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.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Penn's 52-51 Fall To Niagara Breaks Quakers' Hearts

By Mel Greenberg

The Penn women’s basketball team Tuesday night discovered there is a difference between one’s first taste of Niagara Falls and one’s first experience with Niagara, the university, located near the rushing waters.

The Falls in upstate New York offer a romantic setting to seal lovers’ hearts.

A first dance with the Purple Eagles, as far as the Quakers are concerned, can provide nothing but heartbreak.

That was the fallout from Flooks shots and a Stroman bread and butter play at the end that enabled Niagara to edge Penn 52-51 for the first win of the season by the Purple Eagles (1-5) in the nonconference game.

The Quakers (2-3) were deprived of what would have been their third win in November for the first time in four seasons.
And overall the game was not for weak hearts in the Palestra crowd or on the court considering the 10 ties and 10 lead changes.

“I feel for them a little bit,” second-year Penn coach Mike McLaughlin said. “We’re trying to build here and that would have really been a nice piece to it.

“But they also need to learn from this.”

McLaughlin arrived last season after a longtime career at Division II Holy Family, his alma mater, in Northeast Philadelphia, where he built the Tigers into a national power.

On Niagara’s end, Tuesday night, there was nothing fluky about senior forward Liz Flooks, who was 8-for-14 from the field and finished with a game-high 25 points while grabbing 10 rebounds.

But the ultimate heroics belonged to Kayla Stroman, who nailed a three-pointer from just outside the arc on the right side with seven seconds left to put the Purple Eagles ahead with the final score.

“The kid made a tough shot at the end, I have to give her a lot of credit, but we battled enough, I just told them it didn’t come down to just that one play,” McLaughlin said.

“We created enough plays to win but we also gave away a few plays early that we would like to have back. I just don’t want them to sit there on one play, because, that’s basketball. That’s the competition.”

Penn freshman Alyssa Baron, who had been playing outstanding since her collegiate debut, went length of the court to just left of the top of the key where she launched a 12-foot shot that hit off the right side of the rim.

“She’ll be in that situation again,” McLaughlin said of his recruit from Miami, Fla. “I thought she got a pretty good shot from outside 10 or 12 feet, I’d do it again. She could of made that one.

“But overall she got to go where she wanted to go on the court and I’d do it again. She’ll learn from that situation. It will only make her stronger in the end.”

Junior Jess Knapp had 14 points, while Baron scored 13.

Baron said she’s been in a similar situation “plenty of times in high school.

“You win some, you lose some. But anytime, it hurts. You try to shake it off quickly and move on to the next one. But it always hurts to lose one like that.”

Baron also noted what attracted her to joining the Quakers.

“I definitely liked the direction the program is going,” Baron said. “I love the coaches, the team, and Penn’s a great school. I love the campus and knew right away I could see myself here doing well the next four years.”

Penn was ahead 50-49 with 18 seconds left when Baron went to the line and made the first foul shot but missed the second, which would have virtually put the Quakers in position at worst to be forced into overtime.

They held a 32-26 lead at the half but the game was perhaps really lost for them at the outset of the second half when Niagara bolted on a 13-2 run and 39-34 lead with 14 minutes, 20 seconds left in the game.

But Penn rallied and things looked good when Brianna Bradford hit a three-pointer for a 50-47 lead with 1:11 left in the game.

“I go back to the start of the second half, I don’t think we came out of the gate,” McLaughlin said. “Not so much the score of it – just the momentum. We have to improve on that. Four minutes there I thought we gave away a little bit.

“Like I said, it was the first time we were in that (close) situation. I thought we handled it well. We got the shots that we wanted and give that kid credit.

“We’re here to win games and they have to learn that this is part of the process. I’d like to sit here today and say we won and this is a great – but this is a step, too, that builds character eventually and we’ll get back at it at practice tomorrow. We’ll get better from this.”

Penn travel to West Point Saturday to meet Army, coached by Philadelphian Dave Magarity.

Knapp thought progress was being made despite the loss considering how many times Penn got routed a year ago in a 2-26 season.

“I’m never going to settle for a loss – a one point loss, a 50-point loss, whatever it is, but, definitely, that’s what `Coach’ wanted at the end of the game, make sure we’re in the game, keep it close by every four minute interval.

“Yeah, this hurt stings because we lose by one, but we’re definitely making strides.”

-- Mel


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