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, February 27, 2014

Guru Report: Rutgers Fends Off Temple While La Salle Surge Tops Duquesne

By Mel Greenberg

PISCATAWAY, N.J. --
Rutgers moved closer to all the things the 24th-ranked Scarlet Knights have been traditionally accustomed to while Temple drifted closer to an early end game after the Owls lost 67-58 here in an American Athletic Association contest Wednesday night at the Louis A. Brown Athletic Center.

In the only other contest involving the 10-team PhilahoopsW group organized by the Guru for his local Division I coverage La Salle shocked Duquesne, 68-63 using a closing 17-5 run in an Atlantic 10 game in Pittsburgh.

Despite the two teams here being in opposite ends of where their fate may lie, the duo were not that far apart most of the night after Temple (12-15, 6-10 AAC) fell behind 8-0 at the outset, dropped another three points in arrears and then closed to a three-point deficit at the half.

Late in the game Temple still had a chance to put a big dent on the outlook for Rutgers (21-6, 12-4) when the Owls pulled within a basket with 5 minutes, 30 seconds left in the game, but again for the fourth straight time in the last two weeks they couldn’t close the deal, much to the chagrin of coach Tonya Cardoza.

They couldn’t close it in the first meeting last month, either, back in Philadelphia when the Scarlet Knights took a 74-68 win at McGonigle Hall.

The loss also gave Rutgers a season-sweep of the Owls as conference opponents for the first time since 1994-95 when the Scarlet Knights made their farewell tour of the Atlantic 10.

Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer’s squad’s introductory debut in the new American out of the wreckage of the former incarnation of the Big East is also a one-year wonder since the Scarlet Knights are heading to the Big Ten next season.

Temple and Rutgers will still attempt to play each other as they did prior to this year as nonconference foes and they could meet one more time within the American in next weekend’s inaugural conference tournament at the Mohegan Sun in New London, Conn., home of the WNBA Connecticut Sun.

“I’m tired of these – this is like a broken record,” Cardoza said after the loss here.

“You just hope you’ve gotten to a point where you learn and do something different,” Cardoza continued. “We’re just getting the same results.

“We fight, fight, fight, we’re in games, then we don’t have anything at the end. We don’t have that killer instinct that we really want to go out and beat people,” she added. “We’re just hoping that other teams lose and it’s not going to win basketball games.

“We need guys that are going to fight that want to win and make sure that we win and we just keep coming up short because of that.”

While Cardoza bemoaned her team’s struggles, the effort drew compliments from Stringer.

“We knew they were good and it was good that they challenged us,” Stringer said. “Most importantly, it was good that we answered the call.”

The game showcased two of the top rookies in the conference from each squad and Temple’s Feyonda had a team-high 17 points ahead of Tyonna Williams’ 15 points.

Rutgers’ newcomer Tyler Scaife had a game-high 21 points while Kahleah Copper had another double double with 17 points and 12 rebounds and Betnijah Laney scored 11 points.

“She’s a great scoring threat,” Stringer said in praising Scaife’s growth during the season. “I’m really impressed with her. She knows we expect her to score in double figures. You can’t say enough about her as a freshman. She’s very consistent.”

The Scarlet Knights ruled the boards with a huge 43-24 advantage, including 17-7 on the offensive end though they only outscored the Owls by two at 8-6 on second chance points.

Temple’s postseason beyond the conference tournament probably was put to pasture in that -- barring a miracle run to the American title and NCAA automatic bid or just advancing to the title game – the Owls won’t qualify for the WNIT because they’ll finish below .500.

So it’s get what you can while you can and Temple’s last two games before the tournament are against teams they handled in UCF, which the Owls visit Saturday, and Houston, which will visit McGonigle Hall at 7 p.m. on senior night Monday.

“You just want to have a good mindset going into the tournament,” Cardoza said of the road immediately ahead. “Again, this is four straight games where we’re right there. So I think the morale for our guys is hard to keep up and let them know everything is OK because they keep falling short.

“It’s four straight games you have a chance to win and you come up on the losing end. We just have to get there and if we go into these last two games and play hard and outrebound them and take care of the basketball (Temple had 20 turnovers against Rutgers, which committed 22 miscues), going into the tournament I think our morale will be high and maybe we can go on a little run.

“But we have to find ways to win basketball games and want to win. We turned the basketball over a lot – careless turnovers. And they didn’t score a lot off of offensive rebounds but it’s demoralizing when they get 17 rebounds.

“We could have gone into the post more, ‘Tasha (Thames) should have gotten more touches. These last two weeks have been tough ones because we’ve come so close and we don’t have enough to get us over the hump and win those games.”

Temple is still sixth despite the loss, which would mean a first-round bye if the Owls hold serve and a quarterfinal date with Rutgers, though the Scarlet Knights next travel to top-ranked and unbeaten Connecticut at the defending NCAA’s Gampel Pavilion on campus in Storrs, Saturday.

After that, South Florida, the team in fourth one game behind, visits Monday on what would be senior night if Rutgers had any seniors.

The Scarlet Knights already hold one win over the Bulls in Tampa.

Finishing fourth is big trouble in that it puts Rutgers on a path to meet UConn in the semifinal game and several NCAA women’s forecaster aren’t ready to call the Scarlet Knights a lock for an at-large slot if they don’t win the American title, even though they are one win from matching a high from over the past six seasons.

One reason for the quasi-bubble status is Rutgers’ schedule was scaled back because of the youthful roster unlike Temple’s, which has been in the top 15 a bunch, but, of course the Owls haven’t cashed in off the competition.

Rutgers harvested wins off of its foes but has paid a price in an RPI ranking below the premium positions of the past.

“Our RPI is in the 50s,” said Stringer, who was honored with a bobblehead doll likeness as a giveaway promotion. “Normally, we have RPIs that are 10 or less so how can I be comfortable? It’s important not only that we win but that we have impressive winning margins.”

While Rutgers’ NCAA outlook is still a bit contentious, that no longer seems the case in terms of Stringer’s immediate future.

A year ago at this time while she was gaining her milestone 900th win, Stringer’s contract situation was being scrutinized by the media covering the program because the current deal ends in a few months.

Rutgers missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in a decade but with a return to the polls and a roster of special talent that could thrive in the Big 10, a new deal, maybe a bit less lucrative, is now expected.

La Salle Surges to Win Over Duquesne

After injuries and some defections hampered Jeff Williams since his arrival over the past several seasons, things at La Salle seem to be finally turning around, though it’s still been a roller coaster ride to date.

The Explorers were in the up mode Wednesday, however, with a 17-5 run at the finish that led to a 68-63 win at Duquesne, which has been fading down the stretch of the Atlantic 10 race, which concludes Sunday.

Dayton has already wrapped up the regular season title that the Flyers also won a year ago but after that things are in major gridlock to determine seeding for next weekend’s tournament in Richmond, Va., at the Coliseum.

La Salle (13-14, 8-7 Atlantic 10) was able to overcome the 23-point and game-high 11 rebound performance by Wumi Agunbiade of Duquesne (13-14, 8-7) because freshman Michya Owens matched a career-high with 23 points and newcomer Jasmine Alston matched hers with 16 points.

Alicia Cropper with 13 points and Leeza Burdgess with 12 points also scored in double figures for La Salle, which finishes up hosting second-place St. Bonaventure on Saturday at 1 p.m. on Senior Day at Tom Gola Arena.

The Explorers are in eighth place but mathematically could finish in a four-way tie for fifth heading into the final games as of this posting.

Saint Joseph’s is at Massachusetts in the lone league game Thursday night and finishes up at home celebrating Senior Day Sunday at Hagan Arena when Fordham, the team the Hawks beat for the A-10 tourney title a year ago, visits Hagan Arena at 2 p.m.

A win Thursday night puts Saint Joseph’s in a three-way tie for third with George Washington and Fordham one game behind the Bonnies.

Small Colleges: Tourney Time Begins

Having won its first regular season Centennial Conference title, Haverford will host the Division III league’s tournament Friday and Saturday.

The top-seeded Fords (21-3, 15-3 CC) will host Gettysburg at 6 p.m. Friday followed by third-seeded Johns Hopkins meeting second-seeded McDaniel at Gooding Arena. The Bullets, who were swept by Haverford during the season, eliminated Muhlenberg 66-51 Wednesday night to advance against the Fords.

The title game is 7 p.m. Saturday with the winner getting an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III tournament.

CACCIn Division II in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC), Philadelphia University is the overall No. 1 seed.

The Rams on Saturday as the No. 1 South Seed will host North No. 4 Dominican College at 4:30 p.m. At the same time, No. 2 South Seed Holy Family, the defending champion, will host No. 3 North Seed Felician.

Meanwhile, No. 3 South Seed University of the Sciences of Philadelphia will travel to No. 2 North Seed Caldwell College, the host of the semifinals and finals next weekend, with this Saturday’s quarterfinals game to be played in Caldwell, N.J., at 2 p.m.

The other game, also set for 4:30 p.m., has No. 4 South Seed Goldey-Beacom traveling to No. 1 North Seed Bloomfield College.

The semifinals at Caldwell will be played at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. on March 7 with the final to be played the next day at 7 p.m.

In Division II Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, West Chester, the No. 2 East Seed, has a bye to the quarterfinals and will host on Tuesday the winner between No. 6 East Kutztown and No. 3 East Shippensburg, who will meet at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

In the Division III Freedom Conference, fifth-ranked FDU-Florham (26-0, 14-0) edged Delaware Valley College 56-49 Wednesday night to advance to Saturday’s game hosting as the defending champion visiting DeSales, which advanced with a 73-54 win over Eastern University.

And that’s the report. The Guru will be at Drexel Thursday night tweeting @womhoopsguru the Dragons’ Colonial Athletic Association game with UNCW, which is a must win to give Drexel a shot at defending its WNIT title if it doesn’t win the CAA tourney.

-- Mel








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