By Mel GreenbergFirst, happy Thanksgiving to everyone. As an extra treat, the Guru has prepared a huge feast for you Rutgers and Penn State fans who remember the old Atlantic Ten Wars when the two schools dominated the conference. The Scarlet Knights and Nittany Lions were also key competitors in the pre-NCAA era as members of EAIAW Region 1B, one of the sectors when the national championship was run by the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW).Today's writers covering the sport are spared the agony when the AIAW had to be explained on first reference -- an exercise that strangled many an opening paragraph back in the day.Anyhow on Friday, Rutgers and Penn State will meet in the Virgin Islands and it will be for the first time since Nov. 19, 1997 when the Nittany Lions had a rare win at the Louis A. Brown Athletic Center.By then Rutgers had become part of the Big East Conference and Penn State had previously moved on to the Big Ten.Still, the two seemed destined to continue their long series, which suddenly stopped.No formal reason was given, but many in the know at the time alluded to Penn State coach Rene Portland being miffed when forward Shauntai Hall transferred from Happy Valley to the Banks.Hall sat out one year under the NCAA eligibility rule then missed her junior season with a knee injury suffered in preseason practice. She wasn't much of a factor in 1999-2000, in fact may have been injury-riddled again, when Rutgers and Penn State advanced to the Women's Final Four in Philadelphia. That was the closest the two schools came to being near each other until Friday.Portland was asked last month by the Guru at Penn State's media day about Rutgers' appearance on the schedule. Asked the Guru: "As the only person who remembers the last time the two of you played, how did Rutgers end up on your schedule?""You remember too much," Portland laughed, although there should be an extra reason for her recalling that game as you readers will soon see."I have no idea. We signed up for a nice trip for Thanksgiving, and then they ruined it by giving me Rutgers in the first game," Portland said with a smile. "I really don't know how that happens. We don't play them during the regular season and I' m sure they (tournament officials) looked at that when Annie (associate head coach Ann Troyan) was negotiating the tournament."And do I look forward to that challenge? I really do. Vivian (Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer) has a great program. It's against a Big East team. It's against a Top 25 program. It's against someone I respect as a coach and I think it will be a great measuring stick for us early in the season."On Tuesday, the Nittany Lions' perfect 4-0 start was ruined in another measuring stick game in which No. 5 Duke romped to a 70-42 victory.It was pointed out to Portland that new Rutgers assistant Marianne Stanley, her former Immaculata teammate, will be on the other bench."Oh, yes she's a great coach. It will be two against one, so Annie and I will really have to work.:And now, let the memories begin. The first is that very last game in which one Christine Portland, the daughter of the Penn State coach, played a role in the upset. Incidentally, Rutgers went on to a 22-10 record, the first winning record near the start of Stringer's third season at Rutgers.The Guru was on the scene so let's role the coverage:PENN STATE'S PORTLANDS ENJOY VICTORY OVER RUTGERS
Nov 20, 1997
By Mel GreenbergINQUIRER STAFF WRITERPISCATAWAY, N.J. --
The Penn State women's basketball team turned last night's visit to Rutgers into a mother-and-daughter affair.
Mom - veteran Penn State coach Rene Portland - got a rare victory at the Louis Brown Athletic Center in the Lions' season opener.
The 53-43 triumph, only the second in 11 visits since 1986, was made possible in part by daughter Christine. The 5-foot-9 junior guard had a career night with 17 points, including 3 of 6 on three-point attempts.
``This is the greatest to be a part of,'' said Christine Portland, who was the only Penn State player to score in double figures.
``As a kid to sit and cheer in the stands here, I remember the bands, the good popcorn, and that Penn State always wanted to win here. But it feels much better as a player than it did as a spectator. ''
And how did Mom feel knowing she was watching her daughter's performance while she was also guiding her as one of her players?
``I know now she can do it, she now knows she can do it, so let's see her do it many, many more times,'' said Rene Portland, who starred on Immaculata's national champions in the early 1970s.
Christine Portland scored the game's first seven points on the way to an early 9-0 lead by the visitors. Then Rutgers (1-1), which had routed Maryland in its season opener Saturday, struck with a 12-0 run to take a brief lead. But by the half, Penn State was back in front, 22-19.
In the second half, the Scarlet Knights were beset by foul trouble and turnovers but still were in the contest, trailing by 34-32 with 12 minutes to play.
Then Penn State went on an 18-4 run over the next eight minutes to take control the rest of the way.
Tomora Young was the only Rutgers player to score in double figures, with 14 points.
Another reason for Penn State 's triumph was sophomore point guard Helen Darling, who dealt eight assists and controlled Rutgers freshman point guard Natasha Pointer.
``What's there, a year between them? '' Rutgers coach Vivian Stringer asked rhetorically. ``The experience showed.''Guru's Note: Darling and Pointer became the stars who led both teams to the 2000 Final Four.-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------This next one was a joyous win for Stringer as she launched her Rutgers era with a huge upset. And we were there again.!RUTGERS WOMEN UPSET PENN STATE, 69-67, IN COACH'S DEBUT
THE KNIGHTS HIT A LAYUP WITH 5.3 SECONDS LEFT.
THAT HELPED VIVIAN STRINGER GET OFF TO A STORYBOOK START.
Nov 26, 1995
By Mel GreenbergINQUIRER STAFF WRITER
PISCATAWAY, N.J. _
After being lured from Iowa's powerhouse program, new Rutgers women's basketball coach Vivian Stringer found herself opening her inaugural season with the Scarlet Knights against No. 8 Penn State yesterday.
So how's this for a storybook beginning for Rutgers women's basketball coach Vivian Stringer?
First, give her a lot of money to leave Iowa's powerhouse program and transform the Scarlet Knights into a national contender.
Next, bring in No. 8 Penn State for the first opponent in front of the home folks.
Finally, just to make the matchup interesting, give her a roster from which she must send a bunch of girls to fight a women's war against the Lions' inside height advantage.
Pressure? What pressure?
"Never let them see you sweat," Stringer said, smiling after unranked Rutgers scored a 69-67 upset of Penn State.
Scarlet Knights freshman Jennifer Clemente hit a layup with 5.3 seconds left to help get Stringer's tenure off to a storybook start.
After Penn State failed to score as time ran out, Stringer smiled broadly as she was lifted off her feet by her assistant coaches.
"I was just praying that it went in," Clemente said of her shot, which came off a feed from another freshman, Susan Blauser.
"We all were praying," said Rutgers senior guard Liz Hanson, who led the winners with 23 points, including 10 for 10 from the foul line.
It was a remarkable performance by Rutgers , especially considering that, a year ago, the Lions had manhandled the Scarlet Knights, 100-58, at State College, Pa.
Besides Hanson's 23 points, Blauser scored 13, while Clemente added 10. Under the boards, Rutgers held its own as both teams had 35 rebounds.
"You can measure size, but you can't measure heart," Stringer said. "We were going to play 40 minutes as a team. We boxed out very well. "
Penn State , which has designs on the Final Four, was led by Angie Potthoff's 14 points, while Tiffany Longworth scored 12. The Lions were without senior guard Katina Mack, who has back problems, but Penn State coach Rene Portland offered no excuses.
"Congratulate Rutgers for all the energy and determination they played with," Portland said.
"We went the whole year and won a Big Ten title without Katina last season, so that's no excuse. We just didn't get big plays from key people."
Rutgers took a 7-2 lead and held a 35-29 advantage at intermission.
In the second half, the winners extended the advantage to 41-33 on Kristen Somogyi's three-pointer, but Penn State fought back and gained one-point leads three times in the last nine minutes.
Through it all, Stringer, decked in a maroon-colored suit, stood calm, cool and collected along her team's bench.
"I don't think we ever lost control, except for a little two-, three- minute stretch late in the game," Stringer said. "Now we may know a little more about ourselves. "
Longworth put Penn State ahead, at 62-61, with 3 minutes, 32 seconds left, but Clemente came right back with a layup to put Rutgers back in front.
Hanson made two foul shots to make it 65-62, but Longworth's three-pointer tied it with 1:16 left. The two teams then traded baskets until Clemente's game-winner.
"All those 5:30 a.m. practices paid off," said Stringer, who had a slew of family and other well-wishers at the game. "We'll get better. We have to work on timing and a bunch of little things."------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------What was special about the 1986 season? Rutgers student beat writer Kate Burkholder would tell you she was born several months after it ended.But for we oldtimers, the season was memorable when the two teams met each other five times -- once in the Orange Bowl, twice in the Atlantic Ten regular season, once for the Atlantic Ten title, and then in the NCAA East Regional Final at The Palestra in Philadelphia.The Guru wasn't at every game but here is the chronological coverage of those we handled.RUTGERS WOMEN MOVE TO NO. 8 IN RANKINGS
Feb 18, 1986
By Mel Greenberg
Special to The Inquirer
The Rutgers women's basketball team, which began the season unranked for the first time in eight years, has moved up from ninth to eighth in the weekly top 20 poll. It is the Knights' highest position since they finished eighth in 1982, the year they were the AIAW national champions.
"This is our best team in history, right now, and our players have to realize they are ambassadors for the school to keep it going," Rutgers coach Theresa Grentz said Saturday, after her team escaped with a 76-75 win over Penn State at home to capture the regular season Atlantic 10 title.
The team's 22-2 record represents the best start for the school, though there have been other seasons in which the team won as many games.
Penn State (17-6), which upset previous No. 3 Louisiana Tech, 72-68, at home last Wednesday, moved up in the rankings from 15th to 13th.
Texas (23-0), which is now the only unbeaten women's team in Division I, gained its 111th straight Southwest Conference victory and 35th straight win at home by beating Texas A&M, 77-64, to remain No. 1. St. Peter's (22-1) lost for the first time this season at Holy Cross, 75-63, on Saturday.
The Longhorns were a point short of perfect in this week's poll as one voter switched allegiances to Georgia. Coach Jody Conradt's team picked up 61 first-place votes and one second-place ballot for 1,239 points from a nationwide panel of coaches.
Second-ranked Georgia (24-1), which has clinched the regular season Southeastern Conference title, received the remaining first-place vote and 61 second-place ballots for 1,179 points.
Virginia (23-1) moved back to third from fifth and Long Beach State (21-2) jumped to fourth from sixth as Louisiana Tech (21-3) fell from third to fifth after the loss to Penn State . Western Kentucky (22-2) fell from fourth to sixth after a 93-61 rout by Georgia last Monday in Athens, Ga.
Southern California (22-3) stayed seventh, followed by Rutgers , Auburn (21-4), which moved up a spot, and Louisiana State (20-4), which jumped from 12th to 10th after upsetting Mississippi, 74-62, in Oxford. The Rebels (20-5) fell from eighth to 11th.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Then it was on to the Atlantic Ten championship after Rutgers had already won the first three games that season.PENN STATE TOPS RUTGERS FOR ATLANTIC 10 TITLE
Mar 09, 1986
By Mel GreenbergSpecial to The Inquirer
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. _
Eighth-ranked Rutgers (27-3) will have to wait a little longer for its first berth in the NCAA women's basketball tournament.
The Knights could have locked up a berth yesterday at the Coliseum, but they found a fourth meeting this season with 14th-ranked Penn State (23-7) to be one too many, as the Lions prevailed, 84-69, to win their fourth straight Atlantic 10 tourney.
Lisa Faloon scored 18 points to lead five Penn State players in double figures. Sue Wicks led Rutgers with 20 points.
The Knights should be one of the first teams to receive a phone call today for an at-large bid from the NCAA committee. St. Joseph's, a third conference member, also is expected to receive one of the 22 at-large bids for the tournament, which begins Wednesday.
La Salle clinched an automatic berth when it defeated St. Peter's, 78-67, last night to win the Metro Atlantic tournament. Villanova earned a berth last week when it took the Big East title.
Rutgers coach Theresa Grentz was not upset about the loss. "I don't think I'd trade any of our (three) wins over them for this one," she said.
"Our defense was a key," said Penn State coach Rene Portland. "We went into the locker room (trailing 41-39), saying 41 points was too much for a half. We couldn't allow that to continue and expect to win. "
The NCAA's 40-team women's bracket includes 18 conference tournament champions, 11 of which were decided yesterday.
Eight teams will be selected as national seeds, and they will occupy the top two berths in each of the four regions. Each region will have eight other teams, with the first six seeds receiving byes into the second round.
The four surviving teams from each region will advance to play at Texas in the Midwest, Long Beach State in the West, Iowa in the Mideast and the Palestra in the East.
LA SALLE 78, ST. PETER'S 67 - Linda Hester scored 26 points and Jill Crandley added 22 as the Explorers (21-8) avenged two regular-season losses to St. Peter's and downed the Peahens (25-3) in Worcester, Mass., to win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament.
The victory gave the Explorers an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, the second in their history.
The Explorers led, 37-27, at halftime and boosted their margin to 64-42 with 8 minutes, 38 seconds remaining.
DELAWARE 62, LAFAYETTE 57 - The Blue Hens outscored Lafayette, 14-2, to open the second half and held off a late rally yesterday for an East Coast Conference semifinal victory at Rider College in Lawrenceville, N.J.
The Blue Hens (15-14) will play top-seeded Lehigh, a 92-78 winner over Rider yesterday, at 1 p.m. today. Lafayette, which entered the tournament as the second seed and defending champion, dropped to 21-8.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------And then it was on to the East Regional and coverage hereRUTGERS-PENN STATE: THE FINAL SHOWDOWN
Mar 20, 1986
By Mel GreenbergSpecial to The Inquirer
Penn State women's basketball coach Rene Portland wishes her 13th-ranked Lions and 10th-ranked Rutgers had been placed in different regions in the NCAA tournament, because as it is, "one of us is going to go home from Philadelphia empty. "
The teams will square off at 8 tonight in the second game of an NCAA East Regional semifinal doubleheader at the Palestra. The game will be the fifth meeting of the season between the Atlantic 10 rivals.
"Well, there's one advantage," Portland said. "I haven't had to go begging for scouting films. I've got four of them in the closet. "
The first three videos show Rutgers victories, but the fourth, which was produced in the Atlantic 10 title game two weeks ago, features a Penn State triumph.
However, Penn State (24-7) will be concerned about other memories tonight.
The Lions still recall the bitter defeat by Ohio State in last year's East semifinal.
"We know how we'll feel tomorrow if we lose," said 5-foot, 3-inch sophomore Suzie McConnell, the nation's leading point guard. "That was one of the worst losses of my career. "
A defeat tonight could be equally tough for Rutgers (28-3), which has been somewhat of a surprise this season.
"We got here with two guards who were questionable, a sophomore nobody wanted and leadership from a one-legged player," said coach Theresa Grentz, a former teammate of Portland's at Immaculata.
The two freshman guards, Telicher Austin and Janet Malouf, gave the Knights a strong outside attack this year to go with the inside games of Regina Howard and 6-2 sophomore Sue Wicks, who somehow was passed in the recruiting wars.
The "one-legged player" is 5-11 Kristen Foley, who did not see much playing time in the two previous season because of various leg injuries.
Before Rutgers and Penn State battle, fifth-ranked Western Kentucky (30-3) will take on 17th-ranked James Madison.
James Madison (28-3) is very glad to be here.
"At the beginning of the season, we were expected to finish first in our conference," said junior guard Floretta Jackson. "(But) we weren't expected to be in the NCAA tournament or be in the top 20.
"But now that we here, we're going to play as hard as we can. We're thinking of winning the national title. "
James Madison advanced from the first round by defeating host Providence at the buzzer, 55-53. Then last Saturday, the Dukes upset No. 6 Virginia, 71-62, in Charlottesville, eliminating the region's top seed.
Western Kentucky knows about being a spoiler. Last year, the Hilltoppers ruined No. 1 Texas' chance to advance to the Final Four by upsetting the Longhorns in the Mideast semifinals. Western Kentucky went on to the national semifinals.
"I think James Madison is stealing our act," said coach Paul Sanderford. ''We have ideas about still playing the Cinderella role ourselves. "
But it would be hard to call Sanderford's team a Cinderella this year.
The Hilltoppers are loaded with talent, including guard Clemette Haskins, the daughter of men's coach Clem Haskins, 6-2 senior center Lillie Mason and 5-9 guard Kami Thomas.
The squad is capable of winning the East in Saturday's title game, which would mean a Final Four appearance in close-to-home Lexington next week.
By playing in the East, Western Kentucky has escaped the possibility of having to beat No. 1 Texas (30-0) in Austin; No. 2 Georgia (30-1), which trounced the Hilltoppers, 93-61, earlier this year, or No. 3 Southern California (28-4).
But even though the East might be the easiest road for Sanderford's group, it will not be easy.
Western Kentucky likes to run, while James Madison likes to slow the tempo. Then there is a matter of rebounding.
"We're not very good. In fact, we usually rebound the ball after it goes through the basket," Sanderford said.
In other region semifinals tonight, Texas will host No. 19 Oklahoma (24-6), and No. 7 Auburn (24-5) will meet No. 11 Mississippi (23-7) in the Midwest Regional in Austin. No. 12 Ohio State (23-6) will meet No. 9 Louisiana State (26-5) before Georgia faces No. 15 Tennessee (22-9) in Iowa City in the Mideast. No. 4 Louisiana Tech (26-4) will meet host No. 8 Long Beach State (29-4) in the West, where senior Cheryl Miller will try to extend her Southern California career in a game against No. 16 North Carolina (23-8).
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------RUTGERS TURNS BACK PENN STATE
Mar 21, 1986
By Mel GreenbergSpecial to The Inquirer
What is Rutgers ?
Despite the No. 10 Knights' national ranking, despite their 29-3 record, the question keeps occurring.
The answer was provided last night at the Palestra, where the Knights defeated 13th-ranked Penn State , 85-72, to move to within a step of the NCAA Final Four in Lexington, Ky., next weekend.
The victory, Rutgers ' fourth in five meetings with its Atlantic 10 rival (24-8), sends the winners into tomorrow's East title game at noon against No. 5 Western Kentucky (31-3), which ended No. 17 James Madison's Cinderella dreams, 72-51, in the first game.
But if the Dukes' hopes were destroyed, the Knights' rush for glory may just be beginning.
"I think they're going to be the team to represent the East," Penn State coach Rene Portland said after the Lions' bid ended in the regionals for the fifth straight year.
Western Kentucky, though, is not about to give up the villain's role. The Hilltoppers, who intimidated their opponent (28-4) into a 19-2 deficit in the first 5 minutes last night, would love to return to the finals, which this time would be within a hundred miles of their multitude of fans.
However, Rutgers may be working with the same chemistry that delivered an NCAA trophy to Villanova's men's team in Lexington last year.
The Knights got power on the inside from their 6-foot, 2-inch sophomore forward Sue Wicks (28 points, 13 rebounds), and leadership and clutch shooting rom Kristen Foley (25 points, 7 assists) as Rutgers put an end to the see- saw battle midway through the second half.
"That is the finest game Foley has ever played," said Rutgers coach Theresa Grentz, whose 1982 team won the last AIAW title in the Palestra. "And I'm talking about back to the days when I was recruiting her in high school. She certainly saved her best for the right moment. "
The game swung back to Rutgers for the last time after Regina Howard's baseline shot gave the Knights a tie, 60-60, with 8 minutes, 22 seconds to play. Then Foley hit two baskets and Wicks contributed five points to help increase the margin to 71-60 with 4:09 left.
Earlier in the half, Penn State 's press bothered Rutgers enough that the Lions were able to take a 55-51 lead with 13:17 left.
"We weren't able to run our offense right," Grentz said.A BREAKDOWN
But if the Knights had momentary problems, State seemed to suffer from a breakdown throughout the evening despite a balanced scoring effort that included five players with 10 points and Laura Hughes with 13. Additionally, Suzie McConnell, who was in double figures, contributed 17 assists.
Western Kentucky was led by Lillie Mason's 18 points and Kamie Thomas's 14 in its victory. Alisa Harris scored 14 and Missy Dudley had 13 for James Madison, which still managed to outrebound the Hilltoppers, 38-31.
"This was a big jump for our kids and I think the jitters were there," said Madison coach Sheila Moorman. "Western Kentucky is also capable of applying pressure. "
In the Mideast Regional, the worst of No. 2 Georgia's fears about Southeastern Conference rival No. 15 Tennessee (23-9) were realized.
The Lady Bulldogs (30-2) were upset by the Vols, 85-82, in the Mideast Region at Iowa City. Olympic coach Pat Head Summitt will face another SEC rival for the region title tomorrow in No. 9 Louisiana State (27-5), which edged No. 12 Ohio State, 81-80.
In the Midwest, No. 1 Texas (31-0) is within a victory of its first Final Four in the NCAA. The Longhorns routed No. 19 Oklahoma, 85-59, at home after No. 11 Mississippi (24-7) edged SEC rival No. 7 Auburn, 56-55, in overtime.
The Midwest title game will be the second meeting between Texas and Mississippi; the Longhorns won the first encounter in Miami. Out West, No. 4 Louisiana Tech (27-4) edged host No. 8 Long Beach State, 71-69. No. 3 Southern California downed No. 16 North Carolina, 84-70.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------And finally this advance of a game Rutgers did not win. Texas ultimately won it all, avenging the Western Kentucky upset and ending Cheryl Miller's collegiate career on a sour note.
RUTGERS COUNTS ON COMPUTER
Mar 22, 1986
By Mel Greenberg
Special to The Inquirer
In mid-February, an NCAA spokesman familiar with the organization's computer rankings of men's and women's basketball teams offered a revelation about the Rutgers women.
"If the computer means anything, Rutgers should go to the Final Four. They are right up there," he said.
The index measures a team's success against the difficulty of its schedule and compares it to the other schools in Division I.
The Knights (29-3), ranked 10th by a national panel of coaches, can make the computer into a genius by defeating No. 5 Western Kentucky (31-3) at noon at the Palestra for the East region title. The Hilltoppers are still miffed at their fourth-place seeding in the region, which was a result of the disrespect shown by the microchips.
Machine over coaches would make a nice Cinderella story for Rutgers , which was not expected to do much when the season began. But if Western Kentucky wins one for the humans, the Hilltoppers will provide the Final Four in Lexington, Ky., with revenue at the gate, which is in serious trouble at the moment. In fact, the financial situation could get bleaker if the Kentucky and Louisville men's teams win their regions today and go to Dallas.
"We would be excited about going back to the finals if they were in Seattle or New York City," said Western Kentucky coach Paul Sanderford. "Yes, we would bring seven or 8,000 fans, but let's get one thing straight, the pressure is on the University of Kentucky. They're the ones hosting the thing and they're the ones who have to sell the tickets. "
Rutgers is not about to do anybody any favors, however. In fact, if 6-foot, 2-inch forward Sue Wicks (28 points against Penn State in the semifinals), and center Regina Howard can patrol the boards, the Knights might be well on their way to their first final since winning the last AIAW title at the Palestra in 1982. Rebounding has been a a deficiency for Western Kentucky.
However, coach Theresa Grentz, who used to play at the Palestra for the Immaculata national champions in the early 1970s, will need more than board work to stop the triple-threat offense of Lillie Mason, Kami Thomas and Clemette Haskins. If the trio can get the Hilltoppers' running game and transition game into action, it might be a long afternoon for the Knights.
Meanwhile, the crowds over at ESPN-TV and CBS-TV, which will broadcast the national semifinals Friday and title game Sunday, respectively, have reasons for cheering for certain teams to emerge from the other three regions today.
If unbeaten Texas (31-0) can beat No. 11 Mississippi (24-7) at home in Austin for the Midwest title, and if No. 3 Southern California (29-4) can get past No. 4 Louisiana Tech (27-4) in Long Beach, the two would be favored to meet for the national title. That would give CBS the No. 1 team in the Longhorns against the No. 1 player in USC senior Cheryl Miller, a matchup that
would do much for the Nielsen ratings.
If No. 15 Tennessee (23-9) can get past No. 9 Louisiana State (27-5) in the Mideast in Iowa City, it would mark an eighth Final Four appearance for Olympic coach Pat Head Summitt, who has yet to win a national title.
On the other hand, if Mississippi, Louisiana State and Louisiana Tech come through, it will be an advertisement for parity in the sport, but who will pay attention?-- Mel