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, December 23, 2016

Guru Report: Temple Rally Over Fairfiield Makes Cardoza and Staley Tied for Owls Winningest Coach

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA – Temple coach Tonya Cardoza and former Owls coach Dawn Staley, who created the vacancy that Cardoza filled in the early summer of 2008, are the best of friends dating to their days as teammates at Virginia in the early 1990s when the Cavaliers were national contenders.

Until New Year’s Day, minimally, they now share the all-time Owls women’s basketball coaching win total at 172 following Temple’s closing surge Thursday afternoon to top Fairfield 73-59 in McGonigle Hall in the first-ever meeting between the two schools.

"It just means I had some pretty good teams and good staff around me. It’s not anything I’ve done, it’s the people thatI had around me, got me to this point,” Cardoza said.

Staley, who left to successfully build South Carolina into a national contender, reached her total in eight full seasons that ended in 2007-08, while Cardoza has taken a little over a month more.

She can surpass Staley when Temple travels to Memphis on Jan. 1 to open play in the American Athletic Conference, where the Owls were picked second back in the fall behind top-ranked Connecticut.

For a long while in Thursday’s game it did not seem that Cardoza would hit her milestone as the Owls (8-3), who have won four straight, struggled with the Stags (4-7) of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, whom they trailed by as many as six points in the third quarter.

Then Temple turned on the defense and got hot in the other direction going, on a 20-0 surge into the next period to secure the win.

Junior Alliya Butts, who could not make a field goal in 10 attempts last Saturday in the rally at Rutgers, made up for it Thursday, scoring 26 points and tying her career mark for an individual game with six 3-pointers. That gave her a new Temple career total for shooting treys that will continue until she graduates and the person who owned the previous mark was in the house to see her number go by the boards.

The meter temporarily stopped for Butts at 176 but when she passed 171 long range makes, operations director Tyonna Williams was relegated to second place in the Owls’ record book.

“We finally began taking away from what (Fairfield) wanted,” Cardoza said of the turnaround, continuing, “It took us a while to get going but definitely turned it around in the last 14 minutes, I would say.

“It’s crazy how it works but our defense definitely creates our offense and once Alliya starts making threes, ‘Fee (Feyonda Fitzgerald) starts making threes, I definitely think our team feeds off of that, it’s the strangest thing but that’s what really gets us going.”

Fitzgerald, ESPN’s reigning national women’s player of the week, had her first double double of the season and third of her career with 12 points and dealing 12 assists, the latter a new career mark, while Tanaya Atkinson had 14 points and 15 rebounds. Butts also had her best day for the season in the thefts department with five steals.

As for the threes, Butts said, “just keep playing basketball and trying to help my team win.”

Temple outscored Fairfield 19-6 in the fourth and final period.

Samantha Cooper had 21 points for the Stags while Casey Smith scored 18.


Saint Joseph’s Sunk by Hofstra Finish

The Hawks of the Atlantic 10 are having problems with Colonial Athletic Association contingents these days.

Taking the floor Thursday afternoon for the first time since Sunday’s loss across town at Drexel when freshman Ana Ferariu of Romania scored 18 points in 13 minutes of the second half, Saint Joseph’s hosted Hofstra at home at Hagan Arena.

This time it was junior forward Ashunae Durant, who created the damage, scoring a career high 28 points to lead the Pride to a 75-64 victory, though Hofstra (7-3) was ahead by more at 18 points with under four minutes to play.

Krystal Luciano had 13 points while Aleana Lena scored 11 points.

The Hawks (3-8), who trailed by just three points after three periods, got 20 points from Chelsea Woods, who sat out a few minutes after injuring an ankle, 17 from Alyssa Monaghan, and 14 from Amanda Fioravanti. But Adashia Franklyn had just five points.

Saint Joseph’s with 14 turnovers committed just four more than Hofstra’s 10 but the Pride was quick outscoring the Hawks 21-7 in transition.

“There’s two major things I was proud of, taking care of the basketball after 12 days off, and I knew they didn’t press a lot, but it was us, just having that many days off, and being rusty, and not playing a game, and we had five at halftime, and we didn’t give them a lot of second chance opportunities,” said Hofstra coach Krista Kilburn-Stevesky.

“It’s her coming of age,” the Pride coach said of Durant’s performance. “We know what we want her to do, we know what she’s capable of doing, and tonight she did it.”

The win, the third straight on the season, tied the all-time series with the Hawks at 2-2.

“We’re still searching that rhythm,” Kiburn-Stevesky said of the recent flow with an eye to CAA play after the Hartford game on Dec. 30, but it’s certainly to be searching that while winning, but we got some good pieces and we’re trying to put it together. It’s still going to be a work in progress.”

The way things have been going among CAA teams, there’s a sense the conference won’t be a one-dominant affair.

“They’re beginning to pan out,” Kilburn-Stevesky said of preseason favorite and defending champion James Madison. “Night after night, it’s going to be the grind. It’s Drexel, and Delaware, and Elon is tough as all get out, and I think William & Mary’s a sleeper, and he does what he does and he does it well.

“We’ve been hoping for our conference where it’s wide open and could be anybody’s conference and it would be awesome if this is what it ends up being this year. And after 11 years in the conference, 11 years at Hofstra, it would be fun to have more parity and just have some fun and let’s see who takes the crowd.”

Saint Joseph’s coach Cindy Griffin, meanwhile, continues to be frustrated at the Hawks inability to finish games.

“Our woes in the fourth quarter still seems to haunt us,”  Griffin said.  “We gave up 27 points in the quarter.  It’s disappointing.  Our kids know we can play with any team, and it’s a matter of executing on offense and getting stops on defense.”

Griffin seems mystified as to why all her posts can’t have a good night at the same time, instead of a change of one person each time out.

Saint Joseph’s has one more game before heading into the Atlantic 10 portion of the schedule and its another CAA squad,James Madison, the preseason favorite, next Wednesday at home.


There are just two last games Friday on the entire Division I schedule and the Guru is heading to one of them when George Washington hosts Loyola (Md.) at noon at the Smith Center in Washington.


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