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 16, 2016

Guru Report: Temple Upsets No. 17 DePaul

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA – The big question after Temple’s powerful win over Villanova last Saturday was how would the Owls follow up next dealing with a visit from 17th-ranked and Big East women’s basketball favorite DePaul.

The answer came impressively in the positive quite nicely Thursday night as the Owls picked up an 84-74 victory in McGonigle Hall before a national TV audience thru ESPNU in only the second meeting ever between the two urban neighborhood programs with DePaul being located in Chicago.

The first one also resulted in a Temple victory 84-68 over three decades ago in a consolation final of a previously configured WNIT in 1982 then held in Amarillo, Texas.

And when It comes to going back in time, while the Owls victimized a ranked team last season in AAC-rival South Florida, they had not bagged one outside of conference membership since upsetting then-No 22 Purdue 61-47 on Nov. 24, 2007.

“This is a great win for us,” said Temple coach Tonya Cardoza. “Coming off the win at Villanova I thought that the way we played I was hoping it was something we were going to feed off of.

“We played a Top 25 team who only lost to Top 5 teams in the country (No. 1 UConn, No. 2 Notre Dame, and No. 3 Baylor), definitely a scoring machine, they have several guys who can really fire and I thought defensively we did a pretty good job of taking away their three as much as possible, they only made three 3s and the person who made them was the only person we left open but it was a tremendous effort on our part to just stay focused and be committed to doing the little things.

“Early in the second quarter we got a little winded because they like to push the basketball but I thought we settled down and didn’t give up as many transition buckets. But I just thought we were committed on the defensive side of really working and trying to communicate because of what they do and how potent their offense is but it was a tremendous team effort.”

Amarah Coleman had all three of the treys on seven attempts for the Blue Demons (6-4) while the rest of the squad was 0-for-18.

Temple (5-3), on the other hand, shot a season-high 11 treys and the powerful backcourt of Feyonda Fitzgerald and Alliya Butts who combined for 47 points against the Wildcats this time blended for 45 with Fitzgerald getting 25 points and Butts 20.

Donnaizha Fountain had her second straight double double with 13 points and 13 rebounds but what really pleased Cardoza was the work of Ruth Sherrill, who had eight points and 11 rebounds.

Temple led by as much as 16 points early in the fourth quarter before DePaul began cutting away but the Owls kept coming up with clutch plays as they had earlier in the game just when things began to look a little dicey.

Jessica January, the Big East preseason player of the year, scored 21 points, Coleman scored 18, and Jacqui Grant scored 12 while registering seven blocked shots for the visitors.

“When they went on a run we didn’t go in the tank and settled down and stuck with the game plan,” Cardoza said. “I thought we did a really good job of paying attention to what was working.”

DePaul led at the half 35-34.

“We were getting lucky sometimes because they were getting some open threes that weren’t contested but they weren’t making them,” Cardoza observed. “Right now we’re in a good place where we’re comfortable and confident with certain guys in changing the lineup. We could be a little bit bigger, a little bit smaller. But I think everybody is starting to understand their role and what they can bring.

“But more importantly right now, we’re a little bit more committed to playing defense than we were two weeks ago. That Hampton game showed us we weren’t committed on the defensive side. We allowed them to do whatever they wanted and these last two teams we played, they’re really good offensive teams and you have to be committed on the defensive side.”

If the world timeline had gone a different direction, Temple and DePaul might be home-and-home rivals playing here and Chicago, where next year the Demons will open a new arena along Lake Michigan.

But as Temple headed out of the Atlantic 10 to what was then the old highly competitive Big East, the schism occurred and the Owls with UConn and South Florida among others with football programs became part of the newly-named American Conference while Villanova and DePaul and six other non-football schools, aka the Catholic Eight maintained the Big East name in a new configuration.

Both Cardoza and DePaul coach Doug Bruno have ties to UConn coach Geno Auriemma with Cardoza having served under him 14 years with the Huskies and Bruno served as a USA Olympic aide on the two gold medal runs in London and Rio.

Bruno had seen tape of Temple’s win over Villanova and thought the Owls would be a challenge.

“We have the makings of a very good team but we’re not there yet,” he said prior to game time. “We have the pieces – we just have to get them all working together.”

DePaul is back in town Dec. 30 in the suburbs playing Villanova on the front end of the Big East schedule while Temple on Saturday heads to Rutgers where for perhaps the first time in their series since maybe the A-10 days the Owls will be the favorite.

They have won there as an underdog but right now Rutgers is 3-9 and could easily be 2-10 had not Seton Hall collapsed at Rutgers in the second half on Tuesday night.


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