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.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Guru's Overniter: Rider Streak Continues As Broncs go From Cupcake to Tough Cookie

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J. – For a long time on the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference schedule, one of the recommended visits to pick up a cupcake was right here in Rider’s Alumni Gymnasium.

So maybe the fact that the women’s basketball program was offering free cupcakes Tuesday night have caused veteran observers to wonder what was new there.

Well, unlike the past, the only thing resembling cupcakes here were the real deal, right out of the oven, available for free pickup in the front lobby, courtesy of the Rider program.

As for the Broncs, themselves, say goodbye to the cupcake stop.

 The magical season continued Tuesday night with another MAAC opponent swept away, a winning streak that at the moment continued to live without the involvement of Rider’s star player, and a minimum second seed guaranteed but still the chance to finish up pre-conference business as champs or co-champs of the lead-up conference wars.

Chalk up Tuesday’s 75-63 win over Monmouth as another in a collection of games since the season tipoff in November that might have gone by the wayside in past MAAC title chases.

The first quarter was a even battle until the Broncs (21-6, 15-3 MAAC) built a 9-point, 25-16 lead, that stood after the 10-minute opening period concluded.

The second period belonged to the visiting Hawks (12-15, 7-11), though they still trailed 38-34 when the halftime break arrived.

After the teams regrouped, Rider blazed its way to a 13-point lead, gave up five points off that differential, but then took them back to make it 59-46 through three periods.

Then came the final period and Monmouth would not go quietly, launching an 11-2 surge to  narrow deficit to four points at 61-57 in the first three minutes.

But once again, the Broncs reasserted themselves and rode their way to their 75-63 triumph.

“I thought we played a very solid all around game at both ends of the floor,” Rider coach Lynn Milligan said afterwards. “We had some mishaps, a couple on the offensive end, a couple on the defensive end, but I thought our overall play as a team tonight and different people stepping up again really propelled us to victory.

"They’re (Monmouth) a very good team, a very dangerous team, they shoot the ball extremely well, they run up and down the floor, they press you the whole game, I thought we kept our composure and balance the entire game tonight and I felt that really helped us.”

It was Rider’s eighth straight win and fourth straight since Robin Perkins suffered an ankle injury in the Iona victory but a fallen leader only yields new ones on this Broncs edition instead of dismay.

Senior center Julie Duggan had a monster double double with 18 points and 19 rebounds while Kamila Hoskova also had a double double with 18 points and 10 rebounds and Lexi Posset scored 14 points, including a perfect 4-for-4 from beyond the arc.

The Broncs also collectively blocked 10 Hawks shots, including three rejections from Stella Jonson.

Throughout the lineup and the game even players who don’t looks like obvious major contributors in the boxscore still did damage with key plays at critical times when the lead seemed in jeopardy.

McKinzee Barker and Kayla Shaw each scored 13 points for Monmouth and Rosa Graham scored 10.

In reaching their 21st win and a solid shot at the WNIT unless they win the MAAC and get the NCAA automatic bid, the Broncs have reached the roaring 20s for the first time since a 26-win season in 1981-82 but the current collection of triumphs is the most ever against Division I opponents for the program.

Furthermore the 15 MAAC wins to date through Tuesday night are the most ever with two games left as Niagara comes visiting Friday on senior night and then the Broncs head to Fairfield Sunday. Rider will also finish above .500 in the league for the first time since the Broncs became a member.

“It’s better than losing, I can tell you that, because we have gone through that,” said Duggan, whose collegiate career is headed toward an uplifting finish. “It’s a good time. It’s great to see  the smiles on everyone’s faces as opposed to in the locker room after the game, coach going, ‘OK we’ll get them next time.’ It’s just great to have a year like this.”

Looking at the ups and downs as play proceeded, Milligan agreed, “It definitely was a game of runs, and every time it looked like we got comfortable, the margin, they got that big three or we gave up a transition three.

“But again, that goes back to the confidence these young ladies have in each other and the balance we have as a team that it didn’t rattle us. We had to go down and execute our offense and I thought we executed our offense very well tonight,” Milligan observed.

“We didn’t shoot the ball as well as we normally do but I think every shot we took was within the flow of offense and putting the team in a really successful spot.”

As for getting by without Perkins, who could be back by the start of the tournament a week from Friday in Albany, N.Y., “It’s a credit to who we are as a program,” Milligan said. “We don’t build our program around one person. We have 15 young ladies who come in every day and work as hard as they can.

“We want Robin back, absolutely. But her teammates are stepping up for her. We’re picking up the slack. We’re staying balanced and we’re a very single focused team,” she added.

“Today was about playing to beat Monmouth. It wasn’t about winning 15 games or 21 games or all that. We finished the game. Good job. Here’s what we need to do on Friday to beat Niagara.

"I'm not going to worry about wins, seeds, ties, postseason, just what we have been doing, concentrating just on our next game. It’s senior night and we need to make it special for them.”

Saint Joseph's Finishes Regular Season With Overtime Victory

After spending two months on the front end of the season finding all kinds of ways to lose, besides making do with a roster stung by injuries, Saint Joseph’s continues to to find ways to pick up victories and the Hawks, in the Atlantic 10 tournament, which opens on home courts Saturday and Sunday, will be worth paying attention.

Coach Cindy Griffin’s team eked out another Tuesday night finishing the regular season with a 57-53 overtime triumph against George Mason at home in Hagan Arena.

Completing a 12-2 run on the schedule for all games since the arrival of 2017, Saint Joseph’s clinched a .500 season to earn consideration for an at-large bid to the WNIT.

But the way they’re playing now, don’t discount the Hawks (15-3, 12-4 Atlantic 10) from living up to a dark horse billing they have earned for the conference tourney that after this weekend’s round, moves the following weekend back to Richmond, Va., for the rest of the event.

At the moment Saint Joseph’s is the fourth seed but if Saint Louis loses Wednesday night, the Hawks will be the three seed in the field in which the top two above them will earn byes.

Saint Joseph’s will host a first round game at 2 p.m. Saturday against an opponent to be determined by the conclusion of Wednesday’s game and final standings.

As for Tuesday’s action, Chelsea Woods brought her team back from potential defeat in regulation by hitting two foul shots for a 50-50 tie with 9.6 seconds left in regulation.

One could say Woods got the Hawks out of the woods in the extra period, when she hit a layup with 2.39 left for a 55-50 lead.

The Patriots (13-16, 6-10) still had a chance when Kara Wright’s two foul shots trimmed the Hawks’ advantage at 55-53 with 23.6 seconds left but Woods doubled that margin to four points with two free throws and George Mason couldn’t get a shot off in the remaining time.

The key statistic for the winners was the 15-for-22 they shot from the foul line.

Woods, looking like the dynamic star she was in the Philadelphia/Suburban Summer League in Hatboro, Pa., had 20 points and nine rebounds, while Adaisha Franklyn, who also was a summer star, had 14 points and 11 rebounds. Amanda Fioravanti had 11 points, six rebounds and a career-high five blocked shots.

Wright had 13 points for George Mason.

Saint Joseph’s was the only A-10 team to go 8-0 at home on the league schedule.

Meanwhile, La Salle is among the A-10 teams finishing Wednesday with the Explorers hosting Fordham at 7 p.m. At Tom Gola Arena.

The Explorers have already clinched a hosting spot for Saturday but Wednesday’s  game will determine whether La Salle is the fifth or sixth seeds.

Looking Ahead

Temple takes its newly minted No. 23 ranking in the Associated Press women’s poll to Hartford and the XL Center to face top-ranked Connecticut in an American Athletic Conference game as the Owls, who are No. 20 in the coaches poll, try to avoid becoming Huskies’ consecutive streak victim No. 102.

The Owls ranking made coach Tonya Cardoza the 34th individual to have played for an AP ranked team when she was Dawn Staley’s teammate at Virginia in the early 1990s and now be associated with coaching one.

Staley had that same dynamic when she led Temple to its previous 26 poll appearances in the 2005 and 2006 seasons, Of course, now the Philly playing legend is coaching South Carolina, contending for a national title.

Penn State is at Michigan State in the Big Ten with the host Spartans looking to enhance their postseason profile.

On Thursday, Rutgers is in its final road game, visiting Northwestern in the Big 10 before hosting nationally ranked Ohio State Sunday in the regular season final.

The Guru will have the complete weekend look as we get closer but since he was in a rush to get out New Haven, Conn., Saturday night after the Penn loss to Yale, he didn’t post the two sets of standings he has been doing in terms of tracking the race to the four teams berths in the new Ivy tourament at the Palestra next month.

This weekend in the southern tier of the Ivies, Penn hosts Cornell in the Palestra Friday while Princeton hosts Columbia in Jadwin Gym before the visitors switch sites Saturday,

Harvard and Dartmouth will be battling Yale and Brown in the New England tier.

Here is the standing first

Ivy Standings

Team W. L. W.L. G.B.

Penn 15-7 8-1 –
Pctn 13-9 7-2 1.0
Hrvd 19-4 7-3 1.6
Brwn 14-9 5-5 3.5
Crnll 14-9 5-5  3.5
Yale 12-11 3-7 5.5
Cumb 13-10 3-7 5.5
Dtmth 6-17 1-9. 7.5

Also rans

(Ivy only) 

Team. W. L.  GB GR
Brown 5-5 --   4
Crnll. 5-5 --      4
Yale.  3-7  2.0. 4
Colmb 3-7 2.0 4
Dtmth 1-9 4.0 4

And that’s the wrap.


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