Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Guru's College Report: Balanced Attack Leads Saint Joseph's To A-10 Win

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

If one is not at every home game on Hawk Hill in Hagan Arena and a few on the road this season, a matchup like Wednesday night’s 82-51 victory in the Atlantic Ten against visiting George Mason would beg the question of not understanding why Saint Joseph’s (9-16, 5-8 A-10) is suffering with its worse record in a decade.

Injuries have played a role and so has a youthful roster. After all, the last several years has ended with the graduation of such quality and reliable three-point snipers as Katie Kuester and Erin Shields, who both can be found these days at Loyola of Maryland on the staff of former Hawks assistant Joe Logan.

So it is on this night that instead of the rare question most years of what went wrong the query reverses to what went right in a game that featured six players scoring in double figures.

“Getting Jordan Strode back has been very helpful,” Saint Joseph’s coach Cindy Griffin said of the redshirt sophomore guard from North Carolina. “We hadn’t been very deep at the position and someone like her allows us to lengthen our rotation and give people rest.”

Senior Natasha Cloud and graduate student Ashley Robison were the key artillery weapons in the win over the Patriots (13-13, 5-8), who used to play their trade in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Cloud, who has been observed by several WNBA coaches, scored a game-high 17 points and dealt nine assists while grabbing six rebounds. Robinson, who missed the start of her collegiate career in successive seasons because of knee injuries, scored 16 points while Sarah Fairbanks and Ciara Andrews each scored 11 points and Kathleen Fitzpatrick and Chelsea Woods each scored 10 points.

George Mason’s Kristi Mokube scored 15 points while Taylor Brown scored 11.

With the win and the regular season drawing near a close Sant Joseph’s has dropped to a three-way tie for eighth but the Hawks would get the tie-break among George Mason and VCU and the slot earning a first-round bye in next month’s conference tournament in Richmond, Va., at the Coliseum.

While the Hawks’ only shot at the postseason would be to make a stunning run to capture the conference tourney and NCAA automatic bid, Saint Joseph’s nearly pulled off a miracle run several years ago when Xavier, now in the Big East, was an A-10 powerhouse and Saint Joseph’s pulled a few upsets all the way to the conference title game before running out of gas.

If Saint Joseph’s were to play like the Hawks did against George Mason, they could similarly start ambushing a few unsuspecting opponents.

“Right now the plan is to make it a four-day deal instead of a five-day,” Griffin said in terms of the Hawks seeking to bypass the opening day play-in games.

In recent seasons, not everyone in the conference played, though a play-in day still existed but that was something from which the Hawks’ only concern was seeing who they drew for the second day and full first-round activity.

Next up is senior day on Saturday when Richmond visits at 2 p.m. in the Hagan Arena. A few presentations pre-game will be made to the mother of former Richmond associate head coach Ginny Doyle, an Archbishop Ryan graduate who along with operations director Natalie Lewis perished May 9 in the tragic balloon festival in Virginia near Richmond.

Doyle also played at Richmond and was a prolific foul shooter who held the NCAA record for several years for consecutive shots made.

The ceremony for departing players will be held after the game.

Temple Shocks Tulane and Rutgers Beats Illinois

It’s been a light nightly schedule and continue that way all week involving the 10 teams that make up the Guru’s local Division I PhilahoopsW group.

The Saint Joseph’s game was the only one on the card Wednesday while on Thursday the only game in town will be a D-1 battle at 7 p.m., also in the Atlantic 10, at La Salle when an improved Rhode Island visits the Explorers’ Tom Gola Arena from where the Guru will tweet.

Drexel will also be in action trying to hold on to second place in the CAA when the Dragons go for a sweep of the season series with Charleston in a road game at 7 p.m.

Two games were played Tuesday with both Temple, which the Guru was at, and Rutgers gaining wins.

Temple won a big game in the American Athletic Conference beating third-place Tulane 69-58 at home in McGonigle Hall to earn a split in the two-game series with the Green Wave (19-7, 10-5 AAC).
With second-place South Florida’s win over Tulsa on Wednesday night, the Owls (13-14, 9-5) are tied for fourth with Tulsa a half-game behind Tulane.

The top five slots all get byes to next month’s AAC tournament, which again will be held at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn. At the Mohegan Sun Arena, home of the WNBA Connecticut Sun in the summer.

Tulane and Tulsa still have a UConn game on the schedule in the final weeks of the regular season. If Tempe were to upset South Florida Sunday in the Owls’ next game when they visit Tampa, the home of this season’s NCAA Women’s Final Four, they would get to .500 overall and have a great chance to land in the postseason WNIT.

In Tuesday’s game, ironically, Tulane, which is located in New Orleans, La., had to spend the top day of Mardi Gras away from home, which didn’t stop coach Lisa Stockton and her staff wearing beads.

But it was Temple that drew beads on the basket and even sustained an 11-0 Tulane start to the second half that put the Green Wave up 43-37.

The lead grew by one more point until Temple fought back and jumped in front to stay 51-49 with 10:43 left in the game on freshman Alliya Butts’ three-pointer.

The Owls were able to grow the lead in the final minutes of the game.

Tyonna Williams had a team-high 16 points for the Owls, who forced 21 turnovers, while Butts had 13 points and freshman Tanaya Atkinson scored 12.

Danielle Blagg scored 17 for Tulane and Tiffany Dale scored 11.

“When we were there, we were disappointed in ourself because we feel we really didn’t play our best basketball,” Temple coach Tonya Cardoza said afterwards.

“We didn’t give ourselves a chance to see if we can beat them. Today we started the game with a lot of energy and we played some pretty good basketball. We could have easily folded (off the 11-0 Tulane run), we’d go back on our heels and we didn’t do that.

“A lot of guys contributed and I thought our defense was a lot better. When we’re playing pretty good defense we always give ourselves a win.”

Meanwhile up North, 19th-ranked Rutgers got back on the winning track after losing at first-place Maryland in the Big 10, giving the Terrapins a sweep Monday night.

The Scarlet Knights topped Illinois 80-56 at home in the Louis A. Brown Athletic Center as sophomore sensation Tyler Scaife had a game-high 21 points.

In its first season competing, as is Maryland doing likewise, in the Big Ten Rutgers (20-6, 11-4 Big Ten) is holding third and is making a bid to possibly landing a Top 16 seed in the NCAA tournament, which would bring hosting rights for the first and second round.

The Scarlet Knights now have 29 seasons of at-least 20 wins and 15 have come under Hall of Fame and current coach C. Vivian Stringer, whose current unit has been her most prolific on offense since she arrive for the start of the 1995-96 season.

Stringer’s pressure defense forced 21 turnovers. Besides Scaife’s production, Kahleah Copper scored 16 points, while Betnijah Laney and Rachel Holivay each scored 14 points.

“This is the best team since I’ve been here,” said Laney, whose mother Yolanda starred for Stringer at Cheyney University in suburban Philadelphia in the late 1970s early 1980s.

Laney has been flying under the radar in terms of making watch lists but when someone brought her name up to Stringer at the postgame press conference Monday night at Maryland, Stringer smiled and said, “I don’t know what we’re going to do without her next year.

“From the moment she got here, she set an example with her work ethic, working hard in the gym every day.”

Ivory Crawford had 15 points for Illinois (13-14, 4-11).

Rutgers next travels to Michigan State Sunday.

Looking Ahead

Now that we’re caught up mentioning all that happened this week through what’s happening as of Thursday, to finish out, on Friday No. 16 and unbeaten Princeton hosts Dartmouth in an Ivy game moved to 6 p.m. for TV purposes at Jadwyn Gym, where the Guru will be tweeting.

Penn at 7 p.m. in a bid to maintain sole possession of second place, hosts Harvard in the Palestra while Villanova will be in a key game at St John’s at 7 p.m. in the Big East.

On Saturday, Penn, where the Guru will be besides Saint Joe’s, and Princeton switch visitors, with the Tigers’ start again at 6 p.m. hosting Harvard while the Quakers host Dartmouth at 7 p.m.

The Saint Joseph’s game mentioned is the only other one on the books.

On Sunday, besides the Temple and Rutgers games already mentioned, Drexel goes for a season sweep in the local longtime rivalry when the Dragons visit Delaware in a key game at 2 p.m. in the Blue Hens’ Bob Carpenter Center in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Villanova trying for a split in the Big East series visits Seton Hall at 2 p.m. in Newark, N.J., at Walsh Gym while La Salle visits Atlantic 10 second-place power Dayton at 2 p.m.

On Monday, Penn State visits Maryland in a Big Ten game trying for a split while two key games conference and national-wise has Tennessee visiting South Carolina at 9 p.m. in a game between the two Southeastern Conference unbeaten powers in league play while in the Atlantic Coast, Louisville visits Notre Dame in as game between two former high profile rivals in the old Big East.

Nationally Noted

On Wednesday night, No. 24 George Washington maintained hold of first place in the Atlantic 10, beating Virginia Commonwealth 65-57 on the road in Richmond as Jonquel Jones and Caira Washington combined for 31 points and 30 rebounds.

Northwestern, bidding for a ranking in the Associated Poll for the first time in a long time after picking up a cluster of points this week, upset No. 21 Nebraska 59-51 in the Big 10 as the Wildcats at home in Evanston, Ill., improved their overall win streak to six games.

The game at Welsh-Ryan Arena saw Northwestern beat its third Top 25 opponent.

The Wildcats have reached 20 wins for the first time under former George Washington coach Joe McKeown, a Father Judge graduate, and first time overall since 1995-96.

Texas, which has slide from a Top five team to out of the AP Poll, downed Kansas State 76-58 at home in the Erwin Center in Austin in a Big 12 contest.

And that’s the report for now.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad


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