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 20, 2017

Guru's Overniter: Temple Upsets No. 22 South Florida And Looks to End NCAA Six-Year Drought

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

It’s time for Temple to go up in the attic and dust off those dancing shoes that have been stored away since 2011.

Remove the word “bubble” and replace it with the word “lock.”

The Owls, trolling American Athletic Conference waters in Tampa Sunday afternoon, snatched victory from the jaws of defeat to upset No. 22 South Florida 77-71 and become a prime contender for one of the 32 at-large invitations to the NCAA women’s tournament.

Temple (21-5, 11-2 American), seeking revenge for a game that got away in the first meeting with the Bulls (21-6, 9-4) last month at home in Philadelphia, seemed ready for another one of those heartbreak setbacks off the past when control of much of the game and a 13-point lead vaporized into a 67-64 USF advantage with 2 minutes, 43 seconds left in regulation time.

But then Feyonda Fitzgerald and Donnaizha Fountain launched another of their game-changer acts, combining to outscore USF 13-4 over an ensuing two-minute stretch to land Temple the victory and a two-game bulge over the Bulls in second place with three games left on the schedule.

The bad news is the Owls now head Wednesday to a probably fired-up Connecticut squad over escaping Tulane Saturday night from having the Green Wave stop the meter on the Huskies’ NCAA-record win streak at exactly 100.

The good news is that USF will host UConn Monday meaning whatever happens next to Temple short of doing Tulane four points better will be a wash.

So ironically, the Owls can clinch the spot the American coaches forecast for them in the fall by beating Cincinnati and Temple coach Tonya Cardoza’s good friend Jamelle Elliott Saturday afternoon in McGonigle Hall.

USF and Temple are probably not through with each other. Barring upsets, the two teams are likely to meet in the semifinals of the American tournament next month at the Mohegan Sun near New London, Conn.

But that means not having to deal with UConn until whoever gets to the title game.

Temple, which drifted into the USA Today coaches poll at No. 25 last week, picked the right day to take care of business.

A bunch of teams in the Associated Press women’s (media) poll took hits making it likely that the Owls could be among the Top 25 for the first time since 2006 in the grandmama of all the polls when the new rankings are released early Monday afternoon.

USF is the second ranked team Temple has beaten this season, having upset Big East frontrunner DePaul in McGonigle Hall in September.

The last times the Owls beat a ranked team on the road was on a neutral court over Purdue in November 2007 and Rutgers of the old Big East on the Scarlet Knights’ court in 2006.

Prior to Sunday’s win, Temple’s RPI was in the low 20s, one of the best ever for the program.

Last month the Owls also achieved a lingering goal of recent seasons, sweeping their way 4-0 to the Philadelphia Big 5 title.

As for the final stats Sunday, Fitzgerald finished with 23 points and seven assists while Donnaizha, who hails from Cardoza’s hometown of Roxbury, Mass., had 22 points and five rebounds.

Alliya Butts scored 13 points and Tanaya Atkinson had 11 points and 10 rebounds.

USF, which was coming off another upset loss at home earlier in the week by Central Florida, was led by Maria Jespersen, who had 26 points and 11 rebounds while Kitija Lacksa had 14 points and Tamara Henshaw and Ariadna Pujol scored 10 each.

Villanova Takes Another Overtime Thriller

Following Friday night’s double overtime victory against Xavier at home in the Pavilion, the Wildcats had to put some more extra minutes in play Sunday afternoon before emerging from the Pavilion with a 61-58 win in overtime against Butler.

The Big East triumph got Villanova (16-11, 11-5 Big East) a sweep of the visitors and the previous one in Indianapolis also went into overtime.

The Wildcats are now tied with Marquette for third and the Warriors (20-7, 11-5) made things interesting Sunday upsetting No. 17 DePaul 96-81 at home in Milwaukee, forcing the Blue Demons (22-6, 14-2) into a first-place tie with Creighton (20-6, 14-2), which beat St. John’s 67-60 at home.

Marquette hosts Georgetown Friday night while Villanova visits DePaul. Given the Wildcats are underdogs in that game, if the Hoyas knock off the Warriors, Villanova finishes up at Marquette Sunday and can get third on a head-to-head win.

But being third is now murky since it is unknown until next weekend who is in that semifinal bracket – Creighton or DePaul.

As for Sunday’s game on the Main Line against Butler (5-22, 2-14), both teams had several chances to win in regulation

With the score tied 58-58 with 1:55 in the overtime remaining, the teams went scoreless a stretch before Alex Louin hit two foul shots with 34 seconds for a two-point lead.

Butler missed a shot on its next possession and Louin was fouled getting the rebound and made 1-of-2 from the line for a 61-58 lead with 8.7 seconds left.

The visitors took a time out and then advanced the ball to the front court.

Taylor Buford missed a game-winning three-pointer and Villanova’s Kelly Jekot was fouled with 3.6 seconds left.

Jekot missed both attempts and then Burford tried to knock one down from 35 feet out but it missed and Villanova had the win heading into Friday’s game at DePaul.

Jannah Tucker had 14 points for the Wildcats while Louin had 13 points and 10 rebounds. Jekot and Mary Gedaka each scored nine.

La Salle Wins at Massachusetts

The Explorers kept their postseason hopes alive with 57-52 win at Massachusetts in Amherst that gave La Salle a home game in this weekend’s conference tournament openers before the event the following weekend moves to Richmond, Va., for the quarter, semi, and championship finals at the Richmond Coliseum.

Fordham upset first-place Dayton at home on senior day and heads to La Salle (16-11, 9-6 A-10) Wednesday so the close of the regular season just got a little more interesting.

As for the Explorers’ action at the Mullins Center, they got a sweep of the Minutewomen (9-19, 3-12) with freshman Sofi Ngwafang scoring 17 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.

Anemone Scheel had a career-high 13 points and Lisa Mintzer matched her career high with 10 points.

Amy Griffin did not score her normally high amount of points but did dish seven assists, tying a career high while Jasmine Alston had nine rebounds and seven assists.

Maggie Mulligan had 18 points for the host Minutewomen.

Saint Louis, George Washington and Dayton are now tied for first with one game remaining while Saint Joseph’s is fourth hosting George Mason Tuesday as the favorite in the season finale.

If they lose and Fordham wins at La Salle there is a tie and since the Hawks and Rams split, best win comes into play but best win is unknown until the top determines which has the Number 1 designation, etc.

Fordham would win out for fourth over the Hawks if Dayton became the best win while Saint Joseph’s does have a win over St. Louis. If La Salle beats Fordham, the Explorers get the fifth seed and cannot finish worst than sixth.

National Results: Day of Upsets

There were big crowds and a lot of upsets among the ranking set Sunday.

We’ve already talked about No. 17 DePaul, No. 22 South Florida, and Mike Siroky in his SEC report addressed No. 6 South Carolina shocked at the finish 62-60 at Missouri and No. 3 Mississippi holding off soon to be dispatched No. 23 Texas A&M 72-67 on the road.

Michigan State ruined No. 20 Michigan 86-60 and the Wolverines’ big day and 12,000 crowd in Crisler, while unranked Wake Forest on the road in nearby Raleigh took down No. 15 N.C. State 89-77.

Not an upset but in the Atlantic Coast Conference when somebody had to lose, No. 13 Duke handled visiting No. 16 Miami 83-70.

No. 7 Notre Dame in the ACC slipped past No. 21 Syracuse 85-80 in upstate New York where a crowd of 11,021 was a record for the host Orange.

The Irish, whose coach Muffet McGraw is again a finalist for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, are alone in first in the ACC trying for their fourth straight regular season title since joining the conference.

Syracuse advanced to the Women’s Final Four last season.

In the West, No. 9 Washington in the Pac-12 held off host Southern Cal 87-74 in Los Angeles at the Galen Center as Kelsey Plum, the nation’s leading scorer, collected 35 points and is now second in NCAA career history with 3,315 points to move ahead of former Baylor star Brittney Griner.

Though Kansas’ Lynette Woodard scored more in the AIAW era that preceded the NCAA, the top position held by Missouri State’s Jackie Stiles with 3,393 points is just 78 points ahead of Plum.

And that’s the wrap.