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 24, 2018

The Guru Report: Drexel Upsets JMU 73-71 in Double Overtime to Earn a Virtual First Place Tie in the CAA

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA — A night after the Drexel men here in the Dragons’ Daskalakis Athletic Center set an NCAA record, rallying from a 34-point deficit to beat area rival Delaware in a game between the two worst teams in the Colonial Athletic Association, the top of the conference on the women’s side went after it here Friday night in another thriller, culminating in a 73-71 upset by the home team over James Madison in double overtime to move into a virtual tie for first with the visiting Dukes (18-9, 14-2 CAA).

The win by Drexel (21-6, 13-2) kept the Dragons unbeaten at home at 12-0, the first time they have gone that far without a loss in a season and the win total is one short of the 13-3 record wins in the DAC posted last season.

Drexel also snapped a losing streak in the series dating back to Drexel’s last win over the JMU, which came in the semifinals of the CAA tourney in 2013 — five seasons ago. The last win over the Dukes here came in 2010.

The Dragons, who gained a split on the season series, could meet JMU one more time in a few weeks, which will be right here when Drexel hosts the CAA tourney March 7-10 for the first time and it will be the first time the event is as far north as Philadelphia.

James Madison could have claimed the top seed with a win but now if the two schools finish the regular season as co-champions, CAA sources say RPI would determine the No. 1 slot since both also split with Elon.

At this moment, the indication is that it would go to Drexel but lots of work in a short time remains, especially with the minimum No. 2 slot not yet clinched over defending CAA tourney champion Elon (19-7, 11-4), which is two games back with three left.

The No. 2 team, at worst, lands in the WNIT if not involved in the NCAA but Drexel would likely get an at-large bid anyway if the Dragons are not NCAA bound.

The Dragons will finish up the regular season by traveling to Towson at the SECU Arena in suburban Baltimore Sunday at 2 and then move on to Delaware Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark.

Drexel beat Delaware handily in the CAA opener here back in December but the Blue Hens have greatly improved since then and after Friday night’s 61-52 win at William & Mary, the Blue Hens are 17-9 overall and 10-5 in fourth a game behind Elon.

Following the Delaware game, Drexel will finish here Saturday at 1 p.m. against the College of Charleston.

JMU has two games left, hosting Delaware Sunday at 2 p.m. and then William & Mary next Saturday at 2 p.m.

With all the implications of the game here out of the way, information that always takes precedence in these posts as March Madness approaches, attention can now focus on the actual battle that occurred here.

There were 10 ties and five lead changes and the game was decided near the end of the second overtime when Bailey Greenberg hit a pair of foul shots for a 65-63 lead with 3 minutes, 50 seconds left in the period.

Archbishop Wood graduate Aubree Brown built on that with a shot and two free throws and had 10 points in the combined extra periods to gain a career-high with 26 points while Sarah Woods was also in double figures with 17 points and seven rebounds, providing support to make up for the departure of Kelsi Lidge, who fouled out in the first 27 seconds of the second overtime.

The lead in the second overtime got to seven points with 39 seconds left on a foul shot from Megan Marecic, but Hailee Barron’s three-ball reduced the advantage to four and after Marecic again went 1-for-2, Barron hit another triplet with 10 seconds left to bring the Dukes to within a basket.

Marecic then turned the ball over on the next Drexel possession with six seconds left and then Neumann-Goretti grad Kamiah Smalls went for the tie at the buzzer and Brown came up with the missed shot for the Dragons as time expired.

“That was a heck of a game,” said veteran Drexel coach Denise Dillon, a former star at Villanova. “We told the girls beforehand it was going to be a game of possessions, and that certainly was a game of possessions, though we didn’t expect it to go two overtimes.

“I was extremely proud of the resilience our team showed and James Madison is a talented team who knows us really well and this is a really big win for the program.”

Brown talked about the intensity involved in a game like this.

“We were prepared. We practice a lot of one-possession games against our T-shirt team so I think we were all ready for that.”

Dillon noted the closeness of the game, saying “there was a lot of clock management but you can never give a team like James Madison a last look.”

Though JMU opened with a 7-2 run, Drexel countered with a 15-3 outburst to lead most of the night going ahead as much nine points in the second half but ultimately yielding to a second half rally that saw the Dukes go ahead twice by a bucket down the stretch.

But Brown tied it with a jumper with 4:16 left in regulation, 51-51, and then regained the lead for Drexel with a layup with 3:30 left.

Drexel might have sealed it over the next few minutes but missed opportunities on two-shot fouls and when JMU’s Kelly Koshuta scored on a layup with 22 seconds left on regulation, the shot brought the score to 56-56 and the first overtime.

The Dragons held narrow leads in that period but Logan Reynolds hit a jump shot with 26 seconds left to tie it at 62-62 for the visitors and send the game to overtime number two.

Once again on a night when the offense struggled, the Drexel defense did the job forcing 18 turnovers to just half of that in the nine by the Dragons.

The result of the advantage was 22-3 in favor Drexel in points off turnovers and Drexel also held the lead on second chance points 22-15.

Though Drexel had more opportunities at the line, the Dragons were 21-for-32 while the Dukes didn’t do themselves any favors either, shooting 16-for-25.

Smalls, who always draws a big local following here when JMU comes to the DAC, including Neumann-Goretti grad Mayor Jim Kenney of Philadelphia, had 14 points for the game as did reserve Devon Merritt, while Koshuta and Reynolds each scored 10.

Koshuta made it a double double on the night with 12 rebounds to go with her 14 points.

Enabosi Leads Delaware to a Win over William & Mary

In pursuit of third place in the CAA, Delaware grabbed a 61-52 road win at William & Mary as Nicole Enabosi had her 20th double double of the season with 24 points and 14 rebounds for the Blue Hens (17-9, 10-5) at Kaplan Arena in Williamsburg, Va.

The overall victory total is the most for Delaware in four seasons since 2013-14, the first of the post-Elena Delle Donne era.

Samone DeFreese also scored in double figures for the visitors, collecting 13 points.

Jenna Green and Abby Rendle each scored 12 points to top four players in double figures for the Tribe (16-11, 7-9).

“I can’t say enough about the grit and versatility of our team,” said first year Delaware coach Natasha Adair. “This is not a one-dimensional team squad and whatever gutsy plays need to be made, our players make them.

“This is a very competitive William & Mary team that is tough to beat on their home court. They weren’t quitting and they left it all on their floor.”

Delaware next travels to James Madison for a Sunday 2 p.m. clash in the JMU Convocation Center in Harrisonburg, Va., against a Dukes squad the Blue Hens almost forced into overtime at home last weekend.

Then it’s back to the Bob Carpenter Center on Thursday to host Drexel before finishing up at Towson Saturday at 2 p.m. at the SECU Arena in suburban Baltimore.

Princeton Gaines Ivy Tourney Bid While Penn Stumbles at Harvard

The Tigers, on their way to a regular-season Ivy title, topped host Dartmouth 79-67 at Edward Leede Arena in Hanover, N.H., to return to the second  annual Ivy men’s and women’s four-team tourney next month, which will again be held at Penn’s Palestra.

Penn, meanwhile, made use of a pre-game, two-game lead, on host Harvard for second as the Crimson ended a recent losing spell holding off a Quakers rally to escape with a 55-52 win.

Yale, also in the hunt for a berth, at home beat Cornell 69-56 in New Haven, Conn.

Thus, the standings heading into Saturday’s night completion of this week’s back-to-back weekend slate shows the following among the teams in contention.

Princeton 20-4, 10-1 clinched berth
Penn 17-7, 8-3 2.0 GB, 3 games remaining
Harvard 15-9, 7-4, 3.0 GB, 3 games remaining
Yale 14-10, 7-4, 3.0, 3 games remaining
Dartmouth 14-10, 6-5, 4.0, 3 games remaining

On Saturday night, Princeton visits Harvard, Penn visits Dartmouth, and Yale hosts Columbia.

Yale could gain a spot in the tourney by beating visiting Columbia Saturday if Dartmouth loses at home to Penn.

However, rather than get into all this now, let’s wait until Saturday’s results to lessen some of the many permutations before looking to the following weekend when the regular season league race concludes.

As for the Guru’s locals in this mix, a Princeton win at Harvard will clinch the No. 1 seed since the Tigers have swept the Quakers but mathematically the two could still tie for the regular season title if Penn were to win Saturday and sweep its hosting of Yale and Brown next week and Princeton lose both to the same teams.

Penn, which will tip with Dartmouth at 5 p.m., is also looking to gain the No. 2 seed because it guarantees an automatic bid to the WNIT if the Quakers don’t win the Ivy tourney and auto bid they claimed last year to the NCAA.

In all likelihood, though, Penn would still get an at-large WNIT bid.

Now as for Friday’s action let’s start with Princeton’s win at Dartmouth that knocked the Big Green a game back in the hunt for at least the fourth seed in the Ivy tourney.

Four Tigers scored in double figures for the winners, who have combined with Penn for all Ivy crowns and NCAA bids the previous eight years.

Leslie Robinson shot 7-for-10 from the floor to score 15 points, while dishing out nine assists and grabbing eight rebounds while Sydney Jordan was 7-for-8 in collecting a career-high 14 points.

Abby Meyers and Tia Weledji combined for 27 points off the Princeton bench, giving coach Courtney Banghart her eighth season of 20 wins or more in her 11 seasons since the former Dartmouth star arrived to rebuild the program’s fortunes.

Isalys Quinones had a game-high 22 for Dartmouth, which needs to upset Penn Saturday night. Cy Lippold also was in double figures for the Big Green, scoring 17 points.

The Tigers shot a season-best 58.2 percent from the field.

Princeton visits a Harvard team Saturday night that is now 11-0 at home. The game, with a 7 p.m. start is later than per the usual in Cambridge, Mass., outside Boston to gain the addition of it airing on NESN+ in addition to the Ivy Network.

Penn, meanwhile, saw a recent domination of Harvard come to an end with the loss at Lavietes Pavilion.

The streak almost continued after a 15-point advantage was erased by a Quakers 16-0 run midway through the game.

But trailing by three, an attempt to force the game into overtime fell short.

Freshman Eleah Parker had 14 points and eight rebounds and blocked three shots for the visitors. Anna Ross, Phoebe Sterba, and Princess Aghayere each scored eight points while senior Michelle Nwokedi had six points and 11 rebounds.

The Quakers had won nine straight against Harvard. Penn’s demise was rooted from 15 turnovers.

Harvard also started hot shooting 60 percent from the field in the opening quarter.

After entering the last quarter tied 41-41, Penn went six minutes without a point, allowing the home team to move back in front 50-43 and stay enough ahead to move into sole possession of third place.

As of this point, though much can still change, Penn and Harvard could end up meeting in one of the semifinals in the women’s night doubleheader that Saturday at the Palestra.

For you independents who are partial to just women’s hoops, the 6 and 8 starts would be out of conflicting times with the CAA title game, which will be played that afternoon up the street at Drexel, which could involve the host Dragons.

Meanwhile, in the other Ivy game of note, per the race for the four tournament seeds, Yale, in its 69-56 over Cornell at home in the Lee Amphitheater, needed its bench due to foul trouble to pull away from the Big Red in the fourth quarter.

Tamara Simpson had 14 points and Jen Berkowitz scored 13 while Megan Gorman grabbed 12 rebounds for Yale, which also got six points each from reservers Mary Ann Santucci and Alex Cade.

Samantha Widman and Samantha Clement each scored 15 for Cornell (6-18, 2-9) while reserve Reena Olsen scored 12.

Villanova Handles Providence

In their last home weekend as the Big East regular season comes to a close the Wildcats got things started on the right track with an easy 70-43 win over Providence in Jake Nevin Field House to move into a tie for third with Creighton, which was upset at Georgetown Friday afternoon.

Villanova (21-7, 11-6 Big East) can take third outright by beating visiting Creighton on Sunday at 2 p.m., which will also be Senior Day, or else the Wildcats will be fourth heading into next weekend’s Big East tournament at DePaul’s larger and new Wintrust Arena in downtown Chicago.

The importance on Sunday would be another premium win to split the season series and gain some improvement in the eyes of the NCAA tournament committee for an at-large seed if Villanova does not win the automatic bid that comes with the conference championship.

As for Friday night’s win over the Friars (10-19, 3-14), trailing 10-6 early in the opening period, Villanova exploded with a 19-3 run to never be threatened the rest of the way.

Kelly Jekot had 15 points in the win, while Mary Gedaka and Alex Louin each scored 12 points, as did Jannah Tucker, with all of her total courtesy of four made 3-pointers.

Andrea Cooper and Chanell Williams each scored nine points and Cooper also had a game-high nine rebounds.

The Wildcats’ long-range skill was in form with 13 made shots from beyond the arc.

Villanova took care of the ball with just eight turnovers, the 13th time this season the Wildcats have had less than double digits in the category.

Rider Overrun By Quinnipiac

What looked like a special senior night might occur with an upset of frontrunner Quinnipiac in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference went to naught in the third period as the defending champs and top seed for next week’s tourney in Albany, N.Y., exploded on the way to an 80-59 win over Rider at Alumni Gymnasium in Lawrenceville, N.J.

The Bobcats (23-5, 17-0 MAAC), who made headlines advancing to the NCAA Sweet 16 last season after topping Rider in the conference championship for the automatic bid, have yet to lose in the conference with one game left on the regular season schedule.

Rider (12-16, 9-8) held a 38-37 lead at the half before Quinnipiac went on to dominate the next quarter 24-8. The Broncs were defensed into shooting just 2-for-13 in the period for 15 percent from the field.

The Bobcats have beaten Rider 12 straight, including twice last season when they still tied at the top of the standings prior to the tourney.

Stella Johnson had a team-high 17 points in this one, the 26th straight game she scored in double figures.

Aryn McClure had 18 points for Quinnipiac, Carly Fabbri, the daughter of veteran coach Trish Fabbri from South Jersey, had 16 points, and Jen Fay scored 14.

“I thought we played as hard as we could for 40 minutes, but Quinnipiac was better than us tonight,” said Rider coach Lynn Milligan. “They made more shots and took it to us in that third quarter, which was the difference.

“I’m as proud of this group for the way we came out tonight and focused.”

Rider’s MAAC seed will be determined by the outcome of Sunday’s final regular season game, which will be played 2 p.m. at Manhattan as the Broncs go for a sweep of the Jaspers.

Looking Ahead

Other than the Ivy games we mentioned in terms of Saturday, La Salle and Saint Joseph’s are on the road on the final day of the Atlantic 10 regular season.

La Salle will be at George Mason at 2 p.m. in Fairfax, Va., as the host Patriots, who have already beaten the Explorers in Philadelphia, will be looking to set a season-record for overall wins and hopeful of breaking a fourth place deadlock if George Washington at home is upset by Richmond.

The Colonials have the tie-breaker while La Salle, near the bottom of the league, will play a first-round road game Tuesday to be determined.

Saint Joseph’s, assured of hosting an A-10 first round game Tuesday (7 p.m.) at Hagan Arena against an opponent to be known later Saturday, will be at Fordham at 2 p.m. at Rose Hill Gym in the Bronx, N.Y.

The host Rams are looking to break a second-place tie with Duquesne while the Hawks will be at least a sixth seed but would fall to seventh if they lose and Saint Louis at home upsets first-place Dayton, the defending tourney champs who have a perfect record this season in the conference.

In the Patriot League, Lehigh visits local upstate rival Lafayette in Easton, Pa., in a Patriot League game.

Temple finishes its road schedule in the American Athletic Conference trying to snap out of a losing streak when the Owls visit East Carolina at 1 p.m. 

They will finish the regular season Monday night, hosting Memphis at 7 in McGonigle Hall and then head for next weekend’s AAC tourney, which continues to be held at the Mohegan Sun Arena, home of the WNBA Connecticut Sun, in Uncasville, Conn., near New London.

On Sunday, other than games already mentioned in this post, Rutgers visits Northwestern in a Big Ten game in Evanston, Ill., at 3 p.m., trying to recover from the homecourt fade Wednesday to Iowa, which prevailed in overtime.

It’s the final day of action in the Big Ten heading to next week’s conference tourney in Indianapolis.

Penn State, coming off Thursday’s loss at Nebraska, will host its final Big Ten game at noon in the Bryce Jordan Center with powerful Ohio State coming to visit with the game televised on ESPN2.

Two key games in the Southeastern Conference on the final day of games has South Carolina visiting Tennessee looking to avenge an earlier loss in  Columbia when star A’ja Wilson was sidelined from the defending NCAA champions.

Missouri, which could land a high seed with a win or something middle to low with a loss, visits Texas A&M.

There will be key games also in the Pac-12, where Oregon will be at Arizona trying to wrap up a regular season title heading to next week’s tourney in Seattle.

DePaul and Marquette are tied for first in the Big East heading to the final day of conference play.

And that’s the report.