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.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Guru's Roundup: St. Joes Ends Big 5 Title Drought While Drexel Snaps Delaware Hex

By Mel Greenberg

A season after ending a decade-plus drought of Atlantic 10 titles and NCAA tournament appearances, Saint Joseph’s ended another dry period on Sunday by beating La Salle on the road in town 64-52 at the Explorers’ Tom Gola Arena to complete a 4-0 local sweep and claim the Hawks’ first outright Philadelphia Big 5 crown since 2000-01.

Five seasons ago in 2009 Saint Joseph’s shared the City Series round-robin championship at 3-1 with Temple, which was the Hawks’ only claim to a piece of the trophy since that earlier triumph that concluded a run of three straight unbeaten Big 5 conquests.

The Sunday win at La Salle (9-9, 4-2 A-10, 0-4 Big 5) also counted in the Atlantic 10, which will see a return game next month on Feb. 12 when the Explorers visit Saint Joseph’s, the first home-and-home in some time replacing the former two-game arrangement that had existed many times in recent years with Temple before the Owls left the conference after last season.

To claim the Big Five, however, Saint Joseph’s (14-4, 3-2 A-10) had to fend off a second-straight feisty challenge that Penn presented in three days with the game going down to the last minute until the Hawks prevailed Friday night with a 60-52 victory at home in Hagan Arena.

The Quakers (8-5, 1-2 Big 5), who had been routed last Saturday by four-time defending Ivy champion Princeton a week ago Saturday at The Palestra, bounced right back to challenge Villanova on the Main Line Wednesday before the Wildcats escaped at home with a 55-54 victory in The Pavilion.

Saint Joseph’s wasn’t the only team ending some frustration Sunday.

Drexel, with a 61-52 road victory in the Colonial Athletic Association, ended recent domination by Delaware (11-5, 3-2 CAA) mostly caused as a consequence of the recently concluded Elena Delle Donne era.

The Dragons (8-8, 3-0 CAA), finally back at .500 overall, head to conference favorite James Madison Thursday in Harrisonburg, Va., in a showdown between teams picked 1-2 by the coaches in the preseason.

On Saturday Temple mounted another comeback, this time a 58-47 victory in the American Conference at Cincinnati that came at the expense of Owls’ coach Tonya Cardoza’s longtime friend and coaching counterpart Jamelle Elliott.

It was the first time the two met on opposing sides since both left longtime stints on the staff of Geno Auriemma at Connecticut, which is also Elliott’s alma mater.

They’ll meet again on Feb. 15 when the Bearcats visit the Owls in the Liacouras Center.

In one of two other games on Sunday, Villanova dropped a Big East game at DePaul 91-65 in Chicago, running their conference losing streak to two straight around last Wednesday’s Big 5 win over Penn.

Penn State grabbed a Big Ten road win, rallying from seven points down at halftime in the game to triumph 66-54 at Michigan State, which had been ranked earlier in the season and had been unbeaten in the conference.

It’s the first time since 2004 that the 16th-ranked Lady Lions won in successive seasons in East Lansing, Mich.

In the Saint Joseph’s game, Sunday, Natasha Cloud just missed a triple double for the Hawks with 14 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, the latter category in which she is ranked second in the NCAA in the most recent statistics.

The Hawks’ 11-0 run towards the end of the first half built a cushion to stay ahead of La Salle the rest of the way.

Sarah Fairbanks had a team-high 16 points for the Hawks and collected eight rebounds while Ilze Gotfrida and Erin Shields each scored 10 points.

Alicia Cropper scored 17 for La Salle, which next travels to George Washington on Saturday. Saint Joseph’s is also headed to the nation’s capital, but on Wednesday, to meet the Colonials in a morning school day game that tips off at 11 a.m.

In Friday’s win over Penn, Shields had 16 points, and Cloud and Gotfrida each scored 12 points and Gotfrida also had 11 rebounds.

Kara Bonenberger had 17 points but an early exit on a fourth foul and ensuing fifth via technical proved to be Penn’s undoing which was compounded when the Quakers eventually lost freshman star Sydney Stipanovich, who had six points, eight rebounds and five blocks.

Clinching at least a tie for the Big 5 Friday night before becoming undisputed champion, Saint Joseph’s coach Cindy Griffin said, “What a great Big 5 game. Penn has been playing great basketball and challenged us in every way but we stuck together like glue for 40 minutes.

“It’s always been a rivalry,” Griffin said of the round robin. “Penn’s been in every game since (coach) Mike’s (McLaughlin) been here. They set good screens. They play well defensively.

“They’re three possessions of wining every game. This is a timely game for us coming in the middle of our conference season. Not everybody in the country goes against this type of competition. The defenses played in the city are second to none.”

“It means a ton to win the Big 5,” Shields said. “Coming from Philadelphia, it means a lot to our team in a city for great basketball.”

Penn had played most of its Big 5 games in the past in December but with a gap because of finals before the Ivies kick into full throttle McLaughlin welcomes the January games in part due to the other teams now jump starting with summer workouts.

Griffin said the date is helpful because otherwise the Hawks would be in their bye week in the A-10. “It keeps us fresh and lot losing momentum.”

In the Villanova game, in which Penn led by seven and then fell behind but fought back down the stretch, the Quakers’ Alyssa Baron had 16 points and nine rebounds, while Boenberger had 12 points.

Penn has a win from last month at La Salle so the Quakers’ final Big 5 game will be at Temple in which the winner Wednesday in the Owls’ McGonigle Hall will finish third at 2-2 and the loser fourth at 1-3.

Villanova finished second at 3-1 by beating Penn as Caroline Coyer scored 17 points, her sister Katherine had 11 and Lauren Burford scored 12.

“All we asked is to give ourselves a chance to win and we did that,” McLaughlin said. “I’m proud of our team it’s just unfortunate the ball didn’t drop.”

Villanova coach Harry Perretta said he knew Penn would be ready, despite the romp by Princeton against the Quakers four days earlier.

“Mike does a good job that way in not letting his team become too high or low from game to game.”

Villanova, including the coaching staff, wore purple We Back Pat T-shirts in support of the Pat Summitt Foundation to fight alzheimer’s disease.

Perretta is friends with the Tennessee coach emeritus and Hall of Famer who is battling the disease.

“I texted her to tell her we were having a game to support the effort and she was pleased,” said the Villanova coach who has been friends with the Tennessee legend since she approached him prior to the 2002-03 season to learn the motion offense.

Villanova (13-4, 3-3 Big East) returned to conference play the rest of the way in the newly configured Big East and in the first of the home-and-home series traveled to DePaul, the league favorite Sunday, only to have the Blue Demons (13-5, 4-2) decimate the Wildcats’ vaunted defense.

Philadelphian Brittany Hrynko had 20 points and dealt seven assists for DePaul, while Megan Rogowski scored 16 points.

Devon Kane scored 17 points for Villanova, Carolina Coyer had 16, and Emily Leer scored 10.

The Wildcats return home to host St. John’s on Wednesday which is also the Pack the arena night.

Drexel Tops Delaware

The lights are still getting shot out at Delaware but fortunately for Drexel, former Blue Hens super star Ellena Delle Donne isn’t the one doing the damage.

This time the problem was electrical late in the CAA game at the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark but the Dragons overcame the delay to stay unbeaten in the conference and end a seven-game mastery over them by the Blue Hens.

The two most recent setbacks were in the final seconds as were several before that, though Drexel got the last Laugh in the postseason winning the WNIT.

Delaware, however, did get to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament.

Drexel also ended a home streak of 20 straight by Delaware dating back to Feb. 20,. 2011, and beat the Blue Hens in Newark for the first time in four seasons.

The Blue Hens were coming into the game off a 65-44 home win Friday night when they beat North Carolina-Wilmington as Kelsey Buchanan scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in Delaware’s 200th victory since the Bob Carpenter Center was opened.

Akeema Riohards added 14 points and freshman Erika Brown had nine points and 10 rebounds.

That game was Delaware’s first since being wiped out by James Madison a week ago Sunday in the Blue Hens’ first conference loss since the end of the 2011 season.

Back in Sunday’s game, Sarah Curran had 19 points for Drexel and got the Dragons jump started with their first 10 of the game. Typical of the long-running series dating to their time in the America East there were 12 lead changes and five ties.

Rachel Pearson scored 12 points and Meghan Creighton scored 10 of her 11 in the final minutes of the game to keep the Dragons in front.

Buchanan had 19 points and eight rebounds in this one for Delaware while Richards finished with 10 points. Courtni Green dealt a career-best eight assists.

“The better team won today, plain and simple,” Delaware coach Tina Martin said. “Their kids stepped up and we weren’t able to. We took some bad shots at the end of the game and we didn’t execute like I wanted us to.”

Delaware is now off a week before heading to the College of Charleston, which is a CAA newcomer this season.

Temple Rallies at Cincinnati

The Owls continue to show better than the ninth out of possible 10th place picks made by the conference coaches in the preseason in terms of predicting Temple’s finish.

Trademark of several games to date, Temple (10-7, 4-3 AAC) rallied from a 16-4 deficit in the first half and a 22-13 shortfall at the break where the halftime shots sowed the Owls with their lowest opening output of the season.

But a 19-0 run spurred by 60- percent shooting to open the stanza turned things around for Temple.

Rateska Brown had 17 points for Temple while Shi-Heria Shipp[ scored 13 and Tyonna Williams had 11 points. Natasha Thames had another big game on the boards with 11 rebounds against the Bearcasts (8-9, 1-5).

Temple next hosts Penn Wednesday and then welcomes Rutgers Saturday and UConn next week.

Penn State Masters Michigan State

Wilmington’s Dara Taylor was the prime star for this one for the Lady Lions (13-4, 4-1 Big 10) with 18 points, including 10 from the foul line.

Narberth’s Maggie Lucas is now among the top 10 scoring leaders in the conference after scoring 16 Sunday against the Spartans (12-6, 4-1).

Ariel Edwards had 11 points and rookie Kaliyah Mitchell grabbed 10 rebounds.

Penn State next hosts Indiana Wednesday.

No games are scheduled Moinday nor Tuesday so look for some special stuff here as well as a midseason look at the Maggie Dixon race for rookie of the year.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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