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 22, 2013

Mike Siroky's SEC Report: Conference Dominance Resonates Nationally

By Mike Siroky

Other conferences can claim dominance.

But the best conference in America, the Southeastern, simply is dominant.

It is unknown why other conference teams schedule the top SEC teams, unless it is for the shot at an upset.
That has not happened much this young college season.

The Associated Press ranked teams in the SEC are 24-1 in the opening weeks.

How those ranked team fared:

•Kentucky: Ho Hum. Another pair of wipeouts for No. 7 Kentucky, at home again, starting with a 96-74 blasting of Central Michigan and ending by keeping Lipscomb winless.
They are 5-0

Coach Matt Mitchell turned up the defensive heat against Central, with a 55-36 rebounding advantage and 28 forced turnovers. He used all this players in the first half and they came at the Chippewas in waves

On offense, half of them hit double figures, led by senior forward DeNesha Stallworth with 21 and guard Janee Thompson’s career-best 17.

Against Llipscomb, Stallworth hit five of her first six from the field and had 12 by the 55-29 halftime. The rout was on, ending at 116-49.

All five starters scored double figures. Stallworth played only 18 minutes and finished with 14. Bria Goss scored 18 in 17 minutes, 14 after intermission. Janee Thompson scored 16, Kastine Evans 12 and Samarie Walker 10 with 14 rebounds. These are the starters of the season’s win streak.

These games, as we mentioned weeks ago, are really about stockpiling 10 wins so you can win at that many in the league and make the NCAA show. UK is a national contender again, at least until the Wildcats meet a team coached by anyone named Geno in the NCAAs.

So the play of the bench is important as Mitchell builds experienced depth.

In the Lipscomb game, the reserves had plenty of game experience.

Perhaps the most impressive remains rookie Linnae Harper, 12 points in this one with six offensive boards and two steals in 11 minutes. Five games into her career, she is already showing dependability at her new level of competition.

Others off the bench included Bernisha Pinkett, 15 points (6-of-7 overall; 2-of-3 3s) and Jennifer O’Neill, 11 points.

UK has won 41 straight against non-SEC foes.

“We worked hard tonight,” said Mitchell. “We had a good night, played together, played with a lot of hustle, a lot of effort. We are proud of the victory. You can’t just show up on a night like tonight, you have to work really, really hard.

“The goal for us is to put 40 minutes of pressure on you. Not just 40 minutes of defensive pressure. I think the offensive push and the push on misses and makes is hard to deal with. You don’t see a lot of teams do that, and we just practice it so hard. We practice it every day. We have a team that is built for it. We have a bunch of young women that come in every single day and run up and down the floor really hard and train to do it. I think it puts a tremendous amount of pressure on people.

“Even in games when the margin’s not big, sometimes in the past we have run into teams where we played in a slowed-down game with them and they’ve beaten us.
“That offensive push might get you the winning bucket; the bucket that makes the difference. I think the pressure our offense puts on you in transition is significant.”

There was some sobering news when senior forward Samantha Drake tore her left anterior cruciate knee ligament and meniscus in the Central Michigan game. She is through for the season but would likely get a fifth season if she applies for the NCAA waiver after the eight-month rehab following an operation. She is one of those gutty workhorses in the Mitchell system, having started 23 times in 88 appearances.

•Tennessee: No. 3 Tennessee took apart its second ACC team, this time Georgia Tech, in an 87-76 win at home.

Lady Vol coach Holly Warlick has told everyone who would listen that sophmore forward Bashaara Graves is the heart of her team and Graves delivered, with 23 points and 18 rebounds, 14 offensive. Reserve center Mercedes Russell represented the rookies well, 6-of-8 from the field for 14 points. Junior center Izzy Harrison also had 18 rebounds, 10 defensively.
Warlick focused on the defense, of course, and this game that meant rebounds for 4-0 Tennsee.

"It was incredible,” Warlick said.

“I thought there wasn't much more that Bashaara could do. Highest rebounding she had, she was guarding just about everybody o the floor, she was bringing the ball up the court. Bashaara was multidimensional. She did just about everything tonight.

“When you have two kids that have 18 rebounds a piece, that's the difference in the game. You get second-chance points and that's just heart and desire to go in and rebound.”
One key to the fast start: "I gave them my halftime speech before the game,” Warlick said.

•Texas A&M: The No. 13 Aggies started their November on the road segment of the season by staying in-state, at Houston, and eased to a 63-51 win to go 3-0.

Coach Gary Blair tried a three-guard offense and it worked. Sophomore guard Courtney Walker scored a game-high 19 – 9-of-17 from the field with six assists and six rebounds -- and junior forward Achiri Ade had 18 points with 11 rebounds.

“Achiri kept us in the game in the first half, and Courtney was solid the whole ballgame,” Blair said. “When that jumper is going . . . we can run a lot of stuff for her.”

“We’re going to take the win,” said Blair. “When they got the lead down to three and had the ball it was getting really tight, but we got a couple of defensive stops at the end”

•South Carolina: Playing again at home, the 19th-ranked Gamecocks blew a to-point halftime edge to an 88-67 win over Seton Hall, their first loss of their season.

Featuring balance, Dawn Staley got 18 points and eight rebounds from center Elem Ibiam, including seven straight points in the 12-3 spree that iced it. One of three guards, Khadijah Sessions scored 17 points while backcourt mate sophomore Tiffany Mitchell and junior forward Aleighsa Welch had 15 each. South Carolina hit 57.8 percent from the field and 50 percent from 3-point land
Finally on the road, they stayed in-state, winning at Clemson, 78-54, to move to 5-0.

Welch had a marvelous game, 17 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots. They held those Tigers tro 15 first-half points, all but sealing the deal early.

Ibiam and Sessions had 10 points each and Mitchell scored 14 with five assists.

•Georgia: This was the kind of game The No. 23 Lady ’Dawgs used to lose: An undefeated for, early in the season, looking to make a name for itself against coach Andy Landers.

So, when undefeated Ohio State and new coach Kevin McGuff came calling, what happened next solidified Landers’ love for the game and his new mix of classes.

Georgia posted a 53-49 win and, sure all those games were at home (as are all November games), but they’ll take it. The 24-16 second half did it. Junior forward Krista Donald and senior guard Khaalidah Miller combined for seven points in one flurry to put Georgia up for good at 40-33 with 16:12 to play. Donald finished with 10 points and 16 rebounds; Miller scored a dozen.

Each of these teams will make the playoffs, maybe even the Sweet 16 and that makes this early season showdown somewhat significant.

“Ohio State is a talented team and a well-coached team,” Landers observed.

“It's not just about talent -- they have the right pieces in the right places. They have size inside that is very capable. They have excellent play at the point, and they have excellent shooters around the perimeter. They're a tough proposition. It really was a great win...a gutty win.”

Georgia joined the 4-0 club by wasting Furman. A 50-17 defensive demonstration included, as might be expected a big run – 26-0.
Sophomore guard Tiaria Griffin scored 21. That’s yet another leading scorer in a balanced attack.

•LSU: No. 15 LSU took time to think about their first loss and then gave Hampton something to think about by forcing 22 turnovers in something of a revenge match from last season’s upset by Hampton.

Of course, LSU being LSU they did not take advantage of the turnovers and hit just 7-of-18 from the line. That kind of non-effort will bite them big in conference games.

The reason it was a 73-54 win was, of course, Theresa Plaisance with her 14 points and 12 rebounds. Off the bench came Shanice McKinney and Jasmine Rhodes with 14 each as the Ben-Gals moved to 3-1.



- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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