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.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Princeton Tigers' Tale of Glory Ruined By Rutgers

By Mel Greenberg

Two years ago the Princeton women’s basketball team made the 30-40 minute trip north here to Rutgers’ Louis A. Brown Athletic Center and went the way one would expect an Ivy team to go against a squad which maintains a national stature even if that stature can be shaky at times in the front part of the season.

“I walked into this gym two years ago and we lost – it felt like 112,” fourth-year Tigers coach Courtney Banghart reflected Thursday night on what was actually an 83-35 rout at the hands of the Scarlet Knights. “I said to (her players) `We’ll be back.’ I just didn’t think we’d be back in this fashion so quickly.

”You’d actually think it would make me feel better but it actually makes me feel worse.”

The reason is the Tigers came up just short, losing to Rutgers 54-53 after junior redshirt Khadijah Rushdan nailed a short jumper with four seconds remaining to give the Scarlet Knights (1-2) their first win of the season and hand Princeton (1-1) its first loss.

Princeton, which trailed 35-22 at the half on the way to what became its 12th straight loss in the battle of central New Jersey, rallied over the final 20 minutes and was poised for one of the great nonconference upsets in Ivy history after Lauren Edwards hit a layup with 1 minute, 13 seconds remaining for a 53-52 advantage.

Rutgers went to work on its end only to have 6-foot-2 sophomore Monique Oliver, a former high school all-American, turn the ball over to Princeton’s 6-0 sophomore forward Niveen Rasheed on a steal with 43 seconds remaining.

However, with a chance to at worst be in position to go into overtime, Niveen missed a jumper and junior Chelsea Lee, another former high school all-American, came up with the ball for Rutgers with 12 seconds left in regulation.

The Scarlet Knights then darted down the floor and Rushdan, the team leader did what Rutgers leaders are expected to do – she hit a shot and Princeton was unable to scurry quick enough to have one final chance.

“To come that close it is clear I really like the fight of this team,” Banghart said. “But we didn’t come here to lose by one – that’s for sure.”

Last season the Tigers lost close at home to Rutgers and then went on a school-record 21-game win streak that included a 14-0 sweep of the Ivy League and first-ever appearance in the NCAA tournament finishing 26-3 after a first-round loss to St. John’s.

Princeton, which drew weekly votes in the Associated Press women’s poll in the backstretch of last season, is probably the best Ivy squad since the Harvard team with WNBA future All-Star Allison Feaster that pulled the famous 16th seed upset of top-seeded Stanford in the opening round of the 1998 NCAA tournament.
Observers agree that both those teams were probably mis-seeded – Harvard because the Crimson were that good and Stanford because of two key injuries the week before the tournament got underway.

If Princeton wins the Ivy again the NCAA tournament committee will once more have a good handle on the Tigers since members Richard Ensor, commissioner of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, and Monmouth athletic director Marilyn McNeil, the chairwoman, are located nearby in the Garden State.

The Tigers are ranked fourth in the new CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major poll after winning their opener at home against Fairleigh Dickinson 78-37 on Saturday.

Princeton will have some more cracks at noteworthy nonleaguers, playing Southern Cal in the opener of Vanderbilt’s tournament in Nashville.

The Tigers also have a diet of Philly area opponents besides the Ivy home-and-home rivalry with Penn. They’ll travel to Delaware (Dec. 1), a game they won last year, and St. Joseph’s (Dec. 19) while hosting Drexel (Dec. 17) and La Salle (Jan. 4),

Niveen had 14 points against Rutgers, while senior Addie Micir, a graduate of Council Rock North in Lower Bucks County, scored 11 points as did Edwards. The roster also has Laura Johnson, a graduate of Mt. St. Joseph’s Academy who was coached by former La Salle mentor John Miller.

Rushdan finished with 13 points, while Lee scored 11.

It was a game Rutgers needed to win because it was the home opener and the Scarlet Knights were coming off opening road losses at California and No. 3 Stanford last weekend, not that there is any shame over either setback.

Rushdan described her winning play.

“The look was to see my options, either drive, kick hit to a shooter or try to get to the inside but the shot is what I had so that’s what I took,” she said.

Rutgers was able to sizzle from the field in the first half, shooting 52 percent from the field, though Banghart expected the Scarlet Knights to cool down and told her team to limit the Rutgers offense to one shot in the second half.

Princeton managed stay close in the battle of the boards being outrebounded 35-34.

“Against this team we had to make a decision,” Banghart said. “Are we going to concede the offensive glass and get back in transition, which is neither here nor there – your choice. But after
you saw my team, I couldn’t tell them to not crash the glass.

“It’s a physical team. We have a lot of pride. So, we said, `Good! Go after the glass and also make sure you get back and we did just that.”

Rutgers Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer thought Princeton actually posed more of a problem than the two opponents out West last weekend.

“In the first two games we let it flow and it was easy and open for whatever reason,” Stringer said. “A number of times we began forcing shots and when we do that it makes the shooters look bad and we’re not in position to rebound.

“We’re very lucky to pull this one off. They’re not a joke by an stretch of the imagination. I was more upset with this one because we didn’t play with a lot of intensity. Maybe it’s because Princeton runs so many things. Those other two teams are consistent with what they run.”

Stringer still thinks her team is ahead at this time of year then the last several.

“This game didn’t show it, but that’s OK. I saw it last weekend.”

Princeton travels to Patriot League champion Lehigh on Sunday while Rutgers will remain home for Monday’s game against North Carolina A&T.

Is Overtime Penn State’s Time?

Yeah, the Guru knows his headline on this item steals the Maryland theme from 2006 when the Terrapins won the NCAA title over ACC-rival Duke in overtime capping a season in which extra minutes became plentiful to secure victories.

But it’s late and the glass slipper of the moment seems to fit after the Nittany Lions went to 3-0, producing another high-scoring 96-89 overtime triumph against Oakland in Rochester, Mich.

On Friday night Penn State won at Dayton 111-107 in double overtime.

Freshman Maggie Lucas, a graduate of Germantown Academy, forced the extra period with a reverse layup with eight seconds left in regulation. Zhaque Gray was again at the top of the scoring charts for Penn State with 16 points, a total matched by freshman teammate Ariel Edwards as Oakland fell to 1-2 after leading 23-12 early in the contest.

Lucas had 13 points and three rebounds and three assists off the bench.

Penn State next hosts Dawn Staley’s South Carolina squad Sunday at 3:30 p.m. at the Bryce Jordan Center with the nonconference match televised on Big10-TV.

The Gamecocks (2-1) beat in-state rival Clemson 73-51 Thursday as Ieasia Walker set a career high with 30 points as the Tigers fell to 2-1.

Scanning The Wires (And Email)

Jasmine Thomas had 16 points to lead No. 6 Duke to a 75-62 win at Auburn in a Big Six Conferences challenge game.

DePaul (3-0) will have an opportunity at moving into the AP Poll by playing Purdue on the road Sunday in the title game of the Preseason Women’s NIT. The Demons advanced at home with a 74-73 win over Florida (2-1) after a last-second shot by the Gators was ruled after time expired.

Shante Evans, a sophomore from West Chester Henderson High in suburban Philadelphia, had 17 points and 13 rebounds to lead Hofstra (2-1) to a 84-72 win at Stony Brook.

No. 21 Maryland (2-1) shook off its loss at No. 13 Georgetown to rout in-state rival Towson 72-47 in the Comcast Center while No. 4 Tennessee (3-0) held off Virginia 85-73 in Knoxville as Angie Bjorklund scored 26 points. Ariana Moorer had 24 for the Cavaliers (2-1).



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