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.

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.

Honors

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

 

 

 

 

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