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, December 22, 2013

Guru's Local Roundup: Narrow Outcomes Highlight Action

Guru note: A breakout blog on Penn-Temple is above this one

By Mel Greenberg

.When Temple hosts Villanova in a key Big Five game at 2 p.m. Sunday in McGonigle Hall and Penn State hosts Alcorn State in a nonconference game at 11 a.m. Sunday morning that will bring an end to the first phase of the season as far as PhilahoopsW teams are concerned.

Though the odds are long that Temple or Villanova can win or share the Big Five crown,. It will be a key test for both against each other and the winner having a good shot to reach at least second place in the City Series round robin.

At one time, had the old Big East been maintained in terms of where Temple thought it was heading months ago, this game would have also been a conference opener and maybe the first of at least two games on the season but obviously such is no longer the situation.

Meanwhile, Penn-Temple wasn’t the only narrow encounter Saturday among those of the 10 teams that played Saturday in the PhilahoopsW group of ten schools in the Guru’s local Division I focus.

Rutgers got an impressive win upsetting No. 16 Georgia at home in a nonconference game that was the last for the Scarlet Knights heading into their only season of play in The American before moving on to the Big 10.

Saint Joseph’s suffered a tough loss at nationally-ranked Syracuse that might still add to the scheme of things in terms of the Hawks’ resume because of the last-seconds set back.

Delaware is still winning in-season tourneys after the Elena Delle Donne era, taking Lehigh’s Christmas City Classic against the host Mountain Hawks in Bethlehem, Pa., at Stabler Arena. The Guru was on the scene Friday night when the Blue Hens got off to a winning start, beating Youngstown State.

And La Salle came away with a split in Florida’s tournament, beating Tennessee State in Gainesville after suffering at the hands of Florida International.

Let’s go to the re-cap and evaluation room with some quotes provided by wires and team reports.

Unlike other years, Rutgers has not seen many Top 25 teams nor will see many more borrowing a change of fortune to teams in The American where only top-ranked Connecticut and No. 7 Louisville, the 1-2 punch of the 2013 NCAA championship game, are listed out of the conference.

To date, the Scarlet Knights had seen just fading LSU, against whom they suffered a narrow loss in the Brooklyn Women’s Challenge at Thanksgiving in the Barclays Center.

This was by design with Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer nurturing a young squad devoid of any seniors.

Rutgers proved battle ready against No. 16 Georgia, taking a big lead early, then falling slightly behind and finally emerging on top with a 61-58 triumph that also served as the Lady Bulldogs’ first loss of the season.

“This is a major test to see how well we are going to play at that level,” Stringer said afterwards. “We needed to have our confidence as this is a young group.”

Actually, it was more a test as to see if Rutgers (9-2), which easily could still be unbeaten, can switch up after feasting on a diet of less renown squads for extending periods, which will happen as it sees nothing but conference teams the rest of the way.

But give the Scarlet Knights high grades for coming through and maybe the bigger test will be to not lose focus between now and March the way they did in the shocker at Massachusetts because who knows how the NCAA tournament is going to act in dealing with good records and disjointed RPIs caused by conference shifts in which women’s teams had little say within their administrative communities.

Yolanda Laney, who has been playing exceptional, especially in dealing with missing a few games because of a minor injury to her ankle, saw the game as an opportunity for revenge for losing at Georgia last season.

Laney, part of the “Philadelphia-area connection” as a Rutgers force, continued with 18 points and 10 rebounds, while Kahleah Copper also scored 18 points.

Freshman sensation Tyler Scaife added 10 points to the Rutgers total.

The win should for now put to rest talk about Stringer, who is in the final year of her contract and picked up an extra new boss Friday with an associate athletic director announced over men’s and women’s basketball.

Shacobia Barbee got 17 of her season-high 18 points for Georgia (11-1), which played out of state for only the second time after being at Belmont, in the second half.

Georgia coach Andy Landers, a 2007 Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame induction classmate of the Guru, lauded his squad for not crumbling after Rutgers opening surge, saying the Lady Dogs played “pretty decent” after getting their balance and fighting back.

It was Georgia’s first trip to Rutgers since a loss in the 2008 Jimmy V Classic. Landers’ program also lost in the Elite Eight to the Scarlet Knights, enabling them to go on to the 2000 Women’s Final Four in Philadelphia that made Stringer the first men’s or women’s coach to attain the upper tournament stratosphere with three different teams.

Rutgers returned in 2007 and went to the title game, losing to Tennessee.

The Scarlet Knights open conference play Saturday at South Florida, a familiar rival from the old Big East.

They visit Temple January 25 and the Owls return the visit February 26.

Saint Joseph’s Edged at Syracuse

The Hawks let a small lead get away closing minutes, regain a tie, and then fell to the No. 23 Orange 64-62 in upstate New York when Brittney Sykes connected with a layup as time expired.

The Orange (11-1) beat Temple at home on Monday. Sykes finished with 20 points, including six in the closing minutes.

Erin Shields scored 21 points for the visitors, all coming off 7 three-pointers in 11 attempts while Natasha Cloud again dealt 13 assists for the third time this season and Sarah Fairbanks scored 14 points.

The Hawks (9-2) got dominated on the backboards as Syracuse had a 56-34 advantage.

Saint Joseph’s, which had an eight-game win streak snapped, returns to action Sunday and then heads to Atlantic 10 competition the rest of the way in defense of last season’s tournament title. The one exception is the Penn game, next month, which could result in a clinching of the Big Five title ahead of playing La Salle.

Delaware Continues Winning Ways

Blue Hens’ coach Tina Martin expressed frustration over Delaware’s play on defense after Friday’s 69-48 win over Youngstown State (3-6) in the opener of the Christmas City Classic hosted by Lehigh in Bethlehem, Pa.

Kelsey Buchanan had 17 points, while Akeema Richards scored 12, and Courtni Green had 10 in the win over the Penguins, who committed 21 turnovers.

The squad is akin to an expansion team with the graduation of seven seniors, including all-timer Elena Delle Donne, from last year’s landmark group that reached the Sweet 16.

Martin was happier Saturday after her youngsters, so to speak, bested Lehigh 77-64 as freshman Erika Brown had a career-high 23 points and a personal best of four assists.

Buchanan, named the event’s most valuable player, scored 18 for the Blue Hens (8-2), who next host St. John’s Dec. 30 before heading into defense of the back-to-back unbeaten CAA titles.

Delaware mined 20 points out of 17 turnovers by Lehigh (7-3), which got 13 points from Kerry Kinek, one of the stars of the Philadelphia/Suburban NCAA Women’s Summer Basketball League played in Hatboro in the suburbs.

“Today, I thought we did a really good job of executing our zone and listening and in the end, it all paid off,” Martin said. “Our zone was what it was supposed to be for the first time in a long time. It’s a great Christmas present to win a championship. It’s their first championship as this group and I told them it’s a baby step as to where we want to be.”

Brown echoed Martin’s commenting, eyeing “a bigger championship,” in terms of the CAA.

Delaware hadn’t seen Lehigh of the Patriot League in nine season when the Blue Hens also won the Mountain Hawks’ tournament.

CAA play begins Jan. 5 at home against Hofstra in the Bob Carpenter Center.

La Salle Earns Split in Florida Tourney

A 24-3 run in the middle of the first half led to the Explorers beating Tennessee State 66-58 in Florida’s Gator Holiday Classic in Gainesville after losing to Florida International 84-58 on Friday.

Newcomer Micahya Owens had 19 points and eight rebounds for La Salle (4-6) in the win over Tennessee State (3-10).

Khristin Lee had 14 points and seven rebounds while Alicia Cropper scored 12 points.

Lisa Mintzer, another newcomer and a Cardinal O’Hara graduate, had her first start in her second game since coming back from an injury and scored six points and grabbed five rebounds.

In Friday’s game, FIU was spurred by a 19-3 run to improve to 4-5. Jerica Coley, one of the top NCAA scorers, had 33 points for the Panthers.

Cropper and Owens each scored 13 points.

La Salle stays on the tournament trail after the Christmas break, heading to Dartmouth’s event Sunday, playing the host Big Green of the Ivy League in the opener, and then meeting Binghamton on Monday.

The Explorers open Atlantic 10 action Jan. 2 at Rhode Island.

Princeton, the only other PhilahoopsW team not mentioned in these two reports, is already on break, returning Saturday against Alabama in Virginia’s tourney in Charlottesville. Coppin State is the other team in the event.

The Guru on Sunday will be back on the national trail, obligated to be at the Maggie Dixon Classic in Madison Square Garden as Texas A&M meets St. John’s at 11 a.m. followed by top-ranked Connecticut against California, which made its first Final Four appearance in April, losing to Louisville.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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