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.

Friday, December 08, 2017

The Guru Report: A Tale of Two Locals Feature Big Rallies to Victories by Temple and Drexel

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA — It was the worst of times. It was the best of times, though a long way from the best ever.

That was tale of the Guru’s only two local teams on Thursday’s card as both Temple here at home in McGonigle Hall and Drexel on the road in upstate New York rallied from deep deficits to defeat underdog opponents heading into major confrontations this weekend.

The action began early in the afternoon at Niagara and ended happily in dramatic style for Drexel where the Dragons trailed by as many as nine points with just over two minutes left in regulation and still by five with 22 seconds left before Megan Marecic zipped a three-pointer with six seconds left for a 66-65 comeback.

It was a combo of offense and defense in the style of Drexel coach Denise Dillon’s alma mater Villanova as the Dragons (6-3) nailed four of their nine triplets, including the game winner, and forced five Purple Eagles turnovers across the final 2:03 minutes of play.

Kelsi Lidge had a career-best 23 points to go with six rebounds, six steals and five assists as she has now played the full 40 minutes of regulation in two straight games.

According to the reliable Drexel stat detail, Lidge’s scoring total was the first by anyone on the Dragons roster to pass the 20-point milestone in a game.

Meanwhile, Bailey Greenberg had a career-high 17 points while grabbing 10 rebounds to mark her second ever double double following one as a freshman last season. Ironically that also came against Niagara (1-8) back in Philadelphia at the Daskalakis Athletic Center.

It was the Dragons’ first win this season after trailing at the half and the first since a similar situation a year ago when that opponent was then-No. 11 Syracuse, who had finished runnerup to Connecticut in the 2016 NCAA national tournament.

Besides making Niagara fall Thursday, that win against the Orange also came on a three-pointer. Now Drexel will be returning the visit Saturday tipping off at Syracuse at 6 p.m.

Temple Rallies to Hold Off Hampton

Meanwhile, a few hours later here, Temple became subject to a full scale plundering by the Pirates of the Chesapeake, formally known as Hampton, before the Owls fought back with a huge 22-4 third quarter and some timely offensive and defensive moves late in the fourth quarter to emerge with a 65-56 victory.

“We really did get lucky,” Temple coach Tonya Cardoza said. “I feel Hampton just ran out of time. We found a way to get back in the game but then got carless with the basketball and allowed them to get back in it.

“But we won the game and that’s important. But we have to be better or teams are going to press us if we turn the ball over like that.”

The Owls were also hampered with the absence of another player in their rotation, freshman guard Desire Oliver, sidelined with an undisclosed injury and her return is not known, though Cardoza said when asked that Oliver wouldn’t be available Sunday.

Meanwhile, the triumph avenged last year’s loss to Hampton in Virginia, the only setback in what is now a six-game series. That game was similar to Thursday night in that the Owls (7-2) fell 19 points behind to coming back to within four in the final minutes before suffering the upset.

In this one Temple trailed by 12 in the second quarter before slicing the deficit in half to make it 34-28 at the break.

The Owls committed 24 turnovers in the first two quarters and a season-worse 35 for the game but a dominating 50-26 effort on the boards helped the comeback and after going cold in the closing minutes, they stayed warm enough on the foul line to prevail.

Tanaya Atkinson continued her fine work with 25 points and 10 rebounds for another double double though she committed eight turnovers while freshman Emani Mayo had 19 points and six rebounds and Mia Davis grabbed 14 rebounds.

DeJane James had 16 points, while Allina Starr and Jephany Brown each scored 13 but Monna Finney-Smith, the leading scorer for Hampton (2-5) with a 13.0 average, was held scoreless from the field on six attempts, of which four were beyond the arc.

Being a point of emphasis, that defense pleased Cardoza, who is right now overseeing Temple’s best start since her second season.

She said no comparison between the two units because the previous one was much more veteran-profiled on the Owls’ roster.

In terms of the difference between the two halves, Cardoza noted, “the same things we’ve gotten in the second half we could have gotten in the first. They just needed to settle down and be aggressive in what we were trying to do.

“The adjustment was basically to get the ball to Tanaya,” she chuckled, “and let her operate or get the ball to the middle and once we got the ball to the middle we got every shot. But it’s just about guys confident with the ball and not shying away from the pressure.”

Hampton missed a slew inside that could have otherwise been a disaster for Temple.

“There were games like this we would find a way to lose at the end, turn it over, give them a three or something. But we made key plays down the stretch to get rebounds and make stops and I thought we did a really good job on Finney. — She didn’t score and fouled out,” Cardoza said.

“And I thought we did a pretty good job keeping them out of the lane. I thought we held them to 30 percent. But again, they score 38 points off our turnovers and 56 for the game and in the halfcourt set I thought we did a pretty good job.

“Most of it were turnovers and transition for easy buckets.”

Mayo and Atkinson each played the entire 40 minutes and Cardoza said, “I never thought about taking them out. Neither of them looked tired that they wanted to come out. Emani gives 110 percent when she’s in there and didn’t realize she played that much until I saw the sheet.”

Next up is a visit Sunday at 2 p.m. from No. 22 Villanova with the Big Five title on the line, though it couldn’t be won outright yet. The Wildcats won their only game — beating Saint Joseph’s — while Temple, the defending City champs, have wins over Saint Joseph’s and La Salle.

“If we win the game, we basically (at worst) share the Big Five,” said Cardoza, knowing only Penn is left next month on the schedule and everyone else already has a loss while Saint Joseph’s has two.

If Villanova wins, the Wildcats could win outright by beating La Salle Dec. 20 and Penn next month.

The Quakers, who host No. 3 Notre Dame at The Palestra Saturday afternoon, could still get a piece of the action by beating Saint Joseph’s on Hawk Hill Monday night and then Temple and Villanova next month.

Meanwhile, on Friday the only game on the Guru’s local slate is Seton Hall’s visit to Rutgers at 2 p.m., The rest of the weekend slate is addressed the Guru report of 24 hours ago.

As for this report, that’s all there is except to say that Temple formally announced that Candice Dupree, one of Temple’s two best-ever all-timers along with Marilyn Stephens, whose daughter Adashia Franklyn plays for Saint Joseph’s, will have her number retired when Dawn Staley’s defending NCAA champion South Carolina squad visits here to play the Owls Dec. 21 next door in the larger Liacouras Center.

Dupree is a WNBA All-Star, now playing with the Indiana Fever.

And now that is the all there is from this report.




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