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.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Guru Report: Drexel Locks Down William & Mary to Hold 2nd in CAA Race

(Guru note: Information drawn from games other than Drexel drawn from team and wire reports.)

By Mel Greenberg

As Drexel makes its way through the Colonial Athletic Association race in the regular season the Dragons are doing whatever is necessary for the moment to live up to the conference coaches’ forecasts for a second place finish.

“It’s a far second, but second nonetheless,” Drexel coach Denise Dillon said Thursday night of closing to within a half-game of idle James Madison by completing a sweep of William & Mary with a 66-42 victory at the Daskalakis Athletic Center.

“We’re in a good spot. And we have one more home game.”

It was the ninth straight Drexel win in the series with the Tribe.

Only two other schools in the Guru’s 10-team local Division I PhilahoopsW group were in action Thursday night and both triumphed.

No. 13 Penn State maintained its first place lead in the Big 10 chase, where the Lady Lions are the defending regular season champions, by winning at No. 16 Purdue 75-72 in West Lafayette, Ind., to avenge its only loss thus far in conference play.

A little to the south of here Dragons’ area rival Delaware, the defending CAA champion, came back from Sunday’s tough loss at newcomer College of Charleston to beat Northeastern 74-65 at home in the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark.

“We’re approaching (the CAA) with this team as games you can win, games you can try and steal some,” Dillon said of the conference landscape. “And when you have some conference games and you have some home games – we’re in a stretch here – the Northeastern game (last Sunday) was tough – but I felt our players came back – not overly confident because of what happened down at William & Mary – some players thought some things might happen, overthought some things, and then our bench did a great job just stepping in there providing some intensity and then scoring.”

The Drexel reserves outscored the Tribe substitutes 35-10 paced by 13 points from Tory Thierolf, eight from Jackie Schluth, and six each from Carrie Alexander and Jamila Thompson.

The Dragons (19-9, 5-1 CAA), also got a game-high 15 points from Rachel Pearson, all in the first half as she got the home team off to a quick start.

The name of the game in the last meeting down in Williamsburg, Va., was offense when Abby Redick turned in the first triple double in Drexel history.

Fiona Flanagan added eight points to the Dragons’ attack Thursday night.

This one was more defensively oriented in which the Tribe (4-15, 1-5) was held to a season-low output by Drexel opponents and also limited to 31.6 percent shooting from the field.

Katilyn Mathieu had 12 points for William & Mary and Marlena Tremba scored 11.

The Tribe are under the guidance of new coach Ed Swanson, who formerly served a long successful stint at the Northeast Conference’s Sacred Heart in Connecticut.

There were several homecomings attached to the Tribe visit.

Freshman Alexis Hofstaedter is a graduate of Council Rock South.

Assistant coah Jeanette Wedo is a graduate of San Diego but from the area while Kelly Killion played for Penn coach Mike McLaughlin at Division II power Holy Family in the city’s Northeast and was on his first staff with the Quakers.

Several Penn players, who begin the rest of the Ivy slate at home Friday night hosting Dartmouth in The Palestra, were at the game.

Meanwhile, despite the overall roller coaster start of the Drexel season after the graduation of all-league Hollie Mershon, Dillon is beginning to see some signs of optimism.

“I do feel this team is finally getting what we are about,” she said. “What the program is about. They’re starting to become more comfortable playing together and I think we have even more options than past years. And I think we’re deeper than past years but, again, it doesn’t matter how deep you are if you don’t have chemistry and cohesiveness.”

Next up is a visit Sunday from Hofstra (7-10, 2-4), which first hosts UNCW (3-17, 2-4) Friday night at home in Hempstead, N.Y.

As the Dragons go from playing the Tribe to meeting the Pride it will be the third Hofstra visit to the area this season, having already visited Delaware in conference and also losing at Saint Joseph’s in a nonleague game.

The Pride has since graduated Shante Evans, the former West Chester Henderson High star.

“They seem to have lost a good bit from their roster, but that’s no factor – they always give us a tough time. They turn up the intensity on defense. They make things difficult for us – there’s a lot more pressure – they have the players who can do that,” Dillon said.

“As soon as tonight’s game ended I said, `Alright if we get caught up in the physical nature Sunday it’s going to be a long day. We just need to do the things we do – stick together one possession at a time and then again we continue to move in the right direction.’”

Delaware Controls Northeastern

Blue Hens senior center Kelsey Buchanan may not be Elena Delle Donne, the former Delaware superstar who graduated to WNBA rookie of the year stature last summer, but in occupying positions near the top of the CAA statistics in scoring and rebounding she is near the spots that the Wilmington native resided during her four-year career in Newark.

Biuchanan had 26 points and grabbed seven rebounds as Delaware (12-6, 4-3), which was unbeaten in CAA play Delle Donne’s final two seasons, took a 15-2 lead and handled the Huskies (7-12, 1-5), which were picked third but have struggled due to injuries.

Bolting to the front early helped avoid the heartbreak last time out when the Blue Hens fell into a 22-point deficit at the half at Charleston, roared back to tie the score, but only to lose before regulation time expired.

The win put Delaware a half-game ahead in fourth of idle Towson, whom the Blue Hens visit Sunday in suburban Baltimore in the Tigers’ impressive new SECU Arena.

They are also a half-game behind Charleston, which visits James Madison Friday night.

In terms of the rest of the Delaware offense, red-shirt sophomore Joy Caracciolo tied her career high with 14 points while freshman Hannah Jardine of Canada hit a high in her early career with 10 points.

“After coming back (at Charleston), we didn’t want to be on the opposite end of that and have an opponent come back on us,” Caracciolo said.

“That game showed us anything can happen and you have to play 40 minutes. The way we played in the second half at Charleston is how we want to play the entire game.”

Jodi Salyer, another of the newcomers replacing the seven graduates from the NCAA Sweet 16 squad such as Kayla Miller, Lauren Carra and Danielle Parker, dealt a career high six assists to match a previous personal best.

Delaware snapped a two-game losing streak while keeping the Blue Hens’ mastery of Northeastern of Boston in the series with their 24th straight victory.

It was also the first game since Delaware freshman Shanice Johnson, a graduate of Cardinal O’Hara, was suspended along with two men’s players Wednesday for a month until just before the end of the regular season for breaking university and team rules.

Delaware said the violations are separate and uinrelated.

“This team is so young and they can be so fragile at times, but they are constantly learning,” veteran coach Tina Martin said. “We needed this win desperately after back-to-back losses. It was great to see them come out so strong in the first 10 minutes and that was probably the first time we’ve done that in a month.

“Tonight, they really stepped up even when Northeastern made a run.”

Lucas and Ewards Power Penn State at Purdue

Narberth’s scoring sensation Maggie Lucas moved into second place on 13th-ranked Penn State’s career list with 23 points while Ariel Edwards scored 21 against the No. 16 Boilermakers (15-5, 5-3 Big 10), to keep the Lady Lions (16-4, 7-1) ahead in the conference chase by a game in the loss column over Michigan State.

Lucas (2,259 points), who moved past current Providence coach Susan Robinson Fruchtl (2,253, 1989-92) and is topped at PSU by only former great Kelly Mazzante (2,919, 2001-04), who retired from her pro career earlier this month, is now ninth on the Big 10 career scoring charts.

She also had five rebounds, five rebounds, six assists and two steals.​

Philadelphia’s Talia East had 12 points and 12 rebounds while Wilmington’s Dara Taylor scored 13 points.

KK Houser scored 27 points for Purdue, which was outscored in the paint by Penn State 44-22 though the Boilermakers came up big with fast break points 22-6.

April Wilson had 14 points for the Boilermakers and Whitney Bays scored 12.

The game might have not been that close but coach Coquese Washington’s troops could not take advantage of charity opportunities shooting only 8-for-21 from the line for 38.1 percent while the Boilermakers converted 27 of 30 chances.

There were six ties and the lead changed hands seven times in the closely fought contest.

Down the stretch Purdue was within two of re-catching the Lady Lions, who then missed three of four foul shot opportunities.

However, Kaliyah Mitchell put the Lady Lions in position to be forced only into overtime with her shot with 1.4 seconds left but Purdue’s Courtney Moses’ desperation heave from midcourt to tie the score fell short.

Penn State moves on to Northwestern Sunday before the Lady Lions will be returning home to host Iowa next Thursday.

Looking Ahead

Friday night just two of the PhilahoopsW see action and it’s the mythical southern division of the Ivy League in a key weekend.

Four-time defending champion Princeton, which is picked to win again, comes off its three-week break for finals and the Tigers will have to shed their rust quickly since none other than Harvard, picked for second, will be visiting Jadwin Gym before heading to Penn for Saturday’s tilt at The Palestra.

The Crimson are the only Ivy school to get the Tigers in the last four seasons, having done so twice, including near the end of last season.

Penn was picked for third and since the Quakers have shown much moxie over the last month this is a big opportunity to pull a weekend sweep and if Princeton helps out then coach Mike McLaughlin’s group could be in decent shape for another postseason appearance in somebody’s tournament.

There is some interesting byplay involving the coaching staffs of all but Harvard in the games down here.

Dartmouth’s Belle Koclanes, one of the 28 rookie coaches in Division I, is a former Penn assistant for four seasons and the Richmond grad has also been on staffs at Old Dominion, Columbia, and American U.

Lower Bucks County’s Addie Micir, a Council Rock North graduate and one of the Dartmouth new assistants, was one of the original stars in recent years who helped make Princeton an Ivy power and she graduated as player of the year in 2011.

She has played in the past in the Philadelphia/Suburban NCAA Women’s Basketball Summer League and her dad Pancho Micir lettered for Penn football in 1970.

Princeton coach Courtney Banghart is a former Dartmouth star and was a longtime assistant at her alma mater before taking the Tigers’ position.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, in The American Conference in terms of locals, Temple makes the first of two stops in Texas visiting SMU while Rutgers will be hosting Memphis, which upset the Scarlet Knights in Tennessee earlier this month.

In the Atlantic 10, Saint Joseph’s will be looking to recover from the Hawks’ upset loss to Saint Louis, which is hosting La Salle.

The Hawks, meanwhile, host VCU, which beat them earlier in a close game in Richmond.

By the way, earlier in the day Thursday it was announced that Saint Joseph’s senior Erin Shields made the Capital One Academic All District 2 Women’s Basketball Team, which is picked by the nation’s sports information directors at schools across the country.

In the Big East, Villanova will be looking for revenge hosting second place Creighton, one of the three brand new rivals along with Xavier and Butler, in the reconfigured conference.

Sunday’s games have already been noted in the Thursday roundup of the three teams at the top of the post and the PhilahoopsW group is off Monday.

Nationally Noted

What a night around the country, especially in the Southeastern and Atlantic Coast Conferences.

In the SEC, while South Carolina and Tennessee took care of business, unranked Georgia upset Kentucky – Mike Siroly’s SEC Report of the week is under this post – and Missouri took down Vanderbilt.

In the ACC, Brianna Kiesel, a recent national player of the week by the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA), hit a shot with 3.1 seconds left and gave Pittsburgh its first home win in its new conference this season, beating Boston College.

The Panthers, who now have former Penn State star Suzie McConell-Serio as their new coach, did not win a conference game last season in the former Big East configuration and they now have two in the ACC.

Duke escaped unranked Miami at the last second, while unranked North Carolina State gave Maryland its third straight loss in the ACC.

Syracuse rallied from a 14-point deficit to upset North Carolina, while No. 2 Notre Dame took care of business against Virginia Tech to make it a 3-0 night for the former Big East trio.

OK. That should cover everything for the moment and the Guru will be doing the Harvard swing, thus missing Dartmouth, this weekend though all will be in the roundups. Saturday’s afternoon stop is still to be determined.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Mike Siroky's SEC Report: Conference Already Reloading For 2014-15

By Mike Siroky

As if the rest of America has not noticed the best league in the country, early returns on the next rookie class show promise.

The SEC is well-represented in the McDonald High School All-America game.

Tennessee has two (Jaime Nared and Alea Middleton); South Carolina has two Bianca Cuevas and Jatarie White); and Kentucky has one (Alyssa Rice).

The best player in high school America still has not committed. A’ja Wilson has grown up in SEC country, Hopkinsville, S.C., but we still think she is going to UConn, as we projected this summer.

The SEC teams with high school All-Americans are half of the ranked teams in the AP poll, whom we call the Select Six. The elite group had two conference games featuring a ranked team vs. a ranked team.

As it stands right now, the No. 7 and No. 17 teams in the country are tied for first in the SEC; both of them will say the latter rating is the more significant one.

All the SEC teams play on Super Bowl Sunday, by the way, with Tennessee unafraid to let its 4 p.m. start detract for the Super hype. The matchups featuring two ranked teams are also both on Sunday.

Here’s how the week went for the Select Six:

•No. 7 South Carolina: The Gamecocks know one thing for sure: They can beat Vanderbilt. They gave the Commodores their second league loss, a bookend to the first, winning by four at Nashville.

Interestingly, SC was No. 10 and moved up to its highest ranking ever while Vandy, with the loss, also moved up one spot

The visitors carved out a four-point halftime lead and played them even in the second half. It is Vandy’s only home loss this season

SC never faltered.

Tiffany Mitchell scored on a driving layup with 50.9 seconds left to cement it.

Coach Dawn Staley has never lost at Nashville.

Mitchell beat the shot clock for the next-to-last basket, then stole the ball and finished off the fast break with another layup with 34.3 seconds to seal the deal.

Vanderbilt’s four-game winning streak was over, despite Christina Foggie’s 23 points. She had little help. Classmate Jasmine Lister is the third-best league scorer at nearly 17 per, but scored just four this time.

“They made me look good,” Staley said.

She also credited her defense.

The Gamecocks held the SEC's best 3-point shooting team to its worst performance this season, 1-for-5. Vanderbilt averages more than six 3s per game.

"If they are able to get off more 3-point shots or makes, they win this basketball game," Staley said. "So kudos to our kids for buying into our game plan and executing it to a T."

Next up was another walkover at home, Ole Miss.

The Gamecocks took a 14-point halftime lead to a 99-70 win. A 19-1 run closed the half.

Alaina Coates continued a sensational rookie season with 24 points and 12 rebounds. It is her fourth double-double. Center Elem Ibiam had 14 points, eight rebounds and five blocks.

Staley had planned to experiment with both of them in the lineup at the same time. It is no longer an experiment.

“This game is made of runs,” Staley said. “Ole Miss has been in almost all its games, so we knew what we were faced with. We knew we were going to be challenged. I think that over 40 minutes, we were able to impose our will on them by getting the ball down low and being efficient on the offensive end.”

At 7-1 and numerically tied for first, it is Gamecocks' best start ever in conference. Texas A&M holds the tiebreak over them, having beaten SC in the only head-ro-head this season.

SC will be the first to 20 wins, sitting on 19. A hot Missouri team visits Sunday.

•No. 10 Tennessee: OK, so no team will get through the league season without a loss.

Tennessee underlined the message on the road at league leader Texas A&M.

You could hear Tennessee coach Holly Warlick’s exclamation of delight from College station to Knoxville on the 11-point win. Tennessee is just one back in the league standings. UT moved up one spot in the national rankings and A&M, losing to a high-ranked team, did not move.

Senior point guard Meighan Simmons was 12-of-19 from the field and led everyone with 26 points in 39 minutes. Sophomore forward Bashaara Graves, rounding back into shape after two minor injuries, was finally back in the starting lineup, one of four in double figures with 5-of-7 from the field. Off the bench, freshman forward/center Mercedes Russell had 11 rebounds, her best effort.

A&M’s leading scorer, Courtney Walker, hit for 20 in front of 7,207 witnesses. They cannot meet again this season until the SEC tournament.

A 36-20 halftime lead established who was likely to win. It was 8-0 in the first six minutes for the Lady Vols, then 18-10 on a Simmons steal and feed to Jordan Reynolds for a jumper.

With five minutes to go in the half, another feed from Simmons to junior forward Cierra Burdick made it 25-10. A steal and layup by redshirt freshman Andraya Carter finished the half with the visitors ahead by 16.

“What a performance, what a great team effort,” said Warlick

“On one of those shots, it was where where I said, ‘Don't shoot. Good shot!’

“I'm just proud of our effort. Ten turnovers -- we've been working on that so much. We thought we had a chance if we could take care of the ball and not give them fastbreak points. It was just a great win for us.”

She said they never got out of sync in this one.

“They learned and I learned too. I think I’ve got to be a little bit more strategic on my timeouts. I thought that if they hit four points in a row, I was calling my timeouts. So, I kind of stuck to that and it settled them down. We just answered their runs.

“I thought we came up with some big defensive rebounds. They were one-and-done. They settled a little bit and hit outside shots, but we wanted to make sure that we were contesting. We didn't want to give them and-ones with the fouling. I thought we gave them long shots, but they weren't 3.”

So now Warlick, wjho pointed out the obvious last week that all they have to do it win out, can voice a little more theory on conference play.

“It gives us confidence,” she said. “We didn’t want to go down three losses in the SEC. We thought we could make a very good statement here. We thought it would be a tough place to play, which it was. We're just building our momentum.

“If we play solid and play together with each other, we're a daggone good basketball team.”

Hot shooting – 62 percent from the floor – doomed Arkansas in a 70-60 UT win.

Burdick and Simmons each hit 16 points as the Lady Vols hung in second in the league with just two conference losses.

"That was a great win for us- different first half, great second half. I'll tell you, Arkansas is a very good basketball team,” Warlick said.

“Their record is no indication of the talent that they have. We were concerned about this game. We have a lot of respect for them and it proved to be true. I think we battled, we hung tough. In the second half, we decided to get a little bit serious about our defense- good win for us.”

She said Burdick’s effort could not be overstated.

“I didn’t realize she played 39 minutes, but she’s just been solid for us. I'll tell you this: She stayed, she played pretty hard, she stayed pretty focused in the leadership role she was in tonight, so I'm proud of her.

“I thought she hit big, it seemed like every shot she took was a big shot for us. I think Cierra is playing within herself, meaning she’s not having to shoot a spectacular shot. She’s taking the shots that are given to her and she's making them, so I think she's taking very makeable shots for her and she's always been a great rebounder for us, so I thought she played a great game; it was one of the reasons we stayed in the game and then took the lead as well.”

Ever coaching the mental aspect of the game, Warlick had banned the Lady Vols from using their own locker room a few games back.

They have been allowed back in.

“Well they lost it just because of a couple of things. It was a coaches’ choice and I thought we needed to put value in practice and value in wearing a Tennessee uniform and I think after the Notre Dame game and after we had our meeting -- and I thought the result of how good we played together against Florida and A&M -- I thought they deserved to get it back.

“It’s not a guaranteed thing. They’re renters right now. So they’re renting the locker room and they can get evicted any time the owner or the landlord feels like they could be evicted.

“They did not (have it) for the past two weeks, it was before Notre Dame. I just think that we got comfortable with things and I think we got comfortable with things in the locker room and I think we got comfortable with things in practice and we can’t get comfortable. We've got to keep battling and I thought they had to get uncomfortable.”

As projected last week, starting point guard Ariel Massengale skipped the two games this week with symptoms of a concussion after banging her head into the home court last week.

"Ariel is still day to day,” Warlick said. “I can't tell you, they just continue to evaluate her and hopefully we'll get her back soon. Obviously we miss her. We want her back on this team. It'd be really nice to have her back and have 11 strong."

UT goes for an 18th win at unchallenging Alabama on Sunday. With hosting an NCAA sub-regional and having a 20-win season all but assured, they are also assured of an NCAA bid.

•No. 13 Kentucky: The Wildcats fell out of the Top 10 again after two straight losses then came back with a split week.

First up was Arkansas, a team undefeated against the world and, after this, 2-5 against the league.

UK coach Matthew Mitchell has been trying all sorts of things to shake up his team. This time it was starting with a 2-3 zone and saving the man-to-man for the second half.

Which is where UK won it, a 37-26 second half and a 10-point win at home. Arkansas had one basket in the final 2:39. And the Razorbacks had a 43-33 lead with 17 to go, which made this a 20-point swing.

The Wildcats have 16 wins, all but assured of another 20-win season, They are 4-3 in the conference.

“With the way we have been acting and feeling sorry for ourselves that was a critical juncture down 10 with no life whatsoever,” said Mitchell.

“So you give credit to those kids that went out there and flipped that 20-point swing and I did need to see that. That was huge and really, really big. What we have to do is get everybody feeling that way and everybody working like that.

"Really happy with the freshmen on the bench, playing three minutes apiece, but they were exuberant and happy after the victory, that is what we need.”

“(Their defense) sped us up and got the crowd in the game,” Arkansas coach Tom Collen said. “I’ve played here enough times, when they get sped up, they speed you up and the crowd starts roaring. Before you know it, it slides away from you pretty quick. I thought that was a key decision on their part. They got a much-needed win and we let one slip away.”

The mind game worked as well.

“We never practiced against the zone the entire week," Collen said. "We had no anticipation or thought they would do it.”

That's when things fell apart for Arkansas.

Backed by a noisy 5,396, Kentucky used an 11-2 run to make it a one-point deficit as junior guard Bria Goss scored five in the run.

Senior forward Samarie Walker’s basket gave the Wildcats a 53-50 lead with 8:36 remaining.

Thompson scored seven points in a 9-0 run by Kentucky.

Among the other changes by Mitchell was starting senior guard Jennifer O'Neill for only the second time all season and starting junior forward Jilleah Sidney for the first time ever. Mitchell said they earned the time during workouts.

O’Neill scored 21 – 16 in the contentious first half -- to lead three UK players in
double figures. She hit 8-of-12 from the field with five of Kentucky's nine 3s

“Yeah, we just tried to put (the losses) behind us. You will never be able to figure that one out and why players did what they did.

“But, my job was to come in and make sure the atmosphere was such that that was not acceptable the way that we performed. I just had a conversation with (O’Neill) this morning.

"We were dragging around like we were feeling sorry for ourselves and the weight of the world was on us. What is going to happen from here on out is that people are going to compete in practice every day and they are going to fight for Kentucky every day and if they are not they are going to be really, really unhappy.

"So Jennifer was in that boat and had to step up and she is a very talented player and you could see today she was the best player on the floor. That is how she has to play and she made things happen today and I am so proud of her defense. She just has to have her mind right.“

The Atlanta area had been closed down for two days by a rare Deep South deep freeze. Kentucky had to land at Atlanta then bus to Georgia.

The visitors never thawed out and lost an embarrassing game, 58-56. The ’Dawgs had started the season 11-0 and ranked nationally, but the league decimated them to 0-4 and way out of national consideration. Still, Georgia’s defense has been tops in the league, allowing 55.9 in the conference games.

So this game was more of UK’s failure to produce offensively and falling to Georgia’s defense. They hit 30 percent from the field after coming in as the nation’s fifth high-scoring team.

Among the players, Walker has no answer.

“We're just trying to keep our heads up right now, but I think as a whole we’re getting down on ourselves,” Walker said. “We have to stay together and keep being tough.”

She was the only Kentucky player to hit double figures. They had five players averaging double figures as the game began. O’Neill, Kentucky's leading scorer this season, finished with two points and 0-for-7 from the field.

Georgia is an extremely young team. Sophomore Merritt Hempe had 15 points and 11 rebounds -- a first career double-double – to lead Georgia.

“I just kept saying that we had this the whole time,” Hempe said. “I just kept thinking we had this, and there's no way that we weren’t going to have this game. We all just wanted it so bad, and we fought so hard. There was no way we were giving that game away.”

With four league losses, Kentucky is all but out of the conference race. As a sub-Regional host, they’ll still be in the NCAA tournament but may well be one of those hosts with a higher-seeded team in their gym.

With 22 seconds remaining, Marjorie Butler hit one free throw to give the Lady Bulldogs a 58-56 lead, but missed the second, and DeNesha Stallworth grabbed the rebound for Kentucky.

But O'Neill turned it over with 10 seconds left.

“We've got to find a way to get her back going,” UK coach Mitchell said of O’Neill. “I’m sure she wanted to win and was trying hard. The ball just didn't fall for her tonight.”

“We just couldn’t knock down shots tonight, couldn’t finish layups," Walker said about Kentucky getting outscored 36-18 underneath.

“A lot of that stuff was short. I think just the pace of the game -- we didn't really push the pace of the game. We weren’t getting a lot of shots off, and when we did, we weren't making them.”

The Wildcats' past seven SEC games have been decided by 11 points or less. They are 3-4 in that stretch.

LSU at Kentucky on Sunday now becomes a pivotal season game.
UK was participating in the fund-raiser for Alzheimer’s research as part of the leaguewide “We Back Pat” campaign honoring former Tennessee coach Pat Summittt.

The crowd made UK’s donation $20,236. Mitchell quietly doubled it himself, for a total donation of $40,472.

•No. 14 LSU: The Ben-Gals are hanging around with only two conference losses, the same as Tennessee. Ole Miss was not about to change that in a 10-point LSU win.

On the road, senior forward Theresa Plaisance scored 23 with 10 rebounds.

The LSU defense did not allow a point in the final three-and-a-half minutes, just when the home team had cut the deficit to one.

LSU hit 5-of-6 from the line and the Rebels were 0-of-6 from the field. Just 737 witnessed it.

“Theresa did a nice job of showing the toughness that it takes to play in the SEC,” coach Nikki Caldwell said. “We rode her. We talked about doing a nice job for our team by establishing an inside attack. We obviously need Theresa to perform every game, but I think her 10 rebounds and her board play were keys for us.

“She played nicely out of the double teams, and she was able to find some of her teammates. You got to see what we have always known existed in Theresa that she is a well-rounded basketball player.”

She also said the defense made the difference.

“When you come on the road especially in the SEC, we understand that you have to bring your defense and your board play,” Caldwell said.

“I felt as though Ole Miss did a nice job in the first half of exploiting us in their transition game and they were running it to perfection. They did a nice job of setting the tone after the first four minutes.

“For the second half, we talked about how we needed to establish an inside attack and did just that. That was the difference in the game. Defensively, we did a nice job of forcing Ole Miss into some jump shots and taking away some paint points.”

Mississippi State is just as unchallenging as their neighbors, though they did take a six-point halftime lead. LSU scored the first four of the second segment and the game was on.

LSU won for the fifth time this season after trailing at halftime, 65-56.
For the third time this season, LSU had four players in double figures including Shanece McKinney’s career-high 19 points and freshman Raigyne Moncrief’s SEC high 17.

In the second half, LSU was 17-of-26 from the floor for 65.4 percent.
LSU moved up one spot in the national poll. With hosting an NCAA sub-regional and having a 20-win season all but assured, LSU is assured of an NCAA bid.

•No. 16 Vanderbilt: The Commodores weren’t able to shake off the SC loss. Losing next at Missouri, 59-54. The Tigers took a 33-20 halftime edge. And this was supposed to be the break in playing four of five ranked teams in succession, Missouri being the unranked one.

The game opened agonizingly slowly, with only a 5-4 lead for the home team after the first five minutes and 8-8 with eight minutes left.

Vandy’s only scoring in the final six minutes were free throws. Missouri’s bench had begun to produce, with 20 points to six for Vandy.

The Commodores were on their way to shooting 22 percent for the game, 15 percent below their league average. Missouri only needs six more wins to nab an elusive NCAA invitation, as every league team with 20 wins has gotten in.

Freshman Kayla McDowell, forced into early action when foul trouble hit the starters responded with her best effort, 13 points and eight rebounds.

The defense really showed in the endgame when Missouri got two stops in the final minute,

“I thought defensively we were spot on for 40 minutes,” said Missouri coach Robin Pingeton.

“We had some silly ticky-tack fouls there at the end and we gave them a chance, but down the stretch we played with great toughness and it's a great win for us.”

The win ended a four-game losing streak. Pingeton said she constantly reminds the players about perspective.

“We talk so much about the process and I feel there have been so many great things that have happened in the last couple of weeks,” she said. “We are so much better than what we were a year ago, but we are also playing some of the top teams in the country, some of the best teams in our league, so it is really important to keep things in perspective.”

Missouri has 14 wins, 10 at home. Vandy sinks to three losses in the league and must greet A&M on Sunday followed by a trip to Tennessee a week later.

•No. 17 Texas A&M: The Aggies forgot the Tennessee loss at Auburn, 71-54. A&M doubled them in the first half, 32-16, and cruised. It is the the fifth time in eight SEC games the Aggies held their opponent to 20 or fewer points in the first half.

Conference player of the week Courtney Williams scored 17, center Karla Gilbert 16 with seven defensive rebounds and Courtney Walker 13 with five assists. It is Walker’s seventh straight game in double figures.

Texas A&M won for the seventh time in eight SEC games.

After allowing the first basket, A&M scored the next 14 points to take a 14-3 lead over the Tigers. The Aggies led 32-16 at halftime.

A&M is No. 10 in America in defense, allowing an average 55 points per game.

So that aspect of their game has been tuned up for this league run.

A&M has 17 wins. With hosting an NCAA sub-regional and a 20-win season assured, the Aggies have likely qualified for the NCAA draw.

The Aggies are at Vanderbilt on Sunday, then has LSU at home Feb. 9.

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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Guru Report: Price Was Right for St. Louis in A-10 Upset at Saint Joseph's

( Guru note: Rob Knox has a nice feature under this post on Trenton twins at D-III FDU-Florham )

By Mel Greenberg

It may not have been big enough to surpass Charles Lindbergh's flight to Paris on great accomplishes from notables in the city of the arch, but St. Louis' 69-65 upset triumph here over host Saint Joseph's Wednesday night in an Atlantic 10 conference game was still pretty special for the Billikens, who snapped the Hawks' four-game win streak.

Coach Lisa Stone's squad won the first time on Hawk Hill against the landlords in six tries, though there have been some early round triumphs at Hagan Arena in past Atlantic 10 tournaments.

Foul shots from the Billikens' Jamesia Price at crunch time -- she was 7-for-8 in the final minute - proved costly to Saint Joseph's (16-5, 5-3 Atlantic 10), the defending conference tournament champion, which had an 11-point lead early in the second half at 33-22 before the Billikens launched a 20-7 run to get back into contention.

Late in the game the visitors were up 60-53 but the cold-shooting Hawks who shot 32.2 percent for the game threatend to pull another rally.

After Erin Shields' three-pointer made it 65-62 with 21 seconds left it appeared Saint Joseph's got a key stop when a five-seconds violation was assessed against Saint Louis by one official but another who had granted the Billikens a timeout made it stick and negated the penalty.

Overall in the second half, the Billikins outscored Saint Joseph's 47-36.

The Hawks entered the night coming off an upset of then first-place Dayton on Sunday and in a third place tie with Fordham, which won its game, St. Bonaventure, which was idle, and La Salle (10-10, 5-3), also one of the Guru's 10 Division I local PhilahoopsW teams, which fell at home in Tom Gola Arena to Richmond, 56-39.

The only other local squad which saw action Wednesday night was Villanova, which won its second straight, beating host Georgetown 59-49 in a Big East game in the nation's capital at the Hoyas' McDonough Arena.

Back here though the game was close through most of the second half after the Hawks' larger advantage, the action resulted in St. Louis (7-13, 2-5) dominating in most categories for the game holding a 32-18 outcome of points in the paint, 11-6 in scoring off turnovers, and 10-5 in second chance points.

The Billikens also shot 15-for-30 from the field in the second half.

Saint Joseph's outscored Saint Louis in fast break points, 6-4, and bench production 23-8 highlighted by the 15 from Sarah Fairbanks, who also grabbed 11 rebounds.

Natasha Cloud, who is sharing Atlantic 10 player of the week honors with La Salle's Alicia Cropper, also scored 15 and grabbed 11 while Erin Shields also scored 15 and Ilze Gotfrida also scored in double figures with 10 points.

But Cloud struggled, shooting 3-for-15 from the field, while Shields was 5-for-15.

"That was good for us," said Stone, a previous Wisconsin coach in the Big 10 and Drake coach in the Missouri Valley Conference who has seven newcomers, most of who see much action.

"We played a packed defense. We're a blue collar team," she continued. "We ve been in every game.

"(Hawks coach) Cindy (Griffin) and I are good friends. I respect Saint Joes so much," Stone said. "There's not too many guard combos anywhere in the country like Cloud and Shields.

"They have great post play and they get better when they sub in the post. We had to just come in and fight and claw and play possession basketball. I give our kids a lot of credit. I told them 'Don't look at the scoreboard. Stay focused on getting stops. Rebounding, play possession by possession, and its a big lift for our team against a really good team," Stone said.

"I've been doing this for 28 years and many teams would have been done: let's get the season over, go cash it in. But they have not. They've all stayed in the boat. I'm so happy for the kids and proud they can taste this.

"Because it's something I want them to get used to. I'm trying to build a program there. It's my second year. We have a tremendous recruiting class coming in next year. and combined with this group we'll be young again next year."

Erin Nelson had 18 points for St. Louis, all in the second half, while Denisha Womack had 14 points and 10 rebounds, Price scored 13 primarily on 7-for-9 from the line, and Desirae Ball scored 10.

"We never stopped believing. The second we got on the court, we believed we could do it," Nelson said. "We kept on fighting. Everybody did their part. None of us have checked out, that's for sure.

"Even after one of our losses, we're in the gym and working extra, 10 times harder in order to pull throuugh. And our coaches do such a good job of keeping us all in the boat and keep on fighting.

Womack said, "It was well needed. That's our thing this year -- we're going to keep fighting till the end. But fighting is what kept us in -- it was our defense and making the stops is what got us the win."

For the second time this month, the Hawks were bedeviled by a freshman 6-foot-3 center from St. Louis named Stinpanovich.

Earlier this month it was Penn sensation Sydney, who was at the game here, and was in this building being a factor in an upset bid by the Quakers that died in the closing minute in a Philadelphia Big 5 game.

On Saturday she set a Penn record with eight blocked shots in the win over NJIT at The Palestra.

Wednesday night her cousin Sadie Stipanovich off the bench had eight points and 10 rebounds and was a factor late in the game.

"(Saint Louis) was recruiting us at the same time so it was kind of cool. We talked about it a lot. We supported each other at all our games (in high school) so it would have been really cool to both play at the same college, the Billikens' newcomer said.

"It's a great win tonight. We were just celebrating so much. It's a team that has great chemistry and works so hard every day and it's awsome to finally get to this points."

Despite the Atlantic 10 departures of Temple, Charlotte, Butler and Xavier last summer, Stone said she thinks the league is still solid.

In a conference tournament change Saint Louis won't have to worry about struggling to avoid omission since every member will be involved in the playoffs in Richmond that will have an opening round in March for the lowest seeds.

"Its a great league. (Dayton coach) Jim Jabir and I have been friends for years. I knew him when he coached at Marquette and I was in Division III. You get one of these A-10 teams in the (NCAA tournament), they're going to give you all they can handle," Stone said.

"They're very well coached -- I love this league and again (the Hawks) that's a team we were fortunate enough to play very well and win tonight. It's a process but we feel good tonight."

In the La Salle game the Explorers were hampered by poor shooting against Richmond (10-11, 4-4), which got a game-high 18 points from Janelle Hubbard.

The Explorers' Cropper and Jasmine Alston each scored 11 points while Cropper also grabbed 12 rebounds.

Saint Joseph's next hosts Virginia Commonwealth Satruday afternoon as the Hawks look to avenge a loss in Richmond to the Rams (17-4, 5-3) earlier this month.

La Salle heads to Midwest to play this very same Saint Louis team, also on Saturday.

Elsewhere in the Atlantic 10, Duquesne's win over George Mason gave the Dukes a one-game lead over Dayton off a two-win advangage while Fordham (17-4, 6-2) moved into third place ahead of St. Bonaventure (5-2, 16-6).

Saint Joseph's fell to a four-way knot in fifith with idle VCU (17-4, 5-3), George Washington (14-7, 5-3) and La Salle ahead of Richmond.

Villanova Downs Georgetown

The Wildcats surged to a 32-15 halftime lead, once again playing stellar defense in the first 20 minutes for the second straight game, and held on to stop the Hoyas (7-14, 1-8) in a Big East confrontation.

The win put Villanova (15-5, 5-4) into fourth place ahead of Marquette and behind front-running St. John's, which has just one conference loss, and Creighton and DePaul, which have lost twice in league play.

Emily Leer had 11 points for the winners, which also got 10 each from Devon Kane, Lauren Burford and Caroline Coyer in a balanced attack.

Natalie Butler had 19 points and 14 rebounds for the Hoyas.

Villanova next hosts Creighton Saturday afternoon as the Wildcats look to get even for one of their only two road losses, which came at the hands of the Blue Jays, one of three Big East newcomers, at the start of conference play in Omaha, Nebraska.

And that's it till Thursday night's action when the Guru will be tweeting from Drexel's Colonial Athletic Association home game against William & Mary on his handle @womhoopsguru.

- Mel

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Trenton Twins Spell Double Trouble For Division III FDU-Florham Opponents

By Rob Knox


FDU-Florham junior guards Kyra and Kara Dayon are a pair of fun-loving twins who like to laugh, play basketball, watch “The Jamie Foxx Show” and eat seafood.

The Geminis from Trenton, N.J., are extremely close and having a blast contributing to the success of 18-0 and ninth-ranked FDU-Florham women’s basketball team.

Since they are roommates, Kara witnesses a sarcastic side of Kyra on occasion, especially if Kara moved one of Kyra’s belongings out of place. Kyra, who is older by one minute, is particular about how she arranges objects in her room. Kyra knows exactly how she folded her clothes and stacked books on her desk.

“She’s the mean one,” Kara said recently. “Here’s a good example. If I move something, she’ll yell, but then she’ll say ‘I am sorry, I didn’t think that’s where it was supposed to be.’ I love her because she’s always there for me. She gets in my head and keeps me motivated.

"Tonight I didn’t score (against Eastern), but she was right there to tell me that my defense was good and she said at least you’re getting stops.”

The Dayon sisters have an unbreakable bond.

They are the second set of fraternal twin sisters in their family. Their older sisters, Cora and Coral are twins as well and they played at Trenton Central High School.

Kyra and Kara deepened those footsteps and raised the bar of success during their careers at Trenton Central by leading the Tornadoes to numerous playoff appearances and four winning seasons.

“We are always around each other,” Kyra said. “There’s not a day that doesn’t go by that I can get mad at her or tell her to get out of my face. I don’t know, I just love being around her and it doesn’t get boring.”

The Dayons have also kept their fans entertained as they have helped lift the FDU-Florham program to unimaginable heights during a memorable beginning to this season.

Currently, the Devils are off to their best start in school history. They have their sights on goals higher than just qualifying for the NCAA Division III tournament for the second straight season.

Averaging 15.8 points per game, 8.0 rebounds, 3.4 steals and 3.1 assists per game, Kyra is a ruthless scorer who combines textbook fundamentals with mesmerizing flair.

One of the most exciting players in the nation, Kyra has a feathery jump shot along with a smorgasbord of offensive moves that make whenever she has the ball a must-see event. She can bang down low with bigger and stronger defenders, jump out the gym, break ankles of slower defenders, shoot over mesmerized opponents and get her teammates great looks anytime she wants to.

A fourth-team All-American following her sophomore season, Kyra has reached double figures 16 times this season and posted five double-doubles.

She has scored at least 20 points four times this year following her 24-point effort against Wilkes in a 70-59 win last Saturday. She had 10 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in a 72-54 win over Delaware Valley on Wednesday night. That performance upped her career point total to 1,208.

Kara has cat-like quickness and often resembles a human handcuff because of her ability to play lock-down defense. She averages 8.8 points per game, 3.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.5 steals. Kara hit for a season-high 20 points against Manhattanville two weeks ago. Kara Dayon had 16 points and seven boards against the Aggies on Wednesday night.

Beneath Kara and Kyra’s affable veneers is the fierceness of a lion.

Kyra, who enjoys watching Rajon Rondo, had her choice of schools as she has the game to make an impact on the Division II and mid-major Division I level, but two reasons she ended up at FDU-Florham was the opportunity to continue playing with her sister, Kara, and because of head women’s basketball coach Marc Mitchell.

“They are fantastic kids,” Mitchell said. “They bring balance to our practices and they make me laugh which is hard to do. They’re just great for our program. In the recruiting process one of the first things I said to her brother (Clifford Williams) that if they come to FDU, they will change our entire program and they have.”

The twin connection was never more evident than during a basketball showcase at FDU-Teaneck, the summer before their senior year at high school.

On one court and under the watchful eye of FDU-Florham assistant coach Jessica Cavaco, Kara was devouring the competition. On another court with Mitchell observing, Kyra was dominating.

When the two coaches got together to compare notes, they were both raving about Kara and Kyra without knowing they were twin sisters in the beginning.

From there, one or both of them were fixtures in the stands in Tornado Alley, the affectionate name for Trenton Central’s gym.

Mitchell still mixes up the Dayon twins even though they are usually distinguishable by their hairstyles and bright fluorescent sneakers. Kyra wears her hair down while Kara wears her hair in a stylish bun. Mitchell affectionately refers to them by their uniform numbers “15” and “14.”

Not only did Mitchell get the Dayon sisters from Trenton Central, he also got Quaneshia Harrison and Robin Peoples from that same team. Just a quick thought, maybe the iconic neon-lighted sign on the Route 1 bridge across the Delaware River, should have been rewritten: “Trenton Makes FDU-Florham Takes.”

The Dayons were three-sport standouts at Trenton Central High and spent most of their time growing up in New Jersey’s capital city by playing in several sport leagues and in the gym with their older brother, who was an assistant coach for Trenton Central.

They were always at games and in the summer, their brother, who the Dayons consider most influential in beginning their careers, would teach them the fundamentals of the game like shooting, dribbling and more.

The gym was a safe haven as they helped the Dayons avoid falling prey to trappings of Trenton, an inner-city in which hoop dreams deflate and the young often die too soon.

“We moved to Trenton when we were 5,” Kyra said. “My mother taught us a lot of what not to do and always stressed to us watch who you hang around. That helped us be different from everybody else. We’re very blessed. Trenton is a tough city, but we did a lot of activities like playing soccer, flag football and softball when we were younger.”

Meanwhile, the Devils appear to have all the ingredients to play deep into March. They are experienced, talented, balanced, athletic, quick, and aggressive on defense. There aren’t many holes in this year’s FDU-Florham squad.

In addition to the Dayons, sophomore Schalette Brown, a transfer from Montclair State, is a double-double machine. Brown has six double-doubles this season and averages 11.1 points per game along with 9.1 rebounds per outing. Junior Leigh-Ann Lively averages 8.2 points and has made 27 3-pointers. Senior guard Jaleesa Lewis, a strong floor general averaging 7.6 points per game, had a team-high 17 points in the win over Delaware Valley. Harris is rock under the basket and on defense.

Kyra might be the centerpiece of the Devils with her unique and extraordinary ability, but she is thrilled to be just one of the players on the team and blessed to be able to share her college experience with Kara.

The Devils have been tested in two of their last three games. Against an improving Eastern squad last Thursday, the Devils were pushed for the first time this year. They led Eastern by two points with 10 minutes remaining. A few 3-point baskets and steals later, FDU-Florham was ahead by 16 points on its way to a not-as-comfortable-as-it-looked, 76-58 win.

Against Delaware Valley, the Devils trailed at halftime, 31-28, for the first time this season. The Aggies were also up two with just over 10 minutes to go in the contest, the latest a team has held a led over the Devils. However, FDU-Florham went on a blistering run at the end, scoring 22 of the game's final 24 points to pull away to the win.

The Devils were thankful for the recent challenges.

“It was definitely intense, but we need these types of games to go into the tournament,” Kyra said. “A game like this will help us in postseason because we know it won’t be easy and we have to know what to do in close games so they we don’t get all hectic and all out of control.”

The Dayons are cherishing every moment together in the navy blue-and-burgundy. Both ladies are majoring in computer science. Kyra wants to use her degree to be a support specialist and assist people with software issues.

Kara’s aspiration is to be a computer technician. When it was suggested that they open their own computer business, their faces lit up like a Christmas tree.

They may be gifted when it comes to the rudiments of the game, but it’s their character, selflessness, pleasant attitude and ability to bring smiles to others that make them special.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Guru's Report: Some Temple Growth in Face of Stewart's Big Night for UConn

(Guru’s note: Beyond the Temple-UConn game, the rest of the report involving results drawn from team and wire service coverage.

By Mel Greenberg

With the powerful University of Connecticut women’s basketball program being the ultimate measuring stick these days, the rest of the nation has different ways of how Huskies oppnents see themselves against the yardstick.

When the marquee matchups with the top-ranked, undefeated, and defending NCAA champions occur, such as this season’s already-completed games involving the nationally-ranked group of Stanford, Maryland, Penn State, California, Duke, Baylor and Rutgers (at the time), the gauge is to determine the opposition’s worth to make deep runs in the NCAA tournament down the road.

When it comes to Temple, such as in Tuesday night’s second American Athletic Conference season meeting here between the two at McGonigle Hall, the Owls are simply trying to establish if they are on the right track as a program.

Thus while the final lopsided result of 93-56 highlighted by UConn sophomore Breanna Stewart’s career-high 39 points would lead one to believe the days when the Owls (10-10, 4-5 American Athletic) were part of the national discussion are no more, signs of vibrancy in the future did occur.

First, start with the setting.

A while back, glances at the Temple schedule indicating the game here with the Huskies (22-0, 9-0) would be in tiny McGonigle Hall, which has been refurbished, instead of the larger Liacouras Center, made many whether the move was a backwards step for the Owls.

But Tuesday’s event proved to be quite the opposite.

The lively crowd of 2,030 (capacity is 3,900) set a single game record forTemple women’s basketball in the building eclipsing the 1,900 that came to see No. 2 Virginia in the early part of 1991-92 season when then-senior all-American and local great Dawn Staley – a future Temple and South Carolina coach, as well as Hall of Famer – paid a homecoming visit with the Cavaliers.

The same number watching UConn making it 28 straight, dating to near the end of last season, would have seemed lost in the 10,000-seat Liacouras Center.

Furthermore, press row was jammed with the usual large contingent that travels with Connecticut along with representatives from every local media organization except The PhiladelphiaInquirer.

Adjustments were made to accommodate working conditions and everyone was satisfied with the arrangement.

And though the 18-4 start by Connecticut in the first five minutes of Tuesday’s game might have sent viewers watching the national telecast on ESPN3 to go channel surfing, those that stayed with the game got to see Temple fight back and take a 23-22 lead with 7 minutes, 55 seconds left in the first half on freshman Taylor Robinson’s basket.

But then Stewart started stroking again – she shot 15-for-19 from the field for the night, including 3-of-5 on three-point attempts – and Temple was consigned to finish the way all but Baylor fared in terms of Connecticut opponents to date.

“She’s in that frame of mind right now where every time she touches the ball, every time it leaves her hand, I’m surprised it doesn’t go in,” Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma said of his star among stars with the Huskies.

Temple coach Tonya Cardoza, who was on Auriemma’s staff for 14 seasons before coming to Temple in July, 2008, talked about defending Stewart.

“We knew there was no way Tasha (Thames) could guard her by herself,” Cardoza said. “And to hang in there and help out becauseI felt like she was knocking down jump shots, but once she was inside, it was like we were caught on the wrong side and giving her easy buckets.

“We weren’t paying attention to try to help out inside. But she played a great game. She was on fire and she’s probably the best player in the country. At halftime we said there’s no one player that can stop her. We have to do it as a team.

“In the first half, she got way too many easy opportunities. We definitely needed some help and we didn’t get that. Her size and her skill set -- Tasha’s probably six feet – Stewart’s like 6-4 and she’s strong, her skill set, she can shoot, and she’s smart, she knows how to use her body.”

The UConn all-America team also got 18 points from Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, while Bria Hartley scored 16 and dealt 11 assists, Moriah Jefferson dealt 12 assists and center Stefanie Dolson had 11 points and 13 rebounds before leaving during the second half with a slight leg injury that Auriemma deemed nothing to fret about.

“There’s so many players you have to worry about,” Cardoza said. “They just have so many weapons. It’s just hard to guard them and match up with them.”

Rateska Brown was the only Owl in double figures with 13 points though Cardoza is giving much playing time to newcomers Feyonda Fitzgerald and Robinson and they are proving to be key pieces to a better future.

“It’s like a boxing match,” Cardoza said of playing UConn. “We hung in there for about three rounds. Once they punched us right at the end of the half, it was too much to come back from.”

But in terms of that measuring stick, Cardoza saw her team play much better than in the 80-36 loss to the Huskies in Bridgeport earlier this month in a game that was the first in regular season for UConn not played either at Gampel Pavilion on campus in Storrs, or at the larger XL Center in Hartford.

“I think we’ve grown since the last time we played them,” Cardoza said. “I think we competed a little bit better. I felt we competed the first 15 minutes at their place but I felt the way we competed today was a lot better.

“That’s something we can grow from. But again they’re so big and so strong that any and every mistake you make, they take advantage of it and when you’re playing a team like that you have to be almost perfect and we weren’t perfect.

“In the first game, we were fighting but it was like, `Oh, we’re playing UConn.’ I felt today… We weren’t playing the name on the jersey. It was just another team in here. We competed a little longer today. There wasn’t a quit. The last game at the start of the second half, we were demoralized. Today, I felt we had more guys willing to fight to the end.”

Auriemma praised Cardoza’s squad.

“I watch them play a lot, obviously. They’ve had a couple of heartbreakers this year where they had a chance to win at the end and they just may not be ready to do that right now with this group,” Auriemma said.

“But I love what they do. I love the way they play, how hard they compete. Her kids just never got down. We hit them with a really good shot at the beginning of the game. But they regrouped and came right back at us as well as anybody we’ve played this year.

“I’m happy for her. There’s no moral victories. I’m sure she’s not into moral victories but I think she’s done a tremendous job down here.”

A four-game stretch that began here with Saturday’s visit from Rutgers before the Huskies and continues Saturday at SMU and then Tuesday at Houston for Temple could be called the Death and Texas portion of the schedule.

But Temple, picked ninth in the preseason by the conference coaches in the 10-game conference, still has a chance to finish much higher before The American tournament at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., in March.

The game had a family affair to it because of Auriemma’s local roots – he took his team to dinner in his boyhood home of Norristown Monday night -- and Cardoza’s longtime association.

Also, assistant Willnett Crockett is a former UConn star while operations director Stacey Nasser was a manager and Temple’s women’s basketball media relations liason Cathy Bongiovi had a similar job at UConn when the Huskies made their first Women’s Final Four appearance in 1991 after winning the East Regional at The Palestra.

“I’m not going to say he’s like a father figure because he’d be mad at that because he’s not that old,” Cardoza said of Auriemma, who is also serving a second stint with USA Basketball through 2016 after guiding the Americans, including six former Huskies, to the Olympic gold medal in London in 2012. “He’s someone that’s dear to my heart. I would do anything for him.

“I’ve always said there are only a couple of people who could say something bad about him – that’s his wife, CD (associate head coach Chris Dailey), and Jamelle (Elliott, the Cincinnati coach who served with Cardoza and starred at UConn.).

“And anybody else, I’m going to fight to the end for him. He’s someone I trust with everything. He’s the reason why I’m here. And we’ll be best of friends for a lifetime. He’s a mentor. He’s just someone who is really, really special to me.”

It was the first time Auriemma coached a game in McGonigle Hall in Philadelphia but past homecomings have involved games at Villanova in the old Big East wars, in the Palestra in the NCAA tournament and against Saint Joseph’s, and at La Salle besides an NCAA tournament regional next door in the Liacouras Center.

“I’ve never been in this building,” he said. “They sure have cleaned it up and made it real nice. I think it’s a great home court for Tonya. I know they play some games next door.

“This is an historic building. No matter how many changes they make to it, it’s still historic in the big picture, and certainly in the Philadelphia picture. A lot of great players have walked through those halls and into those locker rooms and played on that court.

“I was excited when we came down and played in The Palestra and we never got a chance to play in the old `Cat house at Villanova – it was always in the new place. So this is another one I can check off my list.”

Philadelphia University Handles Holy Family

Measuring against UConn may have paid off for one other local team which played Tuesday night.

Philadelphia University, which played an exhibition game against the Huskies in Hartford in November, losing 93-28, hosted perennial national Division II power Holy Family in a game between the last two unbeaten teams in the Southern Division of the Central Collegiate Athletic Conference.

The host Rams prevailed over the Tigers 83-66 as Najah Jacobs out of Central High topped all scorers with 22 points and also dealt six assists to improve to 12-5 overall and 10-0 in the conference.

The Tigers, who played Maryland in a preseason game and played preseason a year ago at Connecticut in Hartford, fell to 12-6 overall and 10-1 in the CACC.

Phila. U. and Holy Family met once in the Philadelphia/Suburban NCAA Women’s Basketball Summer League in Hatboro, allowable for Division II schools in the NCAA.

Tom Shirley’s Rams are just two short of a team record 12-0 streak set in the CACC in 2005-06.

Samantha Morris had 16 points and nine rebounds in the game while Bria Young had 13 points and Torni Arnao had 12 points and 10 rebounds, her sixth double double.

The Tigers’ Carolyne Heston had 16 points while Reagan Jewell and Sarah Pawlak each scored 10 points.

The Rams on Saturday head to Caldwell, which is the CACC’s Northern Division leaqder.

Louisville Edges Rutgers

In another American Conference game which involved the only other of the 10-team PhilahoopsW group in the Guru’s local coverage of Division I schools, Rutgers came up short against No. 5 Louisville, losing 80-71 at the Scarlet Knights’ Louis A. Brown Athletic Center in P:iscataway, N.J.

Shoni Schimmel scored 24 points for Louisville and Asia Taylor had 19 points while rookie star Tyler Scaife had a career-high 25 for Rutgers .

The Cardinals ( 21-1, 9-0 American Athletic) have won 14 straight and have yet to play UConn in the first of two, which will be on the road Feb. 9 in Storrs at Gampel.

The two teams played for the NCAA title last season after Louisville’s shocker downing tournament favorite Baylor in the Sweet 16. They also met in the 2009 NCAA title game.

Taking note of NFL activities this week an hour to the north, Cardinals coach Jeff Walz said of his team’s schedule, “We’re the Super Bowl game for most teams because they know beating us will help them get in the NCAA tournament.”

It certainly was that way for Rutgers (15-5, 6-3), which is not seeing many ranked teams and the earlier win at home over Georgia has since devalued with the Lady Bulldogs’ plunge out of The Associated Press women’s basketball poll.

“We’re ranked fifth in the country and everyone is trying to beat us,” Schimmel said. “Rutgers has to beat us once and we take that to heart.”

The Scarlet Knights’ last win over a team in the top five was against top-ranked Connecticut on Feb. 5, 2008. Since then Rutgers is 0-20 against the teams residing in the penthouse level of the rankings.

Rutgers’ only other chances against ranked teams in the regular season will be the return games, visiting Louisville Feb. 23 and at Connecticut March 1 in Storrs.

Finishing third, which is possible without regard to the outcome in those two games, would give the Knights a third shot likely against Louisville in The American tournament and an upset would allow a third opportunity most likely to play UConn again.

Rutgers seemed on the way to getting a signature win in the books when it led 48-42 early in the second half before the Cardinals rallied.

“We just didn’t execute when we needed to in the second half,” Hall of Fame Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said. “We had it right there and let it go.”

Rutgers and Louisville are heading out of conference after a one-year stay in The American – a new configuration of a piece of the old Big East with additions. The Scarlet Knights join the Big Ten this summer while the Cardinals will be heading at the same time to the Atlantic Coast Conference, replacing Maryland, which is also heading to the Big Ten.

Looking Ahead

Three games are on tap Wednesday night with two involving the locals in the Atlantic 10.

The Guru will be tweeting @womhoopsguru from Saint Joseph’s, which will try to climb a step in the standings with some help if the Hawks beat Saint Louis at Hagan Arena.

Richmond visits La Salle, which is tied for third with Saint Joseph’s and several others in the standings.

Villanova heads to Georgetown in the Big East in a game that continues a long-running rivalry from the old Big East configuration.

On Thursday three teams play with the Guru likely to be at Drexel, which will try to maintain second in the Colonial Athletic Association.

In another CAA game, following Sunday’s tough loss at newcomer College of Charleston, two-time defending champion Delaware will host Northeastern at the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark.

Meanwhile, Penn State holding a one-game lead in the Big Ten heads to Purdue, the only team to beat the Lady Lions to date in conference competition.

On Friday, the Guru is likely to be at the Ivy showdown at Princeton, the four-time defending champion that ends its three-week hiatus because of exams to host Harvard, which is picked second behind the Tigers and has the only two wins in league play the last four years that got away from Princeton.

Penn resumes Ivy action hosting Dartmouth.

The four teams flip flop Saturday and the Guru is likely to be at Penn for the Harvard game considering the Quakers are picked third behind the Crimson.

The Guru is still contemplating the Saturday afternoon game. Memphis is at Rutgers at 11:30 a.m. while Creighton is at Villanova and Virginia Commonwealth is at Saint Joseph’s.

As mentioned, Temple is at SMU on the road and La Salle is at Saint Louis.

We’ll hold Sunday till later in the week.

That’s it for now.

-- Mel

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Guru's Sunday Report: Saint Joseph's Rallies Over Dayton in A-10 Thriller

(Guru’s note: Detail from Delaware and Penn State stem from team reports while the Guru was at the Drexel and Saint Joseph’s games.

Most of Saturday’s games -- the Guru was at Temple-Rutgers and Penn-NJIT – are in a separate post under this one. La Salle is in this blog for organizational purposes and is part of the lede.

By Mel Greenberg

Defending Atlantic 10 Conference tournament champion Saint Joseph’s hosted defending regular season champion Dayton Sunday night at Hagan Arena in a nationally-televised contest in which the Hawks prevailed down the stretch for a 75-63.

Elsewhere, earlier in the day, Drexel came back from Thursday’s drubbing by front-runner James Madison and defeated Northeastern 55-52 at the Dragons’ Daskalakis Athletic Center to stay in sole possession of second place in the Colonial Athletic Association.

But defending conference champion Delaware, in the Blue Hens’ first visit to new member College of Charleston, had a rally from a 22-point deficit at halftime ruined when the Cougars’ Afreyea Tolbert hit a jumper with four seconds remaining for a 68-66 win.

In the only other game Sunday involving schools in the Guru’s 10-team local Division I PhilahoopsW group in terms of coverage, No. 13 Penn State stayed alone in first place in the Big 10 as the defending regular season conference champions easily handled Minnesota 83-53 at the Bryce Jordan Center in State College.

Back here on Hawk Hill, a balanced attack with four players scoring in double digits was paced by Natasha Cloud’s 21 points as Saint Joseph’s (16-4, 5-2 Atlantic 10) ended Dayton’s rule as the last unbeaten team in conference play and ended a run of 23-straight wins in the regular season by the Flyers (12-5, 5-1).

The win kept Saint Joseph’s in the hunt for the top seed in the conference tournament in Richmond, Va., in March.

At the moment, it’s quite a logjam in the Atlantic 10 regular season race.

Dayton’s loss knocked the Flyers a half-game behind Duquesne (14-6, 6-1) while the Hawks are tied for third with tournament runner up Fordham (16-4, 5-2), Saint Bonaventure (`16-6, 5-2) and La Salle (10-9, 5-2), which pulled a surprising 77-68 win Saturday at George Washington (13-7, 4-3) in the nation’s capital despite having lost starting point guard Khristin Lee for the season with a leg injury in last Sunday’s loss to Saint Joseph’s.

Injuries were also the story here Sunday involving Dayton starters in which both high-scoring Amber Deane (15.4 points per game, 6.4 rebounds per game) and Kelley Austria (11.4 ppg.) were sidelined.

But if Hawks fans felt that meant an easier evening, the Flyers still seemed capable of delivering Jim Jabir his 200th victory at Dayton (he was hired in April 2003 after previous stops at Marquette and Providence) when they built an 11-point lead at 24-13 with nine minutes left in the first half.

However, rallying is a way of life with Saint Joseph’s this season and the Hawks tied the score late in the half with an 11-0 run.

Then it became a tight struggle most of the second half with the Flyers holding slight leads until the Hawks went ahead 42-40 with 12:13 left in the game.

Saint Joseph’s never relinquished the advantage after moving in front but the Hawks did not put the game away until the last five minutes when they moved from a slim 57-56 lead to launch a closing 18-7 run.

“We played for 40 minutes against a great team like Dayton,” Saint Joseph’s coach Cindy Griffin said afterwards. “And you have to give them a lot of credit because losing two of their starters on such short notice and being able to come in here and not only compete, but they gave us a great game and they have great players and a great coach.

“I thought our kids rose to the occasion and stepped up and did a great job on the boards (47-42) and we got stops when we needed to get stops and
I see the stat you see is we scored the ball – we shot 50 percent in the second half and we got the shots we wanted and the kids knocked them down.”

Erin Shields and Ciara Andrews each scored 15 points behind Cloud while Sarah Fairbanks scored 14 points.

Cloud also grabbed eight rebounds while Ilze Gotfrida and Fairbanks each grabbed seven.

Dayton, which was defended into shooting 33.8 percent for the game, got 16 points from Andrew Hoover, 14 from Tiffany Johnson and 12 from Ally Malott, who also grabbed eight rebounds while Hoover grabbed seven.

“I think each game we’re getting better and we continue to develop our team chemistry,” Cloud said.

Saint Louis visits Wednesday night.

Meanwhile on Saturday La Salle got a career high 32 points from Alicia Cropper to beat the Colonials.

Micahya Owens added to the attack with 18 points and Leeza Burdgess scored 17.

Jasmine Alston grabbed a career high 13 rebounds for the Explorers while

Chakecia Miller had 14 points for George Washington, Caira Washington scored 13, and Danni Jackson and Megan Nipe each scored 12 points.

La Salle also handled Jonquiel Jones, who was held to four points, which is 10 off her average, and two rebounds.

Jackson, with an 8.0 assists average for GWU, was held to just one dish.

Richmond visits Tom Gola Arena to play the Explorers on Wednesday night.

Drexel Holds off Northeastern While Delaware Rally Thwarted By CofC

The Dragons held off a late Northeastern rally as Fiona Flanagan hit two foul shots and got a key block in the final minute for the Drexel win over Northeastern (7-11, 1-4 CAA) in a Colonial Athletic Association game.

The Dragons got back to .500 at 9-9 overall while staying a game behind unbeaten James Madison at 4-1 in the conference.

But that one game is much larger in the wake of Drexel’s 74-47 road loss at JMU on Thursday night.

“Clearly, James Madison (15-4, 5-0) has separated itself from the rest of the conference in terms of the conference and overall as well,” Drexel coach Denise Dillon said.

“As for us, we might be doing well in the league but we need to raise our performance overall instead of hovering around .500.”

Drexel can do both with the CAA games ahead that includes visits from William & Mary Thursday and Hofstra on Sunday.

The Delaware loss reshuffled the teams behind the Dragons with the Blue Hens (11-6, 3-3) exchanging places with the Cougars (11-8, 4-2) dropping to fourth.

In Drexel’s game, Rachel Pearson tied her career-high with 23 points and was the only Dragon to score in double figures against the Huskies from Boston who were picked third behind Dillon’s team in the preseason but have been struggling due to the injuries.

The Dragons have now beaten Northeastern 10 straight, including the famous six-overtime win at home several years ago back in the Gabriela Marginean era.

Drexel led by as many as 11 points before the advantage shriveled to a one-possession situation that set up Flanagan’s heroics.

“Rachel came out firing, she missed a couple and I said, `You have to keep looking for your shot,’ and if she continues to play with that confidence it opens the floor for us.

“It was big because Sarah Curran (CAA rookie of the week) struggled a little today. It’s one of those teams where you never know where your production is going to come from night in and night out,” Dillon continued.

“Fiona played one of her best games for us overall. She had the mentality, `Ok, I’m going to get the rebound, I’m going to get a stop.’ She just went to another level today.

“Instead of thinking of everything, like, `Oh, I have to score for this team, I have to do so much,’ she really focused in each possession. For as much as Rachel did for us, I thought she had a superb game.

“Look, she had nine rebounds, three assists, gets to the foul line (2-2), key block, I just thought she zoned in on what needed to be done today.”

While Flanagan was zoning in, several hours later Delaware zoned out in the first 20 minutes in its first meeting with College of Charleston for a 22-point deficit.

After the half the Blue Hens mounted a 17-3 run and moved within eight points only to let the Cougars regain control with a 19-point advantage with just under seven minutes left in the game.

But Delaware fought back again with a 13-0 spurt in the TD Arena in Charleston, S.C. However, it was not to be.

Kelsey Buchanan tied a career high set earlier this season with 27 points and also grabbed 12 rebounds while Joy Caracciolo, a redshirt sophomore, had 12 points and 10 rebounds.

“I am proud of the effort we put forth in the second half and I told them after the game we showed the heart of a fighter,” Delaware coach Tina Martin said. “We fought and we refused to be embarrassed here. It’s really hard right now with this young group because they’re so see-saw-ish.”

Until the Cougar’s game-winner, the Blue Hens had shut them out for five minutes.

“It’s really a tough loss and it’s almost worse than losing by a lot because we know we really worked hard and were right there,” Caracciolo said.

Until Sunday, on a schedule that had been soften because of the loss of superstar Elena Delle Donne and six other talented seniors, the five previous losses were mostly competitive against the tougher opponents on the slate with the one wipeout being the 87-51 pounding at James Madison,that had intentions of revenge against both the Blue Hens and Drexel for frustrations in rent seasons.

Next up Northeastern visits Delaware at the Boib Carpenter Center in Newark on Thursday and then the Blue Hens travel to Towson on Sunday.

Lucas’ Scoring Explosion Paces Penn State

The 13th-ranked Lady Lions (15-4, 6-1 Big 10) feted senior Maggie Lucas of Narberth just outside Philadelphia with her own mini-bobblehead give-away promotion but the reigning conference player of the year had Minnesota’s heads spinning with a 25-point performance in the game in Happy Valley.

Wilmington’s Dara Taylor had her second career double double and first since transferring from Maryland two seasons ago with 15 points and 10 assists against the Gophers (13-8, 2-5) as the defending regular season Big 10 champs maintained their lead on top of the standings.

Penn State is also doing it with defense, not allowing the opposition in conference more than 55 points for four straight games, the first time that has happened since the 1999-2000 season.

Ariel Edwards added 16 points to the Lady Lions’ attack. Furthermore, they committed only eight turnovers while forcing Minnesota into 21 miscues.

Next up Penn State heads to the Midwest, meeting Purdue which has given the Lady Lions’ in-conference loss, and then to Northwestern Sunday.

That completes the weekend look. The Guru expects to be in College Park, Md. Monday night for the Atlantic Coast Conference showdown with No. 2 Notre Dame and will tweet from the game on @womhoopsguru but probably won’t file a story because of the need to get back quickly for Tuesday night’s visit by top-ranked Connecticut to Temple in smaller McGonigle Hall.

-- Mel


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Guru's Saturday Report: Penn's Fountain of Youth is Getting Old Hat

By Mel Greenberg

Penn has become a place where ongoing arrival of young talent in the Mike McLaughlin coaching era is getting old.

Four years ago guard Alyssa Baron became the face of the Quakers’ turnaround and has remained so in this latest signature season during her senior farewell tour.

Then Kara Bonenberger came along in the post position followed last season by Keiera Ray at guard.

Now the rookie glory belongs to Sydney Stipanovich, a 6-foot-3 inch center from St. Louis who was a McDonald’s All-American nominee last season.

On Saturday night in which Penn completed an historic week for the program, Stipanovich had a school record eight blocks in just 20 minutes of action as the Quakers (10-5) routed NJIT 84-48 to set record for most nonconference wins at 10.

As far as the game stats are concerned in the win at home in The Palestra, Bonenberger had 18 points, Stipanovich, given another start due to injuries, had 11 points and 10 rebounds in addition to her rejects of offerings by NJIT (5-18).

Kathleen Roche scored 10, Katy Allen, off the bench being limited as a precaution, scored 10 points, and Renee Busch scored 11.

Penn was picked third in the Ivies, which kick in play the rest of the way this weekend at home, behind powerhouse Princeton and Harvard.

“For our younger players, the Ivies are a different experience,” McLaughlin said. “You play back-to-back on Friday and Saturdfay nights and you have to have short term memory a lot of times.

“We’ll take on Dartmouth first and then worry about the next team. But I think we’re ready.”

The Quakers will get a chance to improve on the projection right from the jump because after Dartmouth visits Friday night Harvard’s Crimson will be heading down from their Friday night showdown at Princeton, which romped over Penn earlier this month in the league opener.

Earlier in the week Penn won at Temple, making it only the second time the Quakers won twice in the City Series round-robin in the same season, and it’s also the first time Penn won two Big 5 games in enemy arenas.

“It was a week of challenging competition and high intensity Big 5 games and we matched it right away,” McLaughlin said of the win Saturday.

“I think it’s an amazing feat (the nonconference achievement) with the schedule we put together – we played some amazing teams,” McLaughlin said.

“We competed with everyone and to win 10 of our last 12 is a remarkable feat at this point.”

Stipanovich was asked about adjusting to the local lore coming from the Midwest.

“So far, I love it here. The one thing I learned playing these last few games is how important and historic the Big 5 is,” she said. “It was great to play in those games (including narrow losses at Villanova and Saint Joseph’s) and I’m excited to start next week in the Ivy League as well.”

The Penn rookie talked about making Penn her choice.

“What drew me was the team and the coaches. The academics here are hard to pass up. I just felt when I came on campus this is the place I would want to be for the next four years. I thought Penn was the best fit for me.”

Stipanovich has been coming off the bench but in recent games started with Bonenberger to cause a strong inside presence for Penn.

“Her positioning really helps our guards,” McLaughlin said. “She can make up for some of their mistakes. The positioning is going to make her a force in our league.

“She’s coming at the right time and it’s the right time for Kara because the past two years she was strictly a `five,’ but with her experience we can move her to the `four’ as a natural fit and Sydney can slide right in and play her natural position.

“It’s a good combination, they work well together, they work hard together, and it’s been fun to watch.”

Rutgers Foils Temple Upset Bid

Earlier Saturday, the Owls in McGonigle Hall, greeted Rutgers, a national force they have met in recent years out of league but for this one season are playing the Scarlet Knights home-and-home as part of the affiliations in The American Athletic Conference before Rutgers moves on to the Big 10 next this summer.

Hall of Fame Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said after her team held off Temple, 74-68, she expects the competition between the two schools to continue.

Temple (10-9, 4-4 AAC) came into the game off its upset loss at home Wednesday to Penn in the Big 5 but surprised many by extending Rutgers (15-4, 6-2) until the Scarlet Knights exploded with a 12-0 run during the second half to take control.

Rutgers, incidentally, is in the Guru’s PhilahoopsW collection.

Then the Owls finished with a closing rally.

Temple freshman Feyonda Fitzgerald scored 25 points and Taylor Robinson, another newcomer, had a career-high 18 points.

Cardoza sees the inside-outside forces as two bright spots for the future, but the present day situation still needs remedying.

“We’re losing games down the stretch because we’re not playing defense,” Cardoza said of several key games that have gotten away. “We’re allowing people to score and giving up key offensive rebounds. The way (Rutgers) was scoring on us was embarrassing.

“When the game is on the line we have to do the little things,” she said. “Mentally, I think there are breakdowns.”

Temple had a 24-22 lead at the half but was outscored 52-44 in the final 20 minutes.

Nastasha Thames had 11 rebounds.

Stringer was curious to see how her team would act as the hunted unlike last week when it was the hunter when Connecticut visited.

Earlier this month as the favorite, Rutgers let one get away at Memphis and lost in overtime.

Though Temple was picked next to last in the 10-team AAC by the coaches in the preseason, the Owls’ ability to compete did not surprise Stringer.

“I figured the game was going to be an eight- or 10-point game at the most,” Stringer said. “Temple is a very solid basketball team. They’re fighters. They’re never out of it.”

There were many homecoming touches on Rutgers’ side of the matchup.

Stringer started out making Cheyney, located in the western suburbs, a national force and coached with former Temple men’s Hall of Famer John Chaney.

Junior Betnijah Laney, who had 24 points and 10 rebounds, is from Clayton, Del., near Wilmington, but her mother Yolanda was an all-American for Stringer at Cheyney and played in McGonigle Hall many times in the Public League as a high school standout at University City.

Kahleah Copper, who had 20 points, is from near McGonigle Hall and joked about splitting spectactor ticket allowances with Laney for the game.

Briyona Canty, who came off the bench and scored 13 points to keep Rutgers alive until Laney and Copper heated up, is not far from the city either, hailing from Willingboro, N.J., the same town as WNBA All-Star Crystal Langhorne of the Washington Mystics who was an all-American at Maryland.

Rachel Hollivay had 11 points inside and eight rebounds – adding to Cardoza’s frustrations of the Rutgers 42-30 advantage.

“We’re not going to win trying to outscore teams like Rutgers in the paint,” she said.

Rutgers next hosts No., 5 Louisville Tuesday at 9 p.m. in a key matchup and first of two with the Cardinals.

Temple, as mentioned, has the Huskies coming after being beaten earlier this month by UConn in Bridgeport, Conn.

It could be quite the atmosphere in the smaller McGonigle Hall as opposed to the Liacouras Center on the next block where the unbeaten and No. 1 Huskies have played and won a regional several years ago in the NCAA tournament on the way to a national title.

As of Friday Temple had received 60 media credential requests.

Cardoza, who was on Hall of Famer Geno Auriemma’s staff at UConn for 14 years, is slightly amused at the interest.

“It can’t be the homecoming thing – how many times did he do that at Villanova? (in the old Big East), she referenced Auriemma growing up in Norristown.

“As for anything else, weren’t they paying attention to our score up there?”

After Tuesday, Temple heads to Texas to play at SMU Saturday and Houston next Tuesday before coming home on Nov. 9 to host Memphis in the Liacouras Center.

Villanova Snaps Conference Losing Streak

Speaking of the Wildcats, prior to Saturday’s visit from new Big East member Xavier, a former Atlantic 10 powerhouse, coach Harry Perretta’s squad had lost three out four – the lone win being a last minute escaped of Penn in the Pavilion in the Big 5.

But the conference misery came to an end with an easy 61-32 rout of the Musketeers (8-12, 3-5 Big East).

Devon Kane scored 16 points for the Wildcats (14-5, 4-4), who did not allow Xavier to have anyone score in double figures.

Emily Leer scored 12 points and Katherine Coyer scored 10.

Kavunaa Edwards grabbed 11 rebounds.

Villanova connected beyond the arc shooting 10-of-27 three-pointers. The Wildcats also dominated the boards with a 46-32 rebounding advantage.

The Musketeers shot 24.6 percent from the field.

Villanova next travels to Georgetown Wednesday night in Washington and then hosts newcomer Creighton Saturday after losing earlier to the Blue Jays in Omaha, Nebraska.

The post above this has Sunday’s games and the Saturday La Salle game.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Guru's Musings: Temple of Gloom Has Potential to Lift Eventually

By Mel Greenberg

Though Rutgers and Temple have met in recent seasons, Saturday will mark the first time the two will play each other as conference rivals since both were in the Atlantic 10 prior to the Scarlet Knights departure for the old Big East back in 1995-96.

But Saturday’s visit to McGonigle Hallat 2 p.m. will be the first of just two and possibly three times the duo will be in that role before Rutgers takes off from the American Athletic Conference for the Big 10 this summer.

It is not out of the question that the series might continue in the previous nonconference designation since Temple coach Tonya Cardoza believes in a strong out of league schedule and Rutgers Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer said Sunday after the UConn visit that it made sense to continue to play schools in the same geographical cusp.

The game becomes Stringer’s homecoming visit in a different setting since Rutgers no longer meets Villanova in the wake of the breakup of the former Big East configuration.

Homecomings will also be celebrated by Kahleah Copper, the Scarlet Knights’ sophomore sensation, and junior Betnijah Laney, who’s from nearby Wilmington, Del., but whose mother Yolanda was an all-American for Stringer at Cheyney in the early 1980s after graduating University City.

Temple is coming into the game on a bit of a downer after being upset by Penn in McGonigle Hall Wednesday night in the final game of this season’s Philadelphia Big 5 round-robin.

For Penn, which soon returns to the Ivy wars next weekend, winning in the last minute was historic in it being only the second time the Quakers have gained two local triumphs in the same season.

But for Temple, which had earmarked winning the Big 5 as a goal, the loss completed a run of disappointments that did not sit well with Cardoza, considering all three losses were at home with Saint Joseph’s and Villanova being the other winners.

It’s now a rough two-game stretch for the Owls with top-ranked Connecticut coming to McGonigle Hall Tuesday night with its undefeated and No. 1 status besides being the defending NCAA champion.

Temple already met the Huskies earlier this month in the first of two reunions for Cardoza against Hall of Famer Geno Auriemma, whose staff she was on for 14 seasons and five of the previous eight UConn championships prior to taking the Temple job in June, 2008.

Though the meeting in Bridgeport, Conn., became the wipeout in UConn’s direction that was predicted, Cardoza was pleased with the way her Owls competed the first 15 minutes. However, it was the other 25 that left her perplexed not that she had a notion of pulling off a national shocker.

Though the next games might be gruesome for Temple and thoughts of breaking the two-year NCAA absence is slipping away, there are still things to salvage from the rest of the season and into the future if the Owls learn to maintain their focus all the way.

The fact that the strength of schedule is one of the toughest in the nation – 14th this week in some of the RPI simulations – means a decent finish could land a WNIT bid and with that opportunity Temple needs to only look across town to Drexel, last season’s champion, to see what can be harvested.

Temple is showing that beyond the super powers of Louisville, Connecticut, and probably Rutgers, the Owls can compete with the rest of The American Conference.

That ability will be enhanced next season because besides Rutgers’ departure for the Big 10, Louisville heads out to the Atlantic Coast Conference and the replacements coming aboard are more manageable.

So with the addition of a promising recruiting class and a more even playing field, the Owls can battle for second beyond UConn if all the pieces come together, meaning the future can still be bright.

The Rest of the Weekend

Besides the Rutgers game at Temple, locally there are more games of interest beginning with Penn hosting NJIT, the nation’s only remaining Division I Independent, Saturday at 5 p.m. in the front part of a doubleheader with the men at The Palestra.

The Quakers are a strong favorite and a win will add to the lore already being set this season because a victory will enable the Quakers to set a program record with 10 non-conference triumphs.

After Saturday, the Ivy slate kicks in with Harvard, picked second just above Penn, and Dartmouth, visiting next weekend.

La Salle is on the road in Atlantic 10 action at George Washington, Saturday, and both teams will have something in common – each is coming off a previous game that was a loss to Saint Joseph’s.

Speaking of the Hawks, Sunday is a major A-10 showdown because regular-season defending champion Dayton, unbeaten in conference again, comes visiting looking for a payback after being upset by Saint Joseph’s in the conference semifinals in March that led to the first A-10 crown in over a decade.

The 6 p.m. game will be televised from Hagan Arena on the NBC Sports Network.

In one other game Saturday, Villanova, which has gone into a conference slide in the reconfigured Big East, meets the third and last of brand new rivals when Xavier, a former A-10 power, visits the Pavilion at 2 p.m. on what is also the annual alumnae day designation.

For those who want a twosome of games Sunday, Drexel, coming off Thursday’s spanking at James Madison, will host Northeastern in a Colonial Athletic Association game at 2 p.m. at the Daskalakis Athletic Center.

Penn State, holding a one-game lead in the Big 10, in which the Lady Lions are defending regular season champions, will host Minnesota.

Delaware, meanwhile, has a CAA stop at conference-newcomer College of Charleston.

National Note

Though some of the luster is off with Maryland’s loss in ACC play the other night, the Terrapins host Notre Dame Monday night at 7 p.m. at the Comcast Center in College Park.

The Irish, one of the defectors to the ACC from the Big East, are the only other Division I school besides UConn who are unbeaten and Notre Dame is ranked second.

The game is part of the ESPN Big Monday package.

On Saturday, Tennessee-Chattanooga Jim Foster, who got his start coaching Saint Joseph’s, will be going for his 800th career victory of which the previous 799 also includes wins at Vanderbilt and Ohio State.

Barb Stevens at top-ranked Division II Bentley, which is unbeaten, will be trying to become the sixth overall member from all three NCAA Divisions to join the 900 victory club.

Midseason Local Watch Lists

Besides the national watch lists for postseason awards from various organizations that are being released, the hunt for local honors is as wide open as ever, especially in player of the year and rookie of the year categories.

Right off the bat within the Big Five, in terms of newcomers, Temple’s Feyonda Fitzgerald, Penn’s Sydney Stipanovich, and La Salle’s Micahya Owens are having standout seasons. Outside the Big 5, Shanice Johnson at Delaware has also made an impact.

Other newcomer contributing to their respective team’s causes but have prior Division I experience are Alicia Crooper and Leeza Burdgess at La Salle, while Sha-Heria Shipp is doing is doing likewise at Temple.

Being Big 5 champs can usual help in landing player of the year honors but the vote is not clear-cut when one has to decide between Erin Shields or Natasha Cloud at Saint Joseph’s. Temple has a strong candidate in Natasha Thames, while Penn’s performance in the Big 5 this season could be helpful to Alyssa Baron.

Drexel has not had a clear-cut standout with different players shinning at different moments to date but Delaware’s Kelsey Buchanan is likely to make the CAA all-conference squad as the Blue Hens’ new go-to player now that Elena Della Donne is consigned to the history books.

Rutgers Copper and Laney are headed for various honors while Scaife will be under consideration for rookie honors nationally and in The American depending how the rest of the regular season goes.

At Penn, depending on how the Ivy race goes, but even in the Big 5, Kara Bonenberger and Katy Allen become factors for awards, and the same goes for Ilze Gotfrida and Sarah Fairbanks at Saint Joseph’s, while Phildelphia home grown and suburban products Maggie Lucas (all-American) and Talia East (Big 10) along with Ariel Edwards seem in shape to receive some hardware.

Ivy-wise Blake Dietrick, Michelle Miller, and Kristen Helmstetter are leading standouts at Princeton.

Small Colleges

The Southern Division battle continues in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) with Holy Family (11-5, 9-0) and Philadelphia University (12-5, 8-0) still unbeaten and University of the Sciences of Philadelphia (USP) holding third place.

On Saturday, USP hosts Caldwell at 1 p.m., while Holy Family hosts Post at the same time, and Philadelphia U hosts Northern Division leader Bloomfield at 2 p.m.

Holy Family visits Philadelphia U. Tuesday night at 6 p.m.
West Chester has a one-game lead over Bloomsburg in the Division II Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference East and hosts East Stroudsburg at 1 p.m. Saturday.

In Division III action in the Colonial States Athletic Conference, Immaculata is unbeaten in league play with a one-game lead over Cabrini. The Mighty Macs visit Baptist Bible at 1 p.m. while Cabrini is at Centenary College.

Haverford, holding second place 1.5 games behind Johns Hopkins in the Centennial Conference in Division III visits Immaculata Sunday in a non-conference game.

And that’s the story for now bui will be back in the next 24 with the Saturday roundup. The Guru will blog live at Temple and Penn on @womhoopsguru.

-- Mel