By Mel Greenberg
Defending champion Saint Joseph’s and La Salle got off to impressive starts Thursday afternoon in the first round of the Atlantic 10 women’s basketball in Richmond, Va., and could do more damage Friday in the Quarterfinals.
Saint Joseph’s (22-8), the fifth seed and working the front part of the tournament in the George bracket, made 12th-seeded George Mason’s first appearance in the A-10 tourney short-lived with an 89-55 victory over the Patriots (8-23), who previously played in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA).
The Hawks advanced to a 2:30 p.m. quarterfinals matchup with fourth-seeded George Washington (20-9), which had a bye and a season split in the two games with Saint Joseph’s.
Seventh-seeded La Salle (15-14), meanwhile, continued its hot run late in the season with an opening 65-56 victory over No. 10 St. Louis (12-18) and will meet No. 2 St. Bonaventure (22-9) whom the Explorers upset last Saturday in the Explorers’ final game of the season which was played at home.
The Bonnies are entering the game in mourning due to the sudden death of 25-year-old Brian Moretti, their sports information director for women’s basketball, who died suddenly of cardiac arrest Wednesday night in Richmond on what was the first of two bye days for St. Bonaventure.
Morretti joined the university last fall and was set to move after the season to the elevated position of director of marketing and promotion.
Meanwhile, in the Hawks’ win, Saint Joseph’s used a balanced attack against GMU as Kelsey Berger set a new high when wearing a Hawks uniform as she scored 15 points. Ilze Gotfrida scored 14 points, Ashley Robinson had 13, while Ciara Andrews and Sarah Fairbanks each scored 12 points.
In La Salle, Michaya Owens tied a career high with 23 points while Alicia Cropper scored 20 points. Leeza Burdgess has another double double with 10 points and 13 rebounds while Jasmine Alston grabbed 12 rebounds.
In the other two first round games, one featured a host city special with eighth seed VCU defeating crosstown ninth seed Richmond 61-52 to advance against top-seeded Dayton (21-6), which is looking to win its second conference crown in three seasons.
Robyn Parks scored 17 points and Jessica Pellechio scored 14 for VCU (22-8) while Kristina scored 24 for Richmond (14-16).
Also, No. 6 Duquesne topped 11th-seed Rhode Island 61-53 as April Robinson scored 13 points while Raegan Moore and Olivia Bresnahan each scored 12 points for the winning Dukes (19-11), who meet No. 3 Fordham (22-7), which was last season’s conference tournament runnerup.
Sydney Lewis scored 11 points for Rhode Island (7-23) and Tati Johnson scored 10.
On Tuesday, the conference announced its award winners selected by the conference coaches. Neither La Salle nor Saint Joseph’s placed anyone on the first team but La Salle’s Alicia Cropper made the second team and was joined by the Hawks’ Erin Shields and Natasha Cloud, who was also named the defensive player of the year.
La Salle’s Michaya Owens made the all-rookie team while Shields was also on the All-Academic team.
Individually elsewhere among A-10 winners, St. Bonaventure’s Jim Crowley was named coach of the year, Dayton’s Andrea Hoover took player of the year honors and George Washington’s Caira Washington was named rookie of the year.
The Bonnies also captured two more honors with Hannah Little named Sixth Woman of the Year and Katie Healy named most improved player.
Temple Makes Some News
The American Athletic Conference inaugural tournament doesn’t get under way at the Mohegan Sun Arena until Friday night and Temple has a bye to Saturday’s first round but the Owls had news on two fronts Thursday afternoon.
Rateska Brown picked up Sixth player honors as the conference announced most of its awards except the marquee ones which will be announced 4 p.m. Friday before the two opening round games begin.
Freshman Feyonda Fitzgerald was named to the second team along with senior Natsha Thames. Taylor Robinson and Fitzgerald along with Rutgers’ Tyler Scaife were named to the all freshmen team.
Rutgers’ Kahleah Copper from Philadelphia made the first team, consisting of ten players, while Scaife and Betnijah Laney of the Scarlet Knights were on the second team.
Coach C. Vivian Stringer’s squad opens with fifth-seed SMU at noon Saturday while Temple is the final game playing South Florida at 8 p.m.
Top-ranked UConn, undefeated overall and AAC regular season champion as well as defending NCAA champion, placed six players on the two squads – Breanna Stewart, Stefanie Dolson, Bria Hartley, and Moriah Jefferson on the first team, while Kiah Stokes and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis made the second team.
Dolson was named the top defensive player, while runnerup Louisville’s Asia Taylor was named most improved, and Dolson and Louisville’s Tia Gibbs shared sportsmanship honors.
Temple was also announced that next season the Owls will be one of the eight teams in the second annual Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Women’s Challenge. The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference co-sponsors the event.
Coach Tonya Cardoza’s bunch will be in the sector at Kansas Nov. 21-23 playing Goergetown, Kansas and Alabama before traveling to the Mohegan Sun on November 30 for the quadruple header in which Temple will play Harvard. The Mohegan event will also include current No. 2 Notre Dame playing Kansas.
Big East and Big Ten Awards
The Big East doesn’t get under way until Saturday with two opening round games at DePaul before the conference tournament moves to the suburbs for quarterfinal action Sunday at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill.
Villanova as the fourth seed meets fifth seeded Marquette after just having beaten the Golden Eagles in Tuesday’s regular season finale on the Main Line.
The Wildcats’ Devon Kane was named to the first team while Caroline Coyer won the Sixth Man award. DePaul’s Brittany Hrynko, from Philadelphia’s Engineering and Science, was also named to the first team.
DePaul’s Doug Bruno was named coach of the year; Creighton’s Marissa Janning won player of the year honors; Georgetown’s Natalie Butler was freshman of the year; Butler’s Liz Stratman won defensive player of the year, while Seton Hall’s Tabatha Richardson-Smith took most improved player, and St. John’s Eugenia McPherson won the sportsmanship award.
Prior to the Big Ten getting underway at Bankers Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, the conference announced its two sets of selection done separately by media and coaches.
The first action for Penn State, the top seed, comes Friday when the Lady Lions face Ohio State, which ousted Northwestern on Thursday.
Meanwhile, No. 11th-ranked Penn State’s Maggie Lucas from Narberth and Ariell Edwards were named to the coaches’ first team, while Wilmington’s Dara Taylor of Penn State made the second team and the all-defensive team. Talia East of Philadelphia was an honorable mention pick. Taylor was also named the coaches’ defensive player of the year.
Lucas was named the player of the year by the media and repeated on the first team and joined by the Lady Lions’ Edwards. Penn State’s Coquese Washington was the coach of the year, Taylor was on the second team, East was honorable mention, and Minnesota’s Amanda Zahui B. was freshman of the year.
Mike Siroky has the complete list of coaches’ honors on his Big Ten tourney preview in a blog post under this one.
Drexel Opens CAA with Hofstra
The Dragons wrapped up their regular season on Wednesday night with a lopsided 82-40 win over Towson (13-16, 7-9) to land in the fourth seed for next week’s conference tournament which again returns to the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro, Pa.
Drexel (14-15, 9-7) connected with 10 treys and was led by senior Tory Thierolf and reserve Carrie Alexander, who each scored 14 points while Rachel Pearson scored 12, and Jackie Schluth scored 10.
The Dragons open next Friday with Hofstra, which earned the fifth seed Wednesday after rallying to beat William & Mary in double overtime. The Pride swept the season series winning both games in the final minute with Drexel.
“With the year we’ve been having, it’s nice to have any opportunity,” said Drexel coach Denise Dillon of the possibility of facing James Madison, this time the top seed, for the third straight year in the semifinals.
“Our players came out tonight, they were pretty focused on both ends so I hope it carries over in tournament time.”
Drexel won the WNIT last season after the NCAA field was set but this time would have to get to at least the title game of the conference to get back to .500.
Of course, win the CAA and the point is moot, though .500 or no, if Drexel had landed the second seed, which was in the hands of the Dragons, the won-loss record would also be moot since the highest seed not in the NCAAs from each conference gets an automatic bid to the WNIT.
Penn and Princeton Return to Showdown Course
Locked in a first place tie, Penn hosts Columbia at the Palestra Friday night while four-time defending Ivy champion Princeton hosts Cornell and then the two switch visitors Saturday night.
And depending how it goes, what looms on Tuesday is a winner-take all for the Ivy title at Jadwin Gym Tuesday night in central New Jersey inherently creating the type of conference showdown the Ivy does not hold unlike the other 31 conferences.
A Penn sweep this weekend guarantees at least a trip to the WNIT since the Quakers swept Harvard and holds the automatic bid if the two are tied in second.
But why settle when Penn could have it all so stay tuned.
And tune in Friday when the Guru sends the link to the interview he did Thursday with the Ivy Digital network in a technological first using his iPad and Skype.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad