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 13, 2014

The Guru Report: Saint Joes and Villanova Win While Temple Misses Major Upset

( Guru note: Quotes and general information beyond being live at the Saint Joseph's game were compiled off of reports from the wire services and team email news.)

By Mel Greenberg

On nights when Saint Joseph's is a two-way threat, the Hawks are one of the more dangerous teams in the Atlantic 10 as well as in many parts of the country just below the very highest elite crowd.

Such was the case Wednesday night when coach Cindy Griffin's team finished up local business in the conference with a 76-63 win over La Salle at the Hawks' Hagan Arena that completed a season sweep of the Explorers (12-12, 7-5 Atlantic 10).

In this one, the Hawks lost 6-1 starting forward Sarah Fairbanks, their second leading scorer (14.3 points per game) and rebounder (6.6 rpg), four minutes into the game with a knee injury and had to go the rest of the way without her, though the injury was not considered major.

The Hawks made do, however, with Erin Shields scoring a game-high 22 points while Ashley Robinson was a force on the inside with 17 points and eight rebounds while Natasha Cloud also scored 17 points and grabbed seven rebounds.

"Very impressed with our team tonight," Griffin said. "When we ran the ball we got some very good looks in transition.

"We stayed in attack mode the whole game. La Salle went on a run, they did a very nice job, but I was proud of the way our kids kept fighting and attacking."

The Hawks outscored the Explorers 19-7 in transition and got a 10-point advantage in production from both benches.

Robinson, a former blue chip prospect out of Archbishop Wood whose collegiate career has been beset by recurring injuries, had a particularly strong performance.

"We've been working on getting the ball in the paint, especially during this bye week, and making plays," Griffin alluded to the time off since a loss last Wednesday at St. Bonaventure.

"When we have an advantage, to try to take advantage of the advantages that we have, if you will," Griffin explained. "We were able to do that. Ashley Robinson had a great game around the basket -- we found her. Erin Shields did a great job on penetration and making plays. 'Tash, the same thing.

"When we're doing those things, we're really hard to guard."

Robinson said of the game: "It was a good one to get back on the right track. Things were clicking tonight, we were finding each other offensively, defensively we played good team basketball."

The Win enabled Saint Joseph's (18-6, 7-4) to move up over La Salle into a fifth place tie a half-game behind idle Fordham (19-6, 8-4), holding fourth.

The Hawks are tied with George Washington (16-8, 7-4), which hosts Virginia Commonwealth (18-6, 6-5), weather permitting, at 9 p.m. Thursday night at the Smith Center in the nation's capital on CBSSN-TV.

The fifth place duo are also just a game behind idle Duquesne (16-8, 8-3) and Saint Bonaventure (19-7, 8-3), which was upset at revitalized Saint Louis 72-65, Wednesday afternoon.

The Dukes and Bonnies, holding second place, will face each other Saturday while Fordham will host La Salle, which is now down in seventh place.

Saint Joseph's travels Saturday to new member George Mason (7-18, 1-11) in Fairfax, Va. The Patriots, who had competed in the Colonial Athletic Association, got their first A-10 win Wednesday by routing Massachusetts 101-73 at home to leave the Minutewomen (3-22, 0-11) as the only conference squad without a win in league play.

Meanwhile, Dayton (16-5, 9-1), the defending regular season league champion, appears to have struggled before gaining a 73-66 win at Rhode Island (7-18, 2-10) that gives the Flyers a 1.5 games lead in first place.

In Saint Joseph's previous meeting at La Salle the defending A-10 tournament champions captured the Philadelphia Big % title in a game at Tom Gola Arena in which Explorers point guard Khristin Lee was lost for the season with a knee injury.

La Salle has managed to persevere a road that has been rocky.

Yet in the second half here, coach Jeff Williams' squad cut a 10-point deficit to four at the 12 minute mark before Saint Joseph's shook off the challange.

Alicia Cropper had 20 points for the visitors while Micahya Owens scored 15, and Leeza Burdgess had 13 points and seven rebounds.

"We did a good job on Cropper in the second half -- she's a very talented player and she had 15 in the first half," Griffin said.

"We had a couple of boo boos and messed up in some situations but I was impressed with how we came out the second half and held her to five points because she'a a terrific player.

Saint Joseph's took its turn in the Play4Kay initiative of breast cancer awareness. Teams across the country in all three NCAA Divisions are wearing pink uniforms on selected night to honor the memory of the late North Carolina State Hall of Fame coach Kay Yow, who succumbed to the disease.

Meanwhile two other teams in the PhilahoopsW group of 10 schools organized in terms of the Guru's local Diviaion I coverage played Wednesday night with Villanova extending its win streak to six and Temple losing a competitive game at No. 4 Louisville.

Villanova Handles Butler

The Wildcats used a 61-46 win over the Bulldogs in a Big East game at home in The Pavilion to complete a season sweep of Butler (11-13, 6-7 Big East), formerly with the Atlantic 10 for one season a year ago after previously competing in the Horizon League.

Villanova (19-5, 9-4) moved a half-game in front of idle Creighton into third and head to first-place and No. 24 St. John's for a noon TV game Saturday that will offer clues as to the Wildcats' chances in next month's tournament in suburban Chicago in Rosemont where the WNBA Sky play.

Coach Harry Perretta's group eztended its current win streak, all in the conference, to six, the longest for the team within the Big East since 2008-09 when the total was eight.

But though the Guru believes the Wildcats are an NCAA-worthy team, he must apply truth in packaging to the statistic in noting Villanova no longer has to deal with top-ranked Connecticut, No. 2 Notre Dame, No. 4 Louisville, Rutgers, Syracuse and South Florida, who are either in The American or Atlantic Coast conferences.

"I liked our focus tonight," Perretta said. "This is a big win. It's a step closer to the 20-win mark. I thought we played a smart defensive game. Our experienced players did a great job of executing the offensive game plan."

Devon Kane scored 15 points for Villanova, while Emily Leer scored 13, and Caroline Coyer had nine points.

Known for their three-point skill, the Wildcats have shot the trey to date to outscore the opposition 600-313.

Temple Falls Short of a Major Upset

Coach Tonya Cardoza promised her Owls' battle against No. 4 Louisville would be more forceful the second time around when they viaied the Yum Center for a nationally-televised game in Kentucky in the American Athletic Conference.

Sure enough Temple was on the Cardinals all night but did enough self-destructing, like 1-for-9 on the free throw line, to waste taking advantage of Louisville's own sloppiness and fell 60-50.

Though the Owls fell to 12-12 overall and 6-7 in the conference, they held on to fifth place heading into Sarurday's ACC matchup at the Liacouras Center, not McGonigle Hall, with Cincinnati for Temple's Play4Kay Pink Zone game.

Cardoza's squad rallied against the Bearcats in Cincinnati in the first of two emotional games for Cardoza in going against her good friend Jamelle Elliott, who served a long stint with her on Geno Auriemma's staff at UConn.

But for the moment the only emotion for Cardoza is disappointment over a lost opportunity against Louisville (24-2, 12-1), which took its turn in Connwcticut Sunday getting thrashed by the Huskiea.

“When you have opportunities and you don’t capitalize, it’s disappointing,” Cardoza said. “I felt like we had opportunities today. We got some good stops. And of course, I like our fight. I’d like one more player to step up and be an offensive threat for us.”

Tyonna Williams, the only Temple player in double figure scoring, had 12 pointa against last season's national runnersup ro UConn. Erica Coville grabbed 10 rebounds.

All-American Shoni Schimmel scored 21 points for the Cardinals while Asia Taylor contributed a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds. Additionally, Antonita Slaughter scored 12 points.

Looking Ahead

On Thursday, Penn State will try to maintain its narrow first-place lead in the Big Ten in visiting Indiana.

But the other two games involving Drexel at Towson outside Baltimore and Delaware hosting Charleston both in the CAA have been shifted to Friday beause of the latest winter storm.

Drexel will play at 4 p.m. in Towaon's impressive new SECU Arena while Delaware will play at 7 p.m. in the Blue Hens' Bob Carpenter Center in Newark.

Of course already on the books for Friday are Penn and Princeton in Ivy action, where both teams are tied for second a half-game behind Harvard.

On Friday at 7 p.m. Penn will host Yale, which is in fourth, at The Palestra, while Princeton, the four-time defending Ivy champion, will host Brown before the two visitora switch Saturday night.

Harvard will host Columbia Friday and Cornell Saturday.

Small Colleges

In a battle between two teams tied for first in the Colonial States Athletic Conference in Division III, Cabrini got to stay on top with a 59-48 win over host Immaculata (16-6,11-2) in the Mighty Macs' Alumnae Hall.

Brittany Sadone had 18 points for the visiting Cavaliers (18-4, 12-1) while Adriana Sciascia, the Macs' leader for the third straight game, had 19 points.

Neumann University is still in third place.

Haverford Matches Mark: The Fords went down to Chestertown, Md., and gained a 61-47 triumph over host Washington College in a Centennial Conference game that enbled Haverford (18-3, 12-3) to tie its all-time win record set two seasons ago.

That was the Fords' only other appearance in the conference tournament. They are still second one game behind Johns Hopkins, which also won Wednesday night.

That's the report. Make sure to stop by the blog mid-morning Friday for some special news from the Guru.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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