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.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Guru’s WBB Report: Drexel Rallies to Upset Top Seed Delaware for CAA Title and First NCAA Appearance Since 2009

By Mel Greenbereg @womhoopsguru

Call the combined Drexel men’s and women’s basketball teams as the program of Cinderfellas and Cinderellas.

Four days after Tuesday’s night’s first-ever Colonial Athletic Association men’s crown was achieved, first-year coach Amy Mallon's women dropped the other glass slipper with another stunning second half rally to upset top-seed Delaware 63-52 and earn their first CAA title since 2009 and automatic bid to the NCAA field.

The twin CAA crowns are a wonderful parting gift for athletic director Eric Zillmer, who is giving up his duties though staying at the school to be involved in other capacities.

That the dual achievements become the toast of the local collegiate basketball world erases heartbreaking setbacks of past seasons this time of year and is also a mild kick in the shins to the Big Five group who have resisted past initiatives to allow the Dragons full and equal membership.

Down at Elon’s Schar Center in North Carolina, the third-seeded Dragons (14-8) shot 59 percent from the field over the third and fourth periods, erasing a nine-point halftime deficit to punch a ticket to the San Antonio Region of Texas, where the entire 64-team women’s field will compete.

The event in the Lone Star State will occur at the same time the men’s event will play its entirety in Indianapolis, this unique arrangement based on enhancing protection from the coronavirus.

The entire NCAA women’s draw will be revealed Monday night at 7 p.m. on ESPN with the selection show.

Keishana Washington followed up Friday’s career-best 35-point performance in the comeback semifinal win over second-seeded James Madison with 30 more points to down the Blue Hens (21-4), the regular-season champions now likely headed to the WNIT.

“It just felt amazing,” Washington said of the the feeling during the net-cutting tradition. “What other word than amazing for something you worked so hard for, and we’ve been through a ton of ups and downs  and got the win.”

Though the junior guard earned most outstanding honors for her play, it was augmented by another gritty performance from Hannah Nihill, who came back to life in the second half to finish with 14 points, six rebounds, and four steals as the duo gave the Dragons back the lead.

 Once ahead, this time, Drexel refused to let go, using a defensive grip that limited Delaware’s Jasmine Dickey, the CAA player of the year, to her lowest output with 10 points, though she also grabbed 10 rebounds. Paris McBride ended up the top Blue Hens scorer with 11 points. 

“To me, we’ve been here before,” Mallon said of the halftime situation. “We’ve done this before when we were down 17 points, this time we’re only down nine. We came at them one (play) at at a time.

“Hannah had a rough start, but she collected herself.  That’s what winners do. This team, what they’ve been able to do, I’m just so happy for them.”

The third quarter was the Dragons’ period again, this time with a 20-5 performance yielding just one field goal.

“The third quarter has been our quarter all year,” Mallon said. “I knew we could do it. That’s pretty much where we’ve been all year. 

“One of the things we talked about going into this game, every shot they’re going to take, we’re going to pretend they missed and we’re going after the rebounds and that’s what we did. I think our girls made hustle plays and just our ability to get to the ball and crash the boards and really make an effort there, I think that was the difference in this game.”

Washington and Nihill combined with 11 points during a 13-2 surge to head to the final 10 minutes ahead 45-39.

“With Hannah, when she came into the game (starting the third quarter), when she made that first shot, I knew she was back,” Mallon said. “I thought, maybe she just needed a breather at halftime. When Washington and Nahill are doing that, we’re a hard team to beat.

“They are our captains,” Mallon said of the duo. “As we were heading into the the tournament we only have two players that played in CAA Tournament minutes on the floor, and that is Hannah Nihill and Keishana Washington. Going into this, they had to set the tone for what it’s like to play in the CAA tournament.

“They had the minutes and took that on and said this team has to realize it’s tournament time. It’s almost a different feeling and they had to lead us into it. I was so proud of how they took leadership.”

With Washington leading the way the Dragons breathed fire with a 70 percent performance (7-for-10) in the final period as the Blue Hens couldn’t get within less than seven once the Dragons’ lead got to double digits.

“My teammates and my coaches. They trust me to make big plays. I just think it comes down to who wants it more. I think our team wanted it more today,” Washington said. 

For the game, Drexel, the first school to win duo CAA crowns in the same season since Old Dominion in 2005, shot 51 percent for the game, including 6-for-15 for 40 percent from deep while Delaware could manage just 29.5 percent for the game.

Though the Blue Hens won the rebounding battle 44-25, they couldn’t gain much out of the board control, especially in the final 20 minutes when they were held 5-for-32.

Nihill and Kate Connolly from Drexel made the all-tournament team along with Dickey and Delaware’s Ty Battle, and James Madison’s Kiki Jefferson.

The outcome was a redemption for a program that two seasons ago yielded a looming win to Towson in the final minutes at Delaware and last year was unable to use its No. 1 seed at Elon when the pandemic outbreak caused cancellation of the CAA women’s tourney before the quarterfinal round got under way.

The last rookie head coach to win a CAA crown was Emily Manwaring at East Carolina in 1985, more than three decades ago.

 Mallon is the first to claim CAA titles as a player with Richmond and Saturday as a coach, besides also once as an associate head coach in 2009 as part of her 17 years until promoted a year ago when Denise Dillon returned to her Villanova alma mater to succeed Harry Perretta upon his retirement after 42 seasons.

Drexel is the third No. 3 seed to win the CAA tourney, following ODU in 1992 and Elon, which won over the Dragons at Drexel in 2018.

During a season that was Delaware’s first domination of the CAA since the Elena Delle Donne performance era, in the unique back-to-back weekend league schedules playing the same opponents either on the road or home, the proximity of the two campuses allowed each school to host a game when their set came along.

The Blue Hens snapped an 11-game losing streak in the series and then followed two days later winning at Drexel.

Oddly, the Dragons were headed for a fourth seed, which would have meant potentially seeing the Blue Hens in the semifinals, when a Towson upset loss to UNCW at the finish moved them into the third slot.

Mallon,had no fear of facing Drexel’s longtime geographic rivals dating to previous membership in the America East.

“They were the best and I wanted to play the best,” Mallon said. “You always want to beat the best.”

“Amy’s done a phenomenal job and her players played extremely hard tonight,” Delaware coach Natasha Adair said. “I thought they played harder. I thought they were relentless in areas.

“I just don’t think we played Delaware basketball. We let the fact that the ball wasn’t going in dictate just the tempo a little bit. It’s heavy right now.

“We’ve had nights when we didn’t shoot the ball well. Our defense was where we get our energy and momentum but a lot of it was really good offense by Drexel where we were contesting shots, they knocked them down. Where they needed to make big plays, they did.

“We had 44 rebounds. I thought Hannah Nihill made big shots. Keishana Washington made big shots. And in this moment, those big shots were the difference.”

As for Dickey’s performance, Adair said, “We can live with those shots. She takes them every day. They didn’t go in. Drexel’s defense is one of the best in the league. Her shots got us here. They just didn’t fall.”

Pleading her case for a potential at-large NCAA bid, though the WNIT is more likely, Adair said, “To get to the championship game. Our RPI is 20. Our NET score as of earlier in the day, I think it’s 72 or 73. On the road against an ACC opponent, beat them. At home against a Big East opponent, beat them. 22 wins. We’re the only team in our conference, men’s or women’s, to play all 18 games, in a pandemic. 

“This game doesn’t dictate our season. This game doesn’t dictate all that we have done. I’m still proud of our basketball team. And this is a basketball I think, the resume is still good enough, for sure.” 

Mallon talked about the togetherness of the program.

“You look at Bailey Greenberg. A star player, tremendous career. Didn’t get to play the last games of her career. She’s in the stands today because that’s how much she wanted to see this team do it. She sent me a text this morning, `Let’s finish what we started.’ 

“And all the returnees feel that way. And they did it for all the alums from the past. And even Kelsey Lidge on staff. She lost in the championship.

“This isn’t about this team. It’s about our program and what we’ve been able to do.

“And to be in the championship game, three out of four years. With Hannah Nihill. And she says, ‘Third one is the charm.’ And I believed her and when we walked off the court, yesterday, she said, “We can make it happen. Just again, so grateful for this season and what everyone has done to make it happen.”

The team was to bus back Sunday morning and then plan some kind of watch party, likely limited to outsiders under COVID-19 protocols, for Monday night.

 Maryland Claims Fifth Big Ten Tourney Crown: The top-seeded Terrapins, ranked seventh, added sixth-seeded Iowa to its collection of conference title game victims, beating the Hawkeyes 104-84, to add to the hardware claimed in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2020, since arriving in the Big Ten from the Atlantic Coast Conference for the 2014-15 season.

They’ve been in the title game in all seven seasons of membership.

The win was the 13th straight on the season, all by double digits, to plead Maryland’s rights to a No. 1 seed.

Chloe Bibby had 21 points for the Terps (24-2), blitzing with three from deep to fuel 11 points in the opening quarter. Mimi Collins scored 17 with six rebounds. Diamond Miller, the tournament’s most valuable player, scored 15 with six assists, while Harvard transfer Katie Benzan had 14 points and six assists, and Ashley Owusu had 12 points and seven assists in the game in Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Iowa (18-9) got 22 points from Monika Czinano and 21 from Big Ten freshman of the year Caitlyn Clark.

Maryland never looked back in this one, leading 29-18 at the end of the first period and 55-37 at the half.

VCU Upsets Dayton in A-10 Semifinals: The fifth-seeded Rams (15-10) are going to play for the Atlantic 10 championship in their own Siegel Center Sunday at noon on ESPNU after toppling top-seed Dayton 56-50, which lost just once during the conference schedule. It’s their third straight appearance in the game leading to an automatic NCAA bid.

“I kept reminding them, this is supposed to be fun,” said VCU coach Beth O’Boyle. “You can be highly competitive and still have fun. When we’re having fun, when we’re playing with a bounce in our step, that’s when the game seems to come to us.

“This is the A-10, so many games seem to be like this. We’ve been in close games. We’ve been in overtime games. We knew how to respond.”

Seventh-seeded UMass, which dispatched Saint Joseph’s on Thursday in overtime, advanced to meet the Rams, taking down third-seeded Saint Louis, 90-81.

Times have changed so for the Texas event, the A-10 is not likely to have an at-large representative.

VCU’s lone NCAA appearance was as an at-large choice out of the CAA in 2009.

Taya Robinson had 18 points for the winners, while Tera Reed scored 12. Sarah Te-Biasu scored 11.

Dayton (14-3) was led by Jenna Giacone, who scored 16,

Sam Breen and Destiny Philoxy each scored 28 and Breen had 10 rebounds for UMass (14-6), which has had only seven players dressed through three games to date.

The Minutewomen’s last A-10 title game appearance was in 1998.

“This is surreal,” Breen said. “Coming in with only seven players, as a No. 7 seed, and being where we are right now — what can I say? It’s incredible.”

Rachel Kent scored 18 for Saint Louis (12-4).

Cal Baptist Makes History With WAC Title: The Lancers beat third-seeded Grand Canyon, 78-60, claimed the Western Athletic Conference title in Las Vegas, joined an exclusive group, but despite being unbeaten (24-0), won’t be in the NCAA field, ineligible because the program is still transitioning to Division I.

The WAC designated Utah Valley as its representative.

Nevertheless, Cal Baptist will be in the field of 32 for the WNIT, which has taken other transitioning teams in the past.

The finish, however, allows the Lancers to join the three-peat UConn squad through 2018, Baylor and Notre Dame, as the only programs going unbeaten regular season and then taking their conference crowns since 1998,

“It’s been a real crazy year with all the COVID stuff at the beginning,” said Cal Baptist coach Jarrod Olson. “Just the fact that we have won every game we’ve played, it’s been really unusual. It’s been a lot of fun to coach this team. They’re really easy to work with. It’s been a real special year and I’m really proud of the girls.”

The last unbeaten team not in the NCAA field was Oral Roberts in 1983.

Marist Wins MAAC: Top-seeded Marist easily downed third-seeded Saint Peter’s 69-29 to win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference at Jim Whalen Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J. 

Returning to rule, it’s the 11th MAAC crown for Brian Giorgis’ group (18-3), but first since 2014, Quinnipiac having taken over when joining the conference from the Northeast.

Willow Duffell, who dominated the tournament, had 20 points and 11 rebounds for Marist, which jumped to a 12-0 lead at the outset against the Peacocks (13-15).

Other Tickets Punched: In other conferences that sent teams to the NCAA field on Saturday, Central Michigan edged in an upset Bowling Green, 77-72, to win the Mid-American title; Jackson State edged Alabama State 67-66 to win the SWAC; North Carolina A&T edged Howard 59-57 to win the MEAC; Middle Tennessee edged top-seeded Rice 68-65 to win Conference USA; and UC Davis easily beat UC Irvine 61-42 to win the Big West.

Looking Ahead: Besides the Atlantic 10, seven other conferences will be hosting title games Sunday.

In the Patriot League, after having upset No.1 seed and then-unbeaten Bucknell in the semifinals, Lehigh will be at second-seeded Boston U. At 4 p.m. on CBSSN.

The top two teams in the Big 12 square off with sixth-ranked Baylor meeting 17th-ranked and second-seed West Virginia at 1 p.m. on ESPN2.

No. 24 Florida Gulf Coast meets Liberty at 2 p.m. on ESPN+ for the ASUN title.

Wagner and Mt. St. Mary’s meet at 2 p.m. on ESPNU for the Northeast Conference title.

Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston State meet at 2 p.m. on CBSSN for the Southland title.

Campbell and High Point meet at 2 p.m. on ESPN+ for the Big South crown.

Wrapping it all up, Bradley and Drake meet at 5 p.m. on ESPN+ for the Missouri Valley crown.

And that’s the report.





1 Comments:

Anonymous Packers Movers Hyderabad said...

Packers and Movers Hyderabad Give Certified and Verified Service Providers, Cheap and Best ###Office Relocation Charges, ***Home Shifting, ✔✔✔Goods Insurance worth Rs. 10,000, Assurance for Local and Domestic House Shifting. Safe and Reliable Household Shifting Services in Hyderabad with Reasonable Packers and Movers Price Quotation @ Packers And Movers Hyderabad

4:49 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home