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.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Mike Siroky's SEC Report: State Stays on a Roll As Conference Play Looms Ahead

By Mike Siroky

The Southeastern Conference of women's college basketball proved itself in the runup to the start of conference play.

The SEC is 138-34 (.802) against America this season, the best effort since the turn of the century.

From here on out, the games mean so much more as the best teams carve each other up in the qualifications for the NCAAs.

The Sweet 16 will all but be set in the regular season as those teams judged in the top 16 in America will be granted the first two NCAA games at home — no one is likely to turn that down — and all but assure themselves of advancement to Regionals.

While No. 17 Mississippi State is still unbeaten through 14 games and the darlings of the pre-conference season, they do get the marquee start: No, 19 Georgia (12-1) visits on Friday, in a Dawg vs. Dogs showdown.

At 14-0 it is easy to say State will win 20 and that's a usual NCAA entry ticket.

Conference coaches picked South Carolina as the team to beat, based mainly on the idea they were the only team last season to not lose at home.

Everyone else had at least one loss at home and that decided the conference.

Then Tennessee won the post-season conference tournament and the official SEC title.

Traditionalist not worried about monetary impact stay with the regular season champs.

Among other ranked teams in the Associated Press poll, No. 1 in America South Carolina (12-0) has Auburn (8-3) at home; No. 5 Texas A&M (11-1) prior to its game against Washington welcomes in Vanderbilt (7-4); Missouri (10-2) is at the fourth Top 10 team in the league, No. 8 Tennessee (also 10-2)., No. 11 Kentucky (11-2) is at Alabama (11-4) whose campus is a little busy with football this week.

All of those at least 10-win teams seem certainly headed to the Sweet 16.

That's half the field.

There have outstanding individuals in the conference.

Eight SEC student-athletes are on the Naismith Trophy Top 50 Watch List: Freshman A’ja Wilson with SC teammates Alaina Coates, Tiffany Mitchell and Aleighsa Welch; Bashaara Graves and Isabelle Harrison, UT; Jennifer O’Neill, UK; and superior guard Courtney Walker, A&M.

Five SEC student-athletes are on the Wooden Award Top 30 watch list and as Wade Watch candidates: Graves, Harrison, Mitchell, Walker and Welch, SC.

Kentucky coach Matt Mitchell has gotten injuries early from some of his talented Wildcats.

The latest is star scorer Jennifer O’ Neill. she banged knees with another player in a practice and is out.

"Not exactly sure who or what she hit," said Mitchell. "I think it’s a strained patella tendon, which at this point has no structural damage, just too painful to play.

"Now, it’s basically a pain tolerance issue. Hopefully it’s not more than a couple of days, could be a couple of weeks, it’s just everybody’s body reacts differently and we’re really grateful it’s not anything structural.

"Any time missed for us right now is a major injury because we’re just a little understaffed in the backcourt. We’ll watch her day-to-day and treat the heck out of it, but it’s not a definite 2-4 week thing it’s just until she gets to feeling she can play on it again. That’s her injury.”

They are already without Bria Goss.

"She’s in a cast for four weeks before they’ll look at it," said Mitchell.

"She feels good. She practices every day, we don’t throw the ball to her but she cuts, plays and runs sprints. We’re two weeks out from just seeing where she is and hopefully it’s healed in two weeks or wherever we are on that.

"But, she’s doing great, feeling good, and has a positive attitude.

"Janee Thompson emerged today as a really great on-ball defender with seven steals, no fouls, and that’s what I was hoping for Bria. I hope a couple people may emerge and really get better right now defensively because they have to.

"Janee played an unbelievable game and I’m so proud of her. Thirty-five minutes of effort. It wasn’t like she just held a space out there for 35 minutes, she was everywhere - five assists, seven rebounds, seven steals, eight points and had a great attitude, so, good day for Janee Thompson. I’m proud of her, and those are the kind of games we need while Bria’s out to help us be stronger when Bria comes back.”

Kentucky's Alexis Jennings earned her second conference rookie of the week honors. She scored 27 as Kentucky won at home against Tennessee State, 87-75.

She hit 8-of-12 free throws and had eight rebounds in 29 minutes off the bench. Starters Linnae harper scored 17 and Mikayal Epps 15. The 28-of-43 free throws (State was granted 13-of-16) was the difference .

"It certainly was not the best game that we’ve played all year, but with the real difficult circumstance that we were put in in a real short period of time, I was really proud of our players of getting into some uncomfortable situations and some different roles than they’ve been in all season long and find a way to win,” summed up Mitchell.

Tennessee wrapped up its pre-conference, 74-63 over No. 10 Oregon State, as conference player of the week Izzy Harrison scored 20 with 12 rebounds. Alexa Middleton added 12 points off the bench as four Lady Vols finished in double figures.

The victory was the second in a row over one of the Pac-12's top teams — Tennessee defeated then seventh-ranked Stanford 59-40 the previous weekend — which means UT coach Holly Warlick has defeated top 10 programs in back-to-back games for the first time in her career.

Before this, they hadn't even defeated two top 10 teams in the same season during her tenure.

The last time Tennessee won back-to-back games against top 10 teams was the 2008 Final Four when it topped No. 6 LSU and No. 4 Stanford en route to the national title.

It was Harrison's sixth double-double already this season. Warlick has been consistent fort two seasons saying as Izzy goes, so goes her team.

It was only a one-point halftime edge, which means UT won the second half by 10. Six straight points at the 54-50 mark were all spurred by Middleton. Two baskets were layups, one on a coast-to-coast steal and the other as a outback.

At home as was Kentucky, UT had a dominating edge in free throws, 22-of-34.

The Beavers stayed in it by hitting 6-of-9 3s in the first half.

Tennessee will concentrate on the league now, but has one game left of a screwy January series with Notre Dame. That is exhausted and not likely renewed at South Bend on Jan. 19 in a meaningless game.

The series was set up by former Tennessee coach Pat Head Summitt and the former women's athletic director. No one now at UT is anxious to do this again.

In fact, UConn is back on the Lady Vols' radar.

Georgia lost its first, on the road at unheralded Seton Hall, The Hall won both halves, 33-25 and 37-26.

"It's a very important win for us," second-year coach Tony Bozzella said.

"Never underestimate that for us. ... Next to any playoff game, it's the most important game I've coached in and I'm really proud of them."

The Pirates (12-1) won their 11th straight game after Tabatha Richardson-Smith scored 15 of her 25 points in a key second-half run. It was Seton Hall's first win over a ranked team since 2007.

"They are a great program, they've made it to the NCAA tournament 20 years in a row," Bozzella said of Georgia. "For us to beat a team that was undefeated, it was a big win."

Seton Hall last won this many straight games in 1980-81 when the Pirates had a 12-game run. they have won 14 straight at home. They last beat a ranked team in 2007.

"I think they should have been ranked," Georgia coach Andy Landers said. "They got quality wins, no bad losses, beat who they are supposed to beat."

He said his leading scorer, Shacobia Barbee *(13.9) had a had a tough week coming in and he knew this was going to be a rough one. She scored one basket.

"I could tell in practice the last two days," he said. "I'm not surprised she didn't play well."

Mike Siroky has been covering women's college basketball since an undergraduate at Indiana in 1975. He was covering the SEC when the NCAA took over the women's game from the AIAW. He and Mel Greenberg have been friends since Mel started the Associated Press poll and there were few writers interested enough in the women's game to help. Yes, they are old.

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Monday, December 29, 2014

Guru's College Report: Saint Joseph's Suffers First-Ever Loss in Hawk Classic Opener

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

There is a first time for everything and unfortunately for Saint Joseph’s that piece of history became dubious for the Hawks Sunday afternoon when Quinnipiac held on for a 69-67 victory that sent coach Cindy Griffin to defeat in their very own tournament for the first time ever in the opening round of an event held 21 previous times in Hagan Arena.

Florida Gulf Coast topped Cal State-Northridge 73-64 pulling away down the stretch in the nightcap.

The tourney concludes Monday with the Hawks (3-8) playing CSUN (9-3) of the Big West Conference for third place at 2 p.m. while Quinnipiac (10-2) and Florida Gulf Coast (11-2) will play afterwards for the title.

The outcome in the Saint Joseph’s game was yet in another series of national results this season of throwback situations involving teams on both sides of the final score achieving firsts or things that haven’t occurred in a very long time.

The Hawks were not alone in Sunday’s action, the first day of mass activity following the Christmas break that phased into mostly idleness beginning Monday and lasting through Friday.

For example just to the north Seton Hall destroyed No. 14 Georgia 70-51 at home in Walsh Gym in South Orange, N.J., making it the first time the Pirates (12-1) defeated a ranked team for the first time in almost eight years.

Second-year coach Tony Bozzella now has Seton Hall on an 11-game win streak, the longest run in 34 years for a time that had been a doormat in the old Big East before his arrival.

Tabatha Richardson-Smith scored 15 of her 25 points for the Pirates in a second-half surge that dropped Georgia (12-1) from the Division I group of seven remaining unbeaten squads that existed heading into Sunday’s competition.

Seton Hall’s longest win streak prior to the existing one was 12 games in 1980-81 the year before the NCAA began sponsoring women’s athletics championships.

“Next to any playoff game, it’s the most important game I’ve coached in and I’m really proud of them,” Bozzella, who formerly coached Iona, said of his players.

Meanwhile, on a day the hunt for conference titles got under way in several leagues Northwestern began Big Ten play with a 61-57 upset of No. 20 Michigan State in East Lansing as the Wildcats improved to 11-1 overall, the best start in coach Joe McKeown’s career since arriving from a long stint at George Washington prior to the 2008-09 season.

His Wildcats’ opening 10-game streak was their longest since 1995.
It’s the second win over a ranked team both on the road after toppling nearby DePaul and it is Northwestern’s first win over the Spartans since Jan. 2, 2003. It’s also the Wildcats’ first win in East Lansing since a high-scoring 109-103 victory on March 5, 1993.

Nia Coiffey had 15 points for Northwestern while Christen Inman scored 13 points against Michigan State (8-4).

The Locals

Back here at the Hawk tournament while it was a downer for Saint Joseph’s, it was another in continuing success for Quinnipiac beating Saint Joseph’s for the first time in three tries and beating the Hawks in their own tournament.

The two-day event was another homecoming for 20-year Bobcats coach Tricia (nee Zacca) Fabbri, a former Fairfield star, from across the Delaware River in South Jersey and assistant Mountain MacGillivray, a 1996 Temple grad in his sixth season.

Quinnipiac is also off to a 2-0 start in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

“Saint Joes has had our number for the last two years, “ Fabbri said. “We wanted to take care of unfinished business and we were able to do it today on their home floor. It’s tough to beat people on their home floor.

“It’s been a great team. We knew coming down here every game was going to be a more difficult game, better competition. I’ve been saying all season that this schedule’s intentional because we got a great group of seniors, all they do is win, get us into the NCAA tournament.

“Now we’re off to a 10-2 start with a chance to play for a championship. We’ve got a chip on our shoulder. I’ve thinking people have been looking at us early because we have a great body of work, who we’re playing and where we’re playing them.”

Samantha Guastella scored 14 points for the winners, Nikoline Ostergaard scored 11, and Gillian Abshire scored 10 points.

When noted that she had not beaten a Hawks edition normally better than the present one at this time of year, Fabbri said, “We’re hoping they turn it around when they go through the Atlantic 10.”

The game had five ties and four lead changes but the Hawks did not go down without a desperate rally from an eight-point deficit with 5 minutes, 51 seconds left in the regulation.

In that final span the Bobcats got back up ahead eight points with 2:24 left in regulation but the Hawks still had a chance after Chelsea Woods’ basket off an assist from senior star Natasha Cloud moved them within a field goal at 67-65 with 45 seconds left and again by the same small differential on Cloud’s basket with 22 seconds left.

But those were to be the final points for either team.

Gastella twice missed foul shots that could have finished Saint Joseph’s but the Hawks destroyed themselves when Cloud got a rebound and then lost the ball under the Hawks’ basket with three seconds left.

During the closing stretch Cloud scored 13 of the Hawks’ final 15 points and assisted on the other.

She finished with 17 points and 13 assists while Kathleen Fitzpatrick scored 13 points, Sarah Fairbanks had 10 points and 11 rebounds, and Woods also scored 10 points and Ciara Andrews scored 12.

They played most of the game with the only other player to see action, freshman Adashia Franklyn, the daughter of former Temple great Marilyn Stephens, who had five points in 17 minutes.

Coach Cindy Griffin expressed her disappointment matter of factly over her own team’s performance, not that she was taking anything away from Quinnipiac, which connected on 8 of 20 three-point attempts while the Hawks were 1-for-12.

Ashley Robinson, by the way,was sidelined with an ankle injury suffered in practice last weekend on the road before the Hawks met Top 5 Notre Dame, the national runnerup, in South Bend.

“Quinnipiac came into the game shooting the ball very well, something that we knew,” Griffin said. “Just really disappointed the way our kids did not buy into the scouting report.

“Really didn’t listen. Really disappointing. This was our 11th game and I think we’re good enough to win this game, I think we have to continue to work on those little things and have a quick turnaround for tomorrow.”

Griffin discounted the Hawks at disadvantage to the depth the Bobcats were able to use.

“That wasn’t the reason we weren’t listening out of timeouts. That wasn’t the reason we weren’t running the plays that we talked about. That has nothing to do with it.

“We turned the ball over – 11 in the second half and most from our backcourt. When you’re fighting and trying to get back from being down, you have to get a shot off every possession and a good shot,” Griffin said.

“Let’s talk about that first and foremost. Let’s talk about the shots we want to get.”

She did laud Cloud’s play coming down the stretch.

“It’s one of the things she’s very good at. She can break somebody down, she can make plays for other people. She had a double double today with points and assists. We have the ball in her hands a lot because she’s that good.

“She wanted to win. But we can’t take plays off and recover. We don’t have enough punch. When we’re not doing the things we can do, we can be better than this but we’re not right now.

“It’s not good,” Griffin said of losing the opening round for the first time ever.

“We have good teams coming in here, not only with winning records but decisively winning records. It’s a good mid-major tournament and it’s going to be a battle here next game.”

And it was until Florida Gulf Coast prevailed.

Whitney Knight had 27 points for the Eagles in the win while Stephanie Haas scored 16 points, and Jenna Cobb scored 10.

The Titans’ Ashley Guay scored 22 points, while Camille Mahlknecht scored 16, and Janae Sharpe scored 11.

Northridge originally was aiming to come East and play in Fordham’s tournament, which opens Monday with the host Rams meeting Savannah State before Princeton with its 13-0 record, best start ever for the Ivy women and behind only the 28-0 run by the 1971 Penn men’s team, plays Hartford.

Temple Edges Memphis in American Opener

The Owls captured a gritty tight American Conference opener at Memphis, edging the Tigers 58-57 in a Sunday night game nationally televised that was the last of NCAA Division I teams scheduled to play that day.

“It’s a great win for us,” Temple coach Tonya Cardoza said afterwards. “We did all the right things we weren’t doing in losing those games. We made key shots and foul shots down the stretch.”

Trailing most of the way, the Owls took control as the end of regulation loomed ahead.

Ariel Hearn of Memphis and Temple’s Feyonda Fitzgerald, both all-conference picks last season, were held scoreless in the first half by each other’s teams but in the second half Fitzgerald had 14 points and Hearn scored 13.

Brianna Wright of Memphis, which fell to 6-6 overall, had 18 points and 14 rebounds.

Tyonna Williams had 16 points for the Owls (5-8) and made two foul shots to put Temple ahead though an ensuing three-pointer by Erica Covile put Temple into safer territory.

Covile finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds.

“Today felt different, we’ve had so many close games,” Williams said, “where we couldn’t pull it out down the stretch,, and just to turn it around, come back and fight for a win like that felt amazing.”

Temple continues in the first week of conference play, hosting SMU Tuesday at McGonigle Hall at 7 p.m. and then heading to Cincinnati Saturday when Bearcats coach Jamelle Elliott and Cardoza will have the first of their two annual reunions from their longtime positions as aides to UConn coach Geno Auriemma.

Rutgers’ Takes Big Ten Opener While Penn State Falls

No. 17 Rutgers took its first dip into the Big Ten pool, opening on the road and finding the waters at Indiana just fine in swimming to a 66-51 victory in Bloomington.

Penn State, meanwhile, the defending regular season conference champion, quickly found conference life as rough as out of league play this season, losing 77-52 at No. 24 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.

While Rutgers is new to Big Ten competition, playing last season in The American one time around following the breakup of the old Big East, the debut was also the return of Scarlet Knights Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer to a league she last coached in 1995 in charge of the Iowa powerhouse she built.

Betnijah Laney returned for Rutgers (10-2 overall) after missing action with a thumb injury suffered in the recent home loss to Tennessee and scored a game-high 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds while Tyler Scaife scored 16 points and Kahleah Copper scored 13 against the Hoosiers (10-2).

Laney just missed the short trip to Iona. Rutgers stays on the road to play Thursday, New Year’s Day at Ohio State.

Indiana, which was averaging 84.6 points, second in the league behind other newcomer Maryland, trailing by 0.1 point, was held to a season-low by the rigid Scarlet Knights defense.

Laney is now 30th on Rutgers all-time scoring list, passing Kristen Foley, who is now the Temple senior women’s administrator, and Michelle Campbell, who has played for the Chicago Sky in the WNBA.

Rachel Hollivay grabbed 12 rebounds.

Indiana was forced into 21 turnovers.

Penn State (3-9 overall), continued its dismal ways since the graduation of Narberth’s Maggie Lucas, who last summer was one of the top WNBA rookies, playing for the Indiana Fever.

The Lady Lions were forced into 24 turnovers and held to 31.6 shooting from the field, though sophomore Lindsay Spann scored 22 points.

Candice Agee collected nine points and Alex Harris tied a career high with 11 rebounds against Iowa (10-2 overall).

Penn State will also stay on the road to play a Big 10 game on New Year’s Day at Michigan.

Drexel Dismantles Miami (Ohio) for Dillon’s 200th Win

The Dragons, fresh off their recent upset of Penn a week ago, opened in Virginia’s tournament in Charlottesville, with a 71-54 win over Miami of Ohio.

Unlike regular formatted tournament play, opponents at the Cavaliers’ tournament are predetermined both says so Drexel (6-4) on Monday will meet Virginia despite its loss to Davidson, a newcomer in the Atlantic 10.

Rachel had a career-high with 25 points to help coach Denise Dillon secure her 200th victory, fueled by six three-pointers.

Carrie Alexander added 12 points and the Dragons also were able to get to the line in droves, attempting 24 free throws and netting a season-best 21.

This is Dillon’s 12th season and while she has been Drexel’s all-time wins leader she is now the fourth coach in the Colonial Athletic Association to reach 200 wins.

La Salle Rallies Over Fairfield

The Explorers returned from the holiday break and after trailing the Stags by five points at the half at home at the Tom Gola Arena they used a 58.1 field goal percentage in the second stanza to gain a 73-59 non-conference win.

Michaya Owens had 17 points for La Salle (8-4), getting 15 in the second half, while Khristin Lee had all 10 of her points the last 20 points.

Alicia Cropper put up a double double with 14 points and 10 rebounds against the visitors (2-9), while Indigo Dickens had 10 points for the home team.

La Salle’s current 8-4 non-conference mark is the best in the five-year Jeff Williams coaching record over the Explorers.

Casey Smith had 24 points for Fairfield.

La Salle next hosts UMBC on Tuesday at 2 p.m. in more non-conference action.

Nationally Noted

Lafayette wrapped up non-conference play at 7-4 as Emily Homan scored 21 points in a 49-34 win over Saint Peter’s (0-10) in Jersey City, N.J.

It’s one of the Leopards’ better non-conference performances in recent seasons. There was a Rutgers DNA side aspect with Hall of Famer Theresa Grentz on the bench as an assistant at to Dianne Nolan.

Grentz, a former longtime Rutgers coach was opposite one of her former star Scarlet Knights players in Pat Coyle, the head coach of Saint Peter’s.

Lafayette opens Patriot League play on New Year’s Eve hosting defending champion and preseason favorite Army at 2 p.m. in the Kirby Arena in Easton.

George Washington continued its fine play making a short non-conference trip from the nation’s capital to Baltimore to play Loyola (Md.) and came away with a 72-49 victory against the Greyhounds (2-9) for the eighth straight win by the Colonials (10-2).

The start is third best for GW, matching the 2006-07 lift off. Caira Washington, no relation to George, had 19 points while Jonquel Jones had 12 points and 12 rebounds.

GW will finish the pre-Atlantic 10 segment returning to the Baltimore area Wednesday afternoon to visit Towson.

Duquesne grabbed a road win at Lehigh in Bethlehem, Pa., as April Robinson had a career-high 28 points for the Dukes (8-5) against the Mountain Hawks (8-2), who got 19 points from Kerry Kinek.

In a matchup of Atlantic 10 preseason favorite Dayton and No. 24 Green Bay, the host Flyers pulled an upset, winning 72-66 in a comeback, though some might not call this an upset by the home team.

Dayton (8-3) currently has the longest home win streak at 31 straight and won its seventh straight overall after a rocky start to the season.

Green Bay fell to 9-3 and is likely to drop out of the AP poll, considering the number of teams in the lower portions that also lost in upsets.

Ally Malott had 14 points and 14 rebounds for the Flyers while Andrea Hoover scored 15 points for the home team.

Kaili Luken had 17 points for Green Bay.

Looking Ahead

The Guru will be moving on island hopping on Monday to the UConn-Duke 9 p.m. game in Hartford by stopping first at Fordham’s tourney, which has already been mentioned.

In other Monday games not previously mentioned involving the Guru’s 10-team PhilahoopsW group, Delaware will host Rider in non-conference action while UMBC visits Penn, both games at 7 p.m.

North Carolina State is at Villanova Tuesday night and King’s College visits Penn at The Palestra Wednesday afternoon at 1 p.m.

DePaul is at Villanova Friday night in the only game of the Guru’s group being played anywhere.

On Saturday Temple visits Cincinnati in American play while VCU visits Saint Joseph’s 7 p.m. to open Atlantic 10 competition.

And that’s the report for now.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Guru's Year in Review: Off-Court Events Dominated the News More Than the Competition

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

For all the glory on the court in 2014, glory by the way that had a definitive University of Connecticut accent in the NCAA championship, the WNBA finals, and the FIBA World Championship, the major stories in women’s basketball in the United States all involved sideline events though the court competitiveness is still part of the narrative.

While the normal thing to do when compiling a year in review, in this instance as we approach the last of 365 days that all carry the stamp of 2014, is to rank the big stories.

This particular year, however, with all that happened where the hardwood was more co-star than main attraction, it would be better to rank categories and then recall all that happened within those boundaries, rather than singular items, though some will be one and the same.

And so with that in mind, let’s go to the top category.

1. Mortality This is the one area that, despite what the Guru just wrote in the preceding paragraphs, the one item that would be singularly listed in the other format as the top story of the year, also resides in this group and it is more about the fight to extend mortality, achieve a goal, and all in one breath also teach about courage, desire, and love of the game.

Somewhere in mid-October, local reporting out of Cincinnati that made its way through social media nationally brought attention to the story of 19-year-old Lauren Hill, a newly-enrolled freshman at Division III Mount. St. Joseph’s University.

A year earlier, Hill, then a senior at nearby Lawrenceburg High in neighboring northern Kentucky, had learned not long after declaring the Lions as the college program of her choice, that she had a rare inoperable pediatric brain tumor and was given at best two years to live.

Hill continued her high school season while taking treatments but last September after arriving at Mount. St. Joseph’s, she learned the tumor was growing faster and doctors said, at best, she would probably pass away sometime in December.

At this hour of writing this, very early Sunday, Dec. 28, defying the medical forecasts she is still with us, though she is now at home and taking hospice care.

Her family has been posting information on facebook and they have made it clear that although hospice is usually an occurrence to help a patient in their dwindling hours, in this instance the addition of hospice right now is like adding a team player to make things easier and help give doctors information.

Upon hearing the news in September, Hill had two goals, one was to make it to her first collegiate game and score a basket and the second was to fundraise $1 million by the end of this month toward research as she battled to raise awareness of this pediatric cancer and perhaps in the process sometime in the future others who get stricken might be able to get cured.

The fund is called the Lauren Hill Tribute Fund at The Cure Starts Now and so far according to one report $730,000 has been raised to date..

The season opener was originally supposed to be played Nov. 15 at Hiram College, but the school accepted coach Dan Benjamin’s request to move the game to Mount St. Joseph’s.

Then he made one other request and the NCAA in an unprecedented move allowed the opener to be moved up two weeks to Nov. 2.

Meanwhile, schools across the country in all three NCAA Divisions began sending their No. 22 (Lauren’s number) jerseys to be autographed by her for fundraising activity at the game.

Chicago Sky and former Delaware star Elena Delle Donne galvanized WNBA players into activities, including video tributes offering to dedicate their seasons to her cause.

Xavier University stepped in and offered their 10,000 Cintras Center for the game as opposed to the Lions’ facility of several hundred seats and when tickets were put on sale they were gone within an hour.

FOX Sports, originally, planned to televise the game on their Ohio outlet but by game day the event was carried on every platform not involved with NFL coverage and those markets later carried the game on delayed tape.

It was also streamed on the internet.

Players from other major league sports became involved such as the local NFL Cincinnati Bengals and Major League Baseball Cincinnati Reds.

In a first, the United States Basketball Writers Association moved up its Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award given at the Men’s and Women’s Final Fours – the name of the Tennessee coach Emeritus is on the women’s award – and presented it at halftime.

Summitt, who stepped down at the end of the 2012 seasons because of her own fight against Early Onset Dementia, Alzheimer Type, made a special visit to the game to help hand out the award.

The Hall of Famer’s continuing battle against the disease has been an ongoing part of the yearly narrative.

Another Summitt, also made news in 2014, which will be addressed in another category down below.

Meanwhile, for those in the arena for Hill’s game from all walks of life, it was an experience of a lifetime filled with emotion, especially since Hill scored a layup in the opening minute of play.

Other tributes have continued to pour in and recently the (Jimmy) V Foundation presented a check for $100,000 to the fundraising efforts.

She also scored at the end of the game, got in for a few minutes at a tournament in Cleveland and scored, and then got in a game and scored again at her true home opener.

Following the last game, she announced her retirement and became an assistant coach with the Lions.

Hill’s story continues and likely to also be part of the 2015 year in review narrative 12 months from now.

Two Coaching Staff Members of Richmond (Va.) Perish in a Balloon Accident

The women’s basketball community gasped on May 9 when Richmond associate head coach Ginny Doyle and operations director Natalie Lewis were killed with the pilot near Richmond when the balloon they were riding struck a power line and exploded while coming in for a landing at the Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival.

Lewis, a star swimmer, was not as known nationally since she had not been on Michael Shafer’s staff that long, but Doyle, who grew up in Philadelphia, was known everywhere from coaches who were with her on the recruiting circuit and from her Richmond days as a player in which she set an NCAA record for consecutive foul shots at 66 that stood a long time.

Other Notables

Meanwhile, the first week of the new year brought the news of the death of longtime Penn State women’s basketball sports information staffer Mary Jo Haverbeck after a short illness after she learned in late November she had an inoperable brain tumor.

Haverbeck, who was retired but wrote for a local Penn State publication, was a pioneer for women in the profession and a mentor to many who came along years after she was one of the very few of her gender in the business.

In April the USBWA announced a new Mary Jo Haverbeck Award to someone in the profession who has been of great assistance to members of the media, similar to the Katha Quinn Award given at the men’s final four.

The first recipient, to be determined, will be presented with the Mary Jo Haverbeck Award at the Women’s Final Four in April in Tampa, Fla.

On February 10, longtime Women’s Basketball Coaches Executive Betty F. Jaynes, the founding officer of the organization and former James Madison coach, died after a long illness.

Jaynes was also a mentor many and her passion for the game touched many who got into the coaching profession after their playing days had ended.

2. Dunking for a Cause Yes, that’s right, fun was actually part of the 2014 narrative but it wasn’t the dunking done slamming a ball through a rim.

Starting as a small initiative that was originally figured to be a regional event housed in the Pac-12, Arizona coach Niya Butts, who played at Tennessee, and assistant Wildcats coach Calamity McEntire conceived of #Chillin4Charity for the benefit of the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.

The idea was that after getting a bucket of ice water dumped on her head, Butts then issued a challenge to other conference colleagues to do likewise, and if so, she would donate $50, but if they didn’t, they would have to donate $250.

However, soon those coaches began issuing challenges well beyond the conference to colleagues and others across the nation and within a few days video shots were flooding the internet with coaches, administrators, players, referees, and media notables all involved.

Even the entire NCAA women’s basketball committee, who were at their summer meeting, got soaked.

And, yes, yours truly got chilled from a challenge from the Temple coaches in Philadelphia.

Yow foundation executive Sue Donohoe’s head was spinning trying to keep track of everything that from one bucket of water became a tidal wave of participation.

3. Student Issues and NCAA Upheaval

Both genders were involved through aspects of the lawsuits against the NCAA but two particular transfer situations on the women’s side became major issues in the media, dominating a normal otherwise quiet offseason, ice bucket challenge aside.

Leticia Romero, a Spaniard who was one of the nation’s top freshmen at Kansas State, sought to change schools after the Wildcats’ coach was let go.

However, to survive financially and receive an athletic scholarship during her year in which she would be redshirted under NCAA eligibility rules, Romero needed a release from Kansas State.

Officials, however, refused making one false claim after another as to Romero’s intentions but as they did such persons as ESPN’s Jay Bilas, a noted critic of the NCAA rules, and Michelle Voepel were out in public daily making the case for Romero.

Eventually, Kansas State reversed itself and Romero moved to Florida State, where in the last few days a “nothing-to-lose” request made by Florida State to the NCAA for a waiver to play immediately was granted and she will debut Monday night against Jacksonville.

Meanwhile, as the Romero case was dying down another one sprung up at Alabama where Daisha Simmons, who previously was a Rutgers player, was transferring to Seton Hall because the Tide did not have a graduate program she needed and also to be near her family, who had health issues.

Alabama refused to give her a waiver to play immediately, which as a graduate student she would be able to do, but after another media firestorm, Tide officials relented and she has become a key player for the Pirates’ revival under second year coach Tony Bozzella.

It was also old faces in new places as the conference shakeup in the wake of the change driven by football went into effect.

The once powerful Big East was now the surviving seven Catholic schools with a few additions while the parts of the old coalition that did not go elsewhere became The American, led by UConn, with Louisville and Rutgers hanging around for one year before heading to the Atlantic Coast Conference and Big Ten.

Notre Dame began life in the ACC and went unbeaten in the conference all the way to the NCAA title game until it the Irish had to face UConn (see below).

Though to date most of the latest transients have been playing non-conference action, Maryland, formerly an ACC power, and Rutgers are about to splash into the Big Ten pool, while likewise for Louisville in the ACC.

Meanwhile, the coming of allowing the so-called Power Five (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC) to play more or less by their own sub-regulations is expected to impact many mid-major groups as their coaches seek to not run into obstacles such as financial aid on the recruiting trails.

While the NCAA was dealing with internal and external matters, the WBCA made a change when top executive Beth Bass resigned and a search for a replacement resulted in Danielle Donohew, the WBB head of The American getting the job.

Barb Jacobs, who had ben in charge of referees for the Big East and American, left over from her previous unified Big East position, replaced Donohew and she was replaced by Debbie Williamson, who had a similar job over everyone in the NCAA.

Retired referee June Courteau replaced Williamson at the national level.

4. The “Mo’ne Phenomenon Hits Women’s Basketball

It was enough of an attention getter involving female athletes when Mo’ne Davis and the Taney Dragons out of Philadelphia reached the Little League World Series and she threw a shutout in the opener.

But it turns out the eighth-grader (as of this winter) also played basketball and during all the media coverage when asked about her future aspirations she emphatically said she’d like to play for UConn and Geno Auriemma.

Several days later Auriemma, after checking with UConn’s new appliance director who apparently made a mistake granting approval, called the Series to leave a message of good luck.

Davis happened to be in the room and took the call.

Predictably, a few days later it became known that a complaint was filed by a conference with the NCAA, which ruled that Auriemma had made a secondary violation, though athletic director Ward Emanuel disagreed with the finding.

Davis went on to appearing nationwide on TV shows and at major league ball parks and even was cleared to do a commercial for Chevrolet.

Back home when the season just begun at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy in suburban Philadelphia, Davis was moved from the junior varsity to the varsity because coaches said her skill set was more appropriate at that level.

5. One Big Step for the NBA One Larger One for Women’s Coaches

We’re making this a stand-alone event because of the notoriety and attention, but close to the end of the WNBA season in which All-Star Becky Hammon was heading for retirement from the San Antonio Silver Stars, the NBA defending champion and big brother San Antonio Spurs brought cheers from the women’s world in announcing that Hammon would join Greg Popovich’s staff as an assistant coach.

ESPN named Hammon their Impact Woman of the Year topping a list of 25 women in sports.

Since it’s basketball, it is notable that Michele Lee, an attorney, became the first female head of the NBA players association and also is over the WNBA players, whose union is about to undergo a sub-leadership shakeup in their labor unit.

6. Coaching Shuffle Yields a Fabled Name and Controversy

The changes in the offseason were much fewer than in the previous ones but two notable hires raised eyebrows at Arkansas and Louisiana Tech.

The Razorbacks hired Jimmie Dykes, an alumnus and ESPN broadcaster, who had not coached men or women, bringing an outcry from several quarters about not hiring a qualified women.

Of course, it is not known who were the finalists and Dykes at the outset had Arkansas playing well enough to make a brief appearance in the AP poll for the first time in several years.

Louisiana Tech, once the top national rival of Tennessee, went for the legendary coach’s son, hiring Tyler Summitt, who previously had been a women’s assistant at Marquette for his first coaching gig.

At the moment, the young Summitt was holding his own record-wise and his staff does include former Lady Vols assistant Mickie DeMoss, who had been an assistant in the WNBA.

7. UConn DNA Accents the Competition

We’re lumping this all together without regard to a sub-ranking but the UConn influence stood up big as mentioned above in all three major women’s competitions in the NCAA, WNBA and Internationally.

There was no surprise at the outcome but history was made when two unbeaten teams reached the NCAA title game where Connecticut defended its previous crown, romping over Notre Dame to give Geno Auriemma his ninth NCAA title, breaking the one-year tie he held for most championships with Tennessee’s Pat Summitt.

One more and he catches the late and legendary UCLA men’s coach John Wooden, who had 10 rings.

On Saturday, a win over SMU to start conference play made Auriemma the top women’s coach winner by percentage, snapping a tie with former Louisiana Tech coach Leon Barmore.

Of course, since Auriemma is still active he will have to keep winning to avoid slipping behind Barmore.

UConn’s Breanna Stewart, then a sophomore, repeated as the Most Valuable Player and though the Huskies won’t be unbeaten again this time around after Stanford snapped a 47-game win streak last month, they remain the favorites to win the NCAA again.

Stewie was the consensus national player of the year while the freshman consensus was North Carolina’s Diamond DeShields, who then transferred to Tennessee in the offseason to sit out this one and play next fall.

Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw won most of the coach of the year honors.

At the WNBA pro level, former UConn great Diana Taurasi was the key player as the Phoenix Mercury replaced the conference rival Minnesota Lynx as WNBA champions with one of the more dominating runs in the league’s history.

Brittany Griner, who was the top overall draft pick the previous season, was on the squad.

Phoenix beat Chicago in three straight though the Sky getting to the title round was in itself an achievement.

Sky super second year player Elena Delle Donne missed a large chunk of the season when the Lyme Disease that had sidelined her during her Delaware career reappeared.

Before back problems sat her down again, Delle Donne helped the Sky make a dramatic rally to oust the Atlanta Dream in the first round of the East and then oust Indiana in the conference final.

Elsewhere, on the sidelines, the L.A. Sparks surprised by ousting Carol Ross early in the season with GM Penny Toler taking the job coaching for the rest of the summer. A permanent replacement has not been named yet, though in the WNBA these hires are often not announced till January.

Likewise, the good news for the New York Liberty is after three summers across the Hudson Rver at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., they were back home in completely renovated Madison Square Garden.

The bad news is the Liberty did not make the playoffs but still surprisingly Bill Laimbeer was let go and New York has yet to decide to replace him with one person or give the GM job to someone else.

A smother transition occurred in Indiana with Lin Dunn announcing this would be her last with the Fever leading to retirement and assistant Stephanie White would be her successor.

Seattle missed the playoffs for the first time in a long while but did land the top pick off the lottery for next April’s draft.

UConn alum Maya Moore of the Minnesota Lynx was named the MVP of the WNBA regular season and Stanford grad Chiney Ogwumike of the Connecticut Sun was named rookie of the year.

Internationally, with another cluster of former UConn greats, the United States, coached by UConn’s Auriemma and assisted by the Minnesota Lynx’s Cheryl Reeve and South Carolina’s Dawn Staley, both Philadelphians as is Auriemma; and DePaul’s Doug Bruno, beat Spain for the FIBA World Championship.

Thus, the U.S. won’t have to play a qualifying tournament in 2015 in the run-up for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.

8.The Philadelphia Story

A lot of it was woven into the national recap above but still there were local items of note, beginning with the Immaculata Championship Era of 1972-74 as a team being inducted into the both the Naismith Basketball and Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fames with the Mighty Macs also to be featured this June on induction weekend as an honoree to the Trailblazers of the Game exhibit at the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn.

Next Sunday today’s Mighty Macs, a Division III program, will meet Queens College in the first game of the Maggie Dixon Classic in New York at Madison Square Garden to mark the 40th anniversary of the first women’s game in the arena which involved the same two teams.

With Notre Dame and McGraw, a Saint Joseph’s grad, and Auriemma and UConn against each other in the NCAA title game and with the current AP poll 1. South Carolina, 2. UConn., 4. Notre Dame, that’s three Philly-bred coaches.

Delaware had a sellout crowd watch former superstar Elena Delle Donne come home to the Bob Carpenter Center with her WNBA Chicago Sky for a preseason game against the Washington Mystics in Newark.

At the end of the summer, though Delle Donne was unavailable because Chicago was in the finals, nevertheless a large crowd showed up at Delaware again for an intra-squad USA game on the way to the World Championships.

In a dramatic final day on the Ivy schedule, Penn and Princeton were tied for first and the Quakers had to play on the four-time defending league champion’s court in Jadwin Gym where after being trounced by the Tigers in January at The Palestra at the start of the league schedule, Penn won its third Ivy crown and went to the NCAA losing to Texas in the first round after leading at the half.

Princeton lasted two rounds in the WNIT but this season is off to a record 13-0 hot start.

Rutgers didn’t make the NCAA but winning some nailbiters along the way they captured the WNIT succeeding Drexel. The Scarlet Knights in the opener beat Delaware, which finished second in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Saint Joseph’s had one of the top RPIs and schedules in the nation and that was good enough to get an at-large bid to the NCAA where the Hawks beat Georgia at Connecticut before falling to the eventual champion Huskies.

Villanova also got to the WNIT.

Penn State won the regular season Big Ten title and made it to the Sweet 16 before being eliminated. Star Maggie Lucas of Narberth was drafted by Phoenix then traded on draft day to Indiana and was one of the top WNBA rookies of the summer.

That’s the story from here. Time to finish up the last week of 2014. Surely feel free to chime in if you feel something was omitted.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Guru Report: Leticia Romero Totally Free At Last

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

First, season's greetings to everyone.

While the national schedule is undergoing its annual three-day frozen performance, some news did sneak its way into the season narrative, bringing Christmas several hours ahead of schedule to the Florida State women's basketball program and newcomer Leticia Romero of Spain.

Not only that but it came from an organization given credit for being the personification of Scrooge the entire 12 month cycle.

Romero was the talented freshman at Ksnsas State last season who sought to change venues in the wake of the program changing coaches at the conclusion of play but for several months played the role of hostage when the university refused to give her a release.

With national media weighing in the school eventually decided it had taken enough of a beating, it didn't portray itself that way when finally making the move, and allowed Romero to go to new location of her desire.

Romero picked Florida State, a school which was one of the originals who recruited her.

Still, once that was taken care of, Romero receded from national notoriety as she prepared to sit out her one year under NCAA rules and furthermore she got eclipsed when another transfer controversy occurred until Alabama finally relented and allowed Daisha Simmons to go near her home in Northern New Jersey to play for Seton Hall.

But as everyone settled down for a three-days' winter's nap, the NCAA issued a waiver off Florida State's request and granted Romero immediate eligibility, meaning she will be back in uniform on Monday when the Seminoles (12-1), who just missed making this week's coaches poll, play Jacksonville as the non-conference schedule nears conclusion and ACC play is on the horizon.

Florida State, announcing the news, said the native of Las Palmas, Spain would have three years of eligibility.

"I feel blessed," Romero said as part of a short note responding to the Guru Wednesday through the twitter DM system that is akin to email.

She said she was unable to take calls because of bad phone service in Spain, where she is spending the Christmas break.

Credit Florida State for making a good call in taking a shot with the request.

"Yeah, you might say Christmas is a little early for us," Florida State coach Sue Semrau said in a call getting back to the Guru on Wednesday.

"We figured what do we have to lose. It's funny, though, because after our Tulane game, we were talking about some strategical moves for the future involving our point guard play," Semrau related.

"Then suddenly, I guess that all got resolved."

Romero was the top statistical leader for the Wildcats in 10 offensive and defensive categories, according to Florida State's release providing background on Romero.

She was the only Division I freshman to score 400 points, grab 100 or more rebounds, deal 100 or more assists and also grab 50 steals.

Over the summer Romero played on the Spanish national team that was runnerup to the USA Basketball Gold Medalists coached by UConn's Geno Auriemma. She has also played on Spain's age-based champions including the Under 20 squad last summer.

During the brief conversation Wednesday, the Guru noted to Romero she just missed being part of a bus tour in Philadelphia the Guru gave the Florida State delegation as part of their weekend visit to play Temple.

"Well, in the future wherever my teammates are going to be, I am going to be right there with them."

That's it for the moment. Enjoy the rest of part one of the holidays. As promised the Guru will be writing his version of year in review and posting it here in the next several days.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Monday, December 22, 2014

Mike Siroky's SEC Notebook: Miss. State Still Rolling As League Race Nears

By Mike Siroky

It is not easy being undefeated in women's college basketball at this juncture.

Only four undefeated Division teams had as many as 11 wins and three of the four -- the fourth being Ivy League Princeton -- are in the Southeastern Conference.

While the magic NCAA number remains 20 season wins, it is best to get what you can before the slamdowns in the SEC start just days away.

Two of the league's best lost to other ranked teams, one falling out of the unbeaten list.

So, while the SEC is 131-32 against the country, there are cracks in the invincibility armor.

But let's start with the amazing run of No. 19 Mississippi State, in the Top 20 at last. They won four games in one week, part of six in 10 days and moved to 14-0.

That they will reach 20 wins is now without doubt. They are not likely to climb into the Top 16 and so earn two home NCAA games, but they also were not expected to be where they are right now.

It's a very merry Christmas in Starkville.

The Bulldogs started with a season-high in points, 104-41, over in-state rival Mississippi Valley State.

The 62 in the second half are three shy of the program record. The 11th win is one away from a starting program record.

Throughout the week, different players stepped up.

"I think this game really showed our depth," MSU freshman guard Blair Schaefer said. "We have a lot of players who stepped up tonight. We played with a lot of intensity and we showed how many players we have who can make plays."

"It was fun to get to see all of these kids get to play," coach Vic Schaefer said.

"(Our reserves) came with a lot of energy tonight. We had 73 points from the bench. Our starting five was not going to be pushed too far. Once we got into the game and things were going the way they were, we were looking to the next game."

At one stretch, the defense held the Devilettes five minutes without a point.

They caused 37 turnovers.

"We are learning a lot about ourselves," MSU senior guard Savannah Carter said. "We don't really have any other choice but to play all of these games and get better in a hurry."

Next up was a road win at another traditional rival, 66-51 win over Louisiana-Lafayette.

The Bulldogs finished on a 44-17 run in the final 24 minutes to win a program-record 12th straight to start the season.

And that includes a rally from a 14-2 first-half of a 68-19 rally with a 47-33 rebounding advantage

“They came out well-prepared,” Schaefer said. "They attacked us and had us on our heels for the first 16 minutes of the game. We went to a 2-3 zone, which we had not practiced one minute since I came to Mississippi State.

“It was heck of a game. We didn’t play well at times.”

Freshman Morgan William had six of State’s final 10 points to close the first half. she finished with 21. Super classmate Victoria Vivians posted her third double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds.

“It was our third game in four days but that is not an excuse because we play a lot of kids,” Schaefer said. “Part of our problem is that we have not practiced a lot of late, due to finals and so many games. I am proud of my kids because we adjusted. We did a pretty good job on defense in something we haven’t practiced.”

Next was the two-night Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic. The first opponent is Illinois-Chicago, which was dispatched easily, 73-36.

Kendra Grant scored 14 (a season best for her), and Dominique Dillingham had her 10 in the second half when MSU 34-17 double the points on IC, 34-17. Of course in the first half, they held IC to 5-of-20 from the field.

"We forced 30 turnovers tonight,” Schaefer said. “I was really proud of our effort tonight. I thought we played with great energy and great focus. We were committed defensively. I am really proud of our kids. This is the team that I am used to seeing night in, night out. It was a good step for us.

“We are going to need Kendra Grant, I have said that all along,” Schaefer said. “She came out and really gave us some solid minutes. She made some shots.

"I thought (Jerica) James had a great game, floor general-wise. She did a good job as our point guard. It was one of her best games, if not the best game, of her season.”

Vivians scored 20 in the 14th win, 68-42 at Las Vegas.

"These kids have done a lot, played awfully hard, played a lot of games in a short amount of time," Schaefer said. "We have been through two demanding months, so it will be nice for them to get away for five games and refresh.

"I am excited about how hard we are playing defensively," Schaefer said. "I am concerned about how good we are. There are nights when I think we are really good. There are other nights when I am concerned about how good we are.

"We are excited about the future. There is a long way to go with a lot of work to do. We have to get ready in a hurry when we get back for league play.

"Victoria played well tonight," Schaefer said. "She is getting more comfortable. She bailed us out of a couple of shot clock situations. I am excited for her.

"When these freshmen come back, they won't be freshmen anymore."

In a great computer-generated matchup, their first SEC game is at home against Georgia, yes 'Dogs vs. 'Dawgs.

•Top-ranked South Carolina is one of those with 12 wins and they completed an interesting three-game week before Christmas.

They started at home with one of their traditional games (before they became an elite team) by dismissing Hampton, 69-49. Tiffany Mitchell made six 3s and scored 20.

A 19-5 first-half run and a 29-9 rebounding edge at halftime all but decided it, but they used the exclamation mark of a 12-0 run in the second half anyway.

Bianca Cuevas started and finished the burst with a pair of 3-pointers.

Then they tried an unusual back-to-back, at mid-major Central Michigan — but played at Minneapolis because of a sandwich sponsorship — and home the next afternoon for another in-state team, Liberty.

Against the Chippewas, they turned in yet another wipeout, 80-45. At 11-0 they had made the best start in program history. Coach Dawn Staley said she is happy with the understated progress.

"We're moving in the right direction," Staley said. "We're really proud of our players to be one of a few teams still undefeated the year — that's like being the toughest Muppet — was smacked in the nose 14 minutes into the game.
It's a novel way to try and slow a star.

Patched up (she had a bloody nose) Mitchell returned and finished with 18 points, five steals and four rebounds

Alaina Coates added 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting and had 10 rebounds. South Carolina won the second half, 43-21.

"I felt in the second half we took better care of the ball," Staley said. "Once we did that, we were able to open the lead up."

The win on Sunday made the best overall run, 12 games, in program history.

This was back at home, against Liberty and an 84-44 runaway.

Aleighsa Welch scored 15 points and Tiffany Mitchell added 14 for the Gamecocks.

Freshman (12-0), who have 12 days off before beginning Southeastern Conference play. But it was stellar freshman A'ja Wilson, off the bench for 17 points and 10 rebounds who once again impressed.

"I'm very proud because their minds could have been any place besides trying to win a game here, but they focused in at the task at hand," said coach Dawn Staley.

"We're just playing our game, we're just taking it in stride," Wilson said. "I'm very excited for conference play. ... There's so much I have to learn. I want to learn everything there is to learn about this game. I'm getting used to the collegiate level. I think, day-by-day, I'm getting better and getting a feel for it."

So she is added to the mix that returns all five starters and 10 returning letterwinners overall.

"A'ja's just playing hard and inspired, being real aggressive," Staley said. "She should have a double-double every time she steps on the floor. She can score the ball.

"Five rebounds are going to be in her area, she just has to go get the other five that are outside her area. We're constantly working on her and just trying to teach her some of the things she'll need once the novelty wears off."

When the SEC season starts, all of the SC games are winnable, but the first three more than most others. So the first real conference test should be at home for Kentucky on Jan. 11. SC won the conference last season by being the only team to wins all of its conference home games.

•No. 14 Georgia played only Furman this week but became 11-0.

These 'Dawgs were happy to be home. Despite being undefeated, they are ranked beneath two-loss Tennessee, in anticipation of the coming SEC season.

Shacobia Barbee scored a career-high 25 with 12 rebounds and five steals.

Georgis closed on a 7-0 run and that was the difference in the 58-51 final against Furman.

Barbee's 3r from the right wing made it 56-51 with 1:53 to play.

Georgia had 27 offensive rebounds and outrebounded the Paladins, 45-34 overall.

"We missed shots early -- a lot of shots early. I think it affected confidence," said coach Andy Landers. "For the most part other than Shacobia, we missed shots for the rest of the day. It's hard to win basketball games if you don't score and we had a difficult time scoring it inside, outside and we were very poor at the free throw line as well.

"We played it well defensively. We were tough as nails, we got on the floor after balls, we rebounded the ball and we took a couple charges. We made a lot of plays in the last three minutes and we doubled on the post, so defensively we were very, very good."

•When will Tennessee's Holly Warlick keep the attention of her No. 8 Lady Vols.?

It was another disillusioning week, despite two wins at home.

The first, the win, played out in a totally unexpected manner.

It took almost all the team had to outlast unheralded Wichita State, 54-51. It took a double-double by senior Cierra Burdick 10 points (but only two after intermission) and a career-high 17 rebounds, and 14 more points and nine rebounds from classmate Izzy Harrison.Freshman Alexa Middleton provided 10 points off 4-of-4 shooting off the bench.

Two former Lady Vols, coaches Jody Adams and assistant coach Bridgette Gordon, got this game as a nice-to-see-you-again setup and almost left with a lovely parting gift.

Harrison made a layup with 38 seconds left to push the Lady Vols' lead to 52-48. Kesley Jacobs hit a 3 for the visitors with 24 seconds remaining. Ariel Massengale made two free throws with 5.1 seconds on the clock to put Tennessee's lead back to three at 54-51.

The Lady Vols blew a 10-point second-half lead.

"We started getting real casual with the ball and we ended up having 13 turnovers in the second half," Warlick said.

Burdick said she always thinks more of rebounds than points.

"My mindset coming into every game is to go after the boards. I think that's one of my strengths, and that's what my teammates and my coaches expect out of me.

"So, sometimes the balls, they just drop in the right place. You know? Some of rebounding is heart, and some of it is luck, and I think I just had both on my side tonight."

Then came a win against Stanford, famous this season for being the only team to defeat UConn in two years.

But the Cardinal lost their next game, at Texas, and had lost at Chattanooga (as did Tennessee) right before coming to Knoxville.

So to call the UT win an upset is in mythic proportions only.

Truth is, these are two of the top teams in america but that's a long dropoff after UConn, which is a few shelves above Notre Dame, which is a few shelves above the rest of the mess.

In the new math of the NCAA, both Tennessee and Stanford will open the NCAAs at home with all the other top teams, which means this could be a preview of an NCAA Regional and, if so, it's a sad overall commentary on the stale state of the game.

The Lady Vols won, Ariel Massengale scoring 14 of 18 points in the second half of a 59-40 win. She had four 3s.

For all of statistical nerds, that's the lowest a Top 10 team, has ever scored against Tennessee. But the Cardinal hit below 30 percent, as they had against Chattanooga.

"I loved it," Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said. "I'm sure everybody else loved watching it. I enjoyed watching it."

Stanford had not had back-to-back offensive efforts of less than 50 since almost the start of women's college basketball, 1976-77, way before Tara Vanderveer arrived on campus, so this is a low mark for her as well.

"Well, we've played a lot better than that," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. "To compliment Tennessee, they came out with a lot of energy. They worked really hard. They were extremely physical. I don't think we adjusted."

Tennessee legend Pat Head Summitt was at the game and someone tweeted congratulations off her account afterwards.

Tennessee's bowl-bound football team and the men's basketball also attended and sat in the student section for a university on holiday break.

Redshirt freshman guard Jannah Tucker played against Stanford, her first action in two years. Tucker redshirted last year while recovering from a knee injury that also prevented her from playing her senior season in high school.

•Kentucky lost at home to Duke. Yes that No. 10 Duke, losers of close games to South Carolina and Texas A&M, but now 89-68 dominators of the No. 12 Wildcats. For a building team, this was a statement game. For the losing team, this underlines observations of having plateaued in terms of national contention.

Freshman Azura Stevens scored 17 and fellow newbies Rebecca Greenwell and Sierra Calhoun had 13 apiece; teammate Elizabeth Williams had 13 points and 10 rebounds.

UK ought to be wondering how three rookies did this to them. Or maybe they know.

Duke never trailed. They hit the UK defense for 56 percent -- including 61 percent in the first half while they built a 24-point lead. Duke hit 11 of its final 12 shots before halftime.

It took UK's Jennifer O'Neill 21 shots (she hit five) to accumulate 17 points.

When someone shoots that much, the payoff is not so great as it automatically eliminates everyone else's chance. O'Neill was just 2 of 13 during a first half in which Duke built its huge lead. Alexis Jennings also had 17.

Kentucky was held to fewer than 70 points for the first time while shooting a season-low 31 percent, missing 18 of its first 22 shots and finishing just 2-of-24 from 3-point range.

"You've got to be tougher in a game like this," UK coach Matthew Mitchell said.

"You can't let your offense affect your defense . . . It takes a really mature, tough basketball team to not let offense affect defense."

UK's Jennifer O'Neill said, "The whole team felt like it was another comeback we had coming. But we missed a lot of assignments on defense, which is why we got so far behind."

Mitchell said he hopes his team learns from this.

"You either let this defeat you or you let it develop you," he said.

Kentucky ought win four more before that game at South Carolina.

•Texas A&M also lost that undefeated thing after starting 11-0, to undefeated Texas on a lay-in at the buzzer, by Empress Davenport with 4.2 seconds remaining, 67-65.

The game, part of a weirdly spaced tournament, was in North Little Rock Arkansas, not even Little Rock proper. A&M only slipped one spot, to No. 5, by losing to No. 3 Texas.

Everything about this game for A&M was set up with the postseason in mind at Verizon Arena, the site of this season's Southeastern Conference women's tournament.

"This was a ballgame that was good enough to be an NCAA Elite Eight game," Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said.

Then again, Texas has already won at Stanford and Tennessee.

Jordan Jones led Texas A&M with 21 points. She had one final opportunity after Davenport's shot, but her shot after driving the length of the court came up short at the buzzer. Courtney Williams added 19 points for the Aggies, who won the national championship in 2011 and were a game away from reaching the Final Four last season.

"We got complacent and lax with the ball," Jones said. "We started to play not to lose instead of playing to win and sticking with all the things that helped us get the lead."

"I hope to see them again, because both of these teams you'll see in the NCAA tournament if we keep playing this well," Blair said.

Blair coached the Razorbacks for 10 seasons from 1993-2003 and still has
family in northwest Arkansas.

A&M's first tough conference game is Jan. 8 at Tennessee. The Lady Vols handed Blair's team its only home loss last season and that cost the Aggies the SEC title.

Mike Siroky has been covering women's college basketball since an undergraduate at Indiana in 1975. He was covering the SEC when the NCAA took over the women's game from the AIAW. He and Mel Greenberg have been friends since Mel started the Associated Press poll and there were few writers interested enough in the women's game to help. Yes, they are old.

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Guru Report: Villanova Handles Temple to Stay in Big Five Hunt

By Mel Greenberg

For the first time this season Villanova was the way coach Harry Perretta would expect his Wildcats to be in looking ahead to the looming months of competition.

With key player healthy again after being out significance portions since opening day, the veteran coach was able to go top shelf with his starting lineup and ran away from Temple early before a late Owls rally to claim a 64-59 victory Monday afternoon in a Big Five game at The Pavilion.

A crowd of 1,319 was mostly youngsters attending as part of Villanova’s annual education day, which had the opening tip at 11:30 a.m.

“For the first time, we were bigger than them,” Perretta said of the Wildcats’ 13 blocked shot including the seven – one short of a school record – blocked shots by Kavunaa Edwards, who also had 13 points and 10 rebounds.

“I’m just happy we won,” Perretta said. Besides the predominantly non-conference results that now has Villanova at 4-7 overall and Temple at 4-8, the Wildcats are 2-1 in the Big Five with Penn, which is unbeaten at 2-0 in City Series action, still to play.

“The women’s Big 5 is really fun,” Perretta noted. “I’m mean Villanova (the men), they just dominate, but in the women’s Big 5 you don’t know what the heck is going to happen. It’s crazy.

“We look good with our starters back. It makes me feel better because we play better because we can play our style because we have experienced players.”

Temple also has the Quakers remaining but in falling to 1-2 after the Villanova game, the Owls are out of the race.

A Villanova win over the Quakers on Jan. 21 at Penn’s Palestra could mean minimally a piece of the Big 5 title or potentially an outright title depending on the result of the defending City Series champion Saint Joseph’s against La Salle, which will also count in the Atlantic 10.

Caroline Coyer had 14 points while Lauren Burford scored 11 for Villanova, which quickly shook of Saturday’s rout by Sacred Heart here in which the Wildcats gave up 10 of the Pioneers’ 13 three-pointers in the first half after allowing only 20 in the previous nine games.

“We needed this,” Edwards said. “Yesterday at practice we ran for 40 minutes and we don’t want to do that the rest of the year. “One game at a time right now.”

Temple was beset with another slow star, shooting 17 percent in the first half when Villanova was ahead by as many as 15 points before the 29-16 lead at the half.

It got to 17 midway through the second half and that differential appeared again with 7 minutes, 21 seconds left in the game before the Owls launched a fierce rally and even scored 11 points in the final 44 seconds to make the outcome seem competitive.
The one bright light for Temple coach Tonya Cardoza came in the second half with the play of three freshmen.

“I’m happy with the way that last unit was out there and the fight that they had,” Cardoza said of Tanaya Atkinson, who was named Big 5 player of the week earlier in the day, Alliya Butts and Khadijah Berger.

“The way we were pressing – we were really exhausted – Villanova could have easily blown us out. We couldn’t make point blank layups. I just felt in the second half we played like we were suppose to play.

“Freshmen can’t usually play against Villanova,” whose history opposing the Wildcats goes back to the days she was a longtime assistant to Geno Auriemma at Connecticut and in the old Big East days Perretta’s group would bedevil the Huskies.

“They’re the most difficult team to defend. The fact that our guys fought and got that experience is good for future.”

Atkinson had 22 points, Butts scored 12, and Erica Coville had 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Temple after the Holiday break opens play in The American Conference, visiting Memphis on Dec. 28 and the returning to host SMU opn Dec. 30.

Villanova next will host North Carolina State, also on Dec. 30, and then begin the rest of the Big East schedule, hosting favorite and defending champion DePaul on Jan. 2.

The Wildcats have won four straight and six of the last seven games in the series with Temple.

All-time Perretta’s teams are 105-37, where they have won 14 of their last 16 in City Series competition.

In Monday’s game, Villanova had 17 assists on the Wildcats’ 21 field goals, illustrating Cardoza explaining the difficulty of when Villanova gets a lead they can pass the ball around and slow the game down.

Princeton Stays Perfect While Saint Joseph’s and Penn State Fall

Since the Guru didn’t file for Monday morning off the three of his 10 PhilahoopsW teams that were in action Sunday, here is the catch-up beginning with the Ivy power to the north.

Princeton continued with the second best start ever for an Ivy men’s or women’s team at 13-0 – the Penn men were once 28-0 – by beating state rival Monmouth 84-53 on the road nearby in central New Jersey at the Multipurpose Activity Center in West Long Branch.

Six different Tigers scored in double figures as Annie Tarakchian, named Ivy women’s co-player of the week on Monday, had 12 points and tied a career-high with 14 rebounds, Blake Dietrick scored 12 and dealt eight assists, Michelle Miller scored 14 points, freshman Leslie Robinson, a niece of the president and first lady and daughter of former Oregon State coach Craig Robinson, had 11 points, as did Amanda Berntsen, and Vanessa Smith scored 10.

The host Hawks fell to 5-5.

On Monday Princeton came within a few points of making a second-ever appearance for themselves or any Ivy team in the Associated Press women’s poll.

After the break Princeton will meet Hartford in Fordham’s tournament on Dec. 29 in New York City.

Penn State Edged in Overtime by USF

The Lady Lions played one of their better games of what has become a season of struggle, going against a quality opponent, but in the end suffered a tough 90-87 loss in overtime to USF at home in the Bryce Jordan Center, the first extended game at the arena in five seasons.

After 16 ties and lead changes, USF (9-3) of The American Conference got two foul shots from Alisia Jenkins with 41 seconds left.

Sophomore Lindsey Spann had a career-high 28 points for the Lady Lions (3-8) while Candice Agee had 21 points and 17 rebounds, and Sierra Moore also had a double double with 17 points and 10 rebounds.

USF All-America candidate Courtni Williams had 34 points while Jenkins had 23 points and 21 rebounds.

Penn State now goes to the holiday break to return Sunday on the road to Big Ten competition the rest of the way, opening at Iowa and then next Tuesday traveling to Michigan.

Notre Dame Beats Back Saint Joseph’s Challenge

After falling behind by 22 points at the half, Saint Joseph’s launched a 15-3 run to move within 10 points of the then-No. 5 Irish before eventually falling 64-50.

The Hawks (3-7) share their alma mater with the Irish’s coach Muffett McGraw, who is both a Big Five and Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer.
Freshman Brianna Turner of Notre Dame (11-1), who had been sidelined with an injured shoulder, had a game-high 19 points and Jewell Loyd scored 16 points.

The Hawks’ Natasha Cloud also scored 16 points while Sarah Fitzpatrick had 13 points and freshman Adashia Franklyn had seven rebounds.

It’s the third meeting between the two Catholic Universities with McGraw being a 1977 graduate.

Adding to the St. Joseph’s/McGraw karma, the Irish win is with the lowest points since a 57-51 win over Ohio State and then-coach Jim Foster on Nov. 9, 2012.

Foster first coached the Hawks in College and hired McGraw as an assistant after Geno Auriemma left the staff.

That game was the last time Notre Dame failed to make a three-point shot until Sunday’s game in Purcell Pavilion.

St. Joseph’s is now off until hosting the Hawk Classic and playing Quinnipiac in the first round at 2 p.m. Sunday in Hagan Arena. Florida Gulf Coast and Cal State Northridge will meet in the other game at 4 p.m.

That is everything though if you are reading this early Monday evening moire posts are coming including Mike Siroky’s SEC notebook, which will get edited next.

-- Mel

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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Guru's College Report: Villanova Shocked By Sacred Heart While Drexel Beats Penn

By Mel Greenberg

Sacred Heart’s Hannah Kimmel found her own way to ensure an enjoyable family dinner over Christmas highlighting the Pioneers blazing their way out of a four-game losing streak to a first-ever win over Villanova, 72-49, at the Wildcats’ Pavilion Saturday night.

Kimmel, a redshirt junior who missed successive seasons with injuries and whose sister Lindsey graduated from Villanova and began her collegiate participation at Temple, set a career mark – this is her first season – with 33 points, including 6-for-8 from three-point range. She also grabbed 10 rebounds.

“I just didn’t want to her it over Christmas break from my sister how Villanova beat us and I’m glad we finally got a win and got back on track.”

Gabrielle Washington, who also was working back from injury, also produced a doiuble double performance with 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds while connecting on 6-for-9 from beyond the arc.

A trey from Adaysha Williams brought the team total of treys to 13 on the night.

“I can never predict the kind of team that is going to show up, but I know the kind of team we can be,” said second-year coach Jessica Mannetti, a former Hofstra assistant after Sacred Heart (5-5) got back to .500.

“Today we had a funny moment on our bench where our point guard said in on our bench in a very direct way she was tried of losing and the whole team kind of rallied with her and we started off the game with this great momentum and this great cohesion and that’s the outcome.”

Using what is usually the Villanova weapon of choice in the 3-point shot, the Pioneers fired away to an 18-0 lead and never were threatened the rest of the way.

Like Villanova (3-7), which finally had everyone in uniform for the first time this season in what was the second straight of only two team home games to date – the first Pavilion appearance was a week ago Sunday in what became a 70-36 Big Five wipeout of La Salle – Sacred Heart is also finally healthy.

“What happened is we had Hannah at the beginning of the season and Gabby has been working her way back in and you have to find a chemistry where you have two very dynamic scorers on the floor and today was the day that happened.”

Villanova’s senior Emily Leer, who played her first game in the La Salle win after being out with back problems, had 12 points off the bench in 13 minutes while Caroline Coyer also scored in double figures with 10 points and Kendall Burton grabbed 10 rebounds.

Caroline’s twin sister Katherine played her first game in several weeks after being sidelined with a knee injury and had two points off her only shooting attempt in 12 minutes, and Samantha Wilkes, who returned for the first time earlier this month in the narrow low at Saint Joseph’s, had three points off a shot triplet connection.

Villanova shot 25.7 percent from the field in the first half during which the Pioneers drove to a 45-22 lead and shot 30.6 percent for the entire event.

“We should have stayed with eight instead of playing with 11,” veteran Villanova coach Harry Perretta jested. “I told you before, playing with more players isn’t necessarily better. Now you have to play them all.”

Villanova had won all three previous games with Sacred Heart by close scores, including an overtime triumph in Fairfield, Conn., last season.

“That’s like last week when we played La Salle,” Perretta said of a similar lopsided score in which Villanova was on the high end of the outcome. “Did you think La Salle was that bad?

“It is what it is. How many times have shot over 32 percent in a basketball game this year – once (last week). So now we were back shooting 30 percent right back to normal and we get killed.

“But we would have lost if we shot 50 percent because the difference is when you shoot 30 percent you can’t beat anybody.”

After getting schooled ahead of Monday’s education day the Wildcats will return to the Pavilion for an 11:30 a.m. tip against Temple with both teams alive at 1-1 for at least a piece of the Big Five title courtesy of Saint Joseph’s recent rate loss to Penn, which is unbeaten in City Series play at 2-0 but not unbeaten in the city following Saturday afternoon’s loss up the street at Drexel.

The winner of Monday’s game can win the Big 5 outright at 3-1 – usually a 4-0 sweep is necessary – if both teams beat Penn and La Salle later on in the Atlantic 10 schedule beats Saint Joseph’s.

Drexel Rallies to Beat Penn

PHILADELPHIA – Earlier in the day the Guru was in West Philadelphia not far from Villanova for the neighbor hood battle between Drexel and Penn, who are only several blocks apart in terms of their campus activities.

Penn walked up 33rd street for their trip to the Dragons’ Daskalakis Athletic Center and in a season nationally in which many teams are doing things for the first time in years – good and bad per team – it looked like Penn might end a 39-year drought in Drexel’s building where they last won in 1977 and that game had to go into overtime.

The Quakers built s 36-26 lead with 17 minutes and 14 seconds left in the game and then went into a drought, being outscored on a 17-0 run until Kara Bonenberger’s layup finally got the Penn side of the scoreboard moving.

Penn got back within two points twice but Drexel pulled away for good after the second of the two narrow differentials and the Quakers next shot to win at the DAC won’t be until the 2016-17 season, though players individually have won games in pick-up action in the summer when the two teams get together on their own in Penn’s fabled Palestra and Drexel’s venue.

“The last 16 minutes were the difference,” Penn coach Mike McLaughlin said.

“When we don’t score, we show vulnerability on defense. When we score we are good on both ends, obviously. “We got up 10 and didn’t score for five or six minutes and got out of the flow. I give (Drexel) credit, they made some really good shots.

“We could never but together a stop with a shot and I thought they really outplayed us those 16 minutes.”

Jackie Schluth, whose collegiate career got off to a late start after missing successive seasons with ACL knee injuries, had 18 points for Drexel (5-4), who recently lost junior point guard Meghan Creighton to a season-ending knee injury.

Sarah Curran scored 16 points, while Carrie Alexander scored 15.

Kathleen Roche scored 17 points for Penn (4-4) and Bonenberger had 10 points but ultimately fouled out while Sydney Stipanovich was in foul trouble and limited to eight points as both had to contend with Drexel post player Jamila Thompson, who had seven points and seven rebounds.

Drexel reserve Kelsi Lidge had eight points.

The Dragons shot 59.1 percent in the second half and 52.3 percent for the game.

“Obviously they had to play more zone because they wanted to and because of fouls and thankfully we stayed composed and moved to the ball and found some open spots and knocked down some shots,” Drexel coach Denise Dillon said.

Drexel was 20-for-26 from the line while Penn was 6-for-10.
“The difference with Jackie is it has to be a mentality playing aggressively. It’s not just going to happen. People aren’t going to disappear,” Dillon referred to defenders. “I got on her a little bit at halftime and she came out in the second half, wanted the basketball, didn’t think about it and shot it aggressively.

“the other thing is she’s a worker and she works in the weight room and with her conditionally level (being healthy again, also) she’s stronger and her legs are behind her to make those shots.

“One thing Carrie can do is she’s a scoring guard so she can create her own shot. So it’s just her understanding of when we need her to execute our offense and when we need her to create her own.”

After the holiday break, Drexel will be at Virginia playing Miami (Ohio) December 28 and the host Cavaliers the next day before beginning play in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Penn returns to two home games in the Palestra, playing UMBC December 29 at 7 p.m. and King’s College on New Year’s Eve in a 1 p.m. matinee game.

On Jan. 5 the Quakers will host Temple with a chance to clinch at least a tie for the Big 5, which would be an all-time City Series victory total in a Penn season. Then on Jan. 10 the defending Ivy champions will oven defense of their crown at dangerous Princeton, scene of last March’s dramatic upset by the Quakers to land their third-ever league title.

Princeton Wallops Portland State

The red-hot Tigers (12-0) may have lost some RPI value in beating Portland State 104-33 Friday night at home in Jadwin Gym to get coach Courtney Banghart her 150th victory but they stayed unbeaten, continuing the best start ever for the men or women of Princeton and second best overall among league members in either gender to the Penn men’s 28-0 mark.

It’s the first-ever 100-point plus performance in Princeton women’s history, topping the 99 points at Yale 2013 on the way to a fourth-straight Ivy crown.

The Portland State 1-9 record is the cause of Princeton going from 11th to 20th overnight in the NCAA daily RPI report.

“Far and away Princeton belongs in the Top 25,” Penn coach McLaughlin said Saturday before the Drexel game.

Annie Tarakchian had 16 points and 11 rebounds Friday night while Blake Dietrick, the reigning Ivy player of the week, and Amanda Berntsen each scored 14 points, and Michelle Miller scored 12.

On Sunday Princeton will make the short trip in central New Jersey to visit in-state rival Monmouth.

Two other of the Guru’s 10-team PhilahoopsW group of local schools also play Sunday with Saint Joseph’s visiting No. 21 Notre Dame – Hawks are the alma mater of Irish Women’s Hall of Fame coach Muffet McGraw.

Penn State will host USF of The American Conference.

Rutgers Tops Iona

The No. 17 Scarlet Knights (9-2) finished their non-conference portion of the schedule with a 66-58 win against the Gaels (4-6) across the Hudson River in New Rochelle, N.Y.

The two losses were at home in double overtime to then-No. 6 North Carolina in a thriller and to then-No. 11 Tennessee.

While Betnijah Laney spends a brief time on the sidelines with a sprained thumb, Syeesence Davis took advantage of being the replacement by scoring 12 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and dealing 9 assists in a near triple double performance.

Kahleah Copper had a team high 19 points while Tyler Scaife scored 11 all for Rutgers.

Iona’s Damika Martinez, the nation’s second leading scorer, had a game-high 22 points, most coming in the second half.

Rutgers is now off until making its Big Ten debut next Sunday at Indiana.

La Salle Snaps Skid

The Explorers earned a split in the GSU Holiday @ Hoops Classic in Atlanta Saturday to end a brief two-game losing streak by beating host Georgia State 76-68 Saturday evening.

The two-day event format involved predetermined games rather than the normal winners bracket advance structure and on Friday La Salle dropped a 74-63 result to Ohio U, which improved to 7-2.

In the opener freshman Amy Griffin scored a career-high 20 points and Khristin Lee from nearby Birmingham, Ala., had 11 points.

In Sunday’s game, La Salle (7-4) gained its win over Georgia State (5-4) by closing out with a 13-5 finish.

Michaya Owens had 20 points to earn all-tournament honors with Griffin.

Indigo Dickens had a career-high 12 points against the tournament hosts.

Next up for the Explorers is a visit from Fairfield to the Tom Gola Arena next Sunday.

Delaware Swept in Ohio

The Blue Hens fell to host Cincinnati 67-59 Saturday night in a first-ever meeting with the Bearcats (2-8) to extend Delaware’s losing streak to three games – a run that began at home Tuesday with Princeton and then continued on Friday in Cincinnati with a 63-58 setback to Northern Kentucky (7-5).

In the Cincinnati game Erika Brown and Hannah Jardine each scored 13 points and Courtni Green scored 11 points.

On Friday when a rally fell short, Jardine had a career-high 18 points while Green scored 12 points.

“You can make as many excuses as you want, but the bottom line is we lost a basketball game,” Delaware coach Tina Martin said after the setback to the Bearcats of The American Conference.

“ It’s tough because with a young team things can turn quickly,” she continued.

“We have to get to the point for this young group that it tastes really bad for them to lose. We want to win these games, but you have to hate losing. It’s frustrating. I feel this team is getting there, but we haven’t gotten over the hump yet.”

Delaware will finish its non-conference play at home on Dec. 29 against Rider of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

Nationally Noted

No. 11 Tennessee beat No.7 Stanford in Knoxville, Saturday, making it two straight losses for the Cardinal in the Volunteer State this week following Chattanooga’s win over Stanford earlier this week.

Chattanooga has a prior win over Tennessee to add to it s win this week over Stanford giving UTC a chance to get ranked.

If that happens, coach Jim Foster will be the first team to have four different teams in the AP Poll joining Saint Joseph’s, Vanderbilt, and Ohio State.

And added to a setback to Texas, if Stanford falls out of the Top 10 then Connecticut will be the only one to be in the Top 10 every week this decade.

Duke had been with the other two until falling out last week.

Lehigh fell to Arizona State as the list of unbeaten teams starts to dwindle and could fall further today if Lehigh beats Northwestern in Las Vegas, though it will fall when No. 3 Texas meets No. 4 Texas A&M in College Station since the Aggies and Longhorns both have perfect records at the moment.

-- Mel

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Guru Special Report: The Maggie Dixon Rookie Coach Race Has Surprises

By Mel Greenberg

With the annual Maggie Dixon doubleheader in Madison Square Garden in New York City only weeks away, its time to look at another entity that bears the name of the late young Army coach who made news when in her first season she guided the Knights to their first Patriot League title and ensuing NCAA tournament appearance only to die suddenly several weeks later of an undetected heart ailment.

The Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) in her memory created an award every year to go to the top rookie coach in Division I as determined by a select panel.

Over the summer when jobs are changing and the Guru, among others, compile the list and also break out the hires who are first-time head coaches in Division I and thus become listees on those eligible for the award.

Going into this season, the count of candidates was 23, lower than recent years but the overall hires, including existing head coaches making the switch, were also much lower than the 73 or so individuals involved in switches two three seasons ago.

Technically, everyone is still alive since conference play will allow for those whose teams have losing records to make up for lost ground.

But for now here's a list of those who have compiled the best records through Wednesday games -- the Thursday updates weren't published yet when putting this post together -- with a few extras who might be .500 or better with the change of one or two wins.

Also listed is the Wednesday ranking from the Jeff Sagarin Ratings because the NCAA RPI, which now appears daily, doesn't show strength of schedule, while the RPIRatings.com goes public only once a week.

Besides, retired Princeton athletic director Gary Walters, a former chair of the NCAA men's basketball tournament committee, once told the Guru, the Sagarin system is a better predictor than the RPI.

Amazingly, in the slim group of frontrunners for the Maggie Dixon award, right now only three of their teams are withint the top 100.

OK, with that said, here's a look but remember we'll revisit this after the first go-round of the conference schedules that get played full-tilt beginning next month.

The list is going to go by won-loss records because it is not that large that you can't determine what it would look like if Sagarin would be the way to show the order.

1. Joey Wells, Indiana State, 8-1, 69. He was a promotion from the staff when the hiring took place for this Missouri Valley school.

2. Chris Boettcher, Southern Utah, 6-1, 208. A 2013 assistant at BYU, who was in Japan last season before taking the helm at the Big Sky institution.

3. Jimmie Dykes, Arkansas, 8-2, 40. Lot of controversy when hired st this Southeastern Conference school, his alma mater, with no prior coaching experience though he did broadcast the sport on ESPN. He did get the Razorbacks briefly ranked and is one of the few with a low or high Sagarin, depending how you list the number The SEC competition will determine whether he stays in the mix.

4. (tie). Lisa Fortier, Gonzaga, 6-4, 74. She was promoted when Kelly Graves left for the Oregon job from the one in which he claimed a slew of West Coast crowns.

4. (tie.) Kamie Etheridge, Northern Colorado, 6-4, 158 Former Texas All-American who was an assistant at Kansas State, whose former head coach is now Etheridge's assistant.

6. Jenerrie Harris, Mass.-Lowell, 5-4, 229. A former Navy assistant joins a school in the America East relatively new to Division I.

7. (tie) Tyler Summitt, Louisiana Tech, 4-4, 150. The son of legendary Tennessee coach emeritus Pat Summitt moves from an assistant at Marquette to his first head coaching job at the Conference-USA school that was a longtime rival of the Lady Vols.

7. (tie) Angel Elderkin, Appalachian State, 4-4, 234. Prim and trim from her last job as an assistant at LSU.

Honorable Mention

1. Carolyn McCombs, Stony Brook, 4-5, 212. Former Auburn assistant moves to the America East.

2. Ron Hughley, Houston, 3-5, 294. Former Florida State and Rutgers assistant moving to the American Athletic Conference.

3. Mauren Walseth, North Dakota State,, 4-6. Former Penn State assistant and star moving from her alma mater to the Summit Conference.

. 4. Kelly Cole, Northeastern, 2-4, 234. Former Harvard assistant moves to the Colonial Athletic Association.

Special Commendation

Daynia La-Force is not a rookie but moves from Northeastern in the CAA to Rhode Island in the Atlantic 10 and the Rams go to 7-3.

And that is the way it looks for now.

-- Mel

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