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.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Guru's College Roundup: Saint Joseph's Tops Villanova In a Big Five Thriller

By Mel Greenberg

VILLANOVA, PA. -- One by one the Saint Joseph's women's basketball team is eradicating all its demons accumulated over the past decade.

The latest dispatch involves Villanova in terms of the Wildcats' Pavilion where the Hawks emerged on Saturday afternoon from a fantastic passion play on both sides with a 63-60 Philaelphia Big Five nonconference victory that is the first on the Main Line since 2008-09.

Saint Joseph's is in the Atlantic 10 while Villanova remains with the reconfigured Big East in terms of affiliation.

In the only other game played Saturday among the 10-team PhilahoopsW group in the Guru's local Division I coverage, Penn won a nonconference matchup at Bucknell of the Patriot League and the Quakers (3-2) came away from Lewisburg, Pa., with a 69-61 triumph that completed a three-game sweep on the week.

The Hawks' triumph enabled Saint Joseph's (8-1, 2-0 Big Five) to finish the week with a 2-0 sweep in its start of City Series play and both wins have come at places where wins had been hard to come by.

On Wednesday, the Hawks won at Temple for the first time since 2003 to go with Saturday's win at Villanova (7-1, 0-1) as they toppled the Wildcats from the overall unbeaten ranks and ended a nine-game Villanova local run that had resulted in two back-to-back Big Five titles.

Quickly Saint Joseph's and Penn (1-0) are the only teams still unbeaten in Big Five play and the two won't meet until next month when the Quakers finish their City Series slate with three games.

The triumph also made Saint Joseph's, the defending A-10 champion, even with Villanova in all-time Big Five wins with 100 each in the local round-robin formally begun in 1979-80.

"I'm proud our kids, we just kept fighting back, getting some stops when we needed to, getting some scores, " Saint Joseph's coach Cindy Griffin said. "We know it's going to be a possession game when we play these guys.

"It was a great game," she continued. "Villanova did a great job. Our kids dug down deep and did all the little things we asked them to do."

The games was as wild as any could get in the long running series between the two and featured nine lead changes and four ties until a layup from Cheltenham High grad Ciara Andrews gave Saint Joseph's a 61-60 lead for good with 1 minute, 48 seconds left in the contest.

Abington High grad Emily Leer missed a three-point attempt trying to get the advantage back for Villanova and then Cardinal O'Hara graduate Natasha Cloud hit a jumper for Saint Joseph's that became the game's final points with 1:08 left.

True, there was still time for the Wildcats, but Caroline Coyer committed a turnover with 50 seconds left. Andrews misssed a jump shot with 21 seconds left but she recovered on defense to block a three-point attempt by Coyer with three seconds remaining in regulation.

Devon Kane, a graduate of Notre Dame Academy, and Coyer each missed attempts as the final seconds ticked off the clock.

Archbishp Carroll graduate Erin Shields scored 15 points for the Hawks, while Andrews, a substitute, and Cloud each scored 14 points and Cloud followed up two straight 13-assists performances with eight.

Sarah Fairbanks was also in double figures with 12 point for Saint Joseph's.

Leer, Coyer and Taylor Holeman each scored 12 points for Villanova.

The atmosphere was fueled with electricity by the large showing of Saint Joseph's students, much more than seen here in recent memory, that were part of the crowd of 1,237 in the house.

"They were absolutely wonderful," Griffin said. "We thank the marketing department. We thank the administration. This is a big day on Hawk Hill. For them to come here is a big deal because they are going to be busy in a few hours."

Then men's teams from the two schools played at night about a half-hour or so, depending on local traffic, down the road at Saint Joseph's.

In the long range in the scheme of things, this week showed the Hawks are well on the way to follow up on last season's finish when they won their first A-10 title in more than a decade to return to the NCAA tournament the first time since the 1999-2000 season.

"That has to be what people look at -- great out of conference wins on the road," Anderson said of triumphs that could also be categorized as mid-major triumphs over two so-called BCS opponents, depending on who is doing the definitions.

"You saw the progress over the summer," Anderson said of the slew of Hawks who played in the prestigious local summer league. "These kids work hard. They want to be in the gym. They want to get better. A defensive player takes something away, they want to work on that weakness and get better. It's a credit to their work ethic."

Saint Joseph's got off to a hot start, making shots and soaring to a 13-point lead in the first five minutes at 15-2, all the points coming after Kendall Burton getting the home team a short-lived lead with the first basket.

Then the Wildcats began chipping away as the Hawks cooled off, in part by a better defensive stand from Villanova, and a 17-4 run got them to a tie before two more deadlocks occurred, including one at the break to make it 28-28.

Villanova then got after it at the outset of the next half for a 36-28 lead on Kane's layup but the Hawks refused to yield and struck with an 11-2 run to re-gain the lead on Shields' two free throws.

Coyer got the Wildcats back in front by five with a trey with 8:51 left at 50-45 before the momentum switched back and forth the rest of the way and finally landed in the hands of the Hawks.

"I enjoyed the game," Villanova veteran coach Harry Perretta said. "I enjoy games that are competitive where everyone plays hard.

"They happened to get us this year. Last year, we made every shot down the stretch, this year they made every shot," Perretta continued.

"The advantage they had is they played a much more difficult schedule early and I told our kids that," Perretta said. "This year we hadn't played our normal tough schedule early.

"I thought the experience factor played down the stretch and alao they have two uppper classmen guards that know what they are doing. Last year we had the experienced team. The bottom line is who can make the most plays and down the stretch they made the most plays."

There's much familiarity on both sides in terms of players' competition with and against each other in the summer league and in AAU ball.

"I'm happier when I'm playing with them," Villanova's Kane quipped afterwards.

Andrews said of the game from the Hawks' side, "We pulled together at the end. We just had to get a stop -- no threes. I let up a three but we had a one-point lead and we got the stop.

"This is definitely for the seniors. It's their last year so we wanted to beat 'Nova on their home floor. We needed this."

Shields is one of the seniors.

"To beat two Big Five teams," she said of the week. "People from Piladelphia don't understand. And if you don't play for the teams.

"Like 'Coach says, `You need to bring your toughness to these games. You know it's going to be a battle. We went on runs. They went on runs. To come out with two wins is great."

Cloud's arival last season, becoming eligible after transferring from Maryland, has helped turn Saint Joseph's back to its glory days as a dominate local team.

"This was a statement week for us," Cloud said."To beat Temple and Villanova on the road -- we're a good team on the road and we stuck together and got two wins.

"Even when we were up on Villanova 15-2, you knew they would get back into it and they did. There were a lot lof lead changes but we pulled it out."

The Hawks are off until Tuesday night when Hofstra of the Colonial Athhletic Association visits in nonconference action returning last season's Saint Joseph's trip that was a victory for Griffin's squad.

Villanova is off a little over a week before heading to La Salle next Sunday for another Big Five nonconference battle. The Wildcats then travel to Temple Dec. 22 and stay on the road for the first two Big East games before returning to the Main Line to host longtime conference rival Providence, January 4.

Forwards' Progress Keys Penn Win at Buknell

The Quakers stampeded the Bucknell Bisons of the Patriot League with a 15-0 rout at the outset of the second half Saturday and a combo effort from forwards Kara Bonenerger and freshman substitute Syndey Stipanovich led to a 69-61 nonconference victory as Penn (3-2) made it a three-game sweep on tthe week' busy schedule.

While Penn senior scoring sensation Alyssa Baron did her usual number with a team-high 18 points, Bonenberger scored 16 points and Stipanovich delivered a double double of 15 points and 11 rebounds against Bucknell (4-5) in Lewisburg, Pa.

The Quakers defense roped all but Bisons star Shelly Romine, who had a game-high 23 points.

Penn led 32-23 at the half following scoring the final points of the period and just kept going to eventually bolt to a 24-point lead until Bucknell got a bit more active down the stretch.

The Quakers are now over .500 after opening at 0-2 over a stretch of 21 days until they got busier this week with a first-ever win Monday night at La Salle's Tom Gola Arena to launch their Big Five slate.

The two early games were an upset loss at home by St. Francis of New York and then a competitive loss in The Palestra to now No. 4 Notre Dame.

Penn followed the win at La Salle with a rally to beat Long Island University of Brooklyn Thursday and then had a one-day practice before heading to Bucknell Saturday morning.

Next up for the local Ivy League member is a visit from another Patriot League team -- Army -- on Wednesday at The Palestra.

Princeton Sinks Navy

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Following the 110-90 shelling Princeton took at the hands of Oregon in the Northwest last Sunday, the Tigers turned around here Friday night and torpedoed Navy 73-57 in a battle of defending multi-conference champions at the Midshipmen's Alumni Hall.

"We had a lot of chance to play defense," Princeton coach Courtney said of the two game swing in outcomes, first discusssing Sunday's loss. "I thought we played pretty well for about 25 minutes (against Oregon). I thought tonight what we did defensively, we are a work in progress and I like the direction we are going in."

Navy (7-3) has won the last three Patriot League titles while Princeton (4-4) has four straight Ivy League crowns and was the preseason media pick to make it five straight.

Two years ago Princeton, which went on to appear in the final Associated Press women's poll as the only Ivy school ever to make the rankings, came down here and suffered the Tigers' only upset defeat of the year in terms of not coming through as the favorite.

The Tigers got revenge back in Jadwin Gym last season, beating Navy by more than a yard at 70-50.

But in both instances Princeton had one of the Ivy all-timers in Niveen Rasheed, who has gone on to presently star in Greece, the country, as opposed to Grease, the rock and roll extravaganza.

Now that Rasheed belongs to the record book, the Tigers' development heading to Ivy competition offers a different look.

"Rasheed, they don't have a player quite like that, but they do play well together and they just have shooters," said Navy coach Stefanie Pemper, who has turned things around down here and has a bit of an Ivy past in her resume as a former Harvard assistant.

"Like everywhere. They have four shooters on the court at all times. (Amanda Berntsen) not so much but she was effective, driving.

"She had a nice game and did some good things as far as driving, motion plays, drives, and-ones, threes."

Berntsen finished with 12 points, a career high that came off shoooting 6-for-9 from the field for the Tigers, who overall shot 50 perrcent from the field.They were also 11-for-11 from the line.

Michelle Miller had 20 points, one off her career mark that came, last season, while Kristen Helmstetter had 18 points to go with Berntsen's scoring. Reserve Annie Tarakchian grabbed eight rebounds.

Helmstettter reached the 500-career scoring milestone and goes into the next game Wednesday at Binghamton with 503 points.

Princeton comes home next Sunday to host another defending multi-conference champion in Delaware off the CAA. It will be the first time in five years neither has a superstar since the Blue Hens' Elena Delle Donne graduated and went on to beome WNBA rookie of the year last summer with the Chicago Sky.

On the home front here, M.L. Morrison had 11 points for Navy and Sarita Condie scored 10 but leading scorer Jade Geif, the 2011 Patriot League rookie of the year who was conference tourney MVP in 2011 ans 2012, was held to two points on 1-for-5 shoooting, 12 points off the 14 she had been averaging the last siz games.

Geif did matched Tarakchian's game honors and was just under her own rebounding average with eight.

"I've been worried about that matchup all summer because we had Devonna Allgood from a couple of years ago, and couldn't guard (Geif). (Allgood's) about 6-3 aand 180 pounds, so (she's) long. Then we had a 5-3 200 pounder and couldn't guard her," Banghart said.

"And (Navy) is too good, so you can't double team her. So I'm really proud Kristen did a good job on her and Kristen prefers to be a guard. And then we sent some sophomore posts at her. That was a key to the game and I thouht they did a pretty nice job."

Princeton bolted from a 15-12 early advantage to a 14-0 run to take command for the night.

"We challenged (Bernstsen) to try to get us some easy baskets in transition with her speed," Banghart said. "But we tried to generate some turnovers and obviously she had a huge game for us and we needed it -- especially with how under-manned we are.

"Generating easy baskets is not only an advantage for you, but it's a back-breaker for them. So that's going to be our last step and I think we're getting there," Banghart added.

"This team can score if we play with purpose. So we really tried in the first half to not only be aggressive but to play with purpose and be able to move the ball. When we play with movement, we're really hard to guard," Banghart said.

"We were looking for this game as an important regional matchup and for our group, we just continue to get better," Banghart said. "So for us, it's putting the work in, and then have the chance to try it on someody else.

"We're pretty beaten up, as you saw, we almost have more people in warmup suits than we have on the floor."

Banghart is hoping everyone will be healthy when the heart of the Ivy schedule hits in late January, though there will be the usual early opener with Penn.

"Im reallly proud of this group because they don't make excuses," Bannghart said. "They don't make excuses that we're playing a young team against a senior-oriented team.

"They don't make excuses that we have 5 1/2 players in warmup clothes. They just go about their journey. So a lot to be proud of. We're just thrilled to get a road win against a really good team."

Since government service is part of the deal at Navy, each of the Midshipmen seniors received their first choice of assignments this week after the five graduate the academy.

Audrey Bauer is headed for surface warfare officer, Alix Membreno and Morrison and Kara Pollinger to pilots, and the trio will be commissioned as Navy ensigns, while Geif at ground will be commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Marine Corps.

Small Colleges: USP Matches Best Start

Brianne Traub had a career high 32 points as the University of the Sciences of Philadelphia slipped past host Nyack College 77-74 in a Central Atlantic College Conference game in New York near the Tappan Zee Bridge that crosses the Hudson River above Manhattan.

Jessica Sylvester added 21 for the Devils (8-2, 3-0 CACC) who have matched the 10-game best for the program achieved by the 2003-04 contingent that finished 24-6. Nyack fell to 2-7 overall and 1-3 in the conference.

Meanwhile, Bria Hill's three-pointer snapped a tie and gave host Rowan an 86-83 victory over Kean in Glassboro in a New Jersey Athletic Conference game and she finished with 14 points..

Valerie Garofalo had a career-high 19 points for Rowan (2-5, 2-2 NJAC) while Kean fell to 4-4 overall and 2-2 in the conference.

That's it until the next post.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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