Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Guru’s WBB Report: Siegrist Helps Carry Villanova over Georgetown While No. 3 Louisville and No. 8 UCLA and No. 21 Tennessee Suffer Upsets

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

Maddy Siegrist scored 31 points to help give Villanova a 64-56 victory over Georgetown in a Big East game played Sunday afternoon in the nation’s capital while Delaware and Drexel had to settle for splits in their weekend travels in the Colonial Athletic Association, being dealt payback respectively at James Madison, 65-62, and at Towson, 77-62. 

In another game involving a local, also on the road, Nebraska paid back Penn State 87-72 in a Big Ten contest at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln.

Nationally, by ranking it may not seem much of an upset but considering Tennessee had just upset No. 2 South Carolina in the Southeastern Conference, turning around and getting edged by No. 22 Georgia 57-55 in Athens had to put a blunt in the Lady Vols’ desire to make a big leap forward in the weekly polls and the eyes of the NCAA Tournament committee that will be doing the seed assignments and pairings for next month’s tournament.

No. 3 Louisville got ambushed at Florida State 68-59 for the Cardinals’ simultaneous second loss overall and also in the Atlantic Coast Conference, while in the PAC-12, Oregon State surprised No. 8 UCLA 71-68 in Los Angeles after the Bruins had routed No. 13 Oregon on Friday night. The Ducks recovered to win handily 72-48 at Southern Cal.

Back in the ACC, No. 4 North Carolina State at home avenged a previous upset loss at North Carolina by dealing the Tar Heels an 82-63 defeat, while unranked Syracuse, which had been ranked the first half of the season, fell at Virginia Tech, 76-68.

A battle of two ranked teams in the Big Ten saw No. 11 Michigan recover from an upset loss at No. 16 Indiana to beat visiting No. 15 Ohio State, 75-66.

In the Big 12, No. 7 Baylor won at Oklahoma 77-66, while unranked Texas beat visiting Kansas State 59-48.

And back in the SEC, the Gamecocks recovered from the loss at Tennessee to beat No. 17 Kentucky 76-55, while No. 8 Texas A&M won at Mississippi, 66-55, and No. 18 Arkansas defeated LSU 74-64.

Villanova Down Georgetown: Coming out of the loss Friday night at Marquette, the Wildcats recovered to win at Georgetown 64-56 and get a hold of fourth place with two games left in the regular season  visiting Providence Wednesday at 1 p.m. in Rhode Island and then coming home to host Seton Hall Saturday at 8 p.m. in in Finneran Pavilion.

A previous meeting with the Hoyas at home prior to Sunday was postponed during Villanova’s pause under COVID-19 protocols and not likely to be rescheduled, while neither are the visit to No. 1 Connecticut nor visit from No. 19 DePaul. 

Sophomore Maddy Siegrist, the leading scorer in the Big East, had another monster performance, scoring 31 points and grabbing 16 rebounds for the Wildcats (13-4, 8-4 Big East).

All four losses on the season are also in the conference to the teams above ‘Nova, both games with Marquette, a visit from Connecticut and a loss at DePaul.

The Wildcats were ahead by a slim 55-51 score on the Hoyas (1-13, 1-13), with 4:17 left when Siegrist’s driving layup made it a six-point lead with 2:53 remaining. Villanova then stopped Georgetown on the next possession and going the other way, Brianna Herlihy hit a three from deep to give the visitors enough of and advantage to head back home with a victory.

In getting her points, Siegrist, the reigning Big East freshman of the year of last season, was 11-for-21 from the field, including 1-of-3 from deep and 8-of-9 from the line. This was her fourth 30-point game on the season and fifth overall. She leads the Big East with 10 double doubles.

Herlihy had 18 points, shooting 6-of-9 from the field, while freshman reserve Lior Garzon scored 11 off the bench, including a trio of treys.

Graceann Bennett scored 13 for Georgetown and Kelsey Ransom scored 10.

The Big East tournament opens a week from Friday at the Mohegan Sun near New London, Conn., but fans are prohibited due to coronavirus restrictions, when three first round games will be played.

Villanova is headed for a bye right now into Saturday’s quarterfinals against the fifth seed, which, at the moment is Seton Hall, whom the Wildcats beat on the road and will host, as mentioned, this Saturday night.

Drexel and Delaware Suffer Setbacks: After a lopsided win Saturday in SECO Arena in suburban Baltimore, Drexel succumbed to Towson 77-62 enabling the Tigers (12-5, 7-3 CAA) to slip back into the Colonial Athletic Association race in second and getting help when James Madison (12-8, 8-5) knocked off league-leading Delaware 65-62 at home at the Atlantic Union Bank Center in Harrisonburg, Va., following the Blue Hens’ 94-88 win in overtime on Saturday.

So with one week left in the regular season right now Delaware (17-3, 14-2) is still in first, with a one-game lead in the loss column but four games overall in the standings due to the lack of games the second-place Tigers have played off postponements and cancellations under COVID-19 protocols.

James Madison is third, three down in the loss column to the Blue Hens but a half-game behind Towson while Drexel (10-7, 7-5) is fourth tied in the loss column with JMU but a half-game behind the Dukes.

As it so worked out with the original weekend ahead schedule still in tact, Delaware will host Towson on Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m. each day in the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark on the Flohoops streaming service  and could clinch.

Towson, though, beyond this weekend, will make up two games on March 4-5 with UNCW, which could impact seeding assignments.

Drexel will host James Madison Saturday and Sunday., also on the Flohoops network.

As for Drexel’s Sunday game at Towson, the Dragons got handled even though the Tigers were totally on day two of the series without Kionna Jeter, who entered the weekend as the CAA’s leading scorer by 0.2 points over Delaware’s Jasmine Dickey.

When the Guru’s previous blog was posted you were given the what in terms of Jeter’s not starting and playing just 20 minutes across the game, shooting 0-for-3 with no rebounds.

Now, the why has reached here, noting at this end a whole lot could have been avoided by it mentioned to begin with.

Jeter apparently has some shoulder injury, tried to make a go of it Saturday, and in terms of the pain, decided it’d be best to not play at all Sunday.

As it evolved, the Tigers took care of business without her at Drexel’s expense, beating the Dragons for the first time since rallying in the closing minutes in the CAA championship at Delaware two seasons ago.

Freshman Allie Kubek, on Senior Day no less, had career highs of 20 points and 14 rebounds for Towson, while Aleah Nelson had 23 points, and LaKaitlin Wright and Shavonne Smith each scored 10.

The Tigers also crushed the boards 44-17 in rebounding advantage, and second chance points 14-2. 

Drexel didn’t help matters, committing 23 fouls.

“Today was a hard-fought game,” said Towson coach Diane Richardson. “I think it boiled down to having much better defense today than we did yesterday.

“We were locked in, we had more energy going and as a result we got the win today.”

Drexel’s Keishana Washington scored 17,  Kate Connolly scored 15, and Hannah Nihnill scored 11.

Delaware, meanwhile, one day after ending a 16-game losing streak in the series with James Madison, was unable to sustain a sweep with the Dukes on the road, although Jasmine Dickey, a junior guard, scored her 1,000th point becoming the 28th player in the program’s history to do so.

Dickey scored 19 points in the game to bring her career mark to 1,002, while Ty Battle posted another double double to increase her leading CAA total to 14 after scoring 17 and grabbing a career high 18 rebounds. She is also tie for fourth at the moment in Division I competition.

Rayne Tucker had a game-high 22 for JMU, shooting 10-for-15 from the field.

The Blue Hens departed with a five-game win streak in February.

Delaware managed to come back and take a brief lead late in the game after trailing 21-7 at the end of the first quarter.

Next weekend a win in either game will give Delaware the top seed for the CAA tourney, it’s first since Elena Delle Donne’s senior season in 2013 when the Blue Hens ran the table with a perfect record in CAA play to the title. They can also clinch the No. 1 slot should Towson sweep but lose either make up game with UNCW.

Nebraska Shooting Too Much for Penn State: The Lady Lions were unable to pull a sweep in their Big Ten series with Nebraska, which shot 28-for-54 from the field, including 13-of-24 from deep for an 87-72 victory at home.

Penn State (8-11, 5-10 Big Ten) got 21 points from Makenna Marisa and 20 from Maddie Burke, who connected on 6-of-13 from deep and overall the team connected on 11 of 32 from beyond the arc.

Johnasia Cash had a double double of 17 points and 13 rebounds, while Niya Beverley scored 11 points.

The visitors led by two at 17-15 at the end of the first quarter but then the Cornhuskers owned the next two quarters, 25-17 in the second, and 30-20 in the third.

Isabelle Bourne had 22 points and 11 rebounds for Nebraska (11-9, 9-8), while Ashley Scoggin and Sam Haiby each scored 18 points, Kate Cain scored 11, and reserve Annika Stewart scored 10.

The Lady Lions finish out the week hosting No. 15 Ohio State Wednesday at 5 p.m. in the Bryce Jordan Center when senior Nia Staples will be honored. Red-hot Rutgers visits Sunday at 12:30 p.m. Both games will air on the main Big Ten network.

National — Upsets Hit Ranked Notables: We’ll bundle them all here starting with No. 21 Tennessee that arrived at No. 22 Georgia off the Thursday home upset of No. 2 South Carolina and got stung by the Bulldogs 57-55 in Stegeman Coliseum in Athens for a home team sweep in the Southeastern Conference following an earlier upset in Knoxville, the first triumph there in 36 years.

Tennessee’s Renia Davis, who led the comeback on South Carolina, had 22 points and six rebounds for the Lady Vols (13-6, 7-4 SEC), while Rae Burrell scored 10 with five rebounds, and Kasiyahna Kushkituah tied a career high with 13 rebounds.

Georgia (17-4, 9-4) got 24 points from Gabby Connally, while Que Morrison scored 11, and Jenna Staiti had 12 rebounds.

Tennessee had a chance to win in the closing minute but couldn’t hit a shot.

“Georgia’s game plan today was really solid, took us out of our offensive, I thought we had lack of focus,” said second-year coach Kelly Harper, an alum who previously coached Missouri State and North Carolina State.

“To be honest, I think this started on Friday — Friday and Saturday weren’t our best practices, and that’s something I complimented the team on consistently all year. I don’t know how well we handled Thursday but we have a couple of games left to learn from this and get better.

“It’s really hard when you have that kind of offense in the first half.”

Georgia’s Morrison said of the closeout when the outcome was in the balance, “Intense. We wanted it, we really did.”

Tennessee’s 55 were a season-low.

“You saw two teams that knew it was going to be a battle, playing for a lot, everybody in our league is,” said Georgia coach Joni Taylor. “I think that’s what showed up today. We knew they were going to make a run because they are really talented, and everybody was diving on the floor for those balls — it was emotional.

“That’s just Georgia-Tennessee, but even more so I would say today because of where we are in the standings, and we are down to the wire. We want to play well going into the (SEC) tournament, and that is what showed itself for 40 minutes. It was a fun game to be a part of.”

On Thursday, Kentucky goes to Georgia while Tennessee goes to Missouri.

In the ACC down in Tallahassee, Florida State at home upset No. 3 Louisville, 68-59, handing the Cardinals just their second loss on the season, which is also in the conference.

Morgan Jones had 26 points and 10 rebounds for the Seminoles (9-6, 8-6 ACC), who beat their highest ranked opponent since besting then-No. 3 conference rival Duke in January, 20009, 13 seasons ago, though last season the Seminoles beat the Cardinals twice when they were ranked in the Top 5.

“I just got in attack mode,” Jones said of her play. “You just have to play hard the whole game.”

Kourtney Weber added 14 points to the Seminoles attack. She also had five rebounds, including four in the fourth quarter when Florida State powered with a 9-0 run to take the lead and hold on to the upset of the Cardinals (20-2, 13-2).

Dana Evans had 13 points, while Olivia Cochran had 12 points and nine rebounds for the visitors.

Florida State is one of the more unfortunate teams in the nation that has had to be involved in massive rescheduling all season because of disruptions adhering to the COVID-19 protocols.

“You love these games when you prove it with your defense,” said Florida State interim coach Brooke Wyckoff, who played for the Seminoles and the WNBA Connecticut Sun, among other pro teams, and who is filling in this season for veteran Sue Semireau. “You can’t rest on your laurels too long in this conference. To be able to make this win count we have to handle business moving forward.”

Louisville shot a mediocre 35 percent and just 3-of-20 from deep.

“We’ll take two days off and then we’ll get back at it Wednesday,” said Cardinals coach Jeff Walz, whose team was one of four No. 1 seeds a week when the NCAA committee announced its first Reveal, the top 16 seeds for the NCAA tournament. Another one is coming March 1 ahead of the real deal on Selection Monday, March 15.

“I hope it sits with them and stings for a while,” Walz said of his team. “It’s going to me. If it doesn’t bother our kids much then we’re not going to have a deep run in the postseason at all.”

Out west, Oregon State, which started the year in the rankings, is another team that has been beset with pauses and postponements from the coronavirus but turned the tables with a big road win, besting No. 8 UCLA 71-64 in the Bruins’ Pauley Pavilion just two days after the home team had gone through No. 13 Oregon like a buzzsaw.

“That was a great one for us,” Beavers coach Scott Rueck said in Los Angeles. “This weekend — and especially today — was a culmination of such a grind for this group. We’ve known all along this is a good team, and it feels like every possession we get a little bit better.

“These 80 minutes this weekend it felt like it really came together. UCLA is a great team and very well coached. To hold them to percentages we did shows how we are embracing the defensive end of the floor. That will allow us to be successful the rest of the way and into the postseason.”

Aleah Goodman had 20 points, including a clutch three-ball late in the game, along with seven rebounds and nine assists for Oregon State (8-6, 6-6 PAC-12). Taylor Jones scored 16 and grabbed 11 rebounds. Talia von Oelhoffen had 123 points.

On the other side, UCLA (13-4, 11-4) got 19 points from Michaela Onyenwere, while Lauren Miller scored 13, and Charisma Osborne had 11 points.

“In this conference you can never have a game where you don’t play your best,” said UCLA’s Lindsey Corsaro. “So we didn’t play our best and we paid the price for that. We have room to grow and they’re a really good team.”

Oregon State next Sunday will be at Oregon will UCLA will be at Southern Cal ahead of the PAC-12 tourney in Las Vegas.

“The tougher more together team is going to win most nights and they were the tougher more together team today,” said UCLA coach Cori Close. “And give them credit. We knew they were going to be a really good team at this time. Throw the record out the window. They’re an NCAA level team. I know that. They’re very well coached. They have really good player. They’re playing really well together right now.

“Just really disappointed we couldn’t focus on things that were in our control. We let things we couldn’t control get us totally out of our game. It’s not just the game. I’m not disappointed that we didn’t focus on our defense. All the credit to Oregon State. They outplayed us tonight.” 

Win and Move Forward: Looking internally at the ranked teams who won, starting with the SEC, we’ll be brief since Mike Siroky will be delivering his massive weekly conference review on Monday.

In the SEC, in the No. 2 South Carolina (18-3, 13-1 SEC)  comeback on No. 17 Kentucky, 76-55, the Gamecocks got 21 points from Zia Cook, starting a new conference streak after Tennessee shattered the 31-game run. No. 5 Texas A&M (20-1, 11-1) in its win at Mississippi have tied Louisville and Stanford for total wins at 20 each. Kayla Wells had 18 points.

In the No. 11 Michigan/No. 15 Ohio State game, the Wolverines (13-2, 8-2 Big Ten) outscored the Buckeyes 24-11 in the third quarter, and Naz Hillmon scored 27 points on the night for Michigan, which won 75-66. The Buckeyes (13-4, 9-4) shaved the deficit to six before Michigan in the final period stood firm to take the outcome. Jay Sheldon had a career-high six treys for Ohio State and helped spark the fourth quarter rally.

In the Big 12 in the No. 7 Baylor 77-66 win at Oklahoma, Moon Ursin had 17 points for the visiting Lady Bears, while NaLyssa Smith scored 16.   

Looking Ahead — PAC-12 Showdown Features Stanford and Arizona: Monday night No. 6 Stanford hosts No. 10 Arizona at 9 p.m. on ESPN2, though the ranking numbers could be different off the new Associated Press women’s poll being released early in the afternoon, seeking its first regular season title since 2014. The visiting Wildcats are also in play coming into the contest though they got handled well by the Cardinal in their previous meeting in Tucson.

A key Big East game has Creighton, coming off its upset of No. 19 DePaul, visiting Marquette at 7 p.m. on FSI with the host team locked in a tie for second at the moment with DePaul, three behind No. 1 UConn. 

On Wednesday, Temple gets a test when No. 12 South Florida, on a three-game win streak and unbeaten in the American Athletic Conference, visits the Owls at at 3:30 p.m. in McGonigle Hall on ESPN+.

Rutgers, on a five-game win streak in the Big Ten meets a tougher opponent in visiting Michigan State ,  and as previously mentioned above, Penn State hosts No. 15 Ohio State at 5 p.m. on the Big Ten Network, while Villanova at 1 p.m. will be looking for a sweep when visiting Providence at 1 p.m. on the Flohoops streaming apps.

Marquette is at DePaul at 5 p.m. in the battle for second, though the loser will be likely the third seed and if they play through from either side they would meet this Sunday in the Big East semifinals.

No. 7 Baylor hosts Oklahoma in the Big 12 at 8 p.m. on ESPN+.

And that’s the report.


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