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, March 17, 2018

Mike Siroky’s SEC Report: Conference Unbeaten in Day One of NCAA Round One With Day Two Ahead

By Mike Siroky

As the first round of the NCAA eliminations opened, the Southeastern Conference of women’s basketball kept their mystique alive with three Friday wins, all from higher-seeded teams. Four more open Saturday.

You would think with all the cuts at ESPN, they’d have better announcers.

Nope. The person doing the Notre Dame game said the Irish would rather be opening with UConn. The very definition of March Madness.

The commentator between games wondered if National Freshman if the Year Chennedy Carter, an all-conference SEC player and scorer from A&M,  would be worried about starting the NCAAs against a much-worse team.

Not a chance.

Anyway, here is the SEC start . . .

ALBANY: South Carolina

No. 2 seed South Carolina opened at home with a 63-52 win over No. 15 seed North Carolina A&T. 

They drew a nationwide best by far, 11,085.

Coach Dawn Staley knows it should not have been that close and chided her team for it. They had a 19-point halftime lead.

Staley said, “Oh absolutely (we lost concentration) and then we started playing one-on-one basketball. 

“We wanted to show we could make SportsCenter. So we showed what not to do in a basketball game. 

“They took our point guard out of the game and we really got rattled When you take as long as a break as we did, the rust is settling in.”

They did hit 19-of-22 from the line.

But: ''I felt like I disappointed coach this game and I don't like that feeling,'' said A’ja  Wilson, the three-time Southeastern Conference player of the year and the program's all-time leading scorer.

 ''When we watch film, I'm going to see how I can change my ways.'' 

The national Player of the Year  doubled, with 19 points and 16 rebounds.

''I think the way we played basketball was unacceptable for us, especially this time of year,'' Wilson said.

 ''And especially after what we did'' in defeating previously unbeaten Mississippi State two weeks back to win a fourth-straight SEC Tournament.

Freshman Bianca Jackson was South Carolina's only other double-figure scorer with 16.

Now they get No. 7 seed Virginia,  a 68-62 winner in a mild upset of No. 7 seed California. 

A 5-9 guard, Dominque Toussant, is the leadinf scorer. 

She scored 17 in a loss at Mississippi State this season. The game wraps up the national Sunday games, is at 9 p.m.


The No. 4 seed A&M opened in College Station against Drake.

Freshman Chennedy Carter scored 26 in the 89-76 victory. Khaalia Hillsman scored 22.

The Aggies broke it open in the second quarter, building a 57-42 halftime edge. A&M outshot the Bulldogs from 3-point range in the opening half, with Carter and Danni Williams each hitting three of four. They drew 2,835.

Carter, playing in her first career NCAA Tournament game, answered the silly ESPN with one of the best statistical performances for a tournament game in school history. 

The points rank fifth, the 11 assists are second. Six steals are also the school record.

Khaalia Hillsman (22) and Danni Williams (18) each scored in double figures for the third straight time in an NCAA Tournament game. 

Williams also has the school-record 69 3s this year. Anriel Howard, also doubled, 14 points and 10 rebounds, her first career NCAA Tournament double/double.

Carter said, “That connection (with Hillsman) does not come on the court. We hang out together and it is just a matter of me being a point guard and getting her the ball in a place where she can score.

“We just knew we had the advantage offensively going against their defense,” said Williams.

 “We just tried to work the game plan and just keep it rolling from the start. We knew their offense was going to be good, so we had to score just as much.”

As for Carter: “No, it’s not surprising. She’s a ball player. She’s been in a lot of games. And she doesn’t really approach any game different. I think for her it’s just another game, and that’s why she’s successful.”

“Well, for me,” Hillsman said, “I’m going to try to be more helpful on defense. I wasn’t very helpful this game.

 “And, honestly, I’m going to try to work on finishing stronger than I did this game. You guys might see the points and say, ‘;She did good.’ But I’m never satisfied. There were a lot of baskets I should have made.”

Next up in  Aggieland is No. 5 seed DePaul, Sunday afternoon at 1, Texas time. 

DePaul has five in double-figures: Sophomore forward Mart’e Grays (14), junior guard Ashton Millender (13),  Amarah Coleman (25) and junior guard Kelly Campbell and junior forward. Chante Stonewall (each 10.6). Campbell is the leading rebounder (8.7). 

The Blue Demons have never done much in the tournament yet this year’s challenge offered is the sky force, 410 team 3s, led by 100 made by Millender at 42 percent. Nine players each hit at least 30 percent.

LEXINGTON: Tennessee

Back to hosting status, No. 3 seed Tennessee went wild after halftime in a 100-60 drubbing of Liberty. UT is 57-0 at home in NCAA play.

Freshman Rennia Davis kept them in it until the rest of the team woke up. She doubled, 18 points and 11 rebounds, ninth this season making her fifth for UT rookies.

 It was only an eight-point lead at the break.

 Tennessee seniors Jaime Nared and Mercedes Russell were a combined 2 for 9 from the field in the half. UT scored more in the third quarter (38) than in the first two quarters (36). 

Rookie Cheridene Green came off the bench to score 15 and grab 12 rebounds for the Lady Vols. Both are season highs.

Tennessee was 24-of-30 from the field in the second half (80 percent), scoring 64. 

Liberty had been allowing 53.7 per game until now. The last time they allowed 100 in an NCAA game was in 1998 . . .  against Tennessee.

They drew a disappointing 4,509.

Tennessee forced seven turnovers and used an .813 shooting percentage to a 74-48 lead by the end of the quarter.  

It marks another 25-win season for the program its 35th (fourth Holly Warlick as coach). UT is 57-0 in home tournament games (23-0 in openers). It is the highest NCAA Tournament point total in an NCAA game since 2006.

NCAA Records of Note: The win moves the Lady Vols to 57-0 all-time at home in NCAA Tournament games, including 23-0 in first round contests. 

The Lady Vols had seven players in double figures, and all 10 UT players scored at least two points. 

The last time Tennessee had seven players score 10+ points or more was against Troy earlier this season. 

Nared was 4-of-4 from the free throw line and now has 168 this season and 428 for her career, second-most in a season and sixth at UT career free throws. 

Russell got a 100th career 194th block, fifth-most blocks in Tennessee history.

“I just made sure to come in with the same tempo and impact that I’ve been trying to have,” said Green.

“One  of the main things I tried to focus on was boxing out and going after every ball. I wanted to  stay aggressive on defense.

“We  worked  on  our  press  because  they  don’t  like  pressure.  We  made  sure  we  were  communicating and to pressure them so they turned the ball over.”

Davis said,   “We talked about how we weren’t getting enough transition points. Our game is playing fast and  getting fast break points. I think we tried to focus more on that in the second half.  

“Today we didn’t wait until the third quarter to pick up our defense. I think we started off really  well in the press and we created a lot of turnovers. We were playing with high energy, especially  the players at the  top of the press.”  

Tennessee (25-7) plays No. 6 Oregon State in the second round of the Lexington Regional on Sunday with a spot in the Sweet 16 on the line. Oregon State beat No. 11 seed Western Kentucky 82-58 in the opening game. It starts at 2 p.m.

These Beavers think they can win. They have three averaging double-figures: senior Marie Gulich (17) and sophomores, Kat Tudor (12) and Mikayla Pivec. (11), Gulick, at 6-5, leads in rebounds (9.2) and Pivec  in assists (5). Gulek is an import from Germany.

LSU made a tough decision to suspend two players – both freshmen – from the opening round at the Ohio State pairings. They violated team rules, according to the university. Faustine Aifuwa started 15 games The other rookie is Dekeriya Patterson.


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