Guru Report:St. John's Cliffwalks Way to Win at Delaware
By Mel Greenberg
NEWARK, Del. -- A lack of toughness, especially on the backboards, in the words of Delaware coach Tina Martin, resulted in a tough 61-58 nonconference loss to St. John’s Monday night at the Blue Hens’ Bob Carpenter Center.
On the Red Storm side, however, shortened readiness time necessitated by the retro Big East Conference slotting a league opener at home Saturday was overcome when senior reserve Keylantra Langley got a quick do-over to be the heroine for the visitors at the finish.
Having missed the front end of a one-and-one on the foul line that could have sealed the win with 37 seconds left in regulation, Langley came back with two connected free throws with 12 seconds left for the final points of the game.
Delaware (8-3) had one last chance to send the game in overtime (8-3) had one last chance to send the game in overtime but freshman Erika Brown’s attempted trey was off the rim.
In some ways there was a dose of revenge the Red Storm (8-4) were able to deliver for last year’s buzzer-beater in overtime from former Blue Hens superstar Elena Delle Donne that gave Delaware a victory at Carnesecca Arena in Queens, N.Y.
The win was the third straight for St. John’s and it has been a stroll on a tightrope in the budding streak that began with a last-second win against SEC power Texas A&M at the Maggie Dixon Classic played at Madison Square Garden.
That was followed by a closing surge Saturday to grab a Big East opener against Seton Hall, which ironically meant in two games the Red Storm went from playing a team from outside Newark, N.J., before traveling down here Sunday night to the other Newark.
Though not the near sellout of recent vintage off the last two seasons, a lively crowd of 1,458 was in the house and got to see a tightly-fought contest wire-to-wire.
The score was tied eight times and the lead changed hands 18 times with the largest advantage by either side being the seven held by St. John’s with 14 minutes, 48 seconds left in the first half.
“It was a big win for us to close out the nonconference,” St. John’s second-year coach Joe Tartamella said. “Proud of the way we closed. We struggled in stretches in the game, but, I felt we kept ourselves in the game, too.
“We may some big stops and key shots toward the end. But for us to go on the road with our first true road game against a team that’s been successful this year, that was important for us. It’s a tough place to play, so very proud and you can hear their enjoyment in there,” he said in the interview outside the locker room.
St. John’s Amber Thompson had 14 points and 15 rebounds, while Aliyyah Handford had 13 points. Langley scored just two, but those were enough to ward off defeat for the moment if Delaware had been able to connect with a long shot on its final possession.
“It was a tough game but a great game to have,” Langley said. “It was a quick turnaround and tough to come back in a short amount of time and Delaware’s a good team.
“Just make it and win for me team,” she said of her thoughts on the line while shooting the winning free throws.
“Briana Brown, Langley, along with Eugeneia (McPherson), our three seniors, have been fantastic for us and this was important for us to be able to close out a tough road game,” Tartamella said.
Delaware, which launches defense of its two straight unbeaten Colonial Athletic Association titles when Hofstra visits Sunday, hadn’t played here since Nov. 19.
Having faced the Blue Hens squad that has since lost six other seniors besides Delle Donne, Tartamella compared the two units, saying, “They’ve got a couple of kids they’ve groomed well.
“The (Kelsey) Buchanan kid played well and hurt us inside – we’ve got to get better. I think the way they had Elena make plays down the stretch as we all know last year, they’re still trying to find that person. They’re not running things totally different. We lost two pros so it’s the same thing. We lost 80 percent of our scoring.”
Buchanan had 16 points and freshman Shanice Johnson from Cardinal O’Hara scored 13 but the 41-28 rebounding advantage by the Red Storm was a killer, according to Martin.
“That’s the bottom line,” she said after being deprived of her 350th victory. “We did enough good things to stay in the game. St. John’s is very talented. They’re very tough, they get to the rim. They’re too athletic.
“If you rebound the basketball, you win the game. We did not rebound the ball. I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve posted up. You hope that nonconference play prepared you for conference play – that’s what it’s all about.
“We’re too nice. You hope we get a badge of honor and say we’re not going to let this happen again. We’ll see if we put the big girl boots on, I like to say. This is going to be what most of our conference play is going to be like.”
Evaluating the nonconference slate, Delaware had narrow losses to the three toughest teams – Temple, Princeton (in overtime), and St. Johns, was 2-0 against next level opponents Wake Forest and at Lehigh, and 6-0 against RPI SOS killers.
Drexel Win at Cornell Snaps Losing Streak
The snow elements in Ithaca, N.Y., were nothing compared to the blizzard of three-pointers launched by Drexel’s Rachel Pearson far above Cayuga’s waters at Cornell Monday and the result was a dominating nonconference 69-44 win.
Pearson had a career-high 23 points and after making her first six daggers and seven overall, Pearson was just one short of the school record held by two former Dragons.
Abby Reddick added to the career accomplishment day with 13 points of her own as this time Drexel (5-7) did not allow a large lead to get erased as occurred in the recent home loss to Hampton and then down the street at Penn
Tory Thierolf dealt five assists for a career mark while Drexel teammate Meghan Creighton dealt the same number.
Defensively the Dragons have held opponents under 50 four straight games after limiting Cornell (5-5), the second of three straight foes from the Ivy League.
Four-time defending champion Princeton, the favorite to make it five straight, visits Sunday before the Dragons head into CAA action, where the Dragons were predicted to finish second behind James Madison.
Never trailing, the Dragons built a Lead of 30 over the Big Red and shot 65.2 percent from the field in the first half.
La Salle Clipped by Binghamton
The Explorers’ Leeza Burdgess scored 14 points and in grabbing a career high 19 rebounds she became the third player from the Guru’s 10-team PhilahoopsW local Division I coverage group to reach that high for the season.
But it all went for naught with a tough 57-56 loss to Binghamton (3-10) at Dartmouth’s Blue Sky Classic in Hanover, N.H., that deprived La Salle (5-7) of getting back to .500 on the season.
Alicia Cropper had a game-high 17 points and newcomer
Micahya Owens scored 14 points wirh four treys for La Salle.
Though the two-day event was nor played in normal tourney bracketing, Binghamton’s Sherae Swinson was named MVP after scoring 16 points against the Explorers.
La Salle now heads into Atlantic 10 play at Rhode Island Thursday and stays on the road to meet conference newcomer George Mason, formerly with the CAA, on Saturday.
As the only PhilahoopsW team on the New Year’s Eve slate Tuesday, Villanova is in Milwaukee to meet Big East rival Marquette.
On Wednesday Louisville is at Temple at 4 p.m. in a matchup out of the new American Conference televised by ESPN3 while Penn is in Florida to play Miami in a game the Quakers scheduled to give senior star Alyssa Baron a homecoming event.
Weekly honors this week saw Princeton’s Blake Dietrick get the Ivy award, while Rutgers’ Betnijah Laney got similar citations from The American, and Temple’s Erica Covile got the Big Five award.
In other news former Penn State scoring sensation Kelly Mazzante, who was with two champions with the WNBA Phoenix Mercury among other teams and has been playing in Europe, will announce her retirement next month.
More to come.