turnovers.

Kahleah Copper had a team-high 16 points, while Briyona Canty scored 13.

But on the other side freshman Raigyne Moncrief was a game-saver with 27 points, seven rebounds and three assists, while shooting 15-for-20 from the line – second best in LSU history behind one Pokey Chatman, who later coached her alma mater and is now in charge of the WNBA Chicago Sky.

Overall, LSU was 23-for-33 on the line versus 14-for-19 for the Scarlet Knights.

Back in the famous 2006-07 season that began with landslide losses but ended with a trip to the national title game, as unseemly it was at the time, there was enough talent and an upper class teaching core steeped in Stringer’s tradition to turn things around by mid-season.

The talent is there this time but as noted, elders are in short supply. But the season isn’t necessarily a wash yet.

What is interesting is that Stringer alluded in the postgame press conference that she actually had been spending more time on offense than defense and perhaps it might be time to go back to what has carried the day in the past.

The schedule is greased enough to create traction as it was in the middle of the 2007-07 season. But whether history can repeat itself remains to be seen, though it is not impossible.

Stay tuned.

Hot Shooting Holeman Keeps Villanova Unbeaten
The unbeaten Wildcats crushed Montana State 79-54 State in the opening round of the Florida International Thanksgiving Classic as Taylor Holeman was a perfect 8-for-8 fron the field in the tournament in Miami and finished with a career-high 17 points.

 The Bobcat fell to 3-2.

 Holeman became the first Villanova player to be perfect on separate nights shooting 7-for-7 last season against DePaul. She also had a career high 10 rebounds for her first double double

 Pistol Devon Kane made her first seven shots and finished with 16 points.

 Villanova was one of six teams in the new Big East to go 5-0 against outside foes as Xavier topped Kansas, Butler beat Utah, Marquette beat

Tennessee Tech, and Seton Hall beat Savannah State.

 The 6-0 start by the Wildcats matches their best since a similar launch to the 2002-03 season that resulted in a run to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament and now the Wildcats will look to take a second invitational tournament this season when they meet the host Panthers Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m.

Penn State Rallies Down in the Bahamas

The No. 13 Lady Lions (4-1) down in Freeport, Bahama, at the Junkanoo Jam Freeport Division, rallied from an early deficit to beat Oregon State 61-56 by using a 22-3 run across the two halves to erase an early nine-point deficit

It was the first loss of the season for the Beavers (4-1) of the Pac-12 conference.

The win sends PSU into Saturday’s 11:30 a.m. title contest against Illinois State (1-3)

Narberth’s Maggie Lucas, a senior and reigning Big Ten player of the year, scored 17 points for the Lady Lions.

Ariel Edwards and Wilmington’s Dara Taylor each scored 10 points for Penn State.

Jamie Weisner and Samantha Siegner each scored 14 points for Oregon State while Siegner also completed a double double with 10 rebounds.

Catching Up

Since the Guru ran into technical issues and didn’t post the Temple-Michigan State game, which he attended, and add Saint Joseph’s-Princeton to that roundup, here’s info for the record, though you may have gotten it else.

Temple had a lead and played competitively at home in McGonigle Hall competitively to the No. 21 Spartans but foul trouble was the Owls’ undoing leading to their first loss 74-70 despite having led at several junctures.

Freshman Feyonda Fitzgerald had a career high 24 points for Temple (3-1) against Michigan State (5-1) of the Big Ten while Tyonna Williams had 14 points and Erica Coville scored 11.

Tori Jankoska had 19 points for Michigan State and 11 rebounds while Annalise Pickrel scored 18 points.

The Spartans shot 29-for-36 from the line while Temple was 15-for-21 with every touch being called.

Still, considering Temple was picked ninth of 10 teams in the new American conference, what does the Owls’ performance say about their prospects long range.

“We weren’t concerned with rankings,” Temple coach Tonya Cardoza said. “We understand why coaches picked us to finish second to last.

“We knew what we had here and what we were doing,” she continued. “But this was one we let slip away. We had a really good team come in here and we played pretty good basketball and down the stretch when we needed to make big plays and make key stops, we didn’t. It’s just unfortunate but Michigan State has a lot of guys who can score, shoot and put the ball on the floor. It’s going to be hard to win basketball games when you put a team on the line to shoot 36 times.”

Since  Tuesday’s loss, Temple announced sophomore Maya Dayan, who hadn’t played this season, is returning to Israel and leaving the squad.

Meanwhile, Saint Joseph’s is still rolling and finally ended Princeton’s recent mastery over the Hawks with a 74-65 win in the four-time defending Ivy champions’ Jadwin Gym.

The Hawks are defending champions of the Atlantic Ten.

Saint Joseph’s (5-1), now being recognized as one of the top mid-major teams in the country, ended Princeton’s 21-game home-winning streak.

Senior Erin Shields had 18 points for the Hawks in the battle that was also between two of the 10-team PhilahoopsW group while Sarah Fairbanks continued her hot tear with 16 points, a total matched by teammate Ilze Gotfrida.

Alex Wheatley scored 14 points for Princeton (2-3), which is in the first phase of the first season in the post-Niveen Rasheed era. Michelle Miller scored 13 points, and Kristen Helmstetter scored 12.

“I think at this point in the season we have to be a work in progress,” said Princeton coach Courtney Banghart, whose team has now been hit with two revenge setbacks counting Rutgers’ season-opening win up in Piscataway, N.J.

“I thought there was growth in some areas on the offensive end. We’re not there yet, but it was a step forward which is what we have to be doing every day.”

 The Hawks are up 10-2 in the series but Princeton won the last two seasons.

That catches up with everything played to date so it is time to look to the immediate future.

Looking Ahead

Tournaments played Friday and continue on Saturday or Sunday have already been spoken to.

Meanwhile, Temple hosts Oakland Saturday at 2 p.m. in McGonigle Hall, to be part of the Guru’s triple header for Saturday considering the travel back to Brooklyn.

La Salle hosts Central Connecticut at 1:30 p.m., a date originally listed for the Explorers’ Big Five game with Penn that has been moved to Monday night at 7 p.m.

Delaware is at Central Florida’s tournament in Orlando and opponents are predetermined with the Blue Hens meeting SIU-Edwardsville Saturday and Howard on Sunday.

Princeton is at Portland State Saturday and host Oregon on Sunday.

Also on Sunday Saint Joseph’s is at Quinnipiac and that will finish getting St. Joseph’s and Temple ready for their early season clash in the City Series Wednesday 5:30 p.m. in McGonigle Hall.

That’s a wrap until the next roundup.

-- Mel

Friday, November 29, 2013

Mike Siroky's SEC Report: All Teams Have Reason to beThankful

By Mike Siroky

It is so easy to follow women’s college basketball.

The Southeastern Conference women’s teams kept the league elite in the latest week of competition.

But there are certainly things beyond the games that affect us all.

One of Kentucky’s opponents this week has had a direct impact from the Midwest tornadoes.

Bradley is in Peoria, Illinois. Central Illinois was devastated, even if Peoria itself was spared. East Peoria, Washington and Pekin, all adjacent communities, were leveled.

All Bradley teams have spent time working on cleanup. The game pales when real life intervenes. It is a life lesson beyond the court and scores.

In the true college attitude of sportsmanship and caring, Bradley reached out to an alumni who runs a T-shirt concern. He produced a shirt, “Central Illinois Strong,” which the Bradley women wore in the pre-game shootaround at Lexington.

They are for sale for $10. The money all goes to Red Cross relief efforts in the Midwest. The website: www.bradley.edu/tornadorelief.

Perhaps as a balance, the team did receive good news. Coach Michael Brooks missed the most important game of his young career and certainly of Bradley’s season, as he was delivered the birth of his son, Jase, on the eve of the game.

Now we resume our regular programming.

As the holiday seasons dawn for 2013, SEC teams are giving and giving and giving . . . mostly defeats to teams from other conferences.

The Associated Press ranked teams in the SEC are 35-1 so far; as an example of the SEC strength, Texas A&M is the third-best team in the conference, yet ranked better than any Big Ten team.

The best conference in America remains so until the conference showdowns start next month.

How those ranked team fared in a holiday week:

•Kentucky: The No. 7 Wildcats love beating teams from neighbor state Tennessee and the drubbing of Middle Tennessee State in its first road game of the season was no exception, an 84-72 walkover.

For what it’s worth, MT had won the past two meetings.

There is becoming a sense of regularity for UK this season. The same starters have worked every game. Super rookie Linnae Harper is the first off the bench.

Coach Matt Mitchell used all 11 players and nine scored, led by junior guard Bria Goss’ 16. For the fifth of six games, junior Jennifer O’Neill hit double figures, with 14, like Goss a season high. Senior Kastine Evans 5-of-7 from the field and 15 points.

Enough of the blue road uniforms, UK came right back to campus and demolished Bradley to move to 7-0. Kentucky has the best margin of victory in the league, better than 41 per game, and best turnover margin, more than 17 per game.

In the Bradley game, UK sprinted to a 59-32 halftime edge as senior center Samarie Walker had 10 rebounds to go with her 14 points.

It was time for Mitchell to start getting the bench playing time for those games in which they will really be needed.

The 117-77 win gave him plenty of opportunities. The Wildcats are 42-0 when passing 100 points. All 11 played and all 11 scored.

"Bradley wanted to play at a high pace, play fast and I thought they did some nice things," Mitchell said. “We had a good handle on that. That’s what they do and how they play. We anticipated a fast-paced game.

“We had some breakdowns with our press today that led to them getting into a good tempo. The entire Bradley team pushed the pace and they're a tough team to play against.”

Still, in a comparison with SEC and other leagues, Bradley is the best-scoring team in the Missouri Valley, exceeded their average by three and still couldn’t make a game of it.

Walker finished with 22 points, one of a half-dozen Wildcats in double figures. Next-best was O’Neill, with 14. Another reserve, Harper, had 10.

Sunday’s game with No. 4 Louisville is sold out, with 8,000 expected.

•Tennessee: Winless Oakland at No. 3 Tennessee finished about they way anyone would expect, 84-50.

Lady Vol coach Holly Warlick continues to play with her team’s minds. She benched three starts to start the second half and that caused a 21-0 runaway.

Starter and sophomore forward Bashaara Graves – not one of those benched, scored 15 with 11 rebounds. Senior guard Meighan Simmons – who was benched to start the second half -- scored 14.

“The second half, we settled down and we decided to play, but the sign of a great team is we’ve got to play 40 minutes,” Warlick observed. “We’re very capable of it. We’ve got the talent to do it. I’m just waiting for us to bust out and play the perfect game.”

Then they actually played on Thanksgiving Day at the Junkanoo Jam, in a high school gym in the Bahamas. They must have eaten well.

UT started out in typical sluggish fashion, behind by four at the break.

So distraught was Warlick that she picked up a technical with 2.9 seconds to go in the half. It added to her halftime fire. The three free throws also made the deficit more than one point.

"She said I disrespected the officials," Warlick said of the ref who called the T. "I didn't think I said enough. It's her opinion. Stupid on my part."

UT responded, with a 25-13 run to start the final minutes and held on, 76-67.
Simons hit eight 3-pointers and finished with 31, her season best by 17.

As we have said earlier, she’ll be the offensive motor once the SEC season starts. Junior point guard Ariel Massengale had 13 assists and 10 points as UT moved to 6-0.

"I like gyms like this," Simmons said. "I like warm kind of gyms. My energy is always there."

Simmons, who hadn't scored more than 14 points in a game this season, finished two off her career high.

"That's Meighan Simmons," said Massengale. "She's been having a tough time shooting, but shooters have to shoot their way out of it."

The defense shut Virginia down to 32 percent from the floor in the second half. Perhaps Tennessee is lucky that less than 500 fans showed.

They were to finish the Junkaroo then take a week off.

•Texas A&M: The No. 12 Aggies also played on Thanksgiving, but did so in the swell climate of the Virgin Islands, starting a tournament called the Paradise Jam.

No women players dunked, but A&M did jam up Memphis.

It was a six-point halftime lead and a little less in the second half, but it added up to a 10-point win.

Like so many of his league counterparts, coach Gary Blair is finding out about depth, as different players seem to step up each game. This time, it was Akiri Scott, with a career-high 19 and Karla Gilbert’s first double-double, 18 points and 14 rebounds.

We didn’t execute in the first half,” said Blair. “Their initial offense, we would stop, but we kept fouling when the play broke down. Aside from the breakaway layups, I thought we did a good job defensively in the second half.”

“We’ll take it as a win, and we have our hands full the next two games with good teams.”

They are 4-0. They play Texas and Syracuse before coming home for December.

•South Carolina: Finally out of state, the 17th-ranked Gamecocks
kept San Diego State winless.

Staying on the left coast holiday tour, the real challenge was supposed to be undefeated (but unranked) Southern Cal at their place.

Against San Diego State, freshman center Alaina Coates scored a game-high 21 on 5-of-6 from the field and 11-of-15 from the line, with a team-high eight rebounds.

Three other players for the Gamecocks (6-0) were in double digits including freshman guard Tiffany Mitchell with 17, sophomore swingman Asia Dozier with 16, and sophomore guard Khadjah Sessions with 12.

It was the sixth win of 20 or more points.

SC even helped San Diego State by scoring the first three of their points.

Game officials had the teams lined up to shoot at the incorrect baskets and sophomore guard Asia Dozier hit a 3, credited to the home team, once the kerfluffle was discovered and the teams redirected.

They moved onto L.A. and another 20-point win. If was Mitchell with a career-best 22 points (10-of-13 from the line), six rebounds, five steals and four assists as they moved to 7-0. A 40-26 second half did it. Welch had 14 points and six rebounds.

With five winnable games left before the league season starts, the real SC has a shot at being 12-0 by then. The best field goal percentage in the league (.496) helps a lot.

•Georgia: Georgia Tech, having already lost its national moxie against Tennessee, now has lost the braggin’ rights in state. The No. 22 Lady ’Dawgs continued the season-opening homestand with two more wins, Tech being first up.

Georgia won the first half by seven and only had to match the output in the second for a 63-56 win.

Senior guard Khaalidah Miller scored 20 and Schacobia Barbee 14.

The last of the home turkeys to be basted was South Carolina State.

Georgia, with the best field-goal percentage defense in the league, .265, stopped State and ran its opening record to 6-0. Ericka Ford scored a career-best 23, on 9-of-10 from the field. A 16-0 first-half run decided it early.

Tiaria Griffin had career-high 10 rebounds, with 16 points and nine assists.

“We didn't shoot it well tonight and didn't shoot it well from 3 (8-of-25),” said Georgia coach Andy Landers. “Erika shot it very well, but we got excellent 3-point shot attempts and didn’t knock them down.”

They did, however hit season highs as a team from the field (27-of-55) and free throw line (12-of-16), also getting 31 points off 20 forced turnovers. The backboards battle was won by Georgia as well, 35-23.

In keeping with the experimental theme of the pre-league season, Landers started freshman Halle Washington, the 74th rookie to start for Landers all-time and the second this season, following teammate Sydnei McCaskill.

“We’ve got to stop kicking the can down the road,” Landers observed.

“Turnovers were really a sore spot, especially the manner in which we got them. We're passing the ball to people where the ball is hitting them in the hands and they’re not catching them. There weren’t that many poorly thrown passes but to have 21 turnovers against a zone, against anybody, is inexcusable.

“This wasn’t an aggressive zone it was a passive zone. We called for the ball and passed it to the person that called for it and they didn't catch it.

“I’m glad Erika played well because honestly there’s not that many people you can say that about.”

•LSU: There was a time when Louisiana Tech was nationally feared with Dennis Rodman’s older sister Deborah was the best center in America.

Now, they also can’t even win the title of best in state.

Those were VHS days and this is a live-on-the-Internet era, with Tech’s best former player coaching Baylor to national titles.

No. 15 LSU took a nice 12-point halftime lead and each side scored 39 in the second half of an 81-69 LSU win. The defense held Tech to 29 percent from the field.

Guards Raigyne Moncrief (17 points) and Jeanne Kennedy (13) combined for 30. Kennedy had seven rebounds and Moncrief five as LSU moved to 3-1, all the games so far at home. It is the eighth straight win over Tech and finally gives LSU the all-time edge, 15-14.

It did get ugly in the fierce rivalry. A fight broke out among players, with 13 minutes left. Officials reviewed the video and ejected junior guard DaShawn Harden and sophomore guard Danielle Ballard of LSU and TyJae' Chenevert of Louisiana Tech.

Harden had been fouled during a rebound by Chenevert, then Ballard got involved when the two tussled, as did several players from each team

Ballard and Harden did not make the trip up North this weekend when LSU will open with Rutgers Friday and then meet either Texas Tech or Mchigan Saturday in the Battle of Brooklyn at the still relatively new Barclays Center, that is the home of the NBA Nets.

LSU coach Nikki Caldwell did say she didn't aggree with the penalty that occurred.

There were 65 fouls called in the entirety, with 48 free throws awarded.

“I was proud of our team for staying together,” said LSU coach Nikki Caldwell.

“Our bench gave us a tremendous spark. We stayed poised when adversity hit. Our team will grow from this type of game.”

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Guru''s College Report: Freshmen Star But Drexel Rally Falls Short at No. 8 Maryland

By Mel Greenberg
COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Drexel freshman Alexis Smith finally made it in uniform Monday night to the floor of the Comcast Center where she would venture up from nearby Calvert County to dream of the future while watching powerful Maryland in action.

Making the most of a dream come true, she and another Dragons newcomer in Media’s Sarah Curran made parts of the evening a nightmare for the No. 8 Terrapins with career highs in scoring until a terrific rally died in the closing stretch and Maryland escaped with a 69-63 victory in the nonconference matchup.

Smith finished with 19 points and Curran, part of the ongoing flow of players from Archbishop Carroll, scored 16 points.

“Coming back to Maryland, I thought I was going to be nervous about it because I had all my families and friends were coming,” Smith said. “But once I got on the court, I just calmed down and played basketball, how we know how to play and how I know how to play myself.

“I would do just anything to get my team back in the game and the intensity level up higher. I grew up watching Maryland play so it was cool, the team I grew up watching, I got to play them.”

Rachel Pearson and Meghan Creighton, who also played for Carroll in Philadelphia’s Catholic League in the suburbs, each scored nine points for Drexel (2-3) while Abby Redick, whose brother played for Terrapins rival Duke in the Atlantic Coast Conference wars , scored eight points.

In the only other game of the night involving any of the 10-team PhilahoopsW group that is part of the Guru’s local Division I coverage, La Salle also had a second-half rally short-circuited at Fairfield as the Explorers fell 64-59 to finish with a split on the two-game back-to-back road trip

Down here Drexel nearly evaporated all of a 16-point deficit from the first half, but could not make more inroads after reducing the deficit to three late in the contest.

“Once the three-ball started falling (Drexel shot 11-for-25), that helps a great deal in cutting the lead. And just making shots (they were 53.6 percent in the second half) gives you some confidence,” Drexel coach Denise Dillon said.

“It was a tough game as we knew it would be,” she said. “We just got outmatched size wise and in a number of positions.

“I thought our second half obviously was much better and the team didn’t quit and continued to play and I think it was a great learning experience overall.”

While the Dragons have had trouble playing local teams in the early phase of the season, losing to Villanova in Toledo’s tournament in Ohio and at Saint Joseph’s last Wednesday, they seem more battle ready playing national powers.

“When we lost to Saint Joseph’s and Villanova, we’re so familiar with each other – their systems and styles, the players just having their connections with high school and AAU, they all know each other,” Dillon explained.

“With the case of Maryland, it’s the unknown, you don’t know what you are going up against. It’s not the emotional battle. Just let’s go out there and fight and see what we can do. But certainly, the shots falling, that helps.”

A year ago Drexel took Dawn Staley’s South Carolina team into overtime in Columbia at the Gamecocks’ arena and twice narrowly almost brought down Colonial Athletic Association rival Delaware at the Blue Hens’ arena and on a neutral site in the title game of the conference tournament.

‘`As a young team when you play a top 10 team in the country what do you have to lose?” Dillon said. “And I think that is a mentality you need to have every day at practice. We need to learn in order to get better and what can we do to give ourselves a chance.

“For our freshmen, yeah, it’s the first time they’re playing a Top 10 team, but for the players returning, we have found ourselves in position to play some of those teams. So, again it is not new, but it is for this team,” Dillon continued.

“So let’s continue to learn and grow and continue with what really matters is conference play.”

Playing the freshmen a lot is an attempt to make up for the loss of scoring punch from former stars Hollie Mershon, who graduated from the WNIT champions and is playing overseas, and Taylor Wootton, who is on the staff after her graduation  as coordinator of basketball operations.

“We joke about it and say by January you are no longer freshmen,” Dillon said. “But we figure the number of minutes they will see leading up to conference play (the Dragons are picked second in the CAA), they cannot play like freshmen anymore.

“We’re relying on them. The one thing that helps with this team being so inexperienced, the support and encouragement is tremendous.”

Smith pointed out,” I can’t have a freshman mentality. I just have to go out there and know, like, what I’m supposed to do.”

As for Maryland (5-1), perhaps the Terrapins didn’t have as much concern as they did several weeks ago hosting top-ranked Connecticut, which handed them their only loss of the season.

Nevertheless, the firepower and talent was enough to overcome the Dragons as Alyssa Thomas, likely to go quite high in the first round of the WNBA draft, had 21 points and 14 rebounds, while freshman guard Shatori Walker-Kimbraugh scored 12 points off the bench.

The Terrapins dominated the paint 38-18 and also in second chance points 21-8.
“I’m proud of our team and how we finished,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. “To be tested this early, you get to see a lot about your team.

“But I thought Drexel was terrific.”

The Dragons are off until they visit Colgate in a nonconference game on Dec. 4. Drexel beat the squad last season as part of capturing an early Thanksgiving tournament at Long Island University in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Explorers Fall to Fairfield

La Salle trimmed a 32-17 halftime deficit connecting on 42 of 59 field goals the rest of the way but it was not enough to in the state of Connecticut to overcome the host Stags (3-2), a former rival when the Explorers were in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference before switching to the Atlantic 10.

Khristin Lee had her first double double since enrolling at La Salle (1-3), scoring 15 of her 17 points in the second half while also grabbing 10 rebounds for the game.
Lee also was tops in the game with four steals and tops on the team in assists with five.

Alicia Cropper scored 13 points and Jasmine Alston, a newcomer, had nine points, five rebounds, three steals and did not commit any turnovers.

The Explorers, who host Central Connecticut Saturday and Penn next Monday, completed a two-day back-to-back road trip, getting their first win of the season at Manhattan in Riverdale, N.Y., on Sunday.
Kristin Schatzlein had 15 points for Fairfield.


Sarah Fairbanks of Saint Joseph’s was named the Big Five women’s basketball player of the week while Delaware newcomer Erika Brown was the rookie of the week in the CAA.

Looking Ahead

There are just two games Tuesday night with two PhilahoopsW teams, both defending conference champions, meetking each other in one while Temple will host No. 21 Michigan State in the other at 7 p.m. at McGonigle Hall as the Owls seek to stay unbeaten and enhance their visibility nationally.

Earlier at 5:30 p.m., four-time defending Ivy champion Princeton, picked to win the league again, will host Saint Joseph’s, the defending champions of the Atlantic 10.

The host Tigers, who play in Jadwin Gym, have had the Hawks’ number in recent seasons. But with two-time Ivy player Niveen Rasheed graduated and playing pro ball in Europe, Saint Joseph’s may be able to take advantage of Princeton’s work in progress.

Poll Trivia

Nebraska moving into 10th in the Associated Press women’s poll is the first appearance at the elite level of the media voting since finishing in the top five of the 2009-10 season when current WNBA star Kelsey Griffin with the Connecticut Sun led the Cornhuskers to one of their best records.

Notre Dame, ranked fifth again this week, tied Baylor for 11th place with most Top Five appearances in the AP Poll at 82.

Stanford coach Tara Vanderveer, who is approaching 900 wins, made her 450th career poll appearance coaching the Cardinal and previously Ohio State.

That is it until coverage of Tuesday’s two games. No one plays Wednesday though the Guru has been called for Jury Duty.

-- Mel





Monday, November 25, 2013

Guru's PhilahoopsW College Report: Villanova's Tough Defense Keeps Wildcats Unbeaten

By Mel Greenberg

VILLANOVA, Pa. – After being the swisher in Villanova’s previous win, senior Devon Kane was the disher Sunday in dealing a career-high eight assists as the Wildcats won their home opener Sunday 60-33 in a nonconference game against Lafayette of the Patriot League.

Kane scored the final 19 points, including a shot to force overtime, Wednesday in the Wildcats’ nonconference win at Sacred Heart in Fairfield, Conn., the second straight overtime win following the recent triumph at Lehigh.

It looked at first like Kane might just keep going when she made the first shot of the game for a 2-0 lead and 21 straight points.

The outcome saw Lafayette (4-1) suffer its first loss while Villanova stayed unbeaten at 5-0.

 That Villanova won-loss record is the best start since a 6-0 burst at the outset of the magical 2002-03 season when the Wildcats went on to upset Connecticut to win the Big East and stop the then-Huskies’ NCAA record win streak at 70 games.

The Wildcats almost pulled another record in this one, moving from a slim 29-28 lead at the half to clamping down the Leopards the rest of the way for a 31-5 advantage that allowed just two points more than the NCAA record of three for fewest points allowed in a half. That happened twice.

“Our defense was lacking in the first half so we picked it up in the second half and we didn’t score very much so it was good,” said Kane, a graduate of Notre Dame Academy near Villanova who also played for the AAU Comets.
Kane has played in the Philadelphia/Suburban Women's NCAA Summer Basketball League as did several Lafayette players in the offseason.

Carolline Coyer had a game-high 12 points for Villanova, while her twin sister Katherine scored 10 as did Lauren Burford and Kavunaa Edwards, who completed her first double double by grabbing 14 rebounds.

Edwards’s rebound total was a career-high and the most by a Wildcats player since Laura Kurz grabbed 15 against Lehigh, where she now is an assistant coach, on Dec. 7, 2008.

Villanova was leading 35-32 when the Wildcats went on and outscored Lafayette 25-1 over the final 15 minutes as the Leopards shot just 2-for-25 in the second half.

“We got outside ourselves,” Lafayette coach Dianne Nolan from Gloucester in South Jersey said. “It’s the first time this year we played so bad.”

Jamie O’Hare had a team-high nine points for the Leopards with Villanova stopping anyone from scoring in double figures.

“They’re very much improved,” Villanova coach Harry Perretta said. “They struggled very much in the second half not making any shots but we had a half like that once in the NCAA tournament against Utah, I think we scored 10 points.

“But I thought they played well. They’re much more experienced. We panicked in the first half and committed a lot of dumb fouls but in the second half we settled down and played a lot smarter.”

A new assistant at Lafayette this season is former ABL/WNBA post player great Yolands Griffith, who will be inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn., in June.

She was a previous assistant to longtime Dartmouth coach Chris Wielgus, who left after last season.

“We had an opening when (former Saint Joseph’s star) Kim Foley went to join (new coach and former Hawks star) Debbie Black at Eastern Illinois,” Nolan said. “Chris and I talked and thought Yolanda would be a good fit here.”

 Meanwhile, only three of the 10-team PhilahoopsW teams in the Guru’s local Division I coverage group played Sunday and all three won with La Salle topping host Manhattan 72-62 in Riverdale, N.Y, while Delaware continued its winning ways in the opening weeks of the post-Elena Delle Donne era by triumphing 65-54 at Rider.

Edwards was one of three players to top the previous season-high of 13 rebounds among players on PhilahoopsW teams.

Delaware (4-1), which had three players grabbed 10 or more rebounds to make the Guru’s season-long Baskets and Boards charts, saw red-shirt sophomore Joy Caracciolo grabbed 19 while Kelsey Buchanan had 15, and Courtni Green grab 10.

Caracciolo’s and Buchanan’s totals were career highs.

Villanova next travels to Florida International’s tournament in Miami, playing Montana State in the first round Friday and then either the host team or Valparaiso on Saturday.

After that, the Wildcats return home to host Saint Joseph’s on Dec. 7, the first of three straight Big Five games, followed by road stops at La Salle and Temple as they attempt to defend last season’s title in the City Series round robin.

Villanova, which earlier this month won in overtime at Lehigh, a Patriot League and nearby rival of Lafayette, can claim the Pennsylvania Turnpike Extension trophy for topping teams from Bethlehem and Easton an hour away to the north.    

Perretta’s Wildcats made the E-Z pass in getting 18 assists to take their toll of Lafayette.

La Salle Takes Manhattan

The Explorers (1-2) won their first game of the year, a nonconference triumph on the road beating the Jaspers 72-62 by mounting a 19-4 run midway through the second half.

La Salle had dropped its first two games, losing to Temple in the season-opener at home after holding a lead in the second half, and then having a rally wasted a week ago at Rutgers, which won on a shot just before time expired in regulation.

Kristin Lee and Alicia Cropper each scored 17 points against Manhattan (1-3),  while Micayha Owens scored 12 points and Siobhan Beslow had a near double double double with nine points and a game-high eight rebounds.

The Jaspers’ Monica Roeder had a game-high 18 points.

La Salle continues its brief two-game back-to-back road trip Monday traveling to nearby Fairfield in lower Connecticut.

The only other PhilahoopsW team in action Monday is Drexel, which will travel to No. 8 Maryland in College Park in a nonconference game the Guru will cover and tweet live, gruesome as it may be for the Dragons.

The host Terrapins, who have only lost to Connecticut in a home game a week ago Friday, could have a new ranking number by game time considering the next Associated Press women’s poll will be released late Monday morning or early afternoon.

Delaware Rides the Broncos

Most of the Blue Hens’ work has already been mentioned above in the Villanova coverage concerning Delaware beating Rider 65-54 in Lawrenceville, N.J. near where the Blue Hens will return next month to meet defending four-time Ivy League champion Princeton.

 The rebounding totals alluded to contributed to a season-high 63 amassed Sunday against 38 by Rider (1-4) of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and Caracciolo’s 14 points led to her first double double with the 19 rebounds.

Delaware rallied in this one after trailing 41-36 and then launching a 17-4 run before closing out the win by making six straight foul shots.

MyNeshia McKenzie had 21 points and nine rebounds for Rider.

“We’re young and we’re going to do silly things,” Delaware coach Tina Martin said, alluding to 12 missed foul shots. “When we had to, we made our free throws and when we had to, we executed.

“The bottom line is, we came out with a (11-point) win (she said nine in the actual quote supplied by Delaware) and obviously we did what we needed to do to get the victory,” Martin continued. “So, that’s all good stuff and I’m really happy with that, but we also have so much to improve on … We will get better.”

Buchanan has scored double figures in all five games this season while Delaware has won 11 of the last 12 games in the nonconference series with Rider.

The Blue Hens next head to Central Florida’s Thanksgiving Classic in Orlando but opponents in both games are pre-determined with Delaware meeting SIU Edwardsville on Saturday and then Howard on Sunday while not playing the host school, which this season became part of the American Conference.
The Princeton trip follows two weeks later on Dec. 15.

Baskets and Boards Update
 (Thru 11/24/13)

Baskets (20 or more points)

33 pts.: Maggie Lucas, Penn State, W, vs. St. Francis, Pa., 11/8

29 pts.: Tyonna Williams, Temple, W, vs. Auburn, 11/16

26 pts.: Kahleah Copper, Rutgers, W., @ Northeastern, 11/13

26 pts.: Rachel Hollivay, Rutgers, W., vs. Howard, 11/22

24 pts.: Emily Leer, Villanova, W-OT, @ Lehigh, 11/14

23 pts.: Ariel Edwards, Penn State, W, vs. St. Francis, Pa., 11/8

23 pts.: Maggie Lucas, Penn State, W, vs. Fordham, 11/10

23 pts.: Erin Shields, Saint Joseph’s, L, @ LSU-WNIT-2, 11/10

23 pts.: Kahleah Copper, Rutgers, W, vs. Howard, 11/22

22 pts.: Kelsey Buchanan, Delaware, W, vs. Wake Forest, 11/15

21 pts.: Micahya Owens, La Salle, L, @ Rutgers, 11/17

21 pts.: Sarah Fairbanks, Saint Joseph’s, W, vs. Drexel, 11/20

21 pts.: Devon Kane, Villanova, W-OT, @ Sacred Heart, 11/20

20 pts.: Blake Dietrick, Princeton, L, @ Rutgers, 11/10

20 pts.: Sarah Fairbanks, Saint Joseph’s, W, vs. Liberty, 11/23

 Boards (10 or more rebounds)

 19 rebs.: Joy Caracciolo, Delaware, W, @ Rider, 11/24

15 rebs.: Kelsey Buchanan, Delaware, W, @ Rider, 11/24

14 rebs.: Kavunaa Edwards, Villanova, W, vs. Lafayette, 11/24

13 rebs.: Courtni Green, Delaware, @ Rhode Island, 11/8

13 rebs.: Natasha Thames, Temple, @ La Salle, 11/8

13 rebs.: Betnijah Laney, Rutgers, W, @Northeastern, 11/13

13 rebs.: Fiona Flanagan, Drexel, W, vs. Providence, 11/15

13 rebs.: Rachel Hollivay, Rutgers, W, vs. Howard, 11/22

13 rebs.: Kahleah Copper, Rutgers, W, vs. Howard, 11/22

12 rebs.: Siobhan Beslow, La Salle, L, vs. Temple, 11/8

12 rebs.: Shanice Johnson, Delaware, L, vs. Temple, 11/12

12 rebs.: Betnijah Laney, Rutgers, W, vs. La Salle, 11/17

11 rebs.: Kahleah Copper, Rutgers, W, @ Northeastern, 11/12

11 rebs.: Natasha Cloud, Saint Joseph’s, W, @Wichita State-WNIT Cons, 11/15

11 rebs.: Leeza Burdgess, La Salle, L, @ Rutgers, 11/17

11 rebs.: Annie Tarakchian, Princeton, W, @ Rider, 11/19

11 rebs.; Alex Harris, Penn State, W, vs. Bucknell, 11/20

10 rebs.: Alex Wheatley, Princeton, L, @ Rutgers, 11/10

10 rebs.: Betnijah Laney, Rutgers, W, vs. Princeton, 11/10

10 rebs.: Alex Harris, Penn State, W, vs. Fordham, 11/10

10 rebs.: Kelsey Buchanan, Delaware, L, vs. Temple, 11/12

10 rebs.: Talia East, Penn State, L, vs. Connecticut, 11/17

10 rebs.: Kristen Helmstetter, Princeton, W, @ Rider, 11/19                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              
10 rebs.: Courtni Green, Delaware, W, @ Rider, 11/24



Sunday, November 24, 2013

Guru's College Report: Penn Gains New Respect in Loss to No. 5 Notre Dame

(Guru note: A Notre Dame angle on the Penn game was written for hoopfeed.com, which will be posted soon enough if you don’t see it yet. Doug Feinberg has the double spin Guru approach if you google his name or follow him @dougfeinberg to get the links. And Jonathan Tannenwald wrote for Philly.com while Glenn Papazian wrote at his philacollegehoops website.)

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA – In a sense, a theme in local women’s basketball akin to the first Rocky movie played out at Penn’s Palestra Saturday afternoon though unlike the fictional boxer’s training regimen in climbing up the steps of the Art Museum, no one was seen doing likewise in the fabled arena.

The plot actually began last season with heavyweight Notre Dame about to move from the former Big East configuration to the Atlantic Coast Conference.

That meant, for the moment, no more homecoming trips for Hall of Fame coach Muffet McGraw, a former Saint Joseph’s star in the late 1970s, because Villanova was no longer going to be a conference foe.

So who to play? Who to give a shot because the one thing McGraw did not want to do is put up with the Wildcats’ unique style of slow motion pass crazy offense in a nonconference setting.

Temple? Nah, could be a little risky.

But then the idea struck, call the alma mater and maybe call Penn of the Ivy League. They got the Palestra and had been to South Bend, Ind., to visit Notre Dame several years ago.

As for Mike McLaughlin, who has dramatically revived the Quakers’ fortunes in his five years since guiding Holy Family in the city’s northeast as a Division II national force, why not?

“I know it was important to her to get back here,” McLaughlin said after the Quakers gave a competitive accounting of themselves in a 76-54 nonconference loss to the fifth-ranked Irish (4-0).

 “To bring a top five team in The Palestra with all the history, for Penn basketball this was awesome for us,” he added. “I think it was awesome for our program to get a team like that in our facility. Hopefully, we’ve done enough to get some people back. I thought our players captured the moment and stepped to the challenge.”

In terms of growing the game in general, McLaughlin said, “I’m going to do my part. If I can get somebody like Notre Dame to come back again, I think it grows the game. You saw the people out there today. If we can bring Notre Dame, or Stanford, or some other high academic institution, I’m all for it.”

Penn, which had been sitting idle for two weeks since a season-opening upset loss, first-ever, to St. Francis of Brooklyn, started hyping this game last summer when the date was sealed.

“The reality is we’re playing against a talented team and successful program,” McLaughlin said of the matchup. “There’s no moral victories. The things we could control we did really well. To sit here and I told (his players) to compete at this level for 40 minutes without many mental breakdowns is a tremendous accomplishment.”

It also was a tremendous improvement from the opener, which senior star Alyssa Baron said the Quakers shook off pretty quick.

“We know we didn’t play well. That was a knock in the head and a wakeup call and after that our practices really improved getting ready for this.”

The atmosphere was electric among the 1,025 fans in The Palestra and though the football team had started play two hours earlier next door in Franklin Field, the band and cheerleaders split their contingents to cover both events.

Penn (0-2) played well enough that in a similar performance this particular season they would contend in all four of their Big Five games and could make noise in the Ivies where they were picked third by the league coaches behind four-time defending champion Princeton and Harvard.

Baron defended Notre Dame’s Jewel Loyd into a 4-for-13 effort from the field, though Loyd still finished in double digits with 12 points.

With the graduation of Skylar Diggins, one of the Notre Dame all-timers, to star rookie stature in the WNBA, attention turns even more to Kayla McBride, the native of Erie, Pa., who had game highs of 15 points and nine rebounds.

Irish rookie sensation Taya Reimer had 14 points off the bench, which also had another reserve score in double digits as Michaela Mabrey scored 14 points.

Lindsay Allen drew praise from McGraw in shooting 3-for-4 from the field and scoring eight points to make up for Loyd’s struggles.

The big news, considering the schedule just ahead for the Irish, was the return of Natalie Achonwa, the Canadian who missed the first three games rehabbing from knee surgery.

McGraw thought Achonwa “looked a little rusty and we played her a little more than I wanted to,” McGraw said. “But we really needed her.”

Penn had a lot of fight against the Big East champions of last season and Final Four participant hanging tough until McBride snapped an 8-8 tie to send Notre Dame on an 11-0 run.

The Quakers, however, would close it to four points before Notre Dame finished the half to go up 34-22. In the final stanza the Irish got the differential as wide as 23 points but Penn was able to stop things from approaching massacre levels.

That was particularly impressive, considering the numbers the Irish had put up against three previous opponents.

When Notre Dame hit its first 15 shots during warm-ups, it was suggested to a Penn fan fearing the worst that to just look at the game as Penn playing a WNBA farm club, considering notables the Irish have sent to the pros.

Meanwhile Penn rookie center Sydney Stipanovich scored 11 points as did Katy Allen, while Baron finished with 10 points.

The Quakers are missing Keiera Ray, who is rehabbing from a knee injury, which is costing some scoring punch.

If the Notre Dame football and men’s basketball programs have their adjunct subway alumni fans in New York City, then McGraw has her SEPTA alumni here, though in the future they will have to switch from rail travel to the Main Line and Villanova to city transit trains and buses or subways to get to here and Saint Joseph’s.

“It’s really special to be back in Philly,” McGraw said. “It’s such a great town. It’s a great building to be in and the tradition is unbelievable here. We’re going to go downtown and see a little history on our way to the airport.

“Penn played really hard,” McGraw lauded the Quakers. “They played with a lot of toughness.”

McLaughlin said of his team’s stand, “Defense starts with effort and willing defenders who want to play the game the right way. We tried to press them into a zone but they get the ball out of the net so fast that we didn’t do that as much as we anticipated.

“Structurally we did as well as we could. Kara Bonenberger played very well. They got some very talented kids and we made them work for everything they got.”

Over the next week Notre Dame will host DePaul, a former Big East foe that remains a regional rival. Then it will be on to Toronto near Achonwa’s hometown to play Atlantic 10 contending Duquesne of Pittsburgh.

Another sentimental moment will occur for McGraw on Dec. 4 when the Irish travel to No. 4 Penn State, the regular season defending Big 10 champions, in a conference challenge between the Big 10 and ACC.

That means for the first time McGraw will face Penn State coach Coquese Washington, one of her former star players who later became her associate head coach prior to landing the job in Happy Valley in the spring of 2007.

“We were on the phone the day before the pairings came out for the challenge and Muffet and I said we bet we’d be made to play each other,” Washington said recently.

Though much ado was made over Notre Dame’s visit Saturday, the Irish were here once before back on Dec. 18, 1981, when they were a recently minted Division I program – akin to an expansion team – and the Quakers played to a 25-25 tie at the half before the Irish took over for a 62-47 victory.

Ironically, the coach at the time was Mary Distanislao, a former Immaculata assistant who went on to lead Northwestern to national ranking stature before being hired by then-athletic director Digger Phelps, also the men’s basketball coach.

McGraw, who was an assistant to Jim Foster on Hawk Hill, also coached at Archbishop Carroll and a five-year run at Lehigh before taking the helm at Notre Dame.

She replaced Distanislao, who went on to a long run at Penn as the Quakers senior women’s administrator in the athletic department who hired McLaughlin.

After leaving Holy Family, McLaughlin won only two games his first season at Penn, but the Quakers have improved every year and advanced to the semifinals of the postseason Women’s Basketball Invitational in March.

“We have a lot to learn but it was a great stepping stone against a very talented team,” said Meghan McCulloch, who missed the last 28 games last year with an injury.

Penn is off on another break – this time until Dec. 2 when the Quakers launch their Big 5 schedule traveling to La Salle.

  Looking to the Ivy schedule after 2014 arrives, McLaughlin said of his newcomers, “The freshmen that saw this level of talent, this great atmosphere that can only help them.

“They’re going to have understand they have to raise their level – not only game but at practice – but if they see that, it will be a tremendous stepping stone for them – the way these kids want to improve every day. In this environment, against this kind of talent, even watching it, they should learn very well.”

Saint Joseph’s Keeps Rolling While Princeton Loses Tough One at Georgetown

 In the only two other games Saturday involving any of the local 10-team PhilahoopsW group in the Guru’s area Division I coverage Saint Joseph’s turned aside Liberty 77-65 at home in Hagan Arena while Princeton fell at Georgetown 66-64 in McDonough Arena in the nation’s capital on Natalie Butler’s shot with three seconds left in regulation.

Both were nonconference games.

Saint Joseph’s (4-1), the defending Atlantic 10 champions, next travels to Princeton (2-2), the four-time defending Ivy champion and league favorite, on Tuesday in a 5:30 p.m. start in Jadwin Gym that is a key matchup on both sides.

The Hawks against the winless Flames (0-4) of the Big South Conference got another big effort from Sarah Fairbanks, who followed up her performance against Drexel with 20 points Saturday.

Erin Shields scored 19 points while Kathleen Fitzpatrick had 14 points. Natasha Cloud dealt eight assists to go with seven rebounds and seven points.

In the Princeton game against the Hoyas (2-2), the Tigers’ Kristen Helmstetter scored 13 points and Taylor Williams had 10 points.

The Tigers struggled from the field in the first half and trailed 30-25 at the break.

Andrea White had 23 points for Georgetown, which remains under the Big East banner in the new configuration. Butler scored 14, and Faith Woodard had 10 points.

Looking Ahead

Villanova (4-0), still unbeaten, finally gets to launch its home schedule Sunday afternoon at the Pavilion, when the Wildcats host Lafayette of the Patriot League in a nonconference matchup.

Delaware travels to Rider, which is coming off a home loss to Princeton, which will soon play Delaware.

 La Salle, meanwhile, is at Manhattan and will keep heading north to visit Fairfield, Monday, the same day Drexel travels to No. 8 Maryland.

On Tuesday in addition to the Saint Joseph’s/Princeton game, Temple will host nationally-ranked Michigan State.

And that will be it until Friday after Thanksgiving.

-- Mel