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.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Tennessee Narrow Upset of South Carolina Scrambles the SEC

By Mike Siroky

Tennessee went to the second-toughest court in America and bounced South Carolina from the undefeateds at home in conference, 76-74.

Jamie Nared hit a career high. She hit the basket that defeated Notre Dame earlier. She hit the four three throws that kept Kentucky at bay.

She hit the final four free throws again.

The Lady Vols were helped by a lack of composure by the home team. Good teams have to beat themselves. SC contributed to its own loss.

If it was the future against the past --  South Carolina had won four of the past five confrontations with Tennessee but Tennessee was 44-1 before that.— then Holly Warlick represented well.

Dawn Staley is the pre-eminent coach in the league now . . .  even if Tennessee nettled them a bit last season by being the team which went the farthest in the NCAA eliminations.

Tennessee had a plan early.

 One was to get Alaina Coates out of the game, buying into her propensity for early foul trouble.


With 5:56 in the quarter, Coates sat down for the half with two fouls.

But there was still A’ja Wilson, 17.8 points in conference, led an 8-0 run and it was 21-14. She scored eight in the quarter.

Another plan was to get Diamond DeShields, a 20.3 average best in conference, interested early.

 She will hit 1,000 points at UT, her second season there, near the end of this season.

Check, eight points with three minutes left in the quarter.

Still, SC could counter with Alisha Gray, a former DeShields backcourt mate when they were at North Carolina.

Gray averages 13.9.

She crashed for four defensive rebounds in Coates’ absence. She also scored five.

It settled in at 26-20 as Tennessee forced a shot  clock violation. Each side was hitting half its shots.

Wilson picked up a second foul to start the second quarter and she joined Coates on the bench for the half. SC went zone.

Mercedes Russell, UT’s center, seemed free, but she was working for it, with not enough touches.

Jaime Nared followed a DeShields steal and drive with a basket, but Harris hit a 3.

Russell finally got a bunny. She got another when DeShields passed up an open 3. It was 31-28.

An offensive foul, DeShields drawing a second charge, gave it back to UT.

Russell was pulled by Holly Warlick and it became a game of guards, seven turnovers for the home team, five for the visitors.

Nared had five rebounds and eight UT points. Alexa Middleton hit a 3 and it was 33-31.

With each minute, UT believed more and more.

Another turnover and DeShields hit a jumped to tie it. She stole it again. Davis got her second foul on the steal.

DeShields snared a loose ball on defense, hit a court-length pass which Nared laid in, and the Lady Vols still led, 35-33.

Russell took advantage of her height advantage for a rebound hoop. On defense, she came out from under to deflect a pass.

Tennessee appeared to be working harder with the advantage of Wilson and Coates sitting quietly, having made a plus-nine move.

UT forced a second shot clock violation with a  minute left.

But SC got it back, took a fast break layup and they were only down one. The defense of the home court was still in play.

DeShields was over covered and so fed Alexa Middleton for a jumper and a 39-36 halftime edge. Defense was winning.
DeShields had 12, Nared 10. South Carolina stayed in it by winning rebounds, 21-13. Tennessee stayed in by hitting 10 percent better from the field.

He crowd, best in America, was slow in arriving. Maybe because the game started an hour early for national cablecast. The 13,698 were all there for the second half.

Disaster loomed early. Wilson picked up a third foul and then protested too exuberantly, for a fourth, non-sportsmanship. This was at 6:13 and she was sitting some more. Nared made all four free throws.

Coates was doing her part. Tennessee was not about to challenge her just because.

 In a game of precious points, she scored once and had two rebounds when it was 50-46, homies.

DeShields could not invigorate her teammates. The Lady Vols missed nine shots in the half and one free throw. One of the misses looked all the world like a dunk attempt by Russell on a rebound.

The third quarter ended 53-52, SC. The Gamecocks wasted the last possession holding for a befuddling final shot.

Was SC playing not well or was Tennessee flying? UT’s last points were a rebound layup by Russell. She had a dozen, Nared 16 and DeShields, but only three points in the quarter.

Each side was amazingly exactly 20-of-46 from the field.

DeShields hit a quick jumper to start the fourth and UT was back in front. But Kaela Davis drove on DeShields to tie it. They had been high school teammates. Russell scored. UT regained possession and fed her again.

The four-point lead was Tennessee’s largest of the night. DeShields scored again. She was at her scoring average.

 Staley put Wilson back in. Six minutes left.

DeShields made a jumper and it was 69-58, Tennessee’s game to lose.

Bianca Cuevas-Moore got a defensive layup which led to a Wilson layup. Four minutes left. An eternity.

Only DeShields, with three fouls, was in any danger for the visitors.

Coates cut it to seven with her seventh point. An immediate time out. Three minutes left.
Nared missed a layup but Russell with her 11th rebound and a foul. Wilson got a defensive rebound. She scored on the other end, a five-point difference with two minutes left, but both teams at full strength.

Russell fumbled a drive out of bounds, confirmed by a replay check. A big call, though correct.

With 92 seconds left, Tennessee strangely put no pressure on the inbounds.

With a minute to go, Cuevas-Moore stayed in the corner and hit a 3. It was a two-point game.

Nared hit a 15-footer, left open when the defense collapsed on DeShields at 46 seconds. There were four SC players within reaching distance of DeShields when she made the assist.

Tennessee called a time out. Staley used her final time out in a two-possession ballgame.

Wilson got two shots, made the second, and SC fouled to stop the clock. Gray made her fourth stopping it again.

DeShields fed Nared, the league’s top foul shooter. She missed one. She made the second. A three-point game and Russell fouled to allow free throws without a 3 attempt.

Cuevas-Moore hit both. One-point game. Time out Tennessee, their last, 25 seconds left.

SC contested the inbound.

 Nared was immediately fouled. She hit one, then another and it was a  three-point lead on her 25-point career high.

Cuevas Moore hit a 3. Nared was knocked over with six seconds left. Nothing but net on the first free throw.  Made the second.

UT knocked them off, 76-74.

Tennessee had not won against a Top 5 on the road in a decade. The roar was heard from Starkville, Mississippi, where State still is the last SEC undefeated at home, now both with a league loss.

Tennessee needed this one to get to 20 regular season wins. The competitive game on the home floor of No. 4 raises their RPI. They have defeated a third of the Top 10m teams.

DeShields is at All-American level. The NCAA cannot shut them out if they beat the teams they are supposed to beat down the stretch. They are tied for fifth in the toughest league in America at 5-3.

Nared scored 27, 12-of-15 at the line. She was the only player in every minute of this game.

DeShields scored 21. Russell had the double/double, 16 with 10 rebounds.

“It’s the game and my teammates playing so hard, diving for loose balls; that’s what gets me going,” Nared said.

“We practice free throws a lot.

DeShields said of her long-time friends on an opposing team, “First off, it’s just seeing them in a good place. So you wish them luck, afterward.”

Russell said, “We play big in big games. When we play like this, we’re pretty good. When we play like this, it’s pretty hard to beat us.

“Free throws, paint shots, every point was big.”

DeShields said the attack on offense was, “Absolutely the game plan. It’s very hard to stop guards when they are attacking. I am very proud of my teammates, very proud of the coaches, they did a great job of preparing us.”

She said, even in the final minutes they never doubted the outcome.

“We’re winners,” she said. “She was shooting free throws like it was practice.”
Nared said, “We got a lot of transition baskets. Diamond ran out in transition and that’s what got us going.

“It was not a perfect game, but we got scores when we needed to.”

“It’s knowing all that time and the reps will pay off.”

UT hit half its shots. SC had been allowing 36 percent and hitting 45 percent. They hit 46 percent this time. They had been allowing 53 points and scoring 74.

So Tennessee surpassed their defense. They were more aware.

Moore scored 18 off the bench. Wilson got up to 14.

“When we needed to get stops we got ‘em,” said Warlick.
“We just played gutsy the whole game. Our denial, attacking the basket. I thought Diamond started by taking some good shots. Then we started running stuff to her. She attacked the basket, played solid defense and that’s what I wanted her to do.

“We want Jamie Nared on the line. I was shocked she missed that one free throw. When we needed buckets, we went inside.”

Cuevas Moore,  she said, “She has ice water in her veins. Maybe we shouldn’t have stepped back from her, but she had to make them.”

The last foul call could have been advantageous to either team. “I hated it came down to that,” Warlick said.

“Of course, I saw a foul and it’s gutsy to make a call in that position.”

“It’s part of the game,” said Staley.

Moving on, “We have no choice. We have to go to Kentucky and play on the road. And we will. We’re resilient, and this is a team that really has not lost a whole lot of games.

“ There’s a reason why where we are because we’re resilient. We’re tough, and we bounce back. You’ll see a team that takes the floor on Thursday that is ready to get back to their winning ways. And we will.

“When you don’t have your two All-Americans for the first half. We never prepared for it . . . you prepare for one of them but never both. It’s a hardship.

“When you don’t have your bigs in there, it’s hard. When they get back in there, it’s hard to adjust the flow.

“There’s a reason we are where we are. We’ll bounce back. It will make us tougher so we don’t have to feel what we’re feeling.

“We got a great team. These are all situations in which we’re learning, we’re growing.”

Wilson said it was tough to sit so much and she concentrated on just cheering them on.
“It’s weird. We have to continuing doing what we’re doing,” she said.

“Every SEC team we play, that’s their blueprint. But we know that. We can bounce back."

Guru's Local Overniter: Temple Rally Falls Short Against No. 23 USF

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA – It should have been better in terms of the outcome but could have been worse for Temple’s women’s basketball team Sunday afternoon in the Owls’ impressive but failed comeback bid late in the game before No. 23 South Florida closed out a 55-51 victory in the American Athletic Conference affair at McGonigle Hall.

The Temple defeat and Rutgers’ 55-37 home loss to Northwestern in a Big Ten contest were the two downers in an otherwise uptempo day in which Drexel crushed Northeastern 74-51 while Delaware on the road won another, beating host Towson 73-67, in the Colonial Athletic Association, Penn State took care of Illinois 82-66 at home in the Big Ten, Penn got ready for the Ivy wars beating Division III Stevens Tech 89-43 at home in The Palestra, and Saint Joseph’s had an easy time beating St. Bonaventure 70-53 at home in Hagan Arena in the Atlantic 10.

The collateral damage from Temple’s defeat was the end of a 12-game win streak that netted the Owls a Big Five title 4-0 sweep when they won at Penn, Thursday, a lost chance to possibly move into the next Associated Press women’s poll for the first time since the Dawn Staley era over a decade ago, and, like a 30 second timeout becomes a full media timeout, the one-game setback becomes a two-game losing streak Wednesday night when top-ranked Connecticut brings its NCAA-record 95-game win streak Wednesday night next door to the 10,000-seat Liacouras Center.

But the fact that after 30 minutes of mediocre basketball, Temple (16-4, 6-1 AAC) looked more like the NCAA tourney contender the Owls appeared all month means perhaps it will be different against the Bulls (17-3, 6-1) in Tampa, Feb. 19, or possibly in the conference tourney at the Mohegan Sun in March near New London, Conn.

“To start the game, we got caught up in ourselves as individuals and focused more on the shots we weren’t making and getting down on ourselves,” Temple coach Tonya Cardoza said. “We hadn’t done that in a while. Normally we try to keep our composure and focus in us as a group and making sure we get stops.

“I felt because shots weren’t falling for us early in the first half we started worrying more about that and not focusing on the defensive side and getting stops. And again, we played a pretty good job, defensively, but just bucking down and not giving them easy looks, I felt definitely when we went with the five guards were able to communicate a little bit better, Khadijah (Berger) came in and basically changed the game because she was able to  make shots and gave us some life.

“Before that, we were just moping around and not making shots, and for us, it’s always about the defensive side, it’s never about the offensive side. Today we focused more on the offensive end and we weren’t making shots and we couldn’t find ways to make the easy bucket,” she said.

“But again we were down 16 points and were able to cut it to two but the way we played the fourth quarter whether it was five guards or four guards, the intensity level on the defensive end should have been there at the start of the game. We gave up way too many offensive opportunities.

Feyonda Fitzgerald had 14 points and all eight of Temple’s assists but she was 3-for-20 from the floor while Alliya Butts scored 12 butts while Berger keyed an 18-4 offensive run with eight straight of those points and finished with 11. Tanaya Atkinson had 11 rebounds.

Kitija Laksa had 16 points for South Florida while Maria Jespersen scored 13 and Tamara Henshaw had 10 points and 10 rebounds.

“We lost Courtney Williams, Alisia Jenkins, … and no one expected us to be here (record-wise) or ranked,” said South Florida coach Jose Fernandez, who recently won his 300th game.”

Monaghan Sets Career High to Propel Saint Joseph’s Into An A-10 Logjam

The road to nowhere that Saint Joseph’s was on for the first two months of the season is transforming to potentially somewhere even though the Hawks do need to do a little more work to make up for all the early damage to the overall won-loss record.

The latest success is courtesy of Alyssa Monaghan, who had a career-high 21 points as Saint Joseph’s soared over Saint Bonaventure 70-53 at home in Hagan Arena and right into the middle of a four-way tie for third with George Washington, La Salle, and Fordham.

The Hawks (9-12, 6-3 Atlantic 10) wth the other three are just one game behind preseason favorite Saint Louis and two behind Dayton, which they recently lost to in overtime.

Chelsea Woods added 18 points to the Saint Joseph’s attack, while Adashia Franklyn had 12 points and a game-high nine rebounds.

Mariah Ruff had 18 points for Saint Bonaventure (9-13, 4-6).

As jumbled as the A-10 has been, a healthy Saint Joseph’s squad has the stuff to pull a surprise in the conference tourney in March.

Next up is a visit Wednesday at 7 p.m. from Duquesne, which evened its season-series with George Washington, winning 73-63 on the road at the Colonials’ Smith Center as Amadea Szamosi had game-highs of 24 points and 14 rebounds.

Drexel and Delaware Gain CAA Wins to Stay Tied for Third

The Dragons here in Philly at a game we were at and the Blue Hens on the road down at Towson built a two-game advantage over fifth place with victories Sunday afternoon as Drexel rolled over Northeastern 74-51 at home in the Daskalakis Athletic Center on Alumni Day to pick up a sweep of the Huskies while Delaware ventured down to Maryand to beat Towson 73-67, though the Blue Hens almost gave it away in the Tigers’ SECU Arena.

Drexel (15-5, 6-3 CAA) used a 16-0 run in the first quarter to dominate Northeastern (7-14, 3-6).

Unlike Friday at second-place James Madison, which is a game in front in second place, the shots went down easy against the Huskies as the Dragons connected for 54.7 percent from the field, their best all season.

Sarah Curran had a game-high 24 points for Drexel, while Jessica Pellechio had 18 points and freshman Bailey Greenberg scored 10.

Northeastern got 15 points from Claudia Ortiz and 13 from Jess Genco.

Turnovers were almost even but Drexel outdid the Huskies 21-8 in points off turnover.

Aubree Brown started in place of Kelsi Lidge and got six points, three rebounds, six assists and four steals.

“I was really proud of that bounce back from that Friday night tough battle,” Drexel coach Denise Dillon said. “Without Kelsi Lidge in the lineup we had to step up and do some things, I thought Aubrey Brown did a nice job stepping into that starting position.”

Meghan Creighton dealt nine assists.

"When Sarah, Jess, and Meghan are playing their game and other people follow to their roles, we look like a good basketball team,” Dillon said.

“Today we were settled in and just taking what they gave us. We just have to recognize that every game. I still feel the importance of valuing the possession,” Dillon said, talking about turnovers.

Drexel, which goes to Charleston Friday and Delaware next Sunday, is in position to make a long run, considering the Dragons are done with first-place Elon and host James Madison to finish that season series next month.

“It is about winning the games you can win,” Dillon said. “We’re playing well here at home, we have to play better on the road.

“We hit the road next weekend. Charleston is a tough place to play. Delaware it does not matter who is who on the roster. That game is always a battle.”

Delaware (12-8, 6-3) had a 16-point lead at Towson wilted in the fourth quarter though the Blue Hens escaped with a 73-67 victory for their fifth straight.

Towson (11-9, 4-5) outscored the visitors 28-19 in the final quarter but foul shots from Kiersten West and Sade Chatman helped keep Delaware ahead at the close.

Overall, the Blue Hens made 34 of 40 chances from the line.

West had a career high 16 points in just 13 minutes of playing time.

Makeda Nicholas and Nicole Enabosi each scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds.

Towson’s Raven Bankston had a game-high 31 points.

Delaware next stays home for the weekend hosting UNCW Friday night in the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark before Drexel visits on Sunday.

James Madison (14-6, 7-2 CAA) stayed in second place after wining at William & Mary (13-6, 3-5) while Elon led the CAA pack again after winning at Hofstra.

In the JMU game the Dukes topped the Tribe 79-64 in Williamsburg, Va., at the Kaplan Arena as they set a program recording, shooting a perfect 18-for-18 at the line. The previous record was a perfect 17 set on Feb. 17, 1986 at Richmond.

Precious Hall had 27 points for JMU and is 16 short of 2000.

Elon (16-5, 8-1) held onto its fragile sole possession of first fate at Hofstra, beating the Pride 64-53 off a strong first half at the David S. Mack Sports Complex in Hempstead, N.Y.

The Elon overall record is the program’s best as a Division I member through 21 games while the 8-1 conference mark is also a program record in the 18 years affiliated with Division I basketball.

Mayla Johnson had 13 points for the Phoenix while Aleana Leon had 19 for the Pride (8-11, 1-7).

Penn Romp Readies Quakers for the Ivy Marathon

After a pair of nasty Big 5 losses at home to Villanova and Temple on successive Wednesdays, the Quakers used Division III Stevens Tech as a sparring partner in the Palestra late Sunday afternoon to get ready to defend their Ivy title the rest of the way.

Penn beat its Sunday visitor 89-43, the largest differential on the winning side for the Quakers (10-6, 3-0 Ivy) in the Mike McLaughlin era.

The game counts in the overall record but not in the Division I calculations for the RPI, used to select and seed teams in the NCAA tournament. The conference marks in this part of the post is for reference. Stevens Tech is now 9-8 overall and 8-1 in the Empire 8.

Everybody got to play for Penn in this one except the managers and trainer and coaching staff and the bench produced 45 points.

Sydney Stipanovich, now a senior, had a double double with 13 points and 13 rebounds and had three blocks including the 300th in her career. She needs five to tie the Ivy mark of 305 set by Columbia’s Kathy Gilbert (1987-91).

Michelle Nwokedi had 15 points, and Ashley Russell off the bench had 11 while senior Jackie Falconer’s nine off the bench is her career best. Anna Ross dealt seven assists.

“What we wanted to do today, is this fit nicely into our schedule so we didn’t have a nine-day gap to our next league game,” McLaughlin said.

Harvard, the only other unbeaten Ivy team besides Penn, visits Friday night followed by Dartmouth Saturday.

“We wanted to work on some of the things we’ve been working on, rebounding, get the ball down the floor. And we did it. The other goals we had was to get everybody an opportunity to play today and reward them for all the hard work they do and we did that.

“It was fun to watch the younger kids in there the last 15 minutes. We got a lot out of it.”

Meanwhile, this is the year for the new Ivy tourney at The Palestra that will decide which men’s and women’s team gets to NCAA tourney.

Only four teams qualify and after the wildness among Ivy teams that did play this past weekend, Penn starts in solid shape at 3-0 already in league play to get here. Then, of course, there’s the race for the top seed.

That race used to decide all the marbles as the regular season championship sending the winner on to the 64-team field, except when playoffs had to be used to break ties.

What’s different now is one or two losses won’t put a team in dire straits early. Plus, this year it’s possible the upper teams will have more losses than in the past due to the improvement of Ivy schools.

“What’s really great is the league is so good right now but our girls were watching the games since we didn’t play this weekend. They all know what’s going on,” McLaughlin said.

“I watched them, too. It’s going to be a battle. Definitely on the women’s side. I just said to the girls, we’re all done non-league now. Let’s embrace this challenge. Let’s not hide from it. Let’s respect and embrace it.

“I’m going to have Sydney and Jackie and Kasey for just the last two months of a small window. When these guys walk off the court the last time, I want to make sure we’ve left everything on the table for them.”

Said Stipanovich, who when she arrived here only had to worry about Princeton as the major threat, “It’s always been a competitive league. But this year, I’ve been watching the games, they’re all going down to the wire. It’s going to be a lot of fun. Each game is going to be a challenge. You can’t look past anyone. We’re just going to take it one game at a time, so our next big challenge is here Friday, so we’re excited.

“It’s going to be a hard road to get back here. What are they calling it, Path to the Palestra. Ivy Madness. We’re excited. We’re ready.”

Penn State Wins and Rutgers Loses at Home in Separate Big 10 Action.

The Lady Lions rolled over Illinois 82-66 at the Bryce Jordan Center in State College, Pa., while the Scarlet Knights were felled 55-33 by Northwestern at the Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway, N.J.

In the Penn State game, Teniya Page had 12 points and dealt six assists to reach 204 helpers for her career. Kaliyah Mitchell had 16 points and six rebounds for the Lady Lions (14-7, 4-5 Big Ten).

Sierra Moore had 19 points in the game in which PSU shot 46.6 percent from the field. Amari Carter dealt eight assists. Lindsey Spann had 10 points.

Brandi Beasley had 28 points for the Illini (8-14, 3-6).

Meanwhile Northwestern used a strong third quarter to down the Scarlet Knights (6-16, 3-6 Big 10), who got a team-high 14 points from Aliyah Jeune of the bench. Shrita Parker had nine points and seven rebounds.

Northwestern (16-5, 5-3) used a 27-4 run to take control of the game in which Rutgers at halftime honored members of its past AIAW national and 1987 Atlantic 10 champions.

Lauren Douglas had 16 points for the Wildcats and Amber Jamison scored 10.


Mike Siroky's SEC Report: Back to the Grind

 By Mike Siroky

The Southeastern Conference season did not end with Mississippi State at South Carolina.

 But if the No. 5 Gamecocks win out, they are champs once again. They have been in the Top 10 nationally for 63 straight weeks.

The other teams beyond the top four in the conference are scrambling to get noticed and, especially to 20 wins before the NCAA draw.

As January ends, the games next month will gain some them NCAA entry pass and deny others.

It still appears as if as many as eight can make the cut, with the last two gifted because they play in this league.

No. 4 Mississippi State

Where Bulldogs end up after losing the instant classic at South Carolina will not hurt much.

Certainly they are still a Top 10 team.

But their only game was an important conference one, No. 2 vs. then No. 4 Texas A&M. Still, it was at home and they had a week to recharge after SC.

Against a real good team, A&M looked like what it is, a rebuilding team with a fantastic coach.

They have 15 wins, but still must go to Tennessee and have the top two league teams in the final three games. So the Aggies’ wiggle room is minimal.

State moved to 7-1 in conference; had A&M pulled the upset, each would have been 6-2.

Instead, the Bulldogs defended their undefeated home streak, cc-cc. They are No. 4 nationally in RPI.

Coach Vic Schaefer said they used the Collision in Columbia as a teaching moment.

“We come back and look at defense and some of the shortcomings we had. We look at offensive execution. We will look at the good stuff we did offensively. I think we did some really good stuff. We did some really good half-court stuff and didn’t turn the ball over. We will look at the first five minutes of the third quarter where we kind of got punched.

“Typically, we were doing the punching, but we weren’t real focused. We had some lapses with our key kids and they know that. We have to make those adjustments and corrections.

“That is the piece that people don’t understand. Our kids and my staff, we are all so invested in what we do. It’s not a ‘come in for an hour and a half and then see you tomorrow.’ We will watch film for probably an hour. We have already lifted. We will work on a lot of fundamentals today. We are ready, game plan-wise, for what is coming on Sunday. Your investment time is important. This is important to us.”

Going forward, he said, they have to develop a diversified offense.

Victoria Vivians is a feared shooter, but . . .

“I think right now, she has everybody’s attention. She gets everybody’s best defender,” Schaefer said.

“We probably need to take some strain off of her and have some other people carry the load.

She is not shooting the ball extremely well in the league. To be fair to our team and her, I think you have to look at some other ways to do what we do offensively.

“You can’t just continue to go 30-35 percent night-in and night-out. Our inside players are really shooting the ball well. (Dominique Dillingham) shot it well the other night. I thought (Roshunda Johnson) played really well. She is starting to get back into form. I think we have some other options. To be fair to everybody, I think we need to look at those right now.”

"This is not a hobby. This is what we are emotionally invested in as coaches and as players.”
Schaefer told his team beforehand, ‘There’s a lot of talent in this room; we had one setback. Dare we dream it’s the only one?”

As both teams are Maroon and Grey, State wore home grey for the first time in program history. No truth to the rumor that is based on Schaefer’s hair style.

Two defensive-based teams made points a premium. Morgan William, State’s point guard, stumbled to the bench after knee-to-knee contact near the start and sat out at two minutes.
Without her, A&M went on an 8-0 run and took the lead by three. Two free throws later and it was five.

Vivians stayed on the attack and cut it by two.

A&M was hitting half its shots, State at 28 percent.

Schaefer took off his jacket as coaching amped up.

A&M only goes six deep, that group contributing 90 percent of the points and minutes. The visitors had a 20-15 edge at the quarter stop.

State planned to run them ragged. Two fouls on A&M’s magnificent Ariel Howard altered both game plans. She is the SEC’s best rebounder.

That’s when Schaefer looked to capitalize on Howard’s absence by putting in his 6-7 backup,

Teaira McGowan. She and Vivians combined for 16 of the second-quarter start. When Okorie put one back up, it as an 18-8 run and a 33-9 lead. The shooting had crept up to 45 percent.

A&M’s Lumpkin picked up personal foul No. 3. Fouls were only 9-7, but State had the depth and no starters with more than one foul.

McCowan was 4-of-4 from the field and 2-of-2 from the line, outscoring A&M by herself. Vivians also had 10, with two 3s. William had eight.

It was 41-29 at half, the largest lead of the game. State had imposed a single-digit quarter on the Aggies. Every team that did that this Sunday won its game.  Each side was hitting 43 percent from the floor. Dillingham already had a career-best six assists.

“We were getting better shots and a little better defensively,” Schaefer observed. “I thought we were headed for 80 points. We gotta guard. If we hook up defensively and get locked in, everything else works.”

“They wear you out,” said A&M’s Gary Blair.

The trends continued in the third.

With both teams at full strength, they basically traded baskets. State stayed on the attack on both ends. The entry passes worked. A&M looked tentative on defense.

The lead edged to 17. Vivians had 18. Then A&M cut it back and the lead ended where it started, the home team a dozen up.

A&M finally had its run, cutting the deficit to seven but never closer. Vivians made a wonderful individual exhibition, eventually driving for a layup.

She has taken 100 more shots than her nearest teammate, but a shooter must shoot and as she goes, so goes the team.

with 3:49 left, Schaefer reminded his team that going inside is the way they control the game.

A Curtyce Knox 3 made it seven again. A&M made three straight fouls and left  William at the line. She drained both. Ten points with nine assists.

A&M hit a jumper and immediately fouled. State hit a free throw.

A&M tried a 3-on-1 backcourt trap. Uh oh, somebody’s open. State dribbled away some clock until A&M tagged Ojorie. She hit one. State hit 7-of-8 from the line to close it out.

A&M hit the final jumper, 61-71.

So A&M remains stuck on 15 wins, 5-3 in conference, tied for fourth with Missouri and Aburn. State has won 21 of 22, unbeaten at home, 7-1 in conference. Including South Carolina, no SEC team has scored more than 64 against State.

Vivians played 35 minutes, his three 3s and scored 18. StarkVegas drew 7,780

“Heck of a basketball game between two really good teams,” Schaefer said. “Proud of the press. Proud of our kids trying to wear them down because of their depth. We answered in the fourth quarter when the game was tight. (Johnson) came in and gave us some great energy.

“The second quarter was big. I am proud at how well we played defensively that quarter. Proud of the inside game. Teaira and Chinwe were both really good.”

 No. 5 South Carolina.

Win No. 18 came in a string building to at UConn on Valentine’s eve. At Georgia, already erased from NCAA consideration after being in last season.

This is an interesting time for the ’Dawgs. They are in the second post-Andy Landers season, which means his impact is fading and they are slipping into the pack. A .500 overall record gets you nowhere.

SC started slowly, 11-6. Starters contributed one basket. Bianca Cuevas-Moore, the first player off the bench, scored four. Each side hit 30 percent from the field.

And SC had one of those defensive single-digit quarters, which they did again in the 12-9 second.

Alisha Gray, the league Player of the week, scored seven in the quarter.

But their shooting fell to 22 percent, less than half their average.

Georgia won the next quarter and it remained an SEC tussle. Gray was confident, following 17 in the Stare showdown, she had 16 with three minutes left.

A’ja Wilson had 15 with 10 rebounds.

Alaina Coates is suddenly a scoring afterthought, but she had four  blocks and 13 rebounds.
Georgia center Caliya Robinson fouled out without a point. She had been averaging 14.
It was a 14-point lead with two minutes left. Coates was actually resting while they were coasting.

 They are No.2 nationally in RPI so the road games do not bother them. They had a healthy representation in the crowd. They draw the best nationally on the road, this time 3,540.
It finished 62-44. Wilson had 29 – 22 in the second half -- with 11 rebounds. Gray had 18. The shooting percentage settled in at 35. They had 16 more rebounds. SC hit 17-of-31 from the line, the home team 3-of-8.

Georgia coach Joni Taylor said, “You can’t send them to the line 31 times. Every time we made a run, they answered.”

Gray said she started too slowly, but then, “I just sat back and played defense and let the game come to me. I focused on rebounding and then the shots started to fall.”

She scored seven points in a 71 seconds to close the first half.

“I started lackadaisical and I was playing crazy. Coach just said calm down and play your game and you’ll be alright. It all starts on defense, then I get out and my teammates find me.

“Then I just try to execute and do the right thing.

“We just have to get out there and play South Carolina basketball.”

Monday will be the first game against Tennessee and former North Carolina backcourt mate Diamond DeShields, who dropped 27 on the road at Florida most recently.

Staley said her team has to, “Stay focused. Stay on the task at hand. Possession by possession. Find a way to win.

“We have to play small ball going forward. The benefit for us is the ability to knock down baskets, to drive.”

Other winners

Auburn broke a two-game losing streak and won at state Alabama Each has 15 wins and not a clear path to 20. They would be among those contesting the final NCAA spots.

Tennessee easily won at Florida—nothing like the Gators to help a team with problems on the road – and now await a beating at South Carolina with 13 wins, 4-3 in conference, all alone in seventh. They are No. 15 nationally in RPI. There is no logical path to 20 wins in the regular season. A loss Monday does not move them down in conference.

Kentucky, No. 3 in conference, won at Ole Miss for its only game of the ratings week. They have 15 wins and are third in the league at 6-2. They are No. 14 nationally in RPI – hence the inclusion in the NCAA’s projected Top 16 for first-round hosts. They also host the Regional, maybe with South Carolina as the top seed.

Evelyn Akhator is averaging 20 points and 12 rebounds in the four-game win streak, heading into Monday at Missouri. They have yet to play Mississippi State or South Carolina. SC visits this week and closes their home season with the Kats. State comes to Lexington this month as well. At least those games will continue to help the RPI

LSU used a 1-1 week to get a 15th, 4-4 in conference, which is eighth today.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Guru's Overniter: La Salle, Rider and Harvard Win With Photo Finish Shots

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA – Across the board among the Guru’s local teams that played Saturday and even in some cases among those that weren’t it seems photo finish outcomes here at La Salle’s Tom Gola Arena, just up north at Rider, and on the road with Villanova were the common denominator as games were decided within the last minute of regulation or even deeper to the final seconds.

It was also true in the Ivy League at Harvard and even Saturday night at the Saint Joseph’s-La Salle men’s game the Guru attended at Hagan Arena where the host Hawks nipped the Explorers 73-72 on a shot by Lamarr Kimble with 15.8 seconds to go before they affected Jordan Price’s to help it roll off the rim as time expired.

That game only counted in the Atlantic 10 standings with the Big Five implication to come next month when the second matchup in the league goes to La Salle.

Starting our coverage on the overnight with the La Salle game here, one is beginning to wonder if Explorers coach Jeff Williams is asking for a heart monitor to be nearby as he guides his team through narrow escapes.

It was just Wednesday here that La Salle erased an 18-point deficit to Massachusetts and won in the final moments. And there have been similar situations earlier, notably the Penn game in The Palestra where the Explorers twice overcome seven-point deficits late in regulation and then again in overtime with a buzzer-beating three-ball to upset the Quakers.

On Saturday in an Atlantic 10 game with visiting George Mason the Explorers held nine-point leads several times in the first two periods before going to the break ahead 29-23.

In the third period the differential got to double digits at 11 before the Patriots sliced four points off of that. Then in the final period, the Explorers were in firm control up 12 with 6:18 left in regulation before George Mason began to climb back into contention.

Then when Tiffany Padgett hit a foul shot for the Patriots with 1:39 the game was deadlocked at 55-55 at the end of a 16-4 Patriots’ run and it was time for the Explorers’ Amy Griffin to come to the rescue – twice.

Two foul shots with 30 seconds left gave the home team a 57-55 lead but eight seconds later on the ensuing possession Kara Wright tied it again at 57-57 for GMU.

Out of the timeout huddle La Salle whipped it around down low until Jasmine Alston found Griffin, who hit a turnaround shot with scant time left and the Explorers broke into a celebration except – it was enough time for the Patriots to heave a shot that seemed headed for local disaster until it landed off the mark and the Explorers survived again, this time 59-57.

“It’s crazy, it’s crazy,” Williams said afterward. “And then the last shot, they almost made it from half court and we’re celebrating. We had no idea that ball was even in play but we’ll take it.”

The Explorers (13-8, 6-3 Atlantic 10), picked for 12th by the league coaches in the preseason poll, are tied for fourth, a half-game behind George Washington, which hosts Duquesne Sunday, and a half-game ahead of Saint Joseph’s, which also plays Sunday and will host Saint Bonaventure at 3 p.m. on ASN and the A-10 networks.

That overall record, as they say in football, is getting close for La Salle to become Bowl eligible, meaning getting looks from the WNIT and WBI postseason tourneys.

“That’s what we’re trying to do,” said Williams, who is becoming a strong conference coach of the year candidate if La Salle keeps staying its winning ways alive. Certainly the hot seat people thought he was on after last season has become a lot cooler.

“Every game is a grind, every team is tough. We’re going (Wednesday) to play a Rhode Island team (4-12, 0-9) that’s struggling but has given everybody a battle But we need all of them to be eligible so we’re going to keep grinding.”

Griffin had 17 points, which is three off her season average, shooting 6-for-21, but she also grabbed nine rebounds.

“She was off today and struggling the last two games shooting the ball, but I trust her when the game’s on the line, so there was no question, who we were going to.”

Adreana Miller had 10 points and Alston scored seven, grabbed 12 rebounds, and dealt nine assists.

Wright had a game-high 25 points for George Mason (11-12, 4-6) while Padgett scored 12.

Two notables about the Patriots, Redshirt 6-6 senior Bridget O’Donnell, a transfer from UMBC, is a niece of Hall of Fame great Anne Donovan and her mother Patrice played at Michigan while Mary, another aunt, played at Penn State.

An assistant to Patriots coach Nyla Milleson is Tajama Ngongba (Abraham), a former star and 1997 graduate of George Washington, who was recently named as the Colonials’ Atlantic 10 legend.

Peters’ Trey Carries Rider Past Saint Peters

Having beaten the Peacocks relatively easily just nine days ago on the road in Jersey City, N.J., it seemed the comforts of home in Alumni Gymnasium Saturday afternoon in Lawrenceville, N.J.,  on, coincidentally, alumni day, shouldn’t be much of a problem for the Broncs to complete a sweep and hold on to second place in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

So much for perception.

While the game was close most of the way, after playing from behind Rider seemed to have a handle with a seven-point lead at the end of the third period.

But the Broncs couldn’t get more traction and the advantage slowly dwindled with disaster arriving face up when Janelle Mullen hit two foul shots with 1.8 seconds left for a 46-44 Saint Peter’s lead.

Not to worry.

After a 30-second timeout, Taylor Wentzel got the ball to the team’s star Robin Perkins, who squared up and  launched a three-pointer from the wing as time expired for a 47-46 Rider victory.

Perkins finished with 17 points, of which 16 came in the second half, in the game, which had eight ties and 10 lead changes, and she was the only player in double figures for Rider (15-6, 9-3 MAAC), which is now knocking at the door of a WNIT postseason berth.

“After we gave up he lead early in the fourth quarter, I had the gut feeling this game would come down to the final possession,” Rider coach Lynn Milligan said. “1.8 is a long time.

“We reminded Robin that she had time to square up and take a bounce. I think that helped get her in rhythm. I don’t think that was a chuck or lucky shot. That’s a shot that Robin shoots a ton of times a week in practice.

“When she’s in rhythm, she’s very confident. I’ll take a Robin Perkins rhythm shot any day.”

Julia Duggan had nine points and 10 rebounds, while Kamila Hoskova also grabbed 10 rebounds for the Broncs.

Talah Hughes had 12 points while Zoe Pero scored 10 for Saint Peter’s (3-17, 2-9), which is coached by former Rutgers great Pat Coyle, who also coached the WNBA New York Liberty. One of her assistants is Phyllis Mangina, a former Seton Hall coach.

Sammy Lochner, the daughter of Delaware assistant and former La Salle coach Tom Lochner, had four points in 38 minutes.

  Rider next heads to Monmouth for the first of two in their in-state series in the conference Thursday night at 7 p.m.

Villanova Falls Short at Georgetown

With the Wildcats’ ability to shoot the 3-ball anything close on the scoreboard in the final minute means there are in contention.

But that died Saturday at Georgetown’s McDonough Arena when Dorothy Adomako drove for two with 18 seconds left in regulation to give the Hoyas a 54-49 victory and a split in their season series in the Big East with Villanova.

The loss also ended a five-game win streak for the Wildcats (11-10, 6-4 Big East).

Dionna White had 21 points for Georgetown (13-7, 5-5) and Faith Woodard scored 12 while Cynthia Petke had 11 rebounds.

“We wanted to attack today and open up the floor,” Hoyas coach Natasha Adair said. “We noticed from the last game to this game, that it was there so we worked on it and adjusted some plays to really open it up.

“Our players locked in today, defensively. We want to hold opponents under their average, that’s when we have success. The first time we played, they had 71 points, today they had 49 and it was 100 percent team defense.”

Alex Louin, who turned 21, had 11 points and Jannah Tucker scored 10. Adrianna Hahn was held to six points.

Villanova next hosts second-place Creighton Friday night.

Ivy Report: Harvard Stops Columbia at the Finish

So much for the idea that Columbia would arrive at Harvard too exhausted from Friday’s four-overtime win, longest Ivy women’s game ever, to compete with the front-running Crimson.

Coach Megan Griffith’s Lions nearly pulled another shocker but were thwarted by Madeline Raster’s pull up jumper with 4.9 seconds left for a 70-68 win at Lavietes Pavilion in Boston, Mass.

“I wanted Murph to get the ball at the top with eight seconds left, and she went hard at the defender, stopped on the dime and elevated the shot,” Harvard coach Kathy Delaney-Smth said. “That was the call and we executed the play.”

The win was the 16th straight overall for Harvard (16-1, 4-0 Ivy), matching the longest in the program’s history (2003) as the Crimson took a half-game lead on Penn, which is idle in the league this weekend but hosts Harvard Friday night and then Princeton will do likewise on Saturday.

In the race for two of the fourth berths in the new Ivy postseason tournament that will be held on selection weekend at Penn’s Palestra in March. Dartmouth’s upset of Cornell, strengthened the position for the Quakers and Crimson, who may be the most prominent battlers for the top two Ivy tournament seeds.

Next weekend will determine how the race flows for a while.

In Saturday’s game Columbia (11-6, 1-3 Ivy) had fallen behind by 12 points in the second half before beginning a rally.

Camille Zimmerman had 22 for Columbia and executed a baseline out of bounds play that got Columbia into a tie with less than 30 seconds before Raster saved Harvard.

“For me, this game shows huge growth,” said Griffith, a native of King of Prussa, Pa., in the western suburbs of Philadelphia. “Our girls were completely gassed after the game last night but they showed that didn’t matter.

“I’m in love with this team,” said Griffith, a prevous assistant at Princeton. “They’ve completely bought in and showed me that now they believe in themselves and they are not who they were before. They’re ready to move forward.”

Zimmerman had a chance to come and win it but her contested shot from under the basket didn’t drop, which would have had the Lions back in another overtime affair.

Tori Oliver had 16 points and 14 rebounds for Columbia while Devon Roeper scored 15, and Paulina Koerner scored 13.

Jeanine Boehm and Katie Benzan each scored 20 points for Harvard while Raster scored 18.

Columbia goes to Yale and Brown on successive nights next Friday and Saturday.

Harvard is 60-3 in the series and three of the last four games have been decided by three points or less.

Meanwhile, though having been the loser in the marathon game with Columbia Friday night, Dartmouth fared a bit better the next time out, beating Cornell 84-74 in Hanover, N.H. at the Big Green’s Leede Arena.

The loss meant the Big Red (11-6, 2-2) got swept and is now in traffic jam two games off the pace in the loss column in terms of getting the top or second best seed in the Ivy tourney.

The Big Green (6-11, 1-3) avoided falling further behind.

Fanni Szabo had 23 points for Dartmouth while Andi Norman scored 14, and Olivia Smith had 12.

Megan LeDuc had 19 points for Cornell while Kerri Moran scored 17, Nia Marshall scored 15, and Samantha Widmann scored 12.

 Former Big Green coach Chris Wielgus was honored at halftime and the lounge by the basketball offices was named for her. She won 12 Ivy titles in two stints at Dartmouth.

“Today has been an awesome day for our program and our team,” Dartmouth coach Belle Koclanes said. “Having coach Wielgus here and all of our alumni was inspirational for me and my team.

“Our team can truly understand our program they are a part of instead of us just telling them about it. For them to feel and see all of that today was remarkable.”

Ivy Standings (thru Saturday)

Harvard 16-1, 4-0
Penn 9-6,3-0
Brown 11-6, 2-2
Cornell 11-6, 2-2
Princeton 7-9, 1-2
Columbia 11-6, 1-3
Yale 10-7, 1-3
Dartmouth 6-11, 1-3

And that’s the wrap


Saturday, January 28, 2017

Guru's Overniter: Drexel Falls Short at JMU while Columbia Wins at Dartmouth in 4 Overtimes

Guru’s note:  Information for this post all from email and web and wire reports. Was not at anything live on Friday.

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

The momentary pecking order in the Colonial Athletic Association got set on the front end of the weekend Friday night when Drexel fell on the road at preseason favorite James Madison while front-running Elon beat host Northeastern in Boston.

In another CAA game involving the only other Division I team in the Guru’s overall local mix, Delaware continued on the upside, winning at William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va.

The national part of this again on a Friday night features the Pac-12/Associated Press dodge cars lineup of ranked teams which along with some other action follows our immediate primary business matters on the calendar.

Drexel arrived in Harrisonburg, Va., locked in a second-place tie with the host Dukes one game behind Elon. When the Dragons left several hours later following a 54-47 setback they had dropped into a third place tie wth Delaware, whom they have yet to meet this season, and also lost the chance to gain their best-ever mark with 19 games dispensed on the schedule.

A poor shooting first half at just under 18 percent on 5-for-28 attempts from the field  could be assessed as the primary cause of the demise of Drexel (14-5, 5-3 CAA), which trailed 24-14.

But while the JMU Convocation Center is one of the tougher stops in general, let alone in CAA action, occasionally teams find a way as Towson did just last Sunday to complete an unforeseen season sweep and the Dragons did in 2009 to win their only CAA crown and advance to the NCAA tournament.

Incidentally, JMU will host the conference tourney in March, followed by Drexel hosting in 2018 and Delaware in 2019 as the event leaves the neutral Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro, Md., where it had been held since 2011.

All of this is to say, Drexel, because of the Dragons’ ability to play defense in the face of sputtering engines, did not go easy, rallying to have the ball in the last minute and have a chance to go ahead but couldn’t get the shot that was needed and the Dukes (13-6, 6-2) prevailed.

Sarah Curran had the top numbers for the Dragons, though they were not as high as they’ve been on other nights, as she scored 12 points and had seven rebounds. Freshman Bailey Greenberg was the only other visitor in double figures, scoring 10 points with a pair of steals.

Ball-handling was a dilemma on both squads, JMU turned it over 21 times while Drexel did two fewer at 19.

The Dukes seemed on the way to get things done before the finish, leading 31-22 with 6 minutes, 17 seconds left in the third period, but that’s when Drexel heard the wake-up call, answering with a 7-0 run to trail by just two points 31-29 with 3:32 left in the period.

During the run the Dragons had kept the Dukes off the scoreboard for nearly three minutes, but that wasn’t going to last and sure enough JMU got a new pulse to go ahead nine points in the final period.

But the Dragons got another life and sliced that advantage to three, twice, the second at 45-42.

However, Precious Hall, who had a game-high 17 points for JMU, was able to answer the 10-2 Drexel run with a triple and a four-point lead.

Then a brief two-team drought set in for more than a minute until Drexel’s Meghan Creighton was able to feed Curran to deliver a triplet to get within a point and then get a chance to go up when Hall was assessed a charge.

But Aubree Brown and Kelsi Lidge failed to connect on the next possession with successive shots and while the Dukes were perfect at the line with six straight free throws to get the victory.

JMU freshman Kamiah Smalls, a graduate of Neumann-Goretti in Philadelphia, had another fine performance, with 11 points and 10 rebounds for her third career double double.

The Dukes next head across the state Sunday to Williamsburg and William and Mary.

Drexel is back home Sunday hosting Northeastern at 2 p.m. in the DAC but it’s alumni weekend and the annual youngtimers game consisting of Drexel stars of the past will commence at 10:45 a.m.

Meanwhile, while Drexel and JMU were mixing it up Elon, which briefly fell into a tie for first last weekend, having lost at home to the Dukes on Friday night, was able to beat Northeastern  76-65 at the Cabot Center/Solomon Court in Boston.

The Phoenix (15-5, 7-1 CAA) tried to take a short cut going long distance for the win but missed all eight 3-point attempts in the first half and the first one from beyond the arc in the third quarter before the motor turned over enabling Elon to then connect on six of its next seven to put distance away from the Huskies (7-13, 3-5).

Say Burnett led the Phoenix, scoring 17 points off hitting 6-for-8 from the field. She also had seven points and seven rebounds. Jennifer Rhodes had 12 points.

Northeastern, which heads to Drexel Sunday, got 17 points from  Claudia Ortiz, who hit all eight of her free throws. Elon heads to Hofstra Sunday.

While the fight at the top of the CAA was occurring, Delaware continued its drive to be in top shape down the stretch by winning at William & Mary 68-54 on the road in the Tribe’s Kaplan Arena and moving into a third-place tie with Drexel while Towson lost at UNCW.

Four players scored in double figures for the Blue Hens (11-8, 5-3 CAA), led by Erika Brown with 18 points, while freshman Abby Gonzalez was matching her season high with 16 fueled by 5-of-7 from the field and also dealing five assists. Nicole Enabosi had her sixth straight double double with 10 points and 12 rebounds. Makeda Nicholas had 10 points, seven rebounds and four assists while tying a career high with four blocked shots.

Enabosi, by the way, is third in Blue Hens history with her string of double doubles but she can tie the mark of seven shared by Christina Ribble (2000-01) and Lori Howard (1979-80) when Delaware travels to Towson on Sunday.

In Friday’s game, the host Tribe (13-5, 3-4) opened with a 4-0 burst and then Delaware countered with a 14-0 run and held control the rest of the way.

Marlena Tremba had 16 points for William & Mary.

“This was a total team effort and a great team win away from home,” veteran Delaware coach Tina Martin exclaimed afterwards. “I thought we really kept our heads up and executed when we had need to.

“We shared the ball well, hustled and got the big rebounds when we needed them.”

   The National Report: Big East Showdown; Columbia 4 Overtimes: The Wild Pac-12

Let us start the national side of things in the Big East where a first-place showdown between No. 21 DePaul and host Creighton finished with the traveling Blue Demons back on top courtesy of a narrow 60-56 win in the Blue Jays’ Sokol Arena in Omaha, Nebraska.

Brooke Schulte had 14 points and 10 rebounds for DePaul (17-5, 9-1 Big East), which suffered a narrow loss at home last week to Marquette, while Amarah Coleman had 13 points, and Jacqui Grant had 12 points and 11 rebounds.

Though Creighton (14-6, 8-2)  led by eight at the half, the game was anybody’s to win in the fourth and final period.

Tied 53-53, the Blue Demons’ Tanita Allen stole the ball and fed Lauren Prochaska, who threw down a three-ball for a 56-53 lead with 1:33 left in regulation.

Then Allen blocked a shot and Schulte scored inside for a 58-53 DePaul lead with 33 seconds left.

Creighton got within a bucket off a triplet but the Demons’ Kelly Campbell hit two foul shots to make it 60-56 with 13.7 seconds left for the final score.

Audrey Faber had 14 points for the Blue Jays, who host third-place Marquette Sunday.

The Golden Eagles will be arriving off a 66-64 upset loss at Providence Friday night in Alumni Hall, which is also Sunday’s stop for DePaul on the Big East trail.

The Friars (10-11, 2-8)  had two powerful performances in the win over Marquette with Jovana Yoyo Nogic of Portugal scoring 27 points, including hitting 7-of-11 three-balls, for a career high and Sarah Beal scoring 25 while Aliyah Miller had 11 rebounds.

Nogic scored the game-winner inside as regulation time expired.

Allazia Blockton had 17 points for Marquette (16-5, 7-3), while McKayla Yentz had 12 points, and Danielle King scored 11. The Golden Eagles are a half-game in front of Villanova in third place.

In two other Big East games, Saint John’s at home beat Butler 62-55 while Seton Hall at home beat Xavier 71-62.

Villanova (11-9, 6-3), riding a five-game win streak, visits Georgetown (12-7, 4-5) Saturday at 1 p.m. in the Hoyas McDonough Arena.

Ivy Road to the Palestra

The full league slate on weekends doesn’t resume for another seven days, but those that played – Penn and Princeton were idle – made for quite an interesting Friday.

In the showdown between two of the remaining league teams in the Ivy race – Penn is 3-0 – Harvard edged Cornell 62-59 at home in Lavietes Pavilion in Boston to tie the Quakers at the top of the pile.

Harvard visits Penn and Princeton next Friday and Saturday.

Sydney Skinner had a career-high 23 points for the Crimson (15-1, 3-0), while Taylor Rooks had 13 points and six rebounds. Jeannie Boehm had 13 rebounds and a key stop at the finish in the game that had 12 ties and 10 lead changes.

Harvard, which hosts Columbia Saturday night, has won 15 straight, including a buzzer-beater at La Salle in Philadelphia and at home against Temple, which is one shy of the 16-win run Harvard program record.

“I thought we dug in and played defense at the end like we should, which is what we’ve done every step of the way,” said veteran Harvard coach Kathy Delaney-Smith.

“For Sydney to come off the bench with four fouls and do what she did – that’s our team,” Delaney-Smith said. “That’s what we do.”

The game is the fifth is the past six in the series between the two to be decided by six or fewer points.

Nicholle Alston had 14 points and six rebounds for Cornell (11-5, 2-1), which heads to Dartmouth Saturday night. Megan LeDuc had 12 points and dealt six assists, while Kerri Moran scored 11, and Nia Marshall had 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Meanwhile, Megan Griffith, a native of suburban Philadelphia and recent Princeton assistant, got her first win as an Ivy head coach and it was a thriller with Columbia going into four overtimes to beat host Dartmouth 91-88 in Hanover, N.H.

The game at Leede Arena was the longest in Ivy history.

"We came together and won this as a team, which I'm really proud of," Griffith said. There were some big performances, but everybody did a little bit to get us where we needed to be at the end. I’m so proud of this team.”

Camille Zimmerman had a career-night for the winning Lions (11-5, 1-2 Ivy), scoring 27 points and grabbing 19 rebounds. Devon Roeper was 9-for-9 from the field for 18 points and had a career-high 11 rebounds.

The Big Green's Fanni Szabo had 31 points, three short of her career high. Isalys Quinones had a career-high 23 points and completed the double double with 11 rebounds.

To get the game extended Dartmouth (5-11, 0-3) had to rally from a 10-point deficit to tie it up with a minute remaining.

In the fourth overtime Columbia scored the first four points and never yielded but Dartmouth still had a chance to force a fifth except the long shot from half-court from Kate Letkewicz, who had 13 points, rimmed out as time expired.

“I’m just so proud of my team’s effort,” said Dartmouth coach Belle Koclanes. “We didn’t have the best first half, but that led to a great second half onward. You have to give credit to  Columbia and their players and their coaching staff in their first year. We’ve always battled with Columbia and it was fun to coach in.”

The game went into the first overtime when Olivia Smith took a Columbia turnover and put up a shot that missed with 2.2 seconds left in regulation.

Szabo’s layup in the final minute of the first overtime, which began with a pair of triplets from the Lions, forced the second.

“Fanni played remarkable and that’s how seniors play,” Koclanes said.

Sazabo’s shot with just over a minute left in the second tied it and forced the third when neither team scored after her play.

Dartmouth was up three 83-80 with 9.3 seconds left in the third overtime and then Columbia’s Emily Surloff nailed a trey at the buzzer with 0.6 seconds remaining  to force the fourth extended period.

Columbia foul shooting in the fourth finally gave the Lions enough of a lead to end the marathon, whose four five-minute extended periods became the equivalent of a regulation half.

The triumph snapped an 11-game Ivy losing streak by the Lions.

"I had a big heart-to-heart with the team after the Cornell loss (last Saturday),” Griffith said. “I think they realize me and the coaching staff are here for them – nobody is going anywhere. This is a huge step and I’m so proud of them.”

And in the other Ivy action of the night Yale won its league home opener in New Haven, Conn., beating traveling partner Brown 73-51 to avenge last week’s 7-673 loss in Providence, R.I., and avoid falling in trouble this early in the race to the new league tournament at The Palestra in Philadelphia in March after the regular standings decided.

Yale (10-7, 1-3 Ivy) hadn’t been home since Dec. 7 over a stretch of six games.

The Bulldogs bolted from the outset to a 21-5 start and ended up winning by 22 points.

Jen Berkowitz and Tara Simpson each had 15 points for Yale while Megan Gorman had a career-high 15 rebounds in 26 minutes of playing time.

Erika Steeves had 15 points for Brown (11-6, 2-2), which missed a chance to get a firmer hold in the upper group of the standings.

The top four finishers in the league standings will play at The Palestra the final weekend before Selection Monday in Saturday semifinals alongside the men’s with a doubleheader Sunday to determine who goes to the NCAA tournaments.

The standings right now look like this:

Harvard 15-1 3-0
Penn 9-6 3-0
Cornell 11-5 2-1
Brown 11-6 2-2
Columbia 11-5 1-2
Princeton 7-9 1-2
Yale 10-7 1-3
Dartmouth 5-11 0-3

At the moment, Harvard and Penn are in great shape and then it becomes wide open for the next two slots. Cornell could gain a little strength for now beating Dartmouth Saturday night, which is preferred to not getting it with a loss that drops them into what is a four-team scrum for the other two spots. Yale and Dartmouth are not out of it but need to disrupt those teams above to avoid falling back.

Collision of Ranked Teams Continues in the Pac-12

And finally from the East goes on the overnight we go to the Far West where, like Thursday night’s Atlantic Coast action, the Pac-12 featured a bunch of ranked teams going at each other.

Two hooked up Friday in No. 13 UCLA at home beating No. 16 Arizona State 89-80 in Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles

All-America candidate Jordin Canada had 26 points for the winning Bruins (16-4, 7-2 Pac-12), while Monique Billings added 16 points and 10 rebounds.

It's the fifth straight win for UCLA after getting swept recently at Washington and Washington State in the Northwest. The Bruins have also won 24 straight at home, a streak which began last season, and 16 straight against league rivals.

Sophie Brunner had 16 points for Arizona State (14-6, 5-4), while Robbi Ryan had 13 points, and Quinn Dornstauder had 10.

All the other ranked teams playing unranked opponents in the conference also won.

No. 7 Washington, expecting a huge crowd in Seattle for Sunday’s showdown with No. 10 Stanford, rolled over California 90-67 at home in Alaska Airlines Arena.

Huskies coach Mike Neighbors seems to be growing added threats on trees. With the Golden Bears (15-6, 3-6 Pac-12) focusing Kelsey Plum, the nation’s leading scorer, and Chantel Osahor, the nation’s leading rebounder, out popped Natalie Romeo, a transfer from Nebraska, with 32 points, of which most almost all came courtesy of 10 three-pointers. That tied a career-high she set with the Cornhusers in a Big Ten game against Penn State.

Plum didn’t get her usually 30 plus, but still collected 24 to move by one past former Minnesota star Rachel Banham to sixth on the all-time NCAA list.

“When you can do what would be considered a relatively decent job on their two stars, and the third scorer goes 10 for 19 from 3, you’re in trouble,” said California coach Lindsay Gottlieb.

Plum’s total now is 3,094, with former Missouri State star Jackie Stiles at the top of the NCAA list with 3,393 points.

Lynette Woodard, who played at Kansas at the end of the AIAW era, finishing her career in 1981 prior to the NCAA adopting women’s athletics, had 3,649 points with the Jayhawks while Carol Blazejowski compiled 3,199 points with Montclair State and averaged 31.7 points a game.

On Friday against Cal, Plum, who is averaging 31 points per game, was 8-for-16 from the field, including 4-of-9 being three-balls.

"If she was chasing records, she'd be shooting way more in a game like this," Neighbors said. "She was trying to get Natalie involved, trying to get Heather (Corral) back in the groove, she’s throwing it to Chantel. … she’s doing what we need to win, not only tonight, but in the future.”

Osahor had 16 points and 11 rebounds for Washington (20-2, 8-1).

Kristine Anigwe had 23 points for California.

Elsewhere, in advance of Sunday’s visit, No. 10 Stanford stopped at Washington State in Pullman and left with a 76-54 win to stay tied for first atop the conference.

Hall of Fame Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer, now within two victories of joining the late Pat Summitt at Tennessee as the only two women with 1,000 wins in the NCAA, was not totally pleased with her team’s performance.

“It did get a little sloppy,” she said. “We turned the ball over too much.”

Three men's coaches, by the way, also have 1,000 wins or better.

Karlie Samuelson had 16 points and seven rebounds for Stanford. Her younger sister Katie Lou is one of the array of stars on No. 1 Connecticut. She also had 4 triplets off nine attempts and her 43.9 percent career average shooting from beyond the arc is third in the nation.

Stanford had a lead as big as 32 points but also committed 23 turnovers.

“At one point, we had three or four freshmen out there together a nd it looked like it,” VanDerveer said. “I think it’s good to get experience, and we’re resting people, we’re keeping them out of harm’s way – it was a kind of physical game.”

Pinelopi Pavlopoulou and Alexys Swedlund each had 13 points for Washington State (8-12, 3-6), which is down three starters to injuries..

Stanford is 61-0 against the Cougars dating back to 1983.

And in the other game in the conference involving a ranked team, No. 11 Oregon State, part of a three-way tie for first in the PAC-12 with Washington and Stanford, beat its traveling partner Oregon on the road in Matt Knight Arena in Eugene in a low-scoring 43-40 affair that made it 12 straight wins over the Ducks.

“This was a big defensive battle,” Oregon State coach Scott Rueck said. “This game had a ton of intensity to it, and it definitely had a rivalry feel. I’m really proud of our team for defending the way they did, and then for executing the plays that we needed to finish out. Really proud of the effort tonight.”

The Ducks had a chance to tie on their final possession but the Beavers defense got the job done forcing a turnover.

Sydney Wiese had 12 points for Oregon State (19-2, 8-1), including 4-of-6 three pointers to help the score. Sabrina Ionescu had 14 points for Oregon (14-7, 4-5), while Maite Cazorla scored 12 and Ruthie Hebard grabbed 11 rebounds.

And in the one Pac-12 game not involving ranked teams, Southern Cal beat Arizona 58-53 in the Galen Center in Los Angeles as new members Ivana Jakubcova (11 points, 12 rebounds), Ja’Tavia Tapley (15 points), and Minyon Moore (12 points), each scored in double digits for the Trojans (11-9, 2-7 Pac-12), who snapped a seven-game losing streak.

Malena Washington had 13 points, while LaBrittney Jones and Dejza James each scored 10 for Arizona (11-9, 2-7).

Looking Ahead

On Saturday, besides the Villanova game in Washington at Georgetown already mentioned, La Salle will be hosting George Mason at noon in an Atlantic 10 contest at Tom Gola Arena, and Rider goes for another Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference sweep hosting Saint Peter’s at 2 p.m. at Alumni Gymnasium in Lawrenceville.

Lafayette is at Loyola of Maryland in Baltimore for a Patriot League game while Lehigh is at Boston U.

In the other Ivy games on the weekend as mentioned on Saturday night Columbia, off its four-overtime win at Dartmouth, is at Harvard, while the Big Green from that marathon, will host Cornell.

On Sunday, locally there is a lot going on beginning at noon with Temple hosting No. 23 South Florida in a key American Athletic Conference game at noon in McGonigle Hall. Drexel hosts Northeastern at 2 p.m. and Delaware is at Towson in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Rutgers is hosting Northwestern in the Big Ten also honoring the past 1982 AIAW and 1989 Atlantic 10 Scarlet Knights champions teams while also in the conference Penn State hosts Illinois.

Saint Joseph’s hosts St. Bonaventure at 3 p.m. in the Atlantic 10, and Penn hosts Division III Stevens Tech at 5 p.m.

Nationally, No. 15 Ohio State hosts Nebraska at noon in the Big 10, while Iowa is at No. 3 Maryland at 3 p.m., also in the Big 10, No. 21 DePaul is at Providence at 1 p.m. in the Big East, while at the same time Wake Forest is at No. 14 Duke, Boston College is at No. 17 Miami in the ACC, which also Virginia at No. 8 Notre Dame at noon, No. 9 Louisville at Pittsburgh at 2 p.m., Syracuse at No. 19 Virginia, same time, and No. 18 North Carolina State is at North Carolina at 3 p.m.

In the Big 12, No. 22 West Virginia is at No. 12 Texas at 4 p.m. and No. 20 Oklahoma is at No. 2 Baylor at 6:30 p.m.,  while in the Southeastern Conference, Texas A&M is at No. 4 Mississippi State, 4 p.m.

And to repeat the Pac-12 schedule from the section above this, Arizona is at No. 12 UCLA at 5 p.m., No. 16 Arizona State is at USC at 6 p.m., and No. 10 Stanford is at No. 7 Washington at 8 p.m.

And that's the wrap up.


Friday, January 27, 2017

Guru's Overniter: Rider Second Half Surge Gets Broncs MAAC Sweep of Manhattan

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J. – Chalk up another throwback moment for Rider women’s basketball, which has been enjoying a season of “first time, long time,” occasions, some of which have not occurred since before the current undergraduate student population was born.

The Broncs took Manhattan a second time Thursday night with an explosive second half to beat the Jaspers 73-64 in a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference game played at home in Alumni Gymnasium.

If the final score doesn't seem to reflect all the fireworks, the Broncs (14-6, 8-3 MAAC) reversed a five-point halftime deficit at 29-24 to a lop-sided 21-point lead at 65-44 with 3 minutes, 36 seconds left in the game.

 At that moment from intermission, the home team had outscored Manhattan 41-15.

"This team is really good in transition, and, unfortunately, they had a couple minutes here and there where they were to able to put a significant run together,” said Jaspers first-year head coach Heather Vulin. “That’s just the kind of offensive fire power they have.”

Vulin is a former Villanova assistant, among other stops, and the current young talent on the Wildcats roster is in part attributed to her work on the recruiting trail during her stint under veteran coach Harry Perretta.

As for your Broncs throwback for the night, the outcome marks the first Rider sweep in the series with Manhattan since 2003-04.

But at the outset, however, the throwback theme with help from the Jaspers (6-14, 2-9) seemed to recall the days of Broncs struggles past with the scoreboard kept at 00-00 until just 16 seconds short of the 5 minute mark when Rider’s Robin Perkins, who had a game-high 23 points, scored on an offensive rebound from her previous missed shot.

Perkins’ basket remained Rider’s only score until she got the Broncs, trailing 8-2, back into contention within a point at 8-7 on her own personal 7-0 run that began at the 1:59 mark and continued over the next 38 seconds.

"Robin had 14 of them (24 first-half) and she probably should have had 20 with the two (missed) layups and two airballs that she put up there,” said Rider coach Lynn Milligan. “But Robin’s going to shoot an airball but you know that the next shot is going to be a big one. And she had the two transition threes today that were really big and really in flow and that’s her best time to shoot a three, when she’s really in transition like that and those were big shots to give just a little breathing room.”

The two teams combined for 0-for-12 overall from the field during the opening drought before Perkins’ first basket. The Broncs hadn’t played since their bad loss at MAAC-leader Quinnipiac last Saturday that gave the Bobcats a sweep in that series.

“We were ready to play today, and maybe a little too ready,” Milligan said about the contrasting halves. “We weren’t home in a while, worked really hard to get a nice crowd here tonight, great warmup, we had a great practice the last two days, and I think we were just amped and shooting airballs and shooting all kinds of stuff. We needed to regroup.”

Of course Rider’s performance after the break begged the question of whether Milligan had delivered a classic halftime talk to her team that had looked lethargic and on the way to a setback the way they got caught recently at home by Fairfield.

“Just had to wake them up,” Milligan said with a smile. “Maybe some of it X-rated. But that third quarter, that’s Rider basketball, and we have to do a much better job of finding our consistency level so that can be maintained throughout the game  instead of this roller-coaster level we seem to be on at times.”

Obviously, Milligan was still glad to leave the campus with another win in the ledger.

“Anytime you win in the MAAC, it’s a good win because this is a tough, tough league,” she said. “Particularly the second time through. Which is what we’re on. We have to be used to playing with leads, which we should be a little more now, game 20 or whatever it is now.

“We’re still a work in progress and we want to be peaking at the right time. And we feel if we continue to take the steps that we need, the biggest one is our consistency, because obviously we’re capable of some great stuff and obviously we do some stuff that you shake your head at.”

Additionally, hardly anyone saw this coming from Rider back in the preseason, so the Broncs have been able to work with the element of surprise that has carried them to sole possession of second place. But now, they flip to being a target for the rest of the MAAC.

“All the work we’ve done these many months since July, we can’t become satisfied or complacent or take a breath at all,” Milligan said. “We have to remember why we got to (8-3). And then we have to bring it to another level.

“And yeah, it is new for us. There’s no doubt about that, but, we have the young ladies’ in the locker room understand that, we just have to make sure and I have to make sure we’re guiding them the right path so we can take the steps we need to be peaking in February.”

Julia Duggan, who had 14 points in the Rider attack along with seven rebounds and a pair of steals, echoes Milligan’s view from a player’s perspective.

“Anyone can be complacent,” she said. “But just knowing it’s my senior year and this is time I’m playing Manhattan on my home floor and the next time (Saturday, 2 p.m.) playing Saint Peter’s on my home floor, you have to think about that and you have to know to come out every single game as hard as you can and do everything you can to help my team win.”

Plus while winning the MAAC may still be difficult, given Quinnipiac’s strength, there’s the chance to land a place in the 64-team WNIT, which would be a major deal for the program. An official from the  WBI, another postseason event, has already made an inquiry as to Rider’s availability, though the WNIT would be preferable, given the choice.

A second-place regular season finish in the MAAC guarantees an automatic WNIT bid unless Rider wins the conference tourney and qualifies for the NCAA. An exception that could work against the Broncs would be Quinnipiac not winning the MAAC tourney and then the Bobcats would be the automatic WNIT entry, though Rider could still be an at-large pick.

Meanwhile, Perkins’ total line consisting of other numbers on the night for Rider showed 9-for-18 from the field, Duggan, incidentally was 7-15, 3-for-7 on 3-point attempts, and a pair of steals.

Kamila Hoskova had 13 points, fueled by 4-for-6 from the field, Stella Johnson had seven points and eight rebounds, and Safie Tolusso off the bench had 11 points.

“This isn’t a surprise to anyone of us who watch Safie every day,” Milligan said. “She’s a gym rat. She’s as coachable as you can be. And the pace of the game, the speed of the game, the things she struggled with early, she’s really figuring it out.

“And I said it a couple of week ago, she can be a big X factor coming down the stretch.”

Although Manhattan didn’t get the win, there were two positives in the Jaspers postgame recap.

Amani Tatum returned after missing six games with an ankle injury and she scored 14 points in 23 minutes, helped by 8-or-10 shooting from the line. Kayla Grimme, the other Manhattan player in double figures and actually with a double double of 15 points and 15 rebounds blocked two shots to become the all-time Jasper career leader with 149 topping by one the previous mark set by Nadia Peters in 2007-2012.

The Rider game was the only contest played Thursday night on the Guru’s local Division I docket.

National Report: Virginia Upset Smothers No. 19 Virginia Tech 76-27

An in-state battle and upset  in the Atlantic Coast Conference was mindful of the glory days in Cavaliers history as they matched their all-time win differential in the game played at home in the John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville.

Virginia’s Jocelyn Willoughby scored 18 points and Breyana had 17.

The Cavaliers (14-6, 3-4 ACC) got the job done on the Hokies (16-4, 3-4) with powerful second and third periods of 23-5 and 21-2, respectively.

Virginia Tech, under first-year coach Kenny Brooks, who moved down the interstate to Blacksburg from James Madison in Harrisonburg, after a long stint, returned to the rankings after a long absence and rode a 15-0 start that has now dissolved into three straight losses and 4-of-5.

The visitors struggled to shoot all night, hitting 2 of 29 three point attempts and 12 of 64 overall field goal efforts.

The ACC domination of the Associated Press poll, as is the Pac-12, sets Virginia starting Thursday night on a schedule facing ranked teams in eight of its last 10 games.

All the other ranked teams playing Thursday won, but within the large collection in the ACC, in the marquee event in the conference, No. 8 Notre Dame held off No. 14 Duke 62-58 at home in the Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center in South Bend, Ind.

Brianna Turner had 25 points and 12 rebounds while Lindsay Allen dealt 12 assists for the Irish (19-3, 7-1 ACC). Lexie Brown had 22 for Duke (17-4, 5-3), which has nost 12 straight to Notre Dame.

After the Irish went up 62-51 with 2:29 left in the game, the Blue Devils went on a 7-0 run to fall just short as regulation time expired.

Elsewhere in the ACC among ranked teams, No. 18 North Carolina State topped visiting Pittsburgh 55-42 in William Neal Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh as Jennifer Mathurin and Dominique Wilson each scored 13 points for the Wolfpack (16-5, 6-2 ACC) and Breanna Wise had 11 for the Panthers (12-8, 3-4).

No. 17 Miami hit triple digits, winning 100-88 over visiting North Carolina in the BankUnited Center in Corral Gables, Fla. Jessica Thomas matched her career high with 24 points for the Hurricanes (15-5, 4-4 ACC) and Laura Cornelius hit five treys for 19 points. Paris Kea had 26 points, Destinee Walker scored 23, and Jamie Cherry had 22 for the Tar Heels (12-9, 1-7), who have lost four straight.

No. 6 Florida State held off Georgia Tech on the road at McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta as Shakayla Thomas scored 17 and Imani Wright scored 14 for the Seminoles (20-2, 8-1 ACC), who have won seven straight. The Yellow Jackets (13-7, 2-5), who have lost three straight and five of seven, got 23 points from Kaylan Pugh.

No. 9 Louisville grabbed a 6-46 road win at Clemson at Littlejohn Arena in South Carolina as Myisha Hines-Allen had 13 of her 16 points across the third and fourth periods for the Cardinals (19-4, 6-2 ACC) as the Tigers (11-10, 0-8) lost their 41st straight game to ACC rivals.

In the Southeastern Conference, No. 5 South Carolina beat host Georgia 62-44 as A’ja Wilson scored 19 points and had 10 rebounds for the Gamecocks (18-1, 8-0 SEC), who played their first game since Monday’s showdown at home in the conference with Mississippi State.

Pachis Roberts and Mackenzie Engram scored 10 each for Georgia (10-10, 2-5).

In the Big 10, No. 3 Maryland won at iIlinois 94-49 as as Shatori Walker-Kimbrough scored 14 points for the Terrapins (20-1, 8-0 Big Ten), who outscored the Illini bench 24-2 on the road in Champaign. Alex Whittinger hd 21 points for the Illinois (20-1, 8-0).

In the other Big Ten game of note, No. 15 Ohio State won at Minnesota 88-76 at Williams Arena in Minneapolis as the Buckeyes (18-5, 8-1 Big Ten) got 25 points from Kelsey Michell while Carlie Wagner had 25 points for the Golden Gophers (11-10, 2-6).

Neither team is ranked but in Saint Louis, the host Bilikens (16-5, 6-2 A-10)  topped  George Washington 67-59 as Jackie Kemph had a game-high 24 points for Saint Louis while grad student Lexi Martins scored 22 for the Colonials (13-7, 6-2) at Chaifetz Arena).

And that’s the wrap.


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Guru's Overniter: Temple Holds Off Penn for Big 5 Sweep and Extend Win Streak to 12

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA – After Temple smashed its way through a trio of Big 5 rivals, Saint Joseph’s (86-70), La Salle (86-70) and Villanova (83-40) earlier in the season, it looked like Penn was about to suffer the same fate at the Palestra Wednesday night when the Owls darted from a slim 14-13 lead on a 10-0 run to go up by 11 points with 5 minutes, 45 seconds left in the second period.

But Penn, which has had Temple’s number in recent seasons winning three City Series machups  with the Owls and losing a second round game in the WNIT, all by narrow scores, countered with a 7-0 run and it became obvious the Quakers were not going to go down easily.

And so they tangled the way many men’s and women’s teams often tangle in the City Series, playing ugly basketball at times and showing great individual effort at others.

One of those in the individual category was Temple’s Donnaizha Fountain, a transfer from Georgia Tech, who had 20 points and 12 rebounds to lead the way to a 63-53 win and a 4-0 sweep to Temple’s first local crown since 2010-11.

“It feels awesome,” Cardoza said after Temple also won its 12th straight in the current overall streak. “To be able to come in a place like this, it doesn’t matter what Penn’s record is, the fact they hadn’t won a game in the Big 5, I knew this was going to be a dogfight. It always is.

“Their two bigs (Michelle Nwokedi and Sydney Stipanovich) are just tough to defend because we play so small, I felt like we really had to make hustle plays and I thought we did a real good job of doing that,” Cardoza added.

Temple has now won 11 Big Five titles, headed by coach Dawn Staley’s five, then Cardoza now with four, and Linda Hill-MacDonald, with two.

“We’re just super excited,” Cardoza said. “It’s been a long time since we won the Big 5. And it’s just really good for these guys to win a championship. None of them, here, won the Big 5. So for us to stand here 4-0, it’s just a credit to them and their hard work.”

On the ugly side of the contest, across the third and fourth period, the scoreboard got extremely quiet, with just a foul shot by Temple’s Alliya Butts being the only point in a seven-minute stretch to make it 47-45 in favor of the Owls.

Then Penn’s Kasey Chambers nailed a trey to give the Quakers a 48-47 lead with 5:49 left in the game. Now the action start talking like a Big 5 Classic.

The lead swung to and fro the next two minutes until Tanaya Atkinson’s jumper with 4:29 left gave Temple (16-3, 4-0 Big Five)  a 51-50 lead the Owls would not relinquish.

But Penn (9-6, 0-4)  still had its chances to avoid getting shutout in this season’s City Series, having played all four of its Big 5 games in the Palestra.

However with the Owls up 53-50, Fountain, the star of the night, stole the ball from Chambers and went length-of-court with a layup before Penn’s Nwokedi hit two foul shots to keep the Quakers within three until Butts knocked down a triplet to make it 58-52 with 2:40 left.

“Things weren’t really going our way, but we kept our heads, didn’t get frustrated, and found ways to pull it out,” Cardoza said.

Still enough time was left for the Quakers to get Temple again,  except for the 0-for-5 blanks Penn shot from inside and out while holding up the Owls with a couple of steals.

Temple then put a lid on it expanding the differential, including making a pair of technical free throws off a penalty assessed on Quakers coach Mike McLaughlin.

“I thought Donnaizha Fountain definitely stepped up and played big for us,” Cardoza said of her player who hails from Cardoza’s hometown of Roxbury, Mass. “She was the guy that could score and she was grabbing rebounds. And she came up with some big key steals when we really needed them.

“I just felt down the stretch when it really mattered, we buckled down and made big plays.”    

Feyonda Fitzgerald, who was named to the national player of the year watch list of the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) on Tuesday, had 13 points while Butts and Atkinson each scored 12. Ruth Sherrill had another good night on the boards, grabbing eight rebounds.

Penn’s Stipanovich had 16 points and seven rebounds for Penn, while Nwokedi scored 10 points. Chambers had nine points and a career-high seven steals for the defending Ivy champions, while Anna Ross had eight points and eight rebounds.

“I felt it was a great team effort and that fact that (6-3 freshman forward) Shantay (Taylor) hadn’t played a lot the last couple of weeks, a game like this is able to get on the floor and not hurt us.

“She actually did a really did a good job defending and not allow Stipanovich to get touches, she made her go to the outside, “ Cardoza continued.

“We knew we had to find ways to get easy buckets, cause it’s not an easy place to shoot the ball in, finding ways to get inside. Again, they’re going to block some shots on us because of their length but I thought we did a really good job of puling one of them away and just having to go against one,” Cardoza said.

“Again, we tried to take away their high-low but they’re really good passers.”

Penn, which doesn’t get back into the Ivy League race until February 3-4 when Harvard and Dartmouth visit, could have been in contention for another piece of local glory had not the Quakers been off the track early in the season, losing in the Palestra to La Salle, 58-56 in overtime, twice yielding late leads, then to Saint Joseph’s, 57-53, before losing to Villanova 60-48 a week ago here in a game Penn still had a shot until the Wildcats took over in the fourth quarter.

And had the Quakers been able to knock down some key shots Wednesday night, they might have pulled an upset and forced the Owls to share the title with Villanova at 3-1.

“I thought we defended them really well, we just couldn’t keep them off the glass,” McLaughlin said of the 42-31 rebounding differential. “We had to play them in a zone, and we did, but we ended up giving up the rebounding piece of it and that’s what happened, we got spread a little too far on the defensive possession and just didn’t do a good job rebounding the ball.

“They’re one of the better offensive rebounding teams and give them credit. I thought we did enough to maybe position ourselves to win this, but we had some opportunities there, I think we had a stretch where we missed four layups and that hurt a little bit,” he added.

“It’s just part of the game. We were talking about it in there. We just have to get to the other end and defend that possession. But its deflating. We had four chances and missed four layups in a row at a critical time when we had position, but that’s basketball.

“I think we go back to the beginning, the La Salle game, we had it in our hands, we obviously let it out of our hands, we didn’t play particularly well against St. Joe’s. And Villanova, same thing. We battled them for 25 minutes almost to the end. Obviously, having four of these games this end, I was hoping for a little bit better result but credit them.”

Penn next host Stevens Tech Sunday at 5 p.m. the Quakers’ last non-conference race before resuming defense of the Ivy crown.

In addition to the win, Cardoza was pleased with Fitzgerald being named to the USBWA national watch list.

I’m so excited about that,” Cardoza said. “She’s definitely put in a lot of work over the last few years, especially this summer. She’s was really disappointed that she didn’t get our team to the NCAA tournament and she took it upon herself to buckle down and work on her game and she just wants to go out a winner and the fact she gets her first Big 5.

“She’s just one of those kids, she’s a competitor, she’s a winner and I’m just happy that other people have recognized it.”

Fitzgerald expressed her delight with taking the Big 5 even though coming from Norfolk, Va., she had to be assimilated into the meaning of winning the local bragging rights here in the city.

“It feels great,” Fitzgerald said. “ It’s been four years. We’ve been working hard every year and we finally ended up winning the whole thing, going 4-0 and winning the whole thing. So it feels good to know all this hard work finally paid off.

“This game was about keeping calm and doing the things we normally do. And doing the little things like boxing out and protecting the ball. Because they’re a defensive team and they like to shoot for steals, they crash the boards really hard,” she said.

“The year before last they got 28 offensive rebounds on us so that was one of our main focus make sure we box out this game.”

Fitzgerald is pleased over her ability to pile up assists, especially on nights she isn’t scoring.

“It means a lot. I love finding my open teammate and I have the confidence in them to knock down the shot so I just want to make sure I keep doing that and they keep knocking down the shot,” she explained.

“ It just comes naturally. If I drive to the basket, the defense steps up on me so I just kick it to my teammate and hopefully, they knock it down.”

With the local goal achieved, the Owls’ streak now runs into a heavyweight and super heavyweight opponent in their next two games as they return to the American Athletic Conference, where they are unbeaten, but likely not for long, though hopefully a little longer.

The little longer applies to Sunday’s game when No. 23 South Florida visitat noon in McGonigle Hall, followed on Wednesday by No. 1 and unbeaten Connecticut on Wednesday when the game will be played next door in the Liacouras Center.

Temple split with South Florida in the regular season a year ago. The Bulls Wednesday night barely escaped SMU on the road, winning 52-51.

Saint Joseph’s and La Salle Win Atlantic 10 Matinee Games

In the other two local games Wednesday played among the Division I group, Saint Joseph’s routed host Rhode Island, 75-49, on the road in Kingston, while La Salle rallied from an 18-point deficit to win at home 68-64 over Massachusetts in the Tom Gola Arena.

Both games were played in the daytime to make attendance by schoolchildren easier.

In the La Salle game, Jasmine Alston hit the game-winner, a foul shot with 5.5 seconds left in regulation, erasing an 18-point second-half deficit to Massachusetts in the Atlantic 10 contest here in town.

Coach Jeff Williams' squad has had several comebacks this season, one notably at the Palestra when La Salle erased seven-point deficits in regulation and overtime to beat Penn in the Big 5.

On Wednesday, the Explorers (12-8, 5-3 A-10) ) stirring finish in the last minute of regulation began with Alston getting a steal with six seconds to play. She was quickly fouled, and though she missed the first shot at the line, she snapped a tie with the second to put La Salle ahead 65-64.

Then Amy Griffin gained a theft out of the Minutewomen’s backcourt and connected with a 3-pointer as time expired for the final score.

Having been picked near the bottom in the preseason conference coaches’ poll, La Salle is gaining on getting into the WNIT mix if the Explorers can keep collecting the victories.

Griffin, the leading scorer in the A-10, as she was in the final conference stats last season, had 17 points, eight rebounds, a career-high six steals and dealt four assists.

Our kids just kept fighting,” said Explorers coach Jeff Williams. “They kept digging and finally found a way to win, this is a great group.”

Adreanna Miller, who shot 6-for-9 on 3-point attempts to gain a career-high, had a team-high 18 points and her nine points in the second quarter helped things from getting worse when La Salle struggled early in the game.

“Adreanna was huge,” Williams said. “With her dropping threes, she really sparked us.”

Helping the second half comeback, Michaya Owens had all 13 of her points in the final two periods, while Anemone Scheel had eight points in the fourth period.

The first rally surge over the Minutewomen (9-13, 3-6) came in the third with an 11-2 run and then the Explorers launched another one, outscoring Massachusetts 13-2 over the final 3:13 of the contest.

Helping their cause in the rally was the Explorers’ season-high 14 steals in the game, of which they gained 19 points. Alston dished nine helpers while also grabbing 10 rebounds.

La Salle will stay home and play this Saturday at 1 p.m. in an A-10 game when George Mason visits.

Meanwhile, Saint Joseph’s got back on the winning track following last weekend’s tough loss to Dayton, as  the Hawks stayed on the road to beat Rhode Island.

Chelsea Woods and Amanda Fioravanti, who both starred in the Philly summer league, combined for 37 points in this one in Kingston.

Holding a five-point lead after the first 10 minutes, the Hawks (8-12, 5-3 A-10) went on a 14-0 run at the outset of the second period to never be seriously threatened.

By the time the halftime break arrived, Saint Joseph’s was dominating 47-23 and the Rams (4-16, 0-8) never got the differential below 19 points the rest of the way.

Woods had 19 points, while Fioravanti matched her career-high wth 18 points and she also grabbed eight rebounds.

Next up Saint Joseph’s comes home to the Hagan Arena for a Sunday A-10 game, hosting St. Bonaventure at 3 p.m., which will be nationally aired on the American Sports Network.

Looking Ahead

Only one game is on the Guru local docket Thursday and he will be back in Lawrenceville, N.J., where Rider, seeking to come back from its loss at Quinnipiac, will host Manhattan in a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference game at 7 p.m. in Alumni Gym.

Nationally on Thursday, in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the marquee game is No. 14 Duke at No. 8 Notre Dame, while No. 9 Louisville is at Clemson, No. 6 Florida State is at Georgia Tech, No. 19 Virginia Tech is at Virginia, and No. 17 Miami hosts North Carolina.

In the Southeastern Conference, No. 5 South Carolina is at Georgia, while two former ranked teams, Tennessee hosts Florida, and Kentucky hosts Mississippi.

No. 24 Green Bay is at Youngstown State in the Horizon Conference.

No. 3 Maryland is at Illinois in the Big 10 while No. 15 Ohio State is at Minnesota.

On Friday, locally, Drexel is at preseason favorite JamesMadison in the Colonial Athletic Association and Delaware is at William & Mary, also in the CAA.

In the Pac-12, No. 7 Washington hosts California while No. 10 Stanford is at Washington State, No. 13 UCLA hosts No. 16 Arizona State, and No. 11 Oregon State is at Oregon.

And nice and early that’s the wrap up.