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, December 30, 2016

Guru Insider: In Pursuit of USBWA Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award

Guru's note: special thanks to Chase Colliton of the Appalachian State sports information department

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

It was last fall when the Guru had read the Paul Zeiese sports piece in Pittsburgh about Appalachian State women's basketball coach Angel Elderkin and her battle against ovarian cancer while still on the sidelines that he thought what a wonderful candidate she would make to receive the U.S. Basketball Writers Association Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award.

Time was still early in the process and it was possible other acts of courage might exist for consideration for the award but the Guru reached out to the folks at Appalachian State in Boone, N.C., made them aware of the honor's existence and suggested if they thought their coach worthy enough, putting together an impressive nomination package might help get them to the winner's podium next April in Dallas at the Women's Final Four.

They responded in full support of coach Elderkin, who on Thursday, Dec. 29, just before tipoff of the highly anticipated showdown in College Park between host No. 4 Maryland and top-ranked Connecticut, was publicly announced as a winner of the 2017 award.

Also announced, as USBWA decided in a special way to honor the spirit and memory of the legendary coach Summitt, whose revealed battle against Alzheimer's disease was lost last June but had previously her name atop the award in 2012, was that a first-ever shared citation would occur and also went outside the realm on the women's side to also honor ESPN broadcaster Holly Rowe, who has had a public fight against cancer while staying on the air.

Rowe, a graduate of Utah, becomes the first women's recipient with no ties to the athletic field as a player or coach.

In the next several days the Guru will chornicle here the backstory of the entire process that went from concept to public announcement of the 2017 award with its various loops and turns working with Appalachian State, ESPN, Maryland, and the USBWA high command.

But for now, the Appalachian people allowed your Guru to share their nomination letter that greatly help land coach Elderkin the award. You can read the full public announcement of the Summitt Award at the USBWA site sportswriters.net All that said, here's the nomination from the Mountaineers.

BOONE, N.C. - We, at Appalachian State University, feel that women’s basketball head coach Angel Elderkin is the perfect candidate for the Pat Summitt USBWA Award. 

During the summer, Coach Elderkin was diagnosed with Stage III Endometrial Cancer, and she could have stopped coaching, but she didn’t. 

She immediately went to work in facing her biggest opponent. 

 All of the visible cancer was removed through surgery, but Coach Elderkin still had to complete a rigorous treatment plan before the season started.  

This plan included six chemotherapy treatment cycles & a period of radiation, which required her to be at the Lineberger Cancer Center 5 days a week. 

During her chemo treatments, she would travel to Chapel Hill, N.C. to perform her treatment, drive back and still make it to practice even when she was fatigued from the treatment. During her radiation treatment, she would leave Monday after a morning workout and return Friday for an afternoon workout, rarely missing any workouts or events with her players. 

She remained visible to her players throughout one of the toughest battles she ever had to fight.

 Coach Elderkin traveled to all five road games to start the season and even following her final chemo treatment, traveled on two road games to Virginia that nearly equaled a day’s worth of travel on the road. 
Since the season has started, she hasn’t missed one game. 

Coach Elderkin coaches every day as she is at her strongest, even if she is feeling her weakest. 

 Often, the staff or players have to corral her back, so she doesn’t overdo it.  This game and her players have been her greatest medicine.

Coach Elderkin’s will to fight, her courage and bravery resonate with everyone from the staff to the athletic department, and to other coaches across the country. 

Coach Elderkin’s passion for basketball and the will to coach through adversity shows you can do what you love while battling this deadly disease.  

Her fight has been about more than basketball, as she has fought with incredible spirit and will every day, inspiring everyone that is around her everyday.  

Coach Elderkin has fought with such grace, passion and spirit throughout this adversity. 

“The power of people and the power of being able to do what you love to do with the people that you love, to me, that is the cure.” – App State Head Women’s Basketball Coach Angel Elderkin

“Angel is deserving because she has been mentally and physically tough throughout this whole process. She has persevered through surgery and harsh treatments fighting a brutal type of cancer. And through it all, coach Elderkin has continued to coach and lead by example. She’s a fighter and an example to everyone on how to fight and journey through this hard time. If she wins, I know she will use her experience to help others go through difficult times. “  - North Carolina Head Women’s Basketball Coach Sylvia Hatchell

“Coach Angel deserves this award because she exudes courage. To have courage means to face obstacles head on even if you are afraid. 
Taking on a bunch of young women she hadn’t recruited for her basketball team and wanting to better them is courageous. 

Fighting an illness that she has no complete control over and still giving us 100% is courageous. She inspires me to love others regardless of outcomes, regardless of whether or not they can do things for me. 

She inspires me to be a better version of myself by being selfless. When I see others down, I make an effort to lift them up. When I see someone struggling, I make an effort to go the extra mile to give them my hand. Coach Elderkin is definitely shining a light in my world.” - App State senior forward Bria Carter

“She’s one of the few coaches in my career that cares about her players as people outside of basketball. It’s more than just a business to her; this is her life. 

That fact that she was diagnosed with cancer and immediately asked the doctor if her treatments would interfere with practice exhibits the bravery she shows. She’s the strongest coach I have ever had, and there’s no one else who deserves this more. 

She’s the very epitome of her own name. Our Angel! “ -  App State senior guard Jasmine Ogunjimi

“Coach Angel deserves this award because she is one of the most selfless coaches I have played for. She always puts the team first and in dealing with her health this past summer, she never once let her team down. 

She always kept us first, almost to the point where we had to ask her to focus on her health. Coach Angel deserves this award because she has fought this battle and WON! She always brings passion and energy to the court and never lets up on the team. Out of anybody in my life or I have come across, I can’t think of a better recipient for this award.” - App State Senior Forward Ashley Bassett-Smith

“If coach Angel wins this award, I would be so proud to be able to be a part of this moment. I’m so blessed to have her as my head coach and inspiring me every day to push harder and get better no matter what I’m dealing with in my life off the court.

 She has always supported me and taken a genuine interest in my life. She cares about my parents and even how my sister is performing in her games. 

Coach Angel is a real inspiration and has taught me that love and passion can overcome all odds. 

If you do anything in your life as long as you love, serve, and care and always do everything with love in your life, you will be successful. 
Coach Angel has truly had an impact on my life and helped change me as a person, player, daughter, and friend. She’s an amazing person, and selflessly cares for others and always wants to make everyone around her.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Guru's Roundup: La Salle and Drexel Continue Hot Hands

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA – A three-game tour highlighted the Guru’s day Wednesday attending games with accommodating time starts and each different.

Elsewhere among the locals in the PhilahoopsW group, Drexel continued to rise above the rest of the crowd with yet another win to complete a two-game sweep down in Florida while Rutgers and Penn State suffered road setbacks in their Big 10 league schedule season openers.

Meanwhile, heads up being in the middle of it as the USBWA board member for women’s basketball, the announcement of the USBWA 2017 Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award will be announced out of the website in the 5 p.m. Hour Thursday.

In the city and suburbs between noon and shortly before third-game’s conclusion Villanova tipped first opening its Big East portion of the schedule at home at The Pavilion against Marquette with a fabulous individual performance by sophomore Adrianna Hahn that was negated and wiped out in the second half.

 In the third period the Warriors (10-2) double upped the Wildcats 28-14

And that led the way to Marquette holding off the Wildcats and going on to a 77-71 victory that negated sophomore shooting sensation Adrianna Hahn tying an individual Villanova record with nine 3-pointers fueling a career-high 31 points.

Hahn had six of the treys in the first half and shot 9-for-16 from beyond the arc overall for the Wildcats (4-7), who next host former nationally-ranked DePaul at the Pavilion Friday night.

It’s the second trip to town for the Blue Demons, who were upset over in North Philadelphia two weeks ago from Temple.

Alex Louin also had a nice scoring night for Villanova with 22 points off 9-for-14 from the field while Tennessee transfer Jannah Tucker scored 14 points.

Allazia Blockton, a former USBWA freshman of the week winner nationally, had 21 points shooting 10-for-19 from the field, while Erika Davenport had 17 points and 15 rebounds, and Amani Wilborn scored 15 points.

Villanova got to the line just once, connecting on its only foul shot, while Marquette was 12-for-16.

The speedy Warriors dominated the paint, 44-18, and shutout the Wildcats in fastbreak points 24-0, and off the bench outscored Villanova 18-2.

The Warriors snapped Villanova’s four-game win streak in the series.
“We had the score where we wanted it at halftime,” Villanova coach Harry Perretta said. “And then in the second half, it became an offensive game and we really had no chance to win. They score too many points.”

La Salle Win Streak Continues After Stopping UMKC

Some great defense at the finish involving a few steals led to La Salle running its win streak to five and continue an overall 8-1 run for a non-conference win over Mo.-Kansas City 64-59 at the Explorers’ Tom Gola Arena.

The Kangaroos (5-7) are coached by Marsha Frese, the sister of Maryland coach Brenda Frese, who will have her fourth-ranked Terrapins take the floor at the Xfinity Center Thursday night as the last big threat to top-rank Connecticut.

Samantha Waldron was about the only player La Salle (8-4) couldn’t contain, scoring a game-high total of 27 points and being tied from the Explorers side individually off Amy Griffin, who also blasted the nets for 27. Jasmine Alston had 10 points and nine rebounds while Adreana Miller scored 11 points.

“Deja Bullock came in and gave us a tremendous lift (defensively),” La Salle coach Jeff Williams said. “I just read her stats, zero points, zero free throws, zero rebounds, she played 19 minutes of great defense and that’s what got us over down the stretch.

“We struggled. Marsha (Frese) did a great job of scouting us, she knew our plays better than we did. But we got a W, excited about getting to the (Atlantic 10), we go to VCU, tough tempo, tremendous tempo, they push defensively, so we have to be ready. We have to clean up a lot of things,”

Saint Joseph’s Squanders 17-Point Lead

The Hawks hit their first seven shots and soared to a 28-11 lead only to later get shut down 15-4 in the third quarter and and 30-19 in the fourth to lose at home in Hagan Arena 85-72 to Colonial Athletic Association preseason favorite James Madison 85-72.

Lexie Barrier had 22 points for the Dukes (6-4) while Precious Hall, the CAA preseason player of the year, scored 17 points. Freshman Kamiah Smalls, a graduate of Neumann Goretti, celebrated her homecoming scoring 11 points and grabbing eight rebounds, while Aneah Young also scored 11 points, while Tasia Butler scored `5 points.

Neumann Goretti is also the alma mater of Mayor Jim Kenney of Philadelphia, drawing him among the crowd of 923.

Smalls made several key plays to help JMU successfully rally.

Ruined on the side of the Hawks (3-9) was a 20-point performance by Adashia Franklyn made moot, while also obliterated were 13 each by Alyssa Monaghan and Kristalyn Baisden.

The Dukes reserves outscored Saint Joseph’s 29-18 as the Hawks wrapped up preseason play losing to their third straight CAA squad on the heels of leads lost at Drexel and at home to Hofstra.

They open play in the Atlantic 10 Saturday at Richmond on New Year’s Eve.

In some ways, the Hawks got routed twice in the same game, giving up the large lead and then getting outplayed again after James Madison caught up with them.

JMU had a huge 46-31 lead in rebounding.

“It was very special, that feeling gave me a boost on my attitude and stuff, knowing they were all here supporting me when I first came out,” Smalls said of the fans she drew from her native city to the game.

“I don’t know exactly what it was, we put a pretty good charge into them at halftime, that’s two games in a row where we allowed a team to score 50 points on us in a half,” said first-year coach Sean O’Reagan of the turnaround in the second half.

O’Reagan was promoted to head coach after longtime mentor Kenny Brooks in the offseason moved a little further south in Virginia to Va. Tech in the Atlantic Coast Conference where he now has the squad unbeaten and back in the rankings after a long absence.

“We had a difference vigor. I don’t know the exact pinpoint, maybe it was my halftime speech, I’m just kidding of course.”

O’Reagan said his squad slowed down the Hawks, “I think our man defense helped put the lid on,” so to speak. I always think it’s what you’re doing inside.”

Drexel Run Continues

The Dragons claimed the FIU Holiday Classic crown in Miami as the only of the four teams to complete a sweep in the two-day predetermined matchups after beating Massachusetts 65-47.

The win enabled Drexel (9-2) to go unbeaten in December at 6-0 and the 9-2 start is the best-ever for the Dragons in their first 11 games.

Sarah Curran, likely the tournament MVP, followed up her 29 points in the win over George Mason on Tuesday with 20 against the Minutewomen of the Atlantic 10.

Jessica Pellechio scored 14 points for Drexel. Incidentally, Bailey Greenberg is  this week’s CAA freshman of the week, the second straight week a Drexel player has claimed that honor.

Megan Creighton has now gone five straight games and 178 minutes of playing time without committing a turnover.

Drexel now heads into the start of CAA play Monday, hosting Towson at the Daskalakis Athletic Center.


Penn State and Rutgers Drop Big Ten Openers

The Lady Lions opened conference play at home in the Bryce Jordan Center  and Scarlet Knights opened conference play on the road and each fell as Indiana took an 89-70 win over Penn State while Rutgers continued to struggle, losing 63-50 at Michigan.

Michigan (12-3) used a 17-6 third quarter advantage to down Rutgers (3-11) as Kysre Gondrezick scored a game-high 18 points in her first career start. It’s the first win over the Scarlet Knights in program history for the Wolverines.

Four players scored in double figures for the Wolverines, who forced 17 Rutgers turnovers.

Shrita Parker had 16 points, while Kandiss Barber and Aliyah Jeune each scored 10 for the Scarlet Knights.

In the Penn State game, the loss snapped a six-game win streak and 7-0 home start for the Lady Lions (10-3).

Teniya Page had 26 points, tying tops in the game with Tyra Buss of Indiana (11-3), while Lindsay Spann scored 14 points.

Penn State now travels to Rutgers for a noon-tip at the Rutgers Athletic C enter Saturday on New Year’s Eve.

Meanwhile, Thursday will bring the awaited matchup of top-ranked Connecticut against No. 4 Maryland in the 17,-000-seat soldout Xfinity Center in Colllege Park, Md., where the visiting Huskies bring an 86-game win streak into the Terrapins Arena and with a win would be in position to continue the run straight to the eve of the South Carolina visit in February.

Not likely to see a serious game threat in the American Athletic Conference, that could mean UConn winning 99 straight, breaking their own NCAA record of 90, prior to the Gamecocks visit to Storrs.


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Guru's AP Women's Poll Trivia: Which Ranked Team in History Has Had the Most Coaches Lead It Into the Poll?

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

Several years ago when Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame coach Jim Foster took Chattanooga into the rankings, he became the first and still now the only women’s coach to have four different teams in the Associated Press poll with UTC joining Ohio State, Vanderbilt, and, in his native Philadelphia area, Saint Joseph’s.

And so the question came up during the many AP women’s poll karaoke car rides that occur with AP national women’s basketball writer Doug Feinberg and your Guru as to which AP ranked team has had the most women’s coaches at one school lead them into the poll.

Well, the Guru with too much time on his hands during the down period across Christmas has come up with the winner.

Southern Cal has had seven coaches when the Trojans at times were in the rankings.

The coaching seven are:

Michael Cooper
Cynthia Cooper-Dyke
Cheryl Miller
Linda Sharp
Marianne Stanley
Mark Trakh
Fred Williams

And right behind USC are two schools with six coaches each.

The sideline six-packs are:

Ohio State:

Beth Burns
Nancy Darsch
Jim Foster
Kevin McGuff
Tara VanDerveer
Debbie Wilson


Van Chancellor
Nikki Fargas
Sue Gunter
Bob Starkey
Barbara Swanner
Pokey Chatman

In terms of multiples, next down the line are the four big coaching fives at programs that made the rankings:


Mickie DeMoss
Sharon Fanning-Otis
Terry Hall
Debbie Yow
Matthew Mitchell


Ellen Mosher
Billie Moore
Nikki Fargas
Kathy Olivia
Cori Close


Ceal Barry
Linda Lappe
Kathy McConnell-Miller
Sox Walseth
JR Payne

South Carolina

Pam Parsons
Terry Kelly
Susan Walvius
Nancy Wilson
Dawn Staley

There are a bunch more with four but since that grouping is so plentiful it is not worth taking the microscope to learn the identities of those groupings.

Now that teams become more numerable Wednesday in terms of games, the Guru will be heading to a day-long triple header in the City of Brotherly Love beginning with Marquette at Villanova opening Big East play at noon on the Main Line, then on to La Salle hosting UMKC at 3 p.m. at the Tom Gola Arena, and then to Saint Joseph’s playing James Madison at Hagan Arena which is the third straight opponent for the Hawks from the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA).

Then Thursday it’s the big showdown in College Park, Md., in front of a 17,000-seat sellout Xfinity Center as No. 4 Maryland hosts top-ranked Connecticut, possibly the last barrier to the run of 86 straight wins extending to 99 heading into the South Carolina game in February on the Huskies’ Storrs campus in Gampel Pavilion.

And don’t forget late Thursday afternoon the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) 2017 Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award handout will be revealed and it will be special, trust the Guru, who has been overseeing the process in his role as women’s rep to the USBWA board.


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Guru's AP Poll History: Tennessee Absentee Count Is Eight Last Two Seasons

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

Here are some new numbers after updating the 41-year AP Women’s Poll database.

Maryland is within two weeks at 445 the 447 appearances held by Louisiana Tech, currently in 6th place.

Terrapins coach Brenda Frese just moved into 25th place alone at breaking a tie with Lafayette coach Theresa Grentz, whose 225 was gained at Saint Joseph’s, Rutgers, and Illinois.

Frese is now one behind former Maryland coach Chris Weller, who is at 224.

This week conference poll representatives

Pac-12 7 schools: Wash, UCLA, Stanford, Arizona State, Colorado, California, and Oregon State.
ACC 7 schools: Notre Dame, Florida State, Louisville, Miami, Duke, Virginia Tech, and Syracuse
Big 12 4 schools: Baylor, West Virginia, Texas, and Oklahoma
SEC 3 schools: Mississipi State, South Carolina, and Kentucky
Big Ten 2 schools: Maryland and Ohio State
AAC 2 schools: Connecticut and South Florida

Baylor’s Kim Mulkey has tied her former boss and coach Louisiana Tech’s Barmore at 274 appearances. But he also has an additional 51 shared with Sonja Hogg. But Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw at 321 is just four away from tying Barymore’s overall 325.

UCLA has tied PAC-12 sister and cross-town rival Southern Cal for 30th at 204 appearances.

Tara VanDerveer of Stanford at 512 overall appearances is just 10 behind former Georgia coach Andy Landers for second on the all-time list. She leads Geno Auriemma in the top two spots on the active list.

Tennessee coach Holly Warlick has been out of the rankings eight times and still counting these past two seasons – last four weeks of the 2016 season and four this time around - as opposed to the late Pat Summitt, who missed just 14 in a 30-plus years career.

The Lady Vols missed the first ever poll, four during one season and nine during another.

This is week number 718.

More to come  

Friday, December 23, 2016

Guru's Ballot: Top 10 WBB Moments in ACC History

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

Since there won’t be game coverage for a couple of days after Friday, the Guru will offer odds and ends beginning with this posting revealing his ballot on a panel to identify 10 at-large moments to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Atlantic Coast Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament.

The conference will have a top 20 derived from the panel’s submission of 10 picks each from a major list of nominees submitted by each school.

Somewhere to be determined each school submitted its own major nominee.

Thus, while the Guru wondered where was the Charlotte Smith three-point shot that won the 1994 NCAA tourney for North Carolina, he was informed that perhaps that was the Tar Heels’ major submission.

Anyhow, since the Guru goes back to the beginning of the ACC for women, he went with perceptive to use purity and give more credit to the charter group, though since non-ACC events are included, he went with them when there was some national implication or domino that was significant.

So counting down from 10 to 1, here is the Guru’s list:

10. Feb. 16, 2007 – Court named for Kay Yow, N.C. State Defeats No. 2 UNC. – The win was significant and the Guru needed to get the name of the great Wolfpack and Olympic coach onto his ballot.

9, Feb. 23, 1991 – Dawn Staley logs her second triple double on the same season. Something with the Staley name needs to be included and this was the only one on the list.

8. Mar. 12, 1982 – Clemson plays in the first NCAA tourney game. The Guru was in the middle of this but not on site. The game was to be played at Penn State and the Guru, after checking time starts, remembered to tell the great Mary Jo Haverbeck, the Lady Lions sports information official to note everything early because the game would be starting ahead of all others, so whatever occurs would be the first in the history of the tournament – field goals, free throws, attempts, etc.

7. Jan. 8, 2015 – Miami beats Notre Dame. The Irish had come into the league out of the old Big East and besides being out from under the long shadow cast by the Huskies, coach Muffet McGraw’s bunch had become the UConn of the conference. So when the Hurricanes struck it was similar to Stanford ending the 90-game UConn NCAA string, etc.

6. Jan. 2, 1996 – Syracuse upsets No. 2 UConn. On one hand the Guru believes that since the Orange were not in the ACC on the aforementioned date, it should not be eligible. But if it is, then it was a great win. Furthermore, the Guru remembers having written a notebook and submitted it hours early during his employment years at The Philadelphia Inquirer, he happened to include an item that assumed a UConn win, though he was going to keep an eye opened on the game. When the Huskies lost, the desk had to go in and edit the notebook between editions. And when they did, one of them, doing a combined gender roundup that night, led with the upset, which forced the UConn game to get the headline. The Guru later learned the sports editor of record, a woman at that moment, filed a complaint with the desk saying a men’s game should lead so the right headline would appear even though in a combined roundup the UConn loss was the best game.

5. Jan. 3, 2004 – Duke rallies from a deep deficit and at the buzzer in overtime brings down UConn’s NCAA record 69-home win streak. Another Inquirer memory. Because of the vacations of others, the Guru, who alerted that game, could not get there because he had to be a replacement. When the Huskies took a big lead, he thought he dodged a bullet in that being there was no longer paramount. But when the Blue Devils struck the first thing that happened was a string of papers who were clients of the Knight-Ridder wire kept calling to see when would the Guru’s story move – they assumed he was at the game. The next day, he kept hearing how UConn had lost a game and finally screamed out to cut it out. When the brass realized they screwed up, the Guru was told to submit a list of all key women’s games the rest of the year so he could be freed up to attend them.

4. Apr. 3, 2016 – Syracuse beats Washington in national semifinal. So here, the national implications allow the Guru to give Syracuse its moment as an ACC member. Technically, getting to the Final Four is more preferable. But once there, getting to the title game on a path that knocked out some heavy favorites was one of the bigger news moments ever in the sport.

News moments determined the Guru’s top 3 choices next.

3. Mar. 30, 2009 – Louisville Beats Maryland, advances to first final four. This was a major upset over the Terrapins, whose staff coach Jeff Walz had been on a few years removed. Technically, though, the Cardnals were not an ACC member and actually were in the same conference as UConn.

2. Mar. 22, 1999 – Duke Advances to First Final Four. Very close between this and No. 1 on the Guru’s list. The Blue Devils in the Elite Eight in Greensboro, N.C., took down the favored Tennessee squad on which senior Chamique Holdsclaw had one of the worst games in her career and the team also included the group that had been the super frosh behind her. The final four that year was in San Jose and all the Bay Area writers came to Greensboro to feature up Tennessee for home coverage.

When the Lady Vols went down, he cold spot them with their heads buried in their hands murmuring “Who knows anything about Duke?” When the Guru checked with his own paper to make sure they knew what happened, he was told he was getting the Big Ugly – the name of the place where the top sports story would go on the page. The Guru’s city of Philadelphia was to host the Women’s Final Four the next year and when he got back to the office, the Guru referencing the upset, proclaimed, Ladies and Gentlemen, let this be a warning next year to not put all our UConn eggs in one basket. Of course, we had a Philly basket because of all the local ties to the sport in terms of coaches and players and the Guru being the defacto host.

1. Mar. 31, 2013 – Louisville upsets Baylor in NCAA tournament. No. 2 on he Guru’s ballot would be No. 1 if this had not occurred. The Bears with Brittney Griner were the dominant tournament favorite. So that upset alone would merit high on a ballot. But the tipping point between this and the Guru’s second choice is this allowed UConn to come through the gate against a lesser barrier and thus resulted in a Huskies title and freshman Breanna Stewart proclaiming I want four, which she indeed get with the fourth achieved last season.

Others considered:

Sylvia Hatchell, UNC coach, lands in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

Since Maryland has gone on to the. Big 10, missing as choices are the Terrapins upsetting then-No. 1 Virginia and several weeks later the return game in Cole when Maryland gets its first-ever sellout and the game goes into overtime won by Virginia.

Staley in some UVa/N.C. State battles when Andrea Stinson was a Wolfpack.

Virginia coach Debbie Ryan getting her 300th ACC win as the first.

Notre Dame winning its first ACC title.

Virginia beats Maryland in triple overtime for ACC title.

That’s It


Guru Report: Temple Rally Over Fairfiield Makes Cardoza and Staley Tied for Owls Winningest Coach

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA – Temple coach Tonya Cardoza and former Owls coach Dawn Staley, who created the vacancy that Cardoza filled in the early summer of 2008, are the best of friends dating to their days as teammates at Virginia in the early 1990s when the Cavaliers were national contenders.

Until New Year’s Day, minimally, they now share the all-time Owls women’s basketball coaching win total at 172 following Temple’s closing surge Thursday afternoon to top Fairfield 73-59 in McGonigle Hall in the first-ever meeting between the two schools.

"It just means I had some pretty good teams and good staff around me. It’s not anything I’ve done, it’s the people thatI had around me, got me to this point,” Cardoza said.

Staley, who left to successfully build South Carolina into a national contender, reached her total in eight full seasons that ended in 2007-08, while Cardoza has taken a little over a month more.

She can surpass Staley when Temple travels to Memphis on Jan. 1 to open play in the American Athletic Conference, where the Owls were picked second back in the fall behind top-ranked Connecticut.

For a long while in Thursday’s game it did not seem that Cardoza would hit her milestone as the Owls (8-3), who have won four straight, struggled with the Stags (4-7) of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, whom they trailed by as many as six points in the third quarter.

Then Temple turned on the defense and got hot in the other direction going, on a 20-0 surge into the next period to secure the win.

Junior Alliya Butts, who could not make a field goal in 10 attempts last Saturday in the rally at Rutgers, made up for it Thursday, scoring 26 points and tying her career mark for an individual game with six 3-pointers. That gave her a new Temple career total for shooting treys that will continue until she graduates and the person who owned the previous mark was in the house to see her number go by the boards.

The meter temporarily stopped for Butts at 176 but when she passed 171 long range makes, operations director Tyonna Williams was relegated to second place in the Owls’ record book.

“We finally began taking away from what (Fairfield) wanted,” Cardoza said of the turnaround, continuing, “It took us a while to get going but definitely turned it around in the last 14 minutes, I would say.

“It’s crazy how it works but our defense definitely creates our offense and once Alliya starts making threes, ‘Fee (Feyonda Fitzgerald) starts making threes, I definitely think our team feeds off of that, it’s the strangest thing but that’s what really gets us going.”

Fitzgerald, ESPN’s reigning national women’s player of the week, had her first double double of the season and third of her career with 12 points and dealing 12 assists, the latter a new career mark, while Tanaya Atkinson had 14 points and 15 rebounds. Butts also had her best day for the season in the thefts department with five steals.

As for the threes, Butts said, “just keep playing basketball and trying to help my team win.”

Temple outscored Fairfield 19-6 in the fourth and final period.

Samantha Cooper had 21 points for the Stags while Casey Smith scored 18.


Saint Joseph’s Sunk by Hofstra Finish

The Hawks of the Atlantic 10 are having problems with Colonial Athletic Association contingents these days.

Taking the floor Thursday afternoon for the first time since Sunday’s loss across town at Drexel when freshman Ana Ferariu of Romania scored 18 points in 13 minutes of the second half, Saint Joseph’s hosted Hofstra at home at Hagan Arena.

This time it was junior forward Ashunae Durant, who created the damage, scoring a career high 28 points to lead the Pride to a 75-64 victory, though Hofstra (7-3) was ahead by more at 18 points with under four minutes to play.

Krystal Luciano had 13 points while Aleana Lena scored 11 points.

The Hawks (3-8), who trailed by just three points after three periods, got 20 points from Chelsea Woods, who sat out a few minutes after injuring an ankle, 17 from Alyssa Monaghan, and 14 from Amanda Fioravanti. But Adashia Franklyn had just five points.

Saint Joseph’s with 14 turnovers committed just four more than Hofstra’s 10 but the Pride was quick outscoring the Hawks 21-7 in transition.

“There’s two major things I was proud of, taking care of the basketball after 12 days off, and I knew they didn’t press a lot, but it was us, just having that many days off, and being rusty, and not playing a game, and we had five at halftime, and we didn’t give them a lot of second chance opportunities,” said Hofstra coach Krista Kilburn-Stevesky.

“It’s her coming of age,” the Pride coach said of Durant’s performance. “We know what we want her to do, we know what she’s capable of doing, and tonight she did it.”

The win, the third straight on the season, tied the all-time series with the Hawks at 2-2.

“We’re still searching that rhythm,” Kiburn-Stevesky said of the recent flow with an eye to CAA play after the Hartford game on Dec. 30, but it’s certainly to be searching that while winning, but we got some good pieces and we’re trying to put it together. It’s still going to be a work in progress.”

The way things have been going among CAA teams, there’s a sense the conference won’t be a one-dominant affair.

“They’re beginning to pan out,” Kilburn-Stevesky said of preseason favorite and defending champion James Madison. “Night after night, it’s going to be the grind. It’s Drexel, and Delaware, and Elon is tough as all get out, and I think William & Mary’s a sleeper, and he does what he does and he does it well.

“We’ve been hoping for our conference where it’s wide open and could be anybody’s conference and it would be awesome if this is what it ends up being this year. And after 11 years in the conference, 11 years at Hofstra, it would be fun to have more parity and just have some fun and let’s see who takes the crowd.”

Saint Joseph’s coach Cindy Griffin, meanwhile, continues to be frustrated at the Hawks inability to finish games.

“Our woes in the fourth quarter still seems to haunt us,”  Griffin said.  “We gave up 27 points in the quarter.  It’s disappointing.  Our kids know we can play with any team, and it’s a matter of executing on offense and getting stops on defense.”

Griffin seems mystified as to why all her posts can’t have a good night at the same time, instead of a change of one person each time out.

Saint Joseph’s has one more game before heading into the Atlantic 10 portion of the schedule and its another CAA squad,James Madison, the preseason favorite, next Wednesday at home.


There are just two last games Friday on the entire Division I schedule and the Guru is heading to one of them when George Washington hosts Loyola (Md.) at noon at the Smith Center in Washington.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Mike Siroky's SEC Report: Ready for the Meat Grinder

By Mike Siroky

The fun games are over.

By this time next week, the toughest conference in America, the Southeastern, will kick off on the first day of 2017.

Thus the run to April in Dallas at the Final Four is in focus. We have reserved seats there.

The battle to win 20 and gain an NCAA entry ticket – no Southeastern Conference team has ever won 20 and not been in, though Tennessee got a gift entry with 19 last season – is now hampered by the league season.
 As mythology has it, if you can win 20 while playing in the SEC . . .

A record nine of the 14 sorority sisters made it last year. Only the Lady Vols made it to the Elite 8 by the simple formula of getting hot at the right time.

They were not seeded high enough to gain the Sweet 16 almost automatic qualifier.

In the women’s game, it will be ever thus in order to allow home openers for the sake of drawing fans.

South Carolina, for instance, will have the conference tournament in state followed by two home games to start the elimination season.
Never happen by rule in the men’s game.

Then again, mighty UConn will not have to leave the state until the Final 4, which is why we first wrote --immediately after the previous NCAA title -- they are as good as anyone else and likely to once again be in the finals.

There will never be parity in the women’s game.

The crowds will never respond as they do for the men. The money trap keeps them locked into non-objectivity.

Those of us lucky enough to have covered the game since the first NCAA for women know it and appreciate it.

Back to now

The SEC game of the year is Mississippi State at South Carolina, later this month.

Whoever wins all its home league game wins the league. The conference title chase ends that quickly.

But here is the opposite perspective: Tennessee can go zero-for-January.

Their start and the conference is that tough.

Plus they play the usual inconsequential game against Notre Dame.

That isn’t even impressive to Notre Dame anymore.

They will struggle to win 20. Can they find 13 SEC wins in 16 tries?

There would have to be upsets and every game against one of the unranked masses is now a must win.

On the horizon is a new athletic director, the one that upgraded Holly Warlick from assistant but never a head coach anywhere else as a tribute to the late Pat Head Summitt, is going away.

Better believe the fans comment boards have had calls for her ejection for more than 20 months now.

Attendance has hit a trackable drop.

Warlick has the nation’s best recruiting group lined up. She has an All-American quality player as a junior.

Whatever happens this season will result in double-secret probation at worst.

Mississippi State was the first ranked SEC team to 10 wins and is undefeated.

South Carolina has one mysterious loss to a then-unranked team but is more likely a top three national team and a No. 1  NCAA seed than anyone in conference.

The SEC’s best take on all comers, unlike, say, those ranked in the ACC

The top two has enough talent to sky away from everyone else. Very early in this SEC season, the separation will start.

In past seasons, there would be at least six ranked teams with the current records.

The league has all but three respected coaches.

The Associated Press voters has noted the souring of Tennessee.

Just as the mythical Lady Vols used to raise everybody else, so does their particular slide lower everybody else.
They now depend on the RPI of opponents as opposed to helping the league.

So look at the ranking now and again in March.

There could be six ranked teams. All have at least 10 wins now.

But it says here if nine get into the NCAA again, it is only because the rest of America does not offer a compelling alternative.

Of last year’s NCAA qualifiers, Georgia, Missouri and Florida are on the bubble.

Vanderbilt and Auburn have risen.

The guideline in women’s hoops always has been a clear favorite, a couple of others and then marbles in a bag, pick ’em odds.

The Sweet 16 is pretty much set and will be underlined by the fumbling NCAA Selection Committee.

Syracuse and Washington got hot last season and cannot surprise anyone twice to repeat to the Final Four.

It cracks the door for an SEC team.

Kentucky, could once again be gifted with the third Sweet 16 seed and could earn a trip across town for the NCAA qualifiers.

That same route was available last season as the NCAA rewards home team cities that agree to the financial burden of hosting the second round.

The Kats lost by a dozen to upstart Washington in the Sweet 16.

The league being what it is, UK starts with three straight NCAA teams from the previous tournament, including the intriguing opener at Tennessee.

Never before has a Lady Vol team at home needed an SEC opening win so badly.

Separation Season

Some of these teams will not win 20.
With a week to go in the pre-conference season, Alabama has 11 wins and Ole Miss 10.

There are 16 SEC games.

Alabama won four last season and Ole Miss two.

These are good coaches at programs without much traction.

Previously ranked this season are Tennessee, Auburn and Florida. It says here the Gators are done after petulantly driving off their best player.

 They have seven wins. Tennessee has won three straight. Auburn and Tennesse each won eight in the league last season, which leaves both short of 20.

A Tennessee comparison: It lost by five at Texas, but those Longhorns are mysteriously ranked No. 16 at 6-4, having already lost to Mississippi State and South Carolina. Go figure.

Actually with a shot at 20 are Texas A&M, with 11 in the past conference season and the fun team of the season, Vanderbilt, with only five league wins last season but with a significant coaching upgrade.

Here’s what the three league teams in the Associated Press Top 20 did:

No. 5 Mississippi State

An early self-delivered Christmas gift was the arrival of Alabama State for a 90-47 pasting.

As it is only the second home game at The Hump, it drew 5,786

Spectacular scorer Victoria Vivians had four 3s – including three on successive possessions to lift the crowd -- a season-high 28 points and five rebounds.

Ameshya Williams had a career-best dozen points. Williams and Teaira McCowan each had six rebounds. The ’Dogs of rebounding won that, 40-30.

“I can’t remember the last time we won by 43 points, scored 90 points and I didn’t think we played very well,” coach Vic Schaefer said. “We were lethargic to start the game.

 “The benched played well. We got a really good lift from Jazzmun (Holmes) and Ameshya.

“Ameshya has been working hard. She had a 3.3 GPA in her first semester as a student here. She has a great work ethic. It’s good to see a player that works that hard have some success.”

“It was great to back at the Hump,” Vivians said “We had a great crowd and they got into the game. We hadn’t played here in a while, so it felt really good to be able to go out and play before our fans and not have a road game.”

State made 28-of-40 shots from line.

They top the SEC (17th in the country) in field goal percentage. They caused 29 turnovers. A season-high 40 points came off those.

 It is State’s 41st non-conference win in 42 tries, 21 straight. The 11 road wins are a national best.

As part of the holiday celebration:

Teddy Bear Toss presented by BancorpSouth; if you brought a plush teddy bear, there was a competition toss onto the court at halftime.

Admission was a dollar, with anyone under age 18 free and dollar concession hot dogs.

Pictures with Santa and a halftime story on the court with Santa.

No. 6 South Carolina

A 40-point road win is mighty impressive, even if it just was Savannah State, 70-30.

Defense showed in the 50-25 rebounding edge,  32 defensive. Alaina Coates, already a three-time conference player of the week, had seven defensive.

They also held the Tigers to 21 percent from the field. SC also limited them to three single-digit quarters. SC scored 19 points off of 21 Tiger turnovers.

Depth showed in that everyone played and everyone scored.

In these games, of course, the stars get fewer minutes which is why individual stats are a little sideways at this point in the season.

Representing the best junior class in a league full of heavyweight juniors, A’ja Wilson (18) and Alisha Gray combined for 30 in 23 and 21 minutes.

Gray had a team-best five steals, also a career best.

SC made few errors so the home team only got to the line five times, even if they hit them all.

So how will they celebrate the season?

By not playing again until New Year’s Day.

No. 18 Kentucky

The only one of the big three with room to move up advanced one position.

They needed their stars – Makayla Epps and Evelyn Akhator – to survive an unexpected challenge from visiting Washington State, 69-67.

The Cougars illustrate the improvement of the Pac 12 as so much more than Stanford, Washington, Oregon State and this year, UCLA.

UK blew an 18-point lead, closing the first half 26-8. That made the lead just two and put the outcome in doubt the rest of the way.

“The energy dropped, the hustle dropped, some of the effort dropped,” Epps said. “It’s kind of hard. We’re human. We’re kids. It happens.”

The second game without point guard Taylor Murray, rehabbing a broken finger on her non-shooting hand, showed the challenge of leadership as well as depth after all the defections in the past year.

Guard Maci Morris missed a couple of minutes when her punky finger was dislocated.

Her trainers popped it back into place and she played on.

Epps scored 20 and Akhator came up with her first double/double in awhile, 19 points and 13 rebounds.

Akhator was 9-of-12 from the line.

“Oh, we needed that,” she said. “We have really been working on that.”
UK hit 73 percent from the line, 17-of-23. State was just 5-of-11.

There was a six-point edge top open the final quarter. It grew to nine with 7:30 to go, on an Epps 3.

No one scored for a minute, with several possession changes, each side missing layups and giving up defensive rebounds.

With 4:55 left, the difference was cut to a basket, then one point.

Akhator hit two free throws and it was a three-point edge. But State hit a 3 of its own, with 72 seconds left.

It was tied and the crowd of 4,875 was alive.

Akhator hit two more free throws with 42 seconds left.

State was stuttering, missing two baskets and two free throws.

Epps grabbed a defensive rebound. Morris missed two free throws.
State had the last possession, 11 seconds left.

UK and Akhator’s presence forced them to stay away and a 3 bonked away. The Kats survived.

“It was a dogfight until the end,” Epps said. “We knew we were going to have to gut it out and just make a couple more plays, make another basket, get another stop.”

“It was a really up-and-down day for us, but in the end, we won by one more point than necessary,” coach Matthew Mitchell said.

“It was just a real gutty performance,” Epps said. “We had to gut it out. They scored 28 in the second quarter. Without Taylor, we all had to step up big. We won the game, so a win’s a win.”

Welcome 2017

The league celebrates the new year with a full New Year’s Day schedule:

LSU (10-2) at Mississippi State (13-0), Alabama (11-1) at South Carolina (10-1), Kentucky (9-3) at Tennessee (7-4), Arkansas (10-1) at Ole Miss (10-2), Auburn (8-2) at Florida (8-4), Georgia (7-5) at Missouri (10-4).

On Jan. 2: Vanderbilt (10-2) at Texas A&M (9-3), an important pace-setter for both.

Guru Report: La Salle, Rider, Princeton, Drexel Romp to Wins

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J./PHILADELPHIA – Rider reached a program rarity in early season wins, La Salle continued to also stay on the winning side, while Princeton and Drexel were just as smashing Wednesday as each made short work of the opponents they played on the shortest day of the year.

The double dateline signifies two stops the Guru made in the afternoon and evening for live game coverage since he is stuffing the entire report into this post instead of separating coverage of some of the teams.

Meanwhile, things did not go well for Delaware at home, being edged by Hartford, 67-66, in the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark, while Villanova fell to No. 17 Duke, 68-50, in Cameron Indoor Arena in Durham, N.C.

Wednesday afternoon La Salle hosted Delaware State in a non-conference affair in the Explorers’ Tom Gola Arena and grabbed a 78-38 victory, their seventh in their last eight games.

Amy Griffin, the leading scorer in the Atlantic 10 last season, hasn’t missed a step and scored 22 points in this one while Adreana Miller had 17 points and Shalina Miller scored 12 for La Salle (7-4).

Mikah Aldridge had 14 points for Delaware State (1-9), the only player in double figures.

“It was a tough one today in terms of executing and focusing, we had 25 turnovers and we gave them 19 offensive rebounds, we just got through it today,” said La Salle coach Jeff Williams. “I wasn’t pleased with our performance at all. I think we’re a much better team than we showed today.

“But it’s a W so we’ll take it.”

Delaware State had 21 miscues, so that was a combination of 46 in the game while the two teams also combined for 32 personal fouls, 18 by the visitors and 14 by the home team causing quite much erratic play in the flow.

The second quarter when La Salle outscored the Lady Hornets, 17-4, and fourth quarter when the Explorers piled on with a 24-7 wipeout were telling although they owned the other two quarters as well with advantages of 18-10 in the first and 19-17 in the third.

The battle of the boards on the overall side went to the Explorers 52-37. They were also excellent at. The line where they shot 15-for-16 when Delaware State shot a much less 5-for-6.

The margin of victory was the largest in seven seasons under Williams.

After the holiday break, La Salle hosts Mo.-Kansas City next Wednesday at 3 p.m.

Then it’s off to the Atlantic 10 portion of the schedule, beginning New Year’s Day at VCU.


New Blood Keeps Rider on Winning Course

It took Rider 29 seasons to replicate an 8-3 start the last time they did it from the first one in 1982-83 to the first one under Lynn Milligan in 2011-12. This time the opening portion of the schedule has been much less in just five years.

The Broncs, finally home here in Alumni Gymnasium, also known as the zoo, for the first time since a Dec. 17 victory over La Salle, achieved the mark Wednesday night, defeating St. Francis Brooklyn 77-60 to close the non-conference portion of the schedule.

Freshman Stella Johnson of Morris Catholic and Denville, N.J., was the scoring star in this one, collecting 24 points, best for both teams, powered by a 9-for-11 shooting mark from the field, while also grabbing five steals on the offensive end, dealing four assists and posting a game-high nine rebounds. She also connected on her only 3-ball attempt.

Additionally Julia Duggan scored in double figures with 15 points while Kamila Hoskova scored 14.

Maria Palarino scored 20 points for the Brookynites (2-9), while Jade Johnson provided 14 points off the bench.

It was a good recovery for Rider after the last one got away in the last two minutes when the Broncs fell to Seton Hall 89-81 at the Pirates’ Walsh Gym in South Orange, N.J.

As has been the situation in most of the wins, that began on opening night with the upset up the road from here at Princeton, Rider got off to an overwhelming start, which was 21-3 in this one before the Terriers responded in the next period with a 22-18 advantge.

But the main talk of the night was of the addition to Johnson as an instant contributor in the early part of her collegiate career.

“A solid game, but not one of our better performances as a team,” Milligan said. “But when you have Stella making plays out there and giving you that little bit of a cushion with her steals and anticipation, really what she does best, everyone gets locked in on the steals stats, but it’s really the finish.

“And it seemed like she got a steal when we needed it every time.”

Talking of stepping right in to the cause, Johnson said, “I think my teammates keep up the intensity during warmups, they always hype us up saying we can do this and everything, and ‘Coach. Our coaches hype us up, too.”

Milligan said of Johnson’s upside, “Even when she starts to be more aggressive, she passes up a lot of stuff. She’s obviously a very unselfish player as well. But she does pass up a lot of looks. So when she gets more comfortable on the offensive recognizing where she’s going to get her shots, I think you’re going to see even more things from her.”

Rider had 13 thefts overall, leading to a dominating 22-4 advantage in points off turnovers, and 14-7 on fast break points.

“It’s been huge,” Milligan said of the steals all season, “because we’ve been able to get into passing lanes and score more consistently, scoring over 70 most of the year and I think you can directly correlate that to the cnsistency of the steals and the transition baskets because of that.”

The winning has also brought something new, Milligan noted.

“We had a great first quarter and then the second quarter left a little to be desired and that’s something we’ve done a couple times this year and I think, I don’t know if it sounds cliché or not, but we’re learning how to play with leads.

“That’s something I’m not sure our older kids are used to and when you’re up 21-3 I always tell the kids you gotta kill the fly with an axe. And we’re not doing that yet. We’ve got to see an opening and take it and we sometimes we take that little bit of a breadth.”

The Broncs have already played two games on the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) schedule, winning the Western swing over Canisius and Niagara for the first sweep of the region in 20 years and took the MAAC opener for the first time in 14 seasons.

 That sets up a key MAAC clash when the break ends and powerful Quinnipiac visits Dec. 30 at 7 p.m. followed by Iona on Jan. 2.

“We’ve been battle tested, we’ve been road tested,” Milligan said. “I think we’ve had a lot of things thrown at us, with our travel schedule and I think we’ve played a lot of different teams, Big East, NEC, Patriot, Colonial, I think we’ve had a lot of different styles of basketball to prepare us and that’s what we try to do in our non-conference schedule, give us as many different looks as possible.

“I think we’ve passed most of the tests that we threw at the kids. The rest we’ll have over the break is warranted and then we’ll have those three days of preparation for Quinnipiac that will tell us a lot.”

Though new, Johnson is looking forward to the contest that is an early one for first place.

“That pumps me up like when we played Princeton that was a huge game because we were the underdog, we just use it to our advantage and coming into Quinnipiac we’re going to be the under dog.”


Drexel Streak Continues

The Dragons are starting to poke their heads into national notoriety the way a few of former men’s coach Bruiser Flint’s teams did several years ago.

There’s been upsets of Penn State and nationally-ranked Syracuse. This week Drexel is second in the ESPN mid-major rankings. And freshman Ana Ferariu is the reigning national freshman of the week selected by the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA). She’s also the reigning CAA player of the week.

On Wednesday afternoon an early 17-0 run sent Drexel on the way to an 81-39 victory over Lafayette at the Leonpards’ Kirby Sports Center in Easton, Pa.

Jessica Pellechio scored a team-high 14 points, while freshman Bailey Greenberg scored 13, Sarah Curran had 13, and Ferariu scored 10, while reserve Megan Marecic tied a career high with nine points and scored five rebounds.

Everyone who dressed for the game got into the scoring act for the Dragons (7-2), who also forced 24 turnovers and grabbed 14 steals while committing only 12 miscues.

Lafayette (1-11) has lost 11 straight since winning the season opener at La Salle.

Drexel coach Denise Dillon was able to rest her starters in this one, allowing the reserves to play significant minutes and score 20 of the Dragons’ second half points.

The squad now goes on break and then next week on Tuesday and Wednesday wraps up non-conference play in  Florida International’s tourney in Miami that is formatted with two pre-determined opponents in George Mason, a former CAA rival now in the Atlantic 10, on Tuesday, and Massachusetts on Wednesday before moving on to conference competition the rest of the way.

Ironically, Hofstra of the CAA visits Saint Joseph’s Tuesday afternoon and CAA favorite James Madison visits Hawk Hill next week.


Princeton Powers Way to Records Beating Wagner

The Tigers’ 107-44 win over Wagner at home in Jadwin Gym Wednesday night mined three program records, beginning with their final total, eclipsing the 104 scored against Portland State on Dec. 19, 2014.

Princeton (5-6), also broke a record for points in a quarter, collecting 34, and a half with 60, which the Tigers took into the break. This is the second season for quarters play in women’s basketball.

Reaching the century mark on the scoreboard made Courtney Banghart’s bunch the 27th Division I team in the NCAA to do so.

The win over Wagner (1-10) made Princeton’s record 5-2 since struggling at the start of the season at 0-4 before powering past Rutgers, also at home.

Freshman Bella Alarie had 20 points to top four other teammates scoring in double figures – she also grabbed nine rebounds, while Jordan Muhammad set personal marks with 13 points, five assists and four steals.

Tia Weledji had 19 points and Taylor Brown scored 15.

It’s the second largest win in coach Courtney Banghart’s career with the 63-point differential and the Tigers shot 56.4 from the field.

The next stop after the break to wrap up conference play is a visit to Georgia Tech in Atlanta next Thursday and the following week Princeton hosts Penn in the Ivy opener at Jadwin Gym on Jan. 7 in the afternoon featuring the projected top two Ivy squads.


Delaware Turnovers Lead to Loss to Hartford

The Blue Hens got the wrong idea in the season of giving heading to the Christmas break having suffered a 67-66 loss to Hartford by committing a season-high 21 turnovers in their final non-conference play, which took place at home in the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark.

The miscues marred an excellent shooting night of a season-tops 50 percent from the field off 25-for-50 attempts. Delaware (6-5) was also 10-for-11 shooting free throws.

Hartford benefitted from the turnovers, scoring 19 points, and got a crucial three-point play with 14 seconds left when the Blue Hens committed an offensive foul.

The previous game, a loss to Army, also saw bad ball handling by the home team.

Nicole Enabosi had 14 points, eight rebounds, and four steals, while Delaware also got 12 points each from Erika Brown and Sade Chatman. Hannah Jardine had 11 points and six rebounds for the Hens.

Deanna Mayza on the way to 14 points, reached her 1000th for. Hartford (8-4), while the Hawks also got 12 points and 13 rebounds from Janelle Harrison.

“We’re going to keep working and getting better as a team because we need to improve,” Delaware coach Tina Martin said.

“We got pushed around a lot on the offensive boards. It’s a physical game and you have to be able to push back. Hartford won that battle tonight and in the end they won the game by one point.”

Hartford, which competed annually against Delaware when the Blue Hens were in the America East, when both were in the conference, snapped a seven-game losing streak in the series.

The game was the only one in a 21-day span for Delaware, which next heads to CAA play, caused by finals and the holiday break,


Duke Handles Villanova

The stars of 17th-ranked Duke led the way to a 68-50 win over the visiting Wildcats (4-6) in a non-conference game in Cameron Indoor Arena in Durham, N.C.

Lexi Brown, the transfer from Maryland, and Rebecca Greenwell each scored 18 points, while Greenwall also grabbed nine rebounds as the Blue Devils ran their record to 11-1.

A 13-0 run in the first quarter enabled Duke to go on to a 19-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The home team took a 34-22 lead at the half by shutting out Villanova the final four minutes of the second quarter.

Adrianna Hahn had 18 points for the Wildcats having shot 6-for-13 attempts from beyond the arc. Alex Louin added 11 points while Villanova was held to 31 percent from the field.

“We came in here with the philosophy of getting up a lot of threes, and obviously we did that,” Villanova veteran coach Harry Perretta said. “The only way we knew we had a chance to beat them was to hit 15 or more three’s. We knew we could not go into the post because they were too big and strong.
“We did a decent job not a good enough job to win the ball game.”

Perretta referred to his youthful roster, which represented only the second time the two teams met.

“This is a very young team and mentally they are very fragile. There are a lot of freshmen on this team and they made a lot of mistakes. An older team tonight might have made 18 threes but the team tonight only made 10.

“Every kid we put into the game is a freshman and we cannot get a lot of help off our bench right now. I was very happy with (the team effort tonight. They give me good effort just about all the time. They are a good group of kids, but they are just not ready yet to play against a good team. We need some help coming across the bench and the freshmen coming off the bench are just not helping us right now.”

Having completed non-conference play, Villanova heads to the Big East schedule opening at home at noon next Wednesday hosting Marquette. On Friday, DePaul, which visited Temple last week and lost, returns to the area meeting the Wildcats.

The Blue Demons consequently off the Temple loss fell from the field.

Next Thursday Duke host Kentucky and at halftime the Blue Devils will retire the number of Elizabeth Brown, who is one of the younger stars of the WNBA.


Nationally Noted: Connecticut Downs Nebraska Running Streak to 86

The Huskies hi the road after beating Ohio State Monday night and topped the Cornhuskers 84-41 at the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Neb.

On the season, UConn is now 11-0 with a major road stop after the break looking next Thursday night at No. 4 Maryland in College Park.

The Terrapins won 77-57 in Pittsburgh Wednesday night at Duquesne.

Connecticut’s Katie Lou Samuelson had 23 points for the visitors while Napheesa Collier had 14 points and 15 rebounds. Kia Nurse had 20 points and Gabby Williams had 10 points and nine rebounds.

Hannah Whitish, a freshman, had nine points for Nebraska (4-8).

Meanwhile, No. 6 South Carolina won at Savannah State 70-30 as A’ja Wilson scored 18 points to improve the Gamecocks to 10-1.




Tuesday, December 20, 2016

UConn Tops Ohio State and Runs Win Streak to 85

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

HARTFORD, Conn. – Things went somewhat better for No. 12 Ohio State Monday night than a year ago in the Buckeyes’ fourth meeting with Connecticut, which has been No. 1 in The Associated Press women’s poll each time the two schools have played.

Back in Columbus in the opening weekend of the 2015-16 season in November, UConn romped to a 100-56 victory in Ohio State’s Value City Arena, which will be the site of the NCAA Women’s Final Four.

The visitors here in the XL Center, one of the Huskies’ three off-campus venues in the state, ran off a 9-0 spurt at the end of the first quarter. They also launched an 8-0 run at the end of the half in the next period.

All-American junior Kelsey Mitchell was unstoppable in scoring 23 points for Ohio State.

That was most of the good news but as has been the situation for several seasons, the best news still belonged to the home team which finished the night with an 82-63 victory to stay unbeaten at 10-0 and extend its current win streak to 85 straight.

That’s the second best ever in NCAA women’s history and four short of the all-time men’s and women’s run of 90 also owned by UConn.

The last time the Huskies got this far and were about to surpass the 88-game men’s mark set by the John Wooden-coached UCLA Bruins, the comparison of the two had a bit of controversy.

Now UConn is poised to pass the Bruin NCAA men’s standard a second time and no one is saying a peep.

Instead, all are marveling at how UConn, perceived back in the fall as about to step down a notch or two in the wake of the graduation of the superstar trio of Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck and Moriah Jefferson, continues to dominate with a much younger roster.

“We’ve managed to maximize what we have over the past month and hide what we don’t have,” smiled Hall of Fame UConn coach Geno Auriemma.

The Buckeyes were seen back in the fall as the fifth of six major impediments threatening the current Huskies run.

Instead, they joined then-No. 12 Florida State (78-76), which lasted until the final moments of a UConn road stop in the season opener; then-No. 4 Baylor (72-61), in the Huskies’ campus Gampel Pavillion; then-No. 15 Texas (72-54) at the Mohegan Sun Arena an hour away from here in Uncasville; then-No. 1 Notre Dame (72-61) on the road in South Bend, Ind; and now the Buckeyes on the UConn victims’ list of prominent opponents.
Lesser, but still threats, from teams also owning a ranking as DePaul and Kansas State, also were mowed down.

What’s left prior to the start of American Athletic Association play is a trip to Nebraska Wednesday night and then the last major hurdle, played in the road, next Thursday at No. 4 Maryland.

If the Terrapins cannot find the streak-stopping elixir, UConn is likely to cruise all the way to its last non-conference threat in the regular season, (currently No. 6) South Carolina on campus Feb. 13 at which point the run will be new record 99-0 and 145 of the Huskies’ last 146 – the loss being the one at Stanford which ended the 90-0 streak.

As far as ending Monday’s threat for an upset when Ohio State (9-4) trailed by just 40-34 after 20 minutes of play, that came next in a 30-14 third period when UConn mined a 9-0 advantage off turnovers, of which the Buckeyes committed 19 overall in the game producing a Huskies 28-12 domination.

“Take their first six or eight minutes (in the second half) away and it’s a different game,” said Ohio State’s Kevin McGuff. “But to their credit, we came out of the locker room just flat and they came out and took control of the game.

“In general they got 28 points off turnovers and that was the difference.”

Besides Mitchell’s scoring, Ohio State got 15 points from Shayla Cooper, and a double double of 13 points and 15 rebounds from Stephanie Mavunga, a transfer from the former elite roster of North Carolina.

Tori McCoy, who was last week’s national of freshman of the week by the United States Basketball Writers’ Association, was held to two points. Linnae Harper, a prized transfer from Kentucky, scored four points in just her second game since becoming eligible.

“I thought our defense was fine overall,” McGuff said. “We competed on the glass (40-36 UConn), our kids played hard, but we just did not compete well offensively, and they’re the best team in college basketball and turning those turnovers and turn them into points.”

McGuff praised Mitchell and also tossed compliments as to what makes the Huskies what they are.

“We have a chance to be special, it’s just going to take time,” he said of his own lineup getting in synch with the new additions. “They’ve added talent, even though it’s young and new talent, but I think more importantly than that, they have a tremendous culture. Their kids play incredibly hard and they execute as well as anybody in college basketball.

“They really, really execute to a tee. They don’t turn the ball over, they generate a lot of great shots, and that’s what makes it hard. They didn’t do anything spectacular, but they did everything they wanted to do, they did it right, they didn’t make mistakes, they took away some of the things we wanted to do, they crowded the lane or didn’t allow us to drive so they had a great game, they executed it perfectly, and their kids in general just execute what they want to do.”

The new Huskies breed had Napheesa Collier, last week’s USBWA national player of the week, score 27 points and grab 11 rebounds, Katie Lou Samuelson scored 26, Kia Nurse had 11, and Gabby Williams grabbed 12 rebounds.

“We knew it was going to be really difficult to guard them and we know we’re not going to be able to stay in the same defense the whole game, so we just kept changing things up a little bit, and showed them a different look every now and then, and (Mitchell) is impossible to guard,” Auriemma said.

“There’s no shot she won’t take and can’t make, it seems like,” Auriemma continued. “So once we got that under control a little bit, and we talked about it at halftime, the game was going to be won by what kind of offensive possessions we were going to have.

“And obviously, once we got ‘Pheesa going and ‘Lou was already going, it was fun to watch. It was really fun to watch. When they had 34 at the half and they’re averaging 90, I thought if we hold them to 34 for the second half we’re going to be in great shape. We got them to 29,” Auriemma explained.

“It’s always difficult, a fine line, when you go against a player like that – how many do you let them get for her cause you start worrying if we show her too much attention and she gets everyone else involved, now it’s just going to start to snowball. So we tried to be conservative with what we did.

“I don’t think there’s ever one player that’s going to beat us by themselves, I don’t think. I could be wrong but I’ll take my chances. We did a great job on their team as a whole and that was something for us, too, to hang our hat on. That was pretty good.”    

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Guru's Report: Drexel Newbie's Scoring Spree Sinks Saint Joseph's

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA – Strategy, talent and a solid defense did much to keep the Drexel women’s basketball team even up with Saint Joseph’s through the first half Sunday afternoon in their annual non-conference,  non-Big Five city matchup Sunday afternoon at the Dragon’s Daskalakis Athletic Center.

But with offense lacking from coach Denise Dillon’s solid core, the question was whether the combination could take Drexel far enough?

Well, why not go to the freshman foreign kid who had been performing excellently in recent practices waiting for her moment?

And so It was with 5 minutes, 33 seconds left in the third quarter and the visitors from Hawk Hill leading 32-27 Dillon decided to call Ana Ferariu’s number and then over 13 minutes of the second half, the Romanian responded in a huge way scoring all 18 of her points to lead Drexel to 60-49 victory.

“We knew it would be a battle against Saint Joe’s as it always is,” Dillon said. “We were aware of the looks we could get, but the players out there were struggling with them. We threw (Ferariu) into the fire there, and she took full advantage.

“She was aware of the looks we were getting and took full advantage to the rim. Couldn’t be happier.”

In the five previous games Drexel (6-2) played prior to Sunday, Ferariu rode the bench for four of them and debuted in the Dragon’s second game of the season here beating Delaware State and connecting on her only attempt which was a 3-point shot.

In five minutes of a competitive loss at Vanderbilt, she scored her only points on an And-One play and then in the loss at Bucknell, hit her only field goal attept and went 1-2 from the line for another three points.

“Absolutely, that’s all it was – it was a gut feeling,” Dillon said of her decision. “Defensively, I felt we were doing what we needed to – and that’s our bread and butter. Just on the defensive end fighting the battle and figuring out a way.

“Offensively, we needed to get some points on the board and Sarah (Curran) was struggling, and Jess (Pellechio) wasn’t even getting looks and they were doing a nice job of pressuring Meghan (Creighton). Tess (Teresa Kracikova) was doing a nice job of getting to the rim, but not finishing consistently and Bailey (Greenberg) as well,” Dillon continued..

“So Ana again, we know what her skill set is on the offensive end and just continuing to understand what we do, the system, the style and finding a way, but it definitely worked.”
As for Ferariu speaking of her breakout performance, she said, “I’m very happy and thankful for everybody that I had an opportunity to go in. I think this was a big team win.

Ferariu shot 5-for-6 from the field, including 1-1 attempting a 3-ball, and was 7-for-8 from the line.

The key statistic off of Drexel’s defense was forcing the Hawks (3-7) into 20 turnovers resulting in a 24-8 advantage for the Dragons scoring in transition.

“That was a big one,” Dillon said. “Looking at them having 20 turnovers just shows the defensive intensity we had. I thought they were starting to advantage a little bit on the pick and roll game as well. I don’t think we were doing a very good job of hedging. We were telling our players to hedge on ball screens.

“I thought Kelsi Lidge was doing a nice job and Tess but not everybody. They started taking advantage of that. So we went to our double team, our pressure, and that forced some crucial turnovers,” Dillon explained.

“But just as Ana said, our defense definitely dictated, it got the energy up and then offensively took advantage.

“I  knew their game was going to be inside the three-point line with (Adashia) Franklyn and (Chelsea) Woods pounding it inside, I thought we made those adjustments in the second half, limiting their touch and giving them som ball pressure and they didn’t get the ball inside to them as easily as they did in the second half,” Dillon said.

She said of only eight assists, that was because of the array of isolated plays and getting inside to the rim.

The Hawks outscored the Dragons 19-12 in the first quarter and then Drexel owned the next three periods, 11-5, 15-14, and in the decisive fourth 22-11 for a 48-30 advantage as the Dragons closed off the easy looks. We just fought a little harder those last three quarters.

Lidge was the only other Drexel player who scored in double figures, collecting 10 points.

Drexel heads to Lafayette Wednesday afternoon and then after the Christmas break will go to Miami next week to meet two Atlantic 10 teams in former Colonial Athletic Conference rival George Mason and Massachusetts.

Needless to say, the outcome was a disappointment to Hawks coach Cindy Griffin after her team had played well in its last outing routing NJIT at home and then holding Drexel’s known stars in check.

Curran had just six points, likewise Greenberg, Creighton scored five, and Pellechio had three.
“If you beat me once, shame on me. If you beat me twice, shame on you, do you know what I mean?” Griffin said.

"I just think it was unacceptable the way we didn’t adjust (to the substitution),” she continued. “We talked about the adjustment and switching and we just didn’t do it. The kid had 18 points in 13 minutes. At some point in time basketball IQ had to turn into something and it was disappointing because I thought we did a really good job on their leading scorers – terrific, terrific.”

And of course from the Hawks side, the turnovers were excruciating.

“You find a scorer, you’re trying to score, you limit your possessions, in this type of game it’s a possession game and when you’re giving the ball away 20 times you’re really not putting yourself in a successful situation.”

Alyssa Monaghan had 10 points for Saint Joseph’s, Woods scored 10 but had seven of the turnovers, and Franklyn scored 10, while Sarah Veilleux grabbed 10 rebounds.

Saint Joseph’s hosts Hofstra at 5 p.m. on Thursday and then after the break hosts James Madison a week from Wednesday at 7 p.m. Both schools, like Drexel, are in the CAA and JMU is the favorite.

Then it’s on to the Atlantic 10 race, leading with a visit to Richmond, New Year’s Eve.


Princeton Falls at Kansas State in the Second Half

Kansas State surged in the second half 38-18 to roll over Princeton 60-42 at home in Manhattan in the matchup of the Wildcats (10-1) of the Big 12, whose only loss was also at home a week ago to top-ranked Connecticut,  and the Tigers (4-6) of the Ivy League.

Princeton sophomore Gabrielle Rush had a career-high 12 points while Jackie Reyneke set career marks with eight rebounds and two steals.

Kindred Wesemann was the top Wildcat scorer with 15 points. Kansas State also made 29 trips to the free throw line while Princeton was limited to 13.

The Tigers will be back home in Jadwin Gym Wednesday night hosting Wagner in non-conference play.


Penn State Holds off American
Sophomore Teniya Page scored 30 points while the Lady Lions got 29 points out of the reserves to edge American 70-65 in a non-conference game at home in the Bryce Jordan Center.

Page, who was 15-for-17 from the line, and the legendary scoring machine Kelly Mazzante are the only two Lady Lions to have three 30-point games before their second season ended.

The Page foul shooting performance is second in program history for an individual game.

Penn State (9-2) is now on a six-game win streak, longest in three seasons, and have won all six games in Happy Valley, including one over Tennessee when the Lady Vols were still ranked.

Freshman transfer De’Janae Boykin made her debut at the Big 10 school and scored 10 points in American of the Patriot League

Kaitlyn Lewis had 16 points for American (3-7).

The Lady Lions next host Iona on Tuesday night.


Rider Streak Stopped at Seton Hall

Poised to perhaps lay claim to a piece of the top of a group of four Division I New Jersey schools in Princeton, Seton Hall, and Rutgers who have played at least two of each other this season, Rider saw its’ four game win streak snapped when Seton Hall broke from a 75-75 tie and exploded on a 12-3 run to over the final two minutes to delight the home crowd in Walsh Gym in South Orange with an 89-81 win.

The Broncs (7-3) surprised Princeton in Jadwin Gym the opening night of the season and have enjoyed their best run at this stage of the season.

Seton Hall blew a lead after the half at Rutgers Wednesday night in the Pirates’ last action and lost by a wide margin earlier at Princeton.

Rider trailed by 11 at the half but took off on a 22-9 outburst in the third period to go  ahead of the Pirates 62-60.

But the Broncs were ultimately hobbled by 27 foul penalties and 19 turnovers. The Pirates were 32-for-41 from the line.

“I was proud of the way we came out st the half to eventually tie it up late in the fourth,” said Rider coach Lynn Milligan. “We put ourselves in a position late in the ballgame, but we just did not get it done.”

JaQuan Jackson and Kaela Hillaire each scored 19 points for the Pirates (7-4), who next head into the Big East portion of their schedule.

Kamila Hoskova scored 14 points for Rider and newcomer Stella Johnson scored 13, while Roin Perkins scored 12.

Milligan said the squad off its 7-2 start was self-deceived into thinking its defense had been solid, but noted, “Specifically in the last three games, we weren’t. If we don’t look down on defense and do a better job, giving up 51 like we did today leads to an uphill battle.”

Seton Hall has won all 10 games in the series between the two schools.

Rider returns home for the first time in a while Wednesday night hosting Saint Francis, N.Y. in a non-conference tilt in Alumni Gymnasium.


Nationally Noted: Tennessee and South Carolina Win High-Power Matchups

At one time it would not have been considered an upset. But Tennessee, having fallen out of the rankings, rallied from an early 15-point deficit took down No. 10 Stanford 59-51 to snap a string of all four losses having occurred on Sundays, including two to No. 3 Baylor and also nationally-ranked Texas.

In a battle of two Top 10 squads No. 6 South Carolina at home beat No. 9 UCLA 66-57.

In the Tennessee game, the Lady Vols (6-4) forced 18 turnovers by the Cardinal (8-2), who next visit George Washington on Wednesday night in the Smith Center in Washington.

Jordan Reynolds had a season-high 18 points for the home team while Diamond DeShields took game honors with 15 points. Tennessee teammate Mercedes Russell had 11 points and 13 rebounds.

The Stanford point total was a season-low.

“To come out and play a Top 10 team the way we did, that’s just awesome,” said Tennessee coach Holly Warlick.

The Cardinal had a six-game win streak snapped.

"We got them down and we didn't keep them down," Hall of Fame Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said.

Erica McCall and Karlie Samuelson each scored 13 points for the visitors.

Meanwhile, in Columbia, S.C., Alaina Coates and A’ja Wilson combined for 26 points after the half for the host Gamecocks (9-1), whose only loss is to Duke.

The Bruins (8-2) are the third top 10 team South Carolina has beaten this season.

Coates had a game-high total of 20 points and also grabbed 14 rebounds for the Gamecocks whose explosive 24-5 run across the halves game them firm control. Wilson also had a double double with 11 of her 13 rebounds coming after the half while she collected 13 points.

Allisha Gray contributed contributed 11 points to the attack while Bianca Cuevas-Moore scored 10 points.

And that's the wrap.


Mike Siroky's SEC Report: League's Top Trio Taking On All Comers

By Mike Siroky

It was a relatively quiet week for the top three teams in the Southeastern Conference, the best conference in America.

Even though a team ahead of the league leader lost, their tumble was not enough to elevate anyone.

Mississippi State is the first to 10 wins; amazingly six in a row were road tests as the Bulldogs show America how to build resiliency.

A major defection hit Florida when leading scorer Elleana Christinaki walked away after a tiff with coach Amanda Butler who publicly dissed her former player in a sadly cutting comment.

Christinaki is undoubtedly an all-conference level talent. She will add two and a half heavyweight seasons wherever she lands, just the latest young league starter to walk away from a faltering program with a middling coach.

Her bio and statistical trail was removed from the team site by Butler immediately.

No. 5 Mississippi State

The Bulldogs are not only the highest-ranked team in the SEC for a program best two straight weeks, but were the first to 10 wins among the real teams.
Still missing starter Dominique Dillingham, recovering from minor surgery after making 46 straight starts, the Bulldogs won three for 12 straight, six straight on the road.

First they went to Arkansas-Little Rock.

The Trojans had won four straight after losing four straight. They were the 38th of 39 non-conference losers to State.

But it started stale.

Neither side shot well. Only Victoria Vivians, as usual, was unafraid to launch. Still, she had but four points as halftime neared.

Unfairly or not, she gets the focus when the casual observer looks to find one reason State is in the upper half of the upper half of all teams in America. She also gets the defensive focus.

Each side scored 11 in the opening quarter and threatened to not even match that in the second.

Morgan William stepped up inside of three minutes to go before the break.

She hit two free throws and a jumper, four points for the team lead. Seriously.

With 41 seconds to go, Chimwe Okorie gave State a lead for 20 seconds.

Breanna Richardson needed five points to break into the Top 25 all-time scoring Bulldogs. She also had four in the half and finished there.

She made it without fanfare in the next game.

Little Rock is the home of State freshman Roshunda Johnson. She got the start as the third guard in Dillingham’s absence and responding with zeroes across the stat line, against nearly a 10-point average. She finished there, too.

Still, State took a defensive rebound and Okorie laid it in in the other end for a one-point halftime lead.

Yes she also had – woo hoo! – four points.

Coach Vic  Schaefer had plenty to talk about in the locker room.
He obviously said wait until the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs won then.

 Defense allowed less than 51 for the sixth time. They caused 10 turnovers in the fourth quarter.

Vivians scored 10 in the final quarter to finish with 17.

The key sequence came from 6-7 center Teaira McCowan off the bench.

The lead had been extended by one in the third. With 7:44 left in the game, McCowan’s layup made it six.

She grabbed a rebound and hit a free throw. She had five rebounds in her 14 minutes. State had seized the game momentum never to lose it.
It ended 58-44, looking better than it was.

Schaefer had his 100th win at the school, the fastest ever there.

“Give credit to Arkansas-Little Rock,” he said. “They did some things that we weren’t accustomed to doing. I didn’t think our defensive intensity was great in the first half, but we also only scored 25 points.

“That wasn’t good either.

 “In the second half, we played much better defensively. We had more intensity and more focus and that helped us get some things going offensively.”
 In support of Vivians, freshman Blair Schaefer – the coach’s daughter – had her best offensive effort with 12.

She is no fluke.

She hit all three 3s she attempted and was 3-of-4 from the line.

They drew 1,534.

They were off to the Southern Cal tournament. They opened with Southern Methodist, in a near-midnight start as part of a double-header.

This is a game in which coach Schaefer re-established why his team loves to play.
“This game is meant to be fun,” he said after the Bulldogs had plenty of that in the 91-42 runaway.

“These kids work really hard," he said. “College is supposed to be the four best years of your life. We work so hard in practice. When you see it come together on the court like that, it is very rewarding as a coach.”

By halftime, Vivians had a dozen and Blair Schaefer 10, each with two 3s.

More significantly, the defense posted a single-digit second quarter and held SMU to 22 percent from the field.

Schaefer finished with 18 points in 19 minutes. The defense stayed locked in, allowing 29 percent from the field.
At the end it was the largest margin of victory so far.

SMU had given Texas A&M one of its two losses

“I was pleased with how we came out,” coach Schaefer said. “We were lethargic to start the game (the win over Arkansas-Little Rock).

“It’s a rough time of year because you have kids coming off finals. We worked out here early in the day. That was good as we have played all year.

“We shot the ball very well from the perimeter. When we shoot it like that, we are hard to guard. Our point guard play was really good. I am also proud of how well our bench played.

“We had 18 points off the bench in the first half. Defensively, we were very good.”

They won the tournament title, 76-72

But not without a fight as one-loss
Southern Cal took a one-point lead at the first quarter break.

From 20-20, Southern Cal went on an 8-2 run. Vivians had eight on her way to another double-figure game.

The home team won its second quarter and led at halftime.

But the Bulldogs won the second half by eight, the final quarter by three.
Vivians had 19, including three 3s and 4-of-6 from the line. Richardson was 6-of-9 from the field, 5-of-6 from the for 18 with nine rebounds. William had 18, 5-of-6 from the line.

All-tournament selection Vivians joined tournament MVP William.

The Bulldogs had 24 defensive rebounds and 23-of-29 from the line.

They had 25 free throw attempts in the second half.

“I would like to give credit to USC,” coach Schaefer said. “I am not sure how we won the game. It was one heck of a basketball game between two teams competing their hearts out.
“We talked about being more aggressive in the second half," he said. "We had 17 offensive rebounds and that led to 12 second-half points.

“I am really proud of Jazzmun (Holmes). She was spectacular today. She started it and Morgan finished it off.

 "I am really proud to be 12-0. It will be great to be playing at home again. We haven't been there in a month."

They celebrate the start with two home cupcakes before the SEC starts. They should be 16-0 then.

No. 6 South Carolina

It was another runaway, 83-61, against in-state traditional rival Clemson of the Atlantic Coast Conference, the seventh straight in the series.

The two forwards, senior  Alaina Coates and junior  A’ja Wilson each hit a double/double. Coates had 19 points and 10 rebounds. Wilson had 20 and
10. Junior guard Kaela Davis scored 17.

Coates is the second all-time rebounder in program history at 1,027.

Carolina had a 49-30 rebound advantage, 30 defensive. The offensive rebounds led to 21 second-chance points underneath. They also had 11 blocks from five players.

Coach Dawn Staley said, despite a three-guard regular rotation, the down low is a priority

“That’s our game plan,” she said.
“That’s what has been our bread and butter for the past few seasons.

“It’s not the only way, and we do have to take some outside shots to open up that zone.

“I haven’t handcuffed any of our perimeter players. I think our post players do a great job at looking at their partner down there. That’s something that we’ve drilled over and over again. That’s what we’ll continue to do.”

They drew the nation's best 11,916.

Then, as Staley dodges no opportunity, they welcomed in Pac 12 leader No. 9 UCLA. It was the Bruins’ only pre-conference game against a ranked team.

South Carolina had its first single digit quarter in the Dawn Staley era, six points in the first quarter.

Fortunately, they only allowed 11 and had scrambled back to a 26-all halftime, another record low.

UCLA shot but 25 percent for the half, SC 28 percent. Three SC players had five points each.

The second half started just as badly.

SC hit one of its first three shots.

But the defense solidified. From a 28-27 deficit they went on a 14-1 run and settled for an 11-point lead heading into the third quarter.

Kaela Davis was 0-7 from the field so she turned to rebounds, steals and assists in the run.

When there is a lead to be protected they do it. The home team took over rebounds with the three-guard lineup.

Coates had exploded with 14 points in the quarter, was 5-of-9 from the field and 7-of-8 from the line, already in a double/double with 13 rebounds, eight defensive. She finished with 20 and 14.
SC looked like that team we project into the Final Four, keeping a one-loss, Top 9 team at bay, eventually 66-57 It was the Bruins’ lowest score by 15.

The Gamecocks have beaten a third of the remaining Top 10 teams.

Obviously, they still have Mississippi State to go. All comers welcome to Staleyland.

Wilson joined Coates with a double/double, 13 points and rebounds on 33 percent shooting from the field.

Alisha Grey hit for 11. Bianca Cuevas-Moore, still auditioning for the last starter spot, scored 10.

“I saw how the first half went,” said Staley. “I thought the second half would be when we could impose our will a little bit more. We were where we wanted to be.

Of Coates, Staley said,  “She’s a beast. She is playing inspired basketball and wants to win. She’s our aggressor, the one we look to.

“We look for our players to compete the way she competes every time she is on the floor.”

As for Cuevas-Moore, Staley said, “She needs to do more. She is just looking to score and looking for her shots but people are playing her for those shots, not for her kicking it out. They are good shots, but she can do more.
“When she gets more people involved, more balanced, she’ll be better.”

As for playing the challenging schedule, she said it’s already about the post-season.

“The SEC, now that’s a little bit different, more rugged,” she said. “So playing those different schools and getting adjusted to those styles gets us ready for the NCAAs.”

They continued with the world’s best home college attendance 13,367 this time.

Carolina will win its 10th at Savannah in the last road game of the year.

No. 19 Kentucky.

Kentucky almost fell out after being upset at home in overtime by unranked Arizona State. Three losses is the most for any ranked team.

But then came the gift of Radford.

The Highlanders do not play ranked teams if they can avoid them. They have one senior and two juniors on an obviously young team which won 18 last season in the Big South.

They scored single digits in each of the first three quarters – a school defensive record -- and UK, not quite cruising, had an 18-point lead, settling for a 59-36 win.

Evelyn Akhator hit five of her first six shots and led scoring with 13 points. Epps had 13 as well. The 4,547 in attendance approved.

“So this week we worked on rebounding,”Akhator said. “I knew last week that I could have done better with my rebounding, so we worked on that.

“One thing is that we really love each other, so we have to be there for our team. When somebody is down we just have to pick them back up. That really helps us to come together as a team.

“We see someone falling on the floor we gather together to pick that person up. When we see someone diving on the floor we all get hyped and want to do better.”

Sophomore center Alyssa Rice said,  “The guards did a great job this game with getting the ball inside. That was something that we have been working on.

“Just using it to our advantage because it’s a high- percentage shot inside and it opens up our guards outside. The guards did a great job today.

 “Just having the support of my teammates and coaches of pushing me and telling me just to keep at it. I have been building that confidence each and every game, because last year I didn’t have the non-conference season to build that confidence.

“Having this season and being able to work through each game has helped me with coming along as well as the support from my coaches and teammates.

“I think Paige (Poffenberger) did a great job. We rely on our bench a lot even when it comes to their energy. We feed off that.

“When things can be down, like our shots not falling, that energy just coming from the bench really helps our team and it keeps us going.

“We definitely need that to continue on through the season.”

Freshman guard Jaida Roper had her first start. Taylor Murray is rehabbing an injured hand and did not play. She had started all the previous games and is third-best scorer.

“It was a good time for me to set up, get some more minutes and play hard,” she said.

“Just trying to do what Taylor does. She really helped me with motivational talks. She is a really big help.

 “I had multiple talks with the coaches,” Roper said “You know, they told me to go out there and work hard and if I got tired just to let them know. They said they would get me out then get me back in.

“In my head, it was just to do my job: Go out there and play hard, play hard defense and try not to turn the ball over. I had a lot of help from talk and the other guards.”

Former Kat Linnae Harper made her debut at No. 12 Ohio State, a transfer there now eligible after the close of the Buckeyes’ fall academic semester. She scored 15 with two 3s and five rebounds in 17 minutes.

Among the rest of the legitimate NCAA contenders:

Auburn won once on the road and once at home before losing to a ranked team at home and are 8-3. Texas A&M won a road game and are  8-2.

Tennessee won once on the road and then finally beat a Top 10 team at home.

They are 6-4.

Ever reminded of the burden of legacy, they set yet another NCAA record with 1,301 program wins. But – yikes ! – attendance is falling, down to a season-low 7,321, 1,500 less than last season’s low.

Notables: Alabama is 9-1 after rallying from a 20-7 first quarter against an ACC team . . . rebuilt Vanderbilt, with real coaches, also are 10-1.