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.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Mike Siroky's SEC Report: Preparation Time Running Out

By Mike Siroky

The Southeastern Conference women’s college basketball teams slipped into December with two losses by one team in the Select 6 – those ranked in the Associated Press – but, in general, retained their mastery of the rest of the world.

Those ranked teams are now 43-3 (and there is another 8-0 league team and two 7-1s, which makes the top nine 65-4).

The month will quickly close and then the real fun begins with league play.

The biggest win this week win was by the team we have dubbed the best in the league, the national Game Of The Season (so far).

How the SEC Select Six fared as the last month of pre-league games swept into play:

•Kentucky: The No. 5 Wildcats passed the toughest test.

The 50th “Battle of the Bluegrass” had two Top 10 teams for the second year in a row. The Wildcats welcomed in No. 4 Louisville to the first home sellout, 8,000.

DeNesha Stallworth had one point in the first half but 15 in the second and Jennifer O'Neill hit a critical jumper with 40.8 seconds left, rallying Kentucky from a 14-point deficit to beat then-No. 4 Louisville, 69-64.

Kentucky, eight games without a loss, had also come from behind in last season’s one-point win at Louisville.

This time, the ’Cats were down by nine at half but up by six with 9:42 left.

Louisville, it is first loss in eight tries, tied it three times and trailed by two with 2:14 to go. Stallworth made a free throw, then O'Neill's jumper from the top of the key sealed the deal. Kentucky used all facets of its game, including a season-best 8-of-17 on 3s.

Stallworth heard plenty from her coach, Matt Mitchell, at halftime. She had missed her first six shots and a free throw.

"He just basically told me that I'm not playing how I could be playing, relax and stop being so selfish because I wasn’t helping my team,” Stallworth said.

“I took that personally and just tried to contribute more to my team, whether that’s rebounding or scoring points, doing little things like that.”

In its 40th season at Memorial Coliseum, UK has been playing on a homecourt longer than any other SEC team. In his 100 games there, Mitchell has won 87.

"I thought they played very, very tough and we were extremely fortunate to win," Mitchell said. "(I'm) really excited that we were able to turn around a difficult start and play a tough second half and find some way to win.

"Good day for us, we need to get better and learn from it and move forward because the road doesn't get any easier."

•Tennessee: Lady Vol coach Holly Warlick wanted a better start in the second game of the Junkanoo Jam, in a high school gym in the Bahamas. Against Southern Methodist, they got it, a 21-5 sprint unlike any other start this season.

The ending was 87-47. Warlick was able to play the whole bench again.

Junior point guard Ariel Massengale scored 11 of her 16 in that deciding first half.

At 7-0, the No. 3 Lady Vols celebrated the Junkaroo title with a week off, awaiting the other legendary UT team, Texas, which already has a win over an SEC team.

“We got off to a great start,” said Warlick.

“Every body played so hard; we only had three turnovers in the first half and we've been looking for that.”

She said she could tolerate turnovers if they cam in an attempt to follow the game plan.

“We ended up with 11 and at least half of them were trying to get it inside,” she said.
“They were basically just bad passes, trying to get it to the post players down low. We haven’t quite mastered that pass yet, so we’re going to go back and work on that. I like the pass off of the backboard. We’re telling them to get it inside; if there’s a weakness in our game, that's it.”

As for individuals: “Wow, if Ariel plays like that, we’ve got a chance.”

•South Carolina: Back home again the 12th-ranked Gamecocks
welcomed North Carolina Central.

The Gamecocks moved to 8-0 with embarrassing ease, as NCC did not score more than 15 in either half. Freshman guard Tiffany Mitchell scored 19 in 15 minutes as the bench got plenty of playing time on the way to Dawn Staley's 100th win as a South Carolina coach.

There must have been a point to scheduling this, but it is not apparent.

•Georgia: The No. 19 Lady ’Dawgs finished their seven-game opening stand unblemished, erasing George Washington, 80-60, in Atlanta in the first game of the Georgia State Invitational.

A 40-23 start propelled it. So did Tiaria Griffin’s 19 points, coming off the bench with 50 percent from the field and 50 percent in 3s (4-of-8). The sophomore guard was one of four players in double figures.

“I thought we did a lot of good things offensively,” coach so far). said. “I thought we executed to the end of the shot clock two or three times, showed great discipline and patience in doing that. But we also got early looks and knocked those down and showed good decision-making.

“We vacated the (team) offense several times and made individual decisions and capitalized on those. We scored in about every way you could score, both in the halfcourt and in the fullcourt. We did a nice job from the 3 and a nice job on the offensive boards.

“Once we got started, we played pretty well. It looks like to me that our defense inspires us. Whether we turn the other team over or not, we play better offensively when we we're playing hard defensively.”

Georgia then thanked Georgia State Invitational home team for the invitation by wasting them, 70-58. It makes Georgia 8-0 and earns them 10 days off, during which they will complete final exams for the fall semester.

Shacobia Barbee scored 12 with 14 rebounds, a game-high seven steals and six assists. Erika Ford and Griffin each had 14 points.

Georgia State led by seven with 12:11 remaining but did not score again.
"We did what need to do to win on a day when we didn’t play our best basketball,” Landers said.

“You have to credit Georgia State with some of that. They had a good game plan and executed it well. Most of all, at the beginning of the game they hit shots that put us on our heels. We hung in there and then made enough plays to win a tough, tough game.”

Landers has coached long enough that his former players come back with new teams. State is one of those. Coach Sharon Baldwin-Tener played for Georgia from 1988-90 and was a Landers assistant from 1992-1998.

•LSU: The Bayou Ben-Gals stuffed formerly formidable Rutgers, 69-65, as freshman guard sensation Raigyne Moncrief hit her best so far, with 27 points.

She was needed because, as we supposed last week, two starters had been suspended after fighting the previous game and getting ejected because of it.

Steady senior Theresa Plaisnace – LSU’s best – scored 16 against a 14 average. The two suspended players are No. 3 and No. 4 in scoring.

The defense forced 29 turnovers.

“Our game plan was to really try to play off the bounce and Raigyne did just that for us,” said LSU coach Nikki Caldwell. “Down the stretch, we wanted the ball in her hands. That says a lot about her. She has done a lot for this team in the short period of time she’s been here. I feel like she’s grown.

“We were tested by their defensive pressure,” said Caldwell. “Jeanne Kenney, Raigyne and Rina Hill did a great job of getting us into our action. Once we got the ball into our high post, we had some great looks. I am proud of our team for battling against a very good Rutgers team.”

This was in New York, in a two-day Barclay Women’s Invitational in Brooklyn.

LSU next got a taste of the Big Ten.

Michigan proved tough, but sophomore guard Danielle Ballard was tougher. She was one of the two suspended for the previous game.

After a time out to design the play for her, she missed a shot in the closing seconds but got the rebound and the putback in a 64-62 win. The Wolverines had a shot clang away with six seconds left. Ballard finished with 10, including the final two LSU baskets.

“It was an incredible job by Danielle to get in there for the score,” said Caldwell.
“Players made plays tonight. When you get in late-game situations, that’s what it’s all about.”

Moncrief and senior forward Shanece McKinney led LSU with 13 each. Moncrief was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.

“When you look at the turnaround from the Rutgers game to today with the late start, we were ready to play,” said Caldwell. “Michigan did a phenomenal job, especially in the second half. They shot extremely well from 3. We did a fairly good job in the first half of taking away the 3 ball.” Michigan was 3-of-10 in the first half and 8-of-13 in the second.

LSU, at No. 13, celebrated with a tour of New York City and then headed home for a walkover against Indiana State before an 11-day break.

It was all the Moncrief show again, as she led four teammates in double figures, with 22 points, 8-of-11 from the field, nine rebounds, six assists and six steals.

“She did a nice job across the board getting herself to the free throw line, making the extra pass, and really coming up with some steals to get our transition game going,” said Caldwell. “She’s showcasing that she can play on both sides of the basketball. She’s showing that she’s not only an explosive offensive player, but that’s she even more so explosive on the defensive end.”

This game was scheduled for area students and 6,105 came to the matinee, 5,000 on school field trips from East Baton Rouge Parish schools. All the Lady Tigers hit the crowd afterwards for autographs and pictures.

“This was such a fun atmosphere,” said Caldwell. “To have all of the kids here was special for our team. We talked about that in pregame to our team about the kids coming out. One day they may want to play basketball. I hope we came out and showed to our fans how hard we work and how much fun we have playing this game we love. Thanks to everyone who attended.”

LSU (7-1) put an exclamation mark on its final work prior to final semester exams. They have a five-game winning streak when next they play on Dec. 15 at Arkansas-Little Rock.

•Texas A&M: It surely seems weird that it takes a trip to the Virgin Islands for two legendary Texas teams to meet in the Paradise Jam.

Texas took out A&M, for the Aggies’ first lost of the year, and by plenty, 69-58. It happened again the next night, to Syracuse. Neither winner was ranked at the start of the games.

A&M is 5-2 and fell to No. 23 in the poll.

Against Texas, A 33-21 halftime hole was too deep for A&M.

Hitting 35 percent from the field (compared to the Longhorns’ 45) was a problem. So was being outrebounded, 42-32. They had been wining the backboard war until then and had averaged 43 percent from the field.

Guard Courtney Walker, with 15, exceeded her dozen or so season average, as did Courtney Williams, 6.3 up to 11, but there wasn’t much more offense than that.
Next up was undefeated Syracuse.

Walker hit a career-high with 26 points. At the start, it appeared A&M was ready, but a 10-3 Orange run to close the half game them a 38-27 lead at the break.

A 9-0 run early in the second half, extended it to 18 points and a late 6-0 run secured it.

Aggie coach Gary Blair addressed his team’s struggles with simple execution against unranked opponents.

“We struggled for the whole night in the little things it takes to win a basketball game,” Blair said. “The effort was there, but the execution was not. When the execution is not there, you put it on the coach.

“We've got to play well, and let the winning and losing take care of itself.”

San Diego State came to Aggieland to help erase the bad memories. The Aztecs had already lost by 34 at home to South Carolina.

Blair got his 650th career coaching win in the 72-35 blowout, the 62nd straight home non-conference win for his team. He’s the fifth SEC coach all time to reach the 650 mark. Four Aggies hit double figures, including Karla Gilbert, with16.

"Our team was ready to play tonight," said Blair. “Tonight we had some good moments and we had some bad moments. Jordan Jones did an excellent job of dissecting the zone and getting some easy layups.” She had 10 assists.

An 11-0 start helped a lot. So did a defense which locked the Aztecs down to 21 percent from the field in the first half, which ended 34-14.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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