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.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Guru Report: On Deck - Penn at Saint Joes/AP WBB Poll Notes

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

There was a time in the 10-game Philadelphia Big Five round-robin that the Penn-Saint Joseph’s matchup did not offer much ahead of the tipoff in terms of the projected outcome.

The Hawks were one of the teams that owned the Quakers more than anyone except for Villanova.

In recent years that has no longer been true as Penn under Mike McLaughlin has become a contender. 

While the Hawks lead the overall series 40-4, the Quakers are on a two-game win streak and have won three of the last five.

Prior to McLaughlin’s arrival from Holy Family in Northeast Philadelphia, which he made into a Division II powerhouse, Penn had won just 14 Big Five games in what had been 30 years of women’s competition. 

In his 11 seasons at the helm prior to this one, he single-handedly passed the total with 15 local victories and has guided the Quakers to a share of their only two titles.

Thus, from ho-hum to compelling is the way to describe Wednesday night’s second City Series tilt on the local schedule when the Quakers drop by Saint Joseph’s Hagan Arena for the tipoff at 7 p.m.

 It’s both an overall test for each team in their early season action and likely also a must to fulfill aspirations of a City Series title.

The Hawks (2-1, 1-0 Big Five) already have one local game in the bag, having topped Temple in a tightly fought contest at Hagan a week ago Monday.

But the other two contests have produced mixed results with Saint Joseph’s taking its season opener on the road with a strong second-half at an improved Columbia squad on New York’s Upper West Side.

However, back up in Gotham on Sunday in the Bronx, Seton Hall was able to subdue Saint Joseph’s offense, a neutral game played as part of a doubleheader in Fordham’s Rose Hill Gym.

Meanwhile, Penn has roared to a first-ever 3-0 start beating each opponent by more than 30 points, besting Siena and Iona at home in The Palestra while routing NJIT on the road up in Newark.

However, that trio of foes was more about fine tuning the machine than anything else, so the game against the Hawks will be the Quakers’ first true test.

Each team, like virtually everyone else in the Big Five portion of the Guru’s local 11, has newcomers making impacts early in their collegiate careers.

For Saint Joseph’s, which snapped a four-game series losing streak against Temple, that would be Ireland’s Claire Melia, who had 23 points at Columbia and 17 against the Owls, and Gabby Smalls, who grabbed 12 rebounds in Sunday’s loss to the Pirates.

Melia already has one Atlantic 10 rookie of the week honor previously off her play against the Lions.

Penn, meanwhile, which beat the Hawks 65-45 a year ago at The Palestra, has been getting production from Kayla Padilla, who had 25 at NJIT, the first newcomer to reach that total in her first two games since the fabled Diana Caramanico scored 26 in her debut for the 1997-98 season.

Padilla picked up the latest Ivy rookie of the week honor, an award the Quakers have reaped many times in the McLaughlin era. 

Villanova’s Maddy Siegrist has also gotten some early citations this week being honored with the Big East rookie award and the national rookie award from the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA).

And La Salle’s Australian twin sister combo of Amy and Claire Jacobs were named the players of the week by the Phillycollegesports.com local website after keying the two Explorers comeback wins over Harvard and at Penn State from huge deficits.

Not a freshman but a local roster newcomer nonetheless, Temple’s Ashley Jones, a transfer from West Virginia and graduate of Neumann-Goretti here in town, has also been drawing attention.

Meanwhile, the Quakers defense, keyed by junior Eleah Parker, has yielded just 137 points, the lowest to start the first three games since 1974-75 before the women’s part of the Big Five ever began.

 They were among the nation’s leaders in defensive denials last season.

The game will air on the ESPN+ app but there are no other Division I teams in town Wednesday.

 In the Guru’s local mix, Temple will be at Bucknell of the Patriot League where the Owls will be  trying to get back on track after the loss to UConn Sunday, and Princeton at 4-0 will be visiting Iowa.

Looking Ahead: On Thursday, Villanova with the only D-1 game in the area will try to build on the Fordham win by hosting Manhattan, which is coached by Heather Vulin, a former Wildcats assistant who was in charge of recruiting.

Penn State will be hosting Clemson at 7 trying to recover from its loss at home to La Salle.

On Friday, there’s nothing in the area. 

Rider will be playing in Orlando, Fla., as part of the MAAC/ASUN challenge, meeting Liscomb Friday and then on Saturday playing North Florida while on Friday La Salle heads to Norfolk State in Virginia.

Believe it or not there are no local site games in D-1 in the area Saturday so the Guru might show at one of the D2 games. 

On Sunday, Richmond visits Drexel at 2 p.m. while Princeton hosts Monmouth at 1.

 On the road, Villanova is at Georgia, Saint Joseph’s is at Auburn, Rutgers is at LSU, Delaware is at UCF, and Penn State hosts George Mason.

Nationally, Sunday, Connecticut is at Ohio State and Oregon is at Syracuse.

National Scene: AP WBB Poll Triva

With Notre Dame’s first exit in 12 seasons and Tennessee’s return after its longest absence at 11 weeks, here are some things to know about the Lady Vols’ history.

Having come on the scene almost a decade and a half before Connecticut became nationally relevant, Tennessee has been the Grandmama of all stats of the rankings, which began in November 1976, and now are in their 44th season with the latest in history to be under week number 771.

The Lady Vols have had the most appearances at 728.

 Texas, which just dropped out, is second at 559, but Stanford, which is third at 551, could catch the Longhorns over the next eight weeks if the Texans don’t work their way back into the favor of the national media panel.

Until her retirement because of her battle with Alzheimer’s, the late Pat Summitt guided her squad into 618 appearances in the poll, missing 14, the first-ever, which was the only preseason miss for the Vols until last month. 

There was a four-week gap and then a nine-week gap followed by the record 565 week run over 32 seasons that began on Feb. 17, 1985, and later continued under associate head coach Holly Warlick after her promotion until Feb. 15, 2016.

Warlick teams have 109 appearances and 27 misses, including nine of the 11 weeks through her ouster after last season, and new coach and former player Kellie Harper has this week’s appearance after the two misses to start the season.

By the way, the Guru had put a typo in his own file, so the South Carolina current streak total is 134, not 131, which is fourth behind Connecticut (492), Baylor (302), and Maryland (177).

Notre Dame was about to make some headway moving up poll lists before the Irish’s ouster.

With 373 appearances, the Irish are two behind North Carolina State at 13th but the Wolfpack are just one behind Rutgers, which is not ranked, but could return if the Scarlet Knights continue their winning ways.

On the overall coaching category, ND’s Muffet McGraw with all the program’s 373 rankings is 10th behind Texas A&M’s Gary Blair at 377 collected also at Stephen F. Austin and Arkansas.

That’s just three behind retired Jim Foster, the only coach to take four programs into the rankings, and former North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell at 384.

Kim Mulkey, at 13th at 327 at Baylor, just broke a tie with the late Kay Yow at North Carolina State and is two behind retired Virginia coach Debbie Ryan at 329.

 Ahead of her is the late former Penn State coach Rene Portland, who also has some appearances at Saint Joseph’s for 336 behind McGraw.

At the top behind Summitt, Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer is second with 559 that also includes a stint at Ohio State, UConn’s Geno Auriemma, who broke a tie with retired coach Andy Landers at the start of the season, is now third at 525, and Rutgers‘ C. Vivian Stringer is behind Landers with a total of 435 compiled at Cheyney, Iowa, and with the Scarlet Knights.

On the active list, South Carolina’s Dawn Staley is 13th at 165 from Temple and the Gamecocks, which is two behind Iowa State’s Bill Fennelly, who is 10 behind Louisville’s Jeff Walz.

Tennessee’s Harper, incidentally, becomes the 40th individual to coach and play on an AP ranked women’s team (yep, males would be hard to make this group).

 She is also the 13th to do it at the same school.

Furthermore, since Holly Warlick is also among the 13, Tennessee becomes the second school with multi-representatives, joining Southern Cal, which has Cheryl Miller and Cyntha Cooper-Dyke.

The other nine, since you are wondering, are Amanda Butler, achieved at Florida; Pokey Chatman, achieved at LSU; Michelle Clark-Heard, achieved at Western Kentucky; Carolyn Kieger, achieved at Marquette; Linda Lappe, achieved at Colorado; Wendy Larry, achieved at Old Dominion; Carol Ross, achieved at Mississippi; Bev Smith achieved at Oregon; and Lindsay Whelan, achieved at Minnesota.

And that’s the report. 

 

 

 

     

 

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Mike Siroky’s SEC Report: Now It’s a Select Six in the Top 25

 

 

By Mike Siroky

 

The best conference of women’s basketball, the Southeastern, had an unranked team win on the road at a ranked team from another major conference.

 

The five ranked SEC teams all won, in including a road thriller on a final shot.

 

Now there is a sixth ranked team.

 

Tennessee, as reported last week, rocked No. 16 Notre Dame out of the Top 25 for the first time in 12 seasons. 

 

The Vols established the points margin in the opening quarter and dominating the boards, 55-29, with 12 blocks. 

 

What Rennia Davis did in leading the upset, 33 points and 10 rebounds, earned conference player of the week honors. 

 

ND had been 110-3 at home in recent seasons. Davis is on the Wade, Wooden and Naismith national watch lists.

 

The Kellie Harper coaching legend is under way. 

 

UT snuck into the Top 25, at No. 24 a few weeks ahead of our projection. They start their ranked work week with the first of four home games. 

 

We expected them by December. They play six straight at home.

 

National signing day also had the expected impact on the top programs.

 

No. 5 SOUTH CAROLINA (4-0)

 

The Gamecocks went kaboom! over visiting Appalachian State, 92-50. They allowed nine first-half points, three in the opening quarter.

 

Lotsa players played, which is why they were outscored in the final quarter. Five were in double figures, led by senior center Mikiah Herbert Harrigan with 21, 10-of-17 from the floor.

 

Superlative freshman Aliyah Boston doubled, 14 points and 10 rebounds, 6-of-6 from the floor. The team shot 56 percent.  

 

SC caused 21 turnovers, with 11 steals. They drew 10,498.

 

South Carolina came into the contest first in the country in blocked shots per game at 11. The Gamecocks set a school record with 17 blocks; Boston and Herbert Harrigan each had four.

 

South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said, “We can do a lot of things from a defensive standpoint. It’s a key to our victories, no matter who we’re playing or what we’re doing. Our kids seem to like playing it because it leads to the offensive side of the ball, which they probably love more than defense.

 

“At certain points, you stop looking at the score and just look at execution,” Staley said. “For our team, we were just trying to maintain some focus on both sides of the basketball.

 

 “Our offensive flow is something we’ve really been focusing on along with our defense,” Herbert Harrigan said. “It was great to have everybody touching the ball, moving the ball and putting up good shots.”

 

Staley went Hollywood at Dayton, with a rainbow-striped sweater that had the image of a snarling tiger on the front.

 

Maybe it was a work to distract the home team.  Dayton made 2 of 15 shots in the first quarter. The Flyers fell behind 22-6 and lost 75-49.

 

"We did what we were supposed to do today," Dayton coach Shauna Green said. "We couldn't hit shots. When we don't hit shots, it takes away some of our confidence, and you just can't get down 22-6 against this type of team and make a comeback."

 

Green pointed to South Carolina's 52-42 rebounding advantage and a 14-11 margin at the free-throw line as stats she could live with against a team like the Gamecocks. 

 

Dayton also had an advantage in another area of concern: Turnovers. South Carolina turned the ball over 17 times. Dayton committed 13.

 

But the Flyers (2-1) were outscored in every quarter, trailed 41-21 at halftime and fell behind by as many as 29 in the third.

 

This was not the same South Carolina team that needed a strong finish in the fourth quarter to beat Dayton 65-55 last year at home.

 

"I think we have a lot healthier bodies this time around and a lot more depth than we had last year," Staley said, "And we have a lot more competitive players. They're competing at a high level in practice, and they do that out here in the game. They don't play perfect, but it doesn't come from a place of not competing."

 

Freshman Zia Cooke led South Carolina with 27 points on 5-of-6 shooting. Another freshman, forward Aliyah Boston, the nation's third-ranked recruit, scored 11 also on 5-of-6 shooting. 

 

Brea Beal, South Carolina's third freshman starter, had 10 rebounds.

 

There is an excess of rookie players in conference this season, but Aliyah Boston is special. She is the first week freshman conference honoree and should be the season winner.

 

Amazingly, South Carolina has zero signees. They moved up to No. 5 in the national poll.


No. 6 TEXAS A&M (4-0)

 

The Aggies visited old rival Rice, which has lost only once in two years when they play at Autry Court in Houston. 

 

They were on a 17-game winning streak and the Owls nearly pulled off the upset.

 

A&M has two of the top five scorers in conference, Chennedy Carter (20.5) and Cierra Johnson (19). No other team has two in the top 10.

 

It was a tussle. 

 

Though A&M led by as many as 11 late in the first half, Rice was ahead to start the fourth, 53-49.

 

Kayla Wells hit a layup off a N’dea Jones offensive rebound. Johnson put back her own rebound after Carter forced a shot clock violation.

 

But Rice came back. 

 

A&M dropped the ball out of bounds. Rice scored four again. 

 

It was again a four-point deficit.

 

A&M called a time out and scored four straight. Kayla Wells hit a jumper, a Jones block and a Johnson layup.

 

Rice hit two free throws, 16-of-18 from the line. It was 59-57 Rice.

 

There was a little scuffle, both coaches were talked to, with 3:28 left.

 

 A&M fought to another shot clock violation with 2:50 left.

 

Cheah Rael-Whitsitt blocked a shot. Shambria Washington scored her first basket, a 3, and A&M was up by one with two minutes to go.

 

But A&M got confused. The Aggies couldn’t get a shot off. 

 

Rice ran the clock to one minute but missed the shot. A&M missed next. 

 

Rice had possession with 35 seconds left. Carter grabbed a rebound but stumbled or was pushed, traveling was called and Rice had it back.

 

Gary Blair contested the call. Rice scored off the inbounds pass.

 

A&M called time out at 23 seconds. The crowd of 1,808 roared. 

 

Blair designed a last play.

Johnson claimed a putback and A&M won 62-61. 

 

Carter had 29 points, and Wells 19. Johnson had half of her eight points in the final quarter. She also had eight rebounds.

 

“We were very fortunate to get out of here alive,” said Blair. “We should have cleaned it up. Give Cierra a lot of credit. She was so solid.

 

“The road brings us out. We are fixin’ on going on the road for two more games. We have to do a better job of letting the coaches coach and the players listen.

 

Senior forward Rael-Whitsitt said, “They really put on a really big show for their crowd, that was just a beautiful putback. We were all so excited.

 

“This game tells us people will and do look at a target on our backs.”

Johnson said of the final basket, “We were trying to run it for Chennedy and I just got into a rebound position. Luckily the ball fell to me and I was able to put it back.

 

“The biggest thing is we don’t panic. We just try to stay prepared.”

 

At 6-4, she battled all game with Nancy Mulkey, a 6-9 post. Johnson limited her to one rebound, a huge difference made. Mulkey was coming off a triple-double.

 

“We kinda did some things today the way we practiced,” said assistant coach Bob Starkey. “We let them back in the game. But the positives come from overcoming.

 

“Cierra made Mulkey work. She just does those things that win games. We’re not going to gain headlines from that. We buckled down and won a few things defensively.”

 

Blair signed a spiffy trio on National Signing Day: Kay-Kay Green of Chicago, Maliiah Jakcson out of LSU’s hometown, Baton Rouge, and Kenyal Perry. of Houston.

 

Green, a 5-6 point guard, already has eclipsed 1,000 career points. She was a Class 4A all-stater.

 

"Kay Kay is another prototype point guard for us who knows how to run a high-level Division-I offense,” Blair said. “Her experience at two national powerhouses, Whitney Young High School and Mac Irvin Fire AAU teams have proven she is ready to compete in the point guard role at the SEC level. 

 

“Kay Kay can score, distribute and create."

 

Johnson is a 6-2 scoring forward.

 

 "Maliyah will bring versatility, length, athleticism and the ability to play three positions while guarding any position for Texas A&M,” Blair said. “I am most excited about her ability to run the floor and attack the glass early in her career and watch her grow into an impact player in the SEC."

 

 At 6-6, Perry is a traditional post player.

 

Blair said,  "Kenyal's best basketball is in front of her. She has length, size and athleticism, and most importantly a willingness to learn the game. 

 

“She will have a great opportunity her senior year (in high school) to play for a WNBA and All-American player in Temeka Johnson, who will have her prepared for the physical and mental game of women's college basketball. 

 

“We are excited to have her be a part of the Aggie family and eager to begin helping her grow into a dominant post at Texas A&M."

 

A&M travels to Southern Cal this week. The tough win over an unranked team cost them one spot in the national poll.

 

No. 10 MISSISSIPPI STATE (3-0)

 

You don’t stay undefeated with slow starts.

 

The Bulldogs ravished Murray State with a 21-2 start holding them to 16 percent from the field. 

 

State did not hit 21 until 90 seconds were left in the half. Jessika Carter scored 10, 3-of-5 from the field, 4-of-5 from the line.  

 

It was 34-7 at the break. Andra Espinoza-Hunter hit a 3 with one second to go.

 

It meandered to a 124-43 finish after a four-point defensive third quarter. That’s a team scoring record.

 

Carter scored 25 with 18 rebounds to lead the parade, each career bests. Team rebounds were 56-33. 

 

They had 15 steals and caused 34 turnovers. They drew 7,820 and earned the weekend off.

 

Vic Schaefer said he is proud, as usual, of the effort. The stars of the day were as surprising, in a way, as was the crowd.

 

“We’re getting better,” he said. “I am not going to apologize for that.”

 

Rikkea Jackson, 16 points in 17 minutes, 6-of-8 from the field 5-of-5 from the line, said it felt good to see her shots finally falling.

 

Carter is not accepting this effort as her best. “I can see me doing so much more,” she said.

 

Promise Taylor was 5-of-6 from the floor for her 10 points, with seven rebounds in her 17 minutes is just happy to be playing again after her sit out year, transferring from Ole Miss. “Just to play with my teammates,” she said.

 

The theme is there are starters on the bench, but no one is questioning playing time.

 

“If you are not paying attention, you’ll pay,” Schaefer said of the multiplicity of substitutions that led to six in double-figures.

 

He pointed out the defense accomplished the goal of the game. 

 

“Look at their 3s,” he said. “They want to shoot the 3 more than half the time. They only had 11 3 attempts.”

 

An 18-7 first quarter against UT Martin basically defined what ended up an 82-46 win.

 

The Bulldogs won every quarter. They won rebounds by 10, caused 26 turnovers and held the Skyhawks to 28 percent from the field. They hit 30-of-54 from the line.

 

 "First of all, I'm really pleased with our team," said coach Vic Schaefer. "I thought we showed some growth tonight in some areas. We still got our work in progress in most areas, but I did see some improvement in certain areas.

 

"I know my father, who's now deceased, was a veteran who loved his country," said Schaefer. "I grew up loving my country. We have so many veterans as part of this great university. It was an honor to be a part of the night, and I'm proud of our kids for the way they played."

 

As the game was played on Veterans Day, Mississippi State unveiled a permanent POW/MIA Chair of Honor inside Humphrey Coliseum to serve as a tribute to prisoners of war and service members who are missing in action, honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

 

“It was really an honor to be in the building tonight when we honored the Prisoner of War/Missing In Action chair reveal,” Schaefer said.

 

“You guys don’t know, but my dad was a colonel in the army, 32 years. He was in World War Two, European Theatre. I grew up listening to Reveille every morning.

 

“One of my dearest friends, Gene Smith in West Point, who was a prisoner of war for six and a half years, lived in a box with three other guys. 

 

“Every time I’m with him, he’s just a ball of energy. He is a tremendous man, but to listen to him tell that story of being shot down and how that happened and just the specifics of the whole thing. It really gives you an unbelievable perspective on things.

 

“It’s an honor and humbling to be around him, and he’s one of my dearest friends. I know my father, who’s now deceased, was a veteran who loved his country. 

 

“I grew up loving my country. We have so many veterans a part of this great university, and I know it was a great gesture on our part.”

 

As for the game, “I thought we shared the ball much better tonight, we had 22 assists on 30 baskets and that’s much more in line of what I like to see. 

 

“Obviously, we had five or six players shoot 50 percent or better, which is really good. We just got to cut down on turnovers, we had seven in the second half. Rikkea (Jackson) had five. 


“She had four assists which is great. Myah (Taylor) had five assists and Jordan had three assists. 

 

“We’ve got to continue to work on that. I thought Andi (Espinoza-Hunter) looked good tonight, she finally looked a little comfortable. (She) did a good job of attacking the rim. 

 

 “Xaria (Wiggins) now has come off the bench two games in a row and really giving us a lift.  Aliyah (Matharu) shot the ball extremely well tonight as our point guard. She didn’t have any turnovers, which I know she’s going to be thrilled about, but she only had two assists.

 

“But still her and Myah, one turnover between the two of them. That’s much better than where we’ve been.”

 

Carter scored 19 on what was then a career-record scoring night, 7-of-9 from the field, 5-of-6 from the line. Matharu scored 15 off the bench in 17 minutes, 6-of-8 from the field with three 3s. 

 

They drew 7,667.

 

State signed a pair of quality players on National Signing Day

 

Tennessee’s Madison Hayes is just the fourth top 30 player in program history. The 6-0 point guard is on target to be a McDonald’s All-America and would be State’s second of those.

 

DeYona Castro of Texas is a small forward. She has come back to form after a series of injuries as a junior.

 

 “I am so excited about the two young ladies we have added to our program and their families,” said Schaefer. “I am excited about their quality and character as well as their skill set. 

 

“We are so blessed. You talk about two kids that are competitive. Both of those young ladies just jump at me and jump at you when you watch them play. 

 

“We are just so, so fortunate to be getting and adding those two to our Mississippi State Bulldog Family.”

 

No. 13 KENTUCKY (4-0)

 

Going to Virginia was Kentucky’s only true pe-conference test, another matchup of ACC vs. SEC.

 

UK started well, holding the Cavaliers to 25 percent from the floor in the 15-12 opening quarter. But, as the score indicates, no one was finding easy scores.

 

Howard went scoreless in the second quarter, stuck on three points. 

 

The Kats had their lowest halftime of the season, a 23-22 deficit and a seven-point quarter, with two minutes left. 

 

There was no separating statistic to be found.

 

 Ten points in a quarter is not a lot. 

 

But when you only allow two, for the first several minutes it’s enough to lead to a 34-40 advantage after three. 

 

Lot of coaches will say defense will win games and the offense will take care of itself. Senior guard Sabrina Haines scored 13 by then, the only Kat near double figures.

 

Howard rallied with 10 in the fourth and UK won 50-47. She hit two free throws with two seconds left,

 

 Howard doubled with 11 rebounds. Virginia missed a desperation 3. Haines had 17. 

 

Kentucky only missed two free throws; Virginia missed five.

 

They drew 2,507.

 

Cavalier coach Tina Thompson said “We came into this game really confident thinking this was one that we could get and we put ourselves in a position to win.

 

“For our kids to come out and play the way that they did, we’re really excited about that. I think that for sure our first years know that they can come out and compete against anyone in the country and support our fourth years in a way that we can be competitive and successful.”

 

She said last shot was not desperation, but as they planned.

 

“Well we actually didn’t execute it, so I’d rather not tell you exactly what it was because we’ll then use it at a later date. 

 

“It wasn’t for sure to take the shot that we got, but it happens in those moments when it’s really intense and things can go awry. They did a really good job of jumping into a different defense to shut down what we were trying to do.”

 

Senior guard Jocelyn Willoughby said of that shot: “They switched up the defense and went to a zone, which made it a little bit harder to figure out where we were screening. 

 

“Dominique (Toussaint) gave a great pass and I just rushed the shot to get it off in time. That was the shot we wanted and we executed, so that’s something to be proud of.”

 

“It shows everybody that we can play with anybody,” senior guard Toussaint.

 

“We came into this game with people doubting how we would play against Kentucky but obviously we stayed with them and had solid defense all the way through.

 

“Don’t get discouraged. It was a great game for us to have early on. It’s something we can build off of and learn from. 

 

“There were little things like having several charges early on in the game where, when the refs are calling it that way early, we have to be smart and adjust. 

 

“Little things like that can grow our IQ and help us learn as a team down the road.”

 

The Kats more than doubled Stetson in the first quarter, 13-6, with one of those single-digit defensive slaps and led by as many as 20 in the fourth of a 67-48 win.

 

Sophomore star Howard scored 24. Junior KeKe McKinney had her first career double/double, 10 points and 10 rebounds.

 

 Kentucky forced 24 Stetson turnovers, and scored 24 points off those miscues. The Cats also had a 22-11 advantage in second-chance points.

 

Kentucky’s start came from Howard, with seven in the 8-0 lead. 

 

The Kats posted a 12-2 run to take a 25-10 lead with 5:43 to play in the half and led by a dozen at intermission, with 12 offensive rebounds, leading to 17 second- chance points. 

 

An 8-0 outburst in the third settled it.

 

Howard led all scorers with 18 points in the first half.  

 

The second half started in much the same fashion, as Kentucky assembled an 8-2 run to start the third period to extend the lead to 40-22. 

 

Wyatt had a layup and free throw to start the half and Sabrina Haines connected on a three-pointer during the run. 

 

Kentucky would lead by as many as 19 during the third quarter, including at the end, as the Cats went to the fourth leading 49-30. Blair Green led the Cats with four points in the third period.

 

They drew 1,573, which is disapppinting.

 

“I’m real proud of the effort that the players gave on the defensive end,” said coach Matthew Mitchell, “ and really worked hard to give effort on the offensive glass tonight.

 

“We got off to a good start and gave good effort. So, we just need to keep working, improving and giving this kind of effort every night and every day in practice and we’ll end up with a really good team.

 

“I’m really happy to get the victory and looking forward to improvement as a team.”

 

Senior guard Sabrina Hayes said playing 10 in that first quarter was another lesson in a live game.

 

“It’s more of a nod towards how deep our team is and how he can play 10 people in a quarter. I don’t think it’s necessarily us being worried about coming out. 

 

“We know that our team is that deep and that people are able to keep up the energy. To make it even better, knowing our team can do that is comforting to us.

 

“We are knocking them down in practice. We really are, we promise. It’s just different whenever you get in the game. 

 

“It’s a different type of feel, and of course it’s another team you are playing against. You have to adjust and luckily Rhyne (Howard) came off hot tonight. She really helped us out a whole lot. 

 

“The rest of us are getting use to everything. I know personally, I’m still getting used to the game feel. In practice, we’re shooting great. It’s going to translate, we know it.”

 

This is a recovery year for Hayes after sitting out injured last season

 

“I think he (Mitchell). hit it right on the head. We do kind of tend to rush things, you know, and the key to basketball isn’t trying to always be faster than somebody, it’s trying to be smarter than somebody.

 

“So, for me, I know sometimes I’ll rush. I feel like I have to get the shot off before they cover me, when really, I could make a different move and do better in order to get my shot off better. 

 

“Our team definitely does struggle with trying to rush a bit, but we’re working on it.”

 

Howard used this game to work on defense.

 

“I know we were the better team, so I just tried to use my length more and I think on quickness we kind of equaled out, so I just feel like its staying in front and being aggressive.”

 

The Kats spend the majority of the pre-conference season, seven games, at home.

 

Three of the best high school basketball players in the nation have signed national letters of intent:  Treasure Hunt (Chattanooga), Nyah Leveretter (Blythewood, S.C.) and Erin Toller (Louisville) – already make this a Top-10 class in the nation.

 

“National Signing Day is always a fun day for our staff as we get to officially welcome some exceptional young women to our program and introduce them to the Big Blue Nation,” Mitchell said. “These are not only three talented basketball players, but three great young women who we feel confident will buy into what being a Kentucky Wildcat is all about. 

 

“I know all three are going to have great senior seasons and we can’t wait to get them on campus this summer and start their careers at this amazing university.”

 

No. 20 ARKANSAS (5-0)

 

The 101-58 win over McNeese State shows coach Mike Neighbors has their attention. They open their season with five at home.

 

Chelsea Dungee scored 16 at the half, on her way to leading four in double figures with 19.

 Forward Taylah Thomas’ nine bounds and finished with a double/double, 11 each points and rebounds. A dozen Razorbacks scored.

 

“She could have probably scored every time she touched it if that’s what we needed to have happen,” said Neighbors, after giving Dungee most of the second half off. “We were able to play through her early – I thought she made some really good decisions tonight.

 

“We got a lot of useable film for a lot of kids, and then we get to rest some of these kids that we usually have play 30 to 35 minutes,” Neighbors said. “I was proud of how all of our freshmen played tonight. Every single one of them stepped up for us tonight.”

 

They held McNeese to 23 percent from the floor.

 

“It was what we had been working on, our pace” said Dungee. “We have some things in our defense we have to fine tuned.”

 

“We looked at film, we talked about it and we worked on it,” said senior guard Alexis Tolefree.

 

“We always want to play fast and move the ball, that’s our plan every game,” Neighbors said. “We put up 100 shots and had 14 turnovers tonight, so that’s where we want to be.”

 

They kept the rush start going against Oral Roberts, a 24-6 opening quarter leading to a 47-28 half. then an 11-4 start to the third and we all knew who was going to win

 

Tolefree had 15 and Dungee had a dozen with four minutes left in the third. They had forced 11 turnovers. 

 

The 25-9 quarter, the second single-digit defensive quarter of the game, started cruise control in the 96-64 win.

 

 Arkansas had four starters in double figures, led by 27 from starter Makayla Daniels on 5-of-6 from the line, 8-of-11 from the floor and 5-of-6 3s. The team set a game record with 17 3s.

 

“It was mostly my teammates finding me and giving me the confidence to shoot,” Daniels said. “I just kept shooting.

 

“Game by game I take whatever the defense gives me. Tonight they gave me those (3s).”

 

As the point guard, she concentrates on her teammates.

 

“I was so excited when I came in because of all the talent we have,” she said. “It’s hard at times because we have so much talent and you have to get the ball everywhere;”

 

“My coach kept telling me to stop thinking so much, to just play because I am definitely an over-thinker.”

 

The third win of the week was against Stony Brook. 

 

 

They haven’t left campus yet, but three games in one week won’t happen in the SEC season, for instance, so it is a time to check endurance.

 

The 88-58 win came with Ramirez hitting 6-of-9 3s in a total of 26 points. There was nothing really remarkable as the Seawolves competed every quarter. They drew 2,045.

 

“That’s the best team we’ve played yet. In four-and-a-half, five minutes late in the first half that’s the best we’ve played yet. It blew open a close game and completely changes their halftime.”

 

He said everything flowed from there, making 3s and then hitting free throws. In contrast, he said they needed to better contest loose balls

“That’s crucial for us. You’d better believe every play will be isolated and shown.

 

“It also gives us valuable data as opposed to practice. It will carry over to SEC play.”

 

He is happy with the continuing improvement of the younger players.

 

“I don’t think you can keep us from getting good shots. I really do. I don’t know how I’d guard us. Probably hope we miss.”

 

“It was not the start we usually have,” said Ramirez. “Amber had the hot hand the entire game. She is hard to guard,” said Dungee. “I think she changed their game plan.”

 

“We picked up where we left off.” Said Ramirez.

 

Neighbors welcomed three on National Signing Day. They are Destinee McGhee (Alabama), Rylee Langerman (Oklahoma) and Elauna Eaton (in-state).

 

“National Singing Day is a time for our future Razorbacks to be rewarded for all the sacrifices they have made to get them to this day,” Neighbors said. “It is a day for them to share thanks to those family, friends and coaches who have helped make this day a reality. 

 

“Their accomplishments are amazing, and evaluator rankings will always be a part of every recruiting conversation, but the journey is so much more important than the statistics. 

 

“We welcome three new Razorbacks to our Hoops family today. Three unique on-court players. Three unique off-court personalities. Three unique journeys to Fayetteville. 

 

“Destinee, Rylee and Elauna, like the other 1,500 Division I signees at the other 350 Division I schools, are great players, great students and great people. 

 

“But these three are drastically different in that they chose to be Razorbacks. It never truly felt like we recruited these kids.”

 

Of McGhee, a 6-2 low post, he said it took 40 seconds in a Chicago tournament in 2018 to convince him.

 

 When she committed during the campus visit, he said it caused “a huge hog call.”

Scouting the 5-9 Langerman on a hot summer night, he said she said it became necessary to sign her.

 

The 6-0 Eaton, he said, was called to his attention while in flight to accept the Arkansas job and became the No. 1 recruit even then.

 

They moved into the Top 20.