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, February 17, 2018

The Guru Report: Saint Joseph’s Rallies Past La Salle While Penn and Princeton Finish Weekend Road Sweep

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA — Spotting La Salle an 11-point lead in the second quarter, Saint Joseph’s late season surge was reflected with a rally of tidal wave proportions as the Hawks produced a thunderous finish, including a near fourth-quarter shutout, to celebrate Senior Day Saturday afternoon with a 70-49 triumph in an Atlantic 10 game played at home in Hagan Arena.

The victory, the fourth straight, completed a season sweep of the Explorers with the earlier 75-64 win at La Salle late last month also counting in the final Big 5 standings that had Penn and Villanova land tied at the top.

In the only other two games Saturday involving Guru local teams, the Ivy 1-2 punch of Princeton and Penn completed sweeps of their New York road swing with Princeton beating Columbia 74-46 at the Lions’ Levien Gymnasium in New York City while Penn handled Cornell 53-39 at the Big Red’s Newman Arena in Ithaca making it two straight nights the Quakers’ opposition didn’t get past scoring 39 points.

Meanwhile, back here on Hawk Hill after ending  the third quarter with a 49-47 lead, Saint Joseph’s (14-12, 9-5 Atlantic 10) outscored the Explorers 21-2 in the fourth quarter with La Salle’s two points not occurring until Rayshel Brown’s jump shot with 1 minute, 37 seconds left in the game.

Echoing what has been a recent trend in the area and elsewhere involving rallies and defensive actions, the the Hawks’ stand in the last period was their best in limiting the opposition since the NCAA women switched three seasons ago from two 20-minute halves to four 10-minute quarters.

The win moved Saint Joseph’s into a tie for fifth in the conference sharing identical records with George Washington, which comes visiting Tuesday night at 7 p.m. in what will be the Hawks’ final home game on the regular season schedule.

They will then finish up next Saturday at Fordham and having beaten Davidson on the road before time expired Wednesday, Saint Joseph’s clinched a home-opener in the first round of the A-10 tournament against an opponent to be determined at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 27.

Saint Joseph’s needs one more win, short of not capturing the A-10 tourney title that leads to an automatic NCAA bid, to become eligible for an at-large invite to the WNIT.

Following the A-10 home openers, the winners will move on to join the three teams at the top with byes at the completion of the conference tournament the following Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in Richmond, Va.

“Defensively, I thought the second half was terrific for us,” said Saint Joseph’s veteran coach Cindy Griffin. “From the jump, we started getting some steals and easy baskets and I thought we did a real nice job on the perimeter players.

“La Salle has some weapons and we were able to shut them down in the second half.”

As for what’s ahead, “We just won our fourth game in a row, we’re playing well, we’re playing how we know how to play. We have to be opportunistic when we have these situations.”

Sarah Veilleux had a game-high 19 points while Chelsea Woods had 17 points and nine rebounds, Amanda Fioravanti came off the bench to sizzle with 12 points off 6-for-8 shooting from the field along with three steals, and Alyssa Monaghan had 10 points.

Adreanna Miller had 13 points for La Salle (8-19, 3-11) while Amy Griffin scored 11 and Ashanti Freeland grabbed 10 rebounds.

Saint Joseph’s forced 18 turnovers leading to a 23-4 advantage in points in transition and a 38-28 advantage inside the paint.

Being it senior day, though there’s one home game left Tuesday, and then another a week later in the A-10 tourney, and possibly at least one more if the Hawks land in the WNIT, the school paid farewell to a large contingent of departing players.

Honored in postgame ceremonies were Adashia Franklyn, whose mother Marilyn Stephens is an all-time Temple great and member of the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame, Woods, Candace Belvedere, and while honored last year but still around due to injuries and transfer issues, Amanda Fioravanti and Jaryn Garner.

Also a senior, but eligible next year due to missing two seasons due to a stroke she suffered just before enrolling as a freshman, is Avery Marz, a recent winner of the Most Courageous Award from the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association and one from the United States Basketball Writers Association.

Marz will receive the USBWA Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award at the NCAA Women’s Final Four in Columbus, Ohio, at the end of March.

“The ‘18 Class was really a party of five, if you will, and then with the injuries and transfers we do lose a lot but we still want to focus on this year and there’s a lot to be done yet, so today was merely a timeout,” Griffin said.

Princeton and Penn Complete Ivy Series Sweep of Columbia and Cornell

For the second night in a row, Penn tamped down the opposition to 39 points and won at Cornell 53-39 to stay a game behind Princeton, which beat Columbia 74-46.

In the race for the four slots (men and women each) in the second annual Ivy tourney, returning to Penn’s Palestra next month, Dartmouth, which upset Yale in overtime Friday night, completed a weekend sweep winning at Brown 77-60 in Providence, R.I.

The Big Green (14-9, 6-4) in Friday’s win at Yale got a career-high 29 points from senior Kate Letkewicz. Her first foul shot and point of the night gave her 1,000 for her career, a milestone achieved by 16 other Dartmouth players in the program’s history.

“Tonight was a really pivotal night for our program,” said Dartmouth coach Belle Koclanes, after the win at Yale.

The Saturday win over Brown (14-9, 2-8) officially eliminated the Bears from Ivy tournament contention, a surprise since many expected them to be there back in the beginning of the season and especially after going 12-1 in non-conference competition.

Letkewicz, likely the Ivy player of the week, followed Friday’s performance with one less point at 28, while Emily Slagle scored 15 and Cy Lippold scored 10.

“This was really a great weekend for our program,” Koclanes said Saturday. “We want to advance to postseason play, so we have to understand how important every game is. I’m proud of our team’s effort.”

Brown, which advanced to the tournament last year won by Penn over Princeton, with Harvard the other of teams in the field, got 20 points from Justine Gaziano, 15 from Dominique Leonidas, and a double double of 13 points and 11 rebounds from Erika Steeves.

Yale, meanwhile, bounced back at home in New Haven, Conn., to upset Harvard 69-63 and create a three-way tie for third among the Eli (13-10, 6-4), Harvard (14-9, 6-4) and Dartmouth.

Penn with the Harvard loss opened up a two-game lead on all three for second.

In the game won by Penn (17-6, 8-2 Ivy), the inside tandem of senior Michelle Nwokedi and freshman Eleah Parker combined for 30 points, 22 rebounds and five blocked shots.

Penn has won 11 of its last 12 overall games while Princeton (19-4, 9-1) has won 13 of 14 and six straight and holds a one-game lead over the Quakers after completing a sweep of Penn Tuesday night at home in Jadwin Gym.

The Quakers and Tigers can officially clinch tourney slots this coming weekend on the road swings at Harvard and Dartmouth, which are seemingly barring a slide from the leaders, in a three-team race with Yale for the other two slots in the conference tourney.

Penn can dispatch Harvard and Dartmouth in the race for second with a sweep next weekend, though if Yale keeps pace beating Columbia and Cornell, the Eli may still be in the hunt.

In the game against Cornell, individually, Nwokedi had 20 points and 13 rebounds against the Big Green (6-17, 2-8), while Parker had 10 points and nine rebounds. The freshman from Charlotte also had four blocks and a steal.

The last time Penn held opponents to 39 or less points was in 2015 against Yale and Columbia, though, while consecutive, the effort did not occur the same weekend.

It’s the seventh straight time Penn has held the Big Red to 55 points or less.

Penn’s New England and final road swing next weekend features a stop at Harvard Friday at 6 in Cambridge, Mass., with the visit Saturday to Dartmouth tipping off at 5 p.m. in Hanover, N.H.

Samantha Widman, with 10 points, was the only Cornell player scoring in double figures.

In Princeton’s win, Leslie Robinson was 7-of-10 from the field for a team high 14 points, while grabbing eight rebounds and dishing five assists.

The freshmen tandem of Carlie Littlefield and reserve Abby Meyers each scored 12 points with Meyers grabbing seven rebounds.

It took a little extra to put the Lions away after the home team finished the first quarter trailing by a mere bucket 15-13.

The game between the Lions and Tigers was the fourth in the last two seasons since Meghan Griffith, a former Princeton assistant to Courtney Banghart and a native of King of Prussia in suburban Philadelphia, returned to her alma mater.

Camille Zimmerman, the leading scorer in the Ivy League, was held to 10 points for Columbia, shooting 3-of-18 from the field. She also grabbed nine rebounds and dealt eight assists.

Riley Casey also scored 10 points for the Lions.

Princeton’s New England tip times next weekend will be at 7 each night, beginning Friday at Dartmouth and then Saturday at Harvard with the game televised on NESN besides both games, as usual, carried on the Ivy Network.

And that’s the report with a larger one coming after Sunday’s action.

The Guru Report: Penn and Princeton Get Easy Ivy Wins at Columbia and Cornell

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

NEW YORK — Penn exploded from a narrow four-point halftime lead Friday night to roll over Columbia 75-39 here at the Lions’ Levien Gymnasium to get back on the winning track after being the victim of a 60-40 rout at Princeton Tuesday that knocked the Quakers back into second place in the Ivy League.

Meanwhile in upstate New York, Princeton easily blasted Cornell 72-40 in Newman Arena in Ithaca to stay full steam ahead with the Tigers’ fifth straight win and 12th in 13 games.

On Saturday both winners reverse locations having taken the four-hour bus trip with Princeton tipping off here at 4 p.m. against Columbia (7-17, 1-8 Ivy League) while Penn (16-6, 7-2) will take on the Big Red at 6.

In the win here, the Quakers scored the first 11 points of the third quarter to place the Lions deep in the rear view mirror.

The three-ball that failed Penn against the Tigers was more successful this time around with the Quakers shooting 12-for-27 from beyond the arc.

Starter Ashley Russell had three on the way to 14 points while Phoebe Sterba hit four coming off the bench and also scored 14 points while Anna Ross was the third Penn player in double figures with 12 points and the all-time career assists leader added four to her total to help the Quakers sweep the season series.

On the inside, reigning Ivy player of the year Michelle Nwokedi had a near double double with nine points and 10 rebounds while blocking three shots and grabbing two steals. Freshman Eleah Parker had eight points, five rebounds, blocked a shot and grabbed three steals.

Columbia star Camille Zimmerman had 12 points and 10 rebounds. 

“I Thought we played really well for 40 minutes, especially in the second  half,  defensively,” said Penn coach Mike McLaughlin. “I thought we were as good as can be. Zimmerman got in foul trouble so she played a little soft and that helped us.

“Cornell is always a challenge so  we need to be well prepared against them.”

In the win by Princeton (18-4, 8-1), the Tigers held Cornell (6-16, 2-7) without a field goal out of the gate until the last eight seconds of the opening quarter.

With Courtney Banghart being able to rest her players, sensation Bella Alerie had 18 points, nine rebounds, four blocks, and three steals in 21 minutes of action.

Sydney Jordan had 12 points, shooting a perfect 6-for-6 from the field, while reserve Tia Weledji had 11 points and Leslie Robinson dealt eight assists.

Stephanie Umeh was the sole Cornell player in double figures, scoring 12 points.

Elsewhere in the league, Harvard won at Brown 86-74 to hold third place a game behind Penn, while in an upset of sorts Dartmouth topped host Yale 64-62 in overtime to move into a tie for fourth, making it essentially a five-team race on the women’s side for the four berths at next month’s second annual Ivy tourney, returning to Penn’s Palestra.

Villanova Handled at Marquette

In one of the tougher Big East rode trips of the season Villanova dropped a matinee game to frontrunning Marquette 90-69 in Milwaukee, Wis.

The Wildcats (20-6, 10-5 Big East) seemed poised for a potential upset, rallying to within 52-50 late in the third quarter before Marquette (18-8, 12-3) answered with a 7-0 run.

Alex Louin had 20 points for Villanova, while Mary Gedaka and Megan Quinn each scored 10 points.

Natisha Hiedeman had a game-high 26 points for the Golden Warriors, while Erika Davenport had 16 points and eight rebounds, and Allazia Blockton and Danielle King each scored 15 points.

Louin’s points moved her past current Drexel coach Denise Dillon into ninth all-time on Villanova’s scoring list with 1,365 points.

Villanova heads to a Sunday game in Chicago against DePaul at 3 p.m. with the host Blue Demons looking to bounce back from Friday’s one-point loss at home to Georgetown and also seeking a split with the Wildcats who took the first game decisively last month back on the Main Line.

Sunday’s game will air on FS1.

Delaware Upset Bid Over James Madison Falls Short

Poised to force overtime, Delaware’s comeback against frontruning James Madison was stopped when Neumann-Goretti grad Kamiah Smalls on an area homecoming visit blocked Bailey Kargo’s attempted trey into the hands of Dukes teammate Lexie Barrier and the visitors escaped 56-53 in a Colonial Athletic Association game at the Blue Hens’ Bob Carpenter Center in Newark, Del.

The win enabled JMU (17-8, 13-1 CAA) to make a small increase to its lead over idle Drexel by 1.5 games.

Smalls had 11 points and Barrier had 14 while Kelly Koshuta had 16 points.

Delaware (15-9, 8-5) trailed by as many as eight points earlier in the fourth quarter.

Nicole Enabosi tacked on another double double with the Blue Hens, scoring 17 points and grabbing 11 rebounds while also blocking four shots.

“We put our heart in everything and it’s tough to let this one go, but you have to have a short memory and we can’t this hangover into Sunday’s game,” said Delaware coach Natasha Adair.

“This felt like March basketball already and for us to be playing some of our best basketball heading into March, then I feel good about this team.”

Delaware won’t have to travel far to the conference tourney, which is at Drexel this season and down in Newark next year.

Sunday is senior day and the Blue Hens will host Charleston at 1 p.m.

Rider Falls at Niagara

The Broncs were also victims among the Guru locals of a rally that fell short in the fourth quarter as Niagara beat Rider 69-61 in a Metro Atlantic Athletic Contest at the Taps Gallaghger Center in upstate New York near Buffalo.

Stella Johnson and Kamila Hoskova combined to score 45 of the total points by the Broncs (11-15, 8-7 MAAC). Hoskova had 25 points, aided by 11 of 13 on the foul line, while Johnson scored 20.  Lexi Posset had a career-high 14 points.

“We picked a bad time for one of our worst shooting nights of the year,” said Rider coach Lynn Milligan. “We battled tonight. Sixty is our magic number and even shooting badly if we get a couple more stops, we’re on the plus side. Defensively, our effort was there, but we just got worn down on a couple of possessions.”

Niagara (10-16, 7-8) snapped a two-game losing streak.

Rider will stay in the area, moving on Sunday to Canisius for a 2 p.m. game that will be televised on ESPN3.

Looking Ahead

On Saturday, besides the two Ivy games already mentioned, Saint Joseph’s will be looking for a sweep of La Salle when the Hawks host the Explorers at 1 p.m. in an Atlantic 10 game at Hagan Arena.

The previous game won at Tom Gola Arena also counted in the final Big Five standings.

In the Patriot League, the two area teams meet each other with Lafayette visiting Lehigh at Stabler Arena at 1 p.m.

On Sunday, besides the games already mentioned, Temple, trying to stop a losing streak, has the misfortune of next up being a visit to No. 1 and unbeaten Connecticut at 2 p.m. at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn. The game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network.

The Owls already lost to the Huskies last month at home in McGonigle Hall.

Drexel will host William & Mary in a CAA game at 2 p.m. in the Dragons’ Daskalakis Athletic Center.

And that’s the report.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Bob Heller’s Philly WBB Small College Report: The D3 Edition

A new enhanced substitution

By Bob Heller (@Bob_Heller1)

The Division III season is winding down for our area women’s basketball teams as the playoff pictures become clear across the five area conferences, the Colonial States Athletic Conference (CSAC), the Centennial Conference, the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) and the MAC Freedom and MAC Commonwealth conferences.  

There was plenty of D3 action this past Wednesday night and last week as some area teams continue to jockey for playoff positions while others were just playing out the rest of the regular season which ends this Saturday…This week’s report brings you both….
A First Round Bye on the Line in the CSAC…
The big game amongst the Philly D3 squads was on the campus of Neumann University as the Knights hosted Gwynedd Mercy University in a divisional crossover game that would determine the #2 seed in the upcoming CSAC Tournament. 

   The Griffins, behind Olivia Roseman’s 21 points defeated the Knights 83-63 to secure the CSAC North Division title and the #2 seed and a bye in their upcoming conference tournament.  
Gwynedd Mercy improves to 13-2 in conference games and 16-5 overall.  The Knights who secured the #3 seed despite the loss are 12-3 in the CSAC and 17-7 overall
A 7-2 run by the Griffins in the first quarter propelled Gwynedd Mercy to a 23-15 lead after one period.  .The Knights clawed their way back in the second using a 12-3 run to take a 27-26 lead midway through the period.  The Griffins would respond emphatically, closing the quarter with a 13-2 run to lead by ten the break, 39-29.
Up ten entering the third, Gwynedd Mercy outscored the Knights, 25-21 in the quarter, ending the frame with a 64-50 lead. 

 Neumann shrunk the advantage to ten with 5:09 to play (72-62). After four-straight points from Roseman, Susan Bossler hit from downtown with her first three ball of the game to put Gwynedd in the driver's seat 79-62. The team ended the contest on an 11-1 run to account for the 83-63 win.
Cabrini  Remains Perfect in CSAC Play; Wins 20th Straight
Cabrini University continues to roll extending their winning streak to 20 straight games Wednesday night with a 70-41 win over Immaculata.  The Cavs remain perfect in the CSAC at 15-0 and sport a 22-2 overall mark.
Sabrina Hackendorn picked up her fifth double-double of the season with 16 points and 11 rebounds.  Nomi Washington also contributed 16 points while Kate Lannon came off the bench to score 10.   Theresa Kearney led Immaculata with 13 points.
Cabrini led this one wire-to-wire, jumping out to an early 14-3 lead and held the Mighty Macs without a field goal until the early part of the second quarter.  Kearney drained a three-pointer early in the second to end the IU field goal drought while the Cavs offense extended the lead to 13 by halftime, 35-21.  
The Cavs pushed the lead to 20 heading into the fourth quarter and a 12-2 run to open the final period dashed any hope of a Mighty Macs rally and expanding their lead to 32 points before settling in for the 29-point win.
Rosemont Wins Regular Season Finale…Onto playoffs
Rosemont concluded their regular season with a 79-64 win over Cairn to finish the regular season with a 9-7 conference mark and a 15-10 overall record.  The Ravens hold down the #6 seed for the upcoming CSAC Tournament.
Leilani Naone-Carter led Rosemont with 16 points.  Kira Lewis and Ke’alohilani Naone-Carter added 13 apiece.  Shawn Dowd chipped in 12 points.  Payton Emrick and Victoria Stum led the Highlanders with 17 and 11 points respectively
The Highlanders jumped out to a 22-13 lead in the first quarter and pushed the lead into double figures before the ravens rallied to cut the deficit to seven, 35-28 at the half..  An 8-0 run by the ravens in the third quarter closed the gap to one at 40-39 before the Highlanders closed out the quarter on an 11-5 tilt to again lead by seven after three, 51-44.
The Ravens opened the fourth quarter with a 14-4 flourish to regain the lead 58-55 and continued to roll with an 11-4 spurt to push their lead to ten 69-59 with 2:49 remaining and finished game outscoring the Highlanders in the period 35-13 to complete the comeback win.
Cairn (10-14, 5-10 CSAC) finishes their season with a home game against Neumann on Saturday.
In other CSAC games last week
Cabrini recorded wins last week over Notre Dame University of Maryland (72-34) and Rosemont (80-63).  The two wins secure the top seed in the upcoming CSAC Championship Tournament which begins on Monday.
Against the Ravens last Saturday, the Cavs forced a season high 27 turnovers and capitalized on most of them scoring 27 points.  
Meghan Matthews and Nomi Washington led the Cavs with 19 points apiece while the freshman duo of Kate Lannon and Lexi Edwards had nine points apiece.   The Ravens were led by Jasmyn Parker’s 14 points.  Shawn Dowd and Ayanna Thompson had 13 and ten respectively.
Earlier in the week Cabrini had little trouble with Notre Dame, using a 20-4 run after ND scored the first six points of the game to take control and never look back.  Kate Skalski led the Cavs with 17 points (5-6 3 pt. FG) while Matthews chipped in 13.
Neumann University, the second place team in the CSAC South also won both of their games to keep pace with Cabrini and The Knights also defeated Rosemont last week, 89-65 and followed that with an 81-54 win over Cedar Crest.  
Nafisa Saunders and Minika Glenn led the attack against Cedar Crest with 23 and 21 points respectively.  The two teams produced four ties in the first quarter before the Knights took a 19-15 lead after one and pushed the margin to double-digits in the second quarter.  Cedar crest closed the gap to eight by halftime but Glenn’s basket to open the third quarter again pushed the lead to double digits where it remained for the rest of the game.
Saunders exploded for 36 points against Rosemont, including a 22-for-25 effort from the free throw line while Glenn tallied 17.  Lauren Legler added 12.
Rosemont built a double digit lead early in the second quarter before the Knights battled back to tie the game at 30.  Rosemont held a 38-36 lead at the half.
Neumann dominated the third quarter and started to pull away, outscoring Rosemont 38-9, closing the quarter on a 13-2 run to lead 74-47 after three quarters and led by 20 or more points the rest of the way.
Parker and Dowd again led the Ravens with 16 points apiece.
Gwynedd Mercy improved to 12-2 in league play with a 61-28 win over Clark Summit University Monday night to remain in the hunt for the #2 seed and a first round bye in the CSAC tournament.  Larissa Leyes and Chyanne Fine led the Griffins with nine points apiece as 13 player tallied points in the box score.
On Saturday, the Griffins defeated Marywood 79-71 behind Julianna Hoisington’s season-high 19 points.  Allison Szyszko added 13 points while Fine chipped in 12.
Immaculata (7-17, 6-9 CSAC) and Cairn (10-13, 5-9 CSAC) faced each other last Wednesday with the Macs coming out on top 54-45 extending their win streak to four games.  Theresa Kearney led IU with 21 points and 12 rebounds, her fourth double-double of the season.  
The Macs built a nine point lead over the first three quarters.  Cairn would close within six in the fourth and final quarter but would come no closer.  Charlotte Camp and Aigner Bookard led the Highlanders with 11 points apiece.
On Saturday, Immaculata, needing a win to keep their playoff hopes alive, battled Keystone University.

The Mighty Macs led for three quarters before the Giants took control of the game in the fourth quarter and built an eight point lead with 1:55 left.

    A late rally brought the Macs within one 77-76 but a potential game winning shot by Annie Kohutka hit the back of the rim and the Giants hung onto win while the Mighty Macs were eliminated from playoff contention.   Kearney scored a career-high 25 points to lead IU while Amber Ballinger added 23 points.
Regular Season Finales in the NJAC..Three area Teams in Playoffs

Over in the NJAC, all three area teams have qualified for the NJAC Tournament with the regular season ending Wednesday night.
The College of New Jersey will enter the NJAC tournament as the #2 seed riding a six game winning streak after a 57-41 win over Rutgers-Newark Wednesday night.   

The Lions finish with a 15-3 conference mark and a 20-5 overall record under first year head coach Chessie Jackson.
Jen Byrne led the Lions with 23 points with Charlotte Schum adding 11.
TCNJ jumped out to a 15-6 lead after one quarter only to see the Scarlet Raiders comeback and close the gap to two by halftime 28-26 and shaved another point off the Lions lead after a back and forth third quarter, 39-38.

  The Lions limited the Scarlet Raiders to just three fourth quarter points and used a 16-0 run to take control of the game en route to the 57-41 win.
 Last Saturday, TCNJ recorded a 62-59 upset of first place #22 Montclair State to clinch a first round bye for the NJAC playoffs.
In the first half, the Red Hawks jumped out to a 22-11 lead, however the Lions took the lead with a 30-9 run that spanned the second and third quarter. 

Two three pointers in the third from Samantha Famulare pushed the Lions lead to nine 40-31 before the Red Hawks closed the gap to two by the end of the period 46-44.
In the fourth quarter, the Red Hawks closed within one before Jen Byrne knocked down a three pointer to put the Lions back up by four, 60-56 with 1:31 left.

 Again the Red Hawks closed within one, 60-59 with 18 seconds left before Famulare connected on a pair of free throws to provide the final margin.
Famulare led the Lions with 20 points while Byrne added 17.
Rowan meanwhile closed their regular season with their fourth straight win, 71-47 over Ramapo to secure the #4 seed in the NJAC Tournament. 

And will host William Paterson, the #5 seed on Saturday. Rowan finished the regular season with a 12-6 conference mark and a 15-9 overall record.
Dominique Peters led Rowan with 16 points while April Szymczyk added 12 points. Alex Raring and Paige Caldwell produced nine and eight points respectively.
The Profs outscored the Roadrunners, 19-0 in the first quarter to begin the game. Five different players contributed to the run, led by Raring and Szymczyk with six points apiece. Rowan did not trail for the remainder of the contest. 

Its largest lead was 27 (31-4) with 3:55 to go in the second. The closest Ramapo came was 15 points at two different points in the third stanza.
Rowan won both of their games last week, defeating Kean University 76-67 on Wednesday and Rutgers-Newark 88-58 on Saturday.  
Alex Raring led the Profs with 17 points against Kean while Summer Crilley and Olivia Rulon added 13 points apiece.  April Szymczyk recorded a double-double with ten points and 12 rebounds, her fifth of the season.
On Saturday against Rutgers-Newark, the Profs final home game of the regular season, Rowan’s three seniors combined for 52 points with Raring leading the way with 21.  Szymczyk added 18 points and Crilley chipped in 13.  Dominque Peters had 17 to round out Rowan’s double figure scorers.
Rutgers-Camden closed out the regular season with a 79-60 loss to first place Montclair State to finish with a 14-10 overall record and an 11-7 NJAC mark.  The Scarlet Raptors will travel to play Stockton in the first round on Saturday.
Jordan Harbough led the Scarlet Raptors with a career high 20 points   Michelle Obasi added 13 points while Cara Racobaldo chipped in 11 points and had a team high eight rebounds.
The first quarter saw four ties and three lead changes before MSU came out on top with a slim15-13 advantage. 

 The Red Hawks opened the second quarter with a 13-3 run to take a double-digit lead 28-18 and finished the quarter outscoring the Scarlet Raptors 24-11 for a 398-23 lead at halftime.
Racobaldo’s trey late in the third quarter cut the Red Hawks lead to eight but this would be as close as Rutgers-Camden would get as the Red Hawks increased their lead to as many as 21 points in the fourth quarter.  
In games last week, Rutgers-Camden beat Ramapo College 58-51 on Thursday before falling to William Patterson 66-57 on Saturday.  
Against Ramapo, Jordan Harbough led R-C with 13 points.  Michelle Obasi and Gabby Greene added 12 and 11 points respectively.  

  Obasi was the Scarlet Raptors leading scorer in the loss to Patterson with 14 points while Shane Holmes added 13 points.
Haverford Secures #3 Seed in Centennial…Ursinus Still Battling for Post-Season Berth
Haverford College secured the #3 seed for the upcoming Centennial Conference Tournament, edging Swarthmore 59-58 for their 20th win of the season. The Fords enter the Centennial Conference tournament with a 20-5 overall record and a 16-4 mark in the Centennial Conference.  
The contest featured five ties and five lead changes before the Fords were able to stave off one last challenge from the Garnet.

  Sierra Berkel tied a career best with 24 points while Samantha Wetzel notched her 10th double-double of the season with 15 points and a season-best 18 rebounds to lead the Fords.
Abigail Pirron and Isabelle Ewart had 13 points apiece to lead the Garnet.
The Garnet led 16-11 after one quarter before the Fords used a 25-13 second quarter to take a 36-29 lead at halftime. 

 Swarthmore opened the third quarter with a 10-2 run to reclaim the lead at 39-38.  Berkel and Wetzel then keyed a 7-0 run to put the Fords back on top 45-39 before the Garnet countered with a 6-0 run to close the quarter with the game tied at 45-45.
In the fourth quarter neither team could pull away from each other before the Fords got two buckets from Wetzel to go up by six 57-51 with 2:57 left.

  Swarthmore followed with two straight baskets to close within two 57-55 with 28 seconds left.  Macy Goldbach sank two free throws for the Fords with 21 seconds to make the score 59-55. 

 Swarthmore’s Kendall Trubus sank a three-pointer with 16 seconds left to close within one 59-58.  The Garnet then forced a turnover and had a chance to win it but turned the ball over themselves as the clock was winding down.
Ursinus meanwhile is currently tied for the fifth and final playoff spot with McDaniel as both teams sport identical 10-9 conference marks.

   Both teams will face tough opponents in their regular season finales on Saturday as the Bears host first place Gettysburg and McDaniel travels to play second place Muhlenberg.   McDaniel and Ursinus split their two games earlier this season.  A Bears win will give Ursinus the fifth and final playoff spot.
 Area MAC Teams Finishing Regular Season

In the Mid Atlantic Conference all four area teams are finishing up the season having been eliminated from playoff contention last week.

Arcadia recorded a 60-44 win over Widener on Tuesday night for their second straight win.  The Scarlet and Grey improved to 10-14 on the year and 5-10 in conference play. The Pride drop to 11-13 overall and 5-10 in the MAC Commonwealth.

A trio of Arcadia players reached double figures to pace the Knights with Taylor Dunn leading the way with 19 points.  Jamie Manzo added 16 while Taylor Fritz chipped in 12.  Kyra Schenk led Widener with nine points.

Both teams got off to a slow start with Arcadia taking a 9-6 lead after one quarter and a 26-22 lead at halftime.

  Arcadia continued to extend the lead in the third quarter, outscoring the Pride 19-6.  Arcadia built a 21 point lead early in the fourth quarter before settling in for the 16 point win.

Arcadia hosts Hood College while Widener hosts Alvernia in their final games on Saturday.

Eastern University used a monster rally in the third quarter to earn a 59-52 win over Delaware Valley University on Tuesday night.  Eastern improves to 5-19 overall and 2-11in MAC Freedom games.  Delaware Valley falls to 7-17 overall and 4-9 in league play.

Amanda Riiff led the eagles with 12 points while Taylor Price chipped in 11.  Taylor Azer added ten points.   Danielle Skedzielewski led the Aggies with 15 points.  Amber Grohowski and Ashley Smink added 12 and 11 points respectively.

The Aggies jumped all over the host Eagles in the first two quarters, opening up a 28-8 lead before the Eagles shut them down for the final four minutes of the second quarter while scoring four points to trail 28-12 at halftime.

The Eagles trailed 35-17 with six minutes left in the third quarter when Riiff sank a floater in the lane to trigger a 16-2 run to close out the quarter and cut the deficit to four 37-33.

  The run continued into the fourth quarter as Eastern outscored Delaware Valley 11-3 in the first three minutes to take a 44-40  lead with a basket by Regie Robinson putting the Eagles ahead.  

Skedzielewski’s two free throws with 2:17 left tied the game at 50-50 but the Eagles finished with a 9-2 run to earn the win.

Delaware Valley hosts DeSales while Eastern travels to Wilkes on Saturday for their final games of the season.

The Guru Report: Saint Joseph’s Wins at the Finish While Rutgers Rights Itself at Wisconsin

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

Just four games were on the local D-1 schedule, but three of the Guru locals posted wins and Temple almost rallied all the way to make it a sweep on Wednesday night.

Starting off with Saint Joseph’s, which is beginning to gain traction and play like the Hawks did when they started the season 5-0, Chelsea Woods’ layup with five seconds left in regulation gave the visitors a 64-62 win over host Davidson in an Atlantic 10 game at Belk Arena in North Carolina that completed a 2-0 road sweep after Sunday’s stunning upset of Duquesne in Pittsburgh.

At one point, it didn’t seem Woods’ heroics would be needed with Saint Joseph’s (13-12, 8-5 Atlantic 10) holding a 12-point lead in the second half, but that margin got erased by Davidson and it was tied 62-62 with less than a minute left and the Wildcats had possession.

But Hawks junior Kristalyn Baisden forced a tie-up with 34 seconds remaining in regulation and Saint Joseph’s regained control of its night. Following a timeout, the Hawks chewed up some clock seconds, then got the ball to Woods on the left baseline and she drove through the paint in traffic to connect with the winning basket.

Woods had a game-high 17 points and grabbed six rebounds while dealing two assists. Amanda Fioravanti added 16 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Adashia Franklyn had 12 points and eight rebounds.

Justine Lyon, who after Woods’ basket, attempted to force overtime but the ball was off the rim. She finished with 18 points.

Saint Joseph’s appears to have gained a home game in the opening round of the A-10 tournament later this month since they have but three games remaining and hold a tie-break with Davidson (10-16, 5-8)  after the win.

The Hawks head home for Saturday’s senior day at Hagan Arena at 1 p.m. hosting La Salle and going for a serie sweep after earlier beating the Explorers at Tom Gola Arena in a matchup that also counted in the final Big 5 standings.

Rutgers Rallies at Wisconsin

After coming up mostly empty through the toughest stretch on the Big 10 schedule, Rutgers took advantage of an easier outing, though it took until the second half when the Scarlet Knights broke free for a 63-50 victory over Wisconsin at the Kohl Center in Madison.

The win by the Scarlet Knights (19-9, 7-7 Big Ten) put them back on a positive path toward the NCAA tournament and now they have a week off before hosting Iowa in a big game next Wednesday at 7 p.m. on senior night. They then will finish out the regular season on the road at Northwestern in Evanston, Ill.

Tyler Scaife did the heavy lifting as she has had to do most of the season, scoring a game-high 25 points against the Badgers (9-18, 2-12) while Stasha Carey had 12 points and former Saint Joseph’s player Kathleen Fitzpatrick came off the bench to score a season-high nine points.

Marsha Howard had 12 points for Wisconsin.

The stalled countdown to Hall of Fame Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer’s 1000th career victory, including previous stops at Cheyney and Iowa, got moving again and with a mark of 996-399 she is four away.

That would target the second game of the Big Ten tournament if Rutgers wins the rest of the way.

Scaife now has 2,154 career points and needs 58 to move into second past WNBA veteran star Cappie Pondexter, who earlier Wednesday was announced as a free-agent signee with the Los Angeles Sparks.

She had been in her native Chicago with the Sky and previously played on the New York Liberty and Phoenix Mercury, where she won a pair of championships.

Sue Wicks, a retired WNBA star who played for New York, her hometown, is the all-time Rutgers leader. Scaife is the third of only three Scarlet Knights to score over 2,000 career points.

Penn State rallies over Northwestern

Down 13 points with a minute left in the third period, Penn State caught fire at home in the Bryce Jordan Center in State College and moved to a 67-59 victory by outscoring the Wildcats 35-14 the rest of the way in a Big Ten game.

The win brought the Lady Lions to 15-12 overall and 6-8 in the conference while Northwestern fell to 9-18 and 2-11.

It was the 13th straight win over Northwestern in the series, the longest of any in the 26 seasons of Big Ten membership by Penn State, whose last loss to the Wildcats was in 2008, a decade ago.

Teniya Page had a game-high 22 points for the Lady Lions while Amari Carter had 17 points.

Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah had 21 points and 14 rebounds for Northwestern.

Temple Rally Dies at Wichita State

The Owls, on their first trip to new American Athletic Conference member Wichita State in Kansas, ran into a Shockers team that apparently quickly got over the loss and 124 points it gave up to top-ranked Connecticut on the road last Saturday.

Temple outscored the home team by seven in the final two quarters but the points weren’t enough to snap the current losing streak as the Owls lost 88-81 and fell to 10-15 overall and 2-10 in The American.

Those fans who plan to attend the conference tournament at the usual Mohegan Sun near New London, Conn., next month will get no hotel saver this year with the Owls doomed to play the first day of action.

On the other hand, well, never mind. And never mind, but we must for the record, note the next stop on the road is Sunday at 2 p.m. against Connecticut, but it is early and in a small mileage server, the game is in Hartford at the XL Center and for those who would like a bigger mileage saver, the game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network.

Though the comment will have no effect on Sunday’s differential, UConn coach Geno Auriemma, in discussing the conference after his unbeaten Huskies handled then-No. 4 Louisville, mentioned that Temple would be a much different team had the injuries to key roster players not occurred.

As for the game Wednesday in the Midwest, Tanaya Atkinson scored 22 points while freshman Emani Mayo scored 15 points and graduate player Mykia Jones also scored 15 for a career high and freshman Mia Davis scored 13.

Temple chopped a 16-point deficit to three before Wichita State (11-16, 6-7) applied the brakes and gained the victory.

There are no D-1 Guru locals on Thursday’s schedule but there will be a report of sorts 24 hours from now to look ahead.

And that’s all there is for this report.

Bob Heller’s Philly WBB Small College Report: The D-2 Edition

By Bob Heller (@Bob_Heller1)
 The Week in Review for Division 2 runs thru this past Tuesday.

More milestones, by players and by coaches and more playoff spots secured as we enter the home stretch of the Philadelphia area’s Division II women’s college basketball season
Hartzell Earns 100th Win as Sciences runs Streak to a Program best 17 Victories
A pair of milestones were set Tuesday night of this week as we kick off this week’s report with the hottest Division II team in the area, that being University of the Sciences.
On Tuesday, USciences Head Coach Jackie Hartzell won her 100th win as the Devils head coach with a 41-32 victory over Goldey-Beacom College.

  She becomes just the second women’s coach at USciences to earn 100 or more wins, joining Nate Ware who is the program’s all-time leader with 137 victories.

  Hartzell also accomplished the feat in just 143 games – faster than any basketball coach, men’s or women’s in the history of the school.
Back to the game, the win also was the team’s 17th straight, breaking the program record of 16 set back in the 2014-15 season.  

 The Devils are now 24-2 overall and 16-1 in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) and are 1½ games ahead of Jefferson University in the race for the CACC South title.
Senior Sarah Abbonizio scored 22 of the Devils’ 41 points with Laura Trisch providing the defensive spark with 10 rebounds. 

 USciences shot just 26.5% from the floor.

   The Lightning were not much better making just 28.6%. Sciences got much of their advantage on the free throw line making 11-of-14 to just 5-of-6 for the Lightning.  
The Devils have two regular season games remaining both on the road, facing Nyack College on Saturday and Chestnut Hill College the following Saturday.

 Chestnut Hill handed the Devils their only conference loss earlier this season.
Speller Nets 1,000th Point for West Chester; Hopkins Records Triple-Double
West Chester University meanwhile has put together a 14-game winning streak, having not lost a game since USciences handed the Golden Rams an 82-67 defeat back on December 19.  

 The Golden Rams currently sit at 19-4 overall and 16-3 in Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) action ahead of its home game against Lock Haven on Wednesday. 

WCU recently clinched a bye in the opening round of the PSAC Tournament as the top team in the PSAC Eastern Division. 

Their current winning streak is the second longest in program history and the Golden Rams' 14 victories in a row mark the most by a West Chester women's basketball team since the 1971-72 season.
The Golden Rams beat Cheyney in their senior day game last Saturday 98-63.  

Porscha Speller became the 20th Golden Rams player to reach 1,000 career points in the contest while Mia Hopkins recorded a triple double with 22 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists.  Hopkins also added eight steals. 

 Hopkins is just the second Golden Rams player to ever record a triple-double.
Speller was the game’s leading scorer with 27 points.  Hopkins made 10 of 13 shots from the field en route to her 22 points while Destiny Jefferson added 14.
Briana Hedgepeth led Cheyney (5-18, 3-14 PSAC) with 13 points.  Yasmine Dorrielan and Drazana Vulic had ten points apiece.
 Rams Rebound after Loss to ‘Sciences
Jefferson University meanwhile rebounded from last Wednesday’s loss to USciences with a 68- 56 victory over Bloomfield College last Saturday, knocking the Bears out of first place in the CACC North Division.  

In the game Jefferson senior Rachel Day became the Rams all-time leader in three-point field goals, making three on the afternoon to push her career total to 231.

  Day’s first three point bucket of the day made her the all-time leader in the first quarter.
Alyanna Williams led the Rams with 22 points while Jessica Kaminski chipped in 13.  Beverly Kum added 12 points while Day finished the day with 11 points.
Jefferson is 22-3 overall and 14-2 in CACC games, holding down second place in the CACC South Division. 

The Rams are idle until this Saturday when they play at CACC North leader Caldwell.   Bloomfield fell to second place and will have to face another area school in their next game.
Lincoln Wins Two Straight

That opponent would be Lincoln University.  The Lions have won two straight and have a 15-7 overall record and sit in fourth place in the highly competitive CIAA North Division (Virginia Union, Virginia State and Chowan are all regionally ranked).
The Lions won a key divisional road victory last week at Bowie State, 55-46. In that game, Michelle Fitzgerald recorded a double-double with 13 points and a career high 17 rebounds.  Teira Pendleton added 11 points while Shahra Madison chipped in ten.
Lincoln took control of the game late in the first quarter with a 9-0 run after four ties and two lead changes.  The Lions pushed the lead to 11 by halftime, 30-19.
Bowie came back in the fourth quarter, closing within three before the Lions put the game away with three free throws over the final 24 seconds.
Fitzgerald recorded her second straight double-double on Saturday with a career high 25 points and 11 rebounds as the Lions defeated Elizabeth City State 82-70. 

Shecquan Bailey added 11 points and seven assists while Pendleton chipped in ten points.  Pendleton moved into fourth place on the Lion’s all-time scoring list with her ten-point effort, giving her 1,071 for her career.
Chestnut Hill and Holy Family Secure Playoff Spots
Back to the CACC where Chestnut Hill College and Holy Family University clinched the final two playoff spots in the CACC South.  
Chestnut Hill solidified their hold on third place in the CACC South with a 91-84 overtime win over Wilmington University Tuesday night. 

 The Griffins placed six players in double figures led by senior Vicky Tumasz’s 22 points.  Cassie Sebold came off the bench to score 17 points while Shannon Glenn added 14 points.
Rounding out the double figure scorers for the Griffins were Jaeda Wildgoose and Cailey Gibson with 13 points apiece and Mary Trossi with ten.
The Griffins led by as many as seven points in the fourth quarter only to see the Wildcats erase the lead and go up by three, 74-71 with 2:14 left.  

Wilmington however would not score the rest of regulation and the Griffins got three free throws, a single from Trossi and a pair from Wildgoose with ten seconds left to send the game into overtime.

Wilmington scored the first points of the overtime and the two teams exchanged points until a Wildgoose layup with 1:58 left put the Griffins back on top 82-80. 

 Four straight CHC free throws in the final minute put the Griffins on top 86-82 as they started to pull away, scoring five of the game’s final seven points to make the final score 91-84.
Chestnut Hill also went 1-1 last week with a win against Georgian Court University, defeating the Lions 73-67.   Wildgoose led the Griffins with 17 points while Sebold added 14.  Trossi chipped in 11 while Tomiaya Graham had ten points.
Caldwell handed the Griffins their only loss of the week, 80-68 on Saturday, allowing the Cougars to reclaim first place in the CACC North.  Wildgoose led the team with 22 points.  
Holy Family clinched the fourth and final playoff spot with a 77-59 win over Georgian court University Tuesday night. The win was their third straight.  

The Tigers are now 10-14 overall and 9-7 in conference games.  Fifth place Goldey-Beacom could possibly tie the Tigers with nine conference wins but the Tigers hold the tiebreaker having swept the season series against the Lightning.
The Tigers placed all five starters in double figures, led by Anjelai Hayes’ 19 points.  Casey Schweitzer and Elizabeth Radley chipped in 15 and 13 points respectively. 

Casey Thomas (12) and Alexis Hoefstaedter (11) rounded out the double figure scorers.
Georgian Court led by six after one quarter and seven at the half, 32-25.  The Tigers scored the first seven points of the third quarter to tie the game at 32-32 and closed out the quarter on a 10-6 flourish to lead 54-50 after three.
Holy Family dominated the fourth quarter, outscoring the Lions 23-9 to secure the win.
In the Tigers two games last week, they defeated Goldey-Beacom College 76-69 and Nyack College 75-55.  
Radley led the Tigers with 22 points in the Goldey-Beacom win while Hoefstaedter and Thomas contributed 17 and respectively.  Against Nyack, Schweitzer and Radley led the team with   21 and 14 points respectively.
The Tigers have three games remaining, playing at Concordia on 2/17, at home against Chestnut Hill on 2/21 and on the road at Jefferson on 2/24.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

AP’s Doug Feinberg Wins WBCA Mel Greenberg Media Award

Here is the WBCA release:


ATLANTA (February 14, 2018) — Doug Feinberg, the national women’s basketball writer for The Associated Press, is the recipient of the 2018 WBCA Mel Greenberg Media Award, the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association announced today.

“Doug Feinberg is an outstanding choice from what was a group of standout candidates,” said Mel Greenberg. “By now, most women’s hoops fans and beyond across the country know his work giving great coverage to worthy games, no matter what conference or division they exist, and compelling stories of players, coaches and more. In our world he is truly an impact star.”

Feinberg has dedicated the past 23 years to covering sports at The Associated Press. He was named the National Women’s Basketball writer in 2007, which was when he also took charge of the NCAA Division I AP Poll started by Mel Greenberg. The Columbia grad has also covered women’s basketball at the last three Summer Olympics and the WNBA since becoming the National Women’s Basketball at the AP. The native New Yorker has also been coaching girls high school basketball in New York City for most of the past 25 years.

Named after Mel Greenberg, the former Philadelphia Inquirer sportswriter who founded the Associated Press Top 25 women’s basketball poll, the award is presented annually to a member of the media or sports communications professional who has best displayed a commitment to women’s basketball and to advancing the role of the media in the women’s game.

 Selected by past recipients of the award, the candidate must have made a positive impact on the growth and public exposure — regional or national — of the sport, been involved in the media exposure of women’s basketball for a minimum of five years, and should be a media ambassador for the women’s game. Greenberg, the preeminent name in women’s basketball coverage, received the inaugural award in 1991.

"I am pleased to announce Doug Feinberg as this year's recipient of the WBCA Mel Greenberg Media Award," said Danielle Donehew, executive director of the WBCA. "Doug has been an extraordinary advocate for women’s basketball and has worked diligently to preserve, promote and protect the priceless stories that make up our game’s historical record. The WBCA salutes Doug for his contribution of time and talent to advance women’s basketball."

Visit   www.wbca.org/recognize/ to see a list of past recipients.

About the WBCA

Founded in 1981, the Women's Basketball Coaches Association is the professional association for coaches of women's and girls' basketball at all levels of competition.

 The WBCA offers educational resources that coaches need to help make themselves better leaders, teachers and mentors to their players; provides opportunities for coaches to connect with peers in the profession; serves as the unifying voice of a diverse community of coaches to the organizations that control the game; and celebrates those coaches, players and other individuals who excel each year and contribute to the advancement of the sport. Visit   www.WBCA.org for more details about the Association.


The Guru Report: Princeton Thumps Penn And Regains Command of the Ivy Regular Season Race

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PRINCETON, N.J. — Two months ago during the non-conference phase of Princeton’s season the Tigers got smacked up the road 70-50 by state rival Rutgers, a team that down here in Jadwin Gym 12 months earlier Princeton had delivered one of the most dreadful setbacks in the Scarlet Knights’ history.

If anything in the era of excellence under coach Courtney Banghart that is at the start of her second decade here this season the Tigers have learned to get off the mat whenever they have been knocked down.

And so it was that in a game most thought might yet be another thriller between Princeton and Penn, who started Tuesday night tied for first in the Ivy League, all the thrills belonged to the home team who trounced the Quakers 60-40 and had Tigers fans chanting on Valentine’s eve: How Sweep It Is.

The triumph followed up the traditional Ivy opener early last month at Penn’s Palestra when Princeton (17-4, 7-1 Ivy) smacked the Quakers with a 70-55 pounding that ended a five-game win streak in the series for Penn that had intensified since Mike McLaughlin took the reins two years after Banghart arrived here and performed a similar reclamation achievement.

In fact, on Penn’s side since that meeting last month, the Quakers (15-6, 6-2 Ivy) had won nine straight, including non-conference wins at Temple and  at Villanova, the first victory over the Wildcats in 17 seasons that led to becoming Philadelphia Big 5 co-champions with ‘Nova.

And freshman Eleah Parker had developed into an impact performer.

Princeton, meanwhile, stumbled out of the annual three-week exam break and was upset at Yale to fall back to the tie with the Quakers in what has become a two-team domination among the Ancient Eight.

“There was a time when the most feared road trip for everyone in the Ivies was the trip up north on the Dartmouth-Harvard weekend, said former Dartmouth coach Chris Wielgus, who, by the way coached Banghart and will be honored next month as an Ivy legend at the second annual conference tournament which will return to The Palestra.

“But it is all turned around now. It’s when teams have to come down this way to play at Penn and Princeton.”

For the last eight seasons Penn and Princeton have been the class of the league and the matchups have had storylines with Penn twice winning here on the final day of the regular season to claim the NCAA automatic bid before last year’s introduction of the four-team-each men’s and women’s combined tourney won by the Quakers women over the Tigers.

But in the same Palestra in 2015 — the last sweep of Penn by Princeton — the Tigers wrapped up the season with the completion of the first-ever perfect record in the league on the entire schedule.

As for the action on Tuesday, though sophomore 6-4 center Bella Alarie, the reigning Ivy rookie of the year, has become a Princeton staple and one who could become a future marketing face of the WNBA when her time arrives to enter the pros when many of today’s vets will be leaving, another freshman Abby Meyers out of Potomac, Md., did much of the damage.

The rookie had 17 points, echoing another rookie job performed by Carlie Littlefield in the victory in Philadelphia.

“It looks like Abby’s shooting well — she’s just better,” Banghart said. “She’s worked really hard on her vision, she’s worked really hard on her defense, she’s just doing more on the court than she’s done, which adds to her confidence.

“We’re better, the better she gets. She could have been happy to just help out and wait till next year but she wants to be involved.”

Alarie, whose second half at the Palestra finished the job on Penn the first time, this go-round had 18 points and 15 rebounds along with three blocked shots and a pair of steals.

“She’s just special. She’s learning to be a star,” said Banghart, who along in Alarie in separate events, was involved with USA Basketball competition last summer. “Plus she did a tremendous job against one of the best players in the league.”

Michelle Nwokerdi, the reigning Ivy player and defensive player of the year who had 30 points Saturday against Harvard in The Palestra, had 12 off 5-for-18 from the field and nine rebounds, while Anna Ross scored 14, but did not add one more assist to her ongoing all-time Quakers’ career total.

Rookie Parker was held to four points off 2-for-10 from the field and eight rebounds.

After a slim 18-15 Princeton lead at the end of the first quarter, the evens the rest of the way prevented Penn from closing the gap as the Tigers had a 16-5 advantage in the second quarter and 14-3 in the fourth and final period.

Princeton closed on an 11-1 run and the Tigers did not allow another field goal off the final 6:53 as Penn was held to its lowest scoring total not only of this season but in six overall seasons back to 2012.

The three points in the final quarter was the lowest by Penn since the women’s game changed three seasons ago from two 20-minute halves to four 10-minute quarters.

Princeton’s Leslie Robinson, a niece of former President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama, dealt 10 assists, the highest Tiger total since Blake Dietrick dealt that total in December, 2014.

In the old days of two seasons ago and before, next up after the second meeting between the two — the final game on the overall Ivy composite schedule — would be the wait for NCAA and WNIT selections and brackets.

But while Tuesday’s result was Game, Set, with Princeton snapping the tie and taking a one-game lead in the standings and holding a tie-breaker, the Match which leads to the NCAA field automatically won’t come until the middle of next month.

Ahead are three more back-to-back weekends and then the Ivy tourney at Penn.

“We’re going to focus on sweeps,” Banghart said. “We have a cushion. We do that and we’re (regular season) Ivy champs. And then there’s the tournament.”

For all the carping on Penn nation’s side about the tourney when the Quakers were on the high side and an upset costing an NCAA bid, now at least the world did not end here for the Philly folks, who can live to fight another day. The critics are not alone among fans bases of all the men and women in the conference.

Penn certainly has a reason to keep pushing beyond just clinching a berth.

For one, while finishing second or third is academic in terms of the Ivy semifinals, finishing second guarantees a WNIT bid, minimally, though if Penn does not achieve that, surely the Quakers would be an at-large pick.

If both teams win out from now till the championship, the loser would at least have to be discussed by the NCAA committee for an at-large bid, though Princeton as of this result would be in better shape, as Penn would have been with a victory.

By the way, following Louisville’s loss to Connecticut Monday night and with the Cardinals hanging in the Northeast until Thursday when they resume their Atlantic Coast schedule visiting Boston College, coach Jeff Walz and his staff came down here for the game.

Walz coached with Banghart in USA Basketball last summer and wanted to visit.

Next up for each is the New York Ivy swing with Penn visiting Columbia Friday at 4 p.m. on the front end of a doubleheader with the men while Princeton visits Cornell.

On Saturday, Penn heads to Cornell and Princeton has a 4 p.m. visit to Columbia.

La Salle Falls at Fordham

Penn wasn’t the only team from the Big 5 with offensive woes.

In the only other local on the Guru card, La Salle travelled to Fordham in the Bronx outside New York City for an Atlantic 10 encounter and fell to the Rams 66-45 at Rose Hill Gym.

The Explorers (8-13, 3-10 Atlantic 10) against one of the better defensive programs in the nation shot just 17-for-52 for 32.7 percent from the field and just 3-for-12 from beyond the arc.

Freshman Rayshel Brown scored 12 points, her most coming off her most minutes, playing 23, while Adreana Miller also scored 12 points.

G’mrice Davis, one of the top A-10 players, had a game-high 18 points for Fordham (20-6, 11-2), which is fighting for a bye in the first round of the conference tourney, which will be played later this month before the remaining teams in the field move on to Richmond.

Lauren Holden had 16 points and Bre Cavanaugh scored 15 while Davis and Cavanaugh combined for 17 rebounds.

Next up for La Salle is a return for the second game with Saint Joseph’s, which doesn’t count as the Big 5 matchup, which occurred and was won by the Hawks at La Salle’s Tom Gola Arena at TruMark Financial Center. Tipoff at Hagan Arena on Hawki Hill is set for 1 p.m.

Looking Ahead

Of the teams in the immediate area, everyone is out on the road Wednesday night with Saint Joseph’s playing in the A-10 at Davidson at 7 in North Carolina trying to clinch a first-round home site in the conference while Rutgers is at Wisconsin at 8 in a sort-of-must-win in the Big 10 because a loss would not be good.

Temple makes it first-ever visit to Wichita State at 8 with the Shockers being a new member of the American Athletic Conference this season.

Northwestern visits Penn State at 7 in the Big 10, the closest Wildcats coach Joe McKeown gets to a homecoming for the former George Washington coach who is a native of Northeast Philadelphia and a Father Judge graduate.

Further north outside the immediate area in the Patriot League, Lehigh is hosting Colgate at 6 while Lafayette is hosting Navy at 7.

None of the locals play Thursday but Purdue is at Maryland at 6 if you haven’t yet seen the No. 10 Terrapins in person.

We have a couple of days to talk about the weekend, some of which has already been addressed in this post and previous posts.

And that’s the report.

Bob Heller’s D2 and D3 Editions of the Small College Roundup will post sometime Wednesday.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Mike Siroky’s SEC Report: Mississippi State Steps Up to The Ruling Elite

By Mike Siroky

The Southeastern Conference of women’s basketball staged its own nationally-recognized Game of the Season at StarkVegas when mighty South Carolina roared into town last Monday. The Gamecocks left three games back.

We all wonder when exactly a legendary program starts being just that.

We who have followed this game since before the NCAA took in the women, know there were other, pre-Internet dynasties like Old Dominion and Louisiana Tech, as in powerhouses from otherwise small cities, Norfolk and Ruston, La. 

UConn rides now, from another small area, Storrs. Tennessee may be from mid-sized Knoxville, but it shares another similarity to Mississippi State.

Starkville has shown it will be an impact city in women’s basketball for a few more years yet.

If they are a city of champions is still in play. They may make another Final this season. 

But the cautionary tale is that Joe Ciampi and Auburn made three straight without winning one. He was not always the SEC champion in those years, either.

Pat Head lost several national title games, both pre and post-NCAA before she settled in as the second-winningest coach behind Geno Auriemma.

When a school starts to win, the recruiting gets a tad easier.

Top-level players declare in middle school they want to play there. High school standouts may commit a year early.

And players also leave for a variety of reasons. 

Tennessee had a run for several seasons wherein a freshman stayed home after Christmas break. It was not about the coach. 

Sometimes, Knoxville appeared too cosmopolitan for a country girl, or too far from home and, yes the player wanted to go back to being a big fish in small pond.

Many transfers were personally successful in their future endeavors, if not on the national stage.

So spin ahead now to UConn, losing a player on a regular basis.

Couple that with the ascension of Mississippi State and you have this: A great week for the program was topped off when they landed five-star recruit Andra Espinoza-Hunter after her decision to transfer from UConn.

 Because she waited until January to leave, it is likely she will be eligible after sitting out a season.

She is coming from UConn and only played in seven games.

 “I just realized UConn wasn’t really a good fit for me,” Espinoza-Hunter said at the time.

She had committed during her sophomore season and came to realize she jumped into it too quickly.

The 5-foot-11 guard said Huskies coach  Auriemma and the coaching staff was “understanding” of her decision to transfer. Auriemma said he has “enjoyed getting to know Andy and her family.”

“Everyone at UConn wishes Andy all the best as she continues her college career elsewhere,” he added.

Espinoza-Hunter took a few classes at Westchester Community College and visited schools. It is too late to enroll this season. She will sit out next season as a valuable practice player.

“Distance really isn’t a problem for me,” she said. “Wherever I think (the best fit) is, whether it’s in like California or Texas or whatever it is, no matter how far, as long as I think that it’s a good fit for me, then hopefully I’ll be going there.”

Espinoza-Hunter committed to UConn during her sophomore season at Blair Academy, when former Ossining teammate Saniya Chong was still with the Huskies. 

She was just 14 at the time.

“I think if I didn’t commit at such a young age, I would’ve been able to explore more options,” she said. “Just to look at other schools, see what other schools had to offer as well – kind of what I’m doing right now, hence why I stayed home, so I have that time to weigh out my options.”

In her return to Ossining and Section 1 last season her senior season of high school, she put together a legendary season, scoring a record 995 points (more than 2,000 career) and earning the Gatorade New York State girls Player of the Year.

 She averaged 36.9 points per game for her high school career. She also hit 99 3s in junior high.

Coming to Mississippi State is a more-informed decision. Top schools can express an interest, especially in such a talented guard, especially when the player approaches them first.

For State coach Vic Schaefer what he thought sold her is his embracing atmosphere of “family.”

“I decided to come to Mississippi State because of the close-knit family environment with the coaches, players, fans and everyone else I encountered while I was there,” Espinoza-Hunter said. “Seeing how the fans support the coaches and the team solidified that this was the place that I want to be. 

“Being a Bulldog isn’t just a four-year commitment like most institutions, it’s a lifetime commitment. I’m so excited to be a part of this wonderful program! Go Dawgs!”

Espinoza-Hunter joins a signing class that includes another five-star player, 6-5 Daphne White, another forward, 6-3 Jessika Carter, with 6-1 four-star wing Xaria Wiggins. These will be her sophomore classmates when she begins play.

“Obviously, we’re ecstatic to add such an impact player and a highly-rated player like Andra to our program,” Schaefer said. “Anytime you get to add a Gatorade player of the year to your program, it’s exciting and certainly impactful.

“I think the thing that we’re impressed with the most is not just her game and her skill set, but she really fit in with our program and our players. Family is important to her, and she saw first-hand how important that is to us in our program, as well as our entire university. 

“We’re looking forward to her coming here and impacting our program, much like this senior class has done over the course of their careers.”

No. 2 Mississippi State

The Bulldogs have one of the best scoring duos in America, Teaira McCowan and Victoria Vivians. Each at better than 19.4 points per game. McCowan is also one of the country’s top rebounders, rating third in the Division I  with 13.0 per game.

The counter, as ever, is South Carolina’s impeccable A’Ja Wilson, the league’s only All-American so far, averaging a double/double at 27 points and 11.5 rebounds. 

They last met in the national championship game of course, with SC losing their two guns for hire, one-year star guards now in the WNBA.

Each coach is well-respected. State was defending the home court. SC had lost that to Tennessee, which also beat each at home last season. 

South Carolina was on an 11-0 roll against this rival. It was the seventh time they met as Top 25 teams, the fourth straight as Top 10 teams. Even this deep into the season, the league was not yet decided.

The most-previous meeting was the national Championship game. State has not lost since. 

By defeating UConn in the national semifinal, their 24-0 (26-0 after Sunday) start is the longest winning streak in America. 

The 12-0 in conference is another program record.

Yes, they and SC are projected into the SEC conference tournament finals, which is the official SEC title game as the league makes it the official NCAA bid-winner (another accomplishment to so far elude State) as a way of justifying the money of the post-season conference tournament.

Starkville turned out with a Humphrey Coliseum basketball record 10,794 with loud and unwavering support throughout. The 67-53 win was not easy.

The Gamecocks led by a dozen before halftime.

“I would like to praise our fan base tonight,” Schaefer said. “We don’t win that game if we are not at home. Our fans were spectacular. 

“What an environment for both sets of student-athletes. Most nights it’s loud in there but tonight was special. As a coach, I really appreciate that. Tonight was special. To have the game sold out two weeks in advance is special.

“We didn’t start the game well. South Carolina punched first and second. We were not engaged offensively or defensively to start the game. To lock in and allow eight points (in the second quarter) and nine points (in the fourth quarter) was special. 

“This game was about toughness. I don’t know if we out-toughed them, but we certainly were even with them in the toughness category.”

Vivians led the Bulldogs with 24 points (20 in the in the crucial first half).

Blair Schaefer scored 14. Twice she raised the decibel level with fourth-quarter 3s.

McCowan barely missed a double/double with nine points and a game-high 20 rebounds. She has passed 318 rebounds for the season, another program record.

The most important player was a season-high 29 minutes by Australian  Chloe Bibby the principal hustling defender of South Carolina All-American A’Ja Wilson.

“Jazzmun (Holmes) came in in the second quarter and really gave us a big lift on both ends of the floor,” Schaefer said. “She really gave us a toughness factor. On the defensive end, she was great. On offense, she gave us a spark.

 “Chloe Bibby really gave us some great minutes. She has been in our system for five months, so she is still learning. I am proud of the competitive spirit and the toughness.”

The slugfest continued in the third quarter with the lead vacillating. South Carolina appeared to have a separation when a 3 fell as the third ended for a 44-39 lead.

But Vivians answered with a 3 for her first points of the half. Then came the Schaefer bombs and it was suddenly reversed to 52-44  with 5:19 left.

The Gamecocks were held to three field goals in the fourth, but did get as close as seven before the home team hit seven free throws to preserve the biggest win of the conference season.

MSU kept a 40-36 rebounding advantage, a rarity for SC.

Wilson had 25 and 14 rebounds, but just seven points after intermission.

“First of all, I want to give God the glory for No. 24,” said Schaefer.

“And I just praise our fan base tonight. I don’t think we win that game, much like Dawn (Staley) said a year ago at their place. We probably don’t beat them today if we’re not at home. Our fans were just spectacular – what an environment for both teams to get to play in.

“The Hump was just incredible. And to get to have an opportunity like that in your career, to play in that environment – and most nights it’s loud in there, y’all – but boy, tonight was special. And just to be a part of that as a coach, I really appreciate that.

“As a coach, it’s not like that everywhere. In fact, it’s not like that most places. But it is here, at Mississippi State, and tonight was just so special to have our game sold out two weeks in advance, which, by the way, when that happens, it’s really hard to keep people focused.

“I’m not complaining. But to have it happen and to have the involvement of our fans tonight is just really good.

“Dawn’s got her a heck of a team again, and another Top 10 team.

“They’re so hard to defend in so many ways. And for us to get down 10, we may have even got down further, but to fight back, and have the lead at halftime really speaks to our toughness. And I know my kids love it when I talk about that because here’s what we talked about before this ever started tonight. We’ve lost to South Carolina because they’ve out-toughed us.

“I don’t know that we out-toughed them tonight, but I think we matched their toughness. 

“They always are such a tough, hard-nosed basketball team, extremely competitive, and Dawn was that was as a player and she has been that way as a coach. 

“You know you’re going to get that with them. She’s going to expose you, she’s going to attack your weaknesses, and I thought tonight our kids match that toughness factor.

“I just believe in this team; they’ve been surprising me. I see them every day, so I know our faults. Sometimes I have to get past that, because everybody on the outside keeps telling me how good they think we are.

 “I think we are tough because I know how hard we practice, I know what these kids have been through, I know this group of seniors, how hard they’ve worked, these juniors…

 “That’s been my point to the national media: Until you come to this game today, to this environment, until you come watch us practice, until you come live with us for a while and understand the price these kids have paid their entire career – Tori’s senior year, Blair’s senior year – what they’ve done over a four-year period, you just don’t have any idea what’s in their breastplate. They have a heart that will not give.

“You hold (SC) to eight in the second quarter and nine in the fourth. You lock in and really try to defend, and make it important, which is what it’s always been around here. 

“This team’s challenged me there. They haven’t always been that way, we’re starting to get that way now. When we put it all together, the defense, the offense, the rebounding piece, then you have the chance to do something really special.

 “But we haven’t been putting it all together, and that’s been my fight with them.”

Each side had three games this week. Next for State were the wavering Gators, trying hard to rebuild in the toughest conference in America. 

They have no NCAA  post-season hopes for a second straight season, but that is one reason there is a new coaching staff.

State made a 25-13 impact statement in the first quarter and came out after halftime with  24 of the first 28 points.  McCowan had a double/double with five minutes left in the quarter, Vivians had scored 17, Morgan William 15 (6-of-7 from the field, 4-of-3 at the line) and Roshunda Johnson had hit 4-of-6 3s. It was 83-44 heading into the fourth and well over.

It was 98-50 at the end, with 1,502 witnesses.

Five hit double figures.  Johnson led scoring with 22, Vivians had her 17, William 15 and Jordan Danberry scored a career-high 11.  McCowan made her 17th double/double of the season with 10   and 11 rebounds.

 “Really proud of our kids, especially in the second half,” Schaefer said. “After having a bad second quarter, we came out and had a great third quarter. We outscored them 30-7 in the third and 26-14 in the fourth, so that’s 56 in the second half. That is a great half of offensive execution.”

State took a 38-25 rebounding advantage.

Then came Kentucky, winners of 11 straight in the series and the only other SEC team than South Carolina and Tennessee to get a conference win last season against State. 

The three-point loss in Lexington is why the Bulldogs were not regular-season champs.

But when was the last time they were 4-7 in conference in March? Or two under .500 overall? Mississippi State drew another Sunday sellout, 9520, and exorcised the demon of Kentucky, 74-55. 

No other SEC team has won them all at home. It’s a historical mark when winning conference.

The league is theirs to lose with a three-game lead and four to go.

 “The first quarter was really special,” Schaefer said. “Roshunda Johnson was special there in the first half. She made some really big shots. It changes us when both Ro and Blair (Schaefer) are out there making shots. Kentucky is a heck of a team. They have had some hard luck with injuries.

“We have to go back there in two weeks and that will be a challenge.”

 Vivians led with 23 points. McCowan scored 21 wit three blocks and earned her 18th double-double of the season with 16 rebounds, 10 offensive. Johnson added 17 points.

The Bulldogs set the tone from the opening tip. A 3 by Johnson capped a 9-2 run to start the game. The Bulldogs then held the Kats scoreless over the final 3:35 of the quarter.

 It was 22-8 after one and everyone knew here this one was going.

The Bulldogs hit eight 3 in the half to take a 40-22 lead at halftime. State hit 9 of 21 3s.

The are 6-0 in the final 10, a test the NCAA uses for seedings. They are at Vanderbilt and welcome in needy Texas A&M this week.

No. 7 South Carolina

At Alabama was the feast after State, having rolled itself out of NCAA entries once again. 

It’s been a long while since SC lost two straight, though they did lose two of three each of the past two seasons.

Wilson started with two fouls and no points in the opening quarter, while Alabama hung around, behind 21-20. Tyasha Harris chipped in seven. 

The Gamecocks hit 58 percent from the field and all six free throws The Tide hit 38 percent from the field.

SC stayed hot in the second half, now 67 percent from the field with 10-of-11 free throws, and led by 15 at the break. 

Wilson’s backup, sophomore Mikia Herbert-Harrigan, was 4-of-4 from the field. Harris was 6-of-6 from the line and had scored a dozen. They kept a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter and won, 79-66.

A'ja Wilson shook off the funk to scored 21 points with nine rebounds. Wilson didn't score in the first 15 minutes but largely had her way inside when she started getting the ball regularly. She made 8-of-10 shots.

Carolina finished  20-of-27 from the line, connecting on 20 or more free throws for the fifth time this season. They got 17 points from reserves.

“I thought our team really competed,” said Crimson Tide coach Kristy Curry.

“Against a team like South Carolina, you have to give them credit because they just don’t make a lot of mistakes and we made too many. You look at the effort category: We gained 11 more shots, we only turned the ball over nine times, we had 19 offensive rebounds, we out-rebounded them by six, and we matched getting to the free throw line, which you have to do.

“I sit here and look at the stat sheet, and again our effort and the numbers are there, we just aren't cleaning those numbers up with the finishes."

So they had this ‘Gator barbecue back at home, Staley having never lost to Florida anywhere.

It was not pretty, but the Gamecocks began Success Sunday 64-57, reaching 20 wins by taking three of four quarters. Wilson scored 22. Staley kept her seated to start the second quarter. That’s when the Gators made a run to take a 10-point lead.

Wilson came back and led a 10-0 burst to tie it, then scored at the buzzer for a halftime tie. They kept it going in the third and simply refused to be caught again.

 Harris scored.

Maybe this was reflective of a sadness that came with the announcement one-year-wonder --Penn State transfer guard Lindsey Spann – has completed her career after re-injuring a rebuilt knee. SC is at Georgia and welcome in unassuming Kentucky this week.

SC is 4-1 in the league in the final 10 games.

No. 11 Tennessee

As the only league team to move up in the poll, the Vols had a winnable game at Arkansas and then came home for long-time rival Georgia.

They placed Mississippi State in a position to win the conference early while bring Georgia back to the three-loss pack that includes themselves scuffling for second.

Jamie Nared was elected league Player-of-the-week and sixth man Anastasia Hayes Freshman-of-the-Week.

At Arkansas, the Razorbacks had yet to reward its new coach a declarative game

They did not again, 90-85

Rennia Davis scored 33 and grabbed 14 rebounds, both career bests. Even last season, a non-contribution night from Mercedes Russell would have ended with a different outcome. 

Not this year. 

Tennessee made 9 of 10 free throws in the last minute, four by Nared, as Arkansas fouled to try and seize momentum.

Meme Jackson also had a career high with 21. Nared scored 16, including the final four free throws and 7-of-8 in the fourth quarter when Tennessee made 15-of-20.

“It’s hard to leave the locker room having tried to explain what invisible results are,” said Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors, “We learn as adults, over time but to explain to them is hard,

“They are not depressed, they are ‘Let’s go, what’s next?’ which is why I love my kids. That’s a proud coach moment.

“It would be something to get a win against a team like that, with their traditions.

“We were able to zone in into it, but crucial plays and drawing on past errors . . .  there was no quit. If someone got tired, that’s bad coaching. We played well because we were at home. Our crowd (925) was into it.”

So Tennessee returned home to 12,523 faithful and took out Georgia, 62-46.

Georgia has not won in Knoxville since Dec. 8, 1996 -- a 94-93 overtime victory. 

Seven players on the Lady Bulldogs’ current roster were born after that date. 

They stifled the previously hot ’Dawgs with a six-point second quarter. The defense was forcing a 23 percent average from the field.

While it was statistically classic Lady Vols, they would have lost this kind of game last season.

Nared scored a dozen – 3-of-5 from the field, 5-of-6 from the line with nine rebounds at the break. Davis had scored nine, with six rebounds and three assists, also 3-of-5 from the field and 2-of-2 from the line

“We just missed a lot of opportunities in transition,” Georgia coach Joni Taylor said. “I thought their length really bothered us and affected the way we played. With that said, we have to put this behind us and get ready for a really good South Carolina team on Thursday.”

Jackson scored five straight The Lady Vols hit three 3s in the first 10 minutes to take a 17-13 lead. That is when Tennessee really took control. 

The Lady Vols scored the first 10 of the second quarter as Georgia was held scoreless for the first six minutes of the period and did not hit a field goal until 33 seconds left before halftime, missing 89 percent of its shots.

Mercedes Russell doubled, 13 points and 15 rebounds, 11 defensive. Nared finished with 15, Jackson and Davis 11 each.

At this rate, the season-ending Tennessee contest against South Carolina in Knoxville will be just for SEC tournament seeding, though they would play each other in the semifinals if the seeds proved correct. 

Each would also win a Sweet 16 ticket by hosting first-round games.

That’s another move up for Tennessee and the end of four straight regular seasons titles for SC.

This week is another patsy, Alabama, but then the scary road trip to contentious Missouri. Tennessee is 4-2 in final 10.
No. 14 Texas A&M

The Aggies had a winnable game against Ole Miss then headed to a team which always seems to battle them well, the rematch with LSU.

A&M coach Gary Blair picked up his 350th win at the school, 83-54. They drew 3,252.

Chennedy Carter scored a dozen and the defense did its job in the 21-4 first quarter.  It was more of the same in the second, 48-13 at halftime.

Carter eased into 26 points with seven assists and four steals. It is her eighth 20-plus point effort in her past nine games. 

In this one, the nation’s leading rookie scorer  was 10-of-17 from the field with three 3s. She is in double figures every game of her career.

 Khaalia Hillsman scored 16 with seven rebounds; Danni Williams had 13 with three 3s; Anriel Howard extended her Texas A&M double/double-- the 25th of her career -- 11 points and 14 rebounds.

Ole Miss’ Promise Taylor  had 14 points, 10 blocks and eight rebounds.

 “Great first half,” Blair said. “I thought we were really ready to play. We talked about all the things that happen in sports when you know a team is short-handed because they’ve got a player that’s hurt. We made sure that wasn’t going to happen.

“I was pleased with the first half. We got 10 kids with minutes played and there wasn’t a drop off. The drop off started in the second half when we came up and gave them three straight 3s. 

“It took us five minutes before we ran one play correctly in the third quarter. The last three or four minutes that the starters were in there we played OK, but then I think we struggled.

“We’ve done this before and shot 27 percent in the last quarter, but I’m gonna play my bench when I’m up as much as I am. What we’ve got to do is just do a better job of not turning the ball over and give them opportunities. They’ve earned them during practice.  

 “(Carter) did a lot of very good things tonight. She’s got a clean sheet. I was pleased with her. She’s taking good percentage shots. That’s four games in a row that she acted like a point guard.

“What she’s got to do is learn the offense a little bit better on man. We’ve seen so much zone. I ran a couple of plays for her, and she ran the wrong way. She’ll learn. 

“I’m trying to play her at the two some and Danni at the one to try to get different looks in there.”

Carter said, “Throughout the whole week we have practiced and game planned and that was never lost in our mind. We knew what we had to do and that we had to come out here and win tonight. 

“It was kind of payback for the game that I wasn’t apart of but from watching film and studying the game I could kind of see what was happening. I just tried to do what I can to what I can to help us on my behalf and make sure it didn't happen again this year.

“Honestly, I was just executing my offense and getting shots inside the offense. I was kind of flowing into my shots and wasn't rushing in it tonight. I took what the defense gave me and got my teammates involved. I feel like it was a good night not just for me but all of us.

“We are playing well. At this point in the season we are all starting to gel together and become one. It is not just any individual player on our team, it is all of us together. We all contribute to the win.”

Carter, the nation's leading freshman scorer, also leads the Aggies with 21.3 points per game.  Hillsman (15.1), Williams (14.5) and  Howard (11.5) means four of five starters are averaging double figure points for the Aggies.

Ole Miss won 62-49 in last season's matchup in a publicity mark between the schools, the Rebels' first SEC win in six tries against Texas A&M. But the Aggies have now won all matchups in College Station.

LSU has played A&M predictably well at this time every season. The overall series is now 12-12.

The 80-78 loss to the Ben-Gals, kept LSU’s hopes of being the final NCAA representative with 16 wins  and left A&M searching for the sixth league team with 20 wins, now tied at 8-4 in fifth place.

Chloe Jackson scored her season-best 27 and Raigyne Louis  26 at home. The hard-charging Tigers will not win a 20th this season by sweeping their final four – they play at South Carolina this week – but could win three of four and remain in third heading into the conference tournament.

The Lady Tigers shot 53 percent in taking down their third Top 25 team in their past five games. Maybe you don’t want to play in Baton Rouge during Mardi Gras. They only drew 2,103.

Texas A&M got it down to 79-78 after a 3 by Williams with 17 seconds left. Louis made a free throw and LSU got the ball back after Khayla Pointer created a double team on Hillsman and forced a jump ball.

 A long inbounds try went awry and the Aggies got a final chance. Carter drove the floor, hounded by Williams, and missed a hurried 3.

The shocker is that left Carter at eight points, the first time in her career under double figures at eight. Hillsman scored 23, Williams 21 and Anriel Howard 13 with 11 rebounds.

 “We have been concentrating on defense,” said LSU coach Nikki Fargas, “and Jackson and Lewis coming if ball screen action. We tried to speed the game up. You have to go faster with whatever your offensive package is. The tempo became in our flavor.

“We were able to playing some small ball and equally be effective. “We didn’t allow a lot of transition basketball. This group deserved this win.”

Texas A&M shot 57 percent but were outscored, 18-4, off turnovers.

The Aggies are 4-2 in final 10. They have Florida this week before heading to the to the top team in the conference.

LSU is also 4-2, one of those losses at A&M Their only home loss was to Mississippi State.

No. 18 Georgia

Having completed only the fifth undefeated January in program history,  the ’Dawgs stayed in second place in conference with a win over Vanderbilt.

They completed Ranked Teams Win Night before 3,490 against the Commodores, 67-55.

Last season, they won 16. They are five games above that. Last season, they were eighth in conference This season, they are tied for second with Tennessee and South Carolina.

 “We talked a lot about movement,” coach Joni Taylor said. “We didn’t think that they would handle movement very well so we needed to keep cutting and moving. I was pleased with how we ran it forward, our pace, and our overall offensive performance.”

Three Lady hit double-digits: Redshirt sophomore guard Taja Cole (11), senior forward Mackenzie Engram (11) and freshman guard Que Morrison (10). Engram was honored before the game for breaching the 1,000-point barrier.

Cole had a team-leading seven assists and a career-high five steals.

Georgia opened well, an 8-2 lead moving to a 21-12 quarter and 36-25 half. They were well on their way.

Yes they play at South Carolina this week, but they finish with the three worst in conference and could easily end up No. 2 in the league, setting up an SEC semifinal with either State or SC. 

Either South Carolina or Tennessee will eliminate the other on the last day of the regular season. Heady stuff if they pay attention. They are 3-3 in the final 10.

Trend: Why they lead the league: Mississippi State has the top scoring offense, 85 points per game, and the stingiest league defense, 55.6.

For the second straight season, No. 15 Missouri has declined to participate in our coverage.