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 05, 2015

Guru's College Report: Saint Joe Win Makes Hawks a Big Five Tri-Champion; Temple Flies Over Memphis

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

Saint Joseph’s earned a piece of the Big Five pie by turning aside La Salle 70-64 Wednesday night at home in Hagan Arena in a game that was also worth something in the Atlantic 10 standings.

Earlier in the day, in the only other game involving one of the Guru’s 10-team local PhilahoopsW group, Temple launched a program-record set of three-pointers to bounce back off of Sunday’s home loss to second-ranked Connecticut and handled Memphis 84-61 in an American Athletic Conference game played in the Owls’ larger Liacouras Center as part of a kids matinee next door to their McGonigle Hall.

After winning the title outright last season, Saint Joseph’s (8-13, 4-5 A-10, 3-1 Big Five) came back to make it a rare three-some for City bragging rights following Penn moving into the mix for the first time in Quakers’ history and then Villanova making it a crowd by beating the Quakers last month in The Palestra.

That left it to Saint Joseph’s to get its share and the Hawks rode Sarah Fairbanks’ 22 points, one less than her career high in the overtime win against Temple back in November, and 10 rebounds.

Ciara Andrews had 14 points, Ashley Robinson scored 12, and Natasha Cloud scored 13 points and dealt 10 assists.

Alicia Cropper joined the 1000-point club at La Salle (112-11, 2-7 A-10, 0-4) by getting a season-high 25 points while Michaya Owens scored 13.

In the city, the final standings were Penn (3-1), Saint Joseph’s (3-1), Villanova (3-1) in the tie for first followed by Temple at 1-3 and La Salle at 0-4.

Most of the City Series Round Robin games turn into nail-biters, which how it went on Saint Joseph’s path with an overtime win here against Temple, a narrow win in the closing minute here against Villanova, a loss that got away down the stretch at Penn, enabling the Quakers to set their Big Five record, and then Wednesday’s game at La Salle in which the visiting Explorers rallied down the stretch.

La Salle trailed 43-30 with with 17 minutes, 51 seconds to play in regulation when the Explorers began to chip away and got the differential down to three points at 53-50 with 7:50 left.

But Cropper then missed a layup, the Hawks then picked up two points courtesy of Cloud’s foul shots, and after Owens missed a layup, Cloud scored off a jumper.

“That’s the difference between us maybe having a lead or forcing them to be under pressure instead of being able to play with a cushion,” La Salle coach Jeff Williams said.

"We just have to get over the hump and this mental thing about beating Saint Joe's."

Cloud, herself, came within seven points of joining Saint Joseph’s 1000-point club – the Hawks next host Fordham on Sunday while the Explorers host Massachusetts Saturday – a fact that was news to the former Cardinal O’Hara star she was that close.

“Now, I’m beginning to sweat,” she grinned.

For Saint Joseph’s coach Cindy Griffin, it was a chance to be more upbeat than at other times during a season in which the Hawks’ roster has been victimized by injuries and illnesses.

“Very excited about getting a title today,” the former Hawks star said. “We came out very focused and determined and we made a lot of good plays together. I thought we played very good team basketball today.

“La Salle did a great job coming back to the point that it was a game there late. For us, it was important to stay together and we did.”

Besides trying to get some traction in an Atlantic 10 conference race in which Saint Joseph’s was picked third in the preseason by the conference coaches, the chance to still hold on to part of the Big Five throne room had its own motivation.

“It was an A-10 game, but at the same time, we’re a Philly school, it was a cross-town rivalry and we were really worried about that Big 5 championship. That’s one of our goals this year. It is important to get a piece of the pie as coach Sue (Moran) says.”

In being a conference game, the Hawks are tied for eighth with St. Louis but considering the grid lock, Saint Joseph’s with a run can make things interesting and even get near one of the four byes for the A-10 tournament next month in Richmond.

“We have a good team and a lot of great parts,” Griffin said. “We had to go through a couple of injuries,” she alluded to the recent return of Fairbanks and Robinson. “We lost them for a couple of games and that’s a huge part of what we do.

“So this is the beginning of something. We can make a run. We can make some noise. We have to play together. If we play within ourselves and stay focused, we can go pretty far.

“But one game at a time. One practice at a time. And let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.”

In other A-10 news earlier Wednesday, the conference announced a deal with the American Sports Network to televise the conference tournament quarterfinals next month in Richmond.

Temple Tames Memphis With Air Attack

It takes some teams a few games to get over their experience after undergoing the thunder and lightning dealt by second-ranked Connecticut.

Not so, Temple, which followed Sunday’s somewhat competitive loss by blitzing Memphis 84-61 in the Liacouras Center as the Owls (11-12, 7-3 AAC) shot a program-record 15 three-pointers, including a career-best seven of them from Tyonna Williams, who finished with 25 points.

That performance was topped by teammate and freshman Alliya Butts, who shot six treys and scored a career-high 30 points, while freshman Tanaya Atkinson had 15 points and 11 rebounds. The last Temple player to reach 30 was Shay Peddy three seasons ago.

It was not a double double day for Erica Coville but she was close enough with eight points and eight rebounds.

Ariel Hearn, one of the better players in the conference, scored 24 for Memphis (11-11, 5-6), while Asianna Fuqua-Bey had 11 rebounds.

“This was one of the better games for us,” Temple coach Tonya Cardoza said. “I felt we played well for good stretches during the UConn game and felt it carried well over today and to shoot the ball well and play with a ton of confidence against a good Memphis team.

“Ariel Hearns, a great scorer, she got a lot of buckets on us but I thought we did a good job making her work for them, trying to contain her.”

Cardoza has become a pretty good forecaster so far, mentioning before Christmas the squad, dominated by freshmen and sophomores, would get to where she though they needed to be the next three weeks.

“We’ve grown a lot. We’re playing with confidence. We’re learning and getting better.”

The Owls, in a hunt for third place in the American, though mathematically, second is still attainable, get a good road test the next two stops on Saturday and Tuesday against two new members following the offseason shuffle.

On Saturday they visit New Orleans meeting Tulane, picked for third just ahead of the Owls, and then Tuesday on to Tulsa.

Getting at .500 makes them at-large eligible for the WNIT and a finish of third or fourth could mean gaining that postseason tournament through the automatic qualifier route depending how many land in the NCAA field.

“If we play 40 minutes we have a good shot at beating any team but if we don’t show up we have a good chance to lose any game left on our schedule.”

Looking Ahead

Locally, the Guru will be up at No. 21 Rutgers for the Scarlet Knights’ Big Ten game against No.19 Nebraska, which will air on the Big Ten network. Thursday night.

Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer will be out to snap a tie with former longtime Penn State coach Rene Portland, a former Immaculata star, for most Big Ten wins, including Stringer’s days at Iowa.

Penn State will host No. 5 Maryland a Big Newcomer with Rutgers this season.

One Friday, Drexel at home tying to stay alone in second place in the Colonial Athletic Association, will host William at Mary at 7 p.m. while Penn begins its Ivy weekend hosting Cornell at The Palestra while No. 18 Princeton, still unbeaten, will host Columbia at 7 p.m. at Jadwin Gym.

Penn and Princeton swap hosting duties Saturday with the visitors from Friday except the Princeton-Cornell game begins at 6 p.m.

And that is the report, which is actually posting soon after midnight.

-- Mel


- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad


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