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.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Guru Report: Short-Handed Memphis Clips Temple in Overtime in Regular Season Final

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA — In any given year, the final outcome of 1 vs 2 in the American Athletic Conference, which has not been around that long, is usually wide apart when the 1 is powerful Connecticut, whose unblemished record in all games against league competition reached 98 Monday night as the Huskies wrapped up their 10th unbeaten regular season including time in the glory days of the old Big East.

But way down at the bottom some compelling basketball can occur when one team is banged up and playing without its talented point guard all season while the other is virtually decimated by a slew of injuries.

It was senior night here at Temple in the Owls’ McGonigle Hall where pregame ceremonies had them paying adieu to Khadijah Berger, Mykia Jones, and double double queen Tanaya Atkinson.

On the other side was a Memphis squad so reduced that when the the teams lined up for the pregame national anthem, one could have driven a bulldozer past the Tigers without touching anyone.

And so they began, womano womano, Memphis surprisingly attacking in the manner of one of Tennessee’s all-time heroe Davy Crockett and his outnumbered comrades going against the Mexicans at the Alamo.

Pounding the boards, the no-chance visitors thrived on second chance opportunities.

As regulation came to an end, Atkinson temporarily saved Temple, taking a shot the staff wanted in the hands of someone else, but a three-pointer successful nonetheless, and so it was that No. 10 (Memphis) and No. 11 (Temple) in the 12-team conference went at it for five minutes more.

And when it was finally over both teams won by subtraction.

Say what?


For Memphis, to continue to deal with its fate, in an NCAA title game pressure cooker of a contest, the Tigers had themselves an 83-78 victory.

For the Owls (11-18, 3-13 AAC), who parted with a one-game win streak, when the smoke cleared across the league and the bracket to set up this weekend’s American Conference tourney at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., near New London, was released, the loss spared them the ultimate doom — UConn is totally out of Temple’s path until the end should the Owls do the impossible when they would meet the Huskies in the championship.

Considering that Temple is the only team in the conference to give up over 100 points in the two UConn games here and in Hartford, what’s not to like?

But first, let’s hear from Memphis coach Melissa McFerrin whose team was 7-1 lifetime against the Owls and the one did not occur on any visit to McGonigle or Liacouras next store.

 Considering the hand she dealt, having coached at Ohio State as an assistant who recruited Katie Smith, the WNBA and several other spots, besides previously as head coach of American before heading south, this win will have a special place in the room of memories.

“Our kids are so good,” she said as the Tigers left town at 10-19 overall and 5-11 in the league. “Early in the season our kids were down over losing our players and this and that but it’s just like another day at work now, we’re so used to adversity we played with five the other day, we found out we had another injury, we were laughing about it and we came up with a win against Tulane.

“So all we ask is play hard and stay with us and they certainly did that tonight. Two years ago we played Temple five overtimes and last year we had an overtime so we get a lot of situation work in overtime done when we play Temple.”

Alana Davis, a player not known for producing great statistics, had 23 points and 12 rebounds for Memphis. Cheyenne Creighton also double doubled with 18 points and 15 rebounds, while Brea Elmore also scored 23, and Taylor Barnes scored 14.

Atkinson in Temple’s last city appearance of 2018 — the Women’s NIT is not attainable — had 26 points and 14 rebounds, five steals and five assists, while Emani Mayo scored 15.

The Owls were outrebounded 49-40 but 19-11 on the offensive boards and the telling stat was the second chance points differential, which went to Memphis 21-13.

Temple had a 10 point lead before it began to fall apart late in the game.

“This is a tough loss to swallow,” said Temple coach Tonya Cardoza, who last year shared league coaching honors with UConn’s Geno Auriemma, her former boss, after Temple finished second in the regular season.

“On Senior Night, you want to win your last home game. It’s been a rough season but there are still people cheering us on. It is disappointing that we had opportunities and didn’t take advantage of them.

“”It is hard to win basketball games when you give up 19 offensive rebounds.”

Temple will need a quick win to avoid the shortest trip to the tournament this year and miss the comforts of Mohegan.

As the 11th seed, Temple will play the tourney overall opener on Saturday at noon against new member Wichita State, the sixth seed, after having a first-round bye 12 months ago.

If the Owls survive, it will be noon again on Sunday against third-seeded UCF.

Memphis as the eighth seed on Saturday will play ninth-seeded Tulane at 6 p.m., the winner to meet UConn Sunday.

Seventh-seeded East Carolina on Saturday plays after Temple at  2 against 10th-seeded SMU, while the other game that day has fifth-seeded Houston, a major improvement, meeting 12th seeded Tulsa at 8.

Of the other teams that had byes, UConn as mentioned begins quarterfinal action Sunday at 6:30 meeting the Memphis winner. Second-seeded USF meets the ECU winner at 2:30, and fourth-seeded Cincinnati, another improvement, meets the Houston winner at 8:30 p.m.

Monday’s semifinals are at 4:30 p.m. and 7, while the Tuesday championship will be at 5.

And with this being the only game on Monday, that’s the report and Tuesday night it’s on to Saint Joseph’s for the Hawks’ first-round Atlantic 10 tournament game against VCU at 7 at Hagan Arena.



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