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.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Guru's Overniter: Temple Holds Off Penn for Big 5 Sweep and Extend Win Streak to 12

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA – After Temple smashed its way through a trio of Big 5 rivals, Saint Joseph’s (86-70), La Salle (86-70) and Villanova (83-40) earlier in the season, it looked like Penn was about to suffer the same fate at the Palestra Wednesday night when the Owls darted from a slim 14-13 lead on a 10-0 run to go up by 11 points with 5 minutes, 45 seconds left in the second period.

But Penn, which has had Temple’s number in recent seasons winning three City Series machups  with the Owls and losing a second round game in the WNIT, all by narrow scores, countered with a 7-0 run and it became obvious the Quakers were not going to go down easily.

And so they tangled the way many men’s and women’s teams often tangle in the City Series, playing ugly basketball at times and showing great individual effort at others.

One of those in the individual category was Temple’s Donnaizha Fountain, a transfer from Georgia Tech, who had 20 points and 12 rebounds to lead the way to a 63-53 win and a 4-0 sweep to Temple’s first local crown since 2010-11.

“It feels awesome,” Cardoza said after Temple also won its 12th straight in the current overall streak. “To be able to come in a place like this, it doesn’t matter what Penn’s record is, the fact they hadn’t won a game in the Big 5, I knew this was going to be a dogfight. It always is.

“Their two bigs (Michelle Nwokedi and Sydney Stipanovich) are just tough to defend because we play so small, I felt like we really had to make hustle plays and I thought we did a real good job of doing that,” Cardoza added.

Temple has now won 11 Big Five titles, headed by coach Dawn Staley’s five, then Cardoza now with four, and Linda Hill-MacDonald, with two.

“We’re just super excited,” Cardoza said. “It’s been a long time since we won the Big 5. And it’s just really good for these guys to win a championship. None of them, here, won the Big 5. So for us to stand here 4-0, it’s just a credit to them and their hard work.”

On the ugly side of the contest, across the third and fourth period, the scoreboard got extremely quiet, with just a foul shot by Temple’s Alliya Butts being the only point in a seven-minute stretch to make it 47-45 in favor of the Owls.

Then Penn’s Kasey Chambers nailed a trey to give the Quakers a 48-47 lead with 5:49 left in the game. Now the action start talking like a Big 5 Classic.

The lead swung to and fro the next two minutes until Tanaya Atkinson’s jumper with 4:29 left gave Temple (16-3, 4-0 Big Five)  a 51-50 lead the Owls would not relinquish.

But Penn (9-6, 0-4)  still had its chances to avoid getting shutout in this season’s City Series, having played all four of its Big 5 games in the Palestra.

However with the Owls up 53-50, Fountain, the star of the night, stole the ball from Chambers and went length-of-court with a layup before Penn’s Nwokedi hit two foul shots to keep the Quakers within three until Butts knocked down a triplet to make it 58-52 with 2:40 left.

“Things weren’t really going our way, but we kept our heads, didn’t get frustrated, and found ways to pull it out,” Cardoza said.

Still enough time was left for the Quakers to get Temple again,  except for the 0-for-5 blanks Penn shot from inside and out while holding up the Owls with a couple of steals.

Temple then put a lid on it expanding the differential, including making a pair of technical free throws off a penalty assessed on Quakers coach Mike McLaughlin.

“I thought Donnaizha Fountain definitely stepped up and played big for us,” Cardoza said of her player who hails from Cardoza’s hometown of Roxbury, Mass. “She was the guy that could score and she was grabbing rebounds. And she came up with some big key steals when we really needed them.

“I just felt down the stretch when it really mattered, we buckled down and made big plays.”    

Feyonda Fitzgerald, who was named to the national player of the year watch list of the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) on Tuesday, had 13 points while Butts and Atkinson each scored 12. Ruth Sherrill had another good night on the boards, grabbing eight rebounds.

Penn’s Stipanovich had 16 points and seven rebounds for Penn, while Nwokedi scored 10 points. Chambers had nine points and a career-high seven steals for the defending Ivy champions, while Anna Ross had eight points and eight rebounds.

“I felt it was a great team effort and that fact that (6-3 freshman forward) Shantay (Taylor) hadn’t played a lot the last couple of weeks, a game like this is able to get on the floor and not hurt us.

“She actually did a really did a good job defending and not allow Stipanovich to get touches, she made her go to the outside, “ Cardoza continued.

“We knew we had to find ways to get easy buckets, cause it’s not an easy place to shoot the ball in, finding ways to get inside. Again, they’re going to block some shots on us because of their length but I thought we did a really good job of puling one of them away and just having to go against one,” Cardoza said.

“Again, we tried to take away their high-low but they’re really good passers.”

Penn, which doesn’t get back into the Ivy League race until February 3-4 when Harvard and Dartmouth visit, could have been in contention for another piece of local glory had not the Quakers been off the track early in the season, losing in the Palestra to La Salle, 58-56 in overtime, twice yielding late leads, then to Saint Joseph’s, 57-53, before losing to Villanova 60-48 a week ago here in a game Penn still had a shot until the Wildcats took over in the fourth quarter.

And had the Quakers been able to knock down some key shots Wednesday night, they might have pulled an upset and forced the Owls to share the title with Villanova at 3-1.

“I thought we defended them really well, we just couldn’t keep them off the glass,” McLaughlin said of the 42-31 rebounding differential. “We had to play them in a zone, and we did, but we ended up giving up the rebounding piece of it and that’s what happened, we got spread a little too far on the defensive possession and just didn’t do a good job rebounding the ball.

“They’re one of the better offensive rebounding teams and give them credit. I thought we did enough to maybe position ourselves to win this, but we had some opportunities there, I think we had a stretch where we missed four layups and that hurt a little bit,” he added.

“It’s just part of the game. We were talking about it in there. We just have to get to the other end and defend that possession. But its deflating. We had four chances and missed four layups in a row at a critical time when we had position, but that’s basketball.

“I think we go back to the beginning, the La Salle game, we had it in our hands, we obviously let it out of our hands, we didn’t play particularly well against St. Joe’s. And Villanova, same thing. We battled them for 25 minutes almost to the end. Obviously, having four of these games this end, I was hoping for a little bit better result but credit them.”

Penn next host Stevens Tech Sunday at 5 p.m. the Quakers’ last non-conference race before resuming defense of the Ivy crown.

In addition to the win, Cardoza was pleased with Fitzgerald being named to the USBWA national watch list.

I’m so excited about that,” Cardoza said. “She’s definitely put in a lot of work over the last few years, especially this summer. She’s was really disappointed that she didn’t get our team to the NCAA tournament and she took it upon herself to buckle down and work on her game and she just wants to go out a winner and the fact she gets her first Big 5.

“She’s just one of those kids, she’s a competitor, she’s a winner and I’m just happy that other people have recognized it.”

Fitzgerald expressed her delight with taking the Big 5 even though coming from Norfolk, Va., she had to be assimilated into the meaning of winning the local bragging rights here in the city.

“It feels great,” Fitzgerald said. “ It’s been four years. We’ve been working hard every year and we finally ended up winning the whole thing, going 4-0 and winning the whole thing. So it feels good to know all this hard work finally paid off.

“This game was about keeping calm and doing the things we normally do. And doing the little things like boxing out and protecting the ball. Because they’re a defensive team and they like to shoot for steals, they crash the boards really hard,” she said.

“The year before last they got 28 offensive rebounds on us so that was one of our main focus make sure we box out this game.”

Fitzgerald is pleased over her ability to pile up assists, especially on nights she isn’t scoring.

“It means a lot. I love finding my open teammate and I have the confidence in them to knock down the shot so I just want to make sure I keep doing that and they keep knocking down the shot,” she explained.

“ It just comes naturally. If I drive to the basket, the defense steps up on me so I just kick it to my teammate and hopefully, they knock it down.”

With the local goal achieved, the Owls’ streak now runs into a heavyweight and super heavyweight opponent in their next two games as they return to the American Athletic Conference, where they are unbeaten, but likely not for long, though hopefully a little longer.

The little longer applies to Sunday’s game when No. 23 South Florida visitat noon in McGonigle Hall, followed on Wednesday by No. 1 and unbeaten Connecticut on Wednesday when the game will be played next door in the Liacouras Center.

Temple split with South Florida in the regular season a year ago. The Bulls Wednesday night barely escaped SMU on the road, winning 52-51.

Saint Joseph’s and La Salle Win Atlantic 10 Matinee Games

In the other two local games Wednesday played among the Division I group, Saint Joseph’s routed host Rhode Island, 75-49, on the road in Kingston, while La Salle rallied from an 18-point deficit to win at home 68-64 over Massachusetts in the Tom Gola Arena.

Both games were played in the daytime to make attendance by schoolchildren easier.

In the La Salle game, Jasmine Alston hit the game-winner, a foul shot with 5.5 seconds left in regulation, erasing an 18-point second-half deficit to Massachusetts in the Atlantic 10 contest here in town.

Coach Jeff Williams' squad has had several comebacks this season, one notably at the Palestra when La Salle erased seven-point deficits in regulation and overtime to beat Penn in the Big 5.

On Wednesday, the Explorers (12-8, 5-3 A-10) ) stirring finish in the last minute of regulation began with Alston getting a steal with six seconds to play. She was quickly fouled, and though she missed the first shot at the line, she snapped a tie with the second to put La Salle ahead 65-64.

Then Amy Griffin gained a theft out of the Minutewomen’s backcourt and connected with a 3-pointer as time expired for the final score.

Having been picked near the bottom in the preseason conference coaches’ poll, La Salle is gaining on getting into the WNIT mix if the Explorers can keep collecting the victories.

Griffin, the leading scorer in the A-10, as she was in the final conference stats last season, had 17 points, eight rebounds, a career-high six steals and dealt four assists.

Our kids just kept fighting,” said Explorers coach Jeff Williams. “They kept digging and finally found a way to win, this is a great group.”

Adreanna Miller, who shot 6-for-9 on 3-point attempts to gain a career-high, had a team-high 18 points and her nine points in the second quarter helped things from getting worse when La Salle struggled early in the game.

“Adreanna was huge,” Williams said. “With her dropping threes, she really sparked us.”

Helping the second half comeback, Michaya Owens had all 13 of her points in the final two periods, while Anemone Scheel had eight points in the fourth period.

The first rally surge over the Minutewomen (9-13, 3-6) came in the third with an 11-2 run and then the Explorers launched another one, outscoring Massachusetts 13-2 over the final 3:13 of the contest.

Helping their cause in the rally was the Explorers’ season-high 14 steals in the game, of which they gained 19 points. Alston dished nine helpers while also grabbing 10 rebounds.

La Salle will stay home and play this Saturday at 1 p.m. in an A-10 game when George Mason visits.

Meanwhile, Saint Joseph’s got back on the winning track following last weekend’s tough loss to Dayton, as  the Hawks stayed on the road to beat Rhode Island.

Chelsea Woods and Amanda Fioravanti, who both starred in the Philly summer league, combined for 37 points in this one in Kingston.

Holding a five-point lead after the first 10 minutes, the Hawks (8-12, 5-3 A-10) went on a 14-0 run at the outset of the second period to never be seriously threatened.

By the time the halftime break arrived, Saint Joseph’s was dominating 47-23 and the Rams (4-16, 0-8) never got the differential below 19 points the rest of the way.

Woods had 19 points, while Fioravanti matched her career-high wth 18 points and she also grabbed eight rebounds.

Next up Saint Joseph’s comes home to the Hagan Arena for a Sunday A-10 game, hosting St. Bonaventure at 3 p.m., which will be nationally aired on the American Sports Network.

Looking Ahead

Only one game is on the Guru local docket Thursday and he will be back in Lawrenceville, N.J., where Rider, seeking to come back from its loss at Quinnipiac, will host Manhattan in a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference game at 7 p.m. in Alumni Gym.

Nationally on Thursday, in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the marquee game is No. 14 Duke at No. 8 Notre Dame, while No. 9 Louisville is at Clemson, No. 6 Florida State is at Georgia Tech, No. 19 Virginia Tech is at Virginia, and No. 17 Miami hosts North Carolina.

In the Southeastern Conference, No. 5 South Carolina is at Georgia, while two former ranked teams, Tennessee hosts Florida, and Kentucky hosts Mississippi.

No. 24 Green Bay is at Youngstown State in the Horizon Conference.

No. 3 Maryland is at Illinois in the Big 10 while No. 15 Ohio State is at Minnesota.

On Friday, locally, Drexel is at preseason favorite JamesMadison in the Colonial Athletic Association and Delaware is at William & Mary, also in the CAA.

In the Pac-12, No. 7 Washington hosts California while No. 10 Stanford is at Washington State, No. 13 UCLA hosts No. 16 Arizona State, and No. 11 Oregon State is at Oregon.

And nice and early that’s the wrap up.



Post a Comment

<< Home