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, March 04, 2018

The Guru’s Report: Philly Teams Enjoy Super Saturday Victories

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA — Some of Saturday joy may be shortlived. The rest is capable of becoming a triplever to greater things.

But in the Guru local mix in Division I, six answered the bell while one more in waiting and all of them were winners.

Elsewhere in the country there are teams that are among the best of the best.

But in terms of a mass group of competitiveness and excellence within a small geographical footprint in terms of campus location, there are few places for night after night achievement.

And so to begin a recap we will break it down, including the two stops the Guru made within a few blocks of each other but the most magical action of the moment in down in Richmond, Va., where itt‘s 2007 once more but maybe with a more positive finish.

Some of you longtimers must remember back then when Saint Joseph’s, beginning the Atlantic10 tournament, then in its entirely played in one location, as a fifth seed and pulling a string of upsets to play host Xavier in the title game in the Musketeers’ Cintas Center in Cincinnati.

Well, those same Hawks, who started out Tuesday back home beating VCU and then moving South to join the rest of the survivors and bye teams, are now one win away from an automatic berth to the NCAA field.

“We’ve come this far, now let’s do this” Hawks coach Cindy Griffin said as overall upset karma continued in the Richmond Coliseum.

On Friday in the quarterfinals Saint “Joseph’s dispatched Fordham at the finish for the second straight week, ejecting the three seed from the field, the same day seventh-seeded Saint Louis eliminated second seed Duquesne. 

By seed, but in reality an equal, fifth-seeded George Washinjgton brought down fourth-seeded George Mason.

And then the Colonials kept the fun going in the semifinals Saturday by knocking off top seed Dayton 58-53 as George Washington closed out with 8 of 10 foul shots in the final two minutes to post a 58-53 victory.

“I think the A-10 is wide open and any of seven teams can win it,” George Washington coach Jen Rizzotti, the former UConn star, said here a week ago after a close win at Saint Joseph’s.

“Dayton set the standard for the Atlantic 10 this year,” she said of the Flyers (23-6) who won all but the last game on the league schedule and now waits for an at-large bid that will displace a bubble team.

“So not just to win, to have a chance to play for a championship, but beating a team that was the best in the league all year long, I’m really proud of my players.”

Brianna Cummings topped the Colonials (18-13) to return to the title game for the third time in recent seasons.

Then came the other semifinal, and the Hawks (18-13) led all the way to a 58-49 win over the Billikens, avenging a 96-73 loss to Saint Louis (17-15) in the Midwest.

So it’s a throwback to times of yesteryear when the Hawks and Colonials tip off at noon Sunday on ESPNU.

After being on the road to nowhere from early December through January, Saint Joseph’s has come together and the worst case now is that if George Washington wins Sunday, Griffin’s team is now certain to gain a bid to the Women’s NIT.

A majority of  Hawks players participated in the Philly women’s summer league and are usually the top stars of all the squads they compete on from mid-June till the first week in August.

Saint Joseph, riding the momentum of the win over Fordham, opened with a 12-4 lead and kept the pressure on the rest of the way.

Chelsea Woods celebrated her birthday with a double-double, leading the Hawks with fifteen points and ten rebounds, while point guard Alyssa Monaghan, called "the glue of the team" by teammate Amanda Fioravanti, scored thirteen points, dished out five assists and had three steals. Fioravanti added nine points, while Friday's quarterfinal hero Sarah Veilleux scored seven.
"At Saint Louis, they controlled the pace of the game so we knew what we needed to do, and we locked in and took control of it," Fioravanti added. "Finally, at the perfect time, everyone was ready to go, and we all came together."
Jackie Kemph finished with a game-high seventeen points for Saint Louis.

In the 2007 tourney, when the Hawks got to the title game, they overcame a 10-point deificit to Xavier but the rigors of playing four straight days as a lower seed caught up with them in the final minutes.

“Playing the first game earlier in the week in this format was definitiely beneficial,” said Griffin.

“We knew we had to play with pace today. They're a very high explosive offensive team,” she said.

“We executed the game plan as well as we set it out to be. Our kids did a really good job of containing (Kemph). We started out really hot shooting the ball and I think that set the tone for us today."

Drexel Claims Top CAA Seed While Delaware Also Wins

Meanwhile, back here in West Philadelphia, the action started in the afternoon where Drexel at home in the Daskalakis Athletic Center did not take lowly Charleston lightly and grabbed a 71-57 victory to finish tied atop the Colonial Athletic Association with James Madison, which at home beat William & Mary.

Sunday’s RPI report was not out yet as the Guru was writing this report on a train to New London, Conn., for the American Athletic Conference tournament quarterfinals.

But on Saturday the Dragons had a 21-place lead on the Dukes in the standings, a differential not likely to change much, so Drexel gets the top seed for the CAA tourney, which begins at Drexel Wednesday and runs through Saturday afternoon.

Bailey Greenberg had 20 points for the Dragons (24-6, 16-2 CAA), while Kelsi Lidge, one of the departing seniors, had 17 points and 10 rebounds. Sara Woods hasd 11 points and Aubree Brown scored nine.

Tanisha Brown had 16 points for Charleston (6-23, 2-16).

“We knew today was an emotional one, being senior day, but that’s always the case,” said Drexel coach Denise Dillon. “But knowing how much was on the line, that adds another element and pressure.

“But I don’t think the team played that way. We were able to rotate a lot of people.”

Drexel’s finish at worst will allow the Dragons to be an automatic qualifier to the Women’s NIT if they don’t win the CAA’s automatic bid to the NCAAs.

Down in suburban Baltimore, Delaware cruised to an 81-55 win over host Towson in the SECU Arena to finish 18-11 overall and 11-7 in the conference to land in the 4-5 seed quarterfinal game on Thursday.

Nicole Enobosi, who was shut down by Drexel at home Thursday, was back to her double double ways, registering her 22nd of the season with 22 points and 10 rebounds.

Samone DeFreese had 19 points.

Towson (9-20, 4-14) got 18 points from Maia Lee.

“What a wonderful way to end the regularf season,” said Blue Hens first-year coach Natasha Adair.

Two first round games in the CAA involving the four lowest seeds will be played at 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

Drexel will open quarterfinal play at noon Thursday followed by Delaware’s game at 2:30 p.m.

The winners of those two games will meet in a semifinal Friday at 3 p.m.

The championship will be at 1 p.m. Saturday, out of conflict with the Ivy women’s semifinals at Penn, which are at night.

The complete tournament pairings will be filed later Sunday by your Guru.

Princeton and Penn finish 1-2 and Ivy Semifinals Set

Penn will be plaiying somewhere in the postseason after holding off Brown 67-56 Saturday night in The Palestra to earn the No. 2 seed in next weekend’s Ivy tournament behind Princeton, which clinched the regular season crown outright by outlasting Yale at home 64-53 at Jadwin Gym in central New Jersey.

The Quakers (20-7, 11-3 Ivy), who were swept by Princeton during the season, got standout performances from their seniors, particularly Michelle Nwokedi, who had 22 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots.

Freshman Eleah Parker had seven points and 13 rebounds and senior Beth Brzozowski had 12 rebounds.

Justine Gaziano had 20 points and Shayna Mehta scored 12 for Brown (15-12, 3-11), which was in the field a year ago for the first Ivy women’s tourney.

The No. 2 seed brings an automatic qualifier to the Women’s NIT, though for now the Quakers would like to repeat last season’s automatic NCAA bid that goes to the Ivies, which Penn has held three of the past four seasons.

Nwokedi, a native of Texas, is the first Ivy player with over 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds and 300 blocked shots. She was player and defensive player of the year last season.

Anna Ross, another outgoing senior, extended her Penn career mark to 476 assists after the Quakers beat the Bears for the 15th straight time.

Harvard, which won at Cornell, claimed the third seed, so there's nothing other than another win riding on Sunday’s game when the Crimson finish at Columbia.

Yale, which fell at Princeton, will be the fourth seed and play the Tigers again in the semifinals, playing in the 6 p.m. semifinal Saturday before Penn and Harvard meet at 8:30 p.m.

The title game is next Sunday.

“We’re going to put a pause button to celebrate the journey to this point,” said Penn coach Mike McLaughlin, “but to win 20 games again and 11 in one of the best conferences I’ve been associated with, we’re going to celebrate.

“We’ll regroup for next Saturday but right now we want to enjoy this

“And part of that was the Big Five title and 20 wins in a league that only plays 27 is a big deal.”

Said Nwokedi, “We’re really excited. Next week is going to be a great envirnment. Last year was really a fun year.”

Up at Princeton (22-5, 12-2 Ivy), Bella Alarie had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Tigers, while Kenya Holland equalled a career-high with 15 points.

Yale (15-12, 8-6) got 13 points from Tamara Simpson.

Temple and Rider Win

Tonya Cardoza claimed her 200th triumph in her 10 years with the Owls as Temple opening in the American Athletic Conference and Rider in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference were determined not to be one and done teams after each enjoyed gaudy success a year ago.

Temple, the 11th seed, upset sixth-seeded Wichita State 72-59 to avenge a loss to the Shockers (14-17), a new member, on the road.

Tanaya Atkinson had 24 points and freshman Emanii Mayo had 20 for the Owls (12-18).

Temple will face third seed UCF at noon at the Mohegan Sun Arena near New London and your Guru is on Amtrak now riding to be at that game and the rest of the tourney but will be tracking everything else.

Rider, meanwhile, as the fifth seed beat fourth-seeded Fairfield 71-64 after splitting the two games with the Stags (13-17) this season.

Stella Johnson had 26 points for the Broncs (14-16) in the quarterfinal at the Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y.

The dubious prize, however, is a semifinal game at 11 Sunday morning with Quinnipac (22-5), whom Rider faced in the MAAC title game a year ago and went 18-0 in the conference this season.

However, the Broncs were competitie for a half in their recent game at home in Alumni Gymnasium in Lawrenceville, N.J.

Meanwhile, Villanova, likely to land an NCAA bid, is the third seed in the Big East tourney at DePaul’s new Wintrust Arena in Chicago and opens against sixth-seeded Georgetown at 9:30 Sunday night.

And that’s the roundup.