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.

Monday, February 02, 2015

No. 2 UConn Subdues Feisty Temple on a Money and Mo'ne Day in Philly

Guru note: This is a stand-alone story. A roundup follows just underneath

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA –
There was a money shot, a young celebrity money pitcher named Mo’ne Davis and a money team known as the second-ranked Connecticut women’s basketball squad who showed up at Temple’s McGonigle Hall Sunday afternoon courtesy of the American Athletic Conference schedule makers.

And on the Huskies bench there was even a locally-produced Hall of Fame coach in Geno Auriemma, who makes a lot of real money and moved to an impending date with history, weather permitting up north, Tuesday night,when he goes for career victory number 900 in Hartford, Conn., at the XL Center when one of his former assistants Jamelle Elliott brings Cincinnati for the Bearcats’ second meeting with the Huskies.

“She’s hoping they get snowed out,” quipped another of Auriemma’s former aides in Temple’s Tonya Cardoza, a good friend of Elliott’s from their days at UConn who’s Owls became vanquished number 899 by the score of 83-49.

The Auriemma chart of triumphs includes one USA-produced Olympic gold medal as well as an NCAA women’s record nine national titles, including the last two in 2013 and 2014.

“He gets 899 against me and 900 against ‘J J,’ it’s not fair, especially when we helped him get a lot of them,” she continued. “She doesn’t want to be that milestone.”

Five people ahead of Auriemma in the 900-victory club on the women’s side start with Tennessee’s Pat Summitt, who won 1,098 games – the same total that Duke men’s coach Mike Krzyewski recently reached at St. John’s and that Division II Philadelphia University men’s coach Herb Magee could also reach Tuesday night.

In game number 1034, Auriemma would be the fastest men’s or women’s coach to get to 900.

The others who have passed 900 on the women’s side include North Carolina’s Sylvia Hatchell, Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer, Rutgers’ C. Vivian Stringer and retired Texas coach Jody Conradt, though Auriemma would become the fastest to get to that milestone.

Of course, had not UConn (20-1, 10-0 American) been upset at Stanford in the first week of the season the Huskies would have arrived here getting Auriemma No. 900 and they would be No. 1 while former Temple coach Dawn Staley’s squad at South Carolina would be No. 2 instead of the reverse heading into their non-conference showdown next Monday night in Storrs, Conn., at UConn’s Gampel Pavilion on campus.

For a while Sunday a record crowd of 2,646, topping the previous record of 2,030 that watched the Huskies’ last visit a year ago, saw the Owls (10-12, 6-3) stay competitive a long way into the first half as a result of Cardoza’s plan to bottle the inside and hope that the Huskies, who shoot 50 percent as a team, might be less prolific on the perimeter to allow Temple to last somewhat longer.

But eventually, the UConn shots began to fall and Cardoza at least had the consolation of seeing her team compete the entire game against large odds in terms of the Huskies roster.

“We competed. We played well. We were disruptive. We just ran out of gas,” Cardoza said of the flow of the game.

Incidentally, McGonigle capacity is listed as 3,900 for basketball but one can consider the game a virtual sellout because 700 seats were given up for camera positions for the ESPN2 national telecasts and another couple hundred don’t go on sale because of the configuration of the general admission benches per the bodies that would occupy them.

Meanwhile, all is not bleak, however, for the Owls, considering the way November and most of December went.

Going into Wednesday’s noon matinee game next door in the larger Liacouras Center when Temple hosts Memphis in the annual kids’ day game, the Owls sit just a half-game behind third-place Tulane and they have a good chance to get into position for an automatic or at-large bid to the postseason WNIT, which would help give more experience to a group dominated by a combination seven sophomores and freshmen on the roster.

“I talked to Tonya before the game and they were pretty excited about how they were playing,” Auriemma said. “After our last game they had been on a little winning streak and they’ve certainly gotten a lot better. Their young kids are getting better all of the time and getting more confident.

“Playing against us, they certainly know what we’re going to do and they would try to take away some things we want to do. The score might be similar, but it was a game that we don’t get to play in that often where it’s competitive for a short period of time and I thought that was good.”

Erica Covile had another double double against UConn with 10 points and 10 rebounds while freshman Alliya Butts scored 12 points.

On the Connecticut side, junior Breanna Stewart, who already owns two straight Final Four MVP awards and one consensus set of national player of the year honors, scored 17 points while Morgan Tuck scored 15, Kalana Mosqueda-Lewis scored 12, Moria Jefferson scored 11, and Gabby Williams scored 10 points off the bench.

But the highlights in the house were not restricted to those from Temple’s effort or watching the Huskies do their thing with their array of all-Americans.

The Halftime festivities saw Temple freshman Dan Ray, a media studies major from Cumberland, Maine, nail a half-court shot in his one attempt to win $10,000.

When the Guru asked a UConn official close to the oval office of the athletic department whether in those seconds Ray might have earned more than Auriemma if the length of his current deal was broken down into a span of time, the response came, “Not even close.”

The crowd included Tom Trojian, the former longtime Connecticut team doctor who is now the head of sports medicine at Drexel.

As expected, in the house was Little League instant legend Mo’ne Davis, the Associated Press sportswoman of the year after pitching a shutout – the first by a female – in the world series last summer playing for the Taney Dragons, She also made the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Davis, in eighth grade, plays basketball at Springside Academy in Chestnut Hill, and during her rise to fame in Williamsport she told reporters her goal was to play basketball at UConn.

When Auriemma, who grew up in Norristown just northwest of the city limits, made a call to congratulate Davis on her performance after checking with the new UConn compliance officer, a previous NCAA employee who gave the go-ahead and got it wrong, a complaint surfaced from elsewhere in Division I and the NCAA slapped Auriemma with a minor infraction, though athletic director Warde Manuel said he disagreed with the finding.

Davis signed a few autographs at halftime at the game.

When told afterwards that she was in the crowd, Auriemma quipped: “I didn’t see her. I wish she would have come up at the five-minute mark when we were on TV – I could have gotten her in,”

Some other Auriemma’s pearls: On Stewart not grabbing any offensive rebounds, “She got as many as a dead person.”

On Temple assistant Wilnett Crockett, who played at UConn: “Willnett coaching would be the equivalent that somebody told Columbus the world was round. When Willnett Crocket played at Connecticut she was good for six games a year – the ones in March.

“When I found out she wanted to be a coach I was dumbfounded but she’s gotten good at it and I’m not surprised because you have to love the game and she certainly has that.”










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