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.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Guru Report: Scaife Now Part of Rutgers Scoring Mount Rushmore Leading Payback to Princeton

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Rutgers redshirt senior Tyler Scaife was in no rush Wednesday night to get to the ritual of blowing out candles on a cake to mark another birthday for the native of Little Rock, Ark.

She was too busy lighting the Rutgers scoreboard in the first half with 18 of her game-high 24 points as the Scarlet Knights continued their payback tour by victimizing nearby New Jersey state rival Princeton 70-50.

Just one more debt remains on the non-conference portion of their schedule when Houston comes visiting 6 p.m. Saturday.

Scaife, who was 4-for-5 on three-pointer attempts, missed all of last season due to a heart defect that has since been resolved and now her focus is on leading Rutgers (11-2) back to national prominence and in the process has sandblasted her profile, moving from 10th onto the Mount Rushmore of all-time scoring greats to third in program history.

Her latest performance was the fourth straight reaching 20 or more points and eighth overall on the 11-game schedule to date.

Scaife, whose Wednesday game aired on the Big Ten Network, now has 1,884 points after passing Philadelphia’s Kahleah Copper and is behind frontrunner Sue Wicks (2,655) and Cappie Pondexter (2, 211) — quick, pick  the one who will belong:

Wicks is a retired former WNBA all-timer with the New York Liberty, while Pondexter and Cooper are teammates on the WNBA Chicago Sky. Scaife, a likely first-round pick in next spring’s WNBA draft, is sitting 116 points behind becoming the third 2,000-point scorer in Rutgers history and just 327 away from pushing Pondexter aside.

With Rutgers deep, Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer doesn’t need to rely on Scaife to play most of regulation, especially with her team opening up large leads.

“When we took it to another level, you may have recognized the style of play,” she said, an allusion to her famed 55 pressure defense. “The names and players may change, but the style doesn’t change. Maybe the ghost or spirit.

“Last year we didn’t have any ghost or spirit,” she said of her worst-ever six-win record.

And if there was a low point, which is why Wednesday’s win is another impressive measuring stick, it came down the road at Princeton’s Jadwin Gym where the Tigers produced a thumping 64-34 victory.

Understand, the Tigers are one of the Ivy League powers alongside Penn, and this season Princeton (6-3) is better, only losing previously at home to just Georgia Tech and narrowly to then-No. 24 Villanova.

“I thank God that I’m able to live to see another day,” said Stringer, who is on her own national countdown to an join an elite group. “It makes a world of difference. It was very scary last year. I hadn’t seen anything like that before.

“That’s over. I don’t want to think about it. This game is one we lost big time to. Coming up Saturday (hosting Houston), we had a 10-point lead, 2 minutes, 10 seconds left. How do you lose like that?”

Wednesday’s win brought Stringer’s combined record at Cheyney, Iowa, and Rutgers to 988-392, placing her within 12 wins, which if all attained by later in the season she is targeted to become the fifth women’s coach to reach or surpass 1,000 career wins.

The late Tennessee legendary Pat Summitt and Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer have already passed the milestone while Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma at 999 is favored to reach the number when the Huskies host Oklahoma Tuesday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena near New London, Conn.

That same evening if North Carolina’s Sylvia Hatchell beats Washington Sunday, she also would get her first shot at 1,000.

The way the Big Ten schedule is set, which opens with Rutgers hosting Purdue, Dec. 28, the real heavy hitters don’t come on the horizon until a stretch of nationally-ranked conference teams beginning February 1 at Maryland and then it’s home with Michigan, at Ohio State and home with Maryland before finishing out at Wisconsin, hosting No. 25 Iowa, and then visiting Northwestern.

That stretch is also where Stringer could be knocking on the door to No. 1000.

Almost similar to the fabled 2007 season when Rutgers advanced to the NCAA title game, Stringer will have a stretch to build chemistry before meeting the conference big-timers, which back then was when her team was part of the old Big East.

“The whole conference is a challenge but seeing some tough teams early like South Carolina, which we lost competitively, we’ve seen a lot of different styles. I know I feel much better heading into the conference than last year.”

Scaife was asked what it was like rising to be mentioned among the likes of Wicks and Pondexter.

“It means a lot,” she said. “Cappie, she’s like a mentor to me. We talk all the time. I met Sue a couple of years back, so to be able to just have my name up there, it means a lot. It’s very humbling. Two great players to ever come through Rutgers, I’m just happy to be right behind them.”

Elsewhere on the boxscore, Rutgers’ Jazlund Rollins had 12 points and Ciani Cryor dealt a career-high nine assists while Princeton’s Sydney Jordan and Abby Meyers each scored 11 points and reigning Ivy player of the week Bella Alarie scored 10.

Alarie was Ivy freshman of the year last season.

Though Rutgers is known for its defense, the Scarlet Knights are on a marskmanship streak shooting 51.6 in the three recent  games combined.

Princeton next visits Wagner Sunday.

Looking Ahead

With this being finals week, the Guru local schedule is idle until Saturday when Temple hosts Marist at 2 p.m. in McGonigle while Rider travels to Newark in North Jersey to play NJIT at 1 p.m. on ESPN3. 

On Sunday, Saint Joseph’s hosts Drexel at 1:30 p.m.; La Salle visits Delaware State at 6; Penn State is at Pittsburgh at 2; besides the Princeton-Wagner game.

Nationally, Tennessee is at Long Beach; UCLA is at Seton Hall; DePaul is at Notre Dame; Georgia Tech is at Georgia; Ohio State is at Cincinnati; and Louisville is at Kentucky.

And that’s the report.



Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Bob Heller’s Philly WBB Small College Report: Lincoln Lions Roaring Along While Unbeatens Reduced to Zero

By Bob Heller (@Bob_Heller1)


 It was an exciting week in Philadelphia small college women’s basketball as the area’s lone unbeaten team was upset and then the team that upset them was soundly beaten in their next game. Several other teams were perfect on the week, getting back on the winning track or starting modest winning streaks.


We’re going to start our notebook off though, we the hottest team in the area right now and that would be Division II Lincoln University.  

The Lions ran their winning streak to four games, defeating Washington Adventist 77-53 on Thursday before crushing Chestnut Hill College 88-58 on Sunday improving to 5-3 on the season.   


Chestnut Hill College was the team that upset #11/#17 University of the Sciences on Saturday, ending the Devils seven game win streak and handing them their first loss, but we’ll get to that game a bit later.


Back to Lincoln, the Lions put on an explosive performance in the final two quarters against Chestnut Hill, outscoring the Griffins 25-15 and 20-8 to cruise to the win.  

LU point guard Brianna Logan broke the school’s record for assists in a game with 12 and recorded her first career double-double by adding ten points. Teira Pendleton led the Lions with 20 points while McKenzie Spencer added a career high 17.  Shahra Madison notched her second consecutive double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds. 


The Griffins (5-5) were led by Jaeda Wildgoose’s 13 points while Cassie Sebold contributed 11 off the bench.  Shannon Glenn added ten points.


Madison and Division I transfer Michelle Fitzgerald both recorded double-doubles in the Lions’ win over Washington Adventist with Fitzgerald scoring a career-high 24 points and grabbing 11 rebounds while Madison chipped in 14 points and 12 rebounds.  Logan had a career-high 16 points.


Back to Chestnut Hill, the Griffins outplayed nationally ranked USciences on Saturday, pulling away late to earn  a 72-65 win and hand the Devils (7-1) their first loss of the season.  Glenn scored 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds while Wildgoose had 13 points and 10 rebounds.  

The Griffins scored four straight points to break a 51-51 tie midway through the fourth quarter and take the lead for good.   An Alex Thomas three-pointer win the final seconds brought the Devils within three, 68-65, but they could get no closer.  Sarah Abbonizio finished the game with a career-high 26 points while Thomas added 18.  Jordan Vitelli chipped in 11 for the Devils who shot an uncharacteristically low 20% from three point range (6-30) and 31.8% from the field (The Griffins shot 43.6%).


The USciences upset was the Griffins’ lone victory on the week as another hot team in the CACC, Jefferson Universit,y defeated Chestnut Hill  81-71 in overtime on Tuesday and earned their third straight win on Saturday, defeating Holy Family University 73-67.


Against the Griffins, Jefferson’s Caitlyn Cunningham scored a game-high 24 points off the bench with seven rebounds while Jessica Kaminski notched a double-double in the win behind 15 points and 13 boards. 

Ayoola Oguntuase also scored 15 points in the game.  Vicky Tumasz had 19 points for the Griffins while Wildgoose had 18 points and 17 boards.


A tie game heading into the fourth quarter, the Griffins took a four point lead early in the period before a 3-ball from Cunningham and a basket by Oguntuase erased the deficit and gave the Rams a one point lead. 

Jefferson, formerly known as Philadelphia U., extended their lead to six with under a minute to go in regulation before the Griffins rallied with an 8-2 run to send the game into overtime.  

Trailing by one with three second left, Sebold was fouled and had a chance to put the Griffins ahead, but made just one of two to tie the game at 67-67.


In the overtime the Rams dominated, outscoring the Griffins 14-4 to earn the victory.


On Saturday against the Tigers, Kaminski notched another double-double with 11 points and 11 boards and also dished out seven assists in the 73-67 win.  Cunningham led the team with 18 points.  Elizabeth Radley led the Tigers (1-9) with 23 points.


The Tigers outscored the Rams 23-5 in the second quarter and led 41-28 at the break before the Rams countered with a 21-11 effort to close within three and then take the lead early in the fourth quarter before pulling away for the win.


Jefferson now has an area best nine wins with only one loss, and moved up to third in the latest D2SIDA Regional poll; USciences dropped to fourth. 


West Chester University got back on the winning track with a 72-53 win at home against Mercyhurst University on Saturday, the Golden Rams’ lone game of the week, improving their record to 5-3.


A low scoring affair in the first half, the two teams were tied at 22-22 heading into the third quarter.  West Chester scored the first five points of the period enroute to opening up a nine point lead heading into the final period where the Golden Rams dominated, pushing the lead to 20 on five separate occasions before finishing up with the 19-point win and move to 2-3 in PSAC games this season.


Porscha Speller and Katherine Fisher had 14 points apiece to lead West Chester.  Mia Hopkins had a team high eight rebounds.


Chester County’s third Division II squad Cheyney University dropped an 87-46 decision to #16 Edinboro on Saturday to fall to 1-9 overall and 0-5 in PSAC games.  Briana Hedgepeth led the Wolves with 12 points.


Moving across counties and Divisions into Delaware County and the area Division III schools, Cabrini University had a perfect week, defeating Cairn University 59-40 and later Susquehanna 64-60 on Saturday, improving to 5-2 overall and 2-0 in CSAC games.


Against Cairn, the Blue and White were paced by Nomi Washington and Kate Lannon who each tallied 16 points. Washington added six rebounds and five steals, while Lannon chipped in five boards and two assists. 


The Cavaliers used a strong third quarter to pull away from the Highlanders, opening the period with a 13-2 run capped by three-pointers from Washington and Lexi Edwards to take a 38-19 lead and extended it to 49-27 by quarters end.


On Saturday, The Cavaliers used a late 12-2 run in the fourth quarter to secure the win over host Susquehanna University.  Washington again led Cabrini with 20 points while Lannon and Sabrina Hackendorn added 12 points apiece.


Cabrini held a 34-31 lead at halftime, courtesy of a Washington 3-ball at the buzzer but the River Hawks responded with a solid third quarter to lead by two 50-48 entering the final period.   Susquehanna pushed the lead to six midway through the fourth quarter before the Cavs produced their decisive 12-2 spurt to pull out the win.  Hackendorn had six of the 12 points.


Gwynedd Mercy University and Neumann University are also undefeated in CSAC games as the Griffins lost a pair of non-conference tilts and the Knights split two non-conference games.


Gwynedd Mercy opened the week with an 85-60 loss to DeSales University before falling to Kings College 58-53 to drop their overall record to 4-3 while remaining steady at 2-0 in league play.


In the loss to Kings Susan Bossler led the Griffins with 16 points and eight rebounds.  Gwynedd Mercy would hold a slim lead at halftime before falling behind by six early in the third quarter.  The Griffins rallied to tie the score at 40-40 before a Monarch bucket but the host team back on top 42-40.


A 6-0 run to start the fourth quarter gave the Griffins a four point lead.  King’s rallied to tie the game before the Griffins retook the lead 53-51 on a Bianca Adams three-pointer.  Kings closed out the game with a 7-0 spurt to pull away with the win.


Sydney Thompson led the Griffins with ten points in their 85-60 loss to DeSales.


Neumann opened the week with a 77-69 win over Rutgers Camden but lost on Saturday to Catholic University 65-42.  The Knights are 5-4 overall and 2-0 in league play.


Against Rutgers-Camden, Nafisa Saunders led four Knights in double-digits with a game-high 20 points. Lauren Leicht netted 13 points, including 7-for-9 at the line. Minika Glenn scored 11 points while Mariah Maciejewski added 10. 


Gabby Greene and Michelle Obasi led Rutgers-Camden with 17 and 16 points respectively.


The Knights used a 20-3 uprising in the second quarter, taking command of the game while reversing a 27-20 deficit to lead by ten at the half 40-30.  The teams played equally throughout the third quarter and the Knights held a 59-48 lead heading into the final 10 minutes. 

Neumann built up a lead as large as 15 points during the final quarter. With under a minute remaining, Rutgers-Camden hit a three-pointer to get back to within six, 73-67. Leicht and Saunders hit key free throws down the stretch to seal the win and prevent the comeback attempt.


Saunders was the lone Knight in double figures in Neumann’s 23-point loss to Catholic Universitywith 13 points.  Legler added eight.


Neumann led early in the first quarter before an 11-0 run by the Cardinals put the hosts in control with an 18-10 lead heading into the second quarter.  The two teams played evenly in the second quarter but the Cardinals doubled up the Knights in the third to take firm control of the contest, holding a double digit lead the rest of the way.

Eastern University won their first two games of the season last week, defeating a pair of CSAC schools, Rosemont, 70-39 and Immaculata 60-53.


In the “Battle of the Birds”, the Eagles jumped out to a 23-1 lead in the opening quarter and never looked back as they cruised to the 31-point win.  


Regie Robinson and Amanda Riiff finished with 16 points each, and Taylor Price picked up her first double-double of the year with 14 points and ten rebounds.


The Eagles held the Ravens to just 25.4% shooting from the field and used a 12-0 run to start the second half to take a 43-9 lead.  Rosemont did cut the deficit to 22 points with a 12-0 run of their own midway through the third.


Amber Lomax was the lone Ravens player in double figures with 11 points.  Rosemont falls to 6-2 on the season.


Eastern earned their second win of the year later in the week, defeating Immaculata 60-53 behind Brianna Young-Harris’ 19 points.  The eagles improve to 2-5 on the season.  Immaculata falls to 2-6.


Annie Kohutka led Immaculata with 19 points while Theresa Kearney added 11.


The Eagles led 23-20 at the half and held the Mighty Macs to just eight first half field goals and 27.5% shooting (8-29).  Immaculata used a 14-2 run in the third quarter to take an eight point lead 39-31 before the Eagles came back to close the gap to one at 41-40 heading into the final stanza.


A 10-3 run to start the fourth quarter put the Eagles in control as they held on for the seven point win.


Widener University split a pair of games, beating Albright College, 77-70 to start the week before falling to Lycoming 79-61, keeping their record even at 4-4 overall and 1-3 in league play.


In earning their first conference win of the season over Albright, Widener’s Madison Ireland scored  a career-high 28 points, 14 in each half as the Pride used a strong fourth quarter to come-from behind and win.


Albright led by six at the end of three quarters when the Pride scored the first seven points of the final period to take their first lead since 2-0. 

Widener later went on an 8-1 run to take a 73-68 lead with 2:26 left.  The Pride were a perfect 4-4 from the free throw line over the final two minutes to close out the game with the win.


Allison Gallagher scored a season-high 26 points as the Pride lost at Lycoming 79-61 on Saturday.  Widener got the early jump in the game as Gallagher scored nine of her points in the first with the Pride leading the majority of the frame before a late spurt gave Lycoming an 18-13 lead. The Warriors extended their lead as the second quarter went on, taking a 37-25 lead into halftime.


In the second half, the Blue and Gold battled back, opening the third period on a 15-9 run to slice the lead to six on an Ireland triple with 5:42 remaining. Lycoming recovered, however, and pushed the lead to 13 by the end of the frame and led by double digits the rest of the way.

Moving on to the Centennial Conference where the two top teams Haverford and #19 Muhlenberg met earlier in the week.  The match lived up to its billing as the two teams battled back and forth the whole way with the end result being a Muhlenberg win 53-51, handing the Fords their first conference loss.


Macy Goldbach led the way for the Fords offensively with 11 points while Sierra Berkel (nine points, 10 rebounds) and Samantha Wetzel (eight points, 10 rebounds) each narrowly missed double-double efforts.


A 9-0 run by the Fords gave the visitors a 17-12 lead before Muhlenberg rallied to retake the lead.  Haverford again rallied to lead by four at the break 23-19.  In the third quarter the Mules pushed the tempo with an 11-1 run to take a 39-30 lead before Ford 3-ball made it a six point game at 39-33.


Haverford tied the game at 39-39 in the fourth quarter before the Mules powered their way back to a five point lead 44-39.  Haverford whittled the lead back down to one on three separate occasions, the last being 52-51 in the final minute but the Fords could get no closer.


The Fords played their final game of 2017 Saturday at home against Washington College, cruising to a 58-32 win to improve to 7-2 overall and 4-1 in conference play.

Wetzel led the Fords with 18 points while Berkel added 12.


Haverford scored the first eight points and never looked back jumping out to a 12-3 lead at the end of the first quarter and increasing that to 26-7 by halftime.  The Fords outscored WC in each of the four quarters 


Ursinus also lost to Muhlenberg last week, 76-70.  Lydia Konstanzer had 25 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Bears. Toni Suler added 13 points while Marisa Morano chipped in ten points.


The game saw six ties and eight lead changes as the two teams battled it out on the hardwood.  

Ursinus held a 26-25 lead midway through the second quarter before the Mules rallied to lead 40-35 at the break.  A fairly even third quarter saw the Mules maintain their lead and increase it to seven midway through the fourth, 66-59. 

 The Bears clawed back within one on two occasions before the Mules were solid down the stretch and held on for the win.


Ursinus opened the week with a 12-point win at Swarthmore, keeping the Garnet winless in league play at 0-5.  Konstanzer had 15 points to pace the Bears.  Audra Woodside led Swarthmore with 15 points.


Finally we go briefly over the river to Rowan University, which split their two games last week, opening the week with an 87-82 win over the College of New Jersey before falling at Montclair State 61-48 to move to 5-4 overall and 3-2 in league play.


The Profs got a career high 30 points from Alex Raring in their win over TCNJ.  Dominique Peters and Olivia Rulon contributed 17 points apiece.


After a close first half (40-39) the Profs used a 25-4 flourish in the third quarter to lead by 22 65-43 before TCNJ cut the deficit in half 69-58 by the end of the quarter.  TCNJ pulled within three points with an 11-0 run in the fourth quarter and later tied the score at 76-76 on Jen Byrne’s triple with 2:56 left.  Back-to-back baskets from Raring put the Profs back up by five 81-76 which would be as close as the Lions would get down the stretch.


Raring led the Profs with 17 points as they fell to nationally ranked Montclair State on Saturday 61-48.

In weekly awards handed out by the New Jersey Athletic Conference, Stockton’s Sasha Williams, a senior forward from Cherry Hill West, was named player of the week while Shannon Devitt of The College of New Jersey, a freshman forward out of Westfield High, earned rookie honors.


Final exams are upon most of the area and many school will not see action during the week until Saturday if at all.  We’ll have a new notebook for you at least once more before Christmas.

The Guru Report: Nwokedi 3-Pointer Triggers Rare Penn Big Five Win Over Saint Joseph’s

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA — By the math, if nothing else, the Big Five women’s basketball race is still wide open, even if a clear frontrunner exists, though one of the quintet has been vanquished.

A rare three-pointer from Penn’s Michelle Nwokedi late in the game Monday night on Hawk Hill at Hagan Arena triggered an even rarer conquest by the Quakers who beat Saint Joseph’s 57-50 for only the second time here and third time overall in what is now a 43-game series between the two schools, mostly within the annual local round robin.

The last win for Penn (3-4, 1-1 Big Five), which snapped a two-game losing streak on this season, came at home in The Palestra three seasons ago and the previous win here occurred on Dec. 1, 2004.

Saint Joseph’s (5-4, 0-3), in what has been a nearly two-week scoring slump, dropped its fourth straight, a slide that began losing at Temple after an early lead, continued West of here on the Main Line with the worst loss ever at Villanova, then on to an upset setback down at Towson in suburban Baltimore, and now to Penn to be knocked out of Big Five race at 0-3, following the first home loss of the season.

The Hawks’ remaining City Series game is at La Salle, January 28, which is also the first of two with the Explorers in the home-and-home setup within the Atlantic 10.

Penn, which went 0-4 against the locals last season, will visit Villanova, Jan. 17, and Temple a week later.

The Wildcats (9-0, 2-0), who moved up to No. 20 in this week’s Associated Press Poll, will come out of the finals break to visit La Salle Dec. 20, a week from Wednesday, before next month’s game with Penn.

The Quakers arrived here after a 13-point-lead-yielding loss at La Salle and then improving in Saturday’s competitive loss to then-No. 3 Notre Dame at The Palestra.

“I didn’t know that either,” said Penn coach Mike McLaughlin of the lopsided Hawks domination. “This is the ninth time playing them since I’ve been here and only second time we’ve beaten them.”

The triumphed extended McLaughlin’s program record now at 10 Big Five wins in his nine seasons at the helm of the Quakers.

“There were a few we didn’t close and in this one we did close,” he said.

Saint Joseph’s led briefly by three late in the first quarter before Penn took over to build a 10-point lead in the second quarter and still have some comfort at 29-21 at the half.

It got to 12 and stood at 11 at the end of the third before the Hawks stirred with a 9-0 run in the final stanza, moving within a field goal at 45-43 with 6:09 left in regulation.

Then Penn responded as freshman Eleah Parker, who had a career night with 15 points, 4 blocked shots and eight rebounds, went inside and then after Saint Joseph’s failed to score on the next possession, Nowkedi, the reigning Ivy player of the year who had been 0-for-12 from beyond the arc, took a pass from Parker and zipped a triplet to extend the lead to 50-43 with 4:05 left.

“That was a dagger,” said Hawks coach Cindy Griffin. “That really hurt us.”

It got to nine on a layup from Nowkedi after a Saint Joseph’s miss on the ensuing possession and the Quakers were able to manage things so that only 15 seconds remained when the home team got back within six.

“We didn’t play particularly well at La Salle, we started well, but credit to them, but it’s good to get this one, especially going into finals. We’re starting to get better,” McLaughlin said.

“The only way we can make Notre Dame what we did, in terms of competing at a high level, a Top 5 team, is to come out here and make it worthwhile, and come out here and play with confidence and we did that.

“I thought we dictated all night, except maybe early in the first quarter, I liked the way we played.”

Nwokedi had 14 points, three assists, four steals, and a pair of blocks, to go with the three-pointer, making her only long-range attempt in the game for the two-time reigning Ivy League champions.

“She made a bunch last year. I’m glad she was in the gym all day,” McLaughlin said. “That was a good shot for her. But she put a lot of work today, spent an hour in the gym, I’m glad it paid off for her.”

Anna Ross was efficient at the point again, scoring five and dealing five assists.

Penn returns from the break to host Rhode Island Dec. 22 at 1 p.m. at The Palestra, then on Dec. 28-29 the Quakers head up to NJIT’s tournament in Newark to open with VCU and then meeting either the host Highlanders or NCAA participant Long Beach.

“Then we open with Princeton (Jan. 6 at home), and it all begins and we still have those two Big 5 games, so we’re going to embrace this one,” McLauhlin said.

On the Saint Joseph’s side, the Hawks were once again bedeviled on the offensive side, hitting at a 36.1 percent clip from the field, and Penn forced 17 turnovers.

Sarah Veilleux had a game-high 16 points while Adashia Franklyn had 12 points and 13 rebounds. Avery Marz, who has come back this season to finally play after being sidelined the previous two recovering from a stroke, got her first start and got three points in 13 minutes of play.

Chelsea Woods, currently sidelined with some health issues, didn’t play but Griffin got 20 minutes off the bench from Jaryn Garner, who was granted a fifth year of eligibility right before the season began. She grabbed seven rebounds.

“What a great Big Five game, what a great Big Five battle,” Griffin said afterwards. “I was proud of some of our kids who hadn’t been playing well, started playing well. Jaryn did a nice job off the bench. Avery’s start was inspirational, she did a nice job for us as well.

“Penn has been a team trying to find their way. They worked hard and made some key baskets. Proud of the way our kids battled back and put ourselves in position to win the game.

“We have to find ways to win. I told them (her team) I don’t mind 50-point games as long as the other team has 49.”

The Hawks are off the rest of the week and return Sunday to host Drexel, at 1:30 p.m. on the front end of a doubleheader with the men. The tip had originally been set for 1 p.m. depending what schedule you might possess.

Local Honors and Notes

Villanova’s move to No. 20 this week in the AP Poll is the Wildcats’ highest ranking since No. 9 in January, 2004. Junior Adrianna Hahn is the Big East player of the week.

Temple’s Mia Davis picked up another freshman of the week citation from the American Athletic Conference while Princeton’s Bella Alarie took Ivy player of the week honors, and Rider swept the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference awards with Kamila Hoskova being named player of the week and Jaiden Morris taking the rookie award.

It’s a lite week for finals on the schedule but the Guru’s next stop Wednesday night in the battle of U.S. 1 or N.J. 206 — take your traffic poison — or NJT/Cab-or-Uber-or-Lyft as Rutgers hosts Princeton at 6 p.m.

And that’s the Guru’s report.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Mike Siroky’s SEC Report: Two Unbeatens Remain While Tennessee Upsets Texas

By Mike Siroky

The best of Southeastern Conference of women’s basketball  – those ranked by the Associated Press – has two undefeated teams.

 Tennessee is 10-0 and Mississippi State 9-0. But four other teams have nine wins already towards the goal of 10  before the conference starts.

 The initial season goal is 20 wins. No league team with 20 wins has ever missed the NCAA eliminations. It turns out, UT vs. UT was the national game of the week and a Florida weekend  in the off-season is not always a nice trip.


No. 5 South Carolina                                                                                                                                                                                  

The Gamecocks continued their quest to win the state, this time against College of Charleston. 

They started on a 17-3 run and Wilson had 12 of those points.

 Lindsey Spann is still missing in action rehabbing a week old wrenched knee. The start led to a 19-6 quarter, another marker of a single-digit defensive effort leading to a win. They then posted 1 15-4 second. Wilson had 18, already a double/double with 11 rebounds, eight defensive. She was 4-of-5 from the line. She knew there was not going to be much playing time is this runaway.

Even playing multiple lineups, they won every quarter of a 69-43 win, Wilson scored 26 in 22 minutes with another double/double, 15 rebounds, 11 defensive. Alexis Jennings, 5-of-7 from the floor, scored 12. Bianca Jackson had 10 rebounds.  Freshman LeLe Grissett scored 10 in her best outing. 

The best women’s draw in the world had 11,732 this time.

“My teammates really help me get the basketball in [playing collegiate basketball and they haven’t even seen the SEC yet.)”

They were the first to nine wins. They will take 12 days off to finish the semester tests, Pass your tests, Wilson said to her teammates. “I want to pass my tests and walk across that stage.”

“(The start was) pretty good,” said coach Dawn Staley “You know, the amount of times spent on getting up to a fast start in the beginning of the game and in the third quarter, those are areas that are stressed for us because we are inconsistent in those areas. When we start the game off with two turnovers back-to-back, its usually a good sign of how the day is going to go. So, we’ve got to clean that up.”

This week, they welcome in Savannah State for the end of the state challenge, then they are at Temple before having the Christmas holidays off until the start of the SEC season.

No. 6 Mississippi State

The Bulldogs took a week off for final exams, then jumped back into it and moved to 9-0 at home against Arkansas-Little Rock. In continuing support of our idea this is the season for seniors, Victoria Vivians was selected as league player-of-the-week.

A large addition is Jordan Danberry. She transferred in from the dissolving Arkansas program in January and, now that the semester has turned, she can begin playing after working out with the team even in the championship season. She started 30 games for the Razorbacks.

She is a former Arkansas state high school player of the year. State recruited her then as well

“I’m excited to have Jordan eligible’, said coach Vic Schaefer.. “She’s been working hard for a year. She really adds a lot to our team – on and off the court. It’s really been fun to have her with us for the last year. Her energy in practice has really made us better. She’s been a very integral part of our success a year ago. Even though she didn’t play in a game, she got us ready every day. She’s a kid that brings it every day. So, we’re excited to be able to start playing her and she’s ready.”

Point guard Morgan William welcomed the addition as well.

“She’s a great defensive player. I’m glad she’s going to be on my team in practice now, “William said. “I don’t like when she guards me and I have to guard her in practice. She’s very fast. Throughout her time here, I have seen her jump shot get better. She rebounds. Her defense turns into offense. She does it all. You will remember Jordan after watching her play..”

Danberry said, “I’ve been anxious to play. I’m always playing with the practice team, but this week I get to wear the jersey. It’s kind of bittersweet, but I think I’m ready for it.

“ I knew it was a good program from the beginning. All of the people here were so nice, and It felt like a family. It just felt right:

 Watching last year’s team, especially seeing how far they made it. I just wanted to bring that back again this year. I wanted to make sure I can help the team to have another Final Four season.”

Even moving up one spot in the national rankings, this team is just worried about its ownself.

They took a Sunday visit from Arkansas Little Rock and the ninth win was no challenge. The Trojans had already lost by 17 to Texas A&M.

It was 43-28 at the half. William had an inspired scoring half, 12points. Schaefer went to the bench early and got 13 points there. Then came the defining third, 25-2. “I really liked our response coming out of the locker room (at halftime),” Schaefer said. “We responded. We played really well in the third quarter. Little Rock is really good. I am excited about our response today.

 “In the second half, we were special. In the first half, even though we were ahead by 15, nobody was really happy about how we played. At halftime, we talked about intensity, heart and effort. The Bulldogs are honoring each senior, a game at a time. This was  William’s designated day. She finished with 16 points; Teaira McCowan scored 13 with 11 rebounds, Victoria Vivians 12 and 11.  All played limited time with the score  inequity. Danberry eased in with 13 minutes. They drew 5010.

They have Oregon and Maine at home this week before a two-game Duel in the Desert tournament in Las Vegas. If they enter the SEC season with 13 wins, they are golden.

No. 11 Tennessee

Coach Holly Warlick played everyone and everyone scored in the 131-69 beatdown of Troy. They were up 61-30 by half and Jamie Nared already had 20 on 8-of-11 (including 2-of-3 3s and free throws). Mercedes Russell had 11 and Rennia Davis 10 with seven rebounds.

It ended, with  Russell scoring 27 in 21 minutes. Nared had 27 in 24 minutes, 10-of-4 from the field, including 3-of-4 3s and 4-of-5 from the line. Davis and MeMe Jackson each scored 16, doubling with 10 rebounds each. Evina Westbrook had 12 assists, the conference high this season. Tennessee had 54 defensive rebound and 38 assists.

The crowd of 7,187, second- best in the world this night approved. UT set yet another program record in this season of firsts with 44 points in a single quarter the third, with another single-digit defensive stop, nine

Warlick said two points of emphasis are paying off, defense and rebounding.

 “We’ve really worked hard the last two weeks on those two things, and I know you can see how we’re improving and getting better. To say I’m proud and excited for our group, I am. I thought everybody contributed and did some really nice things for each other which led to an outstanding performance of our team.

“I love 38 assists, I love 14 turnovers, and I especially love 88 points in the paint. You get 88 points in the paint, you’re going to shoot a high percentage, and we almost shot 60 percent. I love that.”

She said the 38 assists are another team effort.

“It’s not too often you have a kid have 12 assists like Evina,”Warlick said. “ Evina gives us confidence to be able to pass the basketball. She sees the floor and it’s contagious. With this team, the ball doesn’t get stuck in their hands. It just doesn’t get stuck in their hands, and they love to move the ball and distribute the ball, all of them. 

We’re just a lot better passing team, and I’ve said this a lot, our turnovers are  trying to make things happen, not turnovers dribbling off of your foot. As long as we’re trying to make plays and get us a better shot, I’m okay with it. Now, we have to cut that down, but I like us being aggressive and trying to lead another player to a better shot.”

Nared  is showing leadership, said Warlick.

“I thought Jaime set the tone for us. She took great shots. She didn’t rush her shots. She didn’t shoot off balance. She and I watched her shots after last game and I just thought it was important for her to see when she takes shots off balance her percentage isn’t high. She was solid in everything she did -- three steals and a couple assists. She just has an outstanding game. I know what she’ll say, and what I look at is Jamie Nared didn’t have an offensive rebound. She’s going to tell me with 27 points we didn’t need an offensive rebound.”

 The majority of the assists came from the superb freshmen class.

“They are individual All-Americans, but they understand the point of being a team, “ Warlick said.

“I’ve never had a problem with any of our freshmen not understanding what we need to do as a team, and that’s what makes these freshmen special to me. They’re great players, but what they bring is the love for the game, the love for this program and the understanding that they need to help this program. What’s great is that they want to distribute the basketball, then they have all these points, so sometimes we have to tell them to shoot the basketball. 

“They’re not concerned with who’s starting, they just want to win the basketball game. When you get kids like that, they’re special kids, and you’re going to see success from your basketball team and I think you’re seeing it there. We’re playing together, and when a team plays together, great things happen.

When they were at the All-American game and they stuck together, that’s a great sign. They knew each other through AAU, but when they got in that environment, they all stuck together. That’s great. 

“And when they got on campus, classes tend to bond together, especially the freshmen because they’re new and they don’t know what to expect. Here’s what they did different than a freshman group that we’ve had: they ask questions, and it’s questions because they want to get better. They listen. They listen to their teammates. 

“They don’t listen all the time, but they’re willing to listen to their teammates, and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to make this team special and important. That’s hard to come by. They want to be coached, and when a kid wants to be coached, great things are going to happen to them. You’ll see the result of when they came in and how they are now, they’ve gotten better, and they’re going to continue to get better because they’re extremely coachable young ladies.”

UT senior Kortney Dunbar had eight rebounds.

“Holly’s been on me, telling me if my shot isn’t falling, maybe get inside and follow my shot, which I guess translates to rebounding, “Dunbar said.

 “Tonight, I saw that I was getting more of my points inside, so that kind of made me want to go inside more, and like Holly said, keep crashing the boards. We’ve been working on that in practice a lot more, just rebounding. We have bigger girls coming in, we’re going to have to get a lot more offensive rebounds. 

“From the team perspective, like Jaime said, we’re just a different team this year. You can feel it. You can feel it off the court; you can feel it on the court. When we step on the floor we’re in attack mode, and I think what Holly has been implementing in practice is the game speed, the game style, and just the attitude that we play with in practice, because if we have that game speed and game style and game speed in practice, that’s going to easily translate to the floor.”

“What really helps is being here in June and July for summer school. I think that’s where it starts. Everyone’s coming from their hometown, everyone has their own records, and that kind of disappears when you all step on the floor together. We do a lot of team bonding stuff off the floor as a team, whether it’s playing cards, going to dinner, and I think that’s something that’s very important. It may sound cliché, but when your team is that close where you can trust each other off the floor, that’s what leads to on floor things such as the second-most assists in school history, because you want to see your teammates do as well as you, or you want to see your teammates do well, so I think being able to call freshmen after school and see if they need a ride somewhere, that’s one of those small things that makes them be able to trust you on the floor and ask for advice.”

Nared agrees.

”We have a different mentality this year,” Nared said. “We knew that they were going to have a lot of possessions, we knew that they liked to play up-tempo. I think in our scouting report they had 99 possessions per game or something crazy like that. We knew it was going to be up-tempo, we knew we were going to have to play against a press every game and just be on attack mode every game.

“It’s important to get off to a fast start in any game. I think we’ve struggled with that in the past. It’s good to know that everybody’s ready, everybody’s focused, and just let that carry over throughout the whole game. But I think a couple games we’ve had, we’ve started out great and then let the other team go on a run. Basketball is a game of runs, but we want to make the runs that other teams have smaller than ours. I think we did a pretty good job today of limiting theirs.

Everybody wants to get better.

Then it was on to a traditional power foe in a series which Warlick had participated as a player, No. 2 Texas. Big Orange vs. Big Orange, UT vs. UT. 

Tennessee  had a 23-15  edge in the competition. Texas was an Elite Eight team.  Texas has already beaten lesser SEC teams Georgia and LSU. New Tennessee AD Phil Fulmer was courtside with his daughters to see if his employee Warlick could get the biggest upset of her coaching career in front of he largest crowd of the season, 9,651. Which included former championship players on a reunion weekend.

Unfortunately for national viewers, a soccer game went overtime and bit into the telecast  the alphabetical cable giant, showing more disdain for the women’s game.

Irregardless, the teams started a combined 0-for-7 from the floor. Russell hit a second-chance jumper.

There was little motion on either side. Nared also scored off an offensive rebound. Both of these teams had outrebounded all foes until this game, so that was a tipping point. Tennessee streaked to a 10-2 lead and Texas needed the TV timeout.

The quarter ended unsettled, 16-11. Hitting poorly, Texas amped up its swarming defense, but the Vols withstood the challenge and went to 24-15 with five to go in the half. Nared and Westbrook each had eight. 

Tennessee was six ahead in rebounds. The No. 2 team in the nation staged a comeback and had it to a three with a minute to go. Meme Jackson hit a jumper and Texas junior forward Jordan Hosey chose the moment to get mouthy, right in front of a referee. Westbrook  dismissed her with a wave and each got unsportsmanlike technical.

A foul was called with one second to go in the half. Two free throws ended a 12-5 run spurred by a dozen points from the Texas bench and the difference was 29-27. Each side was hitting just 30 percent from the field Nared had eight points and eight rebounds. No  one looked comfortable.

“They’re just trying to give it to us and we don’t want it,” Texas coach Karen Aston screamed at her team.

The struggle continued. Tennessee won the third quarter and led by four Nared and Russel each had a double/double. Nared had 12 and 10, Russell 11 twice.

‘we are playing way too soft,” Aston said. “We have got to be tougher.”

They weren’t. It turns out the splendid start was the difference as was the 10-2 lead in the 82-75 win. In other words, Texas won  by one after that. 

Russell finished with 15 and 12. Nared with 23 and 14, including 11-of-14 from the line.. She had 11 points in the final quarter . Westbrook had 15 with three assists. The bench supplied 20 points.

Texas got it as close as one with 61 seconds  to go. But they were never in the lead. Tennessee’s eight final points were at the line, five by Davis.

“I’m a little sore,” Warlick said. “I feel like I played in the game. Great environment and we have a great deal of respect for Texas. Among our goals was to limit their transition points and they got four and that/s huge for us. We can do better.

“We competed, kept our composure. I am happy for these kids. They worked hard and we enjoyed this. We can continue to get better. This is one of the toughest teams we’ve had. They understand what needs to be done next.”

Nared sa, “We got stops when we needed them. I am just proud of everybody Wed didn’t back down. We just stayed together.”

Her classmate, Russell, agrees. “We just never gave up,” she said. 

Westbrook said this was the real, real test for the freshmen: “It was all emotions. I just have to be smarter, control my emotions. They’re a great team, we’re a great team.”

They go to California for Long Beach State then are at Stanford before a 10-day Christmas break.


No. 20 Kentucky

The Kats stayed in the  Top 20  after losing to a higher-ranked team by winning against Evansville, a team they had never beaten. But then lost two in Florida and may fall out of the Top 25.

No such challenge this year. They too posted a single-digit defensive effort, 35-8, enroute to the 100-62 win. They started 19-0.

It was 55-23 at the break. Maci Morris had 18 already, 7-of-7 from the field including 4-of-4 3s.Alyssa  Rice had 13. Coach Matthew Mitchell played 10. They had doubled rebounds, 22-10.

Morris finished with 20, matched by freshman Tatyana Harris off the bench (8-of-11) and 10 rebounds. She had missed five games rehabbing.  Morris was 4-of-5 on 3s.  The Kats won rebounds by 15. They had 23 assists and caused 20 turnovers. The 4,071 in attendance approved.

Mitchell first wanted to talk about Wyatt’s real debut after missing five games.

“I’m just so proud of her and we absolutely believe in her talent and her ability,” he said. “You know, I don’t ever go into games saying ‘Hey you need to go get 20 and 10.’ but you all can see that she’s extremely poised offensively for a freshman. She’s getting better defensively; hustling, smart, highly-intelligent player, plays hard, great attitude, walks in with a smile on her face most everyday ready to get better and ready to roll. Just doing an outstanding job. Very gifted, can certainly improve and get better, but we’re happy she’s on our team.

“That’s the thing that you’re so surprised about is that, I was ready to be extremely patient and let her work back in. I love the way she handled herself at Baylor. We all kind of had areas we didn’t do great in, but just finding some small victories there, I thought she handled herself well. I thought she just presented herself to the game extraordinarily well and reacted to the difficulty of the game well. I liked the way she was that night and then she had a nice game on Sunday and really just very little time to prepare for this one. So just got out there and made some plays tonight and was aggressive.

“There’s no question that Alyssa’s leadership has made a huge impact on our team and on individuals but just overall on our team. She’s a product of the program. She’s embraced improvement. She’s embraced all our principles and attributes that we’re about and is now passing them on to younger players and that’s what a leader does.

Morris also welcomed Wyatt back.

“To is tough,” Morris said. “She gets the ball down low, she’s going to score it. I just love her mentality when she gets it. She knows what to do. She’s going to go pull down a rebound. When she gets it, she’s going to go back up and take somebody’s head off if that’s what it means. She runs the floor. She’s playing great right now, so I’m really excited to see what else she can do.”

Wyatt seemed unimpressed with herself

It was very difficult (sitting out), actually,” she said “just having to think positive every day and telling myself that I’ll eventually come back. So, when I was able to come back, just how hard I needed to work

”Just potential on how I was running the floor. I was fighting for rebounds, so stuff like that.

“To get the first double/double in my career was a great feeling. Just knowing that my teammates trust me to have the ball in my hands gives me an opportunity to score, and then just working hard in position to get rebounds was a goal for me”.

They took to the road at Florida Gulf Coast and were upset, 70-64. They lost it in the first half, when the home team took a nine-point lead and then merely had to trade baskets. The smallest defining statistic was 46 percent from the floor for the Eagles to 40 percent. The Kats Had been winning by an average 18, hitting 14 more points per game

Mitchell played everyone. The surprise off the bench was a career-best five field goals with 11 points for Jaida Roper, 5-of-8 from the floor. Taylor Murray scored 19, 7-0f-8 from the line. Leading scorer Maci Morris fouled out, 10 points below her average. Tatyana Wyatt got her first start and scored.

“Florida Gulf Coast is a terrific team and they came out with tremendous passion and desire,”: Matthew Mitchell said. ”They wanted the game very badly and you have to give them all the credit. They were really well prepared, well coached and executed awesome. They just whipped us tonight and were much more enthusiastic in the game. It was a great crowd (1,258) and a great environment. I cannot say enough good things about Florida Gulf Coast.”

They ended the three games in five days experiment at Miami. Kentucky started well, 18-14 at the quarter stop. Rice and Morris each had nine in the early going. Morris was shooting horribly, 4-of-11. Rice had six rebounds, Morris four. A single-digit defensive stop in the second quarter gave them a 30-23 halftime. Mitchell had emptied his bench, everybody playing, but he failed to find an offensive rhythm. 

Miami rallied in the third, Morris had 14 but was 5-of-15. The hurricanes won the quarter by 10 and took the lead at 51-48. Miami’s superlative freshman Mykea Gray scored 10 in the quarter against a team-best 14,6 average.

Miami was happy to play defense in an abysmal offensive fourth. With 38 seconds left, the Hurricanes went up by seven on a free throw, UK had scored but six in the quarter. They missed three shots in the closing and had one blocked. Their own single-digit quarter doomed them.  It ended 65-54, back-to-back losses to unranked teams. 

They shot 38 percent from the field, a season low. Morris scored 18, but was 7-of-22  from the field, Rice only scored one basket after the first quarter

Mitchell had little to say.

They had a week to prepare for the annual state showdown, at No. 4 Louisville.

No. 21 Texas A&M

The Aggies played their annual midweek afternoon game for elementary school students. TCU had all five starters in double figures and were on a three-game winning streak. Only two hit double figures. 

A&M was won a fourth game against a state school and the fifth against the Big 12, 71-58.  A&M won its seventh straight against the Horned Frogs, 20-0 at home.

The Aggies were successful before the largest home crowd of the season, 7,480, of which 4,000 were students from 28 area schools. It is the 14th-largest home attendance since Reed Arena opened in 1998. The eergy ws important to the team in the second-half comeback1ith 18 points but  

Texas A&M erased a 13-point second-quarter deficit. It is its sixth comeback of 10 or more  points in the past two seasons.

Chennedy Carter remains the only Aggie ever to hit double figures in every game of her career, the 23 (6-0f-18 from the line) the fourth 20-plus,

Khaalia Hillsman scored 13 in the third, for a season-high 22. Anriel Howard had a season-high 16 rebounds, the eighth time this year with at least 10. Danni Williams scored 13, the eighth game this year with at least 10.

While the comeback was in progress over the middle quarters, coach Gary Blair observed: “It wasn’t what I said at halftime. I think the kids owned up to what they were not doing in the first half. We got into the same problems that we have had the past couple of games. We were not reversing the ball or getting the little things in there.

“ The second half we ran a couple of set plays to get the ball to  Hillsman. She wanted the ball more in the second half. Carter did a pretty good job of finishing. She leads the nation in scoring for freshmen … I think she is doing pretty good. We live with her mistakes like you do with all freshmen. Give that kid a lot of credit. 

Danni, we were able to get her loose. It wasn’t her best, but she hit the shots we had to have under pressure. She will work her way out of the slump.  Howard, look at what she did on the boards. She just gave us the energy she had to have. 

There is no way we win the rebounding battle if it weren’t for Anriel.

“I think the whole team was playing like a lull. We gave them plays to run, and we just didn’t execute. One thing TCU was doing was making four to five to six passes. What were we doing? Making one to two to three passes. 

“We go over it but we have to share the ball more and reverse the floor. We can’t just try to have the first option. Personally, I am having to play a lot of those kids a lot of minutes because we can’t get separation in the first half. I don’t want to be worn down before conference play. Give my kids credit for (playing a lot of minutes), but I don’t want to do that every game.

“Now, what got us going in the second half was 5,000 screaming kids. They made a difference. Sometimes I couldn’t tell if they were cheering for us or were the just cheering because I kept hearing a buzz.  That was fun playing in front of them. This win really meant a lot because we didn’t want to disappoint the 7,500 people that were here with a poor second half. We didn’t. We had a very good second half. To me that is a beautiful. I know where we need to work, and we will get better. Don’t worry. My players can hear me out there on the court. This is year five. It means so much to those kids.

“ Hopefully they will want to come back, but the most important thing is that I want them to come back to Texas A&M as a student.

Give TCU a lot of credit They have players and they are well-coached.”

Hillsman said it is a team win.

“It’s always my teammates,” she said. “I do my work early and I get rewarded for having the ball. I really give credit to them.

“ As for the sluggish start, I’m just going to say it was an early game today. We try not to do that often but you know sometimes it happens but we have to be able to get out of our little drought and come out with a better sense of urgency as the game progresses and I think that’s what we did today. I’m glad we won. Last year we lost and it was really heartbreaking for me to see all of those kids having to go home seeing their favorite Aggie Women’s Basketball team lose.

“ It’s always special playing for these little kids. That’s what we did it for, to inspire others. They inspire us also. We want to be a positive role model for those kids. It’s just really special to be able to influence people like that.”

Prairie View A&M, also at home, was another afternoon game, with the men’s teams following.

They survived a terrible second-quarter shooting (17.6) effort to delight the 3,886 in attendance.

The Sugar Bears tied it at hafltime, 29. 

A&M shot 55.1 percent in the second alf, led by Hillsman’;s  season-high 26 points, 19 after intermission. She went 10-of-14 from the floor to post her second straight 20-plus effort . Howard tied Danielle Gant and Kelsey Bone for the Texas A&M career record with her 19th double/double. She scored 20 and had 10 rebounds.

Carte remains the freshman in program history to score al least 10 in every game. It also reached double figures with 10 points. The Aggies outscored Central Arkansas 25-11 on second chance points and 20-10 on points off turnovers.

 “We started off running our stuff,” Blair said. “They were playing such a sagging man-to-man that we got everything we wanted on the jump shot early, and we had four assists, I believe in the first quarter. We had five at halftime.

“This was a ballgame I wanted to play kids a lot of minutes but again, it didn’t work out. When I subbed in, they ran their offense very well. We’ve got to do a better job, but we are not a very good defensive team. We’re making too many mistakes. We will get better, that’s all I can promise you.

“We had 20 assists. We had a lot of people share the ball at the end, and I said ‘Let’s go inside until they stop us but be patient, reverse the ball. We can get some open looks for Khaalia and Anriel.’ So when you do not have your best either game plan or your best energy, or you’re not playing well, quit trying to do something that’s not working for you, and that’s shooting jump shots and 3s.

 Hillsman said,” I just keep working. Sometimes when I don’t get the pass, I usually stop working, and I really give credit to my teammates for getting me the ball right when I need it. They’ve been doing a really good job giving me the ball right where I can just turn and score rather than having to wait and all that stuff, and I think I’ve done a better job of just continuing to work when I don’t get the ball the first time.

“I’m excited to go on the road. I love traveling, so it’s really just going to be up to us to bring the energy that we need because it’s a whole different atmosphere when you’re on somebody else’s court. When we’re on our court we have the advantage because it’s our 12th Man fans, it’s our atmosphere. 

“Once we get somewhere else sometimes the ref might not be leaning to our side, they might be leaning toward the home side, so it’s just up to us to bring the correct sense of urgency to come out how we’re supposed to.”

Howard, too, said she is just working hard to get better each game. The cumulative statistics bear her out

“I think my play was a little bit more up and down, she said. “The first quarter I did pretty good in the paint, and then second quarter I started to go down a little bit, but after coming back from halftime, my teammates talked to me a little and got me back up, and we started making buckets together.

 We’re not there yet. We’re going up, but we’re also going down. We fluctuate. We’re still trying to work on it to be consistent. It’s going to take some time, but we’re trying to get there.

“We started pretty good the first quarter and then went back down. I think it’s just more being mentally tough. Some people can call it fatigue, but I think it’s more mental than physical. We just have to continue to play hard throughout the whole game, not just up and down when we want to.

Texas A&M has off until Friday at Southern Cal, and wraps the pre-conference and Texas bragging rights seasons December 28 when SMU closes the year.


Trend: Before any fans of current top teams start chirping about historical placement, here’s the one telling statistic: UConn has been a No. 1 seed in the NCAA eliminations 100 times – and we might as well make that 101 now – and Tennessee has been there 98 times. No other league team is close. So, to make a claim of all-time prominence, someone will have to win a top seed 80 seasons to even be in the mix.

For the second straight season, Missouri , a ranked team, has declined to participate in our coverage.