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.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Exam Time On The Court for Philly-Area Teams

Guru’s Note: The Guru interrupts himself for the following announcements.

A little while ago here in the middle of the night another of a myriad of email announcements concerning the current labor negotiations at the paper spoke of a tentative settlement on non-economic issues.

At this moment, we are still in our normal operating mode. Another meeting won’t occur until sometime Monday night at the earliest, so business as usual should continue through Wednesday and, perhaps, beyond.

Also, we had a delightful time Saturday night speaking at the Seven Sisters tournament dinner in the suburbs at Bryn Mawr College and meeting players from the various teams.

The Guru now returns you to his regular commentary.

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA _ What better time than the approaching final exam period for schools here in the City of Brotherly Love and in the immediate region beyond to be tested on the hardwood, which is exactly what is about to happen.

It begins Monday night to the north of us when Rutgers hosts Duke in a game that would have seemed more attractive a year ago.

That’s because the Scarlet Knights would have been in better shape than right now to take on the Blue Devils in a game that will have long-range implications.

Duke needs the win to maintain a strong profile heading into the Atlantic Coast Conference wars that will include defending NCAA champion Maryland and North Carolina, which is just off an impressive victory over Tennessee.

Rutgers will get merit points for showing up and anything beyond that will be a pleasant surprise.

For coach C. Vivian Stringer’s team, it is still about the education of a young squad that doesn’t have all its leadership pieces in place due to injuries. But for the newcomers, the Big East conflicts are on the horizon so the key Monday is to perform well and get experience from the kind of competition that will have to be handled to become a spotlight group later in the season.

In some ways, if only one victory is available from two games in the front part of the week, Thursday night’s Big East opener at DePaul in Chicago will actually have more value. Now if one wants to dream the improbable of a two-game sweep, that’s not likely to happen yet, is it?

On Tuesday night, Delaware, which is now attracting some national attention, will visit La Salle, which is off to the program’s second-best start ever at 7-0.

This game is usually competitive and somewhat personal because players from both teams compete in the Department of Recreation’s NCAA Summer League in Northeast Philadelphia in the off-season.

The visiting Blue Hens need the win to maintain their visibility. They’ve already had a major test they passed with an upset of then-nationally-ranked Kentucky recently in San Francisco.

La Salle will get its first major exam and a win could be an omen to spring some surprises down the road when the Explorers begin their Atlantic Ten Conference schedule.

Temple, which is in somewhat of a re-tooling mode after the graduation of Candice Dupree, has already suffered narrow road losses to ACC members Virginia and North Carolina State.

On Wednesday, the Owls get a chance for some revenge when Stony Brook visits. But one of the big games of the season for fans here is Sunday when Maryland will visit in a game that offers homecoming visits for the Terrapins’ Crystal Langhorne and Laura Harper.

Villanova, struggling with a youthful roster, gets its first Big East test Thursday when South Florida visits.

St. Joseph’s, which has had some surprising struggles despite the most experienced roster in town, will host Boston College on Friday night.

Almost But Not Quite

We covered the Penn-Villanova game at the Palestra Sunday afternoon for the print edition, which also appears electronically at Philly.Com.

It was an intriguing contest in which Villanova built a 14-point lead and then managed to squander nearly all of it by going 0-for-9 from the field, including 0-for-6 on three-pointers in the final 11 minutes, 21 seconds, while grabbing a 57-50 victory.

Wildcats coach Harry Perretta’s take on his team’s performance appears in the print story. Penn coach Pat Knapp, whose Georgetown teams used to duel Villanova in the Big East, was in the opposite corner of the Palestra at the same time after the game.

However, Jonathan Tannenwald had our back by collecting the following quotes from Mr. Knapp and and some of his players in the media room afterwards concerning the Quakers’ performance.

“Well, certainly the score’s not bad, but that’s not why we play,” Knapp said. “I told the team, we had a lot of opportunities. They wanted it. They played hard.”

When Villanova went cold, Penn had narrowed the gap with a 12-0 run but was unable to forge ahead despite several opportunities on offense.

“Obviously we would have like to score a couple ourselves, but it’s not like we weren’t trying,” Knapp said of the final minutes of action.

“Our team did a lot of good things,” he continued. “I think the first thing we said, to be honest with you, the first half was not about Villanova making a lot of threes, it was about No. 11 (Lisa Karcic) making a lot of threes, and we did not guard her worth a damn.

“In the second half, I think we paid better attention and these guys (Villanova) switched in certain situations and we were more aware of that,” Knapp added.

Penn point guard Joey Rhoads and forward Monica Naltner talked about the game from the players’ perspective.

“I know as seniors we’ve never beaten ‘Nova, so we were really fired up and obviously this was a game we really wanted to win. But it also had to do with being more aggressive and trying to get to the basket more,” Rhoads added.

“It was too little, too late I guess. Losing by such a close margin. I guess you just think about the little things you could have done early on or throughout the game,” Rhoads said. “We had them, we were in it.”

Naltner also talked about her last game against the Wildcats.

“It hurts a lot more because as seniors, we’ve never beaten them. It’s the one Big Five team we’ve never beaten. We knew we had the opportunity to beat them and it stings a lot more this year.”

Knapp, whose team travels to Lafayette, Thursday in Easton for a non-conference game, was complimentary of his players’ effort.

“The ladies were great. They listen. They work hard, and they believe. They were very disappointed. It was one that we wanted and didn’t get, and we move on to the next game.”

-- Mel with Jonathan’s assistance.

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