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.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Temple and Villanova Win Sweet 16 Thrillers in the WNIT

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA -- For the third straight year Philadelphia area women’s basketball continues to impact the Women’s  National Invitation  Tournament.

Following WNIT titles won by Drexel in 2013 and Rutgers last season, Temple and Villanova won two thrillers here in town in the Sweet 16 to advance to the Elite Eight.

Temple, one of the last taken as an at-large squad, overcame a 13-point deficit to North Carolina State, forced overtime in the closing seconds at the Owls’ McGonigle Hall and then sophomore Feyonda Fitzgerald hit the game-winner on an off-balance bank shot with less than a second left in the extra period for an 80-79 victory.

The heroics came less than 24 hours after the Temple men won their third straight and advanced to the NIT Final Four in New York.

Meanwhile Villanova was paired up at home in the Pavilion on the Main Line against Big East rival St. John’s.

Tied 40-40 with 9 minutes, six seconds left in regulation, the Wildcats launched a a 13-2 run to hold off the Red Storm and take a 63-55 win.

That sends Villanova (22-13) to former old Big East rival West Virginia (221-14), now with the Big 12, Sunday in Morgantown. The Mountaineers advanced from the Sweet 16 beating Duquesne of the Atlantic Ten  60-39 at home.

Temple (19-16) heads on Sunday to Middle Tennessee (24-9), who beat Mississippi 82-70 with MTSU Rick Insell topping his son Matt with the Ole Rebs.

If Temple and Villanova stay alive they would meet each other next week in the national semifinals, which would mark the second time in the WNIT this season the Owls would match up against a Big Five rival.

Last Sunday the Owls got revenge in a close game and beat Penn at the Palestra to advance.

As Thursday’s game ended the Owls piled up on top of each other as if they might have just upset Connecticut in the American Athletic Conference.

“Knowing we were one of the last teams to get in and to still be standing and play a game like this in front of our home crowd, it was just a very emotional game for us,” Temple coach Tonya Cardoza said.

“We knew coming in we had to do a really good job defending their guards. Fey couldn’t make a layup but when it counted she won the game for us. It was just great basketball. We could have easily folded but that’s not who we are.”

Freshman Tanaya Atkinson scored 17 points for the Owls and classmate Alliya Butts, the Big Five freshman of the year, scored 16 points.

Fitzgerald added 15 points to the Temple column and senior Tyonna Williams  getting a bonus home game scored 12.

“That’s how you want your last game to end,” she said unknowing whether Temple will get any more chances if the Owls survive past Sunday. “It was just crazy.”

Erica Covile scored 11 points.

Five players scored in double figures for the Wolfpack (18-15) of the Atlantic Coast Conference led by Dominique Wilson’s 18 points.

This is the first time the Owls have advanced to the quarterfinals since the WNIT was expanded to the field of 64.

Meanwhile, it was time for the other Coyer twin to come up big for Villanova with Katherine getting a career-high 23 points, including 6-of-9 from the field and 5-for-7 on three-point attempts.

Caroline Coyer, voted Big Five player of the year last week, scored 15 points and freshman Alex Louin scored 14.

This is the furthest the Wildcats have ever advanced in the WNIT.

The Red Storm (23-11) was led by Danaejah Grant, who had 25 points and 14 rebounds while Amber Thompson had 16 points and 11 rebounds.

Following the conclusion of the Temple game your Guru drove up here to Albany, N.Y., for the NCAA regional and got this written before getting some quick shuteye prior to Friday’s press conferences.

-- Mel

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