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, January 27, 2018

The Guru Report: Drexel Late Rally Erases 10-Point Deficit to Top Elon 58-56 While Villanova Blasts Xavier

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA — Mark the Drexel women’s 58-56 fourth-quarter comeback win Friday night over defending Colonial Athletic Association tourney champion Elon here at the Dragons’ Daskalakis Athletic Center as one of the more worthy accomplishments by the program in conference regular season competition.

Coach Denise Dillon’s group earned a piece of history with the outcome by having enjoyed the best fourth-quarter rally — they were down ten — in the three seasons since the NCAA moved from 20-minute halves to four ten-minute quarters.

Should Drexel (15-5, 7-1 CAA) complete a sweep of homecoming weekend with a win Sunday (2 p.m.) over Northeastern (10-9, 4-3), which dispatched host Delaware 64-53 Friday night at the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark, the Dragons will go a long way toward landing second or third in the final standings.

Dillon’s squad has now expanded its second-place slot to two games ahead of Delaware and Northeastern, which are tied for third, and the Dragons are three games in front of Hofstra and William & Mary following Friday’s games.

James Madison remains ahead of Drexel at the top of the CAA with a perfect 8-0 conference mark and 12-7 overall after beating Hofstra 73-56 at home Friday night in the JMU Convocation Center in Harrisonburg, Va.

Furthermore, the CAA tourney is here at Drexel this season, the same March 7-10 weekend that the second annual Ivy men’s and women’s tourney (March 10-11) will return down the street to Penn’s Palestra.

If you’re a fan just of the women, though there is a two-day overlap — the first of which is the Ivy pressers and shootarounds — we believe the two events are not in conflict but your Guru will update.

Meanwhile, as far as the way it went here, Drexel had to deal with a significant size disadvantage but that was compensated over the way the Dragons could match up with Elon (12-7, 4-4) in terms of playing with heart.

“It was a good win,” Dillon stated the obvious. “Like I told the girls, we were down, we chipped away, the defense once again was key. Definitely proud of the resilience and determination for these guys to stick together and find a way.”

It was a game of runs with eight ties and six lead changes but the excitement intensified after Elon went up 52-42 with 7 minutes, 2 seconds left in the game after Drexel entered the final period down by just a bucket at 42-40.

The Dragons then took off on a 10-2 spurt to get back to within a basket with 4:06 left in regulation and after almost a scoreless minute by both squad,  freshman Hannah Nihill out of Cardinal O’Hara zipped a three-ball for a 55-54 lead that could have been even more though Drexel never trailed again.

On the shot away from the ball Bailey Greenberg was fouled but missed both attempts. However,  the Dragons still had a chance on the possession getting an offensive rebound but after three straight misses the Phoenix finally got the ball.

But Elon then turned it over with 1:59 left. Drexel’s Sarah Woods rebounded her own missed shot and got it to Aubrey Brown for a layup with 1:13 left, though a missed free throw enabled Elon to stay within range.

Elon’s 6-3 senior center Malaya Johnson, who dominated the night with 20 points and seven rebounds, hit a jumper to cut the Drexel advantage to a point with 57 seconds left.

Drexel’s Greenberg missed a jumper with 34 seconds left, Johnson grabbed a rebound and Elon took a 30-second timeout and then another one with 14 seconds left when the Phoenix were in danger of losing the ball.

After the inbound the ball skipped off Johnson, the way at times an inadvertent fumble in football occurs, and the ball went straight into hands of Nihill.

Drexel took time and then Kelsi Lidge was fouled with eight seconds left but made only the first of her two attempts to make the score 58-56 and Johnson got the rebound.

Going inside for the tie, however, the ball rimmed off and Drexel’s hold on second place in the CAA had gotten stronger.

“We do a really great job of coming together and playing with a sense of urgency, but not going chaotic on offense and defense,” Lidge said.  “We focus on one possession at a time, getting a score and getting back into the game.”

Nihill, who had another triplet early in the game, said of her shot, “I think just shoot it and the other seniors say that every shot that goes up, if you think goes in, it will,” Nihill said.

Dillon said her team was trying to take advantage of the switches Elon was making. 

“Too often, the ball was dying in our hands. But we thought being a game of possessions, we were able to increase our possessions without turning the ball over and we did that fairly early and would give us an opportunity to win.”

One key was Drexel was able to get to the line and outscored Elon 12-17 on attempts compared to just 3-5 for the Phoenix. Forcing 20 turnovers the Dragons were able to outscore the opposition 27-11 in transition.

With Johnson’s work, Elon outscored Drexel 40-18 inside the paint.

The only other Elon player in double figures was Shay Burnett with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Lidge had 17 points  — 14 in the second half - and eight rebounds, while Greenberg and Woods each scored 11 points.

Speaking of the team’s resilience, which has occurred in several other games, Dillon noted, “For a player like Kelsi it’s persuasion and perseverance.

“And it has trickled down to her teammates.  What she is telling the team is an extension of us,” Dillon said.

  “It is one possession at a time, get a stop and we will take advantage on the other end.  They are going to give themselves a chance, get a shot, get a rebound and give ourselves another chance.  When they are on the same page, that’s all that matters.”

Delaware Falls to Northeastern

The Blue Hens slipped into a third-place tie with the opposition Huskies after Northeastern’s 64-53 win at Delaware.

The visitors from Boston rode the three-ball on a hot night from the beyond the arc, connecting with 12 attempts to just one for Delaware (12-7, 5-3), which played from behind most of the evening.

The Blue Hens’ Nicole Enabosi added to her double double collection with 16 points and 12 rebounds while grabbing three steals.

Justina Mascaro scored 11 for the home team while Kiersten West had nine points.

Northeastern’s Jess Genco had 18 points and four of the 3-pointers along with seven assists while Claudia Ortiz had 14 points and also nailed four treys.

“My hat goes off to Northeastern,” said Delaware first-year coach Natasha Adair. “They’re a team that has really good discipline and team chemistry, but at the end of the day, when you look at the different stats we pretty much won every offensive statistical category except 3-point field goals.

“And you can’t trade threes for twos. We came out of the gate and they were on fire. We spotted them the first 23-12 (after one quarter) and whenever you give a team that much momentum, you’re constantly clawing your way back the whole game,” she said.

“We’re disappointed because you have to protect home court.”

UNCW visits on Sunday at 1 p.m., marking the first time former Old Dominion coach Karen Barefoot makes her return to play Delaware in conference competition as coach of the Seahawks.

The bigger storyline will be the first appearance in the Bob Carpenter Center by former longtime Blue Hens coach Tina Martin, who stepped down after last season and now is on Barefoot’s staff.

Villanova Slams Xavier

In the only other local game in D-1 on the Guru’s Friday night card, The Wildcats got their second half of Big East Conference competition off to a blazing start cruising over host Xavier 89-50 at the Musketeers’ Cintas Center in Cincinnati.

Villanova (16-5, 6-4 Big East) completed a sweep of the season series with Xavier (9-12, 2-8) shooting 37-of-60 from the field for 61.7 percent.

Going wire to wire in front, senior Alex Louin had a season-high 24 points off 9-of-14 from the field, including a 50 percent 5-for-10 on three-pointers.

Jannah Tucker had 12 points, shooting 5-for-5, including 2-for-2 on the three ball while Adrianna Hahn was perfection to get her 10 points with 4-for-4 from the field and 2-for-2 on long range attempts.

Villanova, which is 10-1 all-time against Xavier, again stayed under double digits on miscues, committing just nine turnovers.

The Wildcats’ firepower was the best marksmanship by a Big East women’s team since Creighton was 37-60 on Jan. 11, 2014.

“We just had one of those nights where we made everey shot,” longtime Villanova coach Harry Perretta said. “And then we had 10 threes at the half and we were able to get 50 points.

“That’s demoralizing for the other team. That’s what DePaul does to you. They come out and they make 10 or 11 threes and they just demoralize you.”

On Sunday Villanova will head to Butler at 1 p.m. in Indianapolis trying to get a split on the season after the Bulldogs had won at Villanova earlier this month.

Meanwhile, just two games are on the Guru’s local Saturday card. Rider will host Fairfield at 2 p.m. at Alumni Gym in Lawrenceville, N.J., trying to get a sweep on the season series with the Stags in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

Rutgers will try to get back on the winning track visiting Indiana in the Big 10. Just eight games are left on the Scarlet Knights’ regular season slate as Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer tries to get at least six of them to reach 1,000 career wins.

However, after meeting the Hoosiers, the next four are at Maryland, home against Michigan, at Ohio State and home against Maryland before finishing out visiting Wisconsin, hosting Iowa, and traveling to Northwestern.

And that’s your report.