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.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Guru Report: Temple and Saint Joseph's Gain Key Wins

Guru’s note: Information for roundup, including quotes, compiled off team reports

By Mel Greenberg

Temple and Saint Joseph’s picked up signature wins Sunday while in other games involving teams in the Guru’s 10-member PhilahoopsW  group of Division I locals for coverage purposes, No. 17 Penn State and La Salle got victories and Princeton fell to host Virginia in the title game of the Cavalier Classic.

The signature label is given to Temple for the Owls’ impressive 63-56 win at Memphis to open play in their brand new American Athletic Conference while Saint Joseph’s closed out its nonconference schedule, except for the Penn tilt next month in the Big Five, by winning at Florida Gulf Coast.

Temple (7-4) was picked ninth out of the 10-member group and Memphis (7-6) was picked sixth so every win the Owls can pick up in conference play will bode well for the future.

Unfortunately, that is likely not to happen in their next game on Wednesday when NCAA runner up Louisville makes its only appearance on New Year’s Wednesday in McGonigle Hall because the Cardinals are headed off to the Atlantic Coast Conference next season.

Unlike the days of their life in the Atlantic 10 where the Owls were usually a title contender sincer 2001, they aren’t likely to attain penthouse level this time.

 That’s because top-ranked UConn, Louisville, and Rutgers, also bound elsewhere for life in the Big 10 next season, means the Owls can be penciled in for at least six losses baring a potential upset in the Rutgers meetings off the home-and-home schedule. So, making the NCAA this time is a long shot.

But if Temple can remain competitive with everyone else the Rutgers and Louisville exits mean the Owls could compete for a finish right behind powerful UConn in the future.

The win over the Tigers will be seen as an upset in many places but inside the Owls’ family, they must felt strongly that a win in Tennessee was possible.

Temple used a balanced attack with four players in double figures as  sophomore Erica Covile had 14 points, Tyonna Williams scored 13, freshman sensation Feyonda Fitzgerald had 11, and senior newcomer Shi-Heria Shipp had a double double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Additionally, Natasha Thames fortified the defense with 11 rebounds.

“That’s what we feel makes us a good team,” Temple coach Tonya Cardoza said afterwards. “It’s hard to  key on one person.”

Temple answered a 9-0 run that gave Memphis a 20-18 lead with one of its own that was fueled by four straight three-pointers including two from Williams and even though the Owls’ 11-point lead at the outset of the second half was shaved to a point with 1:33 left in regulation, unlike last Sunday’s tough loss at home to Villanova, Temple held on at the finish.

“They started scoring on us and getting offensive rebounds,”Cardoza said of the late fireworks from Memphis. “They’re at home, and they will continue to fight.  When they cut it to one, we definitely took over the game.”

Ariel Hearn was “Memphis’ high scorer with 22 points. The Tigers will visit Temple Feb. 9 and the game telecasted by ESPNU will be one of the few the Owls will host in the larger Liacouras Center where the men play.

Sunday’s game was part of the package of the conference’s new American Digital streaming broadcast that can be viewed on computers, smart phones and tablets.

Also down South, Saint Joseph’s handled a Florida Gulf Coast squad that had been ambushing opponents the last several seasons on the way to gaining Division I status in the NCAA.

The 76-64 win in Fort Meyers, Fla., like Temple’s outcome, featured four Hawks players in double figures as Erin Shields scored 17 points while sophomore Sarah Fairbanks had 13 points and 10 rebounds against the Eagles (6-6).

The defense forced 16 turnovers that Saint Joseph’s mined into 24 points.
Nastasha Cloud had 14 points and continued to be a prolific disher with nine assists. Kelsey Berger added 10 points.

Last season the Hawks took off on the Atlantic 10 portion of the schedule with a deep run prior to the conference tournament where Saint Joseph’s grabbed its first title in over a decade to return to the NCAAs in the same amount of time.

With a narrow loss at nationally-ranked Syracuse the only tough setback besides the opening weekend loss at nationally-ranked LSU that was expected, the 10-2 mark would be good enough to gain an at-large tournament bid.

But the rest of the schedule must be played out beginning with Thursday’s conference opener at Richmond in the city that will host the women’s A-10 tourney in March.

The deal now is not to slip up because the Hawks will we wearing targets placed by conference opponents the rest of the way. On Sunday an improved George Washington squad will visit ready to rekindle the rugged times of yesteryear in the series between the two.

Penn State Tunes Up for Conference Play

The No. 17 Lady Lions had an easier time Sunday handling the school carrying the name of the capital city of Connecticut then the earlier visit against the national power that uses the state name, though the coach of visiting Hartford is a former star of the Huskies.

That didn’t help much as Penn State topped Hartford 70-56 in the Lady Lions’ Bryce Jordan Center as Narberth’s Maggie Lucas had 18 points and Ariel Edwards scored 15 to enable coach Coquese Washington’s bunch finish out of conference at 9-3 while the Hawks coached by Jen Rizzotti are now 3-10.

The three Penn State loses were to the nationally-ranked 1-2 punmch of UConn and Notre Dame while the other was a road loss at South Dakota State.

Now defense of the regular season Big Ten title begins with visits to Iowa Sunday and Illinois a week from Thursday on Jan. 9.

La Salle Bests Dartmouth

The Explorers beat the host Big Green 54-43 in Hanover, N.H., in the Ivy school’s Blue Sky Classic to draw near to .l500 at 5-6.

The event is not a pure tournament format so La Salle was already set to play Binghamton on Monday.

A 17-2 run in the the first half did the trick against Dartmouth (1-10) as Leeza Burdgess had had 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Alicia Cropper contributed a game-high 13 points for La Salle and Khrisdtin Lee scored 11.

After Monday, the Explorers head into the Atlantic 10 with a league opener set for a road stop at Rhode Island Thursday before moving on to a visit at George Mason on Saturday.

Princeton Bid Falls Short at Virginia

Following a good triumph Saturday over Alabama, the four-time defending Ivy champions were unable to keep Virginia from its string of winning its own Cavalier Classic and fell 69-54 as the home team extended its tournament event streak in Charlottesville to 10 straight.

Blake Dietrick had 19 points for Princeton while Vanessa Smith scored 11 for the Tigers (8-5), who next visit Drexel Saturday. That will be the third straight Ivy opponent for the Dragons, who lost to Penn and visit Cornell Monday.

Both Kristen Helmstetter and Dietrick made the all-tournament team, the first such honor for either player.

Kelsey Wolfe had 22 for Virginia (7-6).

And that’s the report for now but the Guru will be on the scene Monday afternoon when Delaware hosts St. John’s.



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