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.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Guru's College Report: Villanova Rallies to Upset No. 25 DePaul

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

VILLANOVA, Pa. –
In the realigned Big East in which a free-for-all is still a possibility, Villanova began its 99 percent conference schedule the rest of the way by flexing its regained health to a come-front behind 79-76 upset victory over No. 25 DePaul, the preseason favorite, in overtime at home in the Pavilion Friday night in the only game among the Guru’s 10-team Division I locals on the schedule

Emily Leer, who missed most of the front end of the predominantly non-conference schedule because of back problems, pounded the hoop for 25 points, shooting 10-for-18 from the field, including a game-saving shot in the final seconds of regulation that forced the overtime.

The win evened the Wildcats’ Big East record at 1-1 and got them close to .500 overall at 6-7 and came as a direct follow-up to Tuesday’s win here over North Carolina State of the Atlantic Coast Conference which was a first in the short series between the two schools.

Caroline Coyer had a career-high 23 points and grabbed nine rebounds for another career mark while freshman sensation Alex Louin of Mount St. Joseph’s Academy in the Interac League, scored 16 points.

To win this one, Villanova had to battle back from a 14-point deficit that the Wildcats faced playing the Blue Demons (9-5, 1-1), which have had their own share of heartbreaking setbacks.

“When we’re healthy, we’re pretty hard to stop,” said Louin, referring to the Wildcats going the first six weeks of the season without Leer, Samantha Wilkes, who was rehabbing from a knee injury incurred last spring and now has shoulder problems, and a large portion without Coyer’s twin sister Katherine, who suffered a knee injury.

“We just tried to play hard and not give up,” Louin added.

“It feels good,” Caroline Coyer said after her big night. “It just goes to show that any night in this league any team can win.

“Providence can beat us, we can beat DePaul, anybody can beat anybody, and it makes for a lot of fun, and I think we’re in for a long Big East season.”

The win spoiled the annual homecoming of Engineering & Sciences graduate Brittany Hrynko, who had 29 points, but got stopped near the end of regulation giving Villanova a chance to force the game into overtime.

“Having everyone back has been a big thing for us,” Leer said. “We’ve been able to play a lot more people and we have a good rotation, everyone comes out ready to play now.

“We wanted this win. We had some bad games against them last year that were pretty embrassing,” Leer continued. “We needed to come back today and prove ourselves and I think we really did.”

Besides injuries, Villanova’s first eight games were on the road, though the eighth one was nearby at Saint Joseph’s for a Big Five confrontation the Wildcats lost in the final minute.

“I still don’t know if this is going to be wide open because I still think they have the best team,” Villanova coach Harry Perretta said of DePaul, whom his team must later play the return game of the home-and-home Big East schedule in Chicago besides returning to suburban Rosemont in Illinois for the conference tournament.

“The difference is we’re healthy and we were able to pull an upset. We didn’t run any offense,we just gave Emily the ball – let her clear out and take it. Alex is getting better and better. With her and Jordan (Dillard), we’re able to play four guards because we have to play small.

“It makes it for a fun league but the problem is if we all start beating each other, it doesn’t help anybody,” Perretta said of the ability to become a multi-bid league like in the days of the pre-aligned conference.

Hrynko nearly won the game in the final moments of regulation when she heaved the ball and it landed on the rim before bouncing off in a different direction.

“Villanova is a good team,” said Blue Demons coach Doug Bruno, who was an assistant to UConn’s Geno Auriemma on the USA World Championship gold medalists squad in early fall.

“They got their players back they were picked third in the league, and you can’t just go by what their record is. Leer killed us tonight. We didn’t have an answer for her.

“Brittany had a great homecoming but we still have to finish the game.”

Besides Hrynko’s performance, Megan Podkowa had 15 points for DePaul, while Jessica January had 11 points and 10 rebounds while Chanise Jenkins scored 13 points.

Villanova will stay home to host Marquette Sunday at 1 p.m.

The Big East in a calendar shift is now playing virtually all the women’s league games on Fridays and Sundays.

“We are back to travel partners again – we go to Georgetown Sunday – so we have time to show our kids the sights as opposed to when you have to leave a town quickly on a charter, though that does get you home faster,” Bruno said prior to Friday’s game.

“So you also get better officials on Friday nights and not necessarily better officials on Sundays,. Bruno alluded to the vast increase in games being played that day across the country.

Villanova’s lone non-conference game left is a visit to Penn this month for a Big Five game in which a win would clinch a tie for the City Series crown, though depending on Monday night’s outcome with Temple, the Quakers could be going for a 4-0 sweep and first-ever outright local championship.

Looking Ahead

In the only Division I game in town Saturday, Saint Joseph’s, like Villanova looking for a fresh start in the New Year, hosts VCU at 7 p.m. in Hagan Arena to kick off play in the Atlantic Ten.

In the only other of the PhilahoopsW schools in action, Temple visits Cincinnati, also at 7 p.m., as the Owls will be seeking to subdue the Bearcars and improve to 3-0 in The American/.

On Sunday, the Guru will be in New York at Madison Square Garden for the annual Maggie Dixon Classic as Immaculata now and for some time had been a Division III school and will meet Queens in the first game of the doubleheade, which celebrates the 40th anniversary of when they two met to become part of the first women’s game to be played in the magical arena, now the home of the WNBA New York Liberty.

In the second game, defending NCAA champion Connecticut will meet St. John’s to renew a rivalry when both were Big East schools prior to the Huskies moving to The American last season.

At home here, No. 16 Rutgers hosts its first home game in a Big Ten event coming off the road where the Scarlet Knights split their first two beating Indiana and losing to Ohio State.

Penn State is at home, still struggling, after getting pounderd on the road at Iowa and Michigan prior to Sunday’s visit from Illinois.

Delaware opens its Colonial Athletic Association schedule hosting new member Elon while Drexel is also home launching its CAA slate hosting Northeasting.

La Salle opens play in the Atlantic 10 traveling to new member Davidson.

As mentioned, Marquette is at Villanova.

On Monday b besides the Temple/Penn showdown, Princeton wraps up its non-conference schedule, now one of only remaining unbeaten Division squads as the Tigers travel top Hampton.

That’s the report for now.

-- Mel


- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

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