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.
By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru
PHILADELPHIA – Several years ago, in a private text communique between your Guru and a coach, observing comments from another coach whose team was handed an UConn-style blowout, mused in this direction, “What didn’t they like – our offense or our defense.”
So, to paraphrase those comments and send them on to the Temple fans watching their Owls hand a decent East Carolina squad a 78-47 wipeout in an American Athletic Conference game Wednesday night in McGonigle Hall, what impressed you more: Temple’s offense or defense?
Owls coach Tonya Cardoza, who skipped her redundant “This was a good win for us,” she has used multiple times during what is now an eight-game win streak to open the postgame press conference, went straight to what delighted her.
“We got off to a great start, especially defensively, being able to hold them to eight points in a quarter and 17 in a half, it’s definitely a great defensive effort on our part. I thought we really attacked right from the beginning and took it to them,” she continued.
“We had a bunch of guys step up and really contributed. It’s good when you get to play your bench like this and get to see guys, but I definitely thought it was a total team effort and making things difficult and force turnovers.”
Every night someone seems to be erasing a long-existing statistic in the Temple media guide. Cardoza recently passed her good friend, former Virginia teammate and current South Carolina coach Dawn Staley as the Owls’ winningest coach in the Temple program history.
On Wednesday night, after starting the game in a career tie for assists at 507, senior Feyonda Fitzgerald quickly grabbed the eraser and applied nine dishes at the Pirates (10-7, 1-3 AAC) to replaced Donna Kennedy (1979-83) with her own name and 516, a number that will now will continue to change until the end of the final game of this season.
Fitzgerald just missed her fifth straight double double with her nine assists but did manage to produce a game-high 22 points for the Owls (12-3, 3-0), who are now tied for first in the conference with the rulers of collegiate women’s basketball, AKA UConn, as the last two unbeaten teams in AAC competition.
The native of Norfolk, Va., now has 113 assists, matching her second-best seasonal performance with her freshman year and exceeded by the 186 she dealt a year ago, which is second to the record 202 held by Dallese Jackson.
“It means a lot to me, I wanted to break the record while I was here,” Fitzgerald said of her helper prowess. “But it’s not what I was really focused on. I just play the game and I pass to my teammates and they knock down the shots. I give credit to my teammates for knocking down the shots.”
Donnaizha Fountain scored 14 points while Alliya Butts and Tanaya Atkinson each scored 13 points with Fountain also grabbing seven rebounds and Atkinson hauling down nine.
Ruth Sherrill hit all three of her shots for her six points and she also grabbed six rebounds besides grabbing three steals and blocking three Pirates attempts, both career highs. Mark her down for consideration for most improved player award in the Big 5 and American Conference.
Raven Johnson was the only player in double digits for ECU with 10 points, while the Owls were able to lock down Bre McDonald (11.9 points per game) and Kristen Gaffney (15.8), who are both averaging double digits scoring averages.
Temple won the battle of the boards, 45-38, including 19-13 on the offensive glass, while the Owls forced 20 turnovers while committing 10, blocked seven shots, and had the upper hand in steals 11-6.
This resulted in a 38-16 advantage in the paint, 21-11 in points off turnovers, 21-10 in 2nd chance points, and 9-4 running the fast break.
After an early 4-4 tie Temple began to pull away quickly and grew a lead that eventually was by 39 points until it receded somewhat when the bench was cleared in the fourth quarter.
“Again, Ruth has been something completely different,” Cardoza said of Sherrill. “She’s been active, even with blocking shots. I just felt she was really into it. Everybody was really into it making things difficult for them to score and forcing turnovers.
“We’ve been trying to do the same things and not break the routine,” Cardoza said of the key to the current run following upset losses at Hampton and Harvard in December. “But again, just keeping them focused on the game we’re about to play and making sure we’re focused in on what we have to do to make things difficult for the other team.”
Cardoza praised her squad for “doing a great job” holding down East Carolina’s scoring leaders and making someone else shoot the basketball.
Temple now hits the road for a pair, visiting Tulsa Saturday at 3 p.m. and Houston next Wednesday at 8 p.m. before returning home Saturday, Jan. 21 at 2 p.m. to host Memphis, the team the Owls beat on the road in overtime on New Year’s Day.
Saint Joseph’s Makes It Two Straight After Beating VCU
The Hawks are healthier and the recuperation has brought two straight Atlantic 10 victories with Chelsea Woods back previously and Sarah Veilleux back in action Wednesday afternoon in the annual Fieldtrip to the Fieldhouse school day promotion that offered a 64-58 victory over the Rams.
Near the end events threatened to cause another come-from-ahead setback for Saint Joseph’s (5-11, 2-2 Atlantic 10) when the Rams (9-9. 2-3) sliced into an eight-point deficit existing with under five minutes left in regulation to just one basket at 56-54 with 1:53 left after Curteeona Brelove’s layup.
But Woods completed a three-point play inside the final minute before Alyssa Monaghan and Veilleux connected on five of six foul shots to clinch the victory.
The Hawks were stellar on the foul line connecting on 15-of-19 chances while they also mined 16 points off 12 offensive rebounds.
Monaghan had a game-high 17 points while Adaisha Franklyn contributed 12 points and a game-high nine rebounds and two blocked besides Woods off the bench scoring 10 points.
GG Goodhope had 16 points for the Rams, who also got double digit scoring from three other players.
Next up for Saint Joseph’s is a 1 p.m. Atlantic 10/City Rival clash at La Salle Saturday afternoon but this one does not count in the Big 5 standings, of which only Temple or Temple and Villanova can finish on top depending on the Villanova/Penn game result at The Palestra next Wednesday and the Temple/Penn game the following Wednesday also at The Palestra.
Harvard Edges La Salle
The renaissance Ivy power continues to make life unhappy for local schools after the Explorers Wednesday night at their Tom Gola Arena were eclipsed 66-64 by the Crimson (13-1) in a nonconference game.
Harvard has previously beaten Temple back home in Cambridge, Mass., and will battle Princeton and Penn twice each in the Ivy League.
The Crimson applied the heartbreaker label to La Salle (9-7) in this one after the Explorers built a 10-point lead and then saw it vanish and become a deficit at the finish when Harvard’s Destiny Nunley nailed a game winner with 1.4 seconds left in regulation.
The finish negated a career night by Adreanna Miller, who scored 27 points for La Salle and tied the game with 35.5 seconds left in a fourth quarter that saw the lead go back and forth between the two squads.
Harvard went for all the glory with five seconds left but after the Crimson missed they grabbed a loose ball rebound and set up Nunley, who had a team-high 19 points. Harvard’s Madeline Raster had 12 points and Jeannie Boehm scored 10.
La Salle tried to retake the outcome in what little time the Explorers had by first advancing the ball to call a timeout closer to the hoop. But Amy Griffin, the reigning A-10 2016 top scorer and current conference leader missed a contested shot as the game ended. She finished with 18 points, a game-high seven assists, and five rebounds.
Jasmine Alston grabbed 10 rebounds to go with her eight points and four assists.
As mentioned in the previous post on this blog La Salle will now to try to get even hosting Saint Joseph’s at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Penn State Upset Bid Foiled at Maryland
Two stellar performances by Lady Lions weren’t enough to overcome No. 3 Maryland Wednesday night in a Big Ten game at the Terrapins’ Xfinity Center.
Redshirt freshman Amani Carter produced a career-high 22 points, exceeded by sophomore teammate Teniya Page’s 27, all for naught with Maryland hanging on to an 89-83 victory.
The Terrapins (16-1, 4-0 Big Ten), who are the last unbeaten team in conference play following Ohio State’s loss to Michigan State earlier this week, countered with their own scoring machine in Brionna Jones, who had a career-high 42 points, tying a school record, while also grabbing 14 rebounds.
Jones got her total through 15-for-19 from the field and 12-of-14 free throw attempts to match the 42 from current WNBA star Marissa Coleman, who achieved her total beating Vanderbilt on March 29, 2009 in the NCAA tournament.
“Penn State came out and was the more aggressive team for 40 minutes,” said Maryland coach Brenda Frese. “They came and attacked us early and got us into foul trouble. We were able to somewhat get back in the second quarter staying the course of being able to go through Brionna Jones. I thought her team did a great job feeding the ball, being aggressive and being consistent through her.”
During the game, Jones also became the fifth Maryland player to pass 1,000 career rebounds.
Jones would have broken the school mark had she not missed one of two foul shooting attempts with 23.9 seconds left in the game.
The 42 points were just a field goal short of tying the all-time demolition job by a Penn State individual opponent, which was back in AIAW days when Montclair State’s Naismith Hall of Fame star Carol Blazejowski had 44 on March 26, 1976.
The Lady Lions (11-6, 1-4) forced 21 turnovers, of which seven were steals, and cut a 16-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter to four with 16 seconds left in regulation by forcing seven of the turnovers during the rally.
Two fouls shots and a putback off a missed foul shot secured Maryland’s win.
Ashanti Thomas had a career-high 11 points for Penn State while Sierra Moore scored 10.
The Lady Lions get it easy the next 11 days with just two games, the first of which will be Monday in the Bryce Jordan Center when Wisconsin and new coach Jonathan Tsipis visits.