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, July 09, 2015

Mike Siroky's SEC Report: Russell Ready to Roll After Showing in World University Games

By Mike Siroky

The Americans in the women’s world University Games are 3-0, have won their pool and are three games away from successful defense of the title.

The Southeastern Conference of women’s basketball, so far, is barely represented, with one player and one coach from Tennessee.

Mercedes Russell, back into the college game after sitting out a year for rehab on her feet, has proven quite adaptable.

As with most all-star teams, minutes are relatively unimportant as long as you get some.

Teammate Diamond Deshields was held out of the second and third games.

Her coach, Holly Warlick, an assistant in these games who works with the guards, had said after the first game and limited time for Deshields, “She hasn’t fully recovered.”

Deshields also sat out last season at Tennessee, as an All-American transfer from North Carolina.

In the second game, Russell hit 6-of-12 from the field and had 14 rebounds as the USA outlasted China, 90-75. The USA had 61 inside points in that one.

In the third game, Russell led the scoring with 18 with 12 rebounds as USA won over the Czech Republic, 92-54. She is leading the team in rebounds at 10.3 per game.

Coach Joe McKeown (Northwestern) said of Russell's inside game: "It’s so important. I thought Mercedes had stretches where she was just dominant."

Russell said after that game: "I think it’s very important because we have a lot of height on our team, and we have some talented posts that finish well around the basket.

"One of our main keys to every game is to go inside-out because once we get the ball inside, defenses start collapsing and we can get it back out to the guards for good shots. It makes us all harder to guard."

"We needed to calm down a little bit. We were trying to play too fast on offense and on defense we needed to communicate more to get stops. We were able to do a better job of that, and it led to that stretch."

Russell scored four of her eight points in the third game on offensive rebounds, showing she can fill a gap UT would have had in the upcoming season.

The USA advances to the medal round quarterfinals today (July 9), where it will play the No. 2 seed from Group A, Hungary (2-1), at 7:30 a.m. EDT, live on ESPNU.

McKeown has made this team have a Midwest flavor. He named DePaul’s Chanise Jenkins USA team captain and Aerial Powers (Michigan State) has been the recipient of a designed offensive flow.

They had opened with a sluggish but still impressive blowout of the Italy, 80-68.

Powers scored 12 in the second quarter on her way to 22.

In the second game, McKeown liked the closing defense. “It was a hard-fought game,” he said “and the Chinese played really well, shot the ball really well. I thought we had that one stretch where we were in transition, and then we hit a couple of threes to really open the game up. That was really important. I thought our defense in the fourth quarter was really solid.

“I think we’re one of the deepest teams in this tournament and moving forward we know that our depth, to me, is probably our biggest strength.

“We work hard on the glass and are able to change people’s shots. Getting the ball inside and working from the inside out is the best way for this team to play.”

In the third game, McKeown said, “I thought we really were balanced, we came out in the second quarter and I thought, defensively, took over the game. We rebounded really well and forced them into some tough shots. They had played well the last two games, and our defensive was the big key today.”

After comparably slow starts in its first two wins over Italy and China, the United States came out on fire in the group-stage finale.

The USA used a swarming full-court press to stifle the Czechs and converted 14-of-15 field goals in the first quarter, shooting 93 percent en route to establishing a 30-15 lead after 10 minutes.

“We were more focused coming out,” said USA team captain Jenkins. “People were making the extra pass, hitting the open woman, and I think that’s what played a big part in our success today.”

The Czech Republic, which trailed by as many as 20 points, in the first period, cut the deficit to 10 at 34-24 midway through the second quarter, but the United States cranked up the heat one again. The red, white and blue scored 12 of the next 16 points capped by three free throws from Erica McCall (Stanford) for a 49-32 halftime edge.

“We had a lot of energy,” said McKeown. “I thought (against China) we were running in mud at times. Today, we put people away. We put our foot on the pedal and exploded today, and that’s great.”

As a team, the United States shot 55 percent (40-for-73) against the Czech Republic, while its defense held the opponents to 28 percent (19-for-68).

Overall, the USA is shooting 51.2 percent, while opponents are at 33.2. The USA continued to over power teams inside as well, adding 58 more points in the paint to bring its tournament total to 172 (57.3 ppg).

The rebounding margin continues to climb as well, and it now sits at plus-23 through three games.

“Getting stops on defense is a big aspect of what will help us moving forward,” said Brianna Jones (Maryland).

“If we put more stops together, we’re able to prevent teams from scoring. Everybody on this team is an amazing player, so we know we can score. The focus is mainly on getting stops.”

Jones had her first double-double with 13 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.

The semifinals are on July 11, the Bronze medal game is July 12 and the Gold game is July 13.

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad


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