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

Mike Siroky's SEC Report: SEC Tells the Rest of America: Show Us Something

By Mike Siroky

 These are the weeks in women’s college basketball when good teams round the lineups into shape before the end of the year and the start of the all-important conference seasons.

 There should not be much juggling in the Top 10 until then. But as all teams want to get to the first NCAA marker (20 wins) this is the time to get about 10 of those if you can.

 So it is in the best conference in America, the Southeastern.

 The Associated Press ranked teams in the SEC are 15-1 in the opening weeks.

 How those ranked team fared:

 Kentucky: No. 7 Kentucky opened its 40th season at 3-0 with road wins over Marist, 75-61, and Wagner, 96-57. Marist had a loud and proud sold-out crowd.

 Senior guard Kastine Evans had the team-high 15 points and eight rebounds, classmate Samarie Walker had three steals and a game-high 11 rebounds.

 The second win showcased another senior, forward DeNesha Stallworth, with a 22nd career double-double 18 points and 13 rebounds. For all of its defense, UK is 21-0 when it hits 90 or more points.

 This might make you feel old: The home opener was the “Class of  2020” game.

 Georgia Southern felt like the same ol’ thing in the ’Cats win. It was a 103-38 walkover. The Lady ’Cats are 40-0 when clearing 100 points.

  They are also 3-0 for the fourth time with coach Matt Mitchell. He will win his 200th this season.

 Rookie sensation Linnae Harper was 6-of-9 from the field and had 13 points.

 Tennessee: Lady Vol coach Holly Warlick is just messin’ with us. She let the No. 4 team in the land get 14 down in the first half (12 at the half) before coaching them up to a 67-57 win at Middle Tennessee. Whatever she said at halftime worked as UT scored the first 14 after the break to move the program to  36-4 in openers, 6-0 on the road.

 The Lady Vols had four in double figures, including junior center Izzy Harrison, 13 points and seven rebounds in 17 minutes. Freshman center Mercedes Russell had 11 points, seven rebounds and three steals.

 UT then won easily at No. 12 North Carolina, 81-65. Ariel Massengale scored a career-high 20; all five of her baskets coming on 3s.

 The defense did it. The Lady Vols caused 24 turnovers and had 20 defensive rebounds.

 They rounded off their 3-0 week at home, giving legendary UT-Chattanooga coach Jim Foster his first loss there, 80-56, with a 48-24 second half.

 Massengale mentioned Warlick’s motivational savvy: “She said, ‘If you don’t come out of this game with a win . . . I’m going to make your life a living’ (long pause) . . . well, you can fill in the rest.” Warlick backed her by saying the quote was exactly correct.

 Massengale scored 16 and Russell 15. Where is team leader Meighan Simmons? Following Warlick’s plan of coasting until needed with 10 in 17 minutes for this game.

 They’ll ramp her up when the SEC starts and suddenly she’ll be the top scorer for UT again.

 Junior Cierra Burdick isn’t near satisfied. "We're striving for greatness," Burdick said. "We want to get to the Final Four and that display was not going to get us there." The past two graduating classes are the only ones ever at Tennessee to miss having played in at least one finals in their careers.

 Texas A&M: Coach Gary Blair, in his 11th with the Aggies, is looking for a ninth straight NCAA Tournament appearance. The 25-10 season and SEC tournament title of a year ago is a strong legacy to chase with just two returning starters in the two sophomore Courtneys, Walker and Williams.

 Of course, if they get it going that means two more fun seasons to come.

 Senior Karla Gilbert one of a pair left from the 2011 national champs.

 No. 16 A&M started a few days later than everyone else, but won on the road at North Texas State, 67-48, and then pummeled the other instate A&M, Prairie View, in the home opener.

In the North Texas State game, the Aggies rolled out a 16-0 run to establish dominance. Gilbert scored 12. But the real family note is that her mom, Nelda, scored 17 in 1988 as North Texas State upset A&M, the last time State has won in this series.

 The Prairie View A&M wipeout was worse, 76-27. The defense held Prairie View to .196 from the field. Texas A&M used the opportunity to present SEC tournament championship rings to the team in the only home game of the month.

 Blair said afterwards he was concentrating on how the reserves did.

 “We have to find out who can help us. Injuries are going to happen. The bench is the way to earn your way back up the ladder,” he said.

 South Carolina: Coach Dawn Staley had promised to feature her two 6-4 centers and she did in two blowout wins, part of a 3-0 start, all at home.

 The 21st-ranked Gamecocks scored 108 of their combined 167 points inside in the first two (Charleston Southern and Louisiana Tech), giving the league something to chart.

 The 99 points and 25 assists were the most in the Staley reign; the 60.9 field goal percentage was the second-best ever at home.

 Freshman center Alaina Coates hit for 16 scoring average and junior center Elem Ibiam asserted her defensive presence, tying her career-high with five blocks against Charleston Southern and adding another three against Louisiana Tech.

 Her game was most balanced against Charleston Southern as she hit 7-of-7 from the field.

 It was more of the same against College of Charleston, though closer at 81-54.

 Forward Asia Dozier kept the forward line represented with 16 points; Eliam added a dozen and Coates brought 11 off the bench.

 Georgia: Georgia opened with a 45-30 victory over Presbyterian, starting with a win for the 12th time in the most-recent 13 seasons (and the one loss was to defending NCAA champ Baylor).

 Andy Landers is 35-6 in openers as coach.

 He made freshman Sydnie McCaskill the 73rd freshman to start for the Lady ’Dawgs, the 23rd to start an opener.

 Senior Khaalidah Miller matched three career highs in the victory, rebounds (11), assists (six) and minutes played (40). She’ll see a lot of minutes this season.

 The 24th-ranked Lady ‘Dawgs then welcomed in Mercer, coached by former Lady Bulldog Susie Gardner.

 They thanked her for coming with a lovely parting gift of a 72-41 walkover. They were remarkably balanced, with 35 in the first half and 37 in the second. The defense  -- a good sign for such a young team – held the Bears to 23 percent from the field.

 Forward Shacobia Barbee scored 15 with as many rebounds.

 Georgia has the best challenge next, that of Ohio State and new coach Kevin McGuff.

 LSU: The women’s National Invitation Tournament is only significant if you win it and then just barely a note in next season’s media guide.

 So No. 14 LSU had a couple of nice wins to start, defeating Stephen F. Austin, 86-58, and then Saint Joseph’s, 80-64. But No. 5 Louisville (a Final Four team last season) ended that.

 LSU is the only ranked team to play a team higher in the polls and that explains the first loss by an SEC ranked team.

 At home, Louisville discombobulated whatever it was LSU was attempting and won their third home to start the season after a Final Four appearance.

 LSU Is far away from such a goal. In Cardinal Country, They call a scoring spurt “The Boom.”

 They boom blasted LSU out of the top 20, 88-67, a rout which included a 21-0 run in the second segment. Schoni Schmiel scored

 Louisville, as a sponsored multi-use stadium, is the only college site which has a bar built in.

 Coach Jeff Walz of Louisville used the opportunity to buy a beer for the first 2,500 eligible spectators. The school matched his largesse with $4 off the usual $10 admission.

 The resultant buzz was a record (for women) attendance of 8,099. Louisville used its speed to make up for a height differential. You can’t restrict speed, you can only recruit it.

LSU can now win its next five; but everyone knows this kind of result will also happen (losing to a better team) almost every time in conference.

 The Ben-Gals did unveil Junior guard DaShawn Harden, a Junior College All-American last season. She led the first two games in scoring, with 20 and 19 points, respectively. Harden combined to hit 7-of-16 3s.

 Senior forward Theresa Plaisance, at 6-5,  was LSU’s leading rebounder in the first two games as she averaged 16.5 points and 8.0 rebounds. She had 13 and eight in the Louisville loss.


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