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, February 27, 2017

Guru's Overniter: No Magic for Rider at Fairfield as MAAC Tourney Awaits

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

FAIRFIELD, Conn. – In some respects the weather of the last few days mirrored the outcomes Sunday for a bunch of the Guru’s local teams as many finished the regular season and got slotted into the coming conference tournaments that will decide fates in terms of landing either in the NCAA or WNIT or perhaps the eight-team WBI.

For several days it had been quite unseasonably warm with the temperatures reaching into the 70s before settling back to the winter chill that would not seem all that bad had not things been quite enjoyable for the month of February.

Exhibit A was right here at Fairfield’s Alumni Hall where Rider’s chance to be called co-champions of the regular season in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference came to a dead halt along with what had been an uplifting nine-game win streak at the hands of the Stags.

Trailing most of the game, the Broncs could not get anything going until late but Fairfield choked off the rally with a 53-49 victory on Senior Day for the home team.

The outcome gave Fairfield (16-13, 13-7 MAAC) a sweep of Rider (22-7, 16-4) joining regular season champion Quinnipiac as the two programs who registered 2-0 shutouts of what otherwise had been quite the glorious time with the Broncs sweeping everything else in the conference.

Quinnipiac applied the pressure on what Rider had to do Sunday by winning the Bobcats’ home game Saturday at Canisius. The Broncs, who have been missing star Robin Perkins in recent weeks due to an ankle injury, knew they were going to be the No. 2 seed in this weekend’s MAAC tourney in Albany, N.Y.

But within many things happening in the program this season that last occurred, some if ever, before the entire undergraduate student population was born, the chance to finish with a co-championship title to put a cap on it would have been quite nice.

“It was disappointing with our lack of aggressiveness in attacking the zone until late in the game,” said Rider coach Lynn Milligan who had been enjoying quite a 10th anniversary season in charge of the Broncs beginning with the opener in November when they upset nearby Princeton.

She is likely to be named the conference coach of the year by her peers when the postseason honors are announced.

“We settled for too many jump shots and did not get the ball inside enough,” said Milligan of going against the Stags, whose earlier victory had been by one point in overtime in Alumni Gymnasium on the Lawrenceville (N.J.) campus.

“Again, I thought we played solid defense against a good team that executes really well, but we didn’t score the ball well and that hurt us today.”

Stella Johnson did her part to help Rider’s cause as the freshman shot 8-for-12 from the field and scored a game-high 17 points to go along with nine rebounds, an assists, a block, and a pair of steals.

Julia Duggan scored 13 points with 11 of them coming in the fourth and final period. She also had 10 rebounds for a third straight double double. But take away the performance of the Rider duo here and the rest of the squad combined for a mediocre 6-for-35.

Kelsey Carey scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds for Fairfield while Kendra Landry scored 12 and Samantha Cooper had 11.

The Stags reached the widest differential for either team in the game at 10 in the final period before Rider launched a late surge that fell just short.

So it’s on to the MAAC, where it will be comforting enough to know that in the worst case scenario Rider would still be expected to land in the WNIT field on selection Monday but for now the plan is to go deep in the tourney and who knows, with the magic that has occurred, winning the conference tourney and landing an automatic NCAA berth is still in front until it’s not.

The path begins after enjoying a Thursday bye and then meeting the winner of No. 10 Manhattan vs. No. 7 Monmouth on Friday at 3:30 p.m.

If the Broncs advance, they get a bye Saturday and then on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. would see either Fairfield, which secured the third seed Sunday, No. 6 Marist or No. 11 Saint Peter’s in one of the semifinals.

If still alive, then likely Rider will be playing Quinnipiac for all the marbles Monday in the championship at 5 p.m. On ESPNU. The semifinal that would involve Rider will air on ESPN 3, and the opener on Friday will stream on MAAC.TV.

Drexel Stopped by Hofstra on Wild Sunday in the CAA

The Dragons went to Long Island and the Pride campus in Hempstead seeking Drexel’s first sweep of Hofstra since 2009 after having demolished the opposition in their previous meeting in Philadelphia.

It was not to be with the home team prevailing 58-53 at their Mack Sports Complex.

Sarah Curran scored 18 points for Drexel (20-8, 11-6 CAA) while Jessica Pellechio scored all 13 of hers in the second half to keep the Dragons in pursuit of Hofstra. Tereza Kracikova had a career-high seven points, which she previously achieved, and freshman Ana Ferariu also scored seven.

Ashunae Durant had a game-high 25 points for Hofstra (12-16, 5-12).

Drexel had already been locked into the third seed in the CAA tourney beginning a week from Wednesday at James Madison has the conference leaves the neutral site of Upper Marlboro, Md., it had been using and moves back to home courts. Drexel will host next year and Delaware the following season.

The Dragons stay on the road and finish Wednesday with one more chance to set a regular-season program record for wins at 21. However, they will visit William & Mary, which knocked James Madison out of a first-place tie Sunday and more about all that after we deal here with our other CAA local.

That would be Delaware, which had a winning day on the road beating Charleston 69-56 in South Carolina propelled by career day from Nicole Enabosi, who had 26 points, shooting 10-for-14 from the field, and 16 rebounds, one short of her personal best in that category.

Enabosi also had four assists and two steals for the Blue Hens (15-13, 9-8 CAA), which snapped a three-game losing streak.

Erika Brown added 13 points to the attack and tied a career high with nine rebounds while  Hannah Jardine scored 11.

Breanna Bolden scored 23 for the host Cougars (9-10, 6-11), while Courtney Gardner had 11 rebounds.

“I really thought everybody stepped up today,” Delaware coach Tina Martin said. “Everyone had been playing their hearts out and I thought they all did an outstanding job.

“it was nice to see us execute, knock down shots, attack the basket and get on the boards. We really did a good job of taking care of the ball and being patient. This is a big win for us. There are so many good teams in this league that it’s tough to get wins on the road.”

Delaware, which now will be either the fourth or fifth seed in the conference tourney, finishes up at home Wednesday in Newark in the Bob Carpenter Center, hosting Towson.

As for that big upset, speaking of road wins, William & Mary, which had started its overall season hot, won at defending champion and preseason favorite James Madison 62-53 in the JMU Convocation Center in Harrisonburg, Va.

The loss by the Dukes (21-7, 14-3 CAA) snapped a nine-game win streak and was the worst defeat in conference since Drexel won 50-34 on a neutral court in the 2013 CAA semifinals.

Marlena Tremba had 16 point and nine rebounds for Williams & Mary (18-10, 8-9), while Alexandra Masaquel scored 15, and Jenna Green scored 12.

JMU had not lost at home to the Tribe since Feb. 12, 1999 by a basket at 55-53.

In keeping with our weather theme at the outset, JMU went extremely cold from outside, failing to make a three-pointer (0-for-19) for the first time since Nov. 24, 2012.

The Dukes finish Wednesday hosting Charleston.

The loss was costly baring a switch that night since the upset dropped JMU into second place a game behind Elon, with which the Dukes shared the top spot in recent weeks but owned the top seed off a sweep of the Phoenix. The other two league losses were both to Towson.

JMU almost was able to avoid the consequences of the loss were it not for Shay Burnett, who scored on a contested layup with 3.6 seconds left on the road to give Elon a 67-65 win at Towson and outright possession of first with one game left on the schedule.

Elon (23-6, 15-2) trailed by as many as seven points in the second half, the most in that period in any CAA game the Phoenix then rallied to win.

The triumph gives Elon the most wins in conference competition since compiling 14 in the Southern Conference in 2012-13.

“I felt we did a good job staying in the game,” said Elon coach Charlotte Smith, the former North Carolina star whose three-point shot over Louisiana Tech gave the Tar Heels their only NCAA title. “Shay struggled a little bit, but she’s our go-to player so we had to get it in her hands.

“We drew up a play we executed to perfection. It’s a play we never ran this season but we felt like it was a great opportunity to isolate and force the switch and she did a good job of penetrating and getting to the hoop.”

Burnett had 13 points on the day with eight rebounds and six assists while Jennifer Rhodes had 18 points. Malaya Johnson scored 15 and Essence Baucom had 13 points.

Raven Bankston had 22 points for Towson (12-16, 5-12), while Sianni Martin scored 15.

Elon has 11 road wins, the most in its history as a Division I program.

On Wednesday the Phoenix finish their regular season hosting UNCW. A win gives them the top seed outright. If they lose and JMU wins, they will be co-champions but JMU will get the top seed.

As of now it means if Drexel gets to the CAA semifinals the Dragons are more likely to see James Madison instead of Elon and even though they got swept by both the thinking is Elon might be the lesser of the two evils but not by much in trying to get to the championship game.

Either way the Dragons would likely have to sweep both to win their second CAA title and first since 2009 otherwise it will likely mean they will land in the WNIT.

Villanova Falls to Marquette in Season-Ender

It became a lost weekend and not quite the way the Wildcats wanted to be heading to this coming weekend when they return to Milwaukee for the Big East tourney quarterfinals on Sunday.

Villanova, which fell Friday night in Chicago to No. 19 DePaul, spent Sunday in the same town as the conference tourney and fell to host Marquette 62-53, which will be the third seed.

Allazia Blockton had 16 points for the host Golden Eagles (22-7, 13-5), who also got 13 points and 10 rebounds from Danielle King, 12 points from Erika Davenport, 10 points from Natisha Hedman, 13 rebounds from McKayla Yentz, and 10 more from Amani Wilborn.

Alex Louin and Jannah Tucker each scored 17 for Villanova (16-13, 11-7), which will be the fourth seed and host fifth-seeded Saint John’s, whom the Wildcats swept, in a quarterfinal at 9:30 p.m. EST at the Al McGuire Center.

At the top of the bracket, DePaul and Creighton each won Sunday to finish as co-champs of the Big East regular season but DePaul (24-6, 16-2 Big East) will be the top seed.

The Blue Demons beat visiting Georgetown 79-70 on Sunday as Jessica January, recently returned in Friday’s game with Villanova from a two-month absence to injury, had a triple double 16 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists.

Georgetown finished at 17-11 overall and 9-9 in the conference.

If Villanova gets past the Red Storm, the Wildcats would likely see DePaul, the defending conference champs, in the semifinals.

There’s no shot at an at-large in the NCAAs and in trying to win the Big East, Villanova starts out in the tourney having been swept by both DePaul and Creighton, which is No. 5 in the coach’s poll, as well as Marquette during the season.

DePaul swept Creighton during the season. It’s the third out of the last four seasons – the total in the new Big East – that the Blue Demons have entered No. 1 while the No. 2 seed is the best ever for the Blue Jays.

Rutgers Loses and Penn State Wins in Big 10 Regular Season Wrap-Up

The misery continued at Rutgers on the final day before next weekend’s Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis as the Scarlet Knights fell to No. 12 and tourney top seed Ohio State 73-45 on Senior Day as the Louis A. Brown Athletic Center in Piscataway, N.J.

Shrita Parker had 26 points for Rutgers (6-23, 3-13), which finished with its worst record ever though hope exists for next year when a bunch of transfer become eligible.

Aliya Jeune was also in double figures with 10 points.

Kelsey Mitchell had 21 points for the Buckeyes (25-5, 15-1 Big Ten), who recently upset then-No. 2 Maryland in a conference showdown. Shayla Cooper had 12 points and Sierrs Calhoun scored 10.

Meanwhile Penn State at home in the Bryce Jordan Center upset No. 24 Michigan 76-75 off a late Amari Carter three-pointer and Kaliyah Mitchell’s foul shot with five seconds left in regulation.

Teniya Page had 19 point and six rebounds for the Lady Lions (18-9, 9-7 Big Ten), while Sierre Moore scored 11 points, Kindsey Spann scored 15, and Ashanti Thomas had 11 to tie a career-high.

Kysre Gondrezick had 25 points for the Wolverines (22-7, 11-5) and Katelynn Flaherty scored 20.

Heading into this weekend’s conference tourney, Rutgers is the 14th and last seed and will open against No. 11 Wisconsin at 4 p.m. Wednesday following the other opening day contest between No. 12 Illinois and No. 13 Nebraska.

The winner meets sixth-seeded Michigan State on Thursday night.

Penn State will be the 7th seed, get an opening day bye, and then in the full opening round will meet 10th-seeded Minnesota at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

The Lady Lions are on Ohio State’s side of the bracket while Rutgers is on the Maryland side. The Scarlet Knight’s season will end with the next loss while Penn State likely could end up in the WNIT.

Atlantic 10 Finishes Opening Round

No local were involved, having both played Saturday, but in three other first round games Sunday, in a crosstown matchup in Richmond, Va., site of next weekend’s rest of the Atlantic 10 tourney, eighth-seed VCU beat ninth-seeded Richmond 72-64, while fifth-seeded Fordham at home in the Bronx, N.Y., beat 12th-seeded Davidson 62-54, and fourth-seeded Saint Louis, the preseason favorite in the conference coaches’ poll, won at home over 13th seeded Massachusetts 91-51.

In the game in Virginia, at home in the E.J. Wade Arena, VCU (16-14) used a 17-8 third period to go on to oust the Spiders (13-17) as Keira Robinson scored 16 points and Galaisha Goodhope scored 15.

Micala Parsons had 18 points for Richmond and Janelle Hubbard scored 16.

VCU in a Friday quarterfinal game at the Richmond Coliseum will meet top-seeded Dayton, which had a bye.

In Fordham’s win, G’mrice Davis scored 17 points and grabbed 16 rebounds for the Rams (21-10), who will meet fourth-seeded St. Louis in one of the other quarterfinals.

Mackenzie Latt had 15 points for Davidson (6-23).

In Saint Louis’s win over UMass, Jackie Kemph had a game-high 20 points for the Billikens (23-7), who had seven players shoot 50 percent or better. Maggie Mulligan had 16 points for Massachusetts (9-21).

On Saturday, seventh-seeded Duquesne advanced to meet second-seeded George Washington, which had the other bye. And locally, sixth-seeded La Salle and third-seeded Saint Joseph’s won to face each other in a pseudo Big 5 meeting in Virginia after the Hawks had swept La Salle in their two regular season meetings.

In the semifinals on Saturday, the VCU-Dayton winner will meet the Fordham-St. Louis winner while the George Washington-Duquesne winner will meet the Saint Joseph’s-La Salle winner.

And that’s the wrap.




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