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, November 28, 2016

South Carolina Has The No. 1 Look in Hoop Hall Challenge

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – In an annual Basketball Hall of Fame Women’s Challenge foursome header decorated with four coaches with deep Philadelphia ties, the youngest one of the bunch got to make a national statement at the event at the MassMutual Center that ran from mid-morning Sunday until darkness descended on this region here in New England.

Third-ranked South Carolina, coached by Philly roundball legend Dawn Staley, ran roughshod over No. 5 Louisville after a competitive first quarter to gain a non conference 83-59 triumph.

Afterwards media here, those watching from afar via ESPN2, and other observers said despite Notre Dame’s No. 1 ranking and No. 2 Connecticut’s recent upset of then-No. 2 Baylor, the team on the floor right now that is looking like the best bet to leave Dallas on April 2 with the NCAA trophy is Staley’s unbeaten Gamecocks (4-0), who also own an impressive win over then-No. 7 Ohio State in Columbus.

    “As you can see we’re pretty balanced,” Staley said of a roster offering several all-American candidates and at least one player of the year contender in 6-foot-5 junior A’ja Wilson. “Our post players are used to playing with each other. They can put the ball where it needs to be – high-low – or we can step it off the block. It’s another year they’re working together so they can understand each other’s sweet spots on the floor.”

Game-high scoring honors with 17 points each  were shared by three Gamecocks stars – Wilson, Allisha Gray, a transfer from North Carolina; and Alaina Coates, who also grabbed 14 rebounds.

Mariya Moore also picked up 17 points for Louisville (6-1), which dropped its first game in seven outings.

Double-digits on the South Carolina side were also collected by Kaela Davis, a transfer from Georgia, who scored 13 points, and freshman Mikiah Herbert Harriman, who picked up 11 off the bench.

Asia Durr, one of Louisville’s prized talents, got most of her 13 points early as the Cardinals edged the Gamecocks 20-18 after a quarter. But Staley’s group closed the door with adjustments after that and dominated the second period 19-9, the third 27-15, and also outscored the opposition 19-15 in the fourth.

Briahanna Jackson also scored in double figures for Louisville with 10 off the bench.

Cardinal coach Jeff Walz didn’t think the Gamecocks were that many points better but conceded “they’re a very, very, good basketball team.” What worked in the first quarter from his view is “we did a very good job following the scoring report.”

The other three games were mostly competitive all the way, though none went well by the finish for the Philly coaching contingent.

Saint Peter’s (0-5), coached by former Rutgers and West Catholic star Pat Coyle, fell in overtime to Bowling Green, 73-68, in the first game of the day that was played before the South Carolina game.

Carly Santoro scored 28 points for Bowling Green (2-4) and grabbed 12 rebounds while Savanna Bethea scored 26 points for Saint Peter’s (0-5).

Then Lafayette, coached by Hall of Famer Theresa Grentz, the former Immaculata star who had previous coaching stops at Saint Joseph’s, Rutgers and Illinois before a somewhat brief retirement, fell in the final minute to Hampton, 58-55, and the last game wrapped up with Chattanooga, coached by Elkins Park native Jim Foster, another Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer, fading in the last quarter, to drop a 49-39 outcome to Maine.

Malia Tate-Defreitas scored 22 for Hampton (3-4) while Maia Hood had 12 points and Olivia Gumbs had a double double with 10 points and 10 rebounds for Lafayette (1-6), which has been winless since an opening night triumph at La Salle.

Sigi Koizar had 13 points, Laia Sole scored 12, and Bianca Milan had 10 points for Maine (3-4) while Tennessee-Chattanooga (3-5) got 11 points from Lakelyn Bouldin and 10 points and 16 rebounds from Jasmine Joyner.

Mixed Weekend for the Locals

Elation and disappointment were the emotions of the weekend on Saturday and Sunday as far the PhilahoopsW group was concerned.

On the up side, Temple rallied in the fourth quarter to edge Quinnipiac, La Salle stayed positive with a sweep in North Carolina for what is now a three-game win streak after the Explorers dropped their first three  games, Rutgers edged Bryant for the Scarlet Knights’ first win following a record season-opening five-game losing streak, Princeton bombed the baskets with a school-record 14 3-pointers to help win at UMBC, and Saint Joseph’s rallied to beat host New Mexico Saturday and come out of its visit with a split.

On the down side, Drexel, which had pulled a stunning upset of then-No. 11 Syracuse last Monday at home, lost at Patriot League favorite Bucknell Sunday and the Bisons also own a win over Saint Joseph’s. Delaware came home from the West Coast empty-handy losing a tough one to Detroit after losing to No. 24 Michigan Stste Friday. Lehigh got swept in its two games of pre-determined opponents while Rider dropped two in Florida after opening with a three-game win streak.

Lets move in for the close-up.
Temple’s Alliya Butts continued to live up to her unanimous pick on the preseason all-American Athletic Conference team Sunday by nailing a triple with 40 seconds left in regulation to send the Owls on to a narrow 71-68 triumph that completed two comebacks

One was getting back on the winning side after losing at Florida last weekend. The other was overcoming Quinnipiac and a fourth-quarter seven-point deficit to move to 3-1 on the season while the Bobcats, one of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference’s heavyweights, suffered their first loss in five games.

Butts had 24 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter, and grabbed three steals while Feyonda Fitzgerald  sealed the win and finished with 19 points, six assists and five rebounds. Tanaya Atkinson had 14 points and 11 rebounds and Khadijah Berger had six points and a career-high eight rebounds.

Temple next heads to Harvard in Cambridge, Mass., on Thursday night.


La Salle (3-3) continued to shake off the doldrums of a three-game losing streak by sweeping Miami of Ohio on Saturday and UNC Wilmington on Sunday in the UNC Wilmington tournament, whose teams were predetermined in each round.

On Sunday, against host UNCW (2-2), the Explorers got 22 points from Amy Griffin, who led the Atlantic 10 in scoring last season, while Michaya Owens scored 13 and Jasmine Alston scored 10 points.

Earlier on Saturday, coming off a win over American the previous weekend at home in Tom Gola Arena, the Explorers topped Miami of Ohio 79-70 as Alston had a triple double with 15 points, 18 rebounds, and 12 assists while Griffin scored 23 and Adreana Miller scored 16  against the Mid-American Conference reps who fell to 2-3.

Next up La Salle goes to Villanova Wednesday to try to get even in the Big Five at 1-1 while the Wildcats have yet to play in the round-robin this season.


Rutgers, which had lost five straight including a shellacking by Princeton on the road last Friday, finally made it to the victory column Sunday, beating Bryant 50-42 at home in the Rutgers Athletic Center as Kandiss Barber had a career-high 14 points in the non conference matchup.

She also dished seven assists.

Desiree Keeling had eight points and nine rebounds in a near double double perfromance against Bryant (3-2). Aliiyah Jeune, whose steal enabled Shrita Parker to score a trey and turn the tide, had 11 points.

Next up Thursday is a visit from Duke as part of the ACC/Big 10 challenge and at halftime, all-time Scarlet Knights great Cappie Pondexter will have her number retired.


Princeton, which stopped a four-game opening losing streak on Friday with the rout of Rutgers, stayed on the winning side Sunday on the road using a school record 14 three-pointers to beat UMBC  69-58 and outscoring the home team 19-4 in the fourth quarter.

Kenya Holland had a career-high 19 points for the Tigers (2-4), who shot a program record 37 attempted treys against UMBC (2-3). Taylor Brown had 13 points in 15 minutes. Freshman Bella Alarie had 10 points, two blocked shots and two assists.

Next up is a visit 6 p.m. Wednesday from Seton Hall in the second part of the tri-game state competition among the Tigers, Rutgers and Seton Hall.


Poised to start getting votes in the weekly polls after upsetting then-No. 11 Syracuse a week ago, Drexel got taken down at Patriot League favorite Bucknell 78-66 in Lewisburg, Pa.

Though the Dragons (3-2) shook off a double-digit deficit, foul trouble and a weak defense down the stretch proved costly.

After riding the bench most of the first half with two personal fouls, Sarah Curran scored 17 of her 19 points the rest of the way. Meghan Creighton, also in foul trouble, scored 10.

Claire DeBoer scored 22 for Bucknell (4-2).

Drexel next heads to Cornell Saturday afternoon.


Meanwhile, after roaring to a 3-0 start for the first time in 38 years, Rider was stopped twice in Florida on the weekend, the second by Saint Bonaventure 60-47 at Central Florida’s tournament.

The Bonnies (3-3) got 19 points from Mariah Ruff while Rider’s Julia Duggan had a team high 18 points but the Broncs shot just 25.8 penetrate from the floor.

On Saturday Rider fell to the host UCF 49-30.


Lehigh fell twice in its own tournament, losing Sunday to Monmouth 73-62 after falling to Norfolk State 81-57 on Saturday.

On Sunday the Mountain Hawks (4-3) got a game-high 21 points from Quinci Martin against Monmouth (2-3). On Saturday Martin led Lehigh with 13 points.

The Blackhawks will stay home in Stabler Arena to host NJIT on Wednesday.

On Saturday, Saint Joseph’s came up with a split in the New Mexico tournament in Albuquerque beating the host Lobos 79-67.

Chelsea Woods, who lit up the Philly summer women’s league, had a career-high 24 points for Saint Joseph’s (2-4). She also had 10 rebounds in the game in which the Hawks rallied from a 17-point deficit to New Mexico (2-3).

A 16-4 run at the start of the third quarter was the ticket.

Additionally, for the visitors, Sarah Veilleux had a career high 17 points, while Adaisha Franklyn scored 15 points, and Alyssa Monaghan and Amanda Fioravanti each scored 10 points.

Next up is another Big Five game for the Hawks Saturday when Villanova visits.
Finally, for the locals, Delaware dropped a tough 66-64 non conference game to Detroit,  After trailing the Titans by 26 in Cal-State Northridge’s tournament. The Blue Hens had started 4-0 before heading to the West Coast.

Haleigh Ristovski had 20 points for Detroit while Sade Chatman scored 13 for Delaware and Erika Brown and Nicole Enabosi each scored 11 points for the Blue Hens.

Nationally Noted

After being taken down a week ago by unranked Penn State, another upstart got Tennessee with Virginia Tech and new coach Kenny Brooks getting a 67-63 victory to stay unbeaten at 6-0. The Lady Vols fell to 3-2.

No. 18  DePaul smashed Syracuse 108-84. In a game with two Top 10 teams, No. 4 Baylor topped No. 8 Ohio State 85-68.


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