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, January 27, 2017

Guru's Overniter: Rider Second Half Surge Gets Broncs MAAC Sweep of Manhattan

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J. – Chalk up another throwback moment for Rider women’s basketball, which has been enjoying a season of “first time, long time,” occasions, some of which have not occurred since before the current undergraduate student population was born.

The Broncs took Manhattan a second time Thursday night with an explosive second half to beat the Jaspers 73-64 in a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference game played at home in Alumni Gymnasium.

If the final score doesn't seem to reflect all the fireworks, the Broncs (14-6, 8-3 MAAC) reversed a five-point halftime deficit at 29-24 to a lop-sided 21-point lead at 65-44 with 3 minutes, 36 seconds left in the game.

 At that moment from intermission, the home team had outscored Manhattan 41-15.

"This team is really good in transition, and, unfortunately, they had a couple minutes here and there where they were to able to put a significant run together,” said Jaspers first-year head coach Heather Vulin. “That’s just the kind of offensive fire power they have.”

Vulin is a former Villanova assistant, among other stops, and the current young talent on the Wildcats roster is in part attributed to her work on the recruiting trail during her stint under veteran coach Harry Perretta.

As for your Broncs throwback for the night, the outcome marks the first Rider sweep in the series with Manhattan since 2003-04.

But at the outset, however, the throwback theme with help from the Jaspers (6-14, 2-9) seemed to recall the days of Broncs struggles past with the scoreboard kept at 00-00 until just 16 seconds short of the 5 minute mark when Rider’s Robin Perkins, who had a game-high 23 points, scored on an offensive rebound from her previous missed shot.

Perkins’ basket remained Rider’s only score until she got the Broncs, trailing 8-2, back into contention within a point at 8-7 on her own personal 7-0 run that began at the 1:59 mark and continued over the next 38 seconds.

"Robin had 14 of them (24 first-half) and she probably should have had 20 with the two (missed) layups and two airballs that she put up there,” said Rider coach Lynn Milligan. “But Robin’s going to shoot an airball but you know that the next shot is going to be a big one. And she had the two transition threes today that were really big and really in flow and that’s her best time to shoot a three, when she’s really in transition like that and those were big shots to give just a little breathing room.”

The two teams combined for 0-for-12 overall from the field during the opening drought before Perkins’ first basket. The Broncs hadn’t played since their bad loss at MAAC-leader Quinnipiac last Saturday that gave the Bobcats a sweep in that series.

“We were ready to play today, and maybe a little too ready,” Milligan said about the contrasting halves. “We weren’t home in a while, worked really hard to get a nice crowd here tonight, great warmup, we had a great practice the last two days, and I think we were just amped and shooting airballs and shooting all kinds of stuff. We needed to regroup.”

Of course Rider’s performance after the break begged the question of whether Milligan had delivered a classic halftime talk to her team that had looked lethargic and on the way to a setback the way they got caught recently at home by Fairfield.

“Just had to wake them up,” Milligan said with a smile. “Maybe some of it X-rated. But that third quarter, that’s Rider basketball, and we have to do a much better job of finding our consistency level so that can be maintained throughout the game  instead of this roller-coaster level we seem to be on at times.”

Obviously, Milligan was still glad to leave the campus with another win in the ledger.

“Anytime you win in the MAAC, it’s a good win because this is a tough, tough league,” she said. “Particularly the second time through. Which is what we’re on. We have to be used to playing with leads, which we should be a little more now, game 20 or whatever it is now.

“We’re still a work in progress and we want to be peaking at the right time. And we feel if we continue to take the steps that we need, the biggest one is our consistency, because obviously we’re capable of some great stuff and obviously we do some stuff that you shake your head at.”

Additionally, hardly anyone saw this coming from Rider back in the preseason, so the Broncs have been able to work with the element of surprise that has carried them to sole possession of second place. But now, they flip to being a target for the rest of the MAAC.

“All the work we’ve done these many months since July, we can’t become satisfied or complacent or take a breath at all,” Milligan said. “We have to remember why we got to (8-3). And then we have to bring it to another level.

“And yeah, it is new for us. There’s no doubt about that, but, we have the young ladies’ in the locker room understand that, we just have to make sure and I have to make sure we’re guiding them the right path so we can take the steps we need to be peaking in February.”

Julia Duggan, who had 14 points in the Rider attack along with seven rebounds and a pair of steals, echoes Milligan’s view from a player’s perspective.

“Anyone can be complacent,” she said. “But just knowing it’s my senior year and this is time I’m playing Manhattan on my home floor and the next time (Saturday, 2 p.m.) playing Saint Peter’s on my home floor, you have to think about that and you have to know to come out every single game as hard as you can and do everything you can to help my team win.”

Plus while winning the MAAC may still be difficult, given Quinnipiac’s strength, there’s the chance to land a place in the 64-team WNIT, which would be a major deal for the program. An official from the  WBI, another postseason event, has already made an inquiry as to Rider’s availability, though the WNIT would be preferable, given the choice.

A second-place regular season finish in the MAAC guarantees an automatic WNIT bid unless Rider wins the conference tourney and qualifies for the NCAA. An exception that could work against the Broncs would be Quinnipiac not winning the MAAC tourney and then the Bobcats would be the automatic WNIT entry, though Rider could still be an at-large pick.

Meanwhile, Perkins’ total line consisting of other numbers on the night for Rider showed 9-for-18 from the field, Duggan, incidentally was 7-15, 3-for-7 on 3-point attempts, and a pair of steals.

Kamila Hoskova had 13 points, fueled by 4-for-6 from the field, Stella Johnson had seven points and eight rebounds, and Safie Tolusso off the bench had 11 points.

“This isn’t a surprise to anyone of us who watch Safie every day,” Milligan said. “She’s a gym rat. She’s as coachable as you can be. And the pace of the game, the speed of the game, the things she struggled with early, she’s really figuring it out.

“And I said it a couple of week ago, she can be a big X factor coming down the stretch.”

Although Manhattan didn’t get the win, there were two positives in the Jaspers postgame recap.

Amani Tatum returned after missing six games with an ankle injury and she scored 14 points in 23 minutes, helped by 8-or-10 shooting from the line. Kayla Grimme, the other Manhattan player in double figures and actually with a double double of 15 points and 15 rebounds blocked two shots to become the all-time Jasper career leader with 149 topping by one the previous mark set by Nadia Peters in 2007-2012.

The Rider game was the only contest played Thursday night on the Guru’s local Division I docket.

National Report: Virginia Upset Smothers No. 19 Virginia Tech 76-27

An in-state battle and upset  in the Atlantic Coast Conference was mindful of the glory days in Cavaliers history as they matched their all-time win differential in the game played at home in the John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville.

Virginia’s Jocelyn Willoughby scored 18 points and Breyana had 17.

The Cavaliers (14-6, 3-4 ACC) got the job done on the Hokies (16-4, 3-4) with powerful second and third periods of 23-5 and 21-2, respectively.

Virginia Tech, under first-year coach Kenny Brooks, who moved down the interstate to Blacksburg from James Madison in Harrisonburg, after a long stint, returned to the rankings after a long absence and rode a 15-0 start that has now dissolved into three straight losses and 4-of-5.

The visitors struggled to shoot all night, hitting 2 of 29 three point attempts and 12 of 64 overall field goal efforts.

The ACC domination of the Associated Press poll, as is the Pac-12, sets Virginia starting Thursday night on a schedule facing ranked teams in eight of its last 10 games.

All the other ranked teams playing Thursday won, but within the large collection in the ACC, in the marquee event in the conference, No. 8 Notre Dame held off No. 14 Duke 62-58 at home in the Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center in South Bend, Ind.

Brianna Turner had 25 points and 12 rebounds while Lindsay Allen dealt 12 assists for the Irish (19-3, 7-1 ACC). Lexie Brown had 22 for Duke (17-4, 5-3), which has nost 12 straight to Notre Dame.

After the Irish went up 62-51 with 2:29 left in the game, the Blue Devils went on a 7-0 run to fall just short as regulation time expired.

Elsewhere in the ACC among ranked teams, No. 18 North Carolina State topped visiting Pittsburgh 55-42 in William Neal Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh as Jennifer Mathurin and Dominique Wilson each scored 13 points for the Wolfpack (16-5, 6-2 ACC) and Breanna Wise had 11 for the Panthers (12-8, 3-4).

No. 17 Miami hit triple digits, winning 100-88 over visiting North Carolina in the BankUnited Center in Corral Gables, Fla. Jessica Thomas matched her career high with 24 points for the Hurricanes (15-5, 4-4 ACC) and Laura Cornelius hit five treys for 19 points. Paris Kea had 26 points, Destinee Walker scored 23, and Jamie Cherry had 22 for the Tar Heels (12-9, 1-7), who have lost four straight.

No. 6 Florida State held off Georgia Tech on the road at McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta as Shakayla Thomas scored 17 and Imani Wright scored 14 for the Seminoles (20-2, 8-1 ACC), who have won seven straight. The Yellow Jackets (13-7, 2-5), who have lost three straight and five of seven, got 23 points from Kaylan Pugh.

No. 9 Louisville grabbed a 6-46 road win at Clemson at Littlejohn Arena in South Carolina as Myisha Hines-Allen had 13 of her 16 points across the third and fourth periods for the Cardinals (19-4, 6-2 ACC) as the Tigers (11-10, 0-8) lost their 41st straight game to ACC rivals.

In the Southeastern Conference, No. 5 South Carolina beat host Georgia 62-44 as A’ja Wilson scored 19 points and had 10 rebounds for the Gamecocks (18-1, 8-0 SEC), who played their first game since Monday’s showdown at home in the conference with Mississippi State.

Pachis Roberts and Mackenzie Engram scored 10 each for Georgia (10-10, 2-5).

In the Big 10, No. 3 Maryland won at iIlinois 94-49 as as Shatori Walker-Kimbrough scored 14 points for the Terrapins (20-1, 8-0 Big Ten), who outscored the Illini bench 24-2 on the road in Champaign. Alex Whittinger hd 21 points for the Illinois (20-1, 8-0).

In the other Big Ten game of note, No. 15 Ohio State won at Minnesota 88-76 at Williams Arena in Minneapolis as the Buckeyes (18-5, 8-1 Big Ten) got 25 points from Kelsey Michell while Carlie Wagner had 25 points for the Golden Gophers (11-10, 2-6).

Neither team is ranked but in Saint Louis, the host Bilikens (16-5, 6-2 A-10)  topped  George Washington 67-59 as Jackie Kemph had a game-high 24 points for Saint Louis while grad student Lexi Martins scored 22 for the Colonials (13-7, 6-2) at Chaifetz Arena).

And that’s the wrap.



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