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.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Ivy Friday Night Lights: Penn Tames Big Red While Princeton's Back On Top

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA – On a somewhat quiet Friday night nationally, there was a little bit of noise in the Ivy League, which had four of the eight games played across America.

Two others were in the Atlantic Coast Conference, one was in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and one was in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

A lot of the shouting for joy occurred here in Penn’s Palestra and about an hour to the north at defending Ivy champion Princeton, whose elation was the result of more home team joy further north, where in the state of Connecticut the big news on this particular night occurred in New Haven instead of Hartford or Storrs, the campus home of you know who.

But local matters come first in Saturday morning’s blog and that means a salute to Penn, which continues to make strides under second-year coach Mike McLaughlin, who formerly coached Division II powerhouse Holy Family in Northeast Philadelphia.

The Quakers (8-12, 2-4 Ivy) recovered nicely from last weekend’s narrow road losses at Dartmouth and Harvard (double overtime) to put on a defensive stand against Cornell 51-33 for McLaughlin’s first Ivy home win as Jess Knapp and freshman sensation Alyssa Baron each scored 10 points and Jerin Smith scored eight.

The Big Red (8-12, 2-4), coached by former Penn assistant Dayna Smith in her ninth season, were held to 26.7 percent shooting from the field and no one scored in double figures as team honors went to Taylor Flynn with seven points.

Cornell scored its fewest points against Penn since 1981, according to the Quakers postgame notes.

“We did a good job, played a great defensive game,” McLaughlin said. “Offensively, at times was not real pretty but we played well enough to win.

”We scored in transition, although we didn’t run half-court offense very good.”

If the Quakers beat Columbia at home Saturday night, which is also the annual Pink Zone fight against breast cancer game, it will be the first weekend sweep in the Ivies for Penn in two seasons. It will also mark a seven-game improvement over last season, which would match two other times the Quakers have achieved that number as an all-time best for turnarounds, though this is only the halfway point in Ivy competition.

A year ago, Penn’s only Ivy win occurred in the next-to-the-last game at Dartmouth.

But McLaughlin isn’t ready to discuss the milestones of progress just yet.

“I keep saying to the team we all get caught up in numbers because we know this question and I told them, `Let’s worry about that at the end.’ We still have eight games left; we have a lot of work to do within this program.

“Hopefully some more wins will come. We’ll count them up at the end. (His players) are aware of it, I’m aware of it, but this is a long process and I want them to enjoy the process and not worry about what the total is.”

That process earlier included a Big Five win here against La Salle that snapped a 24-game losing streak in the City Series.

Penn, with the win, moved into sole possession of fifth place in the league, a half-game in front of Cornell. The Quakers were picked for last in the pre-season poll voted by media members who cover the eight-team Ivy women.

“No question,” McLaughlin answered when asked if he thought the team was moving forward. “They don’t think they can (win), they know they can, they believe they can and I think that’s good progress from last year.

“And they’re definitely getting better. We’ve been in every game and we had some heartbreakers at the end and I thought even at the start of the second half (against Cornell) I reminded them of the tough games we’ve had so there was no reason for any type of complacency and I thought they did a nice job thinking that.”

Meanwhile, thanks to a lot of help from Yale (9-12, 5-2), Princeton (16-4, 5-1) rode a 57-35 win over Columbia (5-16, 4-3) at home in Jadwin Gym back to the top of the Ivy standings in a tie with Harvard (13-7, 5-1), which was shocked at Yale 82-71 for the second big win by the Bulldogs this season.

Back in December Yale stunned nationally-ranked Florida State, which had made a stop in New Haven before heading North to become the 89th straight victim by Connecticut that set a new NCAA Division I win streak record for men and women. The run lasted one more game before Stanford issued the Huskies the only blip on their season’s record to date.

A week ago Harvard stopped Princeton’s Ivy win streak at 22 at home in Cambridge, Mass., to remain the lone unbeaten in league competition before narrowly surviving Penn’s visit the next night in the double overtime game.

In the Tigers’ win Friday over Columbia, Devonna Allgood had a game-high 13 points while Krystal Hill reached a season high with with 12 points.

Princeton has won 17 straight home games heading into Saturday night’s visit from Cornell.

In the last week following the loss to Harvard there had been some back room chatter about the Tigers’ worth as the first Ivy team to get an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament if they don’t repeat as champions in certain scenarios.

But that could be moot since running the table the rest of the way would include a home win over Harvard and another title outright without need of a playoff.

Likewise, another Ivy loss also renders the discussion moot in terms of at-large status.

In the win by Yale over the Crimson at its John J. Lee Ampitheater, Janna Graf scored 21 points pacing three other Bulldogs teammates scoring in double figures, including 11 from Mady Gobrecht, the daughter of Yale coach Chris Gobrecht.

“We haven’t beaten them since my freshman year and they are our biggest rivals,” Mady Gorbrecht said. “It makes this win mean so much more.”

Victoria Lippert scored 18 points for the Crimson.

In the other Ivy games Brown (6-15, 2-5) at home in Providence, R.I., beat Dartmouth 56-48 to drop the Big Green to 5-15 and 1-5.

Atlantic Coast Ranked Teams Prevail

No. 5 Duke and No. 19 Florida State gained victories in two ACC games played Friday night.

There’s usually no doubting Thomas efforts – both Jasmine and Krystal – when it comes to Duke success. That was again true in an 82-39 win at Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, N.C., that kept the Blue Devils (22-2, 8-1) first in the conference.

Jasmine, an all-American candidate, had 17 points while Krystal had 12 points and 12 rebounds against the Demon Deacons (12-14, 3-7) to bounce back from Monday night’s tough loss at North Carolina.

That setback was much closer than the previous Monday, which saw No. 2 Connecticut blast the Blue Devils in a nonconference game at the Huskies’ Gampel Pavilion on campus.

Duke dominated the inside with a 52-31 rebounding advantage as well as a 46-14 scoring advantage, causing Wake Forest coach Mike Petersen to say, “If we all stand in the lane and hold hands in a circle, we get in their way enough that they don’t get to 46 points in the paint.”

Meanwhile Georgia Tech (18-8, 6-4), which fell out of the Associated Press poll this week, ran into more frustration against another ranked ACC rival, losing 73-60 at Florida State (20-5, 8-2) in Tallahassee.

Alexa Delusio scored 15 of her 20 points in the second half for the Seminoles while freshman Tyaunna Marshall scored 18 points for the Yellow Jackets.

Georgia Tech has lost three straight.

Nothing Sly About Marist Red Foxes

No. 25 Marist (22-2, 13-0 MAAC) made it 18 straight in a 56-45 win over host Iona (9-16, 5-8)) in New Rochelle, N.Y., as Corielle Yarde scored 15 points.

That was the same point total reached by Kristina Ford who also had 11 rebounds for the Gaels.

In the only other Division I game, Prairie View (13-9, 9-2 SWAC) moved within a game of first-place Southern U by getting a 46-40 victory over Grambling State (10-13, 6-6) in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

Looking Ahead

As the regular season nears its end, much will be on the line Saturday with teams jockeying for conference tournament seed position as well as to gain favor in the eyes of the NCAA committee to indicate at-large status as an insurance policy in the postseason.

The Guru will be at Penn or Princeton Saturday night but will start the afternoon here in town at Temple, which will host La Salle in a Big Five game looking to go 3-0 in the City Series

The Explorers in the game at McGonigle Hall will be seeking to use the front door to capture a berth in the A-10 tournament next month in Lowell, Mass.

Temple, on an 11-game win streak will be seeking to maintain conference unbeaten status and minimally to stay locked at the top of the standings with No. 7 Xavier, which will be after its 25th straight conference win in hosting Fordham.

St.Joseph’s, in another key A-10 game, will host Richmond trying to avoid dropping further in the standings while the Spiders are trying to land one of four byes in the conference postseason.

Duquesne, which is in third place trailing the frontrunners, has a key visit to St. Bonaventure, while Dayton will be at N.C. Charlotte in another A-10 game between two teams seeking a bye.

George Washington hosts Massachusetts in a game between two teams trying to avoid plunging to 13th place and one of two elimination slots in terms of not making next month’s trip to Lowell.

In the Big East the two marquee games are an afternoon confrontation in which Rutgers will be seeking to gain a major upset and enhance its NCAA campaign when it meets host Notre Dame, which is ranked eighth and looking to stay within a game of first-place UConn, which it visits next Saturday.

The Huskies visit Providence Saturday in a game that was once one of the top Big East rivalries.

The other game of note has No. 21 Marquette traveling to No. 10 DePaul Saturday night.

Villanova, still seeking its first Big East win of the season, travels to Syracuse while Pittsburgh will host South Florida.
Cincinnati will host Seton Hall.

In other games involving AP ranked teams No. 1 Baylor has a sellout on its hands hosting Texas in a Big 12 game. Kansas will be at No. 8 Texas A&M in another Big 12 game with a ranked team.

Oklahoma will be heading out of the Big 12 Monday to travel to Connecticut for a Valentine’s special that is appropriate because of the love between the two programs. But first the No. 14 Sooners will be hosting Missouri.

Washington is at No. 3 Stanford and No. 9 UCLA is at Oregon State in two Pac-10 games involving ranked teams.
Southern Cal, trying to avoid a second-straight NCAA at-large omission, barring a win in the Pac-10 tournament, will visit Oregon.

In the only other Saturday game involving a ranked team No. 18 Wis.-Green Bay heads to Loyola of Chicago in the Horizon League.

-- Mel

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