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.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Guru Report: George Washington Stops Saint Joseph's For Road Upset

Guru note: Material on all games after the lead game in the roundup is drawn from team and wire reports.

By Mel Greenberg

Call George Washington a sleeper these days and you're no longer talking about the first president and the places he caught up on his rest during his military life guiding the Colonials to an impressive upset of the British during the Revolutionary War.

This George Washington is wide awake and well for the first time in six seasons and picking off opponents with a rejuvenated mojo that could prove interesting in the Atlantic 10 women's basketball race, which has just gotten unnder way this past week.

"They're the dark horse in the league. I've said it all along," Saint Joseph's coach Cindy Griffin said Sunday afternoon of GW's sleeper status after the Colonials ruined what would have been another stirring Hawks comeback by prevailing in the closing minutes for a 74-67 victory in a conference game at Hagan Arena.

"They've got transfers, six-year, fifth-year kids and they're old and they're good."

Of the four PhilahoopsW teams in the Guru's local Division I coverage group who played Sunday afternoon, the other three all posted victories.

Streaking Penn romped over Norfolk State in The Palestra in the first of two games with MEAC schools heading into Saturday's opening showdown with four-time defending Ivy champion Princeton at The Palestra.

Delaware rallied at home and in overtime to beat arch-conference rival (aren't they all?) Hofstra while Penn State defeated nationally-ranked Iowa on the road to start defense of the Lady Lions' regular season Big 10 title.

Meanwhile, back here GW wouldn't mind returning to yesteryear when the Colonials ruled the conference many seasons but in terms of the present it is the Hawks who are the ones with the label defending champions.

However, GW (11-4, 2-0 Atlantic 10), which until Sunday afternoon hadn't been out of the home comforts of the Smith Center or the nation's capital in general for more than a month, has now won seven straight. It is the longest streak since a nine-game run in 2007-08, the last season under Father Judge grad Joe McKeown, who guided the Colonials to the Sweet 16 back then as well as many more NCAA and national ranking appearances during his era at Foggy Bottom.

The overall record is also the best start since that last magical season before McKeown left for Northwestern, where he is involved in the Big 10 wars.

Coming into Sunday's game, Saint Joseph's (11-3, 1-1) had already dodged one potential mishap in the conference opener last week on the road when the Hawks rallied from a 12-point deficit to beat Richmond.

And in the first week of the season last November they shook off a 16-point deficit on the road to win at Wichita State in overtime in a consolation round of the Preseason WNIT.

Sixteen looked like it was going to be the magic comeback number again, which it was briefly, as Saint Josepjh's trailed 26-10 at the midpoint of the first half.

GW had gotten off to a qjuick start in the game with an 11-0 lead.

The Hawks finished shaving off the 16-point disparity to 10 when Erin Shields launced a dagger from just inside the halfcourt stripe for a trey that made the score 38-28 going into the break.

But that missile lost out as shot of the game late in the second half.

After an early 14-point lead by GW, the Hawks continued to battle and knotted the score at 65-65 on Ciara Andrews' three-point play with 2:49 left in regulation.

Sophomore Jonquel Jones, a native of the Bahamas and transfer from Clemson who already had a double double secured by the half, nailed two free throws but the Hawks came right back on Ashley Robinson's layup with 2:20 left.

Chakecia Miller then missed a shot but got her own rebound and with the shot clock winding down, there was a stoppage of play off an errant whistle and the officials got into a discussion.

One second was placed back on the clock, which was enough for Miller in front of the GW bench to get an inbounds pass to graduate student Danni Jackson, the Atlantic 10 player of the week, who took a successful long-range jumper to slice the deadlock with 1:44 to go.

A Jones steal on the next possession got Caira Washington to the line for two more points by the Colonials.

Jones, who had a terrific game with a career-high 21 points and 14 rebounds, blocked a Shields layup attempt and when Miller missed the front end of a one-and-one, Jones got the rebound and Jackson went 1-2 from the line for a 72-67 lead with 41 seconds left.

Shields missed two more attempted treys and then Jackson closed out the scoreboard with two more free throws.

""We did a bad job on the boards in the first half, and didn't help ourselves by not making free throws and then we missed a lot of layups," Griffin said, adding "I'd rather lose now than February 5."

"The second half we battled back and then that play at the end with the one second was the backbreaker. And it's a shame. That's basketball but we have to learn from it and move on."

Andrews had a team-high 18 points for Saint Joseph's, while Ashley Robinson shot 7-for-7 from the field and had a double double with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

Shields had 11 points but was 4-for-16 from the fiield, while the normally reliable Natasha Cloud had just six points, shooting 1-for-12.

The university in association with the game sponsored a fundraiser for Cloud and her family because of their losses when their home in Broomall caught fire last month.

Ilze Gotfrida was also in double figures for the Hawks with 10 points.

Saint Joseph's was able to outscore the Colonials 22-8 in points off turnovers and 34-19 off the bench.

Behind Jones, Jackson, who saw mostly hard times with the Colonials during her career before Jonathan Tsiipis was hired last season, had 12 points and Washington had a double double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Tsipis, who had been the associate head coach at Notre Dame to former Saint Joseph's star Muffet McGraw, is making progress bringing the program back and it didn't hurt that Sunday's game was on natioinal TV aired by NBCSN.

Former Connecticut star Swin Cash, the teammate and WNBA mentor to former Delaware star Elena Delle Donne, did the color commentary.

Earlier this season, The Colonials upset California, still ranked, but in the Top 10 at the time the game was played at the Smith Center.

"We still have have a lot of work" he said. "The excitment is being able to take that confidence on the road and no matter who you play, and I learned this after a year in the A-10, it is going to be a dogfight.

"And people are going to have so much energy to come back," he said of Saint Joseph's effort.

"I thought our kids responded really, really well when the crowd got into it, the execution of the out-of-bounds play with one second was gigantic -- it quieted the crowd and then, obviously we got a few stops at the end," he continued.

"In having a game plan to take out Shields and Cloud, I thought everybody who guarded them did a good job. The fun part is you see the growth of our team. Maybe on one play a kid had their head down, but it never got contagious and that's the maturity of our team right now."

Saint Joseph's will host its annual kids game Wednesday morning at 11:30 against Rhode Island and will play a similar morning game at 11 a.m. two weeks later when the Hawks return the visit to George Washington.

Penn Avoids Letdown in Rout of Norfolk State

The Quakers, following their historic win over Miami on New Year's Day in terms of the Penn program, got to spend more time in South Florida than originally planned due to weather elements affecting transportation back home.

And it wasn't that long ago when you talked Penn and travel you talked about a team that couldn't hold on to the basketball.

But nothing deters these Quakers these days so after detouring by land to Fort Meyers, flying to Atlantic City,, and then finally getting back home within 12 hours of Sunday's game, according to the team report, Penn made quick work of Norfolk State in The Palestra with a 79-49 victory.

It's the sevemth straight, which matches the all-time Penn streak record in nonconference play and likely to be broken Wednesday when the Quakers (7-2) travel to Baltimore to play Morgan State.

The 7-2 mark also ties the record for the best Penn start over nine games.

The Quakers got point production from 12 different players against the Spartans (5-8) for the highest scoring total of the year as coach Mike McLaughlin was able to give the bench valuable playing time and the reserves accounted for 53 of Penn's point total.

And it was a literal block party on the defensive end with 11 rejections to tie a team mark as the inside force of freshman Sydney Stipanovich (6 blocks) and junior Kara Bonenberger (5) cmbined on the effort.

Keiera Ray, in her third game back from a knee injury, delivered 16 points. Her award last year makes her the only other Ivy player besides Princeton's Blake Dietrick, who got it this week, to be named national player of the week from the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA).

Ray got her total in just 13 minutes of action. Stipanovich had 15 poiints and eight rebounds while Boonenberger had 10 points and four rebounds.

The 30-point win is the largest differential for the Quakers since Jan. 10, 2005, which was marked by a 68-33 win at Lafayette.

Delaware Rallies to Take Conference Opener

Three close losses to respectable opponents on an otherwise weak schedule my have been enough experience for Delaware coach Tina Martin's youth squad to be ready for nitty gritty time in defense of two back-to-back seasons of perfection in Colonial Athletic Association competition.

The Blue Hens rallied from a 12-point deficit to beat Hofstra in overtime 71-66 as Kelsey Buchanan set career marks with 27 points and 15 rebounds in the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark, Del.

The senior, who blocked four shots, scored eight of the Hens nine points in the extra period to give Martin her 350th victory, all collected in 18 seasons at Delaware (9-3, 1-0 CAA). Martin is now 350-184.

It also was the 43rd straight CAA win in a streak begun in 2011-12.

The freshmen backcourt of Courtni Green and Erika Brown each scored 10 points while Reserve Joy Caracciolo, a red-shirt sophomore, grabbed 13 rebounds.

Annie Payton's three pointer with 10 seconds left in regulation enabled Hofstra (5-7, 0-1) to force the game into overtime before the Hens prevailed.

"I think all conference games are going to be like this," Martin said. "Everyone knows what you are doing and what offenses you run."

It hasn't helped Hofstra in Newark where the Pride are 1-30.

Delaware goes to William & Mary Thursday and then to conference favorite James Madison on Sunday.

Penn State Downs Iowa in Big 10 Opener

A balanced attack with five players in double figures carried the No. 14 Lady Lions over the No. 22 Hawkeyes on the road as coach Coquese Washington's group opened defense of their regular season title in the Big 10 with an 87-71 victory.

Narberth's Maggie Lucas had another hot hand with 27 points for Penn State (10-3 overall), while Philadelphia's Talia East had 10 points and 10 rebounds for her first double double.

Lucas, the reigning Big 10 player of the year, bookended her day with 11 points in the first six minutes, according to the team report, and then closed with 16 points in the last seven minutes.

Dara Taylor of Wilmington, Del., had 17 points, Ariel Edwards had 11 and Tori Waldner scored 10 while grabbing eight rebounds.

Melissa Dixon had 22 points to lead the Hawkeyes (12-4, 0-2).

The Lady Lions move on to Illinois Thursday and then return to the Bryce Jordan Center on Sunday to host Purdue in the conference opener in State College.

That's the local works. The Guru will return before sunrise Tuesday with a mix of national talk on stats, the poll, which should have significant changes, and other items.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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