Guru Report: Drexel Locks Down William & Mary to Hold 2nd in CAA Race
By Mel Greenberg
PHILADELPHIA -- As Drexel makes its way through the Colonial Athletic Association race in the regular season the Dragons are doing whatever is necessary for the moment to live up to the conference coaches’ forecasts for a second place finish.
“It’s a far second, but second nonetheless,” Drexel coach Denise Dillon said Thursday night of closing to within a half-game of idle James Madison by completing a sweep of William & Mary with a 66-42 victory at the Daskalakis Athletic Center.
“We’re in a good spot. And we have one more home game.”
It was the ninth straight Drexel win in the series with the Tribe.
Only two other schools in the Guru’s 10-team local Division I PhilahoopsW group were in action Thursday night and both triumphed.
No. 13 Penn State maintained its first place lead in the Big 10 chase, where the Lady Lions are the defending regular season champions, by winning at No. 16 Purdue 75-72 in West Lafayette, Ind., to avenge its only loss thus far in conference play.
A little to the south of here Dragons’ area rival Delaware, the defending CAA champion, came back from Sunday’s tough loss at newcomer College of Charleston to beat Northeastern 74-65 at home in the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark.
“We’re approaching (the CAA) with this team as games you can win, games you can try and steal some,” Dillon said of the conference landscape. “And when you have some conference games and you have some home games – we’re in a stretch here – the Northeastern game (last Sunday) was tough – but I felt our players came back – not overly confident because of what happened down at William & Mary – some players thought some things might happen, overthought some things, and then our bench did a great job just stepping in there providing some intensity and then scoring.”
The Drexel reserves outscored the Tribe substitutes 35-10 paced by 13 points from Tory Thierolf, eight from Jackie Schluth, and six each from Carrie Alexander and Jamila Thompson.
The Dragons (19-9, 5-1 CAA), also got a game-high 15 points from Rachel Pearson, all in the first half as she got the home team off to a quick start.
The name of the game in the last meeting down in Williamsburg, Va., was offense when Abby Redick turned in the first triple double in Drexel history.
Fiona Flanagan added eight points to the Dragons’ attack Thursday night.
This one was more defensively oriented in which the Tribe (4-15, 1-5) was held to a season-low output by Drexel opponents and also limited to 31.6 percent shooting from the field.
Katilyn Mathieu had 12 points for William & Mary and Marlena Tremba scored 11.
The Tribe are under the guidance of new coach Ed Swanson, who formerly served a long successful stint at the Northeast Conference’s Sacred Heart in Connecticut.
There were several homecomings attached to the Tribe visit.
Freshman Alexis Hofstaedter is a graduate of Council Rock South.
Assistant coah Jeanette Wedo is a graduate of San Diego but from the area while Kelly Killion played for Penn coach Mike McLaughlin at Division II power Holy Family in the city’s Northeast and was on his first staff with the Quakers.
Several Penn players, who begin the rest of the Ivy slate at home Friday night hosting Dartmouth in The Palestra, were at the game.
Meanwhile, despite the overall roller coaster start of the Drexel season after the graduation of all-league Hollie Mershon, Dillon is beginning to see some signs of optimism.
“I do feel this team is finally getting what we are about,” she said. “What the program is about. They’re starting to become more comfortable playing together and I think we have even more options than past years. And I think we’re deeper than past years but, again, it doesn’t matter how deep you are if you don’t have chemistry and cohesiveness.”
Next up is a visit Sunday from Hofstra (7-10, 2-4), which first hosts UNCW (3-17, 2-4) Friday night at home in Hempstead, N.Y.
As the Dragons go from playing the Tribe to meeting the Pride it will be the third Hofstra visit to the area this season, having already visited Delaware in conference and also losing at Saint Joseph’s in a nonleague game.
The Pride has since graduated Shante Evans, the former West Chester Henderson High star.
“They seem to have lost a good bit from their roster, but that’s no factor – they always give us a tough time. They turn up the intensity on defense. They make things difficult for us – there’s a lot more pressure – they have the players who can do that,” Dillon said.
“As soon as tonight’s game ended I said, `Alright if we get caught up in the physical nature Sunday it’s going to be a long day. We just need to do the things we do – stick together one possession at a time and then again we continue to move in the right direction.’”
Delaware Controls Northeastern
Blue Hens senior center Kelsey Buchanan may not be Elena Delle Donne, the former Delaware superstar who graduated to WNBA rookie of the year stature last summer, but in occupying positions near the top of the CAA statistics in scoring and rebounding she is near the spots that the Wilmington native resided during her four-year career in Newark.
Biuchanan had 26 points and grabbed seven rebounds as Delaware (12-6, 4-3), which was unbeaten in CAA play Delle Donne’s final two seasons, took a 15-2 lead and handled the Huskies (7-12, 1-5), which were picked third but have struggled due to injuries.
Bolting to the front early helped avoid the heartbreak last time out when the Blue Hens fell into a 22-point deficit at the half at Charleston, roared back to tie the score, but only to lose before regulation time expired.
The win put Delaware a half-game ahead in fourth of idle Towson, whom the Blue Hens visit Sunday in suburban Baltimore in the Tigers’ impressive new SECU Arena.
They are also a half-game behind Charleston, which visits James Madison Friday night.
In terms of the rest of the Delaware offense, red-shirt sophomore Joy Caracciolo tied her career high with 14 points while freshman Hannah Jardine of Canada hit a high in her early career with 10 points.
“After coming back (at Charleston), we didn’t want to be on the opposite end of that and have an opponent come back on us,” Caracciolo said.
“That game showed us anything can happen and you have to play 40 minutes. The way we played in the second half at Charleston is how we want to play the entire game.”
Jodi Salyer, another of the newcomers replacing the seven graduates from the NCAA Sweet 16 squad such as Kayla Miller, Lauren Carra and Danielle Parker, dealt a career high six assists to match a previous personal best.
Delaware snapped a two-game losing streak while keeping the Blue Hens’ mastery of Northeastern of Boston in the series with their 24th straight victory.
It was also the first game since Delaware freshman Shanice Johnson, a graduate of Cardinal O’Hara, was suspended along with two men’s players Wednesday for a month until just before the end of the regular season for breaking university and team rules.
Delaware said the violations are separate and uinrelated.
“This team is so young and they can be so fragile at times, but they are constantly learning,” veteran coach Tina Martin said. “We needed this win desperately after back-to-back losses. It was great to see them come out so strong in the first 10 minutes and that was probably the first time we’ve done that in a month.
“Tonight, they really stepped up even when Northeastern made a run.”
Lucas and Ewards Power Penn State at Purdue
Narberth’s scoring sensation Maggie Lucas moved into second place on 13th-ranked Penn State’s career list with 23 points while Ariel Edwards scored 21 against the No. 16 Boilermakers (15-5, 5-3 Big 10), to keep the Lady Lions (16-4, 7-1) ahead in the conference chase by a game in the loss column over Michigan State.
Lucas (2,259 points), who moved past current Providence coach Susan Robinson Fruchtl (2,253, 1989-92) and is topped at PSU by only former great Kelly Mazzante (2,919, 2001-04), who retired from her pro career earlier this month, is now ninth on the Big 10 career scoring charts.
She also had five rebounds, five rebounds, six assists and two steals.
Philadelphia’s Talia East had 12 points and 12 rebounds while Wilmington’s Dara Taylor scored 13 points.
KK Houser scored 27 points for Purdue, which was outscored in the paint by Penn State 44-22 though the Boilermakers came up big with fast break points 22-6.
April Wilson had 14 points for the Boilermakers and Whitney Bays scored 12.
The game might have not been that close but coach Coquese Washington’s troops could not take advantage of charity opportunities shooting only 8-for-21 from the line for 38.1 percent while the Boilermakers converted 27 of 30 chances.
There were six ties and the lead changed hands seven times in the closely fought contest.
Down the stretch Purdue was within two of re-catching the Lady Lions, who then missed three of four foul shot opportunities.
However, Kaliyah Mitchell put the Lady Lions in position to be forced only into overtime with her shot with 1.4 seconds left but Purdue’s Courtney Moses’ desperation heave from midcourt to tie the score fell short.
Penn State moves on to Northwestern Sunday before the Lady Lions will be returning home to host Iowa next Thursday.
Friday night just two of the PhilahoopsW see action and it’s the mythical southern division of the Ivy League in a key weekend.
Four-time defending champion Princeton, which is picked to win again, comes off its three-week break for finals and the Tigers will have to shed their rust quickly since none other than Harvard, picked for second, will be visiting Jadwin Gym before heading to Penn for Saturday’s tilt at The Palestra.
The Crimson are the only Ivy school to get the Tigers in the last four seasons, having done so twice, including near the end of last season.
Penn was picked for third and since the Quakers have shown much moxie over the last month this is a big opportunity to pull a weekend sweep and if Princeton helps out then coach Mike McLaughlin’s group could be in decent shape for another postseason appearance in somebody’s tournament.
There is some interesting byplay involving the coaching staffs of all but Harvard in the games down here.
Dartmouth’s Belle Koclanes, one of the 28 rookie coaches in Division I, is a former Penn assistant for four seasons and the Richmond grad has also been on staffs at Old Dominion, Columbia, and American U.
Lower Bucks County’s Addie Micir, a Council Rock North graduate and one of the Dartmouth new assistants, was one of the original stars in recent years who helped make Princeton an Ivy power and she graduated as player of the year in 2011.
She has played in the past in the Philadelphia/Suburban NCAA Women’s Basketball Summer League and her dad Pancho Micir lettered for Penn football in 1970.
Princeton coach Courtney Banghart is a former Dartmouth star and was a longtime assistant at her alma mater before taking the Tigers’ position.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, in The American Conference in terms of locals, Temple makes the first of two stops in Texas visiting SMU while Rutgers will be hosting Memphis, which upset the Scarlet Knights in Tennessee earlier this month.
In the Atlantic 10, Saint Joseph’s will be looking to recover from the Hawks’ upset loss to Saint Louis, which is hosting La Salle.
The Hawks, meanwhile, host VCU, which beat them earlier in a close game in Richmond.
By the way, earlier in the day Thursday it was announced that Saint Joseph’s senior Erin Shields made the Capital One Academic All District 2 Women’s Basketball Team, which is picked by the nation’s sports information directors at schools across the country.
In the Big East, Villanova will be looking for revenge hosting second place Creighton, one of the three brand new rivals along with Xavier and Butler, in the reconfigured conference.
Sunday’s games have already been noted in the Thursday roundup of the three teams at the top of the post and the PhilahoopsW group is off Monday.
What a night around the country, especially in the Southeastern and Atlantic Coast Conferences.
In the SEC, while South Carolina and Tennessee took care of business, unranked Georgia upset Kentucky – Mike Siroly’s SEC Report of the week is under this post – and Missouri took down Vanderbilt.
In the ACC, Brianna Kiesel, a recent national player of the week by the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA), hit a shot with 3.1 seconds left and gave Pittsburgh its first home win in its new conference this season, beating Boston College.
The Panthers, who now have former Penn State star Suzie McConell-Serio as their new coach, did not win a conference game last season in the former Big East configuration and they now have two in the ACC.
Duke escaped unranked Miami at the last second, while unranked North Carolina State gave Maryland its third straight loss in the ACC.
Syracuse rallied from a 14-point deficit to upset North Carolina, while No. 2 Notre Dame took care of business against Virginia Tech to make it a 3-0 night for the former Big East trio.
OK. That should cover everything for the moment and the Guru will be doing the Harvard swing, thus missing Dartmouth, this weekend though all will be in the roundups. Saturday’s afternoon stop is still to be determined.
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