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.

Friday, March 09, 2018

The Guru Report: Drexel and Delaware Advance Against Each Other in CAA Semifinals; Ivy Weekend Begins at Palestra

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA — The Drexel women breathed fire playing on their home court here at the Daskalakis Athletic Center that made them live up to their Dragons nickname.

Delaware got revenge for the regular season sweep from Northeastern while James Madison and Elon just simply took care of business on a Thursday full of quarterfinals action at the Colonial Athletic Association women’s basketball tournament.

With the results in hand the executives and everyone else associated with the conference from a marketing standpoint couldn’t be happier with the semifinals billing ahead on Friday afternoon.

Leading off in game one tipping off at 3 p.m. will be the longtime area rivalry in top seeded Drexel and fifth seeded Delaware which have battled throughout their time as CAA members and previous in the America East and several other affiliations before that.

Assured from the result is a local team, possibly the immediate home team, guaranteed to appear in Saturday’s 1 p.m. championship contest whose outcome will award the winner an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, whose 64-team field and pairings will be revealed Monday night at 7 on ESPN.

After the Dragons and the Blue Hens do their thing comes a repeat of last year’s championship game when Elon topped James Madison to preserve their No. 1 seed on the Duke’s home court in Harrisonburg, Va., to solidify a new rivalry honed since Elon joined the CAA for the 2014-15 season.

Thus that side of the bracket in the title game will offer either the defending champs who are the No. 3 seed in Elon or preseason favorite James Madison which tied with Drexel at the top of the final standings going 16-2 in the conference but after a split of their two games were relegated to the No. 2 slot using RPI rankings to set the tournament draw.

Drexel Blasts UNCW

In Thursday’s opener Drexel quickly ruined any notion of an upset by eighth-seeded UNCW, bolting to a 14-0 lead and an eventual 71-41 victory to extend the Dragons’ perfect season home court record at 14-0.

Defense has been the element fueling the Dragons’ offense and that’s the way it went Thursday, forcing 25 turnovers for a huge 27-14 advantage in transition.

Senior Kelsi Lidge had 18 points while Sara Woods scored 11, a total matched by teammate Hannah Nihill, a freshman out of Cardinal O’Hara, who grabbed five steals and on Wednesday was named CAA rookie of the year. In Thursday’s win, Woods had four of the 18 thefts by the Dragons (25-6).

Lacey Suggs had 14 points and Paige Powell had 10 as UNCW (12-19) ended its first season under former Old Dominion coach Karen Barefoot who has former Delaware coach Tina Martin on her staff.

“I was really proud of our team with the defensive effort, it certainly set the tone from the beginning, that’s been our edge all season, and that’s certainly what we’re going to need for (Friday’s) game,” said Denise Dillon, a former Villanova star who was named the CAA coach of the year by her colleagues who are responsible for all the postseason awards.

“You figured there was going to be some jitters and excitement since we didn’t play Wednesday and UNCW had a game under their belt,” said Dillon discussing the magnitude of Drexel’s opening minutes.

“So it wasn’t so much the offensive execution but the tempo on the defensive end. It was great to see. Shots falling early from Kelsi. Five-on-five, not one-on-five definitely works for us, moving the ball.”

Dillon was able to use all 11 players.

“You usually don’t see that this time of year so I thought it was great being able to rotate the numbers that got in there. I was definitely pleased what these guys were doing — the starters but on your bench, you don’t know which it’s going to be.

“It’s definitely worked well for us, someone coming off the bench. You need to be ready when your number’s called.”

Talking about her start, Lidge said, “We knew we had to come out with our gas on the pedal as a team, I just kept moving without the ball and my teammates were able to find me and I was able to knock it down and give that player another assist.”

Wrapping up her first season returning to the CAA where ODU played before moving to C-USA several years ago, Barefoot first saluted the Dragons, saying, “Give Drexel credit, they played solid offense and defense today.

“But we never stopped fighting. That’s one thing, our team has gone through so much adversity, both our point guards were out because of injuries. We had a lot of injuries this year but we never talked about things, we never talked about excuses, we just played hard and for that I’m extremely proud of my team.”

In Drexel’s two meetings with Delaware (19-11), the Dragons swept the local series, winning here 74-53 in late December to start the CAA schedule and then last Thursday beating the Blue Hens 72-53 down at the Blue Hens’ Bob Carpenter Center in Newark.

Noteworthy from the opener is longtime referee Joanne Aldrich is retiring and has working numerous games involving Philadelphia teams and the Drexel game was her last.

Delaware Rides Revenge Over Northeastern

The Blue Hens, who had identical 11-7 conference records with fourth-seeded Northeastern, were also swept by the Huskies, 64-53 at home and 73-59 in Boston, but Delaware made itself not beaten three times in posting a 61-50 victory.

Nicole Enabosi, the CAA player of the year, had another double double for the Blue Hens, scoring 16 points and grabbing 14 rebounds while getting three steals and three blocks. 

Abby Gonzales had 13 points for Delaware, Samone DeFreese had 11 and Rebecca Lawrence had nine points and also blocked three shots.

Jess Genco had a game-high 23 points for Northeastern (16-14), whose players drew international notoriety on the internet with a video of them pushing free their stuck bus in Wednesday’s snow tby Saint Joseph’s campus after practice.

Gabby Giacone had 12 points as did Shannon Todd.

“This win started a long time ago,” said Delaware first year coach Natasha Adair, who previously coached Georgetown in the Big East, but before that coached Charleston in the CAA.

“The preparation that they put in, the commitment that they put in, we see it night in and night out with their work ethic and with their selfless acts towards each other. We’ve been challenging them to put it all together and to see that today makes me proud,” Adair continued.

“I thought our defense was stellar today because Northeastern is a very good, disciplined team that can put up points. I’m proud of the way we played UD basketball today. It’s tough, it’s relentless and it’s unforgiving. We’re going to need to keep that momentum rolling into tomorrow.”

In reviewing the previous two losses and what could be done to reverse the outcome with the Huskies, Enabosi observed, “Northeastern is a great team and they really emphasize on our mistakes, so we needed to limit those so they couldn’t benefit off of it.

“I thought we played very good Delaware team defense today with touching the ball and communication. We did a good job with passing lanes and having each others’ backs.”

The Blue Hens tied a team and tournament record, holding the opposition to three points in the second quarter in what is now the third season since the NCAA switched from 20-minute halves to four 10-minute quarters.

The Huskies’ sole field goal in the second quarter was also a tournament record, dubious that it is.

This is now Delaware’s best season for wins since they went one better with 20 in 2013-14.

As for playing Drexel trying to get even with another team that swept the Blue Hens, Gonzales said, “Like Northeastern, they’re a very good shooting team. Communication is a key for us and that’s what we need to carry over for all 40 minutes.”

James Madison Handles College of Charleston

The second-seeded Dukes got 63 of their points from their All-CAA trio in an 81-66 victory to dispatched 10th-seeded College of Charleston (7-24), which had upset seventh-seeded Hofstra in one of Wednesday’s two first-round openers.

Kelly Koshuta had a game-high 25 points, including 16 in the first half for JMU (21-9), which advanced to Friday’s second semifinal game against third-seeded Elon.

The Dukes and Elon split their games with the Phoenix as did Drexel, which is why the RPI had to be used to break the tie to determine the first and second seeds.

Lexi Barrier picked up the pace in the second half, scoring 15 of her career-high 24 points while Kamiah Smalls, a graduate of Neumann-Goretti High drawing a large local following in the JMU contingent, had 14 points.

Tanisha Brown had 19 points and 15 rebounds for Charleston, while Cailin Dorsey scored 12, and Deja Ford scored 11.

Elon Turns Aside William & Mary

The Phoenix admitted to developing a case of the nerves from waiting around all day to play in the final game, creating a ragged start until they righted themselves to move on to a 67-50 victory over  the sixth-seeded Tribe (16-14) and advanced to play James Madison for the third time this season.

“For the last several weeks we’ve been playing Elon basketball,” said coach Charlotte Smith, a former standout player for North Carolina who made the famous buzzer-beating three-point shot that felled Louisiana Tech in an NCAA championship.

Malaya Johnson had a double double with 13 points and 11 rebounds for Elon (23-7) and blocked seven shots, while Meme Garner and Ra’Shika White each scored 12 points, and Shay Burnett scored 10.

Garner and Burnett each grabbed nine rebounds.

Abby Rendle had 19 points and and 10 rebounds for William & Mary and Victoria Reynolds also grabbed 10 rebounds.

In the two games between Elon and James Madison, the Phoenix lost on the road to the Dukes 70-67 in early January and then gained a split with a 50-43 victory at home in North Carolina.

Ivy Tournament Weekend Returns and Gets Under Way at Penn

A few blocks away from here down 33rd street, the Ivy League’s second annual tournament of the top four men’s and women’s teams each for NCAA automatic bids begins Friday with public shootarounds and media-only press conferences in Penn’s historic Palestra.

The weekend once again has been dubbed #Ivymadness.

On the women’s side, on Saturday night, which puts the games out of conflict with the 1 p.m. CAA championship here, top-seeded Princeton (22-5, 12-2 Ivy) plays fourth-seeded Yale (15-12, 8-6) at 6 p.m. followed by second-seeded Penn (20-7, 11-3) against third-seeded Harvard (18-9, 10-4), both games will air on ESPN3.

The championship after the men at noon will be 4 p.m. on Sunday.

There is some suspense even though Princeton and Penn have combined to hold the last eight Ivy accesses to the NCAA tournament besides a first-ever Ivy at-large invite given to Princeton several years ago.

Penn has won three of the last four NCAA qualifiers, including two regular season crowns before the new postseason and the first-ever tourney title last year besides the regular season crown.

Princeton swept Penn during the season, though the preseason pick from Ivy media had the two reversed. Yale beat Princeton at home in New Haven, Conn., after the Tigers came off their long annual three-week break in January for exams. The Bulldogs also challenged them last weekend at Princeton’s Jadwin Gym before the Tigers pulled away.

Harvard for the first time since 2013 got a weekend sweep at home of Penn and Princeton last month, though Penn almost successfully rallied, falling three points short in regulation.

Penn and Harvard tied for first on the men’s side with the Crimson gaining the top seed. A year ago the Quakers men made a late run to get in the field and then forced Princeton in overtime before losing.

The practice times Friday are:

Harvard men 9:10-9:50
Cornell men 10:10-10:50
Penn men 11:10-11:50
Yale men 12:10-12:50

Princeton women 1:10-1:50
Yale women 2:10-2:50
Penn women 3:10-3:50
Harvard women 4:10-4:50

And that’s the report.


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