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.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Guru's College Report: Temple Tops Auburn With Another Second-Half Rally

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA – Temple coach Tonya Cardoza offered one of her new players a dose of trust and confidence Saturday night and was rewarded when Feyonda Fitzgeralded fired a three-pointer with 24 seconds left that led to the game-winner against Auburn in nonconference action at McGonigle Hall.

It was sweet redemption for the freshman from Nofolk, Va., after she missed a layup with 1:18 left and the Tigers of the Southeastern Conference took advantage and scored on Brandy Montgomery’s layup for a 74-73 lead eight seconds  afterwards that killed the Owls’ seven-point advantage that existed a few minutes earlier.

When Cardoza was in charge of the guards during her 14 years as an assistant to Hall of Famer Geno Auriemma at powerful Connecticut, she was always said to be the one aide on the staff whose office the players always congregated.

“I know (Fitzgerald) was down after she missed and I heard ‘T’ (Tyonna Williams) talking to her during the timeout, telling her to let it go,” Cardoza said of the finish.

“I said to her, `I’m going to give you the ball again. I’m going to give you the ball and this time you’re going to shoot with the other hand and I know you’re going to make it.’

“But it just so happened that the play broke down and `T’ had the ball and found her and she had the confidence and she let it go. And she drained that three and I know she was celebrating before it was over,” Cardoza grinned.

“But the fact that she even thought to take it, that just shows a lot about her toughness as a freshman to step up and take the shot, let alone make it, it says a lot about it her. And ‘T’ to pass it to her.”

Auburn’s Davis Peyton missed a layup trying to gain a tie on the next possession and Williams grabbed the rebound, got fouled, and went to the line to sink two free throws with nine seconds left to enable Temple to emerge with a 78-74 win and stay unbeaten at 3-0 while Auburn (2-1) suffered its first loss of the season.

It was career night for three Temple players with Williams, a junior, nailing 5-of-8 attempted treys and finishing with 29 points while Fitzgerald, who hit four of the Owls’ 10 treys, had 18 points and sophomore Erica Covile scored 14.

“At the half one our coaches (Way Veney) said to stop passing the ball and “shoot because you’re hot and that gave me confidence,” Williams said.

Tyrese Tanner had 19 points for Auburn, while Montgomery had 15 points and Katie Frerking scored 14 points.

Temple making 10 treys might have made Auburn coach Terri Williams-Flournoy wonder if she had arrived in the suburbs at Villanova in her first trip back to the area since leaving Georgetown in the old Big East two seasons ago and going to Auburn.

“Yeah, but they’re not suppose to be making threes. They’re very streaky,” Williams-Flournoy, a former Penn State star, said.

Fitzgerald, involved in a few turnovers also in the closing minutes, talked about the winning play.

“I was really upset because I missed the layup and threw two turnovers that was unnecessary where I could have just held the ball but like ‘Coach said, Tyonna was talking to me, getting in my head, telling me to let it go, just keep playing.

“But I was still down but I was mad I missed it and when she passed it to me, I just shot it.”

Fitzgerald at Lake Taylor High was involved in two state championship teams in Virginia.

The win enabled Temple to avoid suffering the same disappointment as the football team which several hours earlier at Lincoln Financial Field in South Philadelphia had a comeback against Central Florida ruined in the final minutes of regulation and then ultimately suffering another close loss in overtime.

Ironically, on the Auburn side while the Tigers saw Temple dismantle their 16-point advantage that existed early in the second half the Tigers football team down south used a miracle play in the final moments to avoid an upset loss to Georgia in a key SEC game.

Temple, which has switched from the Atlantic 10 to The American conference, was the latest to get involved in what has become a rally weekend for the 10-team PhilahoopsW group in the Guru’s local Division I coverage after Friday night’s trifecta in which host Delaware erased a nine-point deficit against Wake Forest in the second half, Saint Joseph’s stormed from as 16-point second-half deficit to win in overtime at Wichita State in a consolation game of the preseason WNIT and Drexel rallied from a 17-point deficit in the first half at home to beat Providence.

It’s the third straight game that Temple used a strong second half to come back, this one even more dramatic after ruining La Salle and Delaware home openers before rescuing the Owls’ own debut in their arena.

Furthermore, late in the game after Temple had surged with a 24-2 explosion to go ahead the Owls lost their two post players through fifth fouls to veteran Natasha Thames and freshman Taylor Robinson while being up seven and six points with251 left to play.

“We faced a lot of adversity,” Cardoza said. “At the finish we had to use five guards against Auburn – they’re huge – the fact we were still able to come up with rebounds and loose balls and whatever it just speaks volumes about our team and where they are right now and how they feel about each other.

“It’s just been great so far. I thought we really communicated well at the finish.”

Trailing 44-32 at the half, the Owls outscored the Tigers 46-30 the rest of the way and while holding their own with a 28-28 deadlock in the paint, Temple had a 36-19 advantage in points off turnovers.

Temple is off for 10 days until Big 10 power Michigan State visits on Nov. 26 at McGonigle, where the Owls will play most of their games in the revamped arena this season.

“It’s Ok, our practice squad is really good,” Cardoza said of the break. “We will simulate a game in one of our scrimmages.”

After the Michigan State game the Owls will still be home to host another Michigan team in Oakland, located by Detroit, on Nov. 30 while the first game next month will be a Big Five visit on Dec. 4 from Saint Joseph’s – the earliest the two have played and the first time the outcome won’t also count in the Atlantic 10 because of the Owls’ departure to The American.

Missing Big Five Game Finally Scheduled

Word came during the Temple game Saturday that La Salle and Penn will play at the Explorers’ Tom Gola Arena on Dec. 2 at 7 p.m.

The game had been the one contest absent from the Guru’s working schedule for the season as well as the local round robin because La Salle replaced Penn on the original scheduled date of Nov. 30 with Central Connecticut and still had to re-slot the Quakers.

Looking Ahead

Temple was the only PhilahoopsW team in action Saturday and the Guru will be off to Penn State quite early Sunday morning after this posting for the Lady Lions’ national showdown at noon against top-ranked Connecticut at the Bryce Jordan Center.

The Guru’s detailed game coverage will appear at hoopfeed.com though the outcome will be part of the Sunday PhilahoopsW roundup continues here while the local website launched last season continues to get updated.

The Huskies of UConn are coming off Friday’s road win at No. 8 Maryland and are depleted, but not deparate, while all-American Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (elbow) and Morgan Tuck (knee surgery) are sidelined for an indefinite period, though Tuck’s return has been estimated at four to six weeks.

It’s the first time in three meetings including the past two seasons that Penn State senior scoring sensation won’t be going against her good friend and former Germantown Academy alum Caroline Doty, who graduated.

Rutgers, off to a 2-0 start, returns to the Louis A. Brown Athletic Center after a road win at Northeastern to host La Salle, which has been idle since last Friday’s season-opening loss to Temple.

Four-time defending Ivy champion Princeton, still the league favorite, opens its home slate at Jadwin Gym against Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference power Marist following last Sunday’s opening loss at Rutgers.

USP Wins at the Finish Again

Following an opening loss in the Carol Eckman Classic at West Chester, the University of the Sciences of Philadelphia scored nine points in the final 22 seconds against the host Golden Rams in a nonconference game between two local Division II schools to emerge with a 79-76 victory.

Kaitlyn Schmid hit two foul shots with 2.9 seconds left to give the Devils the lead and all four triumphs have been claimed in the final seconds.

Both teams also met, as allowed in the NCAA concerning Division II and III schools, in the offseason during competition in the Philadelphia/Suburban NCAA Women’s Summer Basketball League in Horsham in lower Bucks County.

It was the first win in eight visits to West Chester(1-2) at Hollinger Fieldhouse and first over the Golden Rams in five seasons.

Brianne Traub had a game-high 25 points for USP while Jessica Sylvester scored 14 points and Schmid had 11. Isabella Ross grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds.

The Devils attempted a school-record 33 treys, making nine.

Kendall Benovy had 16 points for West Chester while Brittany Sicinski scored 15, and Jasmen Clark had 11.

-- Mel





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