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, December 09, 2017

The Guru Report: Scaife Leads Rutgers Over Seton Hall While UConn Takes Auriemma to Win No. 999

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — On a day that Hall of Fame Connecticut women’s coach Geno Auriemma moved to within one win of his 1,000th career victory, Rutgers continued to make it seem more likely that Hall of Famer C. Vivian Stringer will also be picking up a membership to the prestigious club before the season is over.

In fact, following the Scarlet Knights’ 70-45 victory over in-state rival Seton Hall on Friday afternoon driven by a 29-13 fourth-quarter finish, the Guru quipped to a Rutgers athletic official asking whether the budget allocation for 2017-18 provided funding for a potential achievement celebration with a projection for it to happen by March.

Stringer, who began November just 23 wins short of 1,000 triumphs at her stops at Cheyney, Iowa and here in 47 seasons, is now 14 away from the milestone previously achieved by the late Tennessee legend Pat Summitt and Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer and likely next by Auriemma when UConn hosts Oklahoma Dec. 19 at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn.

On the heels of the worst run ever for Stringer in 2016-17 with just six wins, Rutgers (9-2) has now turned it around as she indicated would happen once the redshirt transfers would become eligible.

And if you are talking comebacks by Rutgers this season you are synonymously talking about Tyler Scaife, who was sidelined with a heart problem 12 months ago, but on Friday scored 23 points in 25 minutes to make it six times she has now scored 20 or more points.

“I told her (Stringer), she’s done a great job of bringing them back to national prominence,” Seton Hall coach Tony Bozzella said of the Rutgers improvement. “They’re an NCAA team. Their kids play hard. They trust what they’re doing. 

“She has one of the best players in the country. I’m happy to see the young lady playing. I think she’s a tremendous ambassador for the game. We need players like her,” Bozzella continued.

“She works hard. She was the first person out here before the game practicing. I think Tyler Scaife has a chance to be a WNBA player and I’m impressed with her work ethic. She kept her team in the game in the first half because they really struggled. They were up eight because of her. She kept them there and then their defense turned us over and our offense didn’t do a couple of things.”

Seton Hall (6-2) has also turned things around from a 12-19 rebuilding run and in this game the Pirates trailed just 34-32 with 3 minutes, 23 seconds left in the third period when the vaunted Rutgers defense caused a succession of turnovers enabling the Scarlet Knights to close out the quarter with a 7-0 run, including a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Ciani Cryor, a Neumann-Gorretti grad out of Philadelphia who transferred from Georgia Tech.

The run got extended into 16-0 early in the final period, highlighted by a trey from Kathleen Fitzpatrick, a transfer from Saint Joseph’s.

Cryor finished with 16 points, shooting 6-for-8 from the field, while Stasha Carey had 10 points and 15 rebounds.

Donnaizha Fountain, a transfer from Temple using her graduate eligibility with the Pirates, had a double double with 10 points and 11 rebounds while Shadeen Samuels had 10 rebounds.

Since Bozzella took the Seton Hall job, the Pirates, Princeton (whom Rutgers hosts next Wednesday) and the Scarlet Knights have established an on-going Jersey three in the manner of the Big 5 competition in Philadelphia.

“We played a great game with Princeton (won by the Tigers), I think Princeton’s going to give Rutgers a good game, they are the the things we talk about now, getting the top three in the triangle in New Jersey to play each other,” he said.

“Courtney’s (Banghart) been great about it, Vivian has been great about and we’ve been great about it,” Bozzella said. “It’s been great we all play home and away, I just wish we didn’t play at 2 o’clock, but I understand there’s been a scheduling conflict (Rutgers wrestling played Friday night and already had the date.).

“But next year all three will play at night and it will be on TV and all that stuff. I can’t say enough about how we are treated here at Rutgers, the people here are great. Even the crowd was into the game, which was nice. Give Rutgers a lot of credit.”

Seton Hall plays at Boston College Sunday, while Rutgers hosts Fairleigh Dickinson here the same day at 2 p.m. ahead of the Princeton visit all part of a current eight-game home stand.

Houston closes out non-conference play next Saturday before Purdue visits Dec. 28 to start the Big Ten schedule.

Asked if the staff is pleased with the momentum Rutgers is building heading to the conference, Stringer said the team still needed to get better, things needed to be improved, “but yes, we are pleased.”

Connecticut Handles DePaul as Auriemma Victory Total Hits 999

DePaul coach Doug Bruno had no problem having the women’s national home wreckers come to Chicago to help open the Demons’ new Wintrust Arena with the opposition being top-ranked Connecticut coached by his good friend Geno Auriemma.

When it was over the result was 103-69, a winning outcome like what it has always been expect once going UConn’s way 15-1 in the series between the two schools, much of it played as opponents in the old Big East.

Unlike several times in the past, for once Bruno was not on the opposing side on a milestone night thanks to the stellar upset by Mississippi State in last season’s NCAA semifinal that ended the Huskies NCAA-record run at 111 straight.

So for Auriemma the first crack at 1000 comes against another good friend on Dec. 19 when Sherri Coale brings Oklahoma to Connecticut.

UConn is now 8-0 while DePaul, suffering two previous upset losses, fell to 6-3.

Katie Lou Samuelson, now back on the court, had 20 points for Connecticut, and Crystal Dangerfield had 18, while Napheesa Collier scored 17 and grabbed 10 rebounds, Azura Stevens scored 16, Kia Nurse 13, and Gabby Williams had 11 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and seven turnovers.

Amarah Coleman scored 16 for DePaul.

“We basically got beat badly tonight and at the same time I know we’re better for it,” said Bruno who served as one of Auriemma’s assistants on the 2012 and 2016 USA Olympic Gold Medalists in London and Brazil.

“I wouldn’t continue to play these kind of games if I didn’t know that our team is better for it. It doesn’t feel good right now. It doesn’t feel good for our players right now ... They will be better for having gone through this game.”

And that’s the report.






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