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, February 09, 2017

Guru's Overniter: Temple Tames Tulsa While Indiana Gets First at Rutgers

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA/PISCATAWAY, N.J. – A dual dateline means the Guru was on the scene at two different places Wednesday and as the opening to Tale of Two Cities begins, “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”

And so it was that Temple, in the Owls’ annual noon tip school day affair in the larger Liacouras Center, delivered a second straight smackdown in the American Athletic Conference, coming out of the two-game setback last week at home to the nationally-ranked duo of South Florida and No. 1 Connecticut.

Fresh off Sunday’s Bourbon Street stomp of Tulane in New Orleans, Temple  trounced Tulsa 70-43.

Meanwhile later Wednesday night up north Rutgers faded in the second half from a 29-27 lead at the break to lose to Indiana 70-43 in a Big Ten game as the Scarlet Knights (6-18, 3-8 Big Ten) continue to suffer one of the worst seasons in the program’s history.

Elsewhere, in another Big Ten game, Penn State beat Minnesota 77-66 in the Bryce Jordan Center while in the sole game on the Guru’s local charts but not blogged out of Tuesday, La Salle got back on the winning path, beating host St. Bonaventure 57-45 in the Atlantic 10.

Meanwhile, the Lafayette nightmare, at least temporarily, paused on the road as the Leopards ended their 22-game losing streak beating host Holy Cross 85-70 in a Patriot League game at the Hart Center in Worcester, Mass.

They had not won since beating La Salle at the Explorers’ Tom Gola Arena on opening night in mid-November.

But let’s start with Temple, which played in front of a crowd of 3,402 shouting schoolchildren.

The Owls (18-5, 8-3 AAC) have never lost in any of their 15 annual matinee affairs and after an opening 19-10 first period it was obvious that record would be kept perfect.

Furthermore, for the second straight game, Temple came out of the halftime break with a demolition third period, this one 20-7.

“The last couple of games coming out of the half, our third quarter defense has been remarkable,” Temple coach Tonya Cardoza said. “That’s just a credit to our defense turning it up. We have to find a way to make sure we start the game with a better defensive start but I like the way our guys are coming out of the half on the defensive side.

“We’ve had some guys step up and make some shots but overall I think it’s a great team effort and great team win.”

Temple held Tulsa (8-16, 4-7) to just 22.2 percent from the field and forced 16 turnovers while the Owls committed just six themselves.

Donnaizha Fontain had another standout high-scoring game, tallying 17 points and grabbing nine rebounds while grabbing three steals.

Feyonda Fitzgerald, who this week was place on the Dawn Staley Guard watch list, nearly made Temple statistical history.

She scored 14 points, but with nine, she was one rebound short, and with eight, two assists short also, of producing the first triple double in Owls history.

Fitzgerald, previously, has been placed on watch lists of the Nancy Lieberman Point Guard Award and Anne Meyers-Drysdale National Player Award by the United States Basketball Writers Association. That usually offers a pedigree for all-American honors.

“She’s getting this, not that she shouldn’t, because we’re winning,” Cardoza said. “If we weren’t wining, she would have trouble getting noticed.”

Alliya Buts was also in double figures with 13 points, while off the bench Khadijah Berger had nine points, all from shooting 3-for-6 from beyond the arc, while Tanaya Atkinson also scored nine points.

Erika Wakefield, with 11 points, was the only Tulsa player scoring in double figures while Kendrian Elliott grabbed 10 rebounds.

Temple dominated the paint 28-14 while also gaining a lopsided 22-4 differential on points off turnovers.

Cardoza said she was aware in the fourth quarter of Fitzgerald’s numbers but with the game in hand did not want to risk an injury keeping Fitzgerald on the floor.

Though Temple is in the best shape the Owls have been at the stage in several years in terms of getting back to the NCAA tournament for the first time in a while Cardoza has to keep her squad in harness.

“We can’t have any slip ups,” she said. “We have to maintain our focus. We have to be smarter and take advantage of opportunities that we have. Again, it starts on the defensive end, when we’re playing pretty good defense, we’re able to get out in transition, but we have to get better at decision making.

“Sometimes we let things get away from us. In the Tulane game and today, we didn’t allow them to score the way they wanted to score. And taking away their top players,” Cardoza said.

Temple goes to East Carolina Saturday and then hosts SMU next Wednesday.

“In that UConn loss, again, in that first half we didn’t give ourselves a chance because we didn’t really step up to play them. And in the second half we competed. So it’s like a letdown. We don’t know where we really are, because we didn’t show up in the first half. But in the second we were a totally different team. That second half team was the team that played that 12-game (win streak). So getting past the point of you’re playing UConn, and you’re just playing, and it carried over.”

Rutgers Yields First Series Loss to Indiana at Home

The light at the end of the tunnel in this season of misery at Rutgers is actually on the shelf, if anywhere.

At least that’s the way Hall of Fame Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer described her team’s predicament after Indiana’s late surge gave the Hoosiers a 63-52 victory that was a first for Indiana (16-8, 6-5 Big 10) here since the Scarlet Knights joined the conference in the 2013-14 season.

Noting that Barber Kandiss off the bench had 12 points for the home team and that reserve Desiree Keeling had six rebounds, Stringer was asked whether those stats might be signs of promise down the road.

“I can’t even use the excuse we’re inexperienced,” she said. “When you have this many games, we’re just not very smart. It’s as simple as that.

“Hope is in the players that can’t play,” Stringer referred to the number of newcomers who have to fulfill NCAA eligibility requirements this season before donning a uniform. “There’s a little bit of hope in the players we have.

“But when you get down to (the last) five games, for real?” Stringer said. “I mean the things that are happening here right now. I’m not feeling good about that. Keeling picked up three fouls real quick.

“Kandiss played well today. Sometimes she does, sometimes she doesn’t. Sometimes Aliyah (Jeune) does, sometimes she doesn’t. Inconsistencies that are here are glaring. And it’s been happening a lot. And the same with Shrita (Parker, who had 14 points). Sometmes she does. Sometimes she doesn’t.

“If we can ever get even three people on the same page at the same time, we might have a chance at winning.  And I doubt we’re ever going to get four, on the other hand, if we get three.

“We’re not a very good shooting team. Yeah, if you can’t shoot, well then we got to rebound. We got to get to the rim. Well, we’re not getting to the rim. You don’t see it on the free throws (Indy: 13-17, RU: 3-4). Believe we spend more time shooting than I ever have. I don’t know what to say.”

Amanda Cahill had 22 points for the Hoosiers, Tyra Buss had 17, and Jenn Anderson scored 10.

The night also signified Rutgers’ participation in the annual Play4Kay game to fight breast cancer.

Rutgers now goes on the road this weekend visiting Minnesota Saturday at 3 p.m. and then returns here to host Purdue on Wednesday.

Penn State Tops Minnesota

Sophomore Teniya Page reached the 900th point milestone in her career, scored 25 for the game and dealt her 218th career assist to move within the Penn State top 25 in the category as the Lady Lions beat the Golden Gophers 77-66 in the Bryce Jordan Center in State College, Pa.

Lindsey Spann, with 13 points, and Sierra Moore, with 12, also scored in double figures for the Lady Lions (16-8, 6-6 Big Ten), while Kenisha Bell and Taiye Bello each scored 19 for the Golden Gophers (12-12, 3-8).

Penn State stays home to host Purdue at 2 p.m. Friday

La Salle Wins at St. Bonaventure

The Explorers jumped back on the winning track Tuesday night following their loss Saturday at home to George Washington by beating the Bonnies 57-45 in an Atlantic 10 game in the Reilly Center, near Olean, N.Y.

Amy Griffin, the leading scorer in the conference a year ago and now, had 18 points and 11 rebounds for La Salle (15-9, 8-4 Atlantic 10), which is moving further into postseason contention, though not in terms of the NCAA tourney, short of winning the automatic bid.

“She’s legit. She might be the best player in our league,” said first-year Bonnies coach Jesse Flemming.

Michaya Owens had 13 points off the bench for La Salle, while Adreana Miller scored 12.

Mariah Ruff had 18 points for the Bonnies (9-15, 4-8).

La Salle heads to Saint Joseph’s Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. in a key game in the upper half of the Atlantic 10 standings, exactly where, we’ll observed Thursday night following the St. Joseph’s visit to Fordham, since the Rams are also in that mix.

The Sunday game is also the final of the Big 5 round robin games of this year. Temple has already won the title at 4-0 so with the Hawks and Explorers both 1-2 the winner will finish third and the loser fourth ahead of Penn, which was 0-4 but competitive in each game.

Lafayette Snaps 22-Game Losing Streak

The Leopards as noted in the opening to this post had not won since beating La Salle on the road in the season opener for both teams in November. There were several heartbreaking losses along the way.

But all that went by the boards Wednesday night as Lafayette won at Holy Cross 85-70 in the Patriot League.

The Leopards (2-22, 1-11 Patriot League) did it with an exclamation point scoring 29 points in the fourth quarter.

“This was a big win,” said Lafayette coach Theresa Grentz, a Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer and former Immaculata star. “I thought we played so well together and what I enjoyed the most was working and talking with the team throughout the game and seeing them help themselves and each other.”

Freshman Olivia Gumbs had a career-high in scoring with 25 points and a personal best with 14 rebounds.

Three other players also scored in double figures for the visitors, Ashley Lutz had 13 points and 11 rebounds, while Harriet Ottewill-Soulsby and Sammy Stipa scored 15 and 12 points, respectively against the Crusaders (6-17, 4-8).

“The team did not quit and played so well together,” Grentz said. “The most satisfying part is to have fought through this and have our seniors play such an integral part of tonight’s win.”

Holy Cross opened the third quarter with an 11-0 run but Lafayette eventually answered with a 22-6 spurt that extended into the outset of the fourth period.

The 85 points are the most by Lafayette in three seasons since 2014.

The Leopards next host Navy on Saturday at 2 p.m.

Looking Ahead

As mentioned, the Saint Joseph’s visit to Fordham is the only game on the Guru local slate and the Hawks went up to the Bronx in New York Wednesday night well ahead of any weather problems.

The Guru, sequestered at a center city locale to dodge the elements, will either train it up, depending on the scene in New York, or will drop in the 9 p.m. Temple men’s game Thursday night since he is headed up to New York twice Friday and Saturday for the Penn and Princeton visits to Columbia.

Other Friday games have Princeton at Cornell, Penn is there Saturday, Villanova at St. John’s, Drexel hosting William & Mary, and Delaware visiting James Madison.

And Rider, tied for first, visits Iona, the defending MAAC champ,  looking for a season sweep.

All the Sunday games have been mentioned while on Sunday Drexel hosts UNCW, Delaware hosting Hofstra, and Villanova at Seton Hall.

On Monday, it’s the big South Carolina at UConn showdown while Texas will visit Florida State.

And that’s a wrap.


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