Womhoops Guru

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

Friday, March 05, 2021

Guru’s WBB Report: Temple Finishes With a Win; Maryland Clinches Big Ten Tie; Oregon State Upsets Oregon in. Pac-12

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

Now we’re talking. 

Though we approach the one-year anniversary of the sports world thrown into chaos from the coronavirus, Thursday’s women’s action featured some of the good old insanity from which March Madness drew its name.

Three of the power five conferences playing their tournaments this week each had upset to shake one’s head though calm appeared elsewhere.

Where to begin?

The Guru will start with the only local that saw action: Temple went out of the regular season in a blaze of afternoon glory, completing a two-game, 48-hour sweep of Memphis, this time 66-52, in McGonigle Hall.

Thus, the Owls (11-10, 10-7 AAC) will head to the American Athletic Conference tourney next week at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas, as the fifth seed Tuesday against fourth-seed Tulane, which at the end of January dealt Temple a 48-hour two-game tsunami in New Orleans.

Freshman Jasha Clinton continued her fine play of recent weeks, scoring 23 points and adding a personal best eight steals against the Tigers (4-14, 2-11).

Additionally, Alexa Williamson followed up Tuesday’s performance with 8 points and nine rebounds, while gaining four of Temple’s 19 steals. The Owls also showed ball control with a season-low 10 turnovers.

Mia Davis paid farewell to McGonigle Hall with 16 points, eight rebounds, two assists, a block, and a steal, while Emani Mayo, in her senior game had six points and six rebounds. Asonah Alexander had five steals, a career-high, and dishes five assists.

“I just thought our defensive intensity really picked up and they weren’t getting any shots until later,” Temple coach Tonya Cardoza said of the fourth quarter ending in which the Owls outscored the Tigers 21-6 over the final 10 minutes. “Defensively, we really got aggressively. Our execution was ok, but we missed a lot of easy bunnies.

“I thought Jasha was tremendous,” Cardoza said of her star freshman. “In the first half, she was 1-for-9, obviously she was disappointed in that, but she wanted to do something to help out.”

As for heading to the conference tourney,” We finished the regular season on a high with two solid wins. But more importantly, the way we finished that last 15 minutes. We talked about the first game (Tuesday), yeah we won by a lot but we gave up a lot of points. I thought today, our defensive effort was better.”

The quarterfinal game at noon on Tuesday will air on ESPN+. Temple got a bye with the fifth-place finish.

Meanwhile, though the top of the league was decided Tuesday in a game between the two best teams with No. 15 South Florida able to claim he regular season crown now that No. 1 UConn is over in the Big East, the two-frontrunners played again Thursday night and this time on its own home court UCF was victorious 58-45 for the Golden Knights’ first ever win against a Top 15 opponent.

Masseny Kaba had 16 points and nine rebounds for UCF (14-3, 12-2 AAC), Brittney Smith scored 13, and Diamond Battles had 11 points with seven assists and five steals, and Alisha Lewis had 10 points ands four assists,

USF (15-3, 13-2), which won in its arena in Tampa on Tuesday 65-62, has lost five=of-six to UCF.

The Bulls got 15 points from Elena Tsineke, while Bethy Mununga had 11 points and 14 rebounds.

The conference tournament opens Monday with No. 9 Wichita State meeting No. 8 Tulsa at 2:30 p.m. followed by No. 10 Memphis meeting No. 7 Cincinnati at 3 p.m.

Temple opens the quarterfinal round on Tuesday, followed by USF meeting the Wichita State-Tulsa winner at 2 p.m. Then UCF will meet the Memphis-Cincinnati winner at 7 p.m., and No. 6 East Carolina will meet No. 3 Houston at 10 p.m.

Wednesday’s semifinals has the Temple winner meeting the USF winner at 5:30 p.m. followed by The UCF winner meeting the Houston winner ar 8:30 p.m.

Thursday’s championship will be played at 10 p.m. on ESPNU.

When UConn was in the conference, never losing to an AAC opponent in seven years of membership, straws were futile to grasp at.

But there are a few for the Owls, should they bring their “A” game. They beat UCF in Philadelphia early in the conference schedule, and last week they had USF on the ropes through three quarters in McGonigle Hall. Since then the Bulls got upset by Houston, challenged in the first UCF meeting in Tampa, and then fell Thursday night,

However, first things first and to stop the Green Wave of Tulane, it will take another strong defensive effort like was shown Thursday on Memphis.

Maryland Clinches Big Ten Tie: The No. 8 Terrapins fired away from the outset on the road and downed No. 12 Michigan 88-63 in Ann Arbor, Mich., to get their hands on regular season hardware for the third straight season and six of seven since abandoning the Atlantic Coast Conference and jumping aboard.

There’s no sophomore slump on the roster of Maryland (20-2, 16-1 Big Ten) with four scoring in double figures as Ashley Owusu collected 22 points, Diamond Miller had 17 and nine rebounds, Faith Masonius scored 12, and Mimi Collinds had 10 points.

“What separates this team from all the rest, they’re making it look so easy when it’s really not,” said Maryland coach Brenda Frese. “And we’re doing it during a pandemic. They’re hungry to be great and they’re easy to coach. They play and practice the right way.”

The Terrapins forced nine turnovers in the first quarter to pick up 14 of the 27 points and kept it up the next period, forcing the Wolverines to fail to connect from the field over the final five minutes to go to the break with a 46-26 lead.

Maryland, which will finish Saturday at their XFINITY Center in College Park hosting Penn State, at 3 p.m. on the Big Ten Plus Network, is now 10-1 in the series with the Wolverines.

Naz Hillmon had a double dsouble of 19 points and 11 rebounds for Michigan (13-4, 8-4), while Leigh Brown had 14 points, and Akienreh Johnson scored 11.

Conference Roundup

SEC: Mike Siroky will have a separate posting in Guru world, if it’s not up yet while you’re reading this, but in Thursday’s second round in Greenville, S.C., No. 13 Arkansas got shocked by Mississippi, 69-60, Alabama downed Missouri 82-74, No. 17 Krentucky rallied to beat Florida 73-64, and Mississippi Stare got eliminated at its earliest juncture in several seasons, losing to LSU 71-62.

In Friday’s quarterfinals, second-seeded and seventh-ranked South Carolina meets Alabama at 6 p.m., top-seeded and second-ranked Texas A&M meets LSU at 11 a.m., 16th-ranked Georgia meets 17th-ranked Kentucky at 1 p.m., and 14th-ranked Tennessee meets Mississippi at 8 p.m., all games on the SEC network.

Atlantic Coast: Apparently Notre Dame from its youth-punctured season of a year ago is not all the way back yet, the Irish losing a second-round game at the Greensboro Coliseum in North Carolina to Clemson 68-63, while Virginia Tech beat Miami 72-64, Syracuse topped Boston College 67-61, and Wake Forest dispatched North Carolina 82-71.

In the game involving the upset of sixth-seeded Notre Dame, the 11th-seeded Tigers of Clemson, who hadn’t won in a month, rallied from a 10-point deficit in the third period and headed for a win down the stretch of the fourth quarter when Kendall Spray nailed a 3-point shot for a four-point lead with 17.6 seconds left in regulation.

Amari Robinson sealed the win for Clemson (11-12) with a pair of foul shots to down the Irish (10-10).

Freshman Gabby Elliott had a career-high 25 points for Clemson, while freshman Maddy Westbeld had 21 points, shooting 10-of-11 from the field for Notre Dame.

The Irish still were alive when Westbeld scored to move within a point at 64-63 with 11.3 seconds left, but Robinson then made her foul shots, while Spray shot two more to provide insurance and finish with 13 points. Delicia Washington added 11 for Clemson, and dished seven assists.

Dara Mabrey had 10 points for Notre Dame, as did Olivia Miles, who also dished eight assists.

As the game turned in Clemson’s direction, Amanda Butler said her message was to take it one possession at a time.

“Be exactly where you are and bring all the fight you can possibly muster for that possession, and that’ll be enough, and that’s what we tried to do.”

On the other side, “Well, disappointing loss,” said Notre Dame coach Niele Ivy, who came back to her alma mater this season to succeed Hall of Famer Muffet McGraw, who retired. “Hats off, credit to Clemson. They came out ands fought to the end. 

“I thought we came out, set the tone the way I wanted to as far as our team, and then in the second half I felt like Clemson just really fought all the way to the end.”

Meanwhile, Virginia Tech’s fast start gave the Hokies what they needed to withstand Miami, forging a 21-point lead with 13 minutes left in regulation.

The Hokies got former James Madison University coach Kenny Brooks his 100th win at Virginia Tech (14-8) where he is at the end of his fifth season. 

Elizabeth Kitley snd Georgia Amoore each scored 16 points for the Hokies, while D’asia Gregg had 13 points and 10 rebounds. Cayla King scored 15 points.

Miami (11-11) got 27 points and 11 rebounds from Destiny Harden, while Moulayna Johnson Sidi scored 13.

“So these are the type of games that will allow you to grow as a basketball team, as a program, but also the kids individually,” Brooks said.

The fates of schedule and seed had Boston College and Syracuse meeting for the second time in a week.

Kiara Lewis scored 21 for the winning Orange (13-7), while Digna Strautmane scored 13 against the 13th-seeded Eagles (7-12), who stayed in pursuit the entire way but couldn’t reverse the lead.

Syracuse’s Emily Engstier had 15 rebounds. However, Tiana Mangakahia, winner of the Bob Bradley Spirit and Courage Award from the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association, did not play due to a lower body injury.

Boston College’s Makayla Dickens had 14 points, while Taylor Soule scored 13, and Cameron Swartz scored 11 after setting a high with 33 in the previous round over Pittsburgh.

“I mean, it was one of those wins where you have players that just —- pretty much just play gutsy and win the game,” said Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman.

“Obviously, without Tiana, we really struggled with trying to get cohesive lineups in the game that was playing together in those positions.”

In the remaining game, freshman Jewel Spear set a personal high with 39 points for Wake Forest (12-11), shooting 7-for-10 from deep as Deacons coach Jen Hoover became the program’s winningest with her 126th triumph.

Spear had 22 when the teams met back in December but the Tar Heels (13-10) prevailed in that game.

In the fourth quarter after Stephanie Watts got UNC within a basket 67-65  with 5:25 left, Wake Forest regained control the rest of the way.

“There will be plenty of defensive breakdowns that when we break the game down, we’ll be able to say, six inches here, a foot there,” said UNC second-year coach Courtney Banghart, who previously coached Princeton in the Ivy League. “And then offensively we didn’t move the ball or our bodies at the pace and the consistency that we have all year.” 

Meanwhile, on the Wake Forest side, “I think throughout the game we faced a little bit of adversity and kept believing in each other,” Hoover said. “I just — you come out against a team like that and I think we shot the ball extremely well, but we wanted to hang our hat on defense and rebounding. This group is so — resilient. They’re just a resilient group- that just whatever you want to throw at us, what we need to do, Coach, and they’re going to do it.”

PAC-12: Three teams ended up doing what was expected with top-seeded and No. 4 Stanford running over Southern Cal 92-53, second-seeded and 11th-ranked Arizona defeating  seventh-seeded Washington State, 60-44, and No. 9 and third-seeded UCLA eliminating No. 11 Washington , 58-46, but the fourth seed, No. 19 Oregon, fell to its border rival, 5th-seeded Oregon State, 71-64, the second time this week the Beavers triumphed over the Ducks.

Stanford continues its claim as a top contender to be hoisting the NCAA trophy in San Antonio, and the vanquished Trojans (11-12) will not argue.

“That looks like a team like can vie for the national championship,” said Southern Cal coach Mark Trakh. “They’re deep. They’re long. They can shoot. They’ve got everything on that team.”

And they’ve been winning ever since the late January two-game losing streak cost the Cardinal (23-2) the No. 1 poll ranking when unranked Colorado ambushed them in Boulder and then UCLA got them in their adopted Santa Cruz home during the three-month gypsy existence stemming from a stringent COVID-19 order in Santa Clara County in Northern California.

In this one, Ashlen Prechtel had 15 points and 11 rebounds, Haley Jones and Hannah Jump each scored 14 points, and Lacie Hull contributed 10 points to the Stanford cause.

Southern Cal’s defense held the Trojans to a season-low 28.6 percent from the field. “I loved our balance,” said Stanford coach Tara VanDereveer, who, after the latest win extended to her Division I women’s record at 1,117, ahead of UConn coach Geno Auriemma’s 1,112.

Stanford plays Friday in the PAC-12 semifinals while UConn next plays in the Big East quarterfinals Friday.

“I think we’ve got weapons. We’ve got inside inside game and outside game,” VanDerveer said. “You know, I think it was fun to be able to spread it around.”

An 8-0 second quarter start made it 31-5. 

“I really loved our defense coming out,” VanDerveer said. “We ran hard. We play in a very tough conference, and I think the fact that we had a lot of these games, it really got us ready for this.”

Noted Prechtel, “I think tonight shows a lot about the depth of our team. It will definitely help keep some of the players that got high minutes fresh. So it’s big for us, and it helps us moving forward into the rest of this tournament and the NCAA tournament.”

In the Arizona win, the Wildcats forced a bunch of turnovers early though Washington State (12-11) is being tossed out of the tourney for the first time in seven seasons with an upgraded plus.500 record.

PAC-12 rookie of the year Charlisse Leger-Walker had 12 points and her older sister Krystal, both out of New Zealand, had 10.

“We got beat by a really good team,” said Cougars coach Kamie Ethridge, a former Texas star. “They manhandled us. Congratulations to Arizona. I thought they were savage on us and smelled blood from the very beginning. They made it so hard for us to score points.

“I love our defense and how hard they played. We’re just weren’t good enough on the offensive end yet to relieve the pressure we faced.”

Arizona (16-4) got 17 points from Trinity Baptiste, 13 from Aari McDonald, and 10 from Cate Reese.

The Wildcats scored 23 points off turnovers.

“We wanted to get back to what we were doing so well a couple ofd weeks ago,” said Arizona coach Adia Barnes, an alum. “You know, intensity. And coming out with that fire snd I think we really did that and were on point, defensively. Weren’t able to convert at times, but really tough times for their ball handlers and trapping them in their sets.”  

In the UCLA game, the Bruins (15-4) got 12 points each from Charisma Osbourne and Michaela Onyenwere asnd built a 15-pint lead in the first half on the Huskies (7-14). Osbourne also grabbed 10 rebounds. Natalie Chou got five of the team’s 15 steals.

Washington’s Quay Miller scored a game-high 19 points. Tameiya Sadler added 12.

The Huskies rallied twice to take one-point leads in the third quarter but made just 2 of 12 shots over the final 10 minutes.

The Bruins are headed to the semifinals for the sixth straight season.

In the game with the upset, the third quarter became Oregon’s demise as Oregon State (11-7) scored 31 points in the period.

The Ducks (13-8) entered the final period with 15 points needed to be overcome.

“I’m proud of our team and the fight we showed,” said Oregon coach Kelly Graves. “Certainly in the last quarter.

“Unfortunately our defense just in that third quarter let us down. We did such a good job in the first half against them and it just kind of fell apart there for a little stretch in the third quarter, and that was the game. We tried like crazy to come back and had some opportunities.”

Said Oregon State coach Scott Rueck, whose team had been cursed all season by the coronavirus with a long pause, “We knew it was going to take a big effort today. We knew just because of the recent game we played against them on Sunday it was going to be a bit of a chess match.

“That third quarter was special. We had great performances throughout our roster. I was just proud of the team for making plays and really happy and proud of them that they get to continue on in the tournament.”

Talia von Oelhoffen had 19 points while Aleah Goodman scored 13 with seven assists for the Beavers. Taylor Jones added 10 points with eight rebounds and Sasha Goforth had 10 points. 

Oregon’s Taylor Mikesell scored 24 points and Nyara Sabally had 16.

Looking Ahead: No. 24 Rutgers wraps up the regular season hosting No. 22 Ohio State at 8 Friday night on ESPN with the visiting Buckeyes ending their entire season since they proclaimed themselves done at this point. The Scarlet Knights are after their ninth straight win and possibly a third seed in next week’s Big Ten tournament.

Conference Tournament Roundup:

Big East: The Big East moves from seven years in the Midwest to New England in the former home of the American Athletic Conference but with the mainstay still in the Mohegan Sun in top-ranked UConn.

But not Friday.

Three games has Xavier meeting Saint John’s at 11 a.m., Butler and Providence play at 2, and Georgetown and Creighton play at 5 p.m.

On Saturday, Connecticut plays at noon, Villanova and DePaul play at 3 p.m., Seton Hall plays at 9 p.m., and Marquette plays at 6 p.m.

Atlantic Coast: It’s the quarterfinals and Wake Forest meets top-seeded and No. 5 ranked Louisville at noon in Greensboro Coliseum in North Carolina. Syracuse and 4th-seeded Florida State meet at 2:30 p;.m., while Virginia Tech and second-seeded and number three ranked North Carolina State meet at 6 p.m. The Hookies lost their first meeting in overtime but then came back and pulled the upset at home later that same week. Clemson and Georgia Tech wrap the day up at 8:30 p.m.

SEC: It’s time for quarterfinals here also in Greenville, S.C., with No. 7 ranked and second-seeded South Carolina meeting Alabama at 6 p.m., while Top seeded and second ranked Texas A&M meet LSU at 11, with the Tigers applying the only dent on the Aggies’ season, though A&M evened the score a few weeks later. No. 17 Kentucky and No. 16 Georgia meet at 1 p.m., followed later by No. 14 Tennessee and Mississippi at 8 p.m.

PAC-12: A power packed semifinals with top-seeded and fourth-ranked Stanford meeting the Cinderella fifth-seeded Oregon State at 8 p.m. followed by 9th-ranked and third-seeded UCLA meeting 11th-ranked and UCLA at 11 p.m.

Ohio Valley: Semifinals are also the word here with Tennessee Tech and UT Martin meeting at 2 p.m., followed by Murray State and Belmont at 4:30 p.m.

Southern: More semifinals action as ETSU and Wofford meet at noon followed by Furman and Mercer at 2:15 p.m.

West Coast: More early round action with Saint Mary’s playing Pacific at 5 p.m. after Loyola Marymount and Portland play at 2 p.m.

In regular season competition, Towson has a second day of makeup games with UNCW and should UNCW win, Drexel will flip from a four to a two seed in next week’s Colonial Athletic Association tourney at Elon in North Carolina.

Sun Belt: First-round action has UL Monroe meeting Appalachian State at noon, followed by Georgia Southern and Texas State at 12:30 p.m. in games on separate campuses. Central Carolina and Little Rock play at 2:30 p.m., while Arkansas and South Alabama play at 3 p.m.

And believe it or not - that’s the report and the Siroky SEC report will go up shortly.




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