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.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Guru's PhilahoopsW Report: Villanova Escapes Lehigh With an Overtime Triumph

By Mel Greenberg

BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Though Lehigh University is about an hour and change away to the north from Villanova, there was much familiarity running between the two teams in a nonconference “school day” game Thursday morning between the host Mountain Hawks of the Patriot League and the visiting Wildcats of the re-vamped Big East.

For one, an NCAA record for sisters in the same contest may have been set with Villanova offering the twin sophomore combination of Caroline and Katherine Coyer.

Then there was the family feud aspect with sophomore guard Kendall Burton of suburban Boston starting for Villanova opposite her younger sister, freshman Kayla Burton for Lehigh.

Additionally several Wildcats and Mountain Hawks compete in the Philadelphia/Suburban Women’s NCAA Summer Basketball League in the off-season.

“I’ve played against some of them and with some of them,” junior center Emily Leer said after Villanova escaped with a 79-73 overtime victory at Stabler Arena before a vocal crowd of 3,928. “We know each other so well and what we’re going to do.”

Leer helped the Wildcats stay unbeaten at 3-0 with a career high 24 points to lead all scorers from both sides and also had a career-best six 3-pointers on 10 attempts. Caroline Coyer scored 15 points, Devon Kane had 12 off the bench and sophomore Kavunaa Edwards scored 11 points and grabbed eight rebounds, the same total off the backboards as Villanova substitute Taylor Holeman..

Sophomore leader Kerry Kinek scored 23 for Lehigh (2-1), which suffered its first loss and also grabbed eight rebounds, while Katie O’Reilly scored 17 points and Kayla Burton had 12 points.

Lehigh newcomers helped to almost give the Mountain Hawks their second win the series – Villanova now leads 6-1 – as Lexi Martins had seven points and seven rebounds off the bench and Kiernan McCloskey from Germantown Academy scored six to go with Kayla Burton’s effort.

Lindsay Hoskins contributed to the 50-44 Lehigh advantage on the backboards with nine rebounds.

Leer, who had 19 of her 24 points in the second half, fouled out in the overtime but not before breaking the 62-62 deadlock from regulation with a pair of foul shots then extending the lead with a trey on the next possession.

In the overtime, Leer had seven points while Caroline Coyer had six points.

Kinek also fouled out in the extra period that was forced on the weight of Edwards’ layup for Villanova with 2 minutes, 12 seconds left in regulation.

The Wildcats had trailed by six points two minutes earlier before Leer brought them back with a pair of treys to a 60-60 tie.

“I’m never coming here again, let Connecticut play here,” Villanova coach Harry Perry said with a smile of the narrow escape.

“Yeah, he kept saying that to me in the overtime,” Lehigh’s Sue Troyan said. “But I’ll get him up here again.”

Villanova, known for taking care of the basketball, committed 17 turnovers, though Lehigh committed one more and the Wildcats outscored the Mountain Hawks 18-12 off the miscues to make up for a 24-12 domination by Lehigh in the paint.

So with the 10-second rule now part of the women’s game, there had been wonderment how Villanova, known for its slow, patient attack of the past, is handling the new regulation.

“True, it hasn’t been one of our stronger points, but, hey, we’re doing OK. They haven’t called one on us yet,” Leer said.

Villanova was coming out of a quick start last weekend in winning the Glass City Tournament hosted by Toledo in Ohio with the Wildcats topping Drexel in the title game.

That makes two straight games in which Perretta beat his former players in Drexel coach Denise Dillon and Lehigh assistant Laura Kurz.

But the effort here was a total struggle until Villanova stabilized in the second half.

“We have not played in an environment that simulates that,” Perretta referred to the traditional screams of the youngsters at school outing events. “I wasn’t sure how we were going to play under those conditions, especially my younger players.

“As the game wore on, my older players got into a rhythm and we began to make shots,” he said. “You have to make shots.

“It’s funny, my freshmen are looking at the other team and their freshmen and how well they’re playing,” Perretta said. “They’re not playing behind anybody on Lehigh, so they’re getting an opportunity to play. So therefore, their growth process is going to be quicker.

“Our kids think, it’s going to happen tomorrow. It doesn’t work that way. We’re trying to get through that. But again they gave us some minutes when we played them but in a game like that, you go with your upper classmen and that’s what we did.”

As for the play of Leer, the Villanova coach said, “They all played well coming down the stretch. Taylor Holeman was huge. In the first half, she showed some rust but in the second half I thought she played well.

“Emily was 7-for-11 and she had four of those threes in the second half.”

As for the near upset, Troyan said, “We had several opportunities down the stretch, missed three or four shots we didn’t make when we were up six.

“But give them credit, they hit threes when they needed it (13-for-44),” Troyan said. “It was a great atmosphere for our kids to play in.”

Villanova is off until next Wednesday when the Wildcats travel to Sacred Heart before finally playing a home opener Nov. 24 against Lafayette.

Lehigh next hosts Mount St. Mary’s on Tuesday.

Looking Ahead

The Villanova game was the only one on the 10-team PhilahoopsW card Thursday but Friday Saint Joseph’s travels to Wichita State in a consolation and final game in the preseason WNIT while Delaware will host Wake Forest in a game in which former sensation Elena Delle Donne and the other six seniors will return for a banner hanging in the Bob Carpenter Center to denote last season’s historic run to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament.

Drexel on Friday will be at home to host Providence while nationally, Connecticut travels to Maryland as the No. 1 Huskies begin life for a while without all-American Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (elbow) and Morgan Tuck (knee) who are sidelined.

Last season when the Terrapins traveled to Connecticut, it was Maryland who was injury-riddled.

Connecticut stays on the road to go to Penn State Sunday, while in between Temple opens its home slate Saturday at 6 p.m. in McGonigle Hall against Auburn.

Princeton returns to action Sunday hosting Marist in a home opener in Jadwin Gym, while Rutgers, fresh off a 2-0 start and Wednesday’s win at Northeastern, hosts La Salle.



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