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.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Rob Knox's D-2 Notebook: Lincoln Off to It's Best Start in D-2

By Rob Knox @knoxrob1

The Lincoln University senior forward Courtney Lucas knows what to expect when heading to practice.

“It’s never a light practice,” Lucas said. “We talk trash, we’re up in each other faces and when practice is over, we still love each other. That’s just how we roll. Practices are so competitive and lots of fun. When I got here, we may have had a starting five plus two players who could go. Now, we have an entire team that can go so that means practices are fierce.”

Those intense training sessions along with plenty of personality, talent, depth, speed and shooting is one reason why the Lady Lions are off to their best start as a Division II program at 4-0. With seemingly more weapons than the Pentagon, Lincoln has worn teams out.

Lincoln’s average margin of victory has been 20 points mainly because it has outscored opponents by an insane count of 170-112 in the second half this season.

Furthermore, Lincoln’s bench brigade is averaging 37.5 points per game. The Lady Lions have received 40 or more points from their reserves in three games this season.

Lincoln scored 61 points in the second half of its season-opener against West Virginia Wesleyan to erase a seven-point halftime deficit.

“We have the most depth on our team since I’ve been here,” junior guard Lisa Saunders said. “Teams don’t have an answer for us at this point, which has helped a lot.”

The Lady Lions will attempt to remain as one of two undefeated teams (West Chester at 6-0 is the other) in the womhoops Division II coverage area Saturday night when they visit Cheyney University at 5:30 p.m. in the annual “Battle of the Firsts” game at Cope Hall.

“The wins and losses are what everyone sees,” fourth-year Lincoln head coach Jessica Kern said. “I am encouraged by our balanced scoring and defensive effort so far this season. I’ve been disappointed in our turnovers and I believe they’re more of a result of our younger players being overzealous. I am excited that there’s depth.”

Lincoln has 11 players averaging at least nine minutes per game. Five of those players average at least seven points per game, including Lucas, who is the undisputed leader along with the heart-and-soul of the Lady Lions.

She has played throughout her career with plenty of nagging bumps, bruises, scraps and scratches.

Lucas, who averages a team best 2.3 steals per game, gets clutch rebounds, gets critical defensive stops and scores key baskets.

The only thing that has sidelined her was stress fractures in both of her legs during her sophomore year. While the time away from the floor was hard, it proved to be a blessing in disguise for her.

“It was a humbling experience,” Lucas said. “Even though I wanted to play, that helped me to become a vocal leader. It’s hard to lead when you’re not playing, but I was able to find a way. I like being the leader for this team. The way I talk to Courtney (Smith) is different from how I may talk to Meiana (Gaines). Sometimes I need a good talking to. We’re all one and we carry each other.”

Smith and Amani Clark form the foundation of the CIAA’s best starting backcourt.

The two fiery and relentless sparkplugs are pleasant packages of energy, excitement, electricity and elusiveness.

Smith, a 5-3 blur with a pinpoint shooting touch, leads Lincoln in scoring at 13.8 points per game. A 5-7 junior guard, Clark has chipped in 9.8 points per contest for the Lady Lions.

Watching them two perform together has been an entertaining treat for fans. Trying to stop the affable duo with radiant smiles has been a headache for opponents.

“They never stop going,” Saunders said with amazement in her voice. “They are relentless on defense and they take it to you on offense. Courtney gets in the gaps and she always finds a way to score or deliver the ball to the right person in the right spot.”

While the guards have been giving Lincoln an edge, senior Zephrah Pam has the post on lockdown.

She is the Lady Lions’ leading rebounder (9.8) and second-leading scorer (11.8). Pam was named to preseason All-CIAA team. Saunders and Smith combine for six assists per game.

Gaines is a 6-3 force that leads the team in blocked shots with six. She also exploded for a career-high 15 points while pulling down nine rebounds in Sunday’s 74-38 win over Washington Adventist. That was the Lady Lions’ largest margin of victory in Kern’s tenure as head coach.

Tiera Pendleton was named CIAA Rookie of the Week after helping the Lady Lions to wins over Chestnut Hill and Wilmington.

Sophomores Dejah Taylor and Jailen Murphy have made their presence felt during the early part of the season for Lincoln.

Just when you thought that Lincoln had enough depth, senior sharpshooter Alysia Washington will be back soon.

With all of their endless supply of gifted players, the Lady Lions have been able to play fast, slow, big or small.

Kern has managed to keep everybody happy as the Lady Lions are focused on one goal and that’s winning a CIAA title.

Lincoln will have to wrestle the Northern Division crown from last season’s champ Virginia State to accomplish that goal.

Players accept their roles, have fun with each other and shine when the opportunity presents itself.

Lucas was around for the tough times. Now she’s blessed for the chance to enjoy what she believes is the start of a special season and happy ending to her career.

“Winning a championship would mean everything to me,” Lucas said. “Where we came from my freshman year to now is significant progress.

"When I came here, it was always in my mind to win a championship. At the time I started here, we had so much to work on. There was a group of us that knew we could do it and get better. Now, we’ve added new people to our team and we’ve gotten bigger, better and stronger.”

While the Lady Lions are happy with the beginning to their season, they know this upcoming two game road trip to Cheyney and Philadelphia is going to test them.

Whenever Lincoln and Cheyney especially at raucous Cope Hall; records don’t matter.

With junior forward Kyra Hines-Allen leading the way, Cheyney, despite its 1-6 record, will be a formidable foe.

Hines-Allen has been Cheyney’s top player this season, averaging a team-high 13.7 points per game.

She had one of the best performances of any area player this season when she posted a monster double-double (25 points, 21 rebounds) to help the Lady Wolves beat Mansfield, 72-69.

She also scored 21 points against Virginia State this season. Hines-Allen is also averaging a team-high nine rebounds.

However, Lincoln is excited for the challenge.

Two years ago, Lincoln escaped with an overtime victory at Cheyney.

“This game is like any other game for us, but at the same time, it’s a big deal,” Lucas said. “It’s a lot of fun and the environment is a perfect place to play a game in. We’re focused and ready for the game.”

Tigers roar

Holy Family extended its winning streak to four games in dramatic fashion by defeating cross-town rival Philadelphia, 69-67, Wednesday night.

Junior Kasey Woetzel converted a pair of free throws with 9.9 seconds left and on the ensuing possession sophomore Abigail Iannotti made a key block to help the Tigers (4-3) rise above .500 for the first time this season.

During the Tigers’ four-game winning streak, everybody has chipped in.

Woetzel led the Tigers with 23 points against Philadelphia.

She has led the Tigers in scoring in two of the four games during the streak. Erin Fenningham had 25 points in Holy Family’s first victory of the season, 79-65, against Daemen.

Fenningham also shared game-high scoring honors with Jill Conroy in a 68-62 victory over Bridgeport. They each finished with 15 points. Also in the win over Bridgeport, Sarah Pawlick had 11 rebounds for the Tigers.

USP’s Truab and Philadelphia’s Jacobs honored

University of the Sciences senior Brianne Traub was named the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference Women’s Basketball co-Player of the Week for her performance in the Devils' two games last week. Traub earned the honor along with Philadelphia University senior guard Najah Jacobs.

Traub averaged 24.5 points and 10.5 rebounds as the Devils split a pair of games last week.

Opening the week against Wilmington University, Traub poured in 26 points while grabbing 11 rebounds in just 29 minutes of action as the Devils cruised to an 88-62 win.

She shot 61.1 percent (11-18) and was 3-for-7 from three point range. On Sunday against Bloomsburg, Traub recorded her second consecutive double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds while shooting 57.1 percent (8-14). She also connected on four three-point field goals.

For the week, Traub shot 59.4% (19-32) from the field and 50% (7-14) from three point range. The Devils are 1-3 and return to action Saturday when they host Nyack.

Meanwhile, Jacobs is rolling for the 4-1 Rams. A two-time CACC player of the week honoree this season, Jacobs is leading the CACC in field goal percentage (63.0) and points per game (22.5), which are 13th and 17th in Division II, respectively.

She is ranked fourth in the conference in 3-point shooting (50.0 percent) and 10th in free throw shooting (78.8 percent).

In the Rams' 72-50 win against Kutztown, Jacobs led the team with 25 points, a season-high six rebounds, and three assists. She shot 7-of-12 from the field and 10-of-11 from the free throw line.

Bruno leads Goldey-Beacom to victory

Freshman guard Lexi Bruno matched a career high with 21 points to help Goldey-Beacom defeat Georgian Court, 84-70, Wednesday night for its first win of the season. Bruno was 5-of-9 shooting from the floor and made 9-of-10 from the free throw line.

She has scored 21 points in two of the Lightning’s last three games. Averaging 10.9 points on the season, Bruno has three double digit efforts this season.

Senior guard Lillian Chukwueze recorded her first double-double of the season with 20 points and 12 rebounds.

It was her third straight double-digit scoring effort. The Lightning also shot a season high 42.9 percent shooting from the floor to take their first Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference win.

West Chester and Wooden are Golden

First-year head coach Kiera Wooden has West Chester off to a 6-0 start. If the Golden Rams keep winning, Wooden may soon become the “Wizard of West Chester.”

Five of the Golden Rams’ victories have been by double digits. After winning five straight at home to start the season, West Chester took its show on the road Wednesday night as it defeated Lock Haven, 75-63.

Leading the Golden Rams against Lock Haven was junior Chikisha Steele-Hook, who scored a career-high 19 points. Junior guard Dallas Ely added 18 points for WCU, which trailed by one at intermission.

For the season, the Golden Rams have been paced by remarkable balance as guard Brittany Sicinski averages 16.3 points per game. Ely is averaging 15.7 points while Steele-Hook scores at an 11.6 point per game clip. Senior Serifat Juniad averages 9.7 points per contest.

West Chester finishes its road trip with games at Shippensburg, Mercyhurst and Gannon.

Lee leads Wilmington

Sophomore Jasmine Lee scored a career best 26 points and grabbed a team high nine rebounds to lead the Wildcats past Elizabeth City State, 73-70, in overtime for their first win of the season last Friday. The win snapped a seven-game losing streak for the Wildcats. Lee is averaging 10.3 points per game while teammate Tenicia Spence averages a team best 16.6 points per contest.

Gorczynski grooving

Chestnut Hill has won two of its last three games, including Wednesday’s 72-57 victory over Wilmington. Senior guard Olivia Gorczynski led the Griffins with 21 points and freshman forward Brianne Morgera posted a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds. Senior guard Tenisha Townsend-Mobley grabbed a season-high nine boards to go with five points and three assists.

Gorczynski has led Chestnut Hill in scoring in every game this season. She has scored at least 20 points four times and is averaging 19.3 points per game, which is fourth in the CACC. Gorczynski scored a season-high 25 points against American International in the Griffins’ second game of the season.

Game of the Week

The Lincoln University at Philadelphia (Tuesday, Dec. 9), 6:00 p.m.: You should try to get out to this game as these are two of the top Division II teams in their respective regions. Both squads feature talented players. Philadelphia will try to remain perfect at home and avenge last season’s 71-58 road setback to the Lady Lions, who are undefeated.

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad


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