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 08, 2018

The Guru Report: Saint Joseph’s and La Salle Gain A-10 Wins While USciences Edges Jefferson in D-2 CACC Thriller

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA — On a Wednesday night deviod of much action on the Guru’s local schedule and occuring on the eve of the biggest victory celebration in the history of the city per capita since the Declaration of Independence was certified, it was a two-team sweep in town by Saint Joseph’s and La Salle in Atlantic 10 competition.

Not so much so, however, down in New Orleans, however, where Temple mounted several rallies before falling to Tulane 69-65 in the American Athletic Conference.

Near here, a very big game involving two hot Division II teams this season in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference, USciences made it a season sweep topping Jefferson U. (Formerly Philadelphia U) 56-51 at the host Rams’ Gallagher Center after the Devils had taken the earlier meeting in overtime in West Philadelphia.

Starting here with our report, in what has been a rarity in recent outings, Saint Joseph’s went wire-to-wire in total health to cruise over Rhode Island 64-46 in Hagan Arena.

Senior Chelsea Woods, who had been a standout in the Philly summer league and had been sidelined due to a concussion, came off the bench to score a game-high 20  points and grab six rebounds, shooting 7-for-11 from the field and 6-for-6 on the foul line in 21 minutes.

Adashia Franklyn gained a double double for the Hawks (11-12, 6-5 Atlantic 10) with 12 points and 10 rebounds shooting 5-for-10 from the field but struggling at the line shooting 2-for-11. 

Amanda Fioravanti, the MVP of the summer league, had a near double double with nine points and 13 rebounds.

Nicole Jorgensen broke loose for Rhode Island (3-22, 1-11) with 19 points and 10 rebounds, but everyone else was held in check.

“I thought we came out tonight very aggressive on both ends of the floor and we were able to get some easy baskets early and getting Chelsea back certainly helps us in a lot of different categories,” said Saint Joseph’s coach Cindy Griffin.

“It’s just nice to have Chelsea back and playing at a nice level going into the second half of February and it’s going to be important to stay healthy and be aggressive down the stretch as we play for home-court advantage and obviously a tournament seed.”

As for her return, Woods said, “It felt good, I just had to make sure I was ready to help my teammates because sitting on the sidelines really hurt.”

Saint Joseph’s next heads to Duquesne, which is second with just one loss in the A-10, on Saturday in Pittsburgh  at 2:30 p.m. on the A-10 network and then over to Davidson at 7 p.m. next Wednesday on Valentine’s Day at 7 on the A-10 network.

The Hawks then return here Saturday, February 17, at 1 p.m. to host La Salle looking for a sweep of the Explorers after winning the dual-Big Five game, then stay home to host George Washington at 7 on Tuesday, Feb. 20, and finish the regular season and conference, Saturday., Feb. 24, at 2 p.m.

Saint Joseph’s must finish in the top eight to host a first round game in the conference tourney, which seems achievable, before its off to the quarterfinals, semifinals, and final, the following weekend in Richmond, Va.

While an at-large to the NCAA is now out of the question, the Hawks need a bit of a surge at the finish to be at .500 or better after  their last conference tournament game to qualify for the WNIT.

And the Guru to put a bit of a bright spot into this part of our narrative, if Saint Joseph’s has its total act together come conference week, it’s not impossible that they could get real hot and pull a miracle to win the automatic bid though the odds seem long right now.

La Salle Upsets Saint Louis

Held scoreless in the first half, senior Amy Griffin, the reigning point producer in the Atlantic 10 from last season, scored all 17 of hers in the second half to help the Explorers to an 87-76 upset of Saint Louis at home at Tom Gola Arena at TruMark Financial Center.

There haven’t been many good outings recently for La Salle (8-16, 3-8 A-10), but Wednesday was certainly memorable with the best scoring production of the season.

Andreana Miller had a season-high 25 points, which she also achieved previously, while Shalina Miller had 15 points and 12 rebounds, and Shaquana Edwards had 18 points.

While the Explorers led most of the night from early in the first quarter, the Bilikens (13-11, 7-4) moved within one possession of a tie in the final quarter but were thwarted with some blazing foul shooting from the home team, which was a perfect 16-for-16 in the last stanza.

At this point, short of winning the Atlantic 10 tournament, which would send the Explorers into the NCAAs, there is not much for them to chase so it is a matter of playing for pride and finishing on the best that can be done.

That continues Saturday with a visit from Richmond at 1 p.m.

Then comes a visit to Fordham, Tuesday, at 7 p.m., the aforementioned short trip to Saint Joseph’s a week from Saturday, a visit from Davidson Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. followed by a trip to George Mason on Feb. 24 at 2 p.m. to avoid a sweep by the Patriots.

Then it’s the conference tournament where at this hour a few upsets might land a home game in the first round — the top three get byes and the next five host.

Tulane Sends Temple Back to Singing the Blues

Way down yonder in New Orleans, Temple’s Tanaya Atkins continued to find the seams for near another double double with 23 points and eight rebounds but the Garden District was no Garden of Eden for the Owls who got swamped by the Green Wave on a 12-3 run in the fourth quarter to enable Tulane to take a 69-65 victory in the American Athletic Conference.

Freshman Mia Davis had another final night for Temple (10-13, 2-8 AAC), which is in danger of not having a .500 or better record to make the WNIT field as of now. Graduate student Mykia Jones had nine points.

Tulane (11-12, 3-7) got 25 points from Kolby Morgan.

Next up for Temple is a visit Saturday from UCF at 2 p.m. in McGonigle Hall on the American Digital Network. The game is also the annual breast cancer awareness event to raise money for the Kay Yow Cancer fund, named for the late Hall of Fame coach from North Carolina State.

USciences Overcome Jefferson in Big Local D-2 Showdown

Since our Bob Heller filed his local Philly WBB Small College Notebook and your Guru posted it Wednesday afternoon, though he will be back with info next week from the following, why wait that long to report the big game a few hours later between USciences and host Jefferson (former Philadelphia U.) out in Roxborough (or East Falls?). 

It’s a sweep for USciences, ranked 13th, over host Jefferson, ranked 25th, in the Rams’ Gallagher Center with a late rally to claim a 56-51 win in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC).

Having won the first showdown in overtime back home, USciences (22-2, 14-1 CACC) has claimed the tiebreaker for the top seed in the CACC South with four games left on the schedule.

The loss was the first at home for the Rams (21-3, 13-2) this season.

The tourney will be held at Jefferson next month.

With 15 straight victories, the Devils are one short of the program record set in 2014-15.

A 6-0 run over the final 1:57 carried USciences for the win following the earlier 72-67 victory in the overtime game on Jan. 6.

Jefferson took early command with a 17-7 advantage at the end of the first quarter only to see USciences even it up with a 20-10 performance to make it knotted 27-27 at intermission.

The Rams were up 51-50 with 2:49 left in the game only to see the Devils get defensive and toss a shutout the rest of the way.

The three amigos for USciences produced on the run with Alex Thomas hitting two foul shots, Sarah Abbonizio scoring a layup from a Laura Trisch steal with 1:03 left, and Irisa Ye, after a stop, connecting with two more free throws.

Jefferson’s final possession saw two missed shots and four overall along with two turnovers when the Devils caught fire. They also were 11-for-11 for the game.

The previous night of perfection on the foul line with a greater yield was -12-for-12 in the 2015-16 season opener.

Though each team had 11 turnovers, the Devils outscored the Rams 16-2 in points scored off the miscues.

Trisch, who is now seventh in USciences history with 461 rebounds, had 11 for the game along with three blocks and two steals.

Ye, who played 20 minutes after subbing off the bench, tied a career high with 15 points. Thomas had 17 points with eight in the decisive fourth quarter to move into 12th place on the USciences career charts with 1,198.

 Abbonizio had 11 points to run her career total to 1,198 which is 12th on the program charts. She also had six rebounds, four assists and a steal.

Jefferson’s Alynna Williams had 21 points and Beverly Kum scored 11 while Rachel Day had eight rebounds, and Jessica Kaminski dealt four assists.

Both teams play in the Philly WBB summer league virtually as entire units, as allowed for non-Division I schools by the NCAA, and each has done well in recent years.

USciences next hosts Post on senior day, Saturday, at 1 p.m., while Jefferson hosts CACC North power Bloomfield at 2 p.m. at the Gallagher Center.

Looking Ahead: Rutgers, Penn, Princeton and Villanova Hit Key Moments

Fortunately, there is nowhere the Guru has to be Thursday night allowing options to enjoy seeing the NFL hometown Eagles continue their Super Bowl celebration with the mammoth parade and ceremony.

But hours after the tumult has ended, for the moment, if it ends at all, Rutgers will be in Columbus, Ohio, home of this year’s Women’s Final Four for the last of the two major opponents in their Big Ten Conference wars.

The bleeding stopped, at least temporarily, Sunday when the Scarlet Knights upset nationally-ranked Michigan at home.

Now it’s a visit to Ohio State, at 7 p.m., the third of the four straight dangerous ventures, on the schedule. 

The phrase in a combined sense would almost call for “must win” in one of these next two games to make life better moving forward, though they already could be ensured an invite to at least the WNIT.

After the Buckeyes, Maryland comes calling Sunday at noon after a recent visit by the Scarlet Knights to College Park, where they were decimated. Win both and things become much brighter.

And as for the side story, Sunday’s win over the Wolverines reduced the countdown to 1000 career triumphs to five left for Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer, who also has a clump of them previously attained at Cheyney and Iowa.

After emerging in whatever shape from these two, the regular season finishes out with a visit to Wisconsin, a home game hosting Iowa, and a trip to Northwestern.

Then it’s off to the Big Ten tourney but let’s get to Sunday night so things can clarify better or get murkier.

As for our other local in the Big Ten, Penn State is at Iowa Thursday night at 8 and then at Minnesota at 4 on Sunday.

The Ivy Wars Are Here

Moving to the Ivy League, it’s bumper cars time. The loss by Princeton at Yale, which was helpful to Penn, has the standings at the moment looking like this — Harvard 4-1, Princeton 3-1, Penn 3-1.

The prime objective in the new world begun last year is to get to the four-team Ivy tourney, again at Penn’s Palestra, which this trio is on track to do. But the three coaches — Kathy Delaney Smith (Harvard), Courtney Banghart (Princeton), and Mike McLaughlin (Penn) — like to keep their feet on the pedal, so regular season finish with the Ivy crown still means everything.

Here’s what we got nearing the halfway point. 

Friday night, Harvard is at Princeton’s Jadwin Gym at 6:30 p.m. (ESPN3) while Dartmouth visits Penn at 7.

Then on Saturday Harvard comes to Penn at 7 while Dartmouth is at Princeton at 5. And the Big Green is in play at the moment to try to get a fourth slot in the tourney so they not be an easy gimme.

When the smoke clears later Saturday night and we study the field we will talk about Tuesday when Penn heads to Princeton at 6:30 p.m. and will be on NBCSN-Philadelphia.

This used to be the end of the season game and twice was decisive for Penn to win the crown, both times in Jadwin, in the last of the pre-tourney era in 2014 and 2016 with Princeton doing the historic unbeaten everything act in 2015.

Last year Penn won at Harvard for the regular season title and then beat a resilient Princeton team for the tourney title.

Early last month, the Tigers finally stopped the recent Quakers domination, winning at The Palestra in part off the play of Princeton star Bella Alarie.

 But since then, Penn on the play of freshman Eleah Parker has been dynamite, beating Villanova for the first time in 17 seasons and then Temple, both on the road for the Big Five co-title with Villanova.

So that’s the Ivy deal for now.

Wildcats  Look to Strike  in the Big East While Drexel is Sharing the Top of the CAA

Now, in the Big East, one of the other two locals doing really well is Villanova, which on Friday will play its annual school game in Jake Nevin Field House, hosting St. John’s at 11:30 a.m. and then back to the scene on Sunday to host Seton Hall at 2 p.m. on FS1, the FOX affiliate.

Drexel, meanwhile, after James Madison got upset while the Dragons continued their run, moved into a first place tie with the Dukes in the Colonial Athletic Association, whose tournament will be held at Drexel.

On Friday, the Dragons visit Elon, the defending conference tourney champs whom they recently beat here in a giant fourth quarter rally. The game in North Carolina is at 7.

In the worst case, Drexel has some separation from Elon, Delaware and Northeastern, which are fighting for third and fourth with William & Mary in that hunt.

Delaware, on Friday, hosts William & Mary at 7 p.m. at the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark while James Madison hosts Northeastern at 7 in Harrisonburg, Va.

On Sunday JMU is at Towson, Northeastern is at William & Mary, and Drexel is at UNCW at 1 p.m. and Delaware hosts Hofstra at 2.

Your CAA conference-only standings at the top are with JMU owning one win at home over Drexel, JMU 10-1, Drexel 10-1, Elon 7-4, Northeastern 7-4, Delaware 6-4, William & Mary 6-5.

As for the rest, in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the rebuilding Rider team is in a logjam way behind frontrunners Quinnipiac and Marist hosts Saint Peter’s at 7 p.m. at Alumni Gym in Lawrenceville, N.J., and then on Sunday hosts Iona at 1 p.m. with a chance to pick up two wins but anything goes with the Broncs these days.

Everything else involving the locals has been addressed in the Wednesday recaps above.

 Nationally, the big game ahead is Louisville at Connecticut Monday night on campus in Storrs, the last major obstacle for the Huskies to hurdle before minimally another unbeaten regular season extended right through the conference tourney.

And so that’s the report and it’s off to the diner, not Chinatown (still at St. Joe’s) since can live without electricity for the next several hours.

And then, to make everyone around here happy and in the spirit — E-A-G-L-E-S, Eagles!!!