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.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Guru Report: Princeton Swamps Penn In Ivy Opener With Second Half Surge

By Mel Greenberg

PRINCETON, N.J.
– The Penn women’s basketball team began conference play early Saturday night in the deepest end of the Ivy League pool having to play the Quakers’ traveling partner, AKA the still powerful Princeton Tigers.

For 20 minutes coach Mike McLaughlin’s squad showed a great ability to stay afloat and when the half ended the Quakers had played the defending Ivy champs even up at 20-20.

Then the surge hit – an 18-0 surge to describe it precisely – and Princeton, which swept the conference a year ago, went on to a 56-45 victory that Penn (5-6, 0-1 Ivy) made more respectable in defeat by chipping off a 19-point deficit in the closing minutes.

“The first half we came out to win and that’s why I was proud of our kids,” McLaughlin said. “We didn’t come here to try to get closer than we did last year. We came out to win and I think that was a good step for us.

“The first half is what we wanted – we defending them, the pace was what we wanted and we were right where we needed to go. But in the second half we four or five straight bad possessions at the outset which was a little too much to handle.

“They capitalized and good teams do that.”

Princeton (12-3, 1-0) has been the best of the entire group in the Ancient Eight in terms of capitalizing again this season.

The Tigers top the Ivies in six of 11 categories including: field-goal percentage, three-point field goal percentage, scoring assists, steals and turnover margin. As for the remaining five categories, Princeton is a perfect second to several teams in scoring offense, scoring defense, free-throw percentage, rebounding margin, and blocks.

The rest of the way Princeton will also have to show how good they are at survival with top player Niveen Rasheed sidelined with a knee injury.

Her absence hasn’t hurt the Tigers yet in three straight outings since the injury before New Year’s at Davidson.

A key reason is senior Addie Micir, who scored 18 points as the only Tiger in double figures against the Quakers. Micir also sees Penn players in the offseason competing in the Philadelphia Dept. of Recreation Women’s NCAA Summer League played in Hatboro, Pa., near her home.

“She’s a big-time Division I player who could start for a lot of ranked teams,” McLaughlin said.

Penn freshman Alyssa Baron scored 15 points, while sophomore Briana Bradford scored 14 points.

The Quakers next host Villanova in a Big Five game Wednesday night at The Palestra before heading to play Virginia in Charlottesville next weekend.

Princeton, courtesy of the schedule, will now be idle for 20 days before the end of the month when the Tigers will play successive weekends on the road.

“Mike’s done a great job,” Princeton coach Courtney Banghart paid tribute to her counterpart on the Quakers. “They came to compete, they had nothing to lose.

“We were kind of limping into this game trying to get to the break. And we did it. Every Ivy game is going to be a battle and so far we’re 1-0 and so we’ll take it, but one at a time.”

Asked which is better after the break – getting road games quickly out of the way or not in terms of considering the back-to-back weekend scheduling in the Ivies – Banghart responded:

“We’re going to make it whichever one we are sound like the one we want,” she said. “So the fact we’re on the road, I’m going to tell you I’m glad we’re on the road.

“Basically, we now have 20 days. I think we know as a group we can be better than we were tonight. But that takes nothing away from Penn. Everyone knows everyone well and our target is going to be enormous, especially after last year.”

Princeton swept the Ivy competition and earned an 11th seed off their automatic bid – highest ever for a league representative in the NCAA tournament.

“We’ll be more ready, I can promise you that,” Banghart said.

Hawks Soar In Atlantic 10 Opener

St. Joseph’s (11-4, 1-0 A-10) met the challenge in St. Louis from the Billikens (6-10, 0-1) and grabbed a 66-54 victory in their Atlantic 10 opener as Katie Kuester and Michelle Baker combined for 32 points.

Kuester scored 13 of her 18 points in the first half and also had a career-high eight rebounds for the game. Baker had 14 points and the Hawks were on target hitting 50 percent of their shots.

Ayrielle Robinson scored 20 points for St. Louis and Lauren Woods scored 19.

St. Joseph’s next hosts Atlantic 10 favorite Xavier, currently ranked ninth, on Wednesday at noon in a Kids’ Day matinee affair at Hagan Arena.

Rutgers Claws Wildcats

Though there are few places in the Big East schedule that are not treacherous, Villanova is beginning play in the conference at some of the most dangerous road stops.

Following a blowout loss Wednesday from No. 2 Connecticut, the Wildcats suffered another dismal first half and lost at Rutgers 57-43 in Piscataway, N.J.

The Scarlet Knights (9-6, 2-0 Big East), who welcomed back Khadijah Rushdan to action after missing several games with a bruised knee, stormed to a 40-18 halftime lead over the Wildcats (7-8, 0-3).

Rutgers, however, lost a key piece when it was announced before tipoff that Nikki Speed is out indefinitely with a left foot injury.

Monique Oliver scored 17 points for the Scarlet Knights and April Sykes had 15. Rushdan scored seven points, shooting 2-for-8 from the field in 25 minutes of play.

Rachel Roberts scored 14 for Villanova, which travels to The Palestra Wednesday to meet Penn in a Big Five game. Lindsay Kimmel had 11points as the Wildcats were dominated on the boards by Rutgers’ 40-26 rebounding advantage.

Explorers Rammed At Fordham

Bronx tales are ending more happily these days for Fordham (9-8, 1-0 A-10), which handled La Salle 69-54 in an Atlantic 10 opener for both schools in the game played in New York. Several years ago the Rams drew national notoriety when they failed to win a Division I contest.

Ashley Gale again poured points for the Explorers (4-11, 0-1), scoring 29 while Ebonee Jones scored 10.

Fordham’s Tiffany Stokes scored 17 points, leading four Rams who scored in double figures. The Rams’ Kyara Weeks grabbed 10 rebounds.

La Salle next travels to St. Bonaventure (10-6, 0-1) on Wednesday. The Bonnies fell to red hot Duquesne (14-2, 1-0 A-10), which rallied from a 16-point deficit at home in Pittsburgh to win 60-54 as Vanessa Abel scored a game and season-high 20 points in the Atlantic 10 opener for both schools.

Shirley’s 600th On Hold

Earlier in the day the Guru traveled to Rutherford, N.J., for a print story, which can be found at Philly.com in the Inquirer sports link. The purpose was to cover Philadelphia University coach Tom Shirley’s first attempt to become the 20th women’s coach in all three NCAA Divisions to win 600 games.

The Division II game on the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference schedule at Felician College seemed certain not to go Shirley’s way with the Rams down 17 at the half in the same Job Gym he won his 500th in 2006.

Then it appeared it might happen when Philly U. sent the game into overtime, only to have the host Falcons put the clamps down in the final two minutes.

The next attempt is Tuesday night and weather permitting the Guru, who lives not far from the site in Northeast Philadelphia, will be on the scene at Holy Family. If it doesn’t happen there, then it’s on to a home game Sunday against District of Columbia at the Gallagher Center.

MIA In CAA Marks Drexel-Delaware Showdown

A year ago Delaware visited Drexel for the second of the two local super matchups in the Colonial Athletic Association where several elements fueled a first-ever women’s sellout at the Dragons’ Daskalakis Athletic Center.

The game marked the first area appearance in the city limits of super freshman Elena Delle Donne, the national high school player of the year in 2008 who was celebrating her return to basketball on the way to being named both the freshman and most valuable player in the CAA.

Drexel was the defending champion of the CAA and still had the then-reigning CAA player of the year Gabriela Marginean, who was on her way as a senior to becoming the all-time women’s scorer in Philadelphia area collegiate history without regard to any of the NCAA competitive divisions.

The two teams had met several weeks earlier before a massive crowd in Newark, Del., at the Bob Carpenter where Drexel continued its recent mastery of the Blue Hens with a win at the finish in overtime.

The ensuing game in Philadelphia did not disappoint and Drexel again won in overtime though the Blue Hens got revenge in the CAA tournament quarterfinals again in overtime but with a win against the Dragons.

This time around team trainers are the stars of the moment on both teams considering recent events.

Delaware on an upraded schedule is 9-4 and 2-0 after the first week of CAA play following a comeback against Hofstra at home and win at Northeastern.

Drexel is 9-4 overall after the Dragons’ best nonconference run in the Denise Dillon era that includes a season-opening 4-0 sweep of Big Five schools involving all but Temple, which isn’t on the schedule. There’s also a key win at Penn State. An upset loss in the CAA opener at North Carolina-Wilmington was followed Thursday night by a comeback win against Georgia State when Dillon cleared her bench early in the second half the substitutes prevailed, especially Hollie Mershon with 18 points.

But neither team will be at full health when the game begins at 2 p.m.

Drexel in the last week has lost starter Marisa Crane and rookie substitute Jackie Schluth to ACL knee injuries for the season. Tyler Hale, another starter, is not likely to play for the second straight game after suffering a concussion colliding with Jasmina Rosseel during the afternoon pre-game shootaround before the Georgia State contest.

On Delaware’s side Delle Donne is listed as day-to-day with a back injury that the Wilmington News Journal in Delaware’s capital has reported to be caused by a nerve.

Averaging 26.0 points when she has played, which had made her the nation’s leading scorer until the number of missed contests disqualified her for now, Delle Donne was supposed to see a spine specialist this week, according to the newspaper.

But it has not been determined publicly if that occurred.

The day-to-day situation is causing havoc for Delaware opponents in terms of preparation.

“You have to prepare for going against Elena or not,” Dillon said. “We’re already at a disadvantage Sunday with two starters gone because it’s not known when Tyler will be able to return from the concussion injury.

“But in terms of playing Delaware, if Elena suddenly returns (she is not listed as a probable starter) then you’re talking basically about stopping 30 more points in the game.

“But for now, both (Delaware coach) Tina (Martin) and myself have to use the players who are working the hardest and just hope for the best.”

The game will mark the second Philadelphia appearance for Sarah Acker, a former Big Five rookie of the year at St. Joseph’s who got injured as a sophomore, transferred out to a junior college and then enrolled at Delaware becoming eligible in late November.

She played at La Salle last month after becoming eligible.

Acker went against her former team when St. Joseph’s visited Newark last month and won the contest.

That was the first game Delle Donne did not play after making a brief return against Navy and Penn State following taking herself out of the La Salle game after six minutes of play – the Blue Hens still won – and then missing the home game next time out won by Princeton.

Following the St. Joseph’s game, Delle Donne did not make the trip to Virginia Tech’s tournament where Delaware lost to Vanderbilt but won the consolation game. She’s also missed the Hofstra and Northeastern games for a total of almost seven overall counting the brief appearance at La Salle.

Still, its Drexel vs. Delaware and both teams will rise to the occasion whoever is in uniform because of the rivalry.

UConn Survives at Notre Dame

It’s the tenth anniversary of the 2001 season in which Connecticut and Notre Dame had been 1-2 in the polls and both ranked No. 1 highlighted by the Irish’s first win over the Huskies, which occurred at home in South Bend, Ind., following frustrating setbacks since joining the Big East.

A decade later, Notre Dame nearly joined the knockout UConn club Saturday with a narrow 79-76 loss at home in a game that was played following a foot of snow being dumped on South Bend by Mother Nature.

The game was just two removed from Stanford’s win at home over Connecticut that ended the Huskies’ NCAA Division I record win streak at 90 – two more than the previous mark set by the UCLA men at 88 between 1971 and 1974 that was stopped, incidentally, at Notre Dame.

Speaking of that 2001 season, former Hartford Courant UConn women’s beat writer Jeff Goldberg has a book due out near the end of next month entitled Bird at the Buzzer depicting the 1-2 showdown in the conference title game won by UConn when former all-American Sue Bird hit long-range buzzer-beating shots at the half and end of the game.

The Irish avenged the Big East loss by rallying in the second half of the NCAA semifinals against UConn before winning their only national championship by edging Purdue.

UConn next travels back to Madison Square Garden Wednesday night for a 9:30 game against St. John’s before heading to North Carolina a week from Monday to meet a Tar Heels team which could also mount a threat to the Huskies.

Other likely challengers are Notre Dame on the return conference game to UConn, No. 3 Duke on a visit to Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, and possibly Oklahoma.

The Rest of The Nation

In other scores of note, Baylor celebrated its first game since becoming No. 1 in the polls for the first time ever earlier in the week by beating Iowa State at home 70-58.

Ohio State, ranked as high as No. 6 less than a month ago before becoming UConn’s victim No. 88 in the streak at the Maggie Dixon Classic in New York City, is in danger of dropping out of the rankings altogether this week following Saturday’s loss at Iowa in the Big Ten. Iowa, which had lost two conference games at the start of Big Ten competition, was also imperiled going into the contest.

DePaul topped St. John’s 69-54 in a Big East contest involving two ranked teams in the game played in Queens, N.Y.

Marquette upset nationally ranked Georgetown 75-73 in overtime in a Big East contest in the nation’s capital while Richmond at home beat George Washington 68-55 in an Atlantic Ten opener.

Missouri upset Texas at home 85-80 in overtime in the Big 12, while Texas Tech bested host Kansas 61-57 in another Big 12 game between two teams likely battling each other for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

TCU beat UNLV 68-60 as Helena Sverrisdottiri of Iceland became the Horned Frogs’ all-time assists leader during a home game played in Fort Worth.

Stanford, which moved back into the Top 5 jumping from ninth to fourth following the win over UConn, crushed Arizona State 82-35 in a Pac-10 contest while another key conference contest that was played in Tinseltown saw UCLA beat Southern Cal 61-42.

In national games of note Sunday: Florida State tries to avoid ejection from the rankings in hosting Virginia in the Atlantic Coast Conference after the Seminoles last month in Hartford became UConn’s 89th straight victim for the record breaker.

North Carolina, coming off a loss at Georgia Tech in the ACC, has a key conference visit to Boston College, which is coming off a nonconference loss to Dayton of the Atlantic 10.

The winning Flyers have an in-state conference rivalry game playing Xavier, the A-10 favorite, on the road in Cincinnati.

Georgia Tech, off its ACC upset of North Carolina, visits Clemson in a conference game, while Miami, looking for a ranking, has an ACC game at Virginia Tech. James Madison plays host Old Dominion in Norfolk, Va., in a game between the preseason favorite (JMU) and traditional dominate power in the CAA.

South Carolina hosts Florida in an SEC game as Dawn Staley’s Gamecocks seek to keep the momentum going after the upset of LSU earlier in the week.

The Guru will be at Drexel and will be back in 24 hours to wrap up the day’s activity.

-- Mel

5 Comments:

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