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, March 20, 2014

Guru's WNIT Report: Kane's Big Night Enables Villanova to Rally to Win over Quinnipiac

By Mel Greenberg

VILLANOVA, Pa. --
If Drexel won it last year, why not not us this time around?

While other teams in the Women's NIT might have their own designs on the championship trophy, that appears to be the mindset of Villanova's contingent after the Wildcats opened first round play at home in the Pavilion Wednesday night with a 74-66 win over Quinnipiac (21-13).

Villanova (23-8), an at-large entry from the Big East,in the next round on Sunday 1 p.m. will host George Washington (22-10), an at-large entry from the Atlantic 10.

The Colonials gained an 86-68 win at home in the Smith Center in the nation's capital over East Carolina (22-9), an at-large entry that now moves on from Conference USA this summer to the American Athletic Conference.

It was George Washington's first postseason win since 2008 prior to longtime coach Joe McKeown's move to Northwestern.

Villanova's victory was highlighted by senior Devon Kane becoming the 24th player in Villanova history to reach 1,000 points, which came on a slashing layup with 13 minutes, 25 seconds left in the game.

Kane finished with a career-high 24 points to bring her body of scoring work with the Wildcats to 1,007 points while Lauren Burford tied a career high with 20 points and grabbed a career-high seven rebounds.

"We were a little disappointed not making the NCAA," Kane said of Villanova being one of the also-considered by the committee. "The last game we played against Marquette (a loss in the Big Eaat quarterfinals) was a little disappointing.

"But we're excited to be playing postseason. Not many people can say they went NCAA and WNIT. We got that (NCAA) last year and NIT this year, so it is fun to still be playing.

"We feel we're good enough to win it," Kane said. "We're going to keep playing with that attitude and just keep pusing forward.

"(Drexel coach) Denise (Dillon) used to play here so she uses a lot of stuff that (Villanova coach) Harry (Perretta) has -- a lot of local players.

"I think we're a similar team to them so I think it would be great to do what they did last ywar. They did great. They beat a bunch of teams they shouldn't have beat last year," Kane continued, "or rather that people didn't expect them to beat.

"I know there's a couple of good teams besides us in this tournament. So I'm hoping we can work hard and outhustle some teams and hang in there."

As for reaching her 1,000th point: "It's exciting. It was pretty cool. A lot of my friends and family were here. And then not many people are lucky to score their 1,000th point and of course my teammates made it possible."

Brittany McQuain had 19 points for the Bobcats, who finished their first year in the MAAC after moving from the Northeast Conference.

Samantha Guastella added 15 points and also grabbed 10 rebounds while Gillian Abshire scored 12 points and Nikoline Ostergaard scored 11.

"Bittersweet," Quinnipiac coach Trish Fabbri, a native of Delran, N.J., across the Delaware, said of the way her team's season ended."It's always bittersweet.

"We had a great weekend in March that's for sure," Fabbri said of Quinnipiac's run in the MAAC tourney and near upset of perennial champion Marist.

"It would have been nice to finish the task at hand," she said. "They showed why they're a great program and tonight on Villanova's home floor they showed why they're a great program.

"Their first round loss in the Big East kept them out of the NCAA. We liked the matchup coming down here to Philly with our fans and where we are," Fabbri said.

"Villanova (on the floor) is very familiar to us in terms what Marist was doing and Canisius was doing," she said. "I thought we'd be able to defend it. But they make the right cuts and the right reads and we just had too many scoring droughts coming down the floor.

"We still hung in there to give us a fighting chance but we couldn't do it on the defensive end."

Villanova struggled early and fell nine points behind before rallying to take a 30-27 lead at the half.

"Our offense feeds of our defense and our defense wasn't so great in the first half," Kane said. "Lauren (Burford) was awesome. She hit some tough shots in the first half.

"It helps when a lot of people are scoring so nobody knows who to guard."

Freshman Megan Quinn helped compensate for Emily Leer being saddled in foul trouble and scored six points, some at key moments, in playing 20 minutes of action.

"She made a difference for us tonight," Kane said. "That's hard as a freshman. It's not easy to come in for a couple of minutes and being expected to score. I think she was awesome."

Perretta credited his upper class players for being important.

"I thought they played very well in the second half," he said while admitting there was a rust factor because Villanova had not played since being eliminated in the Big East tournament 10 days ago.

"In the first half our underclassmen gave us some decent minutes. In the second half there was no need to substitute," Perrettta ezplained.

"When you're off a week you don't know how your team is going to play. If you saw our practice yesterday we looked like the Miami Heat, we were so good. And then the next day we looked like we never practiced.

"Thia is such a young team and we never focus. We actually are better on the road than we are at home because we have other distractions when we are home," Perretta said.

"This team puts in a lot into academics," he said. "Not that I don't want to see that and I'm happy but for those two hours when you leave the classroom you need to temporarily put that aside."

As for winning the whole thing, "We're learning through experience. I thout Quinnipiac played a really good game. They really played hard."

In George Washington's win, five Colonials scored in double figures led by Megan Nipe who came off the bench to score 20 points. Dannie Jackson contributed 18 points, while Caira Washington, the Atlantic 10 rookie of the year, had a double double with 14 points and 12 rebounds.

Shae Nelson scored a game-high 23 points for East Carolina while Jada Payne had 20 points to go with her game-high 13 rebounds.

Looking Ahead

Three other PhilahoopsW teams, two against each other, play first round games in the WNIT Thursday night when Rutgers(22-9), an at-large pick out of the AAC, hosts Delaware (22-10), the runnerup from the Colonial Athletic Association.

It's the first time the Scarlet Knights and Blue Hens are meeting since 1977.

Oddly each team in recent years had two of the state of Delaware's greatest high school stars and contemporary rivals.

Former Rutgers star Khadijah Rushdan played for St. Elizabeth while recent Delaware graduate Elena Delle Donne, the reigning WNBA rookie of the year, was the national high school player of the year at Ursuline Academy.

Thursday night will also be the first Rutgers appearance in the tournament in the program's history. Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer indicated after top-ranked UConn eliminated the Scarlet Knights in the AAC tournament semifinals there would be a change in her past reluctance to accept WNIT invites if her team would not be taken by the NCAA.

A source familiar with the invite said Rutgers approved the contingency of acceptance if bypassed by the NCAA group several days after the ouster by UConn in the American Conference.

"Actually, it's good to know what you're doing in advance because when you think you might be in the NCAA field and you learn on selection night you're not, you become so emotionally traumatized at the moment that you tend to not want to do anything."

Princeton (20-8), the runnerup in the Ivy League and the other PhilahoopsW designate by the Guru, will open at bome in Jadwin Gym against Virginia Commonwealth (22-9), an at-large pick out of the Atlantic 10.

The Tigers had won the previous four Ivy titles but were unable to secure a treasured first-round win in the NCAA.

They could get a first-ever postseason triumph Thursday.

Elsewhere in the WNIT Bracket

Three other games were played Wednesday to start first-round action.

Rachel Banaham's three-pointer with 11 seconds left on the clock enabled Minnesota, an automatic qualifier from the Big Ten, to complete a rally to edge Horizon champion Green Bay 62-60 in Wisconsin and move on to the second round against either SMU (17-13), an at-large pick from the AAC, or Southwestern Athletic Conference automatic qualifier Texas Southern (20-12) who meet Thursday night in a game hosted in Dallas by SMU.

Minnesota (21-12) got a game-high 31 points from Banaham after her final points while her total enabled her to set a school record for points in a season at 709.

The Golden Gophers fought back from a ten-point deficit at halftime to the Phoenix (22-10) as Amanda B. Zahui had 17 pointa and a game-high 14 revounds.

Tesha Bucks scored 18 points for Green Bay while Kaili Luken scored 15 points.

PAC-12 teams had split success in the two other games played.

Colorado beat TCU, the Big 12's automatic qualifier, at home in Boulder as Arielle Roberson scored 18 points for the Lady Buffaloes (18-14), who will meet the winner of Colorado State/Southern Utah being played Thursday in Colorado in Mobley Arena in Fort Collins.

Jamee Swan had 16 points for the PAC-12 representative while Ashley Wilson scored 13 points and had four steals.

Zahna Medley had 23 points for TCU (18-15), whose coach Jeff Mitte this week left for a similar job at Big 12 rival Kansas State.

In the other game Washington State (17-17), an at-large representative from the PAC-12, fell to Montana 90-78 as Kellie Cole had 22 points and dealt nine assists for the Lady Grizzles (23-10) who won on the road in Pullman.

Lia Galdeira had 22 points for Washington State.

Montana meets Thursday's winner between San Diego (22-8), an at-large West Coast Conference squad, hosting Cal Poly (18-13), the automatic qualifier from the Big West Conference.

The Guru will be at Rutgers Thursday night and then on Friday head back down to the state of Maryland in College Park for the NCAA first-round/second-round that begins Sunday with Texas meeting Penn while Maryland hosts Army and the winners meet Tuesday.

-- Mel





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