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 16, 2014

Mike Siroky's SEC Report: Perfection Comes in Bunches

By Mike Siroky

Success is not new to the Southeastern Conference of women's basketball, of course. But yet another underlying mark this season is they have three of the four only undefeated teams in the country with at least 10 wins and are the only conference with four teams in the Top 11.

A fourth, top-ranked South Carolina is right behind at 9-0 and Ivy League power Princeton is at 10-0 going into Tuesday night's game at Delaware.

•Texas A&M is No. 4 in the nation and undefeated.

And coach Gary Blair is not satisfied with that.

"We might be the most overrated No. 4 team in the nation," Blair said. "But we're going to go back to work, and we will get it right."

In the latest road win, Courtney Williams scored 21.

"She's carried us. She's due to have an off night," Blair said. "She's not due to have an off night defensively at the same time, which she had."

Jordan Jones scored 16 and the Aggies won a rivalry game at Southern Methodist University.

Jones hit her first three 3s and scored A&M's first 10 points. "We just did what they wanted us to do, which was force the outside shot," said Jones, who is from the Dallas suburb of DeSoto. "Once we started penetrating, then we were more efficient in scoring."

Blair's concern: They shot 38.5 percent from the field and were outrebounded 49-42 . They blew a 15-point led down to six with 80 seconds left.

Courtney Walker scored 17 of her 19 points in the first half and A&M rolled Houston, 94-55.

Jada Terry added 11 for A&M. The Aggies led by at least 30 points over most of the second half. Blair said, despite Walker's strong first half, she needed to clean up her game after committing four turnovers in the first 20 minutes.

Walker didn't commit a turnover in the second half.

"We talk about being a complete player, and she played better in the second half, even though she only scored one basket," Blair said.

The taller Aggies dominated the Cougars 54-12 in points in the paint, and capitalized on 15 Houston turnovers by holding a 29-11 advantage in points off turnovers.

"The one thing we can't simulate is their pressure in practice," the Houston coach said.

•No. 15 Georgia is 10-0 but they did not have a game this week.

So them Dawgs had a "Tuesday Ticket Deal of the Week" - a discount offered every Tuesday for tickets to an upcoming home event.

So, fans had a chance to buy a ticket for a buck for the Dec. 20 home game
vs. Furman.

In the holiday sprit, Georgia took a turn as an assembly line for the eighth annual "Holiday Bike Build."

The Lady Bulldog team has raised funds to purchase and assemble bikes, which are then given to deserving children. All told, the team has provided nearly 450 bicycles over the past eight years.

"I remember when we started with 20 bikes in the old weight room in 2007," Women's Basketball Hall of Fame coach Andy Landers said. "The whole idea was developed by that team. We had a long break while we were in Athens before the holidays. They wanted to do something for local children. So many people remember getting a bike for Christmas.

"I remember getting a bike for Christmas. I wore that thing out. I'm pleased that we'll be able to make this holiday a little more special and more memorable for children who deserve that."

In 2008, Academy Sports + Outdoor joined the program and donates bicycles and helmets to match the number purchased by the team. The staff at Academy also was on hand to assist with the bike assembly as does the Fastbreak Club, the Lady Bulldogs' official booster organization.

"Academy has been a great partner with us," Landers said. "They double our efforts and results."

"Some of our players have gotten pretty good at bike assembly," Landers said.

"I think that's an important ingredient to this program. Actually putting the bike together provides a different level of ownership in the effort. We've got some players who didn't know a wrench from a screwdriver as a freshmen who can now put together a bike with only a couple of quick references to the instructions."

This year, bikes were to be distributed through schools in Athens/Clarke County, the Boys & Girls Club of Athens, Jackson County Family Connections and the Athens Area Homeless Shelter.

•No. 21 Mississippi State welcomed Louisiana Tech to SEC play.

Not only did the Techsters once dominate the women's game in the transition years from the AIAW to the NCAA, but they pounded the best of the league — Tennessee and Auburn as national powers then — regularly.

In the workload of women's basketball, they would have been a welcome addition to the league if such ala carte ordering was possible for one sport.

Now, if they are to resurge, it will be under the director of Tyler Summitt, yes that summit, the son of Lady Vol legend Pat Head Summitt.

It is his first coaching assignment. He is assisted by Micki DeMoss, one of the original Florida coaches, a former coach at Kentucky, an on-and-off assistant to Pat Head Summitt for many seasons as well as an assistant at Auburn.

So, for Mississippi State, this was a nice rally win, 81-77, as they hit 9-0.

State made four consecutive defensive stops when it needed it the most Thursday night.

Victoria Vivians continued her stellar pre-conference play with 20 points.

“Louisiana Tech took the fight to us and played awfully well,” coach Vic Schaefer said. “We couldn’t press them. It was a frustrating night for the most part for the Bulldogs. Ketara (Chapel) makes a big shot there at the end. We didn’t shoot it well. We didn’t play well.”

The 'Dogs struggled, hitting 25.7 percent from the field in the opening half and trailing by seven at the break., They were still down by six with 7:10 left.
Then they rallied to tie it. A Kendra Grant free throw broke a 77-all tie with 65 seconds left.

Dominique Dillingham had the play of the night on the defensive end, a steal with 20 seconds left and the shot clock winding down. Ketara Chapel hit a basket off her steal. The Bulldogs have now scored 80 or more points eight times this season.

The 33 free throws were three of the school record. The 46 attempts finished one short of the program best, back in 1992.

“Going to the free throw line 46 times is a plus,” Schaefer said. “Our goal is to make more free throws (33) than the other team takes (23) and we did that again tonight. Twenty offensive rebounds is a plus. We lead the Southeastern Conference in offensive rebounds so we had another good night there.”

The 'Dogs also earned a 46-42 rebounding advantage.

Chinwe Okorie posted her first double-double for MSU with 11 points and 14 rebounds. Chapel had 13 points, while William added 10 points.

State blasted longtime rival Southern Mississippi to close their playing week.

•No. 8 Kentucky won two at home, for 49 straight regular-season non-conference wins at Memorial Coliseum. The nine straight at home is a Top 10 program mark.

Azia Bishop scored a season-high 15 (10 in the first half) and had 12 rebounds in Kentucky's 71-55 victory over Belmont, their sixth straight win.

Janee Thompson and Linnae Harper each added 12 points, and Alexis Jennings had 10.

Coach Matt Mitchell started with who was missing. "We were missing Bria Goss today. We are not quite sure – we don’t know if it is a sprained thumb or a ligament problem. It happened this morning in our game day practice, so a ball hit her and hyperextension," he said.

"I don’t know exactly what it was, but it was very painful for her today. She tried to give it a go and we were just concerned about her health so decided to sit her the rest of the game. You can see she is a big part of what we do defensively.

Late Monday it was announced that Goss would be sidelined for six weeks but Mitchell was feeling fortunate that she wouldn't be lost for the rest of the season.

“I thought Belmont was really tough today. Their guards were able to keep their dribbles alive and they were very aggressive and really did a great job. I thought they had a great game plan and competed extremely hard and they certainly earned our respect today."

The Kats started their week with a 78-62 win over visiting Middle Tennessee State, . Kentucky is 66-0 under Mitchell when leading by at least 11 points at halftime.

Senior Jennifer O’Neill scored 22, 18 after intermission. Sophomore Makayla Epps came off the bench for 12 points on a 6-of-6 shooting night and started the second half. She has hit double figures in seven straight games, nine of 10 overall. Freshman Alexis Jennings had her best scoring night with 11.

Mitchell said: “We practiced really hard this week. We’re still a work in progress and we need to get better. There are some areas that we need to sharpen up, but what I was happy about was we started with some energy.

“I thought we were competitive tonight. I thought we competed. We should try to deflect the ball and just not let them get into a rhythm defensively. If we could have taken a little better care of the basketball I thought we could have held them to fewer than 62.

"I thought our defense was active tonight, and that is something that is going to be key. We’re working on the press, and the press helped us tonight to cause some disruption. We were really able to deny their point guard so that was good. Hopefully you will see us evolve into a full-court defensive team.”

The next assignment is Sunday at Duke.

• No.1 South Carolina topped 100 for the first time this season, in fact topped it big enough to be the most Gamecock points since 2006, beating traditional rival Savannah State, 111-49.

They were 1-of-8 from 3s, but the inside game negated any worries.

Coach Dawn said the 70 points in the paint meant to her message of pounding it inside was heard.

"If we can take it to somebody and get the win without relying on the 3, that's impressive," Staley said. "But when it is time to knock those shots down, I have confidence in our team to do so."

Freshman A'ja Wilson scored 23 and senior Elem Ibiam 21. The Gamecocks had 56 rebounds to 21 for Savannah State.

Sophomore center Alaina Coates added 20 points and 10 rebounds off the bench, while junior Tina Roy's 10 assists were a career high and the most by a player since Staley arrived in 2008.

It was SC's only game of the week. "Practice was just kind of a study break for everybody," Ibiam said.

•No. 11 Tennessee won a traditional rivalry game against Rutgers, 55-45, but only one Hall-of-Fame coach is present these days. C. Vivian Stringer for Rutgers.

Still, the Lady Vols won on the road in a meaningful game since the previous two competitive away games ended as losses.

These UT seniors now have 90 career wins which puts 100 within their range. That seemed unusual only few seasons ago.

A 10-0 run late in the second half led to this one landing in the victory column on a day Tennessee had trouble making shots.

Three Lady Vols finished in double figures as UT claimed its 10th consecutive victory over the Scarlet Knights.

Ariel Massengale scored 13 to lead UT (7-2), eight of which came in the second half, while Jasmine Jones finished with 12. Izzy Harrison notched her second double-double of the season behind 11 points — all in the second half — and a game-high 13 boards. Behind Massengale's team-high 13, the Tennessee bench outscored the Rutgers subs, 21-3.

With the win, UT has its first road victory over a program ranked inside the Associated Press Top 25 in a little over a year.

A defensive battle throughout, Tennessee finished the game at 27.5 percent shooting while Rutgers mustered only a 31.1 percent clip. In allowing only 45 points on the day, UT handed Rutgers its lowest-scoring performance of the season.

"You're going to have some nights, you won't shoot the ball very well," UT coach Holly Warlick said. "If you're solid on the defensive end and a great rebounding team you got a chance to win the game. That's what happened for us."

The Lady Vols shot 28 percent from the field, but outrebounded Rutgers 54-42 and held the 17th-ranked team to just one field goal over the game's final 7:14.

"The main thing we wanted to focus on was the defensive end, we knew our shots weren't falling," said Harrison. "We got to get a stop, play defense, that's what carried us through the game."

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


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