Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Thursday, 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

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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