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.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Guru Report:: Temple Blasts Villanova to Clinch Big Five Tie Amid Narrow Outcomes Elsewhere

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

VILLANOVA, Pa. – Temple’s backcourt duo of Feyonda Fitzgerald and Alliya Butts were a pair of jet engines in the offense Saturday afternoon combining for 47 points and 13 assists to power the Owls to a stunning 83-48  victory over Villanova at The Pavilion to gain at least a share of the Big 5 title at 3-0.

Elsewhere, except at Penn State among the Guru’s local PhilahoopsW group, of seven games played with one left, Penn was on the high end of a two-point outcome, while Saint Joseph, Princeton, and Rutgers were on the downside, and La Salle went to the last minute to extend its winning ways.

You’ll find all that in the roundup under our main game we covered. Information on the others were gleaned off reports by school email and websie reports.

Back here on the Main Line in the western suburbs, the game at the Wildcats’ Pavilion was between the last two unbeaten schools in City Series round robin play as the Villanova reigning champions from last season fell to 4-5 overall and 2-1 in the Big 5.

 The Owls (5-3 overall), who had been shocked Wednesday night at Hampton 71-65, a differential much closer at the end than it had been most of the way, can win outright next month beating Penn in The Palestra on Jan. 25 a week after Villanova visits the Quakers on Jan. 18.

If Villanova wins and Temple loses those games, they are co-champions but if they both lose, the Owls back into their first Big 5 crown since 2011 at 3-1, the same record the Wildcats had winning last year when Saint Joseph’s was upset by La Salle in the last game of the 2014-15 series.

But that seems like yesterday compared to the the previous Temple wallop to the Wildcats 28 years ago until Saturday’s rout became the worst ever.

“I wasn’t expecting that at all, especially the way we played at Hampton,” Temple coach Tonya Cardoza said of the game in which the Owls’ advantage grew to 36 in the last minute of play.

“The last couple of days we really laid into them and talked about discipline and paying attention to the little things and making it be known that this game isn’t any old game – it’s a championship on the line.

“I just felt like our guys were really locked in, really locked in on the defensive side, really communicating and trying to help out. And then we had guys really step out and play outside themselves,” she continued. “Ruth (Sherrill) getting her first start and coming up with a double double (13 points, 13 reounds). Donnaizha getting her first start of the season and coming up with a double double (17 points, 16 rebounds).”

Tanaya Atkinson suffered a concussion in the Vermont game last Sunday and didn’t suit up but she is expected to return by next game.

“Alliya (Butts) breaking out and playing both sides of the basketball,” Cardoza continued complimenting her squad’s performance. “There was just contributions from so many guys. That’s something we needed. We were still hanging our heads from the Hampton game cause we know we didn’t play good basketball and to come out and play like we did against Villanova is just something unheard of. Really.”

Fitzgerald got it going with 10 points in the first period and Butts aided the cause with a pair of treys as Temple built a 20-9 lead and never looked back.

“We just came out and stuck to the game plan and did what we had to do,” Fitzgerald said. “We actually paid attention this time and I think we were really hungry to win this game being it was a Big 5 game and we were playing for a championship. We just did what we had to do.

“Personally, I looked at the score (during the game) and thought, wow, we didn’t expect to beat them by this much because they’re a great team. But we did what we had to do and just happen to end on a good note. It’s very emotional and competitive when you play against a ig 5 team. So do what you have to do, you’ll come out on top.

Individually, Butts had 27 points and five assists while Fitzgerald had 20 points and eight assists. Fountain also blocked four shots.

Jannah Tucker, the transfer from Tennessee in her first season of eligibility had. 15 points with three 3-pointers, coming to life later in the game, while Adrianna Hahn scored 10 points.

Temple had a 50-27 rebounding advantage and outscored Villanova 24-12 in the paint and 20-9 on second chance points. The Owls shot 18-20 from the line while the Wildcats got only three trips and made one shot.

“We don’t match up with them at all,” Villanova coach Harry Perretta said. “Their guards are upperclassmen that take advantage of our young guards. They’re physical inside so I mean I was not shocked at the outcome of the game. After seeing their tapes, I wasn’t shocked. It’s what it was.

“And they’re last score made me feel awful (that Temple would seek retribution on next foe). I don’t know how they lost that game. (Cardoza) didn’t substitute,  which was another reason they didn’t lose that game.”

The five starters’ minutes, ranged 36, 37, 38, 38, 39.

Villanova is off until Dec. 21 when the ‘Cats travel to a revitalized Duke squad in Durham, N.C., while Temple on Thursday this week will host Big East favorite DePaul, which is back Dec. 30 to play the Wildcats on the front part of their home-and-home conference series.

The Temple-DePaul game will be televised on ESPNU.


The Roundup: Not Sweet Homecoming for Suzie McConnell-Serio to Penn State

If the fates of 2007 had been different, Penn State’s all-time prolific point guard Suzie McConnell-Serio might have been patrolling the Lady Lions’ sidelines of her alma mater Saturday afternoon inside the Bryce Jordan Center.

But when it came to filling the coaching vacancy the administration went outside the family, attracting then Notre Dame associate head coach Coquese Washington.

McConnell-Serio, who had coached in the WNBA and at powerful Oakland Catholic High in the Steel City, the same time moved a few miles and transformed Duquesne into prominence before being grabbed from the Atlantic 10 school by the Panthers of the ACC, where things are moving forward.

But for the first time Saturday, McConnell-Serio came home with the former annual in-state rival and pregame pleasantries ended quickly by what took place on the court.

The Lady Lions (8-2) stayed perfect at home after five games, using a powerful 25-5 second quarter to romp to a 91-62 non-conference victory as Lindsey Spann scored 20 points. Career-highs were recorded by freshman Amari Carter with 13 points, while sophomore Jaylen Williams reached her best with nine points and tied another career mark with eight rebounds.

Teniya Page was also in double figures with 13 points.

The game was also a homecoming for operations director Brianna O’Rourke at Pitt (7-3), who saw her ninth-place ranking in Penn State history for three-pointers tied by Spann at 120.

Brenna Wise had 15 points for the Panthers.

Penn State hits its court break for finals all week and returns Sunday to host American U.


La Salle Continues Winning Ways

It was rally time for the Explorers again in the wake of their thrilling overtime win at Penn as  they overcame a 13-point deficit existing in the second  quarter for a 68-61 non-conference win over Fairfield (4-6) at home Saturday at Tom Gola Arena.

Overcoming five deadlocks in the second half, La Salle (6-4)  launched a 5-0 run late in the game to pick up its sixth victory in the last seven games, the one being a narrow setback at Villanova.

“Winning these close games is huge, it prepares us for conference play,” La Salle coach Jeff Williams said without wondering what karma got him through this one as he did earlier in the week. “Now we know we can pull it out down the stretch. That we can make not just offensive plays, but we can get defensive stops., because that’s what it comes down to.”

Amy Griffin, the leading A-10 scorer last season, was tops again for La Salle, collecting 22 points, while Jasmine Alston had 12 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists.

“Amy Griffin has made big shots when we’ve needed her to make big shots,” Williams noted. “Jasmine Alston has been running the offense and we got a big lift from Michaya Owens (14 points) today. She was huge for us.”

The Explorers also take a break for finals and next host Delaware State Dec. 21.


Penn Escapes Richmond

This time the Quakers and Michelle Nwokedi got it right in another narrow contest as Penn edged host Richmond 47-44 Saturday afternoon in the Robbins Center.

Penn (4-4) was coming off its tough home loss in overtime to La Salle as it headed South to the state of Virginia to try to get back on the winning side.

Nwokedi, who had a game-high 21 points and grabbed 20 rebounds, had five blocks, including one at the finish to preserve the win, four assists, and a steal to edge the Spiders (4-5)  of the Atlantic 10.

“We came out hard and played really hard together and never let up,” she said. “The biggest thing for me is to stay composed, let the game come to me, get in a good flow and get my teammates involved. I think it’s a great win because beause we learned how to close out a close game.”

The Quakers also got 15 points from Sydney Stipanovich,  who grabbed eight rebounds, while Jaide Hines-Clarke scored 14 for Richmond.

Penn also blanked Richmond’s Janelle Hubbard, who had been averaging 16.1 points per game.

The Quakers now take a three-week break and then this time spend New Year’s out west visiting CSU  Northridge on New Year’s Eve and then visit UC Riverside.


Heartbreak Row I: Princeton Streak Snapped As Rally Falls Just Short at Fordham

The Tigers of the Ivy League had been rolling since an 0-4 start but the four-game winning run was ended by Fordham 57-55 at Rose Hill Gymnasium in the Bronx, N.Y., Saturday afternoon.
Princeton (4-5) had trailed by double digits heading into the final quarter but it became a one-point game for the last of several times when Vanessa Smith scored to trail 56-55 with 18 seconds left in regulation.

Fordham (7-3) went up a field goal on the next possession, making 1-of-2 foul shots but Princeton couldn’t score to force the overtime.

Smith had 13 points for the Tigers, while Tia Weledji collected 12 points and Leslie Robinson, the niece of President Obama and his wife Michelle as well as the daughter of former Princeton star Craig Robinson, had 10 points, six rebounds, three assists, blocked a shot and grabbed a steal.

Kate Kreslina had a game-high 19 points, shooting 6-for-9 from the field for Fordham.

Princeton is off until next Sunday when the Tigers go to the Midwest to meet Kansas State and then return home Dec. 21 to host Wagner in Jadwin Gym.


Heartbreak Row II: Rutgers Edged at Houston

Joining the weekend heartbreak club was Rutgers for the second time in three games as the Scarlet Knights, who held leads, fell at Houston 53-51 as Serithia Hawkins connected with a layup with nine seconds to give the Cougars the lead.

Then the Scarlet Knights’ Shrita Parker committed an offensive foul giving the ball back to the Cougars.

 Khadaizha Sanders committed another foul for the visitors (2-9) with one second left. Hawkins had a chance to build on the Houston advantage at the line but missed both shots and the game ended and the Cougars improved to 4-5 overall.

  Rutgers heads  now into Tuesday’s game back home hosting Seton Hall.

The Scarlet Knights were up 49-42 with 2:41 left in regulation before Houston went back in front on a 9-0 run.

Two faces of Rutgers past were on the winning side early Saturday night with head coach Ron Hughey having served as an assistant to Hall of Fame Scarlet Knights coach C. Vivian Stringer in 2009-10 and Vicky Picott enjoyed stardom in the Theresa Grentz era prior to Stringer’s arrival having graduated in 1992.

Victoria Harris had 13 points and nine rebounds for the Scarlet Knights while Houston’s Hawkins had 11 points and nine rebounds while Chyanne Butler scored 10 for the home team.

  Rutgers’ Parker was also in double figures with 13 points and Desiree Keeling scored 11.


Heartbreak Row III: Saint Joseph’s on Wrong End Again

It turns out the either there was a chance at some point or the Guru had it wrong but since he spent more time reading his grid this past week than remembering hearing last week that next time was a Friday tipoff, he now adds the latest tale of woe for Saint Joseph’s.

The Hawks traveled to Central Michigan in Mount Pleasant, a place oldtimers around the game recall because the 1980 AIAW final four was held there and after spending a week in tundra – it was still fun – and on a bracket that was fair but was expensive travel-wise, the move to the NCAA at schools began gaining momentum for the obvious reasons.

That said, another one with a big lead got away again, this time at McGuirk Arena where the Hawks were ahead 12 points with just under four minutes left in the game and but landed on the wrong end of a 73-71 score in overtime.

Presley Hudson was the heroine for the home team (7-3), knocking down a three-pointer with 2.0 seconds left to tie the game at 63-63 and force overtime.

Leading 70-69 with 19 seconds left in the extra session, Central Michigan missed two free throws but, according to the Hawks email report, the Hawks’ Chelsea Woods went for the ball but as she gathered the rebound, the far-sided referee blew the whistle and after a meeting of minds the referees awarded possession to the Chippewas on alternate possession.

Upon first reading this, one recalls the voice of WNBA Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve, whose collegiate career included playing against the Hawks annually, after losing the playoffs in postgame discussion of officiating commenting: Just get it right.

Central Michigan was fouled off the inbound and made 1-of-2 for a 71-69 lead.

Then out of a timeout Woods hit a layup and was fouled but the score was denied, she went to the line making two free throws for a tie, instead of what would have been a one-point lead for the Hawks (2-6).

All that became academic because Hudson struck again, navigating traffic on the left side and hit a floater off the glass for the victory.

Alyssa Monaghan had a career-high 20 points for Saint Joseph’s, while Adashia Franklyn matched hers with 18 points.

Hudson finished with a game-high 20 points for Central Michigan, making four of Saint Joseph’s losses that were suffered in the closing minutes – two involving referee decisions. There was also a win, the narrow outcome over Penn.

Saint Joseph’s is back home Tuesday night playing NJIT in Hagan Arena.


Looking Ahead

On Sunday, Delaware is hosting Army is the only game on the docket as now we hit the light week caused by finals. The Guru will be there.

Nationally, No. 1 UConn, which is unbeaten visits unbeaten  Kansas State while Tennessee visits Texas, two programs struggling in the won-loss column and at one time in the past might have been a No. 1 vs. No. 2 game.

On Monday, Maryland visits Loyola, Md., in a neighborhood scrum.

On Tuesday, as mentioned NJIT is at Saint Joseph’s, while Drexel is back in action hosting Niagara, and Rutgers will host Seton Hall with both having lost to Princeton play for. Garden State second-place honors.

Wednesday is dark on our schedule, as mentioned, DePaul visits Temple in a 9 p.m. Game Thursday, while Friday is also dark  and Saturday Temple visits Rutgers. We’ll give you Sunday later in the week.





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