By Mel Greenberg
Two veterans of the famed Connecticut-Tennessee women’s basketball wars were back on opposite sides Thursday night as commanders of their own battalions.
The way the matchup went, as had been the case in most encounters of the past, the leader with the UConn background was the one who prevailed in the Owls’ former home of McGonigle Hall near the Liacouras Center.
Temple coach Tonya Cardoza, the former longtime assistant to Geno Auriemma,chose to focus on the work still to be done after her Owls (8-1) used a powerful second half to produce a lopsided 65-43 victory.
“We’re still striving to be a better basketball team,” Cardoza said after the Owls continued on their best start since a 9-0 opening in the 1981-82 season. That milestone was so achieved so long ago that none of the current Temple players were close to being hatched on the planet at the time of its establishment.
Meanwhile, Bobcats coach Semeka Randall, one of the Fab Five freshmen of the late 1990s for Tennessee, watched a closely-fought contest slip away into a rout near the end of the first half and continue over the final 20 minutes.
“There’s a difference between kids who can dribble and those who want to be jump shooters,” Randall said. “Unfortunately, I have to make do with jump shooters. They’ve got some talented basketball players over their. They’re a good basketball team.”
Temple forced the Bobcats (3-5) into 31 turnovers in the nonconference game in which the Owls stayed perfect against Mid-American opponents at 3-0. They’ll face another one Saturday when they travel to Kent State.
If this was football, Cardoza’s group would be on the verge of becoming bowl eligible. In fact, football is the reason for the supply of MAC teams on the Owls’ front end of this season’s schedule prior to the start of Atlantic 10 competitions. It became part of the package of consideration for the school to join the conference in that sport
Randall became the scourge of UConn fans during her time in Knoxville when after a rare win in the series she made a postgame comment on the radio about the Huskies’ nerve. Someone got wind of the remark, relayed it to Auriemma, and before long another log was stoked in the fire of Tennessee coach Pat Summitt regarding the attitude of leader of the Blue and White.
Asked how she enjoys coaching, Randall smiled and said, “I have my good days and bad days.”
Temple forced the latter with Kristen McCarthy scoring 15 points, LaKeisha Eaddy and freshman Natasha Thames each scoring 10 points and Jasmine Stone grabbing 10 rebounds.
Da’Keisha Mann scored 16 points for Ohio U., though only six of those were delivered in the second half when Temple outfought the Bobcats, 36-23.
The lone casualty of the night was Shaqwedia Wallace, Temple’s leading scorer, who was poked in the eye near the end of the first half and taken to the hospital as a precaution.irst
Wallace’s condition was unknown publicly around sunrise Friday but Temple was scheduled to take its first flight of the season in the early morning soon after daylight to Ohio.
Meanwhile, Auriemma once again beat one of his own as unbeaten Connecticut topped Hartford, 80-45, as the Jennifer Rizzoti-coached Hawks met the Huskies on so-called neutral turf at the XL Center, which is actually UConn’s off-campus arena.
Maryland got shocked by host Towson, 67-55, one of the biggest wins ever for the Tigers (5-4), whose campus is less than an hour away from College Park.
Vanderbilt barely escaped host Quinnipiac, 75-74, San Jose stunned California, 68-66, and Rutgers outlasted Prairie View A&M at home for the second straight year, this time, 50-45.
The Guru isn’t ready to declare parity but maybe the time has come to stop using BCS and Mid-major terminology. Before the football designation came along, the women’s game was simply measured by good teams versus everyone else and if a bunch of them happened to be in the same conference, such as the SEC back then, that was simply the way it was.