Delaware Awakens While Elsewhere ...

By Mel Greenberg

NEWARK, DEL. -- Delaware Tina Martin was in a happier frame of mind Thursday night after the Blue Hens bounced back from Sunday's tough loss at Drexel with a lopsided 84-55 win over William & Mary in a Colonial Athletic Association game at the Bob Carpenter Center.

Things went so well that freshman Elena Delle Donne wasn't even the leading scorer for a change for Delaware (14-7, 6-4 CAA) -- she had 23 points in back of Tesia Harris' 26 -- and Martin was able to give her some rest at the end of the contest.

Taysha Pye had 22 points for the Tribe (10-11, 3-7).

"No heart stopping, no sweating -- it was a complete game," Martin said in reference to all four conference losses in the final seconds to date at the hands of the frontrunners.

"I thought that we came out and set the tone with our defense and then did a nice job overall," she continued.

"I told (her players) the Drexel game is over," Martin alluded to Sunday's loss to the Dragons in the final three seconds of overtime. "This team has gone through some heartbreaking losses.

"I said, `I want to see your character tonight. After you lose a game like that, sometimes there is a letdown. Sometimes there is that boo hoo I'm going to be sorry for myself.' I told them I did not want to see that. You come out here and show what kind of team you are.; We did some good things."

After Sunday's loss Martin said the first area improvement had to come was with an increased intensity at practice.

She said Delaware responded to that challenge right away.

"I think the freshmen are starting to speak up," Martin said. "And I think some of the older kids are buying into what we're trying to do. Specifically, Elena's starting to talk more, which is really good. We did something a little different. We put Elena on the non-starter team and we challanged the other starters when they played against each other and that picked up the intensity. We're looking for ways to heighten our intensity.

"But people have to remember, we're young -- six of our top eight players are freshmen and sophomores."

The crowd of 2,042 enabled Delaware to set a new season attendance record with four home dates remaining.

Besides Delle Donne, the 2008 national player of the year out of Wilmington's Ursuline Academy, Jacquetta May, Kayla Miller, and Jasmine Miller also have local ties near Delaware.

"Now we have to keep it going as we head into the rest of CAA play."

If Delaware avoided a letdown, the same wasn't true of the winning team from Sunday's game.

Drexel (14-7, 8-2) was upset by Towson (10-11, 4-6) in Maryland, falling to the Tigers 53-48 despite Gabriela Marginean's 28 points.

It was a tough night at the top of the conference. James Madison won at VCU, 71-56, while Old Dominion escaped with a 61-58 win at UNC Wilmington.

The outcomes left ODU alone in first place with Drexel and VCU falling into second a game behind. JMU is in fourth a game ahead of Delaware. The top four teams get byes.

ODU once owned the conference enternally before last season and right now the CAA is like Russia after the Iron Curtain fell. However, the Monarchs, who had an atrocious non-conference record, are showing there's still room for threats from the old guard -- not to be confused with Ticha who has just signed with the WNBA Los Angeles Sparks.

Meanwhile the impending weather has already affected Delaware and Drexel's weekend plans. Drexel's road trip to James Madison was put back a day to Monday. The Delaware men's game was put back from Saturday to noon Sunday and the Blue Hens women, originally slated for that time, will now play 45 minutes after the men's game concludes.

"I know it's Super Bowl Sunday but that's at night. Come on out and make a snowman and see us as an appetitzer," Martin said on the Delaware radio postgame wrapup.

         Duke Victimized Again By Course of Events

   Remember last season when the NCAA women's committe managed to send Duke, then a No. 1 seed, up to Michigan State where Blue Devils coach Joanne P. McCallie once plied her trade.

   Needless to say, the second round was as hostile an environment as could be imagined considering McCallie's departure for Durham did not leave her with a bunch of well-wishers back in East Landing. The Spartans, who escaped Middle Tennessee in the opener, upset Duke in the second round  only adding to the controversy.

Well, Thursday night the Atlantic Coast Conference schedule makers, though unwittingly because who knew at the time, sent the Blue Devils into another place of bad karma.

Host Boston College added to the growing list of unranked team felling the non-UConn, non-Stanford, non-Notre Dame top of the AP poll, upsetting No. 6 Duke, while in another ACC upset, unranked Miami took down No. 9 North Carolina.

   The win by the Eagles outside Boston brought a happy ending on their side of the ledger because earlier in the day, substitute Ayla Brown's father Scott Brown, officially took his seat for the Republicans in the U.S. Senate following his upset to claim the late Ted Kennedy's long-held place for the Democrats.

  Elsewhere, Penn State, which had made its way a week ago for a brief return to the rankings for the first time since 2005, lost its third straight, falling to Michigan State. The Nitttany Lions slipped back to the rest of the pack after climbing to sole possession of second place in the Big Ten behind Ohio State.

In the Southeastern Conference, Georgia beat LSU, 49-46 in overtime in a game between two former residents of the AP Top 10, or as we'd like to refer to the list as the next nine or one plus eight, leaving UConn in a class by itself ahead of No. 2 Stanford.

And in another SEC encounter, Kelsey Bones' double double enabled South Carolina coach Dawn Staley to win at Auburn, whose Nell Fortner coached her in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia.

              Mock Bracket Time

   The NCAA Thursday and Friday is hosting its third Women's Mock Bracket in Indianapolis, where media, coaches, and other officials get to play the role of the committee simulating what happens on the final weekend leading to the announcement of the 64-team field on Selection Monday.

  According to one colleague who received an invite, only two print persons are on hand this time around, though many of the participants are former beat writers who have found refuge at web sites following buyouts, layoffs and suggested retirements with the newspaper industry in decline.

 For those of us who served, there's much to be happy about not being on the scene in Indy.

For one, there's the threat of being held hostage by the weather.

  Secondly, good luck with data that will become useless much quicker than the two previous sessions. In fact, considering what happened Thursday night with the upsets as well as last week with 12 unranked teams beating AP teams and other low-ranked teams beating high-ranked teams, it is probably a major mess finding the complete field, let alone seeding.

 A committee member said last week the bubble was going to be quite large this season, which the Guru believes should now be referred to as the dome.

   Two seasons ago, everything was pretty much cut and dried when we assembled and stayed that way other than Rutgers, almost annual way of making life harder in March than it should be for the Scarlet Knights.

  A year ago, with upsets, though not outlandish as the current stunners, happening, we knew reality would make what we did moot to the point that we didn't even ask for bodyguards when we managed at one point to have have Tennessee and Rutgers in the same quad headed by UConn at the top.

   The NCAA publication arm is blogging the event but we'll see if the media participants can apply for a freedom of information release.

 Based on what has been offered for now is like telling you where the game is without giving the score.

                    UConn Alum Prevail at the End

       When good friends Tonya Cardoza and Jamelle Elliott spent many seasons as assistants on Geno Auriemma's coaching staff they could usually start thinking about postgame socializing spots early in the second half, or, in the case of this season, even sooner.

      Not so where they are running their own programs now with Cardoza in her second season at Temple and Elliott in her first season at Cincinnati.

      Still, it was a happy ending for both Tuesday night with Cincinnati beating NCAA-runnerup Louisville in overtime while Temple won another close encounter with St. Joseph's 58-56 at the Hawks' Hagan Arena.

         UConn, incidentally, was challenged the same night by West Virginia early in the second half before hitting the third stage engines to a dominating win at the finish.

         Temple trailed 54-50 late in the game with perhaps an end to the mythical curse over the Hawks who have now lost nine straight in the series with only one being lop-sided.

        The Owls, the only team with a good shot at an at-large bid to the NCAAs among Big Five schools, needed to recover after losing at home last Saturday to St. Bonaventure, though the Bonnies are a much improved outfit.

          "They are tough and the one thing about them is they don't quit," Cardoza said of St. Joseph's. "But we kill ourselves sometimes -- we miss so many easy shots and turn the ball over. But we had some players step up that normally don't step up."

        The game only counted in the Atlantic 10 standings. Temple next gets involved in both, visiting LaSalle Saturday at noon. A win gives the Owls soul possession of second place in the Big Five to 2010 champion Villanova. It will be the first time Temple does not have an outright City Series title or share one in six seasons.

           No word yet at least here whether the game might be pushed back to Sunday in light of the weather forecast.

         We'll update Friday afternoon.

         -- Mel

Continue Reading