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 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

PHILADELPHIA –
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









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