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.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Guru's College Report: Cloud Brings Sunshine to Saint Joseph's in Big Five Win at Temple

Guru’s note: Information of games the Guru couldn’t address during his weekend marathon of travel are addressed within the Wednesday roundup below.

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA – Saint Joseph’s Natasha Cloud was a one-woman dish and swish Wednesday night to lead the Hawks to a 73-53 win at Temple that involved firsts and firsts in a longtime in their Big Five matchup at the Owls’ McGonigle Hall.

  The game that tipped at 5:30 p.m. was played before a lively crowd of 1,040 and prior to the men’s teams from the two schools meeting next door in the larger Liacouras Center where Temple was victorious.

Cloud, a Cardinal O’Hara graduate and transfer from powerful Maryland who became eligible last season, set a career high with 21 points and matched another with the same 13 assists she dealt in Sunday’s road win at Quinnipiac, which is the sixth best performance in terms of feeding Hawks teammates on successful scoring plays.

In the storied history of great point guards at Saint Joseph’s that includes such names as Debbie Black and Angela Zampella it is believed the first time that a player has dealt 13 or more assists in back-to-back games, which will take a little extra research before Saint Joseph’s certifies that fact.

“What ‘Coach (Cindy Griffin) said, `We’re almost at playing a full game right now – we’re at 36 minutes playing wise, struggling a little in the other minutes,” Cloud said.

Temple coach Tonya Cardoza lauded the play of Cloud.

“She did a great job. The fact she had 13 assists, you know it’s going to be a tough night. You want to try to limit her touches as much as possible and the fact she was scoring and distributing just makes her that much tougher to guard.”

As for Cloud’s passing performance, she laughed, saying of her own slew of assists, “Just attacking and finding my team open, they’re giving me passes so I can find them.”

Cloud and many of Saint Joseph’s players showed signs of another great run in the offseason as they were all standouts on various teams competing in the Philadelphia/Suburban NCAA Women’s Summer Basketball League.

Since Cloud took the playing court in a Hawks’ uniform last season, they found their way to sunshine, pulling an upset of her former Terrapins team, then ranked fifth in the nation, and going on to capture their first Atlantic 10 title in over a decade.

Meanwhile, in Wednesday night’s contest the Hawks zipped to a 14-point lead only to see it evaporate near the end of the half before going to the break ahead  34-32 and then taking the lead for good by snapping a 36-36 tie early in the final period on Erin Shields’ three-pointer assisted by Cloud.

That basket launched a 12-2 run and while Temple would shave a 10-point deficit down to six, Saint Joseph’s went on another tear at 13-1 to dominate and finish with the widest differential in the overall series, including non-Big Five games, since December of 1999.

Assistant coach Sue Moran, the all-time scoring champion in Saint Joseph’s history for both men’s and women’s teams, was then a sophomore.

That season could also be known in Temple annals as Year 1 BDS as before the arrival of Dawn Staley as coach of the Owls who then guided her squad to a commanding run over the Hawks that continued until last season after the arrival Staley’s successor in Cardoza from Geno Auriemma’s staff from powerful Connecticut in July 2008.

Though it took overtime for the Hawks to snap a 13-game losing streak last season in what had been a slew of closely-fought battles, Saint Joseph’s has now beaten the Owls back-to-back for the first time since a sweep in 2002-03.

“We stayed together as a team, we stayed with our scouting report and stayed with our defense as well,” Cloud said.

It’s the earliest the two schools met with Temple’s Big Five record reduced to 1-1 after beating La Salle in the season opener for both the Explorers and Owls last month.

And the reason is it’s also the first time the game did not also count in conference standings because while Saint Joseph’s (7-1) remains in the Atlantic 10, Temple (4-2) is now part of the new American Athletic Conference that is more or less the football remains with changes to the old Big East.

The Hawks have little time to rest with the next game also a Big Five tilt Saturday (2 p.m.) when they travel to unbeaten Villanova (7-0), a member of the new Big East and the defending City Series champions who are off to their best start since 1979-80 – the first year the local women’s teams started their own tradition to compete alongside their male counterparts in the Big Five.

“ Listen (Temple) is a very good team – we watched them on film, their guards are very good,” Griffin said. “I think we did as really good job keeping them in check today and we were able to get some really good looks, offensively.

“That’s what happened – we came out firing and we made a lot of shots early and we were getting some looks that we wanted to get and I felt that was great, but more importantly, our defense, holding someone to 53 points, I’m really proud of that,” Griffin continued.

“It’s a credit to our kids our kids knowing what we needed to do to win and sticking to the game plan.”

Ilze Gotfrida scored 12 for the Hawks, while Shields scored 11, and Ciara Andrews had 10.

In the battle of Natashas, Temple’s Natasha Thames scored 19 points, while freshman Feyonda Fitzgerald scored 12 but she was 4-for-17 from the field.

Thames had reached a career high with 21 points in Saturday’s 81-57 rout of Oakland (Mich.) at McGonigle Hall while Fitzgerald scored 19 and Shi-Heria Shipp, a transfer from George Washington, the Owls’ former non-local rival when they were in the Atlantic 10, scored 18 points.

Meanwhile, Temple had a 20-8 advantage on the offensive boards Wednesday night but outscored the Hawks only 12-6 on second chance points and also committed 19 turnovers.

“We did a good job in the first half of getting back into the game with our defense and getting out and getting easy buckets,” Cardoza said of the flow. “That’s basically how we’ve been playing and doing well.

“But at the start of the second half, we laxed a little and our defense wasn’t aggressive and we stopped attacking – we settled a lot and instead of putting the ball on the floor, we felt they really couldn’t guard us off the dribble, and we had a lot of easy shots that we just missed and maybe if we concentrate and focus, maybe we make those, but it’s going to be hard to beat a good team like St. Joe’s when you shoot 30 percent.”

Temple is now off on a 10-day break for finals that concludes with a trip to Montana, Dec. 14, and then to Syracuse, which entered the Associated Press women’s poll for the first time this season.

Rutgers Routs Davidson

Still on the road and back on the cupcake tour designed to build confidence in a youthful squad, Rutgers routed Davidson 66-35 Wednesday night near Charlotte, N.C, in a nonconference game that followed Saturday night’s 61-52 win over Texas Tech in the consolation round of the Women’s Invitational at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

The Scarlet Knights (6-2) had their largest win of the season against Davidson (3-6) as freshmen sensation Tyler Scaife was Rutgers’ high scorer for a second straight night, this time collecting 16 points.

Junior Betnijah Laney had 15 points and 11 rebounds for her first double double of the season while Kahleah Copper of Philadelphia scored 11 points.

After Saturday’s win, Rutgers’ Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer was still a little dismayed over the way her team lost to then 15th-ranked LSU in Friday’s opener in which the team committed 29 turnovers.

“I was disappointed with the game yesterday, big time,” Stringer said. “We just did the same thing over and over and over again. I think we played more excited than we played smart and focused on doing what we were supposed to do.

“Today, I think we were sufficiently alert and respectful enough that this team can flat out get it done. We did what we needed to do, rebounding, running the patterns defensively and playing the way we needed to play instead of the way we thought we needed to play. We did some foolish, crazy things yesterday and that’s why we got what we got.”

Rutgers is now off on a break until Wagner, from nearby Staten Island, N.Y., visits next Thursday in a nonconference game.

Notre Dame Holds Off Penn State

In a battle of nationally-ranked teams accented with some poignancy, No. 4 Notre Dame beat No. 10 Penn State 77-67 played at the Lady Lions’ Bryce Jordan Center in State College as part of the Big Ten/Atlantic Coast Conference challenge.

The matchup marked the first time Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame coach Muffet McGraw of the visiting Irish (7-0) went against her former player and associate coach Coquese Washington, who is now in charge of Penn State (5-2).

The only other loss to date for the Lady Lions came at the hands of top-ranked Connecticut at home last month.

This is the first season Notre Dame is in the ACC after moving from the former configuration of the old Big East.

The Irish got Penn State is serious foul trouble among hits starters in this one and also got the Lady Lions to commit 22 turnovers.

Natalie Achonwa, who did not play for Notre Dame until the win at Penn on Nov. 23 because of offseason knee surgery, had 21 points and 10 rebounds, while Jewell Loyd scored 17 points, Kayla McBride scored 13, and freshman standout Taya Reimer had 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Penn State scoring sensation Maggie Lucas, who eventually fouled out, was limited to just seven points. Ariel Edwards had a team-high 18 points, while Wilmington’s Dara Taylor scored 14 points, and Philadelphia’s Talia East scored 12.

The Lady Lions were coming out of a Thanksgiving sweep at the Junkanoo Jam in Freeport, Bahamas, beating Oregon State and Illinois State.

A 22-3 run helped carry Penn State to a 61-56 win over Oregon State (then 4-1 afterwards) of the Pac-12 as Lucas celebrated her 22nd birthday with 17 points, of which she was 7-for-7 on the foul line.

Taylor and Edwards each scored 10 points while Edwards also had eight rebounds to go with a pair of assists.

The Lady Lions then captured the Freeport Division title with a 72=60 win over Illinois State (then 1-4 afterwards) as Lucas scored 25 points to offset the opposition’s 24 from Alexis Foley.

Taylor scored 12 points while East and Alex Harris each grabbed 11 rebounds.

Penn State now heads on the road with a stop at Georgetown in the nation’s capital on Sunday and then on to South Dakota State on Wednesday before returning home a week from Sunday to host Texas A&M of the Southeastern Conference.

Drexel Downed by Colgate

Despite four Dragons scoring in double figures, Drexel fell for the third straight game, losing at Colgate 65-60 in Hamilton, N.Y., to ruin the mark set for the first time in three seasons.

Coach Denise Dillon’s squad (2-4) had previously fell to Saint Joseph’s and Maryland, both of which could have been claimed to be favorites, but  the loss to the Raiders (2-5) of the Patriot League reversed an outcome a year ago when Drexel dominated to win the title game of Long Island’s tournament.

Meghan Creighton had 14 points for the Dragons, while Rachel Pearson and Fiona Flanagan each scored 13, while Sarah Curran scored 10 points.

Drexel next stays on the road to visit another Patriot team, playing American U. in the nation’s capital on Sunday.

Catchup: Delaware and Villanova Win Holiday Weekend Events

Delaware continued to thrive in the early phase of the post-Elena Delle Donne era while Villanova stayed unbeaten in capturing Florida International’s tournament for the second time.

The Blue Hens, unlike Villanova’s Wildcats, had opponents pre-determined for both days of Central Florida’s Thanksgiving Classic in Orlando.

In the opener, Delaware beat Southern Illinois of Edwardsville, dropping SIUE to 1-5 with a 71-42 victory.

The Blue Hens’ Kelsey Buchanan, who became the Colonial Athletic Association player of the week off the tourney, had 17 points, while Akeema Richards scored 16 points, and Joy Caracciolo scored 13 points.

“Overall, we did a better job and got people involved in the second half,” Delaware coach Tina Martin said after that win.

Her Blue Hens (6-1) then ran its win streak to five Sunday, beating Howard of the Mideastern Athletic Conference 69-44 as they held the Bisons for 11 minutes without a field goal.

Buchanan followed up Saturday’s performance with 19 points against Howard, dropping the Bisons to 2-5. Richards had nine points and grabbed 10 rebounds.

“Overall, I thought this was one of our better games since Wake Forest that we actually played defense and roated,” Martin said. “We had a little hiccup here and there but I was much happier how we defended today.”

Delaware is off until a nonconference visit to Princeton, the four-time defending Ivy champion on Dec. 15 at the Tigers’ Jadwin Gym in central Nwq Jersey.

Princeton, in the interim, following a split in the Northwest Sunday, routing Portland State and losing a scoring fiesta at Oregon, will travel Friday to Navy in Annapolis, Md.

Villanova, meanwhile, off to its best start in over three decades, started the FIU Thanksgiving Classic with a 79-54 win over Montana State of the Big Sky Conference, which fell to 3-2.

Taylor Holeman had 17 points and 10 rebounds and was 8-for-8 from the field, becoming the first player in Wildcats history to have a perfect night twice in her career, following 7-for-7 last season against DePaul.

Devon Kane, shooting 7-for-8, scored 16 points, while Lauren Burford had 11 points, and Caroline Coyer scored 10.

On Sunday, the Wildcats beat the host team FIU in Miami 68-61 as Kane scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to earn MVP honors.

Burford scored 19 against FIU (1-5) to earn all-tournament team honors, and Coyer finished with 11.

Small Colleges: Devils Keep Doing It

The University of the Sciences routed Wilmington 78=52 Wednesday night in a Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference game in Newark, Del., as Brianne Traub scored 27 points.

Camille McPherson scored 18 points for the Devils (7-2, 2-0 CACC), which followed her school-record 40 points in a nonconference win over Cheyney.

Isabella Ross had a career-high 17 rebounds against the Wildcats (1-4, 1-1).

USP travels to Nyack College in by the Tappan Zee Bridge above New York City Saturday in a CACC division cross-over game.

 Rutgers-Camden fell to Ramapo 48-43 in a New Jersey Athletic Conference game on the road in Mahwah as the host Roadrunners got to .500 overall and 1-1 in the NJAC and the Scarlet Raptors  fell to 1-3 and 1-1.

Welcome Aboard

The Guru has gained some help in making sure we keep continuity going, especially when traveling overtakes actually filing the whole roundup.

Rob Knox, between gigs from ESPN but also known in these parts as a former SID at Lincoln University and Kutztown College, is going to help with the roundup and do features.

Laurie Dougherty, who has also done work with our brother Philahoops site, is going to both write and (hurrah) photograph games.

Though the regular PhilahoopsW site remains under reconstruction, it is possible that off this site, Laurie will send links where photo galleries of games can be found.

She will shoot alongside the Guru’s coverage of Thursday night’s Long Island University visit to Penn in a nonconference game. The Quakers are fresh off Monday’s Big Five win over La Salle.

And that is everything until the next report, which will have an update on the ongoing Baskets and Boards feature.

-- Mel









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