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 30, 2017

Guru's Local Overniter: Temple Rally Falls Short Against No. 23 USF

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA – It should have been better in terms of the outcome but could have been worse for Temple’s women’s basketball team Sunday afternoon in the Owls’ impressive but failed comeback bid late in the game before No. 23 South Florida closed out a 55-51 victory in the American Athletic Conference affair at McGonigle Hall.

The Temple defeat and Rutgers’ 55-37 home loss to Northwestern in a Big Ten contest were the two downers in an otherwise uptempo day in which Drexel crushed Northeastern 74-51 while Delaware on the road won another, beating host Towson 73-67, in the Colonial Athletic Association, Penn State took care of Illinois 82-66 at home in the Big Ten, Penn got ready for the Ivy wars beating Division III Stevens Tech 89-43 at home in The Palestra, and Saint Joseph’s had an easy time beating St. Bonaventure 70-53 at home in Hagan Arena in the Atlantic 10.

The collateral damage from Temple’s defeat was the end of a 12-game win streak that netted the Owls a Big Five title 4-0 sweep when they won at Penn, Thursday, a lost chance to possibly move into the next Associated Press women’s poll for the first time since the Dawn Staley era over a decade ago, and, like a 30 second timeout becomes a full media timeout, the one-game setback becomes a two-game losing streak Wednesday night when top-ranked Connecticut brings its NCAA-record 95-game win streak Wednesday night next door to the 10,000-seat Liacouras Center.

But the fact that after 30 minutes of mediocre basketball, Temple (16-4, 6-1 AAC) looked more like the NCAA tourney contender the Owls appeared all month means perhaps it will be different against the Bulls (17-3, 6-1) in Tampa, Feb. 19, or possibly in the conference tourney at the Mohegan Sun in March near New London, Conn.

“To start the game, we got caught up in ourselves as individuals and focused more on the shots we weren’t making and getting down on ourselves,” Temple coach Tonya Cardoza said. “We hadn’t done that in a while. Normally we try to keep our composure and focus in us as a group and making sure we get stops.

“I felt because shots weren’t falling for us early in the first half we started worrying more about that and not focusing on the defensive side and getting stops. And again, we played a pretty good job, defensively, but just bucking down and not giving them easy looks, I felt definitely when we went with the five guards were able to communicate a little bit better, Khadijah (Berger) came in and basically changed the game because she was able to  make shots and gave us some life.

“Before that, we were just moping around and not making shots, and for us, it’s always about the defensive side, it’s never about the offensive side. Today we focused more on the offensive end and we weren’t making shots and we couldn’t find ways to make the easy bucket,” she said.

“But again we were down 16 points and were able to cut it to two but the way we played the fourth quarter whether it was five guards or four guards, the intensity level on the defensive end should have been there at the start of the game. We gave up way too many offensive opportunities.

Feyonda Fitzgerald had 14 points and all eight of Temple’s assists but she was 3-for-20 from the floor while Alliya Butts scored 12 butts while Berger keyed an 18-4 offensive run with eight straight of those points and finished with 11. Tanaya Atkinson had 11 rebounds.

Kitija Laksa had 16 points for South Florida while Maria Jespersen scored 13 and Tamara Henshaw had 10 points and 10 rebounds.

“We lost Courtney Williams, Alisia Jenkins, … and no one expected us to be here (record-wise) or ranked,” said South Florida coach Jose Fernandez, who recently won his 300th game.”

Monaghan Sets Career High to Propel Saint Joseph’s Into An A-10 Logjam

The road to nowhere that Saint Joseph’s was on for the first two months of the season is transforming to potentially somewhere even though the Hawks do need to do a little more work to make up for all the early damage to the overall won-loss record.

The latest success is courtesy of Alyssa Monaghan, who had a career-high 21 points as Saint Joseph’s soared over Saint Bonaventure 70-53 at home in Hagan Arena and right into the middle of a four-way tie for third with George Washington, La Salle, and Fordham.

The Hawks (9-12, 6-3 Atlantic 10) wth the other three are just one game behind preseason favorite Saint Louis and two behind Dayton, which they recently lost to in overtime.

Chelsea Woods added 18 points to the Saint Joseph’s attack, while Adashia Franklyn had 12 points and a game-high nine rebounds.

Mariah Ruff had 18 points for Saint Bonaventure (9-13, 4-6).

As jumbled as the A-10 has been, a healthy Saint Joseph’s squad has the stuff to pull a surprise in the conference tourney in March.

Next up is a visit Wednesday at 7 p.m. from Duquesne, which evened its season-series with George Washington, winning 73-63 on the road at the Colonials’ Smith Center as Amadea Szamosi had game-highs of 24 points and 14 rebounds.

Drexel and Delaware Gain CAA Wins to Stay Tied for Third

The Dragons here in Philly at a game we were at and the Blue Hens on the road down at Towson built a two-game advantage over fifth place with victories Sunday afternoon as Drexel rolled over Northeastern 74-51 at home in the Daskalakis Athletic Center on Alumni Day to pick up a sweep of the Huskies while Delaware ventured down to Maryand to beat Towson 73-67, though the Blue Hens almost gave it away in the Tigers’ SECU Arena.

Drexel (15-5, 6-3 CAA) used a 16-0 run in the first quarter to dominate Northeastern (7-14, 3-6).

Unlike Friday at second-place James Madison, which is a game in front in second place, the shots went down easy against the Huskies as the Dragons connected for 54.7 percent from the field, their best all season.

Sarah Curran had a game-high 24 points for Drexel, while Jessica Pellechio had 18 points and freshman Bailey Greenberg scored 10.

Northeastern got 15 points from Claudia Ortiz and 13 from Jess Genco.

Turnovers were almost even but Drexel outdid the Huskies 21-8 in points off turnover.

Aubree Brown started in place of Kelsi Lidge and got six points, three rebounds, six assists and four steals.

“I was really proud of that bounce back from that Friday night tough battle,” Drexel coach Denise Dillon said. “Without Kelsi Lidge in the lineup we had to step up and do some things, I thought Aubrey Brown did a nice job stepping into that starting position.”

Meghan Creighton dealt nine assists.

"When Sarah, Jess, and Meghan are playing their game and other people follow to their roles, we look like a good basketball team,” Dillon said.

“Today we were settled in and just taking what they gave us. We just have to recognize that every game. I still feel the importance of valuing the possession,” Dillon said, talking about turnovers.

Drexel, which goes to Charleston Friday and Delaware next Sunday, is in position to make a long run, considering the Dragons are done with first-place Elon and host James Madison to finish that season series next month.

“It is about winning the games you can win,” Dillon said. “We’re playing well here at home, we have to play better on the road.

“We hit the road next weekend. Charleston is a tough place to play. Delaware it does not matter who is who on the roster. That game is always a battle.”

Delaware (12-8, 6-3) had a 16-point lead at Towson wilted in the fourth quarter though the Blue Hens escaped with a 73-67 victory for their fifth straight.

Towson (11-9, 4-5) outscored the visitors 28-19 in the final quarter but foul shots from Kiersten West and Sade Chatman helped keep Delaware ahead at the close.

Overall, the Blue Hens made 34 of 40 chances from the line.

West had a career high 16 points in just 13 minutes of playing time.

Makeda Nicholas and Nicole Enabosi each scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds.

Towson’s Raven Bankston had a game-high 31 points.

Delaware next stays home for the weekend hosting UNCW Friday night in the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark before Drexel visits on Sunday.

James Madison (14-6, 7-2 CAA) stayed in second place after wining at William & Mary (13-6, 3-5) while Elon led the CAA pack again after winning at Hofstra.

In the JMU game the Dukes topped the Tribe 79-64 in Williamsburg, Va., at the Kaplan Arena as they set a program recording, shooting a perfect 18-for-18 at the line. The previous record was a perfect 17 set on Feb. 17, 1986 at Richmond.

Precious Hall had 27 points for JMU and is 16 short of 2000.

Elon (16-5, 8-1) held onto its fragile sole possession of first fate at Hofstra, beating the Pride 64-53 off a strong first half at the David S. Mack Sports Complex in Hempstead, N.Y.

The Elon overall record is the program’s best as a Division I member through 21 games while the 8-1 conference mark is also a program record in the 18 years affiliated with Division I basketball.

Mayla Johnson had 13 points for the Phoenix while Aleana Leon had 19 for the Pride (8-11, 1-7).

Penn Romp Readies Quakers for the Ivy Marathon

After a pair of nasty Big 5 losses at home to Villanova and Temple on successive Wednesdays, the Quakers used Division III Stevens Tech as a sparring partner in the Palestra late Sunday afternoon to get ready to defend their Ivy title the rest of the way.

Penn beat its Sunday visitor 89-43, the largest differential on the winning side for the Quakers (10-6, 3-0 Ivy) in the Mike McLaughlin era.

The game counts in the overall record but not in the Division I calculations for the RPI, used to select and seed teams in the NCAA tournament. The conference marks in this part of the post is for reference. Stevens Tech is now 9-8 overall and 8-1 in the Empire 8.

Everybody got to play for Penn in this one except the managers and trainer and coaching staff and the bench produced 45 points.

Sydney Stipanovich, now a senior, had a double double with 13 points and 13 rebounds and had three blocks including the 300th in her career. She needs five to tie the Ivy mark of 305 set by Columbia’s Kathy Gilbert (1987-91).

Michelle Nwokedi had 15 points, and Ashley Russell off the bench had 11 while senior Jackie Falconer’s nine off the bench is her career best. Anna Ross dealt seven assists.

“What we wanted to do today, is this fit nicely into our schedule so we didn’t have a nine-day gap to our next league game,” McLaughlin said.

Harvard, the only other unbeaten Ivy team besides Penn, visits Friday night followed by Dartmouth Saturday.

“We wanted to work on some of the things we’ve been working on, rebounding, get the ball down the floor. And we did it. The other goals we had was to get everybody an opportunity to play today and reward them for all the hard work they do and we did that.

“It was fun to watch the younger kids in there the last 15 minutes. We got a lot out of it.”

Meanwhile, this is the year for the new Ivy tourney at The Palestra that will decide which men’s and women’s team gets to NCAA tourney.

Only four teams qualify and after the wildness among Ivy teams that did play this past weekend, Penn starts in solid shape at 3-0 already in league play to get here. Then, of course, there’s the race for the top seed.

That race used to decide all the marbles as the regular season championship sending the winner on to the 64-team field, except when playoffs had to be used to break ties.

What’s different now is one or two losses won’t put a team in dire straits early. Plus, this year it’s possible the upper teams will have more losses than in the past due to the improvement of Ivy schools.

“What’s really great is the league is so good right now but our girls were watching the games since we didn’t play this weekend. They all know what’s going on,” McLaughlin said.

“I watched them, too. It’s going to be a battle. Definitely on the women’s side. I just said to the girls, we’re all done non-league now. Let’s embrace this challenge. Let’s not hide from it. Let’s respect and embrace it.

“I’m going to have Sydney and Jackie and Kasey for just the last two months of a small window. When these guys walk off the court the last time, I want to make sure we’ve left everything on the table for them.”

Said Stipanovich, who when she arrived here only had to worry about Princeton as the major threat, “It’s always been a competitive league. But this year, I’ve been watching the games, they’re all going down to the wire. It’s going to be a lot of fun. Each game is going to be a challenge. You can’t look past anyone. We’re just going to take it one game at a time, so our next big challenge is here Friday, so we’re excited.

“It’s going to be a hard road to get back here. What are they calling it, Path to the Palestra. Ivy Madness. We’re excited. We’re ready.”

Penn State Wins and Rutgers Loses at Home in Separate Big 10 Action.

The Lady Lions rolled over Illinois 82-66 at the Bryce Jordan Center in State College, Pa., while the Scarlet Knights were felled 55-33 by Northwestern at the Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway, N.J.

In the Penn State game, Teniya Page had 12 points and dealt six assists to reach 204 helpers for her career. Kaliyah Mitchell had 16 points and six rebounds for the Lady Lions (14-7, 4-5 Big Ten).

Sierra Moore had 19 points in the game in which PSU shot 46.6 percent from the field. Amari Carter dealt eight assists. Lindsey Spann had 10 points.

Brandi Beasley had 28 points for the Illini (8-14, 3-6).

Meanwhile Northwestern used a strong third quarter to down the Scarlet Knights (6-16, 3-6 Big 10), who got a team-high 14 points from Aliyah Jeune of the bench. Shrita Parker had nine points and seven rebounds.

Northwestern (16-5, 5-3) used a 27-4 run to take control of the game in which Rutgers at halftime honored members of its past AIAW national and 1987 Atlantic 10 champions.

Lauren Douglas had 16 points for the Wildcats and Amber Jamison scored 10.



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