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, January 07, 2017

Guru Report: Drexel Drops First-Ever Game to Elon; Wash. State Stuns UCLA

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA – Before the opening tip Friday night at Drexel’s Daskalakis Athletic Center the Dragons had been perfect in four matchups with Elon in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Coach Denise Dillon’s squad took the floor on its home court for the first time after achieving some notoriety earlier in the week when ESPN crowned Drexel No. 1 in its ongoing Mid-Major rankings.

And when it comes to the age-old adage every coach in the world utters about protecting your property, the Dragons had no problem in seven encounters, even when challenged by the likes of Penn State on opening night and then-No. 11 Syracuse 10 days later.

Finally, the mix of some outstanding freshmen and seasoned veterans had served Dillon well from the beginning of December through Monday this week in assembling what was a seven-game win streak.

All of that is now yesterday’s news after Elon clawed its way in the tight struggle to a key putback by Shay Burnett with 31 seconds to play and the Phoenix, who had been picked ahead of Drexel second in the preseason coaches poll, headed back home to North Carolina with a 48-45 victory and their upcoming Sunday contest hosting Delaware.

Thanks to the mischievous schedule makers in the CAA, the Dragons (10-3, 1-1 CAA) will quickly see Elon (10-4, 2-0), now on a six-game win streak of its own in its third season since joining the conference, again next Sunday.

Dillon has no problem with that nearest in the home-and-home arrangement but of immediate concern at the outset of a three-game road trip is the ability to bounce back quickly Sunday visiting Northeastern in Boston and then avoiding getting caught in a trap game situation next Friday when Drexel visits UNCW.

But as they say in postgame commentary at much bigger events on the American scene, let’s go to the winner’s locker room first.

Or as it played out Friday night for the Guru, let’s take a few steps and grab the digital tape player and interview the winner, who dropped by the delightfully improved press room setup in the DAC.

“We’re happy to finally get the monkey off our backs,” said Elon coach Charlotte Smith, known by family affiliation as the niece of former North Carolina State men’s great David Thompson, but also earmarked as the famed North Carolina star whose buzzer-beating three-point shot in the NCAA title game in 1994 gave the Tar Heels a 60-59 win over Louisiana Tech for the national crown.

That was then, this was Friday night.

“We talked about going into this game and applying a lot of defensive pressure,” Smith talked about the way it played out and her team’s ability to squeeze ahead in the closing minutes. “And trying to make Drexel a 2-point team and not give them looks from the 3-point line, because that’s their strength.

“And I felt like we did a good job of applying pressure and not giving them easy looks and making them work hard for everything.”

While Sarah Curran got out of her slump in Monday’s win here over Towson, scoring 15 points, she was the only Dragon to score in double figures.

Bailey Greenberg and Ana Farariu, the newcomers who have been injecting extra productivity into the Drexel offense, were held to two points each and as a team the Dragons shot 29 percent, making 15-of-51 attempts. In long-range land, the Dragons connected on 4-of-19 attempted treys.

Lauren Brown had 12 points for Elon, while Burnett had a double double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.

Usually reliable Drexel ball handling gave way to 17 turnovers, which the Phoenix cashed in for a 13-9 advantage in transition points.

What kept the Dragons in this one was their defense, especially on the boards where they out-rebounded Elon 39-25 and their 14-8 advantage in second chance points offset somewhat the Phoenix 28-14 domination inside the paint.

“We expected a battle today and it definitely was,” Dillon said. “I’d like to say it was a defensive battle because offense wasn’t flowing by any stretch against Elon. Give them credit. They knew exactly how to disrupt us and they did throughout the duration.

“They let up a little bit, they had a couple of people in foul trouble, but they were still extremely disruptive and … a poor game on the shooting end.”

As for the multitude of miscues, Dillon said, “You can definitely say it was a mix (forced and unforced) but you can definitely say it was because of Elon. They were disruptive. They got us on our heels with their fullcourt pressure. I thought that Meghan (Creighton) handled the pressure beautifully with a player on her hip the while time but you need other players be able to make plays with that pressure.

“So all the credit goes to (Elon). They switched aggressively. We didn’t take advantage of switches because we couldn’t handle that ball pressure they were showing.”

As for the quickly looming rematch, Dillon said, “You have to play the schedule that’s dealt. You want to get the one at home but what I hope happens now is we turn around and respond tomorrow and get ready for Sunday’s game.

“But to see them again next Sunday, it’s going to be fresh in our players’ brains, they’re going to know what to expect and I just told them, the film doesn’t lie. That’s what’s out there now. Teams are going to ask their players to gear up and just pressure us for as much as they can for as long as they can,” Dillon explained.

“We have to find a way to handle that pressure and execute our offense.”

Delaware Ends Skid

Elsewhere in the CAA, The Blue Hens’ three-game losing streak came to a halt with the help of freshman Abby Gonzales, who had a career-high 16 points, highlighted by four 3-pointers, in a 63-52 win at UNCW in a  morning school students attraction at Trask Coliseum.

Three other players scored in double digits for Delaware (7-6, 1-1 CAA) as Erika Brown, Sade Chatman, and Nicole Enabosi each scored 12 points.

The host Seahawks (5-8, 0-2) got 16 points from Jasmine Steele and 11 from Jenny DeGraaf while Rebekah Banks had a game-high 11 rebounds.

“We made very good decisions today and we pulled it out when we needed to,” veteran Delaware coach Tina Martin said. “They did a great job today and I couldn’t be prouder of this team. I thought the chemistry was great on the floor and on the bench.”

How long Friday’s performance can be sustained will be known quickly with Delaware stopping at Elon Sunday on the way back north.

In two other CAA games of note, defending champion and preseason favorite James Madison crushed Hofstra 93-57 at home in the JMU Convocation Center in Harrisonburg, Va., while William & Mary’s overall 11-game streak died in an upset loss on the road at the hands of Charleston, 70-60.

The Tribe (11-2, 1-1 CAA) had not lost since their season opener to St. John ‘s of the Big East Conference.

Charleston (4-9, 1-1) at home in the TD Arena had to rally from an early 10-point deficit to win this one.

Breanna Bolden had 24 points for the Cougars, of which 18 was compiled in the first half, while she also grabbed a career-high 15 rebounds.

Alexandra Masaquel had 24 points, shooting 17-for-21 from the field, and grabbed 17 rebounds for William & Mary.

“Even though we didn’t have the best start, we made good defensive adjustments through the rest of the game, “said Cougars coach Candice M. Jackson. “Everyone who played contributed in some form or fashion and it was an all-around good team effort.”

Pac-12 Showdowns: Washington State Stuns No. 9 UCLA

With the number of ranked teams out of the Pac-12 out West in the Associated Press women’s poll, Friday’s national action was concentrated on the left coast.

The shocker of the night occurred in the Northwest where No. 9 UCLA fell at Washington State 82-73, No. 10 Stanford handled visiting Oregon, 81-60, No. 12 Washington held back USC, 77-67, No. 19 Arizona State dominated host Utah, 66-44, and No. 16 Oregon State got past No. 20 and host California, 66-56.

In the Washington State win over the Bruins (11-3, 2-1 PAC-12), the star was Chanelle Molina, who matched a freshman record with 33 points for the Cougars (7-8, 2-2) in the win at home in Pullman’s Beasley Coliseum.

The Cougars upset gives Washington State, coached by June Daugherty, one of its best wins in history, its best ever if the USA Today Coaches Poll ranking of 7th of UCLA is used as the measuring stick. Maryland had a No. 8 ranking in 2014 when Washington State upset the Terrapins 70-64 in the San Juan Shootout.

The other 33-point performance in the Cougars program by a freshman was registered by Lia Galdeira against Minnesota in 2012.

The Hawaiian Friday night had the overall 10th best individual scoring game for the Cougs, shooting 13-for-20 from the floor. Molina also dealt a career-best seven assists.

"She's blessed with so much athleticism and talent," said Daugherty of Molina in the Associated Press report from which the Guru has draw the information to add an account of the game in the Guru report.

Jordin Canada had 19 points for UCLA.

"We got out-focused,” claimed UCLA coach Cori Close. “We got outhustled and all the credit to WSU.”

In the Oregon State triumph over Cal (13-2, 1-2 Pac-12)  in Berkeley another freshman did the heavy lifting for a win with Mikayla Pivec getting a career-high 19 points for the Beavers (14-1, 3-0) to down the Bears at the Haas Pavilion.
Kelsey Plum had 22 of her 34 points in the first half for Washington (15-2, 3-1 Pac-12) in the Huskies’ win over USC (10-4, 1-2) while Chantel Osahor upped her NCAA-leading double double total to 13 with 17 points and 15 rebounds.

Minyon Moore was the top scorer for the Women of Troy with 18 points and Courtney Jaco had 16.

It was also career night for Alanna Smith with her best-ever total of 24 points to lead Stanford over Oregon (11-5, 0-3 Pac-12).

The Cardinal (13-2, 3-0) have beaten the Ducks 21 of the last 22 meetings in their series.

“The bottom line is Stanford doesn’t beat themselves,” said Oregon coach Kelly Graves.

Arizona State (12-2, 1-2 Pac-12) got 15 points and nine rebounds from Quinn Dornstauder as the Sun Devils topped Utah (12-2, 1-2).

And that’s the overnight report.