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.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Guru's College Report: St. Joe Tops Temple in Big 5 Thriller; Niagara Team Rescued

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

In a throwback to what the series had been between Temple and Saint Joseph’s in the last decade, the Owls and Hawks after several momentum swings battled into overtime before Saint Joseph’s prevailed 78-74 Tuesday night in a Big 5 thriller at Hagan Arena on the Hawks campus.

So now it is Saint Joseph’s, the defending Big 5 champs, carrying a streak, having won the previous two by scores of 449-41 in overtime here at Hagan and last year’s 73-53 rout at Temple.

In the only other game played Tuesday among the Guru’s 10-team PhilahoopsW group, No. 22 Rutgers broke away from Northeastern of the Colonial Athletic Association to go 2-0 on the season, both wins at home, with a 74-60 win over the Huskies.

Rutgers’ previous win was over these Hawks in the season opener for both Friday night, a 76-52 triumph. On the same night Temple edged La Salle at home in the Liacouras Center 75-72.

So the bottom line in what ios shaping up as an interesting Big 5 race this time around, the Hawks in what was their home opener are now 1-1 on the season, the same as Temple, while the Owls are also 1-1 in the City Series.

Just 24 hours later another Big 5 tilt pops up Wednesday night (tonight) when La Salle (0-1, 0-1) drops by The Palestra to visit Penn (0-1), which lost its season opener on the road in a massive wipeout at No. 4 Tennessee.

But while La Salle will try to keep from falling further behind in the local wars, Wednesday night’s home opener for Penn will be about celebrating last season’s overall success as the Quakers hang their Ivy championship banner.

Adding to the festivities, Penn will hold a public reception adjoining the Palestra at 5:15 p.m. through 6 with some eats, speeches and alumni from last season in the room.

Penn has had success beating La Salle in recent seasons since the arrival of Mike McLaughlin and last year before the Quakers’ got geared up and ended the four-year Princeton domination of the league in the Tigers’ very own Jadwin Gym on the final day of the regular season, the big story was the near miss when Penn played three straight Big 5 games in January on the road.

A perennial doormat in the city, Penn fell just short at Saint Joseph’s and Villanova before beating Temple, which made it only the second time the Quakers won two Big Five games in the same season.

A threat to win the Ivy again, the game against La Salle will show how much of a factor locally Penn can be again this year – win or lose against the Explorers.
Speaking of Princeton, the Tigers in the other PhilahoopsW game on Wednesday’s card, which involves two of the Guru’s locals, hosts Drexel, which won its season opener at home Sunday against Cornell of the Ivy League.

Meanwhile, back here, as can be expected, Saint Joseph’s coach Cindy Griffin was pleased over her team’s bounce back from Friday and in the Temple game while Owls coach Tonya Cardoza was dismayed at one that got away, though one could see a potentially bright future ahead for the Broad Street contingent.

“What a great game, what a great Big 5 city game in November, couldn’t get better than this – an overtime game – of course, winning is always fun,” Griffin said in the postgame press conference.

“We were kind of fighting from behind in the first half and then we came back at the end of the first half and we showed what we were made of and we were able to hold on throughout the second half,” Griffin said.

“There were a lot of ebbs and flows and (the Hawks) fought and fought and they believed.”

Before Temple jumped to The American last season, this game would be much later in the season and also counting in the Atlantic 10 standings with a second game also played since the teams were scheduling partners in the old A-10 setup.

Now that pairing is between Saint Joseph’s and La Salle.

Sarah Fairbanks had a big night for Saint Joseph’s with a career-high 23 points and 13 rebounds while Ciara Andrews and Kathleen Fitzpatrick each scored 14 points and Ashley Robinson scored 11.

Senior leader Natasha Cloud had to cope with foul trouble and scored just nine points but made some critical baskets with the game on the line.

“I think for us, we rely on our grit and our resiliency. Today was a good team win because we came together at the end because we wanted it more,” Cloud said.

Temple was in solid control at 28-17 with 6 minutes, three seconds left in the half before the Hawks stirred with a 15-0 run before Safiya Martin plugged the Owls’ drought with a layup with 41 seconds left in the half.

Andrews then hit a layup for Saint Joseph’s while freshman guard Alliya Butts nailed a trey with seven seconds left and the Hawks went to the break with a 34-33 lead.

In the second half, Saint Joseph’s was up by eight 59-51 with 5:29 left in regulation and then Temple surged with a 5-0 spurt and went on to take the lead 63-62 with with 50 seconds left, though Martin missed her other foul shot opportunity.

Andrews hit a layup but Butts went 1-2 from the line with 22 seconds left and the Hawks were unable to win at the finish before regulation expired.

Freshman Tanaya Atkinson tied it for Temple with a layup 68-68 in overtime with 2:59 left but then Fairbanks made a three-point play for the Hawks.

Feyonda Fitzgerald, the reigning Big 5 women’s player of the week, got Temple with a point on two free throws and then the teams exchanged points on two Cloud foul shots and a jump shot by Butts to make it 73-72 with 1:53 left.

Cloud scored for a three-point lead with 28 seconds left and Temple countered on Fitzgerald’s shot with 20 seconds left.

Fitzpatrick hit two foul shots, Butts then missed a 3-point attempt, and Jordan Strode hit one of two foul shooting opportunities for the Hawks with six seconds left for the game’s final points.

“We felt like this is one we let slip away,” Cardoza said. “You don’t come into someone’s home court and have them on the ropes and let them get back in the game.

“In the first half, we’re up by double figures and we have their best player (Cloud) on the bench with fouls and I felt we just got careless and reckless and didn’t take advantage of our opportunities.

“And then of the defensive end they just exploited that we’re a small team. They’re smart and know how to pick someone to focus on. More importantly, what we take from this game is that when we show up for practice and that we’re disciplined and pay attention on the defensive end.”

Butts had a career-high 22 points in her second career game for the Owls, while Fitzgerald scored 18 points, Atkinson scored 17 points and Martin had 10 points and 14 rebounds.

Temple travels to Kansas this weekend to play three straight games Friday-Saturday-Sunday in the Naismith Hall of Fame tourney against Georgetown, the host Jayhawks, and then Alabama.

“We’re going to just worry about our next game and not look ahead,” Cardoza said.

The Owls finish the Hall of Fame event the following weekend playing Harvard at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, the home of The American tournament. They are back on Broad Street, February 3 against Delaware.

Saint Joseph’s travels to Liberty Saturday and then visits Drexel on Tuesday and then travels to Seton Hall’s tourney meeting Saint Francis of New York on Saturday and then either St. Peter’s coached by Griffin’s former Loyola, Md., boss, Pat Coyle, or the host Pirates.

The Hawks return to Hagan against Lehigh Dec. 4.

Rutgers Tops Northeastern The Scarlet Knights produced an array of double digits in the 74-60 win over the Huskies (1-1) in a game that saw Rutgers bolt from a 10-point halftime lead into double that over the final 20 minutes.

Sophomore Tyler Scaife had 15 points, while double double performances consisted of Betnijah Laney with 14 points and 13 rebounds and Briyona Canty with 12 points and 10 assists for the home team.

Additionally, Kahleah Copper and Rachel Hollivay each scored 10 points.

Tiffany Montagne led the Northeastern attack with 22 points.

Rutgers now wades into competitive waters on the road visiting LSU on Saturday in Baton Rouge, La.

Niagara Team Rescued

Here is the front part of Doug Feinberg’s AP Story After Staying on the Case for us throughout the night.

Stranded on the highway for more than a day, the Niagara women's basketball team is finally making its journey home.

The team was stuck on its bus for nearly 30 hours because of a huge storm that dumped 4 feet of snow around Buffalo and was blamed for at least six deaths.

Niagara was coming back late Monday night from a loss at Pittsburgh when the squad was marooned on the New York State Thruway. Early on Wednesday morning, players at last tweeted photos of a plow starting to clear the road.

A few hours later, state troopers picked them up and brought them to a nearby police station where another bus was waiting to take them back to campus, Niagara guard Tiffany Corselli said.

"It started to get bad fast at about 2 a.m. (Tuesday morning) and we came to a dead stop and haven't moved since," Niagara coach Kendra Faustin told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday night. "It was a rough weekend for us on the court and it just won't end."

The coach, who took over at Niagara in 2007, said everyone was OK and the team was in good spirits. Players had been running low on food, but local officials dropped off snacks and drinks. There were 25 players and coaches aboard the bus as well as Faustin's 1-year-old son.

"We have snacks, some granola bars and pretzels," Faustin said. "We found six bottles of water and have been rationing it. We thought we'd be here for a couple hours and a couple of hours turned into 12 hours. It's now 24 hours."

Before the supplies arrived, the team actually turned some of the snow into water. Faustin described snow drifts higher than 6 feet that covered cars. Other motorists came aboard the bus seeking shelter and bonded with the team.

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad


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