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, January 16, 2017

Guru Report: Villanova DNA Aids Wildcats Win Over St. John's

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

VILLANOVA, Pa. – Mom got cited at halftime while her daughter was the rest of, but not entire, show on the Main Line Sunday afternoon as Villanova held back Saint John’s for a narrow 55-50 victory in a Big East game in the Wildcats’ Pavilion.

Freshman Mary Gedaka stepped off the bench to score career-highs of 16 points and eight rebounds to help lead Villanova (8-9, 4-3) to its fourth win in its last five games and complete a weekend sweep at home in the conference.

Saint John’s (12-6, 4-3) came roaring in here having won 10 of 12 and helped along the way by another former Neumann-Goretti star – starting freshman Alisha Kebbe, who already has three weekly Big East newcomer citations to her credit.

But it was the Villanova newcomer who was the talk of the arena, ironically occurring during  the program’s annual Alumni Day when the stars of past glories are honored.

“I’m feeling very confident right now,” said Gedaka, a graduate of Gloucester Catholic in South Jersey who is from Mullica Hill. “More important, it was a great team win. Saint John’s is a really good team.

“I think we played really well together. Defense was a key for this win today and I think everybody locked down.

“ I’m typically not a scorer but it went in my favor today. Some of my shots were hitting. I tried to look for the basket but when (Saint John’s) were helping me or guarding me, I looked to kick  it, it was a good thing.”

Gedaka comes from great Wildcats DNA, especially among the long list of outstanding players who thrived in coach Harry Perretta’s system.

Her mom, Lisa Gedaka, may not ring any bells in the memories of veteran Villanova fans, but apply her maiden name – Lisa Angelotti – and instant acknowledgement will surface of a star from the Shelly Pennefather era who claimed her own Big East player of the year award in 1987 when the league two eras ago was comprised much like it is today.

After struggles early in the season with a young roster, the Wildcats freshmen are starting to blossom. Kelly Jekot had a big game Friday afternoon in the win over Seton Hall in the annual Education Day promotion.

On Sunday, it was Gedaka who stepped up.

“I think that’s a big key for our team this year,” Gedaka said. “The majority of the players are inexperienced. It’s big, obviously Alex (Louin) and Andrianna (Hahn), need to step up with Jannah (Tucker) out (concussion), points wise, Megan (Quinn) and Samantha (Wilkes), too.

“But if we have players who usually don’t score as many points in games start contributing, that’s going to make us much more of a bigger threat, because we’re going to lock in on defense and our defense is going to hep our offense in a way and vice versa,” she added.

“So hopefully, if we keep this trend of players who don’t usually score double digits keeping going, we can be very dangerous later on in conference.”

The win put Villanova in a fourth-place tie with Saint John’s behind front-running DePaul, Creighton and Marquette, all of whom are responsible for the Wildcats’ three losses in the Big East to date.

Louin had a game-high 19 points and Hahn scored 13, but with the Red Storm leading the nation in limiting three-pointers, the long-range ace was just 2-of-3 from beyond the arc on Sunday.

However, several times Gedaka and others were able to give up their air attack and go with the ground game dribbling inside to score.

“We needed help from other people besides Adrianna and Alex and we got it today from Mary,” Perretta said. “It really helped us.

“(Gedaka) came off the bench and played very well. It’s something that probably wouldn’t have happened earlier in the year.”

The Wildcats had a productive day at the line shooting 17-of-19 free throws.

Akina Wellere had 16 points for the Red Storm while Jade Walker scored 13, including her 1000th career score, and Imani Littleton grabbed 10 rebounds.

The game was close throughout with the visitors’ only gaining a two-point lead while Villanova’s largest advantage in the game grew to seven points.

Villanova had a slim 46-45 lead with 4 minutes, 18 seconds left in regulation but Saint John’s missed its next five shots while Gedaka and Louin drove inside for layups and a 50-45 advantage with 1:35 left in regulation.

Louin went 1-2 from the line for a six-point advantage with 29 seconds left.

“I thought that was our best defensive effort of the year,” Perretta said.

Aaliyah Lewis’ layup reduced the differential to four points but Hahn then connected on a pair of free throws with 14 seconds left.

The six-point ‘Nova advantage was sliced in half by Wellere’s trey with seven seconds left before Gedaka, who made all six of her attempted free throws in the game,  appropriately locked it up for the home team with a pair of shots from the line.

 Next up is a visit to the Palestra Wednesday at 7 p.m. to step out of conference and play Penn in a Big Five game. The Wildcats have dominated the series with the Quakers and two years ago prevented them from winning their first title outright, forcing a three-way tie.

Villanova needs a win to clinch at least second place at 3-1. A loss gives the crown to Temple outright with the Owls at 3-0. Should the Wildcats beat Penn then Temple needs to do likewise the following Wednesday for an outright crown or the two will share this year’s local bragging rights.

“I just hate to play a Big Five game in the middle of the Big East schedule,” Perretta said. “They’re on a break (from the Ivy slate). We have to jump on a plane the next day and go to Butler (in Indianapolis).”

The logistics are not as big a concern to Gedaka, who is experiencing her first go-round in the City Series alongside the Big East and rest of the non-conference schedule.

“It’s exciting,” she said. “My mom harped about how big and exciting those Big Five games were. We will focus on Penn now and see how far it takes us.”

In those games, mom was usually one of the talks of the town.

Now everyone is starting to talk about mom’s daughter.

Elsewhere in the Big East, No. 21 DePaul won its 10th straight beating Xavier 85-69 at home in Chicago for the Blue Demons’ longest win streak since the 2010-11 season.

DePaul (16-4, 8-0) also had 10-game winning runs during back-to-back seasons in 2006-07 and 2007-08.

Brooke Schulte scored 28 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for the home team.

Xavier fell to 10-8 overall and 2-5 in the conference.

Elon Foils Drexel Again While Delaware Ends Skid to Give Martin Victory No. 400

The Dragons’ bid to get into the first-place mix in the Colonial Athletic Association and avenge a setback to Elon back in Philadelphia last weekend went for naught Sunday in North Carolina as the Phoenix, the only unbeaten team in CAA play, turned aside Drexel 75-65.

Jessica Pellechio had a game-high 24 points but Drexel (12-4, 3-2 CAA) was destroyed by early foul trouble and an Elon 11-2 run at the close of the third period.

Prior to this season the Dragons had not lost to the Phoenix (13-4, 5-0), a recent addition to the CAA.

Meanwhile, Delaware coach Tina Martin in her 21st season with the Blue Hens, picked up career-win No. 400 – she has spent her entire head coaching career with the program – as her group snapped a two-game losing streak to win at Hofstra 73-56 at the David S. Mack Sports Exhibition Complex in Hempstead, N.Y.

“A lot of people really worked hard,” Martin said about her milestone. “This is a team sport. This isn’t for one person. This accomplishment is attributed to the hard work that some terrific coaches and players have put in through the years.

“They really established such a great winning tradition for Delaware women’s basketball. I especially want to thank associate head coach Jeanine Radice alongside our current assistants Tom Lochner, Jade Singleton and Kayla Miller,” Martin continued.

“I can’t say enough about the administrators I’ve had in my time; they’ve all been great and supportive. I bleed blue and gold; I love this place.

"It's a proud moment for this women's basketball program and I’m very proud of my players and staff over the past 21 years.”

Elon coach Charlotte Smith, a former North Carolina star, also reached a milestone, picking up her 100th career victory with the win over Drexel.

“I’m really pleased the way the team is playing right now,” she said. “We’re playing with a lot of confidence and that makes all the difference in the world. I’m just really proud of this team and the effort we put forth today.”

The loss drops the Drexel two games off the pace in the CAA standings and one behind preseason favorite and defending champion James Madison, who wiped out Northeastern at home in the JMU Convocation Center 74-54.

Pellechio’s performance was her best since scoring 30 against Penn State in the season-opener at home back in November. She shot 6-for-12 on three-point attempts, and had six rebounds and three assists.

Sarah Curran was in double digits with 15 points while Meghan Creighton and freshman Bailey Greenberg each scored seven.

The Dragons were perfect from the line making all 12 attempts but Elon got there more at 27 times and connected on 16 attempts.

Drexel got hit with five offensive fouls by halftime.

Lauren Brown had 19 points for Elon, while Jenifer Rhodes scored 13, Maddie McCallie, the daughter of Duke women’s coach Joanne P. McCallie, had 11 pints, and Shay Burnett scored 10.

Malaya Johnson grabbed 10 rebounds.

Drexel got killed on the boards with Elon holding a 42-35 advantage, including 21-10 on the offensive glass.

The Dragons next head home to the Daskalakis Athletic Center to host Charleston Friday night at 7 and then stay there for Sunday’s visit from Hofstra at 2 p.m.

In the James Madison game, freshman Kamiah Smalls from Neumann-Goretti in Philadelphia, tied her career high with 18 points for the Dukes (11-5, 4-1), while redshirt senior Precious Hall scored 18 points.

Northeastern fell to 6-11 overall and 2-3 in the CAA.

JMU heads to Elon Friday night for another first-place showdown in the conference.

Delaware, meanwhile, exploded with a 17-2 run at the close of the third quarter to get its win and Martin to her historic moment.

“We got win number two in the conference today and that’s what really matters right now,” she said of the outcome. “We’re trying to climb the ladder and hopefully this will give us a little bit more confidence. We need to build upon this race in the conference.

“I have to give credit to our point guards, and, well, really all our players as they controlled the tempo. We went strong to the rim today., there was definitely a better effort on the glass, and we took better shots.”

Nicole Enabosi had a career high 24 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for her eighth double double of the season. Another career high for the Blue Hens (8-8. 2-3 CAA) was registered by Makeda Nicholas with 19 points while Erica Brown had 10 points and six assists.

Delaware ruled the boards with 45 rebounds to 29 for the Pride (8-7, 1-3) and held a lopsided 18-1 advantage on the offensive glass.

Ashunae Durant had 15 points and 12 rebounds for Hofstra.

The Blue Hens had lost two straight and five of their last six before beating Hofstra.

Delaware is back home in the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark next weekend, hosting Northeastern Friday night at 7 and then Charleston at 2 p.m. Sunday.

Nationally Noted: Late Buckets Help Plum Check Arizona State Off Her Pac-12 Bucket List

After becoming the 12th Division I player to reach 3,000 points in a win at Arizona Friday night, Washington senior scoring sensation Kelsey Plum had one more thing to take care of Sunday night to call it an enjoyable weekend in the desert with the rest of the eighth-ranked Huskies of the Northwest: Bring home a first-ever win in her Pac-12 career over Arizona State.

For a while, though, it looked like she might have to wait until the 19th-ranked Sun Devils visit Seattle in the other part of the conference home-and-home series to get her wish.

Though leading the nation with a 31 points per game scoring average, Plum was a long way off the mark toward another night in the 30s at the end of the third quarter in Tempe.

Not to worry, even with Arizona State down just a point at 51-50 with 6:02 left in regulation.

Plum, giving a whole new meaning to light up time, scored eight points in a Washington 10-0 run, 15 overall in the final quarter, and made all six of her shots in the period to lead the Huskies to a 65-54 triumph.

Finishing with 34 point for the game, Plum’s latest exploit enabled the Huskies (18-2, 6-1 Pac-12) to stay all alone atop the conference.

“She’s just so tenacious,” Washington coach Mike Neighbors observed. “She has that wearing effect on defenses, too, and she’s so well-conditioned that she’s at the advantage at the end of games.”

Arizona State’s Reili Richardson had 11 points for the Sun Devils (13-4, 4-2).

Overall, Plum’s career total is now 3,041 after jumping from 11th to seventh on the all-time list.

 On the way toward the top she pushed her way in the line in front of such notables as Cheryl Miller (USC), Chamique Holdsclaw (Tennessee), Maya Moore (Connecticut), and Elena Delle Donne (Delaware).

Washington also has the leading rebounder and Chantel Osahor did her part grabbing 20, well above her 13.5 average while on the offensive side of things she made it a double double with 10 points.

“I try to forget,” Plum explained in the postgame comments reported by the Associated Press, among other organizations. ”I have amnesia. When the clock struck zero and it was the fourth quarter, I was like, `Hallelujah, let’s go to work.’”

Arizona State coach Charlie Turner Thorne believes Plum belongs among the best.

“She can shoot the 3s, mid-range, get to the rim,” she said. “She’s developed her game. Every year she’s gotten better.”

Neighbors is ready to back the cause of his star. “Man, if there’s a conversation about the best scorers and she’s not in it, give me a chance to debate that person.”

Wth six ranked teams in the current poll, which might be reduced in the new one Monday, there was other action in the Pac-12 to take notice.

Utah upset No. 24 California 63-57 at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Sat Lake City as Emily Potter and Malia Nawahine each scored 15 points for the Utes (13-4, 2-4 PAC-12).

“In our six conference games that we have played so far, this was our fifth ranked opponent,” said Utah coach Lynne Roberts. “It is a tough conference and I’m proud of our team for chipping away and sticking with it.”

The visiting Bears fell to 14-4 overall and 2-4 in the PAC-12.

No. 13 Stanford shook off a slim 42-41 halftime deficit to top host Colorado 84-70 in Boulder as Karlie Samuelson and Brittany McPhee combined for 38 points for the Cardinal (15-3, 5-1 PAC-12). The Buffs, who were ranked several weeks ago, fell to 11-6 overall and 1-5 in the conference.

No. 10 Oregon State recovered from Friday’s loss across town at No. 17 UCLA in Los Angeles and beat host Southern Cal 74-60 Sunday at the Galen Center as Kolbie Orum had 16 points on 8-of-11 shooting along with nine rebounds for the Beavers (16-2, 5-1 PAC-12). Sadie Edwards scored 17 points for the Trojans (10-7, 1-5).

UCLA made it a weekend sweep of the Oregon schools in the conference Sunday, beating Oregon 79-63 at Pauley Pavilion as Monique Billings had a career-high 30 points. It was the 22nd straight home win for the Bruins (13-4, 4-2 PAC-12), who are tied with South Dakota for the fourth active streak behind, who else?, the 57 put together by Connecticut.

Ruthy Hebard had a career-high 29 for the Ducks (12-6, 2-4).    

The Rest of the Nation

 In the Atlantic Coast Conference, No. 23 North Carolina State upset No. 12 Duke 55-52 at the Wolfpack’s Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, N.C.

The Blue Devils (15-3, 3-2 ACC) trailed by 14 before the end of the first half and rallied before falling short to N.C. State (14-5, 4-2). Duke’s Rebecca Greenwell had 11 points.

Dominique Wilson had 16 points for the Wolfpack and Chelsea Nelson had 13 points and 10 rebounds.

No. 9 Louisville edged No. 14 Miami 63-59 in the Yum Center as Mariya Moore had a game-high 24 points for the host Cardinals (16-4, 4-2 ACC) while Adrienne Motley had 13 for the visiting Hurricanes (14-4, 3-3).

No. 7 Florida State crushed host Clemson 86-27  as Ama Degbeon had a career-high 13 points off the bench for the Seminoles (17-2, 5-1 ACC) beating the Tigers (11-6, 0-5).

Kauai Bradley had career highs of 17 points and 10 rebounds to lead Pittsburgh over visiting North Carolina 68-48 in the Petersen Events Center. It was the fewest amount of points the Panthers (1-7, 2-3 ACC) have allowed the Tar Heels (12-6, 1-4) in the teams’ all-time series dating back to 1981.

In the Big 10, No. 11 Ohio State edged host Purdue 61-57 as Stephanie Mavunga had 11 points and 12 rebounds for the Buckeyes (15-5, 5-1 Big 10) in West Lafayette, Ind. Ashley Morrissette had 13 for the Boilermakers (12-7, 3-2).

Penn State (11-6, 1-4 Big 10) on Monday night at 7 will host Wisconsin (5-12, 0-4) in the Bryce Jordan Center in State College.

In the Big 12, second-ranked Baylor got 16 points from Kalani Brown and 15 from Nina Davis as the Bears beat host Kansas 92-43.

 Baylor (17-2, 6-0 Big 12) rode to a 23-point halftime lead over the Jayhawks (6-11, 0-6) in Allen Fieldhouse.

Looking Ahead

The Big Monday national series of games on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. gets under way this week and appropriately with it being “We Back Pat,” week, the first game originates from Knoxville where Tennessee will host No. 6 Notre Dame.

Competition wise, with the Lady Vols having been out of the poll for the second longest in-season stretch in Tennessee history, an upset of the Irish is imperative toward finding a way back to the rankings but Notre Dame has been on a streak of wins in the series.

Special attention will also be made to the new Pat Summitt Alzheimer’s Clinic, which just opened. This is the first season the “We Back Pat” theme has been carried since the Tennessee legendary Hall of Fame coach passed away last June after a nearly five-year battle fighting the disease.

Also airing from Knoxville, the home of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, comes a first – at halftime during the telecast will be the announcement of the 12 finalists for this year’s class.

Unlike other halls, the WBHOF had never named finalists prior to the actual announcement of the induction class, which, in recent seasons, occurred usually in July at halftime of the WNBA All-Star game.

This time, the class will be named next month and then those available will be welcomed at the Women’s Final Four in Dallas to be celebrated.

The actual induction is still set for June, though that date is likely to be changed because as more notables start to retire from the WNBA, having the ceremony in June when the league is under way prevents many from that sector from attending the event.

At this writing, the Guru does not have the 12 – he’s been very busy this weekend and no need prior to mid-day Monday to know ahead of time – but names that have been mentioned in recent times by backers as worthy candidates are former Queens College coach Lucille Kyvallos from the AIAW era, Los Angeles Sparks coach Brian Agler, who may have gained momentum off the WNBA title in October; Former Penn State coach Rene Portland.