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.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Guru's College Report: Saint Joseph's Goes 2-0 in Big Five With Narrow Win Over Villanova

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

To the rest of the world beyond the City of Brotherly Love, a Sunday afternoon matchup of Saint Joseph’s against Villanova did not seem to have much appeal.

After all the Hawks had just lost at the finish at home here in Hagan Arena on Hawk Hill Thursday night to Lehigh at the finish to cancel a stirring rally and drop to 2-5.

Last time out Villanova playing with three of the first eight Wildcats sidelined with injuries had squandered a 17-point lead and dropped their Big East opener at the buzzer in overtime to fall to the same record.

But inside the world of the Philadelphia Big 5 especially in this long-running rivalry all of that had little consequence with local pride on the line.

And sure enough, as always, the contest became its usual entertainment and thriller with the host Hawks building an 11-point lead in the first half, squandering it, but then making a few big plays in the closing minutes to eke out a 58-54 victory to go 2-0 in defense of last season’s championship while Villanova dropped its first local encounter on the four-game City Series round robin schedule.

“I said the first team to get to 50 would win and they got there first,” veteran Villanova coach Harry Perretta joked afterwards. “It felt good just playing in the state of Pennsylvania.”

Sunday was the last of an eight-game season-opening road trip for Villanova (2-6, 0-1 Big Five), who will finally get to play in the Wildcats’ own Pavilion this coming Sunday when La Salle visits for another Big Five affair.

For Saint Joseph’s (3-5, 2-0)), the win was extra special as coach Cindy Griffin at her alma mater became at the all-time wins leader in the program, reaching a mark of 249-171 in her 14 seasons to bypass Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer Jim Foster, who is now at Tennessee-Chattanooga.

“It’s something you really don’t think about,” Griffin said of the milestone. “You do your job. You come in and have a passion for what you do and things will work out if you work hard and have good people around you.

“It is an honor to be the winningest coach here at St. Joe’s and the coach that I passed coached me, so that;s pretty cool and I have a lot of respect for him and the other coaches that came before me.”

Griffin was also an assistant to Foster during his time at Vanderbilt, which is where he headed in 1991 after a long career in his own city.

In this one, with Emily Leer still out since the start of the season with back problems, Saint Joseph’s was able to own the paint with a 36-8 advantage, 16-5 in second chance points, and 39-22 on the boards, including a lop-sided 13-2 advantage on the offensive end.

Villanova connected on 8-of-23 attempted 3-pointers while Saint Joseph’s was 1-for-2.

Ciara Andrews tied Villanova’s Caroline Coyer for game honors with 17 points while Natasha Cloud, besides getting key points and stops down the stretch, finished with 11 points and nine rebounds and Sarah Fairbanks scored 12 points.

Coyer was the own Wildcat to score in double figures.

Cloud also suffered a cut lip near the end in a scramble which brought a real meaning to the blood battle this rivalry is though many player on both teams play with and against each other in the Philadelphia/Suburban Women’s NCAA Summer League in the offseason.

Afterwards Saint Joseph’s players spoke to the fact that like Army-Navy in football, which is played in South Philadelphia on a regular basis, recent performance has no bearing in a neighborhood war.

“When you come into this game you block out everything going on that’s out of control and just channel in with each other,” said Ashley Robinson, who got a late start in her collegiate career when she was hit with successive knee injuries that came at the start of what would have been her normal freshman and sophomore seasons.

“Playing any Big Five school is big but the rivalry that’s between us and Villanova, it’s huge. As a sixth-year senior, being here for six years and seeing how hard we grind to get that win and today was just a testament to what we do.”

Robinson just missed a double double with nine points and nine rebounds.

Cloud is a graduate of Cardinal O’Hara, going to high school in one of Villanova’s neighborhoods.

“It’s always a good win, especially with Villanova,” Cloud said. “Our goal today was, It’s the battle of the Main Line. We always say, There’s going to be blood and there definitely was today,” she laughed about her injury late in the game. “The rivalry’s great and we’ve been struggling and been really yearning for a win.

“We came in and all the coaches and players were on the same page and we executed very well.”

Coyer’s twin sister Katherine hurt her leg several weeks ago, though she is expected back soon, as is Leer, but Samantha Wilkes, who hurt her knee last spring, finally got into a game and it didn’t last long.

“I put her in and in a few minutes, she popped her shoulder – I was afraid to do anything else after that. Right now, it is what it is and you move on and try to win the next one,” Perretta said.

Saint Joseph’s has little time to enjoy this one because on Tuesday another local matchup is on the books when the Hawks travel to The Palestra to play at 5:30 p.m. because of a doubleheader a Penn team that took them to the wire in this building last season.

“The Palestra is always a fun place to play,” Griffin said. “It has a lot of history there. We’re going to be a very mature team and we won today but we have another game on Tuesday.

“We can’t be way up here because Penn is a very good team and they have some great players that played and had a lot of success in last year’s run to the Ivy championship and also played in the NCAA tournament so they have a lot coming back so we have to be ready for that,” she continued.

“I’m counting on my mature upperclassmen to make sure that we are.”

Saint Joseph’s has won nine straight Big Five games while the loss was just Villanova’s second in 14 recent City Series clashes. The home team has won eight of the last 10 matchups.

Villanova is 103-37 all-time in the Big Five while in the six losses this season have been by a combined 24 points, all in single digits.

Freshman Adashia Franklyn got into the game for the Hawks and the daughter of all-time Temple great Marilyn Stephens had six points and three offensive rebounds.

Rutgers Wins at No. 25 Arkansas

The Razorbacks’ return to the Associated Press women’s poll is likely to be short lived after the No. 18 Scarlet Knights shook of Thursday’s tough double overtime loss to No. 6 North Carolina in the Big 10/ACC challenge to beat Arkansas 64-52 at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

Kahleah Copper had 17 points for Rutgers (7-1) while Betnijah Laney had her eighth straight double double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. It was a homecoming game for sophomore sensation Tyler Scaife and she responded with 13 points while Rachel Hollivay also scored 13 points.

Jessica Jackson had 14 points for the Razorbacks (6-2).

Hard to believe but the triumph was the first on the road over a Top 25 team for Rutgers since downing Marquette in the old Big East tournament in 2011.

While that was a neutral site win Rutgers also got the Warriors in Milwaukee a few weeks earlier that season.

It’s the first time Rutgers’ road record started 3-0 since the 2012 season which saw a 4-0 start, a mark attainable considering the Scarlet Knights stay away from home next time out with a visit Temple here in McGonigle Hall at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Then it’s a return home next Sunday for a visit from nationally-ranked Tennessee that will also serve as a homecoming for Lady Vols assistant Jolette Law, who was a longtime associate head coach aide to Rutgers Hall of Famer C. Vivian Stringer.

Scoring Outburst Helps Penn State Stop Skid

Three players scored at least 20 points as the Lady Lions romped over winless Wagner 96-66 at home in the Bryce Jordan Center in State College to stop their woeful losing streak at six.

The visitors fell to 0-8.

Freshman Lindsay Spann for PSU (2-6) had 18 of her career-high 22 points in the first half while Kaliyah Mitchell had 14 of her career-best 20 in the same span. Sierre Moore had a career high 21 points with 15 collected in the second half.

Penn State next heads to Hartford, Conn., to visit the Hartford Hawks beforer returning home to host Rider on Sunday.

Delaware Tops Bucknell at the Finish

The Blue Hens followed up Wednesday’s win at Temple by edging Bucknell 58-56 back home in the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark as Joy Caracciolo grabbed an offensive rebound and nailed a putback in the final seconds for Delaware (4-3).

It took an 8-0 rally at the end of the game to overcome the Bisons (4-3).

Courtni Green scored 16 points for Delaware, Hannah Jardine and Erika Brown each scored 15 points, and Caracciolo finished with 10 points with the winning basket.

Bucknell’s Jacquie Klotz had 10 points and Claire DeBoer grabbed 10 rebounds.

“Defense is what won the game,” Delaware coach Tina Martin said afterwards. “As much as everybody loves a last-second shot, the bottom line is you better get stops under the four-minute mark.

“Thankfully, to our kids’ credit we crawled back in it. Our kids did what they were supposed to do and we’re lucky to steal this one and get away with a victory.”

Delaware is now off until Princeton visits a week from Tuesday and then it is off to Cincinnati for two games the following Friday and Saturday.

Drexel Recovers in Brown Tournament

After suffering an all-time low in scoring as a Division I program in Saturday’s loss to St. Bonaventure, the eventual champion in the Brown tournament in Providence, R.I., the Dragons bounced back to take third place, beating Sacred Heart 61-54.

Drexel (44-2) dominated the paint on the Pioneers with a 28-18 advantage.

Sarah Curran finished with 23 points while Rachel Pearson, named to the all-tournament team, scored 21 and nailed six three-pointers. Meghan Creighton dealt a career-high 13 assists.

Drexel is now off until Sunday when the Dragons visit Pittsburgh.

Temple Rally Dies at Finish

The Owls hosted Fordham, a former conference rival when Temple was in the Atlantic 10, and lost to the Rams 71-64 in McGonigle Hall.

The game was part of annual homecoming trips made by Fordham coach Stephanie Gaitley, a former Villanova star and Saint Joseph’s coach, who makes regular city visits to the Hawks and La Salle as part of the A-10 slate.

Temple (3-5) was down by as many as 16 points before moving within three of the Rams (5-4) late in the game.

Tyonna Williams had 20 points for the Owls while Feyonda Fitzgerald scored 15 points.

The deal doesn’t get any easier this week with Rutgers coming to visit Wednesday at 6 p.m. in McGonigle before the men play later next door in the Liacouras Center.

On Sunday Florida State will visit as part of the current four-game home stand.

Nationally Noted

Two hometown coaches made good elsewhere with their teams Sunday as Dawn Staley’s top-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks edged host No. 9 Duke 51-50 on a putback before time expired in Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C.
The rare third-straight loss by the Blue Devils put them in danger of falling out of the Top 10 for the first time this decade and if it happens, the only two who will remain with that statistic are Connecticut and Stanford.

Meanwhile, Joe McKeown’s Northwestern squad, which is the only unbeaten left among Big Ten schools at 7-0, topped Loyola of Chicago, coached by the legendary Sheryl Swoopes, 70-33, at home in Ryan Arena in Evanston, Ill.

McKeown, a Father Judge grad, also coached George Washington.

Northwestern with a previous upset of then No. 18-DePaul and a win over Chicago State has the Wildcats claiming themselves as the top cats of the Windy City with the Chicagoland sweep.

The game was also Northwestern’s annual event to bring attention to autism.

“Sheryl was great,” said McKeown of the former WNBA All-Star, Texas Tech All-American, and Olympic gold medalist.

“She spoke and also wrote a check to give a donation.”

That’s the report for now with more to come.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad


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