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.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Guru Report: Iowa Rally Ruins Rutgers Seniors Night With Overtime Win

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Swept away was the story of the three Guru local D 1 teams who were in action Wednesday starting with a noon matinee in which Temple found itself handled by Cincinnati 70-52 in an American Athletic Conference game before a boisterous crowd of 4,305 predominantly school day students in the larger Liacouras Center.

A few hours later and a few miles to the north up Broad Street and over several blocks La Salle fell to Davidson 58-51 at home on senior night in an Atlantic 10 game at Tom Gola Arena at TruMark Financial Center.

But the story of the entire day and night on an another occasion to say farewell to seniors, which was in a Big Ten game between two teams that had been in the national rankings, was right here in the Rutgers Athletic Center where the host Scarlet Knights, who owned a 13-point lead below the midway mark of the third quarter and a nine-point margin about the same stage of the fourth, frittered it all away to lose to Iowa 77-67 in overtime.

It’s the third straight time Iowa has won in the RAC.

It was also likely Rutgers’ final home game of the season unless — well, let’s not get to that yet.

On second thought, why don’t we.

Once upon a time back when Rutgers (19-10, 7-8 Big Ten) was rolling along with an 11-game win streak, Wednesday night loomed very large on the long range radar.

Ahead was the chance to virtually lock up a top 16 seed and hosting privileges for the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament.

And just possibly added to the festivities of the evening would be the moment that Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer would join the women’s side of the 1,000 victory club.

“Yeah, we saw that possibility,” said Iowa coach Lisa Bluder. “Vivian is an important part of the history of our program and I very much want her to get her 1,000th win, but I didn’t want it to be at our expense.”

No, instead it was at Rutgers’ expense that the Hawkeyes are now 22-6 overall and 10-5 in the conference.

Actually as the record book on a career of 47 years covering her time at Cheyney in suburban Philadelphia, Iowa, and here in central New Jersey took its ongoing postgame refresher, Stringer in the right side column ended up recording her 400th loss while the recent speed bumps to 1000 wins have reduced a race to a crawl, she remained stuck with 996 triumphs.

One regular season game remains on Sunday when Rutgers visits Northwestern in Evanston, Ill., near Chicago.

Then next week to get to 1,000 and make it happen in the Big Ten tournament, the Scarlet Knights would have to win at least three rounds.

If not, well, right now if the NCAA tournament committee folks were putting together the 64-team field, Rutgers has enough in the resume to be taken even if the threshold would be much lower than originally projected when the Scarlet Knights were part of the first of three reveals of the committee’s top 16 at the time.

But considering that the closing post win streak march shows 3-8 and could even be worse at 1-10, there’s not much room for error left to go from a lock to a bubble and then possibly, well the upside of that other tourney, which shall go nameless out of respect for Rutgers’ past disdain of the event, is the Scarlet Knights probably get some home games so a celebration of sorts is still attainable this year in that scenario.

Celebrating was the mood for Iowa for stealing a significant one heading to the Big Ten tourney.

Megan Gustafson, Iowa’s 6-foot-3 junior center who has been racking up Big Ten player of the week honors, had 27 points and 14 rebounds while Chase Coley scored 20, Makenzie Meyer scored 11 and Kathleen Doyle had 14 points and nine assists.

Gustafson passed Cindy Haugejorde for points in a season at Iowa, now scoring 698 to eclipse the previous mark of 672. She also topped her own season rebounding mark for the program with 355 to pass her previous total of 343.

Doyle also tossed a painful dagger, nailing a long three-pointer with nine seconds left to tie the score and force the extra period, which was ensured when Rutgers’ redshirt senior Tyler Scaife, who had a career night again, this time with 30 points as the only Scarlet Knight scoring in double figures, missed a shot and Caitlin Jennings, who had 10 rebounds, couldn’t throw down a putback.

Scaife, though, also missed a free throw down the stretch that might have been the difference.

One of only three players in Rutgers women’s history to score over 2,000 points, Scaife, at 2,184, needs 28 to slip ahead of WNBA All-Star Cappie Pondexter into second place behind retired WNBA star Sue Wicks on the all-time list.

Iowa led by as many as 12 in the overtime.

“Our kids, they believe, and we’re young, we have one senior in our starting lineup,” Iowa’s Bluder said. “We hit some big threes when we needed it and our defense was good down toward the end of the game, we outrebounded Rutgers.

“Megan, they did a great job on Megan. I think she’s an All-American. I really do. She’s doing these things with double teams, triple teams, putting up double doubles every night, shooting an unbelievable percentage.

“I guess I’m biased, but I really do.”

Recapping the win, Iowa’s sixth straight, Bluder said, “We had a great first quarter, second quarter I just want to throw it away and never look at it again, it was probably one of our worst quarters all year, we lost our composure, but you know something, Rutgers can do that to you in this building.

“They’re very good defensively and we lost it. Luckily, halftime could come around fast enough. But that fourth quarter, you know, we’re down nine with three minutes to go on the road and that shows a lot of composure to be able to come back.

“And then we hit 12 of 13 free throws in the overtime as well.”

Meanwhile, Stringer and the media chose to leave the 1,000 wins topic reduced to being in the elephant in the room, focusing on all the other particulars.

She didn’t rant over the free throw disparity, Rutgers shot 5-for-10 as opposed to Iowa’s 21-for-28.

“You still have to make them. You still have to make layups,” Stringer pointing to items that made a difference in a game that could have easily gone the other way in regulation.

Being off a week was fine so Stringer and her staff could tinker with a few things.

Practice prior to game night wasn’t great but Stringer said she chose to remain mad over those things as opposed to focusing on senior night, “because it’s always like we’re losing members of a family.”

Pointing to herself having taken three different programs to a Women’s Final Four, Stringer alluded to what those clubs had and this one still needs — the total want to be better.

“But this isn’t a bad team,” she said. 

By comparison to last year’s six-win death march, how could it be?

La Salle Rally Falls Short

Amy Griffin, the reigning Atlantic 10 top scorer, had one of her better nights this season for La Salle with 18 points and 10 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough as Davidson held on for a 58-51 win over the Explorers (8-20, 3-12 A-10).

La Salle finishes the regular season Saturday at George Mason as a decided underdog, but no matter the outcome, the Explorers will be on the road playing someone to be determined in the first round Tuesday as the 12th seed or 13th seed in the 14-team league.

Ashanti Freeland had eight points and 10 rebounds, while Shalina Miller and Adreana Miller each scored 10 points against Davidson (11-17, 6-9).

La Salle had an early deficit of double digits but fought to within one point late in the game before Davidson exploded for a 5-0 run to increase its lead to six.

Adreana Miller’s three-ball made it a one-possession game with 3:01 left in regulation but Davidson shut down La Salle, which was scoreless until six seconds remained.

Griffin, one of the departing seniors, also had five assists, three blocked shots and three steals.

Davidson’s Katie Turner scored 18 points and Mackenzie Latt had 16 points and 10 rebounds.

Elsewhere some upsets in the Atlantic 10 shook up the standings somewhat on the next-to-last day on the conference schedule.

Host VCU upset Saint Louis 88-84 in overtime while Fordham won at Duquesne 51-43 in Pittsburgh.

Idle Saint Joseph’s, which lost to idle George Washington Tuesday night is the sixth seed going into Saturday’s visit to Fordham a game ahead of Saint Louis, which on Saturday will be an underdog to visiting Dayton (15-0), the regular season conference winner.

Thus, the Hawks could be the sixth seed instead of the seventh when they host an opening round game next Tuesday at 7 at Hagan Arena.

Duquesne and Fordham are tied for second and will get byes with Dayton into next Friday’s quarterfinals in Richmond. Fordham, as stated, hosts Saint Joseph’s, while Duquesne will be at St. Bonaventure.

George Washington, which hosts Richmond, is tied for fourth with George Mason but has the tie-breaker.

Temple Downed by Cincinnati

Friendships were put aside Wednesday afternoon when coach Jamelle Elliott’s Cincinnati squad beat Temple’s Tonya Cardoza squad 70-52 for the first season sweep by the Bearcats over the Owls.

The two coaches were longtime assistants together at top-ranked Connecticut, Elliott’s alma mater, before Cardoza took the Temple job a decade ago and Elliott joined Cincinnati a year later.

Ana Owens and Shanice Johnson each scored 24 points for Cincinnati (17-10, 9-5 American), which is having its best season under Elliott.

After being locked down at Connecticut Sunday, Tanaya Atkinson was back to her double double ways for Temple with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

She also grabbed her 1000th rebound to become only the second Temple player with both 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.

Emani Mayo had 13 points while Desiree Oliver scored 12, and Mia Davis scored 11.

Temple (10-17, 2-12), which is last in the standings, visits East Carolina Saturday and then finishes at home in McGonigle Hall Monday night hosting Memphis at 7 on senior night before later in the week heading to the AAC Tourney at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., near New London.

Looking Ahead: Setting the Ivy Scenario

The previous post had all the details of the days ahead, but here is the Ivy League press release discussing this weekend’s ramifications.

 Penn and Princeton can each clinch a berth to #IvyMadness this weekend. The Tigers need to win just one game, while the Quakers need two wins or a win and a Princeton sweep. The Quakers and Tigers travel to face Dartmouth and Harvard.

Dartmouth (6-4), Harvard (6-4) and Yale (6-4) are tied for third-place. Each team is 1-1 against the other, but in the next tiebreaker the Bulldogs have the edge for the third spot in #IvyMadness thanks to their win over Princeton.

In the head-to-head between Harvard and Dartmouth, the tiebreaker would go to an average of ratings indices. Harvard is currently 69 in RPI and 142 in Sagarin/RPIRatings.com and Dartmouth is 90 in RPI and 150 in Sagarin/RPIRatings.com, which would give the fourth spot to the Crimson (105.5 to 120).

Brown (2-8) and Cornell (2-8) are still in the mix for spots at the tournament, trailing the three teams tied for third by four games with four to play. Columbia (1-9) could play the role of spoiler down the stretch, facing the Bears, Bulldogs, Big Green and Crimson to close out their season.

And that’s the report.