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.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Guru Report: Night of Optimism for Locales Who Grab All But Two Scheduled Openers

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA — In many ways the celebratory opening night in women’s collegiate basketball is similar to the first day of the baseball season when hope springs eternal before things settle down to the achieving the goals being chased over the next four months leading to March Madness and the grand finale.

By then whatever happened that mid-November night in terms of clues the rest of the way have been or are close to being realized or have dissolved in ashes, sometimes the culprit being unforeseen injuries, others being not-ready-for-primetime, and still others for a myriad of reasons.

Misreads are easy when the opponent is more cupcake then competitive, though sometime a sparring partner and no more is necessary for a little fine tuning. Then there are major clashes from the get-go, such as the set of games this weekend in Columbus, Ohio, the site of this season’s Women’s Final Four, where Friday night Ohio State smashed Stanford begging the question whether the Buckeyes might be that good or the Cardinal not as good.

Sometimes the clues of hope can be found in the differential from 12 months earlier when first night action brought a different reaction.

For the most part, that was the the storyline for the Guru’s locales Friday night with some variousness as here in Temple’s McGonigle Hall where the Owls used a strong finish to down Delaware State 96-72.

The preseason injury to senior Alliya Butts keeps things tempered for the moment, but with a slew of newcomers, highlighted by Mia Davis’ double double of 21 points and 17 rebounds, there was reason for coach Tonya Cardoza to be optimistic.

“Everyone of them did something well,” she gushed afterwards.

Of course having been able to play three games in Europe, a closed scrimmage and public exhibition hardly allowed to having the night described as a get-feet wet occasion in terms of playing an actual game together.

Among the newbies, off the bench, Desiree Oliver had six points and dealt six assists while Emani Mayo scored 10 points. Veteran leader Tanaya Atkinson, the sixth player of the year in the American Athletic Conference last season had 23 points and 13 rebounds and Khadijah Berger scored 14.

One of the big surprises, considering the non-marquee name of the opponent, was an energetic crowd of 1202 when paired with the electricity of the Temple band provided a great atmosphere.

Cardoza admitted wondering how many might show up, especially with the weather turning unseasonably raw.

The Owls will get more of an idea where they are when Rutgers comes visiting Monday night.

The Scarlet Knights were among a bunch of the locales Friday night who flipped results from a year ago, when they fell at home to Chattanooga and went on to the worst season ever for Hall of Famer C. Vivian Stringer, including her previous stops at Cheyney and Iowa.
This time around with all those transfers who had to be spectators under NCAA rules plus Tyler Scaife sidelined by an injury prior to opening night, Rutgers opened at James Madison, not necessarily the JMU of the past but still the CAA favorite, rolling to a 76-63 victory and sustaining a Dukes rally along the way.

Scaife celebrated her return with 26 points, Caitlin Jennings scored nine points and grabbed 14 rebounds while Jazlynd Rollins scored 10.

Former Saint Joseph’s member Kathleen Fitzpatrick started and scored three points and grabbed two rebounds in 15 minutes of action.

For those jumping on the countdown early, the victory reduces Stringer’s move toward 1,000 victories to 22.

Lexi Barrier’s 23 points led the Dukes. Rutgers forced 24 turnovers but committed 25.

La Salle coach Jeff Williams had to be happy with the Explorers’ 74-47 win at Lafayette, reversing a loss to the Leopards a year ago at home though they went on to his best season and the opposition spent several months before getting its next win.

In spilling the debut of new coach Kia Damon, La Salle’s Amy Griffin picked up where she was a year ago, scoring 30 points while Shaquana Edwards scored 17 in her debut, and Shalina Miller had a career-high 16 points.

The Explorers stay on the road stopping at American University in Washington Monday night.

Keeping the theme of reversals, in a battle of prominent mid-majors Princeton, which was routed at home a year ago by nearby Rider before eventually righting the ship, downed George Washington 72-52 at home in Jadwin Gym.

Tia Weledji had 18 points for the Ivy runnersups, Leslie Robinson, the niece of former President Obama, had 11 points and 10 rebounds, Carlie Littlefield scored 14, and Bella Alarie, the Ivy frosh of the year, scored 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds.

In their meeting a year ago during the season, Princeton scored just 45 points against the Atlantic 10 power, who got 21 points from Kelli Prange.

Incidentally, over the summer coach Courtney Banghart and Alarie were involved in separate competitions for USA Basketball.

Princeton next travels to in-state rival Seton Hall on Thursday.

Another place for a promising start was up in Hartford where Villanova, winners of just four of their first 12 games last season before heading to a strong finish, demolished the host Hawks 71-53.

The Wildcats bolted from a five-point lead in the third quarter to subdue the home team in the first meeting between the two schools.

Adrianna Hahn, a preseason all-Big East selectee, had 18 points while Mary Gedaka had 15 points and 11 rebounds off the bench. Kelly Jekot and Jannah Tuicker each scored 10 points, the Wildcats outrebounded the Hawks 45-33, and Hahn had four of the visitors’ nine points.

Next stop after veteran coach Harry Perretta’s 40th season got under way is to play Lehigh Friday night in the front end at 5 p.m. of a doubleheader between the men’s and women’s teams from both schools at the PPL Center in Lehigh.

The Mountain Hawks are opening their season on the road Saturday at Minnesota in the only game on the Guru’s local slate.

Penn State, which will host Drexel in the Dragons’ season start Sunday, was also victorious in its own opener Friday, also at home in the Bryce Jordan Center, beating Siena, 86-72.

The Lady Lions have never lost to a MAAC school in 15 meetings.

Four PSU players scored in double figures: Amani Carter had 19 points, Jaida Travascio-Green had 14 fueled by three 3-pointers, Siyeh Frazier also scored 14 with career-highs of  six assists and eight steals, while Jaylen Williams scored 10.

Freshman Alisia Smith was best among the newcomers with nine points.

WNBA star Alex Bentley of the Connecticut Sun was the last PSU player to grab as many as eight steals, occurring during the 2012-13 season.

Kollyns Scarborough scored 21 for the visiting Saints.

The only two of the locales to drop games were Rider, losing narrowly to Patriot League favorite Bucknell, which rallied to a 76-71 win, while Delaware was unable to get a debut win for coach Natasha Adair, losing at Buffalo 87-73 on Friday afternoon.

In the Blue Hens’ loss in upstate New York, Nicole Enabosi had a game-high 18 points and nine rebounds for the visitors, Makeda Nicholas had 16 points, and Samone Defreese scored a career-high 12 off the bench.

Buffalo rode the three-ball to victory scoring 11 and gaining a 33-6 advantage on Delaware from beyond the arc.

Delaware stays on the rode following Villanova’s visit to Hartford on Monday night.

Rider, which lost key players to graduation from the Broncs’ historic season to reduce the depth, fell off an 8-0 sport by Bucknell in the fourth quarter.

The two schools haven’t met since the 2011-12 season.

Sophomore Stella Johnson had 18 points for the home team while Lexi Posset scored 12 points, and Kamila Hoskova scored 11.

Kyi English had 18 for Bucknell in a balanced attack.

Defensively, Rider had to be pleased with forcing 28 turnovers and grabbing 18 steals to take a positive into Sunday’s game at Navy.

Expressing disappointment with the loss, coach Lynn Milligan remained optimistic, noting, “We saw a lot of great stuff out there.”

Still waiting to get under way besides Lehigh and Drexel are Saint Joseph’s, which opens at Niagara, Sunday, and Penn, which opens Wednesday at Binghamton.

Nationally, besides the noteworthy win by Ohio State, which plays Louisville Sunday after Connecticut opens against Stanford, the two upsets of the night belonged to Western Kentucky, which downed No. 16 Missouri at home and No. 25 DePaul at home sent Northern Colorado to the line 37 times to cash in with 33 and win 94-88.



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