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


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