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, February 28, 2015

Princeton WBB Riding the Local and Fast Track at Same Time to Ivy Glory and History

( Guru’s note. The roundup of the other three teams are below the Princeton coverage.)

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

The 14th-ranked Princeton women’s basketball team is riding two trains at the same time.

The local is making the routine stops and the Tigers are taking care of business the way they did in the four previous seasons prior to the most recent one in 2013-14 when they grabbed a quartet of Ivy titles – two by perfection within the Ancient Eight and two with a few minor hits along the way.

The other carrier however is similar to one of those bullet jobs overseas and it is transporting coach Courtney Banghart and her squad on a fast track to history with every click of the wheels hitting the rails producing another milestone.

As Princeton continues on its path as the only Division I women’s squad still unbeaten, each week produces new thresholds.

“I’ve been enjoying every second of it,” Banghart said here Friday night. “I know how hard it is to win every game. I know how special this team became after the preseason that they had.

“They care about the right things. Our leadership is in solid place. I’ve been enjoying every day of it. As we get deeper into to it we get more chances to win more games. It’s going to be fun.”

When UConn first began doing this and keep doing it, the Huskies operate from a penthouse level.

But though it sounds weird calling an Ivy institution with all its trappings of academia part of the blue collar crowd of Division I, there was a time that a very low ceiling existed for the better league teams in their history.

“It still feels a little surreal to me but each and every day I’ve been enjoying the girls next to me and I’ve been having a good time,” said junior Annie Tarakchian.

Most teams go after revenge against an opponent following an upset by that squad.

These Tigers are a little different.

At home in Jadwin Gym, Princeton made Yale pay for having the audacity of losing to the Tigers by just six points 56-50 two weeks ago in a game the Bulldogs (12-13, 6-5) chose Valentine’s Day to play their hearts out but gained nothing for the effort except a nice try accolade from the masses.

This time around it was over quickly as Princeton (26-0, 10-0) personally eliminated Yale from the Ivy race 67-49 and thanks to help from Harvard, it became double knockout night when the Crimson sent Cornell to join the Bulldogs in the lounge of the also rans.

Tigers senior Blake Dietrick scored 18 points while Tarakchian scored 16. Yale’s Whitney Wyckoff matched Dietrick’s total of 18 and the Bulldogs also got 13 from Clara Mokri.

That leaves only one team still alive mathematically, which is Penn, the villains of last season who ended the Princeton domination right here in the final game to take the Quakers third Ivy title.

However, unlike the deadlock approaching that matchup, because of a loss to Cornell several weeks ago besides the blowout at the hands of the Tigers here early last month to start the league marathon, Penn trails by two games with four remaining.

By the time Princeton arrives at the Palestra to play Penn in the season close out at 5 p.m. on March 10, the local train would have done its job and all the focus will be on the sleek bullet job.

Most likely, by beating Brown Saturday night (tonight, 6 p.m.), the last regular season game in Jadwin in which seniors Dietrick, Alex Rodgers, Jess Shivers, and Mariah Smith will be honored,. And then winning at Cornell and Columbia next weekend, national focus will be heightened to see if Princeton wraps up play at 30-0.

On the bullet train to history, Friday’s result made Banghart the winningest coach in the program’s history at 164 in her eighth season, breaking the brief tie with Joan Kowalik, who took 11 seasons to get to 163.

At 26-0 Princeton, the only Ivy women’s basketball squad ever to get nationally ranked, is within two of matching the 28-0 start by the Penn men’s squad in 1970-71.

And at a 30-0 finish, the Tigers could head into the NCAA tournament in the Top 10 in at least the final Associated Press (media) poll of the season.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see ESPN pick Princeton as one of the remote scenes on selection night since there will be national interest to see what the Tigers’ pairing will be, how high the seed, will they get a No. 4 seed that comes with the perk of hosting the first two rounds or will they get a seed opposite Louisville at 6 or 7 since the Cardinal can’t host due to an arena conflict and the site for that four-team pod would revert to Princeton.

Meanwhile, the only person leery of an Ivy monkey wrench on the road to perfection is recently retired Princeton athletic director Gary Walters, who cautions that his famous men’s squad on which Bill Bradley played got to the Final Four but got dinged 50 years ago in league play.

We hear you but right now the team that has handled Princeton the best is Princeton in practice sessions not open to the general public.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Guru's Roundup: Penn, Drexel and Villanova Close to Clinching WNIT Berths

(Guru’s note: A separate on Princeton is posted above this)

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

The postseason, most likely in the WNIT, got rosier for Penn, Drexel and Villanova Friday night in which the trio joined Ivy front-runner Princeton in a four-team sweep by the local Division I Guru’s PhilahoopsW teams that saw action.

Penn and Princeton have no conference tournament playing in the Ivy League, so everything is here and now for the southern duo portion of the Ancient Eight.

The Quakers couldn’t close the two-game gap behind the Tigers Friday night in their 75-58 win against Brown at home in the Palestra but the Penn triumph widened its gap to three games in second place over Cornell and Yale, which at the finish of the league race would be good enough to land the automatic qualifier to the WNIT.

Penn can eliminate Yale, personally, with a senior night win over the Bulldogs Saturday in the Palestra (7 p.m.) while either a Dartmouth win over Cornell Saturday or a win at Cornell next weekend by the Quakers would do the trick, though a few other scenarios also exist.

Even a slip to third, however, would see the Quakers taken as an at-large team.

Drexel clinched a seed of no worse than third in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament in two weeks at the Showplace Arena in Upper Marlboro, Md., by edging Elon, a conference newcomer,54-50, at home Friday night.

Second would land the CAA automatic qualifier for the Dragons to the WNIT but Drexel is likely to also at worst get an at-large bid to the WNIT it won two seasons ago and Rutgers won last season.

Villanova held fourth in the Big East with a 71-62 win at home in the Pavilion in a nationally televised game against Providence to avenge a tough loss to the Friars earlier at Providence bust Sunday against Creighton at 3 p.m. at home for Senior Day could produce a result that would make the Wildcats part of a wild gridlock.

The Big East tournament opens again as last year in the middle of next week in suburban Chicago at the Allstate Arena in suburban Rosemont near O’Hare airport.

Penn Keeps Rolling

Looking to be the best Ivy team not named Princeton and one of the best of the 10-team local D-1 PhilahoopsW squads, Penn helped itself and got help to stay in second place three games ahead of Cornell and Yale and two behind the front-running Tigers by beating the Bears.

Harvard’s win over Cornell at home and Princeton’s win over Yale helped Penn out besides the Quakers handling the Bears of Brown to add to the equation.

Penn can end Yale’s bid Saturday night with a win at a game in which seniors Kara Bonenberger, Katy Allen, Renee Busch, and Kathleen Roche, whose winningest class in history has now produced70 triumphs, will be honored.

They already have an Ivy title and piece of the Big 5 crown in their collection.

As for the win over Brown (10-15, 4-7), Sydney Stipanovich had 18 points and 10 rebounds while rookie Michelle Nwokedi had 15 points and nine rebounds and blocked four shots to run her season total to 52.

The only other two players to block 50 or more shots at Penn in a season were Stipanovich and Katarina Paulson who have each gone over 50 blocked shots twice.

Roche had `14 points and became the ninth Pernn player to score more than 50 threes in a season and Bonenberger scored 10 points.

Freshman Anna Ross tied a career high with eight assists.

Drexel On the Move

Once again the Dragons did not let a close score affect them as they handled Delaware on Sunday after yielding a 12-point lead.

Sarah Curran had a game-high 17 points, including 13 in the second half. Rachel Pearson scored 12 points and Florence Ouattara scored 10 points.

The win by the Dragons (18-9, 12-4 CAA), kept Drexel in second a game in front of Hofstra, who play Elon Sunday. The can’t drop to worse than third after increasing their lead over fourth place Elon (16-11, 9-7) to three games.

Towson visits for a televised game at 3 p.m. on senior day Sunday and Drexel finishes up Wednesday at Northeastern. Jackie Schluth and Jamillia Thompson will be honored.

Temple, in a key game at home in McGonigle Hall at 2 p.m. Saturday (today) is the only other PhilahoopsW team in action, playing East Carolina in a key American gsame with Third place still up for grabs among four teams.

Senior Tyonna Williams will be honored.

Coyer’s Explosion Carries Villanova over Providence

Caroline Coyer, a contender for local player of the year, tied a career high with 28 points as Villanova (17-12, 11-6 Big East) topped Providence 71-62 at home at the Pavilion. She shot 8-for-17 from the field and connected on 6-of-11 three point attempts, also tying a career high, and she also made all six foul shots.

Providence (5-23, 2-15) made several attempts to take the game over but the Friars were not nearly as successful as they were in December when Villanova visited the Friars in Rhode Island still depleted with injuries.

Emily Leer, one of the seniors to be honored Sunday, scored 12 points for the Wildcats while Samantha Wilkes had a season-high nine points.

Taylor Holeman, Kate Brunori, and Lauren Burford are also departing seniors.

Creighton, which joined the Big East last season, is the final visitor at home, though Villanova is likely to return to host a WNIKT game, though the Wildcats can’t be counted out of the hunt for the Big East title.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Friday, February 27, 2015

Guru's College Report: Delaware, Rutgers and Penn State Swept Away

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

Forget the weather.

They might have been indoors but no matter what the temperature indicated in all three arenas, it was a cold night Thursday for the Guru’s PhilahoopsW 10 schools that saw action or lots of inaction on their own part.

The Penn State 88-70 loss to Ohio State at home in the Bryce Jordan Center was no surprising upset for the Big 10 cellar dwellers who are suffering one of their all-time worst seasons in program history.

And No. 20 Rutgers’ 80-60 Big Ten loss at No. 25 Northwestern in Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, Ill., may be an upset by poll rankings but as hot as the Wildcats have been it was more a missed opportunity that barring a run to the championship probably cost the Scarlet Knights any shot at being one of 16 opening round hosts in the NCAA tournament.

But the Frozen epic of the night belonged to Delaware’s defense as the Blue Hens tossed away a 12-point halftime lead and fell to UNCW 71-68 in overtime in Wilmington, N.C. in a Colonial Athletic Association defeat.

Not long ago Elena Delle Donne was the league scoring machine for Delaware (13-14, 8-8 CAA) but Thursday night the Blue Hens got a taste of what it used to be like for the opposition when they unleashed their all-American, especially when she was at her best.

Playing the role for UNCW (12-15, 8) was Brie Mobley, who exploded for 46 points, the most ever yielded to an opponent by Delaware and topping the previous high of 43 scored by Maine scoring sensation Cindy Bodgett on Feb. 8, 1998.

The Seahawks outscored the Blue Hens 40-28 after trailing 34-22 at the break and barring some run in next month’s CAA tournament at the Showplace Arena in Upper Marlboro, Md., Delaware’s virtually out of the running for an at-large slot in the WNIT.

One must be at least .500 or better and considering league leader James Madison is visiting Sunday the odds of getting there are long, though no one thought Hofstra was going to be the Dukes last Sunday down in Virginia.

“It’s frustrating,” Delaware coach Tina Martin said afterwards. “We scored plenty of points, our defense was just indescribable in the second half.”

Joy Caracciolo had a career-high 26 points for the Blue Hens while Hannah Jardine had 16 points and 10 rebounds and Erika Brown scored 10.

Ryan Flowers; 16 rebounds for UNCW were the most individual output by an opponent all season.

Meanwhile, Drexel, which has a slim lead over Hofstra in the CAA for second, can at least clinch a 2-3 finish by beating Elon Friday night in a home game at 7 p.m. in the Daskalakis Athletic Center.

That would mean the Dragons would be on a conference tournament bracket path that would dodge JMU until the conference title game if they make it to that step. But ahead of that, finishing second lands the guaranteed automatic qualifier slot to the WNIT considering Drexel will not likely be on the table for examination by the NCAA tournament committee.

Big 10: Rutgers Ruined at Northwestern While Ohio State Tops Penn State

Once upon a time Northwestern coach Joe McKeown developed his previous George Washington squad into a national power that at times could beat out Rutgers for supremacy when the Scarlet Knights played in the Atlantic 10.

That was during the Theresa Grentz era back in the day.

This time around McKeown’s No. 25 Wildcats, who are playing there best since his arrival in 2008, faced the current era Rutgers edition that is guided by Hall of Famer C. Vivian Stringer.

When the smoke cleared, Northwestern (22-6, 12-5 Big Ten) had harnessed Rutgers’ recent uptick in scoring prowess and moved into a third-place tie with Ohio State (20-9, 12-5), which handled Penn State (6-22, 3-14) on the road.

One more date before next week’s conference tournament remains but Northwestern’s seed is likely to drop a notch considering newcomer No. 5 Maryland, unbeaten in the Big 10, visits Sunday. However, the Buckeyes must deal with Nebraska, which has won five straight over them.

Rutgers (20-8, 11-6), the other conference newcomers, fell to a tie for fifth and finishes Sunday by hosting Indiana in what is likely to be the last game played in the Louis A. Brown Athletic Center by Betnijah Laney and the rest of the Scarlet Knights seniors.

For now, it might be better for Rutgers to be sixth before heading next week to Hoffman Estates in suburban Chicago because that would keep Stringer’s bunch away from Maryland until the title game if both teams advance that far.

A year ago when spending a transition year out of the old Big East in The American Athletic Conference, Rutgers managed to lose to South Florida near the end of the season and then was forced to meet UConn in the semifinals, costing the Knights their last potential chance to get to the NCAA tournament as an at-large team.
Getting there isn’t the problem this time but the recent slump has probably put Rutgers out of a shot at home games in the opening round as previously mentioned unless a whole bunch of things happen to alter that outlook.

In the game at Northwestern, which has won eight straight for the second time this season, Laney recorded her 17th double double on the year with 21 points and 11 rebounds while Kahleah Copper scored 20.

Ashley Deary scored 19 points for the Wildcats while Nia Coffey had 15 points and 10 rebounds, Maggie Lyon scored 17, reserve Lauren Douglass scored 13 points and Alex Cohen scored 10.

Most damaging to the visitors was the outset of the second half when Northwestern launched a 14-3 run, keeping them from a field goal for a little over five minutes. The 20-point differential was the largest suffered this season..

Rutgers was also without Rachel Hollivay, who suffered a left groin strain in Sunday’s game with Michigan State.

The other Rutgers seniors being honored Sunday prior to the 2 p.m. tip are Christa Evans, Syessence Davis, and Alexis Burke.

Northwestern has beaten four ranked teams this season.

“More than anything else, I loved how we closed the game,” McKeown said. “Tonight, it felt like we found another gear and just kept making plays.

"I'm just excited we're playing well at the end of the year. To me, that’s the biggest thing.”

Meanwhile, three players getting doubles went for naught for Penn State in the loss to Ohio State.

Candice Agee had 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Sierra Moore had 13 of her team-high 18 points in the second half. Senior Tori Waldner had 10 points.

For a change, freshman sensation Kelsey Mitchell was not the Buckeyes’ leading scorer, though she was still lethal. Ameryst Alston had a game-high 23 points, Mitchell scored 18, Shayla Cooper had 16, Cait Craft scored 12, and Alexa Hart scored 10.

In Ohio State’s third straight win, Mitchell connected on a trio of 3-pointers to set a season record in the program with 107. Caity Matter’s 106 was the previous record set in 2002-03.

Mitchell, with 708 points on the season, is the first Division I player to reach 700 points.

And that’s the report for now. The Guru will be tweeting from No.; 14 Princeton Friday night but tracking second-place Penn in the Ivy race as the Quakers host Brown and the Tigers play Yale. The radar will also be on Drexel’s game with Elon at home 7 p.m. and Villanova’s Big East game with Providence, with an 8:30 p.m. start at the Pavilion for TV purposes.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Guru's Musings: Paring Down the Maggie Dixon Award Chase

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

Coming down the stretch and looking at the records of the 23 hires between seasons the Guru identified as the WBCA Division I Maggie Dixon rookie coach of the year award candidate it is a close race but as the Guru sees it there are just eight potentials to put on a list.

And then you go from there.

Based on Wednesday morning's composite standings and looking at records of .500 or better there are just eight names to put on a list.

Here is the survivors of the first cut.

Jimmy Dikes, Arkansas, hired with no experience. 16-0 overall 6-8 SEC
Kurt Godlevske, Butler, a staff promotion. 14-13, 10-6 Big East
Lisa Fortier, Gonzaga, promotion. 22-5, 15-1 1st in WCC.
Joey Wells, Indiana State, prmotion. 16-10, 6-9 Missouri Valey Conference
Tyler Summitt, Louisiana Tech, hire, no HC experience, 14-12, 9-6 C-USA
Kamie Etheridge, Northern Colorado, no HC experience, 15-11, 9-6, Big Sky
Caroline McCombs, Stony Brook, 16-11, 9-5, no HC experience, Amer. East
Chris Boettcher, S. Utah, 12-12, 5-9 Big Sky.

On performance right now, Lisa Fortier, promoted from within, has Gonzaga leading West Coast Conference. But how much was in place to help?

Joey Wells and Chris Boettcher have losing records within their conferences.

Kurt Godlevske. another in-house promotion, has Butler in three-way tie for third in Big East.

Tyler Summitt, former Marquette assistant besides the famous son accolade, has Louisiana Tech vastly improved from 11-19, 5-11 conference finish a year ago so put him on the short list.

Caroline McCombs, a past Auburn assistant, has Stony Brook improved and in the race in the America East.

Of course, polls are open for a while yet, perhaps into the first rounds of the NCAA tournament where one year the famous Ball State upset of Tennessee in the first round produced the winner which until then seemed likely to be Temple's Tonya Cardoza that year. Lindsay Gottlieb, then with Santa Barbara, was also in the hunt,

NCAA Stats Reflect Princeton Teammwork on Road to Perfection

Because the 14th-ranked Tigers of the Ivy League are part of the Guru's PhilhoopsW group, he pulled their stats through Monday on the NCAA site in terms of looking at individual candidates for local postseason honors.

In terms of national competition, the best two performers within a category that shows a high ranking are senior guard Blake Dietrick, a multi-Ivy player of the week who is 17th in field goal percentage shooting while Annie Tarakchian is 19th in defensive rebounds.

But get this. Last week when former Princeton all-time men's great Bill Bradley visited the women's team after their win over Dartmouth at Jadwin Gym he talked about how impressed he was with the way they work as a team.

Incidentally, several coaches scouting teams for themselves that Princeton has played, have remarked how much they were impressed by what they saw of the Tigers on film.

Well the stats seem to bear this all out to the point that if Princeton was the name of one player that individual would be a sure bet all-American and perhaps even on a short list for player of the year.

Here are the high rankings: Scoring offense, 14th; Scoring defense, 6th; Scoring Margin, 2nd, Field goal percentage, 2nd; Field goal percentage defense, 3rd; Rebound margin, 6th; Three-point field goal percentage, 1st; Won-loss, obviously 1st; Assists per game, 16th; Blocked shots, 56th; Assists turnovers, 21st; Three-point field goal defense, 5th; and defensive rebounds per game, 10th.

Enough said. The Guru will be back within 24 hours to offer his list of the prospective NCAA field and the bubbles.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Guru's College Report: St. Joe's Upsets Duquesne While Temple and La Salle Also Winners

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

Saint Joseph’s gave an indication Wednesday night of what the Hawks might be capable of as a spoiler in next week’s Atlantic 10 tournament in Richmond, Va., when they beat Duquesne 60-49 in the final home game of the season at Hagan Arena to earn a split and gain revenge for last month’s loss in Pittsburgh.

The Dukes (19-9, 11-4 Atlantic 10) came to town riding an eight-game win streak and holding down the third spot in the standings.

They left having been held to their lowest point total for the season while the Hawks (11-16, 7-8), closed the night in an eighth-place tie with VCU heading into Sunday’s finale at La Salle, which grabbed a 66-53 road win over St. Bonaventure at the Reilly Center in Olean, N.Y., to get back to .500 overall.

"We did not have our A game tonight,” Duquesne coach Dan Burt said. “Our effort tonight was not at the level you need to win championships.”

It was a three-game sweep of the night with Temple taking a key road win at SMU 55-39 in Dallas, Texas, for the only teams of the 10 local D-I schools that comprise the Guru’s PhilahoopsW collection.

The game on Hawk Hill was in doubt with Saint Joseph’s holding a slim 44-42 lead with 9 minutes, 12 seconds left in regulation. It still was that way with the Hawks ahead by three with 6:19 left.

But while not exactly being a wholesale scoring machine themselves, Saint Joseph’s put the clamps down, defensively, and used a 12-4 run to collect the victory.

“Duquesne was a good team coming in and we felt we didn’t play our best up there,” Hawks coach Cindy Griffin said afterwards. “I was excited about the way we played at the start playing defense and the way we rebounded the ball.”

The Hawks outscored the Dukes 38-26 in the paint and bested them in transition 13-7 while also outscoring Duquesne 12-4 on fast break points.

“Our goal is to have some momentum going into the conference tournament and we certainly would like to get one more win. We’re going to focus on La Salle first and foremost and then see how the seedings fall and just take one game at as time.”

Ciara Andrews had a game-high 23 points for Saint Joseph’s, while Sarah Fairbanks scored 14 and grabbed nine rebounds while Natasha Cloud had 12 points and nine assists in the Cardinal O’Hara grad’s final game in Hagan Arena.

“Yeah, there were a few tears afterwards,” she said.

Freshman Chelsea Woods grabbed 10 rebounds.

Duquesne’s April Robinson scored 15 points while Jose-Ann Johnson had 12 points and blocked four shots.

Sunday’s game at the Explorers’ Tom Gola Arena is just a conference battle since the Hawks beat La Salle at home last month to gain a piece of the three-way tie with Villanova and Penn for the Big 5 title.

The Explorers (14-14, 5-10 A-10) in Wednesday’s win dodged a seven-game shooting drought midway through the second half to still gain the triumph.

They made up for it, however, by connecting on 10 of 12 free throw opportunities during the dry spell.

Michaya Owens had 15 of her game-high 20 points for La Salle during the second stanza while Jasmine Alston added 14 points and seven rebounds to the Explorers’ game stats.

Kate Healy had 19 points while Mariah Ruff and Nyla Rueter each scored 13 points for the Bonnies (15-13, 5-10), who sit in 12th place going into the final game for them.

Temple Corrals Mustangs

Rocky as the season has been Temple might be heading for life and more action after next week’s American Athletic Conference tournament at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., for the second straight year.

The Owls (14-15, 10-6 AAC) got within one game of the elusive .500 overall figure and could finish above by taking their final two games at home Saturday against East Carolina at 2 p.m. in McGonigle Hall and then back in Texas Monday against Houston.

The record would then be good enough to land an at-large slot in the WNIT or good enough for fourth or third which could lead to the automatic qualifier berth in the same tournament.

But what about the NCAA you say?

Well if you think Temple is going to get there the only way possible for the Owls by ruining top-ranked Connecticut’s second straight coronation party at the casino-entertainment complex feel free to bet all your worldly goods.

Didn’t think so.

However, against the more common folks, the Owls did quite well in Texas as freshman Alliya Butts had a game-high 17 points.

Defensively, Temple broke from a tie at the half to outscore SMU 34-18 the rest of the way.

In the Owls’ earlier victory over the Mustangs (6-21, 2-14) in Philadelphia last month they used a fast start to get the job done.

Temple freshman Tanaya Atkinson also scored in double figures by getting 10 points.

No one scored in double figures for SMU with Alicia and Keely Froling each scoring nine points for team highs.

Temple could finish third if things fall a certain way but finishing above .500 in fourth or fifth might still attract the WNIT folks.

Looking Ahead

Just like Wednesday only three of the Guru’s PhilahoopsW squads are in action Thursday with two involved in the Big Ten.

Penn State in a fight with Purdue to avoid the cellar hosts Ohio State at 7 p.m. in the Bryce Jordan Center while No. 20 Rutgers travels to newly-ranked No. 25 Northwestern at 9 p.m. for a battle involving placement in the neighborhood behind top-seed Maryland for next week’s conference tournament in suburban Chicago.

Delaware, trying to finish strong in the Colonial Athletic Association before hosting front-runner James Madison Sunday, visits UNCW at 7 p.m.

On Friday No. 14 and unbeaten Princeton goes for a knockout of Yale in the Ivy race at home at 7 p.m. in Jadwin Gym while Penn, trying to hold second by two games, hosts Brown at 7 p.m. at The Palestra. On Saturday, the hosting Ivy teams switch playing the visitors with the only difference being Princeton’s tip is 7 p.m.

Villanova, in a game for TV purposes, hosts Providence in a Big East game at the Pavilion at 8:30 p.m., trying for revenge for an earlier loss to the Friars in Rhode Island while Drexel in a key Colonial Athletic Association game at home in the Daskalakis Athletic Center hosts Elon at 7 p.m.

Drexel is trying to finish second. Villanova, Drexel and Penn are all extremely strongly in the hunt for WNIT berths. The Saturday games have all been spoken for in this post – two Ivies and the Temple game.

We’ll get to Sunday in the next roundup.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Guru's AP Poll Trivia: Milestone Time for ND's McGraw and Northwestern's McKeown

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

When Northwestern got ranked this week in The Associated Press women’s poll for the first time since 1996, it put Joe McKeown in rare company, making it the second time this season a Philadelphia-born coach hit a significant milestone with their teams rankings.

The first was earlier when Chattanooga re-entered from a long drought and when that occurred, Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame coach Jim Foster became the first to guide four different teams in the rankings.

His first came right out of Philly at Saint Joseph’s who leaped back into the rankings in the mid-late 1980s thanks to the play of one future USA pro star Debbie Black, who is now head coach at Eastern Illinois.

Then it was on to Vanderbilt in the Southeastern Conference and that was followed by a stint at Ohio State, where Foster’s Buckeyes had several successful runs in the Big Ten Conference.

McKeown in the 1980s had New Mexico State in the poll for six appearances before moving on and making George Washington into a national power.

The Northwestern ranking and using a bit of lingo change because of Foster’s breakthrough makes McKeown the 10th coach with three or more teams and obviously one of nine in the threesome group behind Foster’s quartet.

The best combined total making her high up the all-time and active lists belongs to C. Vivian Stringer off her work first at Cheyney in suburban Philadelphia – seems to be a trend – then at Iowa and finally at Rutgers.

Gary Blair is also high up the list with stints at Stephen F. Austin, Arkansas and currently at Texas A&M.

Moving Up With Muffet

Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw, another Philly-bred mentor, passed former Auburn coach Joe Ciampi when she hit 291 appearances to land at 14th all-time. Technically one list has her at 15th because there’s a clump of shared appearances with Louisiana Tech’s Leon Barmore and Sonja Hogg were called co-coaches.

Subtract that number and Barmore drops several places behind McGraw.

McGraw’s total makes her eighth on the active list and she’s 10th on the all-time list for getting her total at one school.

Tennessee coach emeritus Pat Summitt, who only missed 14 polls during her long reign with the Lady Vols, is a runaway in terms of being at the top of the all-time list, while Georgia’s Andy Landers is second all-time and first active after Summitt’s stepping down in Knoxville three seasons ago.

McGraw’s all-time AP total is also the Irish all-time total and by getting to 291 this week, Notre Dame tied Ohio State for 17th.

Rutgers moved into an 11th place tie with LSU for 11th with 367 appearances.

This week the state of Kentucky duo – UK’s Matthew Mitchell and Louisville’s Jeff Walz made their 100th appearance together in Monday’s poll, which ties them for 21 on the active list.

In terms of conference representation in this week’s AP group, the rerturn of California and the Northwestern arrival boosted the Big Ten and Pac-12 up to four teams each, which still trails the five out of the Southeastern and a conference-best six-team group out of the Atlantic Coast.

The Big 12 has just one in Top 5 Baylor. Then from the non-power league’s explosive member UConn sits atop at No. 1 for a best-ever 181st time to make The American proud.

Princeton out of the Ivies continues to move forward on the defeats of others as did Delaware several years ago with Elena Delle Donne doing her collegiate thing.

The Tigers jumped from 16th to 14th as they stay unbeaten.

Meanwhile, there were no games to go to Tuesday but the Guru will be at Saint Joseph’s Wednesday night when Duquesne visits Hagan Arena on Hawk Hill and that is the only game on the Guru’s 10-school PhilahoopsW card.

Since the Guru didn’t do a complete local roundup since Friday – though some notes are coming off some of the action – here is the Guru’s word file that is manually updated weekly after the two AP historical databases are refreshed and we will see some of you on Hawk Hill.

By Mel Greenberg
Women’s Hoops Guru
(Feb. 23, 2015)
Quick hits on AP poll (week 16 – for coaches’ appearances week No. 16)
(This is the 688th poll after week 16 for 2014-16). (Records on pages through week 16)

Coaches with Four Ranked Teams

Jim Foster (St. Joe-35), (Vanderbilt-164), (Ohio St.-170), (Chattanooga-5), 374

Coaches with Three Ranked Teams

C. Vivian Stringer (Cheyney-85), (Iowa-155), (Rutgers-186), 426
Gary Blair (Stephen F. Austin-79), (Arkansas-67), (Texas A&M-168), 314
Marianne Stanley (Old Dominion-141), (Southern Cal-24), (Stanford*-18), 183
Lin Dunn (Miami-2), (Mississippi-1), (Purdue-130), 133
Joe McKeown (New Mexico St.-6), (Geo. Wash.-110), (Northwestern-1) 117
Don Perrelli (Northwestern-52), (S. Conn.-20), (St. John’s-1), 73
Tom Collen (Colorado St.-34), (Louisville-17), (Arkansas-9), 60
Sharon Fanning-Otis (Kentucky-4), (Miss. St.-48), (Chattannoga-4), 56
Debbie Yow (Florida-2), (Kentucky-21), (Oral Roberts-1), 24

Kittie Blakemore, Scott Harrelson – West Virginia 8
Sonja Hogg, Leon Barmore – Louisiana Tech 51
Jill Hutchison, Linda Fischer – Illinois St. 3
Jim Jarrett, Joyce Patterson – Georgia St. 1
Marianne Stanley, Amy Tucker – Stanford 18
Jim Bolla, Sheila Strike – UNLV 18

Coaches All Time Ranking Appearances

1. **- Pat Summitt, Tennessee – 618 (missed just 14 polls in entire AP history)
2. Andy Landers, Georgia – 522
3. Tara VanDerveer (2 schools – Ohio St., Stanford) – 482
4. Geno Auriemma, Connecticut – 442
5. C. Vivian Stringer (3 schools – Cheyney, Iowa, Rutgers) – 427
6. **-Jody Conradt, Texas – 395
7. Sylvia Hatchell, North Carolina – 380
8. Jim Foster (4 schools – St. Joseph’s, Vandy, Ohio St., Chattanooga) – 374
9. **-Rene Portland (2 schools – St. Joseph, Penn St.) – 336
10. **-Debbie Ryan, Virginia – 328
11. **- Kay Yow, North Caro. St. – 326
12. **-Leon Barmore, Louisiana Tech (51-shared with Sonja Hogg) – 325
13. Gary Blair, (3 schools – Stephen F. Austin, Arkansas, Texas A&M) – 314
14.**- Gail Goestenkors (2 schools – Duke, Texas) – 295
15. Muffet McGraw, Notre Dame – 291
16. **-Joe Ciampi, Auburn – 290
17. **-Sue Gunter (2 schools – Stephen F. Austin, LSU) – 270
18. &&-Joan Bonvicini (2 schools – Long Beach, Arizona) - 267
19. **-Marsha Sharp, Texas Tech – 264
20. **-Van Chancellor (2 schools – Mississippi, LSU) – 261
21. Kim Mulkey, Baylor 244
22. **-Chris Weller, Maryland - 227
23. **-Theresa Grentz (2 schools – Rutgers, Illinois) – 225
24. Sherri Coale, Oklahoma 224
25. Joanne P. McCallie (2 schools – Michigan St., Duke) – 221
26. Brenda Frese (2 schools – Minnesota, Maryland) -- 196
26. **-Marianne Stanley (3 schools – ODU, Southern Cal, Stanford*) – 183
28. **-Paul Sanderford (2 schools – W. Kentucky, Nebraska) – 182
29. **-Marian Washington, Kansas – 176
**-Not in college or not in as a head coach

Active Coaches-All Time AP Ranking Appearances

1. Andy Landers, Georgia – 522
2. Tara VanDerveer (2 schools – Ohio St., Stanford) – 482
3. Geno Auriemma, Connecticut – 442
4. C.Vivian Stringer (3 schools – Cheyney, Iowa, Rutgers) – 427
5. Sylvia Hatchell, North Carolina – 380
6. Jim Foster (3 schools – St. Joseph’s, Vandy, Ohio St., Chattanooga) – 374
7. Gary Blair, (3 schools – Stephen F. Austin, Arkansas, Texas A&M) – 314
8. Muffet McGraw, Notre Dame – 291
9.&&--Joan Bonvicini (2 schools – Long Beach, Arizona) - 267
10. Kim Mulkey, Baylor – 244
11. Sherri Coale, Oklahoma – 224
12. Joanne P. McCallie (2 schools - Michigan St., Duke) – 221
13. Brenda Frese (2 schools, Minnesota, Maryland) – 196
14. Melanie Balcomb (2 schools – Xavier, Vanderbilt) – 161
15. Bill Fennelly, (2 schools – Toledo, Iowa St.) – 155
16. Doug Bruno, DePaul – 148
17. @!@!-Kristy Curry (2 schools – Purdue, Texas Tech) – 136
18. Joe McKeown (3 schools – N.Mexico St., Geo. Wash., Northwestern) – 117
19. ==== Jim Davis, Clemson, 106
20.)))-Chris Gobrecht (Washington) - 104
21. Matthew Mitchell, Kentucky – 100
21. Jeff Walz, Louisville – 100
23. !!!- Jane Albright (2 schools – N. Illinois, Wisconsin) – 96
24. Charli Turner Thorne, Arizona St. – 94
25. Sue Semrau, Florida St. – 86
26. Sharon Versyp, Purdue – 84
26. Connie Yori (Creighton, Nebraska) – 84
28. Dawn Staley (Temple, South Carolina) – 82
29. Mike Carey, West Virginia – 70
30. Joanne Boyle, California (2 schools – California, Virginia) – 61
30. Suzy Merchant, Michigan St. – 61
30. Coquese Washington, Penn State – 61
33. Holly Warlick, Tennessee – 56
34. Lisa Bluder (2 schools – Iowa, Drake) – 54
34. Bonnie Henrickson, (2 schools -- Virginia Tech, Kansas) – 54
36. ***-Kathy Olivier, UCLA 52
37. ^^^-Kevin McGuff, Xavier – 50
38. ____Terri Williams-Flournoy, Georgetown – 48
39. Lindsay Gottlieb, California 47
40. Jim Littell, Oklahoma State – 45
41. Harry Perretta, Villanova – 44
42.@@@@- Kelly Graves, Gonzaga – 38
42. Quentin Hillsman, Syracuse – 38
42. #####-Jeff Mittie, TCU – 38
45.%=%= Matt Bollant, Wis.-Green Bay – 35
45. Katie Meier, Miami –35
47. Lisa Stockton, Tulane – 34
48. $$$- June Daugherty (2 schools – Boise St.,Washington) – 32
49. MaChelle Joseph, Georgia Tech – 31

&&-Active at Seattle; )))-Active at Yale; $$$-Active at Wash. St.; !!!-Active at Nevada; @@@@-Active at Oregon; ^^^-Active at Ohio State.; ==== Active at Tenn Tech; ____Active at Auburn; %=%= Active at Illinois; @!@!-Active at Alabama, #####-active at Kansas State.

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Mike Siroky's SEC Report: South Carolina Tops Tennessee to Repeat Conference Crown

By Mike Siroky

No. 2 South Carolina welcomed in No. 6 Tennessee Monday night to decide the regular season champions of the Southeastern Conference of women’s basketball.

Just like last season, by remaining undefeated at home, SC won the title, 71-66.

One Gamecocks advantage was the loss of Lay Vol Izzy Harrison, a senior leader, to a torn ACL.

The Lady Vols were in their second game against SC playing without her.

The Gamecocks had been winning rebounds by 11.

With Harrison, UT had been averaging an 8.9 difference. She had been getting 6.2 defensive boards. In a balanced attack, her 12.8 average led the team and she had twice as many blocks as anyone else.

It was indeed a sad time to end a career. She is one of the few holdovers from the reign of former coach Pat Head Sunmitt, though recruited by current coach Holly Warlick and coached by her for three seasons,

SC had been scoring 78 and allowing 52. Tennessee had been scoring 72 and allowing 54.

So each scored five or more less and each allowed more than 15 than against everyone else in America.

Tennessee and South Carolina played to a 36-33 halftime. But SC had a seven-point lead with 10 minutes left. UT had to seize control or become SC’s 26th victim in 27 tries.

As usual, SC’s “bigs,” Aleigsha Welch and Elem Ebiam, led with 19 and 12. and the league’s best player – Tiffany Mitchell – also had 13.

Almost uncontested without Harrison to harass them, Welch was 9-0f-14 and Ebiam 6-of-9. Tennessee’s only big, Bashaara Graves, had 15 but was 6-of-14 as SC began to grind UT down with a 60-53 lead and 7:30 left.

It looked to be over, despite the less than 10-digit advantage,
There just seemed to be no escape route and trading baskets would not create one.

It was still a six-point lead with 2:50 left.

All SC had the to do to win a projected consecutive conference title was to maintain.

All the individual accolades will fall into place as well as the home games which get them to a Regional in which they are top seeds

The difference today in the programs is SC can only move up by winning it all.

That means the best thing to do is win out which they didn’t do last season by losing to UT in the league tourney.

So while a win at home on national cable TV is nice, they have risen to the point it’s just nice, not even spectacular, which a win by UT would have meant to them, and their second-year coach, Holly Warlick.

With 49 seconds left, SC had a three-point edge and missed a shot and a free throw.

UT contributed two fouls and SC had the ball back.

Another missed shot and Graves took a feed from Cierra Burdick to make it a one-point game.

There were 22 seconds left and each coach called a timeout.

Two fouls, a turnover and a missed free throw later, Asia Dozer made two free throws and this battle was over, SC by five.

The Gamecocks have won their title and an NCAA No. 1 seed.

Which means anyplace but wherever UConn lands.

Tennessee has probably has earned another No. 1 as well by taking it to the No. 2 in the nation (a team which has been No. 1 most of the season) at their home court will also avoid the other No. 1s.

That means No. 1 or No. 2 out West, which is fine even if they win the conference post-season again.

When you meet expectations, that is what happens.

Graves finished with 20 points and seven rebounds. Burdick had 16 and 10.

Unfortunately for the Lady Vols, Ariel Massengale slipped back to zero points.

No team can afford a senior leader who does that.

Last year, Tennessee’s Meighan Simmons finished her home career in a wire-to-wire blowout of SC with 16 points, for example.

This loss ended Tennessee’s streak of not having lost in conference for more than a year.

SC is halfway there.

For the winners it was 14 rebounds and 19 points for Welch and 16 points for Mitchell.

SC won the rebounds, 46-33, which is what happens most nights and why they have only one loss all season.

Tennessee can match the unbeaten home mark and probably will. No other team in the league will be undefeated at home.

The conference coaches had selected this finish, if not the improbability of the unbeaten at home part.

Then again, what other teams were going to be legitimate challengers.

Texas A&M was projected third, but took away at least the tiebreaker for fourth by winning at Kentucky.

Kentucky still has to play SC.

LSU – which defeated Kentucky – has to lose another to drop to fifth, and still has to play at A&M.

So fourth, and the final easier seed, is not determined

LSU skipped the NCAA for the 1991-1996 tournaments, then was a regular competitor with the exception of 2011 until now.

Under previous coaches, they made the Final Fours of 2005-2008, plus three more Elite Eights and six more Sweet 16s.

No one, not even really smart writers, thought Mississippi State would be near the top.

They were projected eighth and look to finish third. They’d earn a Sweet 16 qualifying two home games if they succeed.

If there is a sixth team in the NCAA mix, no one is stepping up to claim it.

Underachieving Georgia’s latest effort included an 11-point second half and gave Auburn its first SEC win, at Georgia.

LSU was pounded by awful Arkansas and has but 15 wins. Neither can hit 20 in the regular season. Georgia is in real danger of missing only its second NCAA tounament.

So, depending on the league conference tournament in a few weeks, if UT makes the finals (they did last season and SC did not), they’ll be a No. 1 seed.

If they lose and the NCAA committee punishes them for the loss of Harrison, they’ll be No. 2, out West either way with any luck. All the other projected No. 1s are better teams, so the best No. 2 to be is West.

The Week That Was

•South Carolina prepared for Tennessee with a blowout at Arkansas, 73-56.

The Gamecocks matched Mississippi Sate for the most overall wins in conference at 25.

All-American guard Tiffany Mitchell scored 15 and Alaina Coates brought 14 off the bench, as did rookie guard A’Ja Wilson in a well-balanced attack.

“We knew Monday's a big game, but we knew we had to take care of business here first," Mitchell said. "We're still trucking along and have a lot of season left. We're not going to hang our heads after one loss."

SC coach Dawn Staley said, “Our league prepares us.

"We're known for our bigs, but I thought our guards came to play with getting some blocked shots," Staley said.

The Gamecocks next go to Mississippi State.

•The Lady Vols started the experimental lineup with a visit by lowly Alabama, which was coming off a wasting at Texas A&M.


Before the game, UT coach Holly Warlick announced she was closing down a player for the second season with concussion after-effects. They are seeking another year for junior forward Jasmine Jones, using a request a medical hardship waiver to restore a year of eligibility.

She was injured in the December game against Stanford. So she joined starting center Izzy Harrison on the sidelines.

Tennessee won the first half over visiting Alabama, by 11, and the second by 10 to win another at home, 77-56.

The revived Ariel Massengale scored 17, 5-of-11 3s to lead the Lady Vols.

It set up the trip to South Carolina. It is only the senior guard’s third start of the season.

Adding to the confidence was Cierra Burdick with 16 points and Bashaara Graves’ with 14. UT hit all 18 free throws.

UT coach Holly Warlick likes the effort.

"We wanted to make sure, we talked about this being a statement game, just playing hard. I talk about that all the time. I thought that the Kentucky game we played hard and I wanted to carry it over to this game.

"I thought we did some really good things. My main concern was defensively how we were going to come out, where we going to guard someone one-on-one, make sure we didn't need Izzy [Harrison] in the paint.

"I thought it was a great game for us to experiment a little bit. I wanted to get Nia [Moore] in and get her some play with the starting group."

As for the free throws, UT has a tradition in practice back to Warlicks playing days of spending a generous amount of time doing free throws.

"We take time to do it. Free throws are just focus,” Warlick said. “It is mental.

They know how to shoot them, it is just total focus. We put a lot of time in our free throws. That is solid. That is awesome. I was really, really pleased with it.

"We didn't really go to the line that much.”

• No. 13 Kentucky and No.12 Texas &M decided No. 4 in the league, most likely, 81-69 A&M.

Each still play South Carolina to close the season but UK already has five league losses and the Aggies now have the tiebreaker.

Then again, A&M, Kentucky and Mississippi State could all have five league loss for the No. 3 and No. 4 conference seeds. State lost to UK and Tennessee as well as LSU.

No. 15 at No. 11 at the time; Kentucky is now out of the Top 10 for the remainder of the season.
Now they have to hold onto one of the 16 golden tickets for the NCAA draw.

UK started out ahead, 8-2 with two 3s by Mikayla Epps. Then A&M showed its mettle and handed UK its second home loss.

It was 38-31, A&M at halftime, from down, 30-31 with 1:48 before the break.

Tavarsha Scott-Williams scored two straight layups, followed by one by Jordan Jones and the finished by Courtney Williams.

Kentucky was without an answer, even at home. The Wildcats could not cut into the lead.

The Aggies were cool with that. Two minutes in, Walker hit a jumper and the lead was 41-33. Achiri Ade made two jumpers and, with 14 minutes left t was 47-36.

UK’s will to win seemed gone.

A flurry by Walker, Ade and Khaalia Hillsman made it a 20-point lead with 11 minutes left, then 73-55 with 3:47 to go.

It was officially a wipeout. A&M had five in double figures, led by Walker’s 19 and 16 by Courtney Williams.

A&M won the rebounds by 12. Epps had 19 for UK, which was sill in search of win No. 20.

Last year, A&M finished strongly.

They eventually ended up giving UConn its toughest game in the NCAA tournament as the last SEC standing. In a league of coaches, Gar Blair is always one of the best.

“The atmosphere here for basketball is unbelievable,” Blair said.

“I was walking around the mall over there by the Hyatt today and seeing all of the basketball stuff.

They have almost 6,000 people come out here on a snowy night like it is. I don’t know how (John) Calipari gets all those kids to come here in this bad weather but hey this is basketball country.

“Just appreciate the opportunity to play where Joe B. Hall and Adolph Rupp -- who they (Courtney Williams and Walker) don’t even know who the heck they are.

"But hey, this is history right here. First time I played at Pauley Pavilion, history. First time I played in Cameron Fieldhouse, history. Madison Square Garden you name it I’ve been there.

“We’ve played well on the road but we have never been able to finish. The end to the first half I think was the biggest change of the game and we had an even ball game, even behind and all of a sudden we made some plays.

" (Courtney) Williams carried us in the first half, this one (Courtney Walker) carried us in the second half and this is a kid who never gets to come to the press room because all she does is rebound and play hard.

"OK, she is probably not going to be a first-round draft pick, but she is not going to have to play in Ethiopia either.

“She will play somewhere but this is a senior who is a warrior. I’m happy for my team.”

UK, in its only game of the week, is 3-3 in its last six games and has lost two straight.

For the second straight loss, UK coach matt Mitchell had to own up to the fact his team played without much zest.

“It was a tough night for us. We didn’t really play hard and I thought Texas A&M played really hard and took it to us. They deserved to win the game and we just have to try to regroup here and see if we can start playing some Kentucky basketball because we’re not doing it right now.”

They gave up 52 points in the paint.

“We let them drive the ball wherever they wanted to drive and we knew they were drivers,” said Mitchell.

“They got to the rim. I think the main thing is hustle. I just have to create an environment where that is a non-negotiable. Right now we just have people that think it’s okay to not hustle and to get beat like this.

"A lot of it is on me and I have to change the atmosphere here to see if we can turn it around because tonight was all about a lack of effort. That’s the absolute worse case scenario for us here at Kentucky is not giving great effort.”

A&M started the week by blasting Alabama and ended at home again against Florida.

Against Alabama, the Aggies sprinted to a 31-19 halftime lead, led by
Courtney Walker’s dozen. They won the half 25-16 after four minutes were gone. They started the second half on a 10-6 run.

They closed it down, 70-49. Walker had a career-best 27 and moved to ninth on the program all-time scoring list. It is also the 10th straight 20-win season.

They are also in the NCAA draw, likely as a Top 16 seed, which means two home games.

Walker said, “The thing I focus on more than how many I score, is on percentages, being able to be efficient from the floor. I think last game I was 6-for-18, today I was 13-for 20, so I’m much more proud of it today than the other day.

"I would have rather been six-for-10 or something, so focus on shots calculation and being able to have a high percentage of those shots.

Texas A&M Associate Head Coach Kelly Bond-White handled the post-game questioners: “I thought our kids came out flat;, Chelsea (Jennings) alluded to it.

"I didn't think our energy was great to start the game. I think one of the things we talked about, our inefficiency offensively early and I thought we didn't get penetration whether it was penetration through the pass, penetration off the dribble.

“I thought we settled for passes around the arc and that was an adjustment we made at halftime and a lot of that starts with energy. Whether we were just walking off the screens of the zone, whether we weren't cutting as hard, that's what we wanted to change With three games in one week, this was a nice easy start.

“Not necessarily getting a chance to rest some people, but we just talked about efficiency,” said Bond-White.

“I think that's what it gives you more than anything when you talk about the milestones, the fact that they did it on percentage shooting, the fact that they did it within the flow of the offense.

"Courtney (Walker) mentioned she pays attention to that and that's something that we're pushing, the fact that Jordan came back and had 10 assisted buckets.

"That's what we're looking forward to, that's when our team plays at their best, so if we can carry that over into Kentucky, I like our chances.”

A&M stayed in comfort control against Florida, up by 10 at home at half and by at least that many in the second half, before winning. 66-46, their 17th straight home win.

Their game this week is the home finale before the anticipated home games in the NCAA tournament.

Junior Courtney Williams led this one with 11 points, needing only one in the second half and was held back with foul trouble.

Senior Achiri Ade scored 10. She has earned a fond farewell.

A&M has won three straight, five of six. They were 10 percent better from the field.

“First, about the game itself and what we were playing for,” said A&M coach Gary Blair. “I had a chance to watch North Carolina State beat Duke today. I talked to the girls about not just home court, not just about where we are in the SEC, but what we’re playing for.

“We really came out fired up, ready to play and start the ball game. We got into foul trouble with the two C.W.’s, but I trust my bench.

"They came in and did an excellent job. I thought (Chelsea) Jennings was very good, very active. She gave me eight rebounds and five points in 20 minutes. Tori Scott came in and looked like her old self today. I really wanted to leave
her in and give her more minutes, but (Courtney) Walker and Williams were playing so well.

They showed that they didn’t have to score to be effective.

“That was the first time in a long time Walker was under double digits. Williams played well in the second half too. I thought it was just a good team effort. We played 10 players before the 10-minute mark in the game and there was no drop off.

"Overall though, Jordan (Jones) directed my team. I thought we put the hammer down when we had to. We’re going to take the win and go back and figure out what we need to do against Missouri.”

“Everything depends on Teas A&M. Take care of business, hopefully, we can get third in the league. Worse comes to worse, fourth.”

“We talked about Florida coming off an emotional home loss that more or less knocked them out of everything. The question was how were they going to respond and how were we going to respond?

"We had the first blow, or the first punch. That’s what you want. The home court was good, the crowd was good, and the calls of the game were very good. I’m so proud of our sport and women’s basketball across the country getting behind this. ”

•No. 11 Mississippi State caught the end of Alabama’s terribly tough week.

The Tide did not go easy.

State had spread around its scoring, eight each from Martha Alwal and Victoria Vivians. But ‘Bama forward Ashley Williams went off for 15 and it was 27-25, State, at half.

It took awhile for either team to even start, 4-4 then 10-10 with nine minutes left in the period.

Williams scored twice in a row and Alabama had a five-point lead, which State erased in three minutes A Dominique Dillingham 3 put the Bulldogs ahead.

Vivians came out of the locker room hot and scored nine, but that only kept State ahead by five as every shot was contested,

Alabama was outshooting the visitors, 42-30 percent, to stay in it.

With 7:31 left, it was but a three-point advantage. With 86 seconds left, Vivians scored her final basket.

Sharon Rivers hit a 3 for the Tide with 55 seconds left.

Dillingham blocked the final home attempt with six seconds left and grabbed her fifth defensive rebound.

In the end, each side scored 30 in the second half. It ended 57-55.
State has its 25th win a school record and another with 10 in conference.

Vivians scored 14, Dillingham and Alwal each with 10. State was still outshot 41-31 percent and the home team had more free throws, 17-of-24 to 13-of-17 (there’s four points right there). Williams only scored six in the second half for Alabama. It was an important road win for State.

State goes to South Carolina then closes the season at home. Alwal is among three seniors who have, at least this season, put State on national notice.

“I don’t think you can say this is just another win,” State coach Vic Schaefer said. “There has been a lot of great basketball played at Mississippi State.

"Coach (Sharon) Fanning had a lot of great teams and a lot of great players.

"For the youth on this team, for us to get to 25, is a tremendous accomplishment.

“I am really proud of being the coach at Mississippi State. We are giving God the glory. It’s a great University. We are now looking forward to No. 26.”

“Life on the road is tough,” Schaefer said. “You are just trying to get out of here with a win. I am so proud of our fans and can’t thank them enough. It was great to be able to play with our fans cheering. We had more fans here than we did. They were the MVP because they got us through this game.

“It wasn’t our best day but we found a way.”

•Kentucky started the new week at Ole Miss. But it was the same old, same old.

It went about as expected for the league’s lowest-ranked team which we had projected from the stat as a second-tier team in the league.

Kentucky, desperate to stop a losing streak, against another also-ran, started out ahead, then failed miserably again.

They may have lost the chance to host the Sweet 16 play-instead be fed to either UConn or Note Dame, each of which won their conferences and already have earned top seeds.

We all await coach Mathew Mitchell’s latest explanations for a team which has not been able to win 20, has six league losses and still has South Carolina coming in on Senior Night.

UK started out barely in control, 15-11. Jennifer O’Neill, in the starting lineup, had eight, 3-of-3 from the line, 2-of-3 from the field. But when Gracie Frizzell hit a 3 with a few seconds left, the half was tied at 29. Shed led all scorers with a dozen points.

Ole Miss maintained. The Rebels had a 44-42 lead with 11 minutes to go, Tia Faleru had woken up with 10 points to complement Frizell. Each side was hitting about 33 percent from the field. Inside of four minutes, Ole Miss still held that two-point edge.

Then Boom! Went the dynamite. Ole Miss sprinted to a 10-point lead and blasted UK into insipidness. Ole Miss celebrated with the last four points at the line, UK also scored its final two there, to make it merely a 10-point loss to a team with 16 wins.

Linnae Harper scored 16 with 10 rebounds for the losers. The winners had four in double figures, led by Faleru’s 16 and Frizell’s 15. It is the kind of win Ole Miss can mention in next year’s guidebook,

It is especially meaningful for Ole Miss coach Matt Insell. He had recruited the upperclassmen when the top assistant at UK.

"It is a very special victory,” said Insell.

“It is a program victory. I can't put into words how satisfying it is to beat a ranked team like Kentucky. They have had unbelievable wins all year and we beat them by eight. Our team just really went out there and took control. I cannot say enough about our players. Danielle McCray, Tia Faleru, Gracie Frizzell, Erika Sisk, A'Queen Hayes, just everybody, came out and played so well.

Amber Singletary just battled the entire night. I could not be more proud of a basketball team than I am right now.

"Both teams were just sound defensively. Eight out of the last 10 possessions of the game we were able to get a stop. That is huge. We have worked since June on that. I told the girls to just take a chance, take a chance and see what happens.

“Maybe we can get to 8-8 (in conference) and put it in the tournament committee's hands. This is a huge win for us. The best is yet to come. We are just going to continue to improve every single day. We are growing up. I am so happy for our seniors and we have a lot of basketball left in this basketball team."

He then singled out one of his senior blue-collar workers as making the difference, as they outshot UK in the second half, 45-33 percent.

"Twelve of Danielle's rebounds were defensive. Kentucky is No. 1 in the league in offensive rebounds and she was able to do that.

"That is huge for us. Danielle was the difference in this game. She played like I know she can. I stay on Danielle harder than anybody, but that is because I believe that she can do it. She really came out and did it tonight, I am just so proud of her."

They have one home game left and cannot have a winning conference record without an upset in the conference tournament. UK has probably lost the chance to earn the two-game bye there that goes to the top four finishers.

More games like this and they may be wishing for an NIT redemption.

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Rob Knox D-II Local Report: Kutztown Gets a Lift From Campbell's Raised Goals

By Rob Knox @knoxrob1

Advia Campbell wasn’t pleased.

The 5 foot, 11 inch Kutztown University senior center felt she had more to offer her teammates in terms of her hoops skills so she went and did something about it.

Campbell, a Mount Laurel (N.J.) native and Lenape High graduate, retreated to her hardwood sanctuary.

In solitude with sneaker-squeaking sounds serving as a soundtrack while she worked up a sweat, Campbell meticulously worked on every aspect of her game: Shooting around the basket. Agility drills. Post moves. Defensive positioning.

“At the end of my sophomore year, we got blown out by Bloomsburg in the PSAC playoffs,” Campbell said. “I knew something had to change so I went into the gym the very next day and started working on my game. I wanted our team to get better and I knew it started with me. I motivated myself to get better everyday.”

She emerged from the gym as a lean mean shot blocking machine.

For the last two years, Campbell has been a tower of power transforming Kutztown women’s basketball games into unofficial block parties.

She invited her teammates.

Looming over defenders like the iconic clock on top of the Old Main building that overlooks Main Street on campus, Campbell spooked opponents by supplying the entertainment with ferocious shot swatting while Kutztown fans provided the music with plenty of cheers.

Playing with the elegance of a dolphin, Campbell has deftly mastered the art of keeping the ball inbounds and making sure her teammates are in perfect position to get the loose ball after she rejects shots.

As a junior, Campbell recorded the program's first-ever triple-double with 11 points, 15 rebounds, and a KU single-game record 10 blocks against West Chester.

She was named to the All-PSAC East Second Team after breaking the Kutztown single-season block record with 76.

Not only has Campbell improved, she has developed into one of the elite players in the PSAC during her last two years as a Golden Bear.

As her career ticks to a conclusion, Campbell leads Kutztown in scoring (11.2 points per game), rebounding (8.1) and blocked shots (1.9) this season.

In addition, Campbell is a strong candidate to repeat as PSAC East Defensive Player of the Year.

“It meant so much to me to be named PSAC East Defensive Player of the Year last year because I know I worked hard,” Campbell said. “It’s good to know that others noticed how hard I worked.

"It was a big step for me along with a confidence builder. It’s a lot of fun blocking shots. Just baiting people to come into the lane and swatting their shot, feels great.”

Campbell’s final regular season contest will be Wednesday at East Stroudsburg beginning at 6:00 p.m. Her play on both ends of the floor this season has played a critical role in the Golden Bears clinching a playoff spot.

The Golden Bears could host an opening round game Saturday if they win and Lock Haven loses.

Earlier this month, Campbell was named to the Lehigh Valley Small College Basketball Media Organization's Team of the Year for the second-straight season.

For her career that has featured 109 games and 77 starts, Campbell's 174 blocks rank second in school history, her 707 rebounds rank seventh all-time, her 177 steals rank eighth, and she is 21 points shy of 1,000 points in her career.​

Campbell never imagined earning all of these accolades when she stepped onto Kutztown’s campus four years ago.

“I came in here happy to play basketball and be part of the team,” Campbell said. “My goals on the court weren’t as high. I never expected this but I came to love the game more and more everyday. I saw what I was able to accomplish and now my goals are high now.”

Veteran Kutztown head women’s basketball coach Janet Malouf, a former Rutgers star, believes Campbell’s best basketball is ahead of her.

“She’ll keep getting better,” Malouf said. “I don’t think her best basketball is behind her.

"There’s still a lot more in her and I am proud of her. She has made a tremendous jump from freshman to a senior.

"I don’t think she’s topped out at all. She’s one of those rare athletic kids you are lucky to get at this level. She’s a great kid and I am excited to see what she’s going to do in life with marine sciences and life. She’s a fun person to be around.”

Watching Campbell dominate games over the last two years, it’s hard to imagine that she just started playing basketball the summer before she entered high school.

Campbell only played because a friend urged her to tryout with her. In addition to playing basketball in high school, Campbell also played soccer and ran track. Campbell is also a huge fan of WNBA All-Star Maya Moore, the former UConn great with the Minnesota Lynx.

“I always liked basketball,” Campbell said. “I never took it seriously and until I got to high school. People told me that I had a lot of potential. I also realized that it could become my ticket to college that’s when basketball became a big part for me in high school and now.”

Of course, if people saw Campbell dancing during warmups, they would think that she’s not serious about the game.

Campbell, who has a gold-medal winning personality, enjoys having fun off the court and dancing during pregame warm-ups. Once the game begins, a different Campbell emerges.

Her blocked shots are down this season in part because her presence has spooked opponents from coming anywhere near the basket.

Kutztown is ninth in the PSAC in field goal percentage defense, allowing teams to shoot 38.5 percent from the field.

Campbell has blocked at least three shots in a game nine times this season.

She swatted a season-high six shots during a dramatic 78-69 victory over West Chester on Jan. 31.

The win over West Chester gives Kutztown confidence that it can compete with anybody in the conference.

“I feel like we can upset some teams in the playoffs,” Campbell said. “We want to keep our season rolling and I know all the seniors will be fighting hard. We’ll leave everything out on the court and see what happens.

“Coach Malouf has helped me so much. She instilled confidence in me, believed in me and saw something in me that not many people saw.

"She always stressed that and it made me play harder and I want to thank her for that. It’s a good feeling at the end to see how much I have improved on the court and grown as a person with my maturity in the classroom.”

Local D-II And-Ones

Elsewhere in the womhoopsguru Division II area

Lincoln University ended as co-champions of the CIAA Northern Division with Virginia State.

However, the Lady Lions earned the North’s No. 1 seed in the upcoming CIAA Tournament and will meet the winner of the Virginia Union-Saint Augustine’s game on Wednesday afternoon at 2:20 p.m. at Charlotte’s Time Warner Arena.

In addition, Lincoln head coach Jessica Kern was named CIAA Women’s Basketball Coach of the Year after leading the Lady Lions to a school-record tying 19 victories this season.

West Chester, since losing to Kutztown, has won five straight games to earn the No. 2 seed in the PSAC playoffs.

The Golden Rams earned a first-round bye and will open the playoffs in the quarterfinals on Tuesday, March 3 against an opponent to be determined.

In the CACC, the four playoff participants from the South are known: Philadelphia, Goldey-Beacom, USciences and Holy Family.

Philadelphia pulled into a first-place tie with USciences after a 65-60 victory Monday night.

Each team has 14-4 conference records. Najah Jacobs scored 26 points to lead the Rams. That comes on the heels of her 31-point outing in Saturday’s victory over Concordia.

USciences, despite its recent three-game losing streak, holds the inside track for the South’s No. 1 seed based on its sweep of Holy Family, which is locked in at No. 3.

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Guru's College Report: Princeton and Penn Sweep Dartmouth and Harvard

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

It takes a basketball legend to know one in the making and a homegrown notable dropped in on 16th-ranked and unbeaten Princeton’s latest rout Friday night when the Tigers completed a sweep of Dartmouth, beating their own coach’s alma mater 70-31.

Among the homecoming crowd of 1,066 in Jadwin Gym was former Tigers men’s great Bill Bradley, the standout of the Ivy contingent that was ranked third in the nation in 1965 when they advanced to the NCAA Final Four.

Princeton is celebrating the 50th anniversary of that group this weekend.

Bradley, a former star on the NBA New York Knicks and former United States senator who took a brief run at the presidency and who is depicted in a statue of himself by Jadwin, is the latest political notable to pay a visit to the Princeton locker room.

Early in the season Michelle Obama, the First Lady, was on the scene in Washington to watch her niece freshman Leslie Robinson, the daughter of another former Princeton men’s star in Craig Robinson when the Tigers visited American University.

“It’s just crazy to have someone of Bill Bradley’s stature who wants to see this team … “ Banghart said. “He just told them in there, `I’ve seen a lot of basketball games and been part of a lot of teams, I really like this team because it’s a team.

“I like how you share the ball. I like how you are for each other, I like the way you move your feet on defense, I like the backdoor passes, the press passes,’ so you can tell he likes the team for the reasons that we’re trying to build. So it’s a real treat.”

Who knows what post-graduate roles the future has in store for the current group of Tigers women’s stars for them to return here some day to impart wisdom to their court successors but right now they are just enjoying the ride that is bringing national attention on their record 24-0 overall run that is exceeded in both Ivy genders by just the 28-0 start of the 1970-71 Penn men’s team.

Princeton is also the last unbeaten Division I women's squad and the only Ivy team ever nationally ranked.

Friday’s win brought the Ivy victory total this season to 8-0 and and delivered Banghart to just one win short of matching Joan Kowalik’s program-record total of 163 wins.

That could come as early as Saturday when Harvard arrives for the 6 p.m. start. Should it occur, Banghart’s chance to stand alone at the top of the program will come at home next weekend when Yale visits Friday night at 7 p.m.

This one was over quickly, as all of the league encounters have been but last weekend’s visit to Yale, and Alex Wheatley from nearby lower Bucks County, Pa., in the Philadelphia northern suburbs, had a game-high 20 points.

Michelle Miller scored 12 while Annie Tarakchian just missed a triple double scoring 11 points, grabbing 14 rebounds and dealing 8 assists.

On the other side, no one on improved Dartmouth (11-12, 2-7 Ivy) did anything in double figures other than three sets of field goal attempts that had Larkin Roland, Fanni Szabo, and Milica Toskovic combine for 4-for-32 while as a team the Big Green shot 18.9 percent.

Roland and reserve Andi Norman each scored team highs of nine points, respectively.

The Tigers dominated the boards with a 53-21 rebounding advantage resulting in a 42-8 differential scoring in the paint while Princeton’s differential in second chance points resulted in a 12-2 comparison. As far as fastbreak points, it was a 14-0 wipeout.

With it all former Princeton athletic director Gary Walters, who retired last season, and played with Bradley, cautioned, “Don’t assume anything. Let’s win it first before discussing selection night and all that stuff.

“That team I was on that we’re celebrating this weekend had a loss in the Ivy League.”

OK. Then let’s go to the math for those who like the magic number countdown route.

Dartmouth’s loss officially knocked the Big Green back with Columbia as two of the Ancient’s Eight’s other seven who have been mathematically eliminated from contention.

Harvard (10-13, 3-6), which fell to Penn Friday night at The Palestra, and Brown (9-14, 3-6), which fell to Columbia, can be eliminated as early as Saturday night when the Crimson visit here and Brown goes to Cornell.

Speaking of the Big Red, the latter team just mentioned, they put Yale (11-12, 5-4) near the brink of elimination, which Princeton can also take care of personally next Friday.

That leaves Cornell (15-8, 6-3) and Penn (15-7, 6-2) with the ability to hang around for a while, especially since the two are fighting it out to at least finish second for the automatic qualifier for the WNIT, though the way both teams are playing, if one finished third behind the other they are likely to get an at-large invite.

Incidentally, Walters was asked what it was he liked when he hired Banghart, to which he responded, “I always like former great players and if you look at who I hired in the athletic department, Courtney’s hire was consistent with the others I hired.”
Speaking of former great players, former Princeton star Addie Micir, now an assistant at Dartmouth, got a nice applause when she was especially introduced at the start of the game along with the five starters of each team.

Penn Conquers Harvard

It wasn’t that long ago that the Dartmouth/Harvard or vice versa back-to-back weekends were the dread of dreads for Penn in the Ivy race, particularly Harvard.

These days with Penn’s improvement under Mike McLaughlin, the combo trip to play Princeton and the Quakers have become a Bermuda Triangle to swallow visitors traveling to the Southern tier of the league.

Penn brought Harvard to the brink of Ivy elimination Friday with a 71-61 victory that kept the Quakers alone in second place ahead of Cornell, though a big two games behind the Tigers.

Nevertheless, unlike last season when Penn upset Princeton on the final day at Jadwin Gym to grab the Ivy title, the race may be over when Princeton visits the Palestra on March 10 for the season finale, but there’s still the chance that the Quakers will be all that stands in the way of the Tigers’ shot at finishing perfect.

But for now, Penn is just focused on the moment each time out.

Next up is Dartmouth’s visit Saturday night at 7 p.m., which is also the annual Penn Play4Kay game when the Quakers don their pink uniforms to bring awareness to the fight against breast cancer.

Added to the dispatched list Friday night is a second straight season sweep of Harvard by the Quakers, matching the effort of the 2002-05 run. The 1999-2001 era brought five straight W’s over the Crimson.

The triumph made the Penn seniors the all time winningest class in program history with 68 to surpass the 67 triumphs by the Class of 2003 group that also had an Ivy title in its collection.

As for McLaughlin, after a meager start following his arrival from Division II national power Holy Family in Northeast Philadelphia, where he became the fastest coach anywhere in collegiate basketball to get to 400 wins, Friday’s triumph finally got him to .500 in the Ivies in his sixth season.

His start brought a 1-15 mark against the league and then 12-33. Since then, he is 27-6 overall in the Ivies and if one would subtract the Princeton games in that span, he is 26-3 for a .900 percentage.

As for Friday’s performance details, for a while it didn’t seem that Michelle Nwokedi out of Texas would see enough time to be a fifth straight freshman of the year honoree for the Quakers.

But the newcomer has climbed into the hunt since becoming a starter several weeks ago.

On Friday, Nwokedi had another double double with 16 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.

Sydney Stipanovich had 12 of her 17 points in the second half and she also had seven rebounds and blocked three shots.

Anna Ross had 14 points, repeating the freshman’s only other double digit scoring game to date, which was also against Harvard on the trip to Boston last month.

Kathleen Roche scored 14 points.

Just as Princeton did a defensive clamp job on Dartmouth, likewise Penn went a stretch of 10 minutes denying Harvard any field goals.

AnnMarie Healy had a double double for Harvard with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Erin McDonnell scored 13, and Kit Metoyer scored 14 points.

Villanova Foiled at St. John’s

In the only other game involving one of the Guru’s 10-team local Division I PhilahoopsW teams, Villanova was edged by a revenge-seeking St. John’s squad in a Big East game in Jamaica, N.Y., near Manhattan in Carneseca Arena.

The 56-51 setback came after the Wildcats (16-11, 10-5 Big East) had shot the lights out at home in the Pavilion last month against the Red Storm (18-8, 9-6).

Emily Leer had 13 points for the visitors while Caroline Coyer scored 10 while Taylor Holeman grabbed 10 rebounds.

But Villanova was unable to stop Aliyyah Handford, who had a game-high 25 points and grabbed eight rebounds.

Consequently now the Wildcats must try to get a season split Sunday at rejuvenated Seton Hall at 2 p.m. at Walsh Gym in South Orange, N.J., to have any hope to remain in the Big East regular season hunt.

Villanova is still in third but trails DePaul and Seton Hall by two games and is just one game in front of St. John’s, which next plays Georgetown.

Jade Walker added 10 points while Aaliyah Lewis also scored 10 points for St. John’s.

“This the first time in a while we had the fire and sharpness we needed to win a big game and that showed a lot for us,” said St. John’s coach Joe Tartamella.

"The way we defended tonight has defined us all year.”

Villanova at the outset looked like it was going to blaze away again, making six of its first seven shots..

At one point in the first half, the Wildcats led by eight and held a slim one-point lead at the break.

There were swings both ways in the second half and a 10-0 run gave Villanova a 46-42 advantage with 7:55 left in regulation before St. John’s went back in front with a 6-0 run.

The game was deadlocked 50-50 in the last minute when Handford drove for two for the home team.

Crystal Simmons had a chance to make it a four-point lead but after missing the front end of a one-and-one Walker got an offensive rebound and took care of business knocking down two foul shots to make it 54-50 with 26.9 seconds left.

The winners got their final points at the line after Villanova hit one foul shot for its last point.

The Wildcats have nine losses which have come from a total combination of 34 points.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Friday, February 20, 2015

Rob Knox's Division III Report: Main Line Neighbors Eastern and Cabrini Are Nationally Ranked

By Rob Knox (@knoxrob1)

Two schools separated by Eagle Road in the Philadelphia western suburbs near the Main Line.

Two hidden treasures neatly tucked away in secluded areas and surrounded by lots of trees in the shadow of Philadelphia and the Big Five.

Two nationally-ranked Division III women’s basketball programs.

Eastern University (20-4 overall) and Cabrini College (22-3) are next door neighbors that are basketball goliaths in what is developing into a special season for both programs.

In the latest D3hoops.com Top 25 poll, Cabrini is ranked 22nd while Eastern is 23rd.

It’s a treat for area basketball fans in the Womhoopsguru coverage area to see these two programs enjoy this level of success.

For Eastern, the national recognition is something different and unique.

Meanwhile, for Cabrini, a veteran of consecutive NCAA Division III tournament appearances, a national ranking is nothing new.

These are fun times to be a fan of Philadelphia-area small college basketball as several teams on the Division II level (University of the Sciences, Philadelphia University, West Chester and The Lincoln University) are enjoying memorable years.

In a region that is synonymous with the growth of women’s basketball, what with Immaculata winning the first three AIAW championships, Eastern and Cabrini are enjoying their status as a pair of elite programs.

“It’s really cool,” Eastern coach Nate Davis said of both teams being nationally-ranked. “We have a lot of mutual respect for each other.

"To see them having success this year and then for us to be able to join the crowd a little bit is nice.

"Growing up in Pennsylvania and knowing the tradition of the Philadelphia-area as far as basketball is concerned, we’re happy to be talked about in the same conversation and represent the area. It’s pretty neat.”

Cabrini coach Kate Pearson grew up in Springfield and played on many successful high school teams under Kim Smith before staring at the University of Scranton.

She learned the coaching ropes while working as an assistant coach under former Cabrini College coach Bobbi Morgan, who is now at Haverford College.

Pearson’s mission was to keep Cabrini among the region’s elite when she was hired as head coach six years ago. Mission accomplished.

Meanwhile, Davis inherited an Eastern program that had experienced little success before his arrival.

In five seasons under Davis, the Eagles have had four winning seasons and won 77 games.

In the 18 years prior, Eastern had two winning seasons. Davis was confident he could build the Eastern program into one that could compete for Freedom Conference championships and possibly beyond.

“It’s a really neat thing,” Pearson said. “(Davis) is a good guy. He’s done a great job and they have had a lot of success.

"This has always been a great area for basketball between high school, and small colleges.

"The Big Five is something really unique to college basketball. Sometimes it can be difficult to compete with, but I think it also helps because there’s a lot of local high school talent to go around.

"I know growing up in this area gave me an opportunity to be exposed to as a coach and it helped me as a player.”

The respective rosters of each team reflect a distinct Philadelphia-region flavor as 18 players between the two schools call the Delaware Valley home.

Like mirror images of one another, both teams have played challenging non-conference schedules including the season-opening game against each other, won by Eastern, 72-61.

Both teams have gotten the best of its opponents this season with multifaceted and unselfish offensive approaches, tenacious defense and a swagger second to none.

Both teams have more weapons at their disposal than the Department of Defense.

Cabrini opened the season with consecutive 11-point losses before finding its groove and winning 22 of its next 23 games.

The only setback was a 56-55 loss to No. 1-ranked and undefeated Thomas More.

The Cavs weren’t satisfied with coming close in that game. They exited the court believing they should have won that contest.

With a steeled resolve and belief that they can compete against anybody in the country, the Cavs haven’t lost since, winning 16 straight.

Despite losing four seniors, including three four-year starters, the Cavs have been motivated to advance deeper into the NCAA tournament after last season’s heartbreaking second round overtime loss to Montclair State.

While Amber Keys, a Phoenixville High product, is Cabrini’s only double-digit scorer at 17.9 points per game, the Cavs have gotten contributions from nearly everybody on their experienced roster this season.

Including Keys, Cabrini has seven players averaging at least six points per game: Megan Decker (9.8 points per game, 7.7 rebounds per game), Dana Peterson (8.2), Erin Dodds (7.8), Kristina Startare (6.8), Tayler Holmes (6.5) and Meghan Horne (6.5).

The Cavs have excelled defensively, permitting a measly 47.7 points per game this season, which is fourth nationally.

“That’s not the way we wanted to start the season,” Keys said. “We knew could bounce back from those games because there was a lot of basketball remaining.

"'Coach' has high expectations for us and the sky is the limit. We believe we can do anything. We definitely want to get to the Sweet 16 this year and advance further. It’s definitely something we talked about in the beginning of the season.”

At the start of the season, Eastern wasn’t talking Sweet 16. The Eagles just wanted to build off of last year’s successful season.

They caught the attention of the nation when they defeated then No. 1-ranked and reigning national champion FDU-Florham in an overtime classic two weeks ago, ending the Devils 53-game winning streak.

Since then, the bar has been raised for Eastern as it has the opportunity to do something special.

Already the Eagles have set a program record for wins in a season with 20 and they are nationally-ranked for the first time ever.

"Beating FDU-Florham was good and a big win for us,” Davis said. “It was good for the ladies to get the validation of the work they put into the season so far.

"The players believed that becoming a nationally-ranked team could be done. We felt good about this year. I told the team that every year is their year to make the most of it. This is their opportunity to make it happen.”

Senior Meghan Nowak, a legit national Division III Player of the Year candidate, has 13 double-doubles this season and 43 in her storied career. Nowak also leads the Freedom Conference in scoring, averaging 20.2 points per game.

Senior Kaitlyn Dougherty just scored her 1,000th career point last weekend at Manhattanville.

Sophomore Emily Lavin turns games into her personal block parties minus the music and food. She is ninth nationally in blocked shots per game (3.26). Seniors Gina DiDomenico averages 11 points per game.

Eastern has succeeded by sharing the ball as it has recorded an assist on 66.3 percent of its baskets this season.

What unites these two programs aside from their location is the mutual respect they have for one another. Both programs play hard, graduate its student-athletes, represent their schools and the sport in the manner it deserves.

From speaking with a few of the players, it’s clear the team comes first. All egos are checked at the door when practice or a game begins.

There may have been two nationally-ranked Division III teams from the Philadelphia-area at the same time, but never like this in which fans can literally walk across the street to see two of the best young coaches, players and elite programs in the country.

Both Cabrini and Eastern could host conference playoff games next week.

That would be a great opportunity to get out and watch Eastern and Cabrini, two hidden treasures in our backyard.

“It’s amazing,” Keys said. “Eastern deserves a lot of credit on their season so far. Like us, they have worked so hard. It’s nice to be recognized outside of where our schools are located.

"It’s a great feeling to know that I have been part of something amazing here at Cabrini. We have a bunch of players who love the game so much and they will lay everything on the line.

"I’ll miss the stuff that happens off the court. I love playing with my team during practices and games. The traveling, 2.5-hour bus rides and staying in hotels, I am going to miss that the most.”

Who knows what the future holds, but if Eastern and Cabrini make deep runs in the NCAA Tournament, a bus ride may not be required for a historic rematch.

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Guru's College Report: Drexel Tops Charleston While La Salle Edges URI

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

On a light schedule Thursday night involving just two of the Guru’s 10-team local D-1 PhilahoopsW group, La Salle edged Rhode Island 47-45 in Atlantic 10 action here in town at the Explorers’ Tom Gola Arena while Drexel on the road finished a sweep of Charleston with a 63-52 win in the Colonial Athletic Association in a game in South Carolina.

Rhode Island (15-10, 7-6 Atlantic 10) has made some progress this season rising above the level of a traditional Atlantic 10 doormat under first-year coach Daynia La-Force, who was previously with Northeastern in Boston in the CAA.

One reason has been another newcomer to the program – freshman Charise Wilson whose 16.5 points per game average is second in NCAA Division I behind the sensational Kelsey Mitchell of Ohio State.

But on this particular night the defense of La Salle (13-13, 4-9) managed to limit Wilson to 12 points and hold off the Rams by a field goal to get back to .500 overall.

That may only last until the next game considering the Explorers will be a decided underdog Sunday when they travel to second-place Dayton, whose only losses have been to front-runner George Washington.

Rhode Island’s Samantha Tabakman also scored in double figures, collecting 10 points.

On the La Salle side in the closely-fought battle, after being held scoreless in the first half, Amy Griffin scored 11 of the Explorers’ final 12 points and finished with the same scoring total herself.

Michaya Owens had a game-high 14 points.

Rhode Island, which had beaten Saint Joseph’s for the first time in a decade and Fordham in the Rams’ two previous outings, came surging to the last minute trying to close a nine-point deficit but La Salle stopped them short forcing two missed shots and a turnover.

Meanwhile, Drexel joined Villanova in town clinching an overall winning record to become WNIT-eligible for an at-large slot though the Dragons may use the easier route after going on the road to defeat Charleston.

The win enabled the Dragons (16-9, 10-4) to stay just ahead of Hofstra in second place in the CAA and if they continue to hold that slot until the conference tournament they actually clinch a spot as an automatic qualifier to the WNIT unless they land in the NCAA as the conference tourney champion.

But to do that would probably mean beating nationally-ranked James Madison, which continued to be perfect in CAA competition Thursday night.

Penn, which is running second in the Ivy League behind No. 16 and powerful Princeton (23-0), the nation’s only unbeaten Division I team, could also get to the WNIT via automatic qualifier, though the Quakers would still have a strong shot at an at-large bid.

Temple is also in the WNIT mix and could also land in that tournament through different scenarios.

Back to Drexel, which has won all road games to date except the visit to JMU, Jackie Schluth tied a career-high with 18 points while Alexis Smith in a starters role scored 15. Schluth also had a game-high nine rebounds and dealt four assists against Charleston (4-21, 2-12).

The Dragons also improved their foul shooting percentage, which was already tops in Division I, and now stands at .792 percent.

Next up is a visit to longtime local rival Delaware at 2 p.m. in the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark as the Dragons go for a sweep in the season series, which would be the first time since the 2009-10 season, when Blue Hens sensation Elena Delle Donne, now in the WNBA, was a freshman.

Friday night, as mentioned in the previous college roundup post, is also a light night on the schedule with just three games, but all are critical.

Two involve the local Ivy duo of Penn and Princeton, which holds a two-game lead on the Quakers in the league chase whose winner is determined in regular season play unless there is a deadlock at the finish.

Nevertheless, while it would be nice to get closer to Princeton and then get a shot at the Tigers in the final game of the season next month at home at the Palestra here in town, as mentioned, second place still has value.

And to stay on that track Penn begins the weekend at home Friday night at 6 p.m. in the Palestra hosting Harvard while Princeton will be hosting Dartmouth in a 6 p.m. start because the game is being picked up on the American Sports Network.

Princeton will stay with its usual Saturday night 6 p.m. start when Harvard switches off while Penn will take on Dartmouth at 7 p.m. The Quakers and Tigers got the weekend two-night marathons in the league started successfully last month in visits to this weekend’s guests so the Southern duo in the league are going for a sweep as the back half of the Ivy schedule gets under way.

The other game on Friday has Villanova visiting St. John’s looking for a sweep on the Red Storm after shooting the lights out at home in the Pavilion when the two teams met in their Big East war several weeks ago.

The Guru will be tweeting Friday night from Princeton and then Penn Saturday on his weekend sharing gesture. He'll also be at Saturday's other local D-1 game when Richmond visits Saint Joseph’s.

Villanova is holding third and with help can get to second and maybe No. 1 before the Big East tourney next month returns to the Chicago suburb of Rosemont, Ill. At the Allstate Arena, which is the home of the WNBA Chicago Sky.

The Wildcats will stay on the road Sunday to visit Seton Hall, which is holding second, and try to get a split in that series this season.

That’s it for now. Hopefully, you read a Division III post from Rob Knox just above this but if you came here directly from the Guru’s posted tweet link, just scroll above though if it is now between 12:45 a.m. and 1:45 come back a little later since the Guru is about to edit Rob, which usually goes quickly.

-- Mel


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