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.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Guru's CAA Tourney Report: Drexel and Delaware Part of Top Four Seeds Advancing to Semifinals

By Mel Greenberg

UPPER MARLBORO, Md. –
Faces change but team names for the most part remain the same and so it is that fourth-seeded Drexel will meet top-seeded James Madison for the third straight year in a Colonial Athletic Association semifinal while two-time defending champion Delaware will face conference newcomer College of Charleston in the other game Saturday afternoon at the Show Place Arena.

The four teams which are the four upper seeds all used various ways to stay alive in the battle for the CAA title and automatic bid to the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, whose 64-team field and draw will be announced Monday night at 7 p.m. on ESPN.

Drexel, the fourth seed, as the Dragons have done several times this season, squandered a huge lead but this time coach Denise Dillon’s squad repulsed fifth-seeded Hofstra down the stretch to claim a 69-56 triumph and avenge two narrow losses to the Pride (14-15) during the regular season.

The Dragons (15-15) got back to .500 to put themselves for the moment in qualifying position to defend last season’s WNIT title if they were taken as an at-large squad if they don’t win the CAA title.

The problem is to still have a .500 record on Monday night they must beat James Madison (26-5), which has returned as the CAA’s hot number now that Elena Delle Donne has graduated to the WNBA from second-seeded Delaware (19-9).

Drexel has foiled James Madison’s hopes two straight seasons in semifinals matchups and also beat the Dukes for the 2009 conference title in JMU’s Arena.

“We’re obviously looking for a different result this time,” James Madison coach Kenny Brooks smiled.

His squad missed running through the league unbeaten by one game but got off to a perfect start in the first of four games Friday with a 69-56 win over ninth-seeded UNCW (5-27).

Kirby Burkholder, the player of the year, was held to eight points but Precious Hall scored 18, Toia Giggetts scored 13, and Jazmon Gwathmey scored 12.

All those were just enough to offset UNCW’s production of 33 points from Kelva Atkins while Brie Mobley scored 16 points.

There are no guarantees that JMU would get an at-large bid if the Dukes stumble so Drexel should expect a fierce battle when the Dragons take the court.

They got off to a hot start in Friday’s second game, roaring to an 18-3 lead over the Pride only to get caught at 34-34 with 12 minutes, 30 seconds left in the game.

But this time Drexel got some extra help off the bench as Jamila Thompson snapped the deadlock.

That fueled an 11-0 run to give the Dragons some comfort to avoid an early exit.

“We’re excited to still be here,” Dillon said. “I felt our team was mentally prepared and our defense was solid.

“Offensively, we had enough good spurts to pull out a victory. We didn’t change matchups but we did a better job adjusting to their tendencies.”

Meghan Creighton was the only player scoring in double figures with 20 points for Drexel but the Dragons got eight points out of Fiona Flanagan, nine from Tory Thierolf, and seven each from Rachel Pearson and Sarah Curran.

Asia Jackson scored 15 points for the Pride while Alexis Carter scored 13 and Ruth Sherrill scored 10 points.

Two big keys for Drexel were the 17-3 advantage in points off turnovers while they also had a slight 12-8 advantage on second chance points.

Delaware Rallies

Coach Tina Martin’s squad (19-9), the second seed which has a guaranteed WNIT bid locked up if the Blue Hens don’t make it three straight titles, had to rally from a 10-point deficit in the first half and nine in the second and never caught seventh-seeded Northeastern (12-18) until late in the game to pull off a narrow 63-61 victory to remain reigning champion for another day.

Besides losing Delle Donne, who became WNBA rookie of the year last summer and scored over 3,000 points in college, Delaware lost six other seniors.

However, senior Kelsey Buchanan has been a solid replacement in the post. She scored 15 of her 21 points in the second half while redshirt sophomore Joy Caracciolo had a double double with 16 points and 12 rebounds while Courtni Green scored 12 points.

Northeastern’s Samantha DeFreese had 16 points while Jewel Tunstull had a double double with 12 points and 14 rebounds.

Kazzidy Stewart scored 11 points and A’Lece Mark added 10 for the Huskies, who beat the Blue Hens in Boston in the final game of the regular season.

Ten of Caracciolo’s rebounds were on the offensive glass as Delaware held a commanding contrast of 20-10 on second chance points while the Blue Hens also dominated the paint 26-14.

“For a young team, you have to keep your composure,” ​Martin said of the day’s action. “I thought at time we attacked … really well and at others we didn’t do as well.

“Survive and move on. That’s the motto in March. The bottom line is this group got some playoff experience under their belt. We got the ‘W,’ big performances by a lot of our kids, especially in the second half.

“Joy Caracciolo really did a tremendous job on the boards and stayed after it and I’m proud of my kids.”

Delaware will face College of Charleston (17-13), the third seed, which won a tightly-contested battle with No. 6 Towson 70-64 in the final game of the night.

Alfreya Tolbert scored 19 points for the Cougars, while Alyssa Frye scored 15 points, Breanna Bolden scored 10, and Mikaela Hopkins grabbed 12 rebounds.

Tanisha McTiller, who had an outstanding career with Towson (13-17), scored 36 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, while Dominque Johnson scored 13 points, and LaTorri Hines-Allen grabbed 12 rebounds.

“Our kids all year we talk about being resilient,” Cougars coach Natasha Adair said. “That’s one thing about our team, we don’t care who gets the credit. We play hard together.”

During the season, Delaware and Charleston split their games but in the first meeting in South Carolina, the Blue Hens had a deep deficit in the first half and rallied to tie only to be topped by the Cougars’ game-winner.

Charleston is hopeful of at least a WNIT bid by getting another victory in the tournament.

That’s it for now.

-- Mel


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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