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.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Guru's College Report: St. Joe's Controls Drexel While Rutgers Stunned at UMass.

(Guru note: Coverage of the other games compiled by from team and wire reports)

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA – After Erin Shields’ last second three-pointer completed a dramatic comeback to give Saint Joseph’s a victory at Drexel, the Dragons were not about to let the senior have her way again a year later when the two met Wednesday night in their annual local series at the Hawks’ Hagan Arena.

However, coach Cindy Griffin’s squad had other options such as sophomore Sarah Fairbanks who had her second straight career night, this time with 21 points, as Saint Joseph’s in a rarity had the game decided long before the ending on the way to a 70-52 nonconference victory.

In other action involving two other teams in the 10-member PhilahoopsW group of the Guru’s local Division I coverage, 14th-ranked Penn State bounced back from its drubbing Sunday by top-ranked Connecticut to beat nearby state rival Bucknell 92-49 at the Lady Lions’ Bryce Jordan Center in a nonconference game.

But Rutgers got stunned by lowly Massachusetts 64-63 on the road in Amherst in a nonconference game in which a Scarlet Knights’ 10-0 run in the closing minutes was not quite enough to fend off the upset.

The loss followed a last-second escape at home Sunday by Rutgers over La Salle, which like Massachusetts, is in the Atlantic 10, as are the Hawks.

The Scarlet Knights having been a staple of the old Big East are spending one year in the newly configured American before moving on to the Big Ten next season.

 Back here, Fairbanks’ performance for Saint Joseph’s followed her 18-points she posted Friday night when the Hawks (3-1) erased a 16-point deficit that existed in the second half to defeat host Wichita State in Kansas in overtime in a consolation game in the preseason WNIT.

The outcome against the Dragons (2-2), who had their own comeback Friday erasing a 17-point deficit at home to beat Providence, was decided early when Saint Joseph’s rode from a 13-12 deficit with 12 minutes, 29 seconds left in the first half on an 11-0 run and never were threatened the rest of the way.

Fairbanks, a native of Elizabethtown, had 15 of her total in the first half while junior Natasha Cloud, a junior out of Cardinal O’Hara had 11 of her 13 in the same period.

Though Drexel was able to limit the duo over the final 20 minutes, a balanced distribution and an overall shooting night of 54.2 percent from the field combined with a stingy defense were keys to the Hawks’ win.

“It’s a good time since we played against each other in high school,” Cloud said of the familiarity from both sides. “It’s a diocese rivalry, if you will.”

Shields played at Archbishop Carroll, as did a Drexel trio of Sarah Curran, the only Dragon in double figures Wednesday with 12 points; Meghan Creighton and Rachel Pearson.

“A lot of familiar faces from summer league,” Fairbanks said. “We knew they’d be focusing on Erin because of last year. I think it just opens up opportunities for others to step up and I think everyone did a really good job of that.”

“We’re just fine tuning at our practices all the time and our chemistry is getting better every day,” Cloud said. “We’re finding our strengths and our weaknesses and growing from it.”

The Drexel-St. Joseph’s series has usually been one of rugged defense from both sides.

“I told the kids I don’t think we’ve scored 70 points in a (local) series game in 10 years,” Griffin said. “Offensively, they were in a flow early, we were in a flow early, and then we just kept going and shot the ball really well.

“Every time they tried to come back we got a stop or they got a stop. We executed really well today on offense.”

As for the Drexel perspective, coach Denise Dillon said, “It was bad. Just more of the same. Our inexperience came out strong tonight. We missed shots early. Defensively, we weren’t on the same page and they took full advantage from start to finish.

“They controlled the tempo and did what they needed to do. You have to focus on all their players. Shields understands she can find people. Fairbanks comes out and kills it and now she’s their first option.”

After their tight clash last year, Saint Joseph’s went on to win their first Atlantic 10 title in a long while and also ended a 12-year drought from the NCAA tournament, while Drexel shook off a tough loss to Delaware in the Colonial Athletic Association title game and went on to make national headlines winning the WNIT.

It doesn’t get easier next time out for Dillon’s group, which will visit No. 8 Maryland Monday night while Saint Joseph’s hosts Liberty, a perennial Big South winner, Saturday.

Penn State Rolls

It was career night for the Lady Lions (3-1) in their win against Bucknell (1-3) of the Patriot League as Candice Agee was eight points better than her previous high with 16 points, while freshman Kaliyah Mitchell scored 14 points and Alexis Smith grabbed 11 rebounds.

Jennie DeGraaf’s first collegiate basket accounted for the fourth career mark.

Scoring sensation Maggie Lucas of Narberth in suburban Philadelphia had 17 points, Ariel Edwards recovered from Sunday’s struggle to score 14 points, and Tori Waldner scored 10.

Lucas extended her school record to 39 straight games connecting with at least making one three-pointer.

Audrey Dotson had a double double for Bucknell with 13 points and 12 rebounds.

Penn State will be idle until heading for the Bahamas over the Thanksgiving weekend, meeting Oregon State a week from Friday in the opening round of the Junkanoo Jam before meeting either Florida or Illinois State.

Coach Coquese Washington’s squad returns home Dec. 4 to face her alma mater when No. 5 Notre Dame vsits. The Irish are coming to town this Saturday to meet Penn.

Massachusetts Ambushes Rutgers

The Rutgers fans’ message board always has a prediction thread before Scarlet Knights action and no one had any idea that Massachusetts could win the nonconference game which was also the first time the Minutewomen won overall this season in four tries.

One might have to go back to the Boston Tea Party to find the last time there was much joy at UMass.

It was also the first setback in the same number of games for Rutgers, though after the home and season opening win against nearby-state rival and Ivy power Princeton, it took a while for Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer’s group to get a handle on the win at Northeastern before almost suffering an unexpected loss against La Salle.

The fan base has not been happy since late last season when another stunner saw state and then-Big East rival Seton Hall pull an unlikely upset and Rutgers, which had a bunch of injuries, finished 16-14 and missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in 10 years.

Before the men’s basketball controversy struck last season, Stringer’s million-dollar contract, whose final year is right now, became a topic of discussion and given the other events with the hiring of a new athletic director and now charges of abusive tactics being raised over football, there is not a lot to smile about.

Rutgers, which plays Temple home-and-home in The American this season when the conference schedule kicks in, did place four players in double figures at UMass.

Rachel Hollivay scored 14 points off the bench, reserve and rookie sensation Tyler Scaife had 13, while Kahleah Copper of Philadelphia and Bryiona Canty of Willingboro each scored 11 points.

One cause of the setback was the absence of Betnijah Laney, who was injured Sunday.

Rashida Timbilla had 17 points for UMass, which also saw three other of its Minutewomen score 10 points each.

Rutgers trailed 64-53 late in the game. The Scarlet Knights next host Howard, a power in the MEAC out of the nation’s capital on Friday.

A week later they return to action meeting No. 15 LSU in a Friday afternoon game in the Battle of Brooklyn at the Barclays Center followed by playing Texas Tech or Michigan the next night.

UConn Stays Unbeaten

Nationally, All-American Stefanie Dolson, who had struggled with foul problems during top-ranked Connecticut’s wins at Maryland and Penn State over the weekend, registered the program’s second triple double in a 114-68 nonconference win over Oregon in Hartford, the top-ranked Huskies’ second home.

The senior 6-5 center had a career-high 26 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, and completed the triple for the defending NCAA champions near the end by finishing with 11 assists.

“For me, I’ve always been a good passer, but ever since getting here I’ve gotten better at scoring, better at rebounding, “ Dolson said. “I’m just very proud of myself, and very proud of my teammates for finding me and allowing me to get this tonight.”

Laura Lishness got the other triple double in 1989.

Six of the nine players dressed in the depleted roster due to injuries scored in double figures with sophomore sensation Breanna Stewart scoring 28 and all-American Bria Hartley scoring 17 as UConn upped its record to 5-0.

That number should roll to eight at the end of the weekend with the Huskies at their Storrs campus Gampel Pavilion hosting Boston U, Friday, and then Monmouth and St. Bonaventure over the weekend in the three-game Hall of Fame Challenge.

“I liked the pace,” Stewart said. There were times you got a little tired, but that’s what media timeouts are for.”

Oregon (2-2) got 27 points from Chrishae Rowe.

The Ducks of the Pac-12, who were averaging 110 points, are coached by Paul Westhead, the doctor of high-powered offenses who coached the WNBA Phoenix Mercury to a title and also coached the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA as well as men’s teams at La Salle and Loyola Marymount.

No one is in action Thursday, locally, but the Guru will provide coverage of former Immaculata star Theresa Grentz receiving the Lapchick character award in New York City.

-- Mel







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