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 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


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