Womhoops Guru

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

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Guru’s WBB Report: Rider Survives — Temple Not So Much at MAAC and AAC Tourneys

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

Seventh-seeded Rider came out of three weeks non-competition and got enough rust off as senior Daija Moses parted the net with a pair of foul shots for a small cushion with 20 seconds left in regulation to lead the Broncs to a 44-41 victory over 10th-seeded Monmouth (2-16) in the first round of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament Tuesday afternoon at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J.

The winners move on to Wednesday’s quarterfinal half-round - the other being Thursday- against second-seeded Quinnipiac at 2:30 p.m. on ESPN+

In the case of veteran coach Lynn Milligan’s team, the long layoff wasn’t due to caution over the coronavirus or positive testing, but stemmed from rather being one of the few teams in the nation to make it through the schedule out of harm’s way and had to wait for other MAAC teams to make use of dates for makeups of postponed games. One of set of back-to-backs in the period had been moved up when another school had to stand aside.

Monmouth had several long pauses during the season and more drama was added to the Hawks Sunday when the university announced head coach Jody Craig was being handed a one-game suspension “for conduct not conducive to the mission and goals of the University and Department of Athletics.”

Assistant coach James Young guided the team.

No specific reason was given by the school located in West Long Branch, N.J., near Asbury Park.

This had been a year of rebuilding what was the top-seed a year ago at Rider (7-17) led by Stella Johnson, the 2020 leading scorer in the nation who was drafted by the WNBA and ultimately landed with the Washington Mystics after a trade and cut. 

Anna Ekerstedt had a career-high 10 points, all in the second half, for Rider, which took a 20-15 lead at the half following a shot from deep by freshman Maya Hyacienth, who finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds for her first career double double.

“I think our defense was really good this game, we had trouble on offense,” Ekerstedt said.

A Hawks 8-0 run in the fourth quarter resulted in a 33-32 lead with 4 minutes and 40 seconds left to play.

The game stayed close until Amanda Mobley hit a driving shot to snap a tie giving Rider a 42-40 lead with 37 seconds left.

Monmouth got to the line on the next possession but made just one free throw.

The ensuing play got Moses to the line to calmly sink the two foul shots snd a three-point lead with the worst that could happen is forced overtime assuming no foul on a successful three-pointer.

Monmouth, however, missed two attempts as the final seconds ticked and Rider was on its way to the quarterfinals.

Moses had 10 points and Mobley scored six, dealt six assists, and grabbed four steals.

“This game really came down to us sticking together,” Milligan said. “We looked like a team that hadn’t played in 21 days.

“We were out of glow offensively but we knew if we could hold strong with our defense, that we’d put ourselves in a position to be successful. It was perseverance. It wasn’t pretty. Amanda had us in flow in the second half. Everybody did their part today,” Milligan said.

“I thought we had an unbelievable game from Anna. She hit some big shots and made some key plays on the defensive end. She;s a sophomore, but she’s the oldest player on our team,” Milligan said of her recruit from Sweden. “She is very mature and balanced. We preach when your number is called and your opportunity comes, to be ready for it. She answered the bell and it was fantastic.

“We call her ‘the claw’ and you saw today why. She got a couple of tips, blocks, steals, that’s what she does.”

If there was a major flaw, it was Monmouth getting 52 rebounds. 

“I felt like in the second half we were getting one opportunity and they were getting three,” Milligan said of the disparity. 

In the other game Tuesday 9th-seeded Siena beat 8th-seeded Niagara 74-65 and the Saints (4-8) advance to a quarterfinal game against No. 1 seed Marist at noon Wednesday. Isis Young scored 26 points and Rayshel Young scored 21 for the winners,

Angel Parker scored 23 for Niagara (4-7).

On Thursday fourth-seeded Fairfield will meet fifth-seeded Manhattan, the preseason favorite, at 2:30 p.m., after third-seeded Saint Peter’s meets 6th-seeded Iona at noon.

Friday’s semifinals are at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Though Quinnipiac has been a perennial MAAC power since becoming a member in 2013-14 from jumping from the Northeast Conference, Rider, which last played on Valentine’s Day, swept last year’s series and split at home on the weekend format this season bouncing back from a 72-50 loss in Alumni Gym in Lawrenceville, N.J., to win 77-74 in overtime.

The Bobcats (13-7) are under longtime coach Trish (nee Sacca) Fabbri from Delran, N.J., who played at Fairfield under Diane Nolan from Gloucester, N.J.

Temple Season Ended By Tulane: lt wasn’t a tsunami this time like the back-to-back drenching the Green Wave handed the Owls at the end of January but Tulane, seeded fourth, still doused the fifth-seeded Owls 83-73 in a quarterfinal game of the American Athletic Conference tournament  in its new home in Dickies  Arena in Fort Worth, Texas.

Coach Tonya Cardoza’s squad needed to win the tourney, a little more open with UConn gone to the Big East, to get to the NCAA tourney and the team is not on the WNIT watch list so they finish at .500 with an 11-11 mark. The Owls were 11-7 in league play. 

Tulane (17-7) heads to the semifinals against top-seeded South Florida.

Freshman Jasha Clinton had game highs of 22 ooints, eight assists, and five steals, while Mia Davis scored 20 with eight rebounds, and Alexa Williamson had 17 points and 11 rebounds.

“Temple is a really good team so we felt we really had to have our A game,” Tulane coach Lisa Stockton said. “I felt our offense was really clicking.’

“Their guys stepped up and did what they needed to do,” Cardoza said. “Right from the start we gave up too many second chance opportunities, Defensively, we weren’t good today. We gave up 47 points in the first half. It’s hard to win basketball games when you give up that many points. We couldn’t get control of the game. 

“Early in the third we cut it to seven, but then they really shoved it down our throats giving up second chance opportunities, shoved it down our throats, turning the ball over.

“For the season, this is how we’ve been, pretty inconsistent with how we play defense. Some days, we’re really in tune, we’re really active on the defensive end, I just felt like today it wasn’t a good day for us on the defensive side. We have to be better bearing down. We have to be better individually. Our nucleus has to get better.”

In the other three games, No. 20 South Florida fended off upset-minded ninth-seeded Wichita State 48-44 as Sydni Harvey scored 14 for the Bulls (16-3) who will face Tulane at 5.30 p.m. after eliminating the Shockers (6-12).

Third-seeded Houston ousted sixth-seeded East Carolina 73-63 as Laila Blair had 19 points for the Cougars (16-6) making their first trip to the semifinals. Maddie Moore had 16 points for ECU (8-14).

.Second-seeded UCF beat seventh-seeded Cincinnati 53-43 to advance to the semifinal game with Houston at 8:30 p.m.  Both semifinals will be on ESPN+

Diamond Battles had 13 points for the Golden Knights (15-3) while Llmar’l Thomas and Caitlyn Wilson each scored 13 for the Bearcats (8-16).

In other AAC news, SMU, which shut its season down several months ago, announced coach Travis Mays was being let go.

Looking Ahead: Besides Rider,  Wednesday, in the Big Ten, Penn State opens its play in the tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis going against Michigan State at 6:30 p.m. on FS2.

In the Atlantic 10 on Thursday, Lasalle at the Siegel Center on the campus of VCU in Richmond, Va., plays Duquesne at 11 a.m. while  Saint Joseph’s plays Massachusetts at 5:30 p.m. on ESPN+

Also on Thursday at Elon in North Carolina in the Colonial Athletic Association, Delaware plays its quarterfinal game as the top seed at 230 p.m. while third-seeded Drexel plays sixth-seeded Elon at 9:30 p.m., both on Flohoops.

And as the carousel spin takes hold, Wisconsin announced it was letting Jonathan Tsipis go.

Later Wednesday a blog special will offer reaction coming to Guru Central over Indiana Fever coach Marianne Stanley, a former Immaculata star and Old Dominion coach named as one of four women's basketball finalist nominees to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2021 joined by former WNBA stars Lauren Jackson out of Australia and Yolanda Griffith, and Texas high school coach Leta Andrews.

There is a decent chance when the complete class is announced in May that former Rutgers coach and Immaculata star Theresa Shank Grentz will be a direct elect out of the women’s veterans committee.

And that’s the report. 


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