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.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Guru Report: Saint Joseph’s Upsets Fordham at Finish While Ivy Women’s Field Set As Penn Takes Berth

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

NEW YORk — You can’t proclaim the arrival of March Madness until the wild month of insanity in collegiate basketball actually arrives on the calendar.

So with that said, the precursor of all that is February Frenzy, which made itself felt in a sensational Saturday of games, especially in the Ivy League and the Atlantic 10.

And along the way some individual program records were broken.

On the final day of the regular season in the Atlantic 10 leading to next week’s tournament with first four round games Tuesday on home courts and then the rest of the tournament to be played again next weekend at the Richmond Coliseum in Richmond, Va. numerous finishes and potential tie-breakers loomed in the final standings.

And then in just a matter of minutes in late afternoon, some upsets and escapes from other potential upsets set the table.

The two Guru local teams were right in the middle of the mayhem, one right here in Fordham’s Rose Hill Gym where the host Rams were hopeful of either landing tied in second or outright in second after upsetting Duquesne earlier in the week.

That would have brought about a bye along with defending champion Dayton, which had already owned the top seed.

But Saint Joseph’s had other ideas and in a game of seven tie scores and eight lead changes the Hawks prevailed in the final second when Chelsa Woods drove inside in a crowd with a layup for a 52-50 victory that stood when Sarah Veilleux blocked an attempted three pointer from Fordham’s Mary Goulding.

Despite the loss by Fordham (21-8, 12-4 Atlantic 10), the Rams were getting help from elsewhere when host Saint Bonaventure had control of Duquesne most of the afternoon.

But the Dukes rallies down the stretch for a 76-73 victory to take second at 23-6 overall and 13-3 in the conference.

George Mason and George Washington, which won at Saint Joseph’s last Tuesday, were tied for fourth but after a late threat from La Salle in Fairfax, Va., the Patriots pulled away for a 65-55 victory.

The winning Patriots finished 22-8 and 11-5 while La Salle tied Saint Bonaventure for12th with the Explorers finishing 8-20 overall and 3-13 in the league. The Explorers earned the 12th seed off their comeback win at Saint Bonaventure during the season.

George Washington held the tie-break off a season sweep of George Mason but that went for naught when the Colonials at home were upset by Richmond 49-36.

That dropped George Washington (15-13, 10-6) into a fifth place tie with Saint Joseph’s but the Colonials close win last week on Hawk Hill earned the fifth seed and they will host La Salle Tuesday at 7 in the nation’s capital in one of the four first-round games.

The Hawks (15-13, 10-6) gained the sixth seed and avoided a tie with Saint Louis (15-14, 9-7) because the Billikens were upset during the week by VCU.

That was costly to Saint Louis, who shocked Dayton 85-72 Saturday at home, depriving the Flyers (22-5, 15-1) of joining a select group to zip through the conference with a perfect record.

Saint Joseph’s, at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Hagan Arena, will host 11th seeded VCU (7-21, 4-12), who split with the Hawks, winning in Richmond when Veilleux and Woods were sidelined.

Richmond’s win gave the Spiders the eighth and final home-court advantage seed and they will host ninth-seeded Davidson.

Fordham will host 14th-seeded Rhode Island while Saint Louis will host Massachusetts.

If Saint Joseph’s and Fordham win their games they will face each other again Friday in a quarterfinal game at 7, the last of the four scheduled for that day. The semifinals are Saturday and championship Sunday leading to an NCAA automatic bid.

Suddenly, things are getting brighter for Saint Joseph’s like they existed at the start of the season when the Hawks opened with a five-game win streak in non-conference competition.

Playing the tougher teams in the conference down the stretch, the loss to George Washington was competitive as was an early conference loss at home to Dayton and in the recent six games are 5-1.

Furthermore, Saint Joseph’s is now guaranteed a winning record, making it eligible for at-large consideration to the WNIT if the Hawks don’t win the conference title and automatic NCAA bid.

Saturday’s game was worthy of a championship contest and called to mind when the two played for the A-10 title in Brooklyn, the first year of the new arena, and Saint Joseph’s prevailed in the final seconds.

Woods, one of the stars of the Philadelphia Women’s Summer League, had a game-high 24 points, shooting 10-for-20 from the field. Veilleux had nine points but her 4-for-7 connected shots were timely.

Fordham’s two aces did their usual thing with G’mrice Davis double doubling with 19 points and 12 rebounds while Bre Cavanaugh scored 17 points.

“I was certainly happy with the way today ended up,” Saint Joseph’s coach Cindy Griffin said. “Anytime you win on the road in this conference, it’s tough, especially here against a team we haven’t beaten in a long, long time.”

The Hawks snapped a four-game losing streak at Rose Hilly Gym.

“We’ve now beaten two of the best teams in the conference and held ours own against two others. Everybody’s 0-0, it’s a brand new season.

“We knew it was going to be a possession battle — we didn’t win the possession battle against GW, but we won it today. Again, these are the type of teams you want to play against going into a championship because it prepares you going into every situation.” Griffin said.

“It was nice for our seniors and Chelsea’s bucket at the end was tremendous. Veilleux answered every time and it was a great team win. We are still searching for a postgame bid and we keep plugging away one game at a time.

“It’s going to be a battle and we look forward to Tuesday night.”

La Salle Yields to George Mason Down the Stretch

The bright side of the Explorers’ visit to the Patriots in the last Atlantic 10 game of the regular season was senior Amy Griffin eclipsing a 31-year-old record for program blocks registered previously at 147 by Linda French (1982-87).

When the day was done down in Fairfax, Va., despite the 65-55 loss to George Mason (22-8, 11-5) at EagleBank Arena, Griffin’s total has the new mark at 150 with at least one more game when the 12th seeded Explorers (8-21, 3-13) visit fifth-seeded George Washington on Tuesday night at 7 in a conference tournament first round game at the Colonials’ Smith Center.

Had not George Washington been upset at home Saturday by Richmond, La Salle would be returning to George Mason, which swept the two games against the Explorers and with Saturday’s win set a season mark at 22 overall.

The fourth seed for the Patriots since joining the A-10 several years ago is the highest since 2004 dating to their membership in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Griffin, who led the conference in scoring last season, had 25 points while Shalina Miller and Sofilia Ngwafang each scored 10 for the Explorers.

Late in the game La Salle closed a deficit to within a basket at 55-53 with 2:43 left in regulation only to give up a 10-0 run to George Mason to seal the loss.

Oddly, a Patriots loss would have sent La Salle back to Saint Joseph’s, which swept the Explorers, who would have won an 11th place tiebreaker with VCU.

George Mason’s Natalie Butler, who previously played at Connecticut and Georgetown, had her 29th straight double double with 26 points and 17 rebounds.

Nicole Cardaño-Hillary, the reigning United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) national women’s freshman of the week, had 19 points for the Patriots while Jacy Bolton scored 10.

Ivy Mayhem: Penn Clinches Tourney Bid While Princeton Upset at Harvard

The four women’s teams, but not the seeds, are set for this year’s Ivy tourney returning to Penn’s Palestra with the three other spots claimed Saturday one night after frontrunner Princeton grabbed the first of the four available berths.

The Quakers recovered from Friday’s setback at Harvard to pounce on host Dartmouth 79-50 at the Big Green’s Leede Arena in Hanover, Mass., and earn a return to the second annual four-team each Ivy men’s and women’s tourney in two weeks again..

Yale claimed a berth but nearly became imperiled trailing at home by 15 points before rallying at Lee Amphitheater in New Haven, Conn., to beat Columbia 66-59 and deny the Lions a weekend sweep.

The win by Penn (18-7, 9-3 Ivy) kept the Quakers in line for the second seed, staying ahead of Harvard (16-9, 8-4), which completed a weekend shocker  sweeping Mike McLaughlin’s squad and Princeton at home in Cambridge, Mass.

It’s the first time in five seasons since Harvard swept the southern duo on the Ivy’s footprint.

The Crimson clinched a women’s berth after the 72-58 rout of the Tigers (20-5, 10-2 Ivy).

Harvard finished 12-0 at home in Lavietes Pavilion.

The only difference from the inaugural field is the insertion of Yale this time and elimination of Brown, which was a top-four pick in the Ivy preseason media poll.

The standings for the top five teams right now are

Princeton 20-5, 10-2, 1st place
Penn 18-7, 9-3, second place
Harvard 16-9, 8-4, third place
Yale 15-10, 8-4, fourth place
Dartmouth 14-11, 6-6, fifth place

Meanwhile, Ashley Russell for the fourth time this season set a career-best, scoring 21 points and also tied a career-mark with three 3-pointers, as Penn eliminated Dartmouth from tournament contention.

Lauren Whitlatch scored 12 points fueled by four three-pointers while reigning Ivy player and defensive player of the year Michelle Nwokedi had 12 points, nine rebounds, and dealt six assists.

Anna Ross, who recently became the career assist leader in Penn history, dealt six, while scoring six and grabbing four rebounds.

The Quakers outscored Dartmouth 39-6 in the paint and topped the home team in points in transition with 25 off 22 turnovers by the Big Green (14-11, 6-6).

Dartmouth’s Kate Letkewicz scored 16 points and Andi Norman scored 11.

Penn matched a program record in the series with its eighth straight win over Dartmouth.

The Quakers, who won the regular season title and first Ivy tourney crown last season, previously also claimed two of the previous three titles when regular season performance determined the automatic bid.

At that point, the Ivies had long been the only conference not hosting a tournament leading to an automatic NCAA bid.

Penn and Princeton have claimed eight of the previous NCAA slots awarded to the Ivy champ.

The Quakers will finish up regular season play at home next weekend hosting Yale at 7 Friday night and Brown at 6 on Saturday. Friday’s game will also air on ESPN3 besides the Ivy network.

A win Friday clinches the second seed which guarantees an automatic bid to the WNIT, though Penn would likely land an at-large if the Quakers aren’t headed to the NCAA title.

Mathematically, though having been swept by Princeton, at this hour Penn, which moved back to within a game of the Tigers, could get to first in the final standings by sweeping Yale and Brown while Princeton would have to lose to both in their last games for the season at Jadwin Gym.

“I guess it’s a good thing we had that cushion,” Princeton coach Courtney Banghart said of what had become a two-game lead after Penn was upset by Harvard Friday, just 24 hours before her Tigers also lost to the Crimson, but instead of a mere 55-52 three points, a more lopsided 72-58 outcome.

Reserve Sydney Skinner had 16 points for Harvard, of which 14 occured in the second half, while Katie Benzan scored 13 and the duo each made three 3-pointers.

Harvard finishes next weekend at Cornell and Columbia.

Princeton has also lost to Yale on the road. 

The Crimson made 10 three-pointers in the game.

Abby Meyers had 17 points for the Tigers and Bella Alarie had five assists and two steals.

Princeton can clinch the top seed with a win either Friday hosting Brown at 6:30 p.m. on the Ivy League network and ESPN3 or Saturday hosting Yale.

In the win by Yale (15-10, 8-4 Ivy), the Bulldogs trailed Columbia 48-33 with under two minutes left in the third quarter before the home team began a rally of 22-5 across the third and fourth quarters to go up 55-53 on the Lions (8-19, 2-10) with 4:21 left in the fourth quarter and regulation.

Columbia got things knotted at 59-59 with 2:43 left in the game but Yale clamped down and shut out the Lions the rest of the way with a 7-0 run.

Roxy Baraham had 22 points for Yale, including 10 in the decisive fourth quarter. Senior sensation Camille Zimmerman had 18 points on 7-for-14 shooting for the visitors while Imani Whittington had 14 points and Janiya Clemmons had 14 points.

It’s the first time in three seasons Yale swept both games in the series with Columbia.

“It’s been such a grind, to get to this point where we could solidify a spot for the tournament,” said Yale coach Allison Guth. “That makes it kind of nice, to take that pressure off your shoulders.

“However, I’m going to be on these guys this week about the intensity at which we play Penn and Princeton … We have a lot to focus on and fix going into the week.”

Temple Winning Point Over East Carolina Nets Record For Tanaya Atkinson

The Owls snapped a five-game losing streak and dismal 12 of 13 setbacks run in dramatic style as freshman Desiree Oliver scored in the last minute to tie host East Carolina and then senior Tanaya Atkinson hit a historic foul shot at the end of regulation for a 65-64 victory in an American Athletic Conference in Greenville, N.C.

Trailing by five at the half, the Owls (11-17, 3-12 AAC) turned things around in the third quarter for a 48-39 lead heading into the final period of regulation.

Temple used a closing 11-6 run to gain the lead heading into the final regulation game both home and the season hosting Memphis Monday night at 7 in McGonigle Hall.

Atkinson had her 15th double double for the season with 18 points and 11 rebounds and her winning foul shot against the Pirates (15-13, 7-8) at the finish gave her 148 on the season, one better than the Kelly Lane, the previous record holder who set her mark in 1989-90, 28 seasons ago.

Freshman Mia Davis also had a double double with 10 points and 12 rebounds, while freshman Emani Mayo and grad student Mykia Jones each scored 10 points.

Monday’s game is also senior night, paying tribute to Atkinson, Khadijah Berger and Jones. The game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network.

The American Tournament will be held again at the Mohegan Sun Arena, home of the WNBA Connecticut Sun in Uncasville, Conn., near New London, beginning Saturday and lasting through Tuesday, one day later than previous seasons.

Looking Ahead

There’s more detail in the previous roundup but as more conference tournament brackets get set, Villanova at 2 p.m. at home Sunday at Jake Nevin Field House on its senior day hosts Creighton to break a third-place tie for next weekend’s Big East tourney in Chicago at DePaul’s new Wintrust Arena downtown.

Rider is at Manhattan at 2 p.m. wrapping up in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, whose tourney is next weekend in Albany, N.Y., the same place as one of the NCAA Women’s Tournament Regionals.

Rutgers is at Northwestern while Penn State is hosting Ohio State wrapping up in the Big Ten, whose playoff begins midweek in Indianapolis.

Drexel will try to hold on to its first-place tied status in the Colonial Athletic Association when the Dragons visit Towson at SECU Arena at 2 in suburban Baltimore. James Madison, the other co-leader in the CAA, hosts Delaware, which nearly sent the Dukes into overtime last weekend. The Blue Hens are trying to get to third place.

A key game in the Southeastern Conference has South Carolina visiting Tennessee while Missouri will be playing Texas A&M. The SEC tourney begins mid week in Nashville, Tenn.

Oregon will be trying to win the PAC-12 regular season title outright ahead of this week’s tourney in Seattle.

And that’s the report.


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