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, February 27, 2011

South Florida Foils Villanova at Finish; Princeton Nears 2nd Ivy Title

(Guru’s note: Two blogs above this separately handle Atlantic 10 and Big East coverage with Temple and La Salle addressed in the A-10 post and Rutgers handled in the Big East post. All other local D-1 news is right here, including the Ivies, CAA, and Penn State and Nova game coverage.
Over in melgreenberg.com pressing the media links tab and then Philly local, will give you D2 and D3 local news from Saturday.)

By Mel Greenberg

The final home game of the season featured a great start and heartbreaking finish for Villanova in Saturday’s 59-58 loss to South Florida in a Big East game at The Pavilion.

Several minutes before the tipoff seniors Heather Scanlon, a 6-foot-3 center and Cardinal O’Hara graduate; and Amada Swiezynski of Exeter, N.H., were honored for their careers with the Wildcats.

At stake for Villanova was the top of invisible basement division of the powerful Big East, though the Wildcats will still finish either 13th or 14th in the 16-team conference.

Coach Harry Perretta’s squad then raced off to one of its better openings, shooting 50 percent from the field and taking a 14-point lead that was still comfortable enough at 35-22 when halftime arrived.

But the Bulls (11-18, 2-13 Big East) methodically began to slice the advantage and eventually took a 57-55 lead over the Wildcats (10-18, 2-13) on Leondra Doomes-Stephens’ jump shot with 1 minute, 6 seconds left in the game.

Villanova attempted to counter but Devon Kane missed a three-pointer with 34 seconds left. South Florida’s Jasmine Wynne grabbed the rebound, was fouled by Laura Sweeney and went to the line shooting 1-and-1 with with 32 seconds left.

Wynne missed the shot, Villanova grabbed the rebound and for the moment, Lindsay Kimmel, the transfer from Temple, became the potential heroine for Villanova when she nailed a trey from well beyond the arc for a 58-57 lead with 15 seconds remaining.

But that was still plenty of time for South Florida, which became the winner when Andrea Smith, the 2010 national junior college player of the year, drove inside with a layup with six seconds left.

The Wildcats had one last chance and Kane drove the length-of-the-court and heaved a shot, which went off the rim and for the third straight season South Florida had rallied for a win over Villanova.

“We knew they are going to run a screen and she beat our kid to the hoop,” Perretta said of the winning play for the Bulls. “She just made an individual play.

“You know they’re going to drive it – that’s what they’re good at. We just tried to stay in front of (Smith) and she beat our kid off the dribble,” he continued. “There’s not much you can do about it at that point.

“Today was a game not having Rachel (Roberts) really hurt us,” Perretta noted of her recent season-ending thumb injury.

“Because not having another guard – they were guard oriented. In the second half when Jesse (Carey) got in foul trouble, we’re playing forwards at the guard spot – and we even had a forward – Amanda – playing at the guard spot at one point.”

Doomes-Stephens finished with 19 points for the Bulls while Tiffany Conner scored 13.

Kimmel had 17 points and shot 5-for-10 on three-point attempts. Kane scored 16 points, her third career high in the last four games, and Sweeney had 15 for Villanova.

Two seasons ago here South Florida grabbed a 52-50 win at the finish, though Villanova finished in a three-way tie for fourth in the conference and earned the top tie-breaker and double bye in the conference tournament.

“We’ve always had very good games, we just come out on the positive end every time we’ve played,” South Florida coach Jose Fernandez said.

“The last two games here on the road have been very exciting. The only difference was in the second half, we dictated tempo more on the defensive end – we started to press and that helped us speed things up rather than them running their offense for 25 seconds.”

Villanova finishes up at Pittsburgh (13-15, 5-10) Monday night while South Florida will be at No. 18 Georgetown (21-8, 9-6), which lost to top-ranked Connecticut 52-42 at home at McDonough Arena in Washington.

That win gave the Huskies (28-1, 15-0) another Big East title outright – it’s 19th in 23 regular seasons.
Pittsburgh lost on the road 72-63 at St. John’s (20-8, 9-6).

The Big East tournament opens Friday night at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn., continuing with a second-round Saturday and then moving daily into the following Tuesday night’s championship.

Princeton Sweeps, Penn Swept

The Quakers (10-15, 4-7) were reduced to a split on the season with two Ivy foes this weekend, losing road games at Columbia Friday night in New York and at Cornell in Ithaca Saturday.

The Tigers (21-4, 10-1), on the other hand, completed a 4-0 sweep of the two Empire State schools and now own a two-game lead in the loss column over Yale (13-13, 9-3) and Harvard (16-9, 8-3) in defense of last season’s Ivy title.

Yale shocked Harvard again, this time Saturday night 78-64 at the Crimson’s Lavietes Pavilion in Cambridge, Mass., as Megan Vasquez scored 23 points for the Bulldogs’ first season sweep of Harvard in 17 years and first win at Harvard since Feb. 17, 2001.

Coach Chris Gobrecht's squad also owns an upset out of conference over nationally-ranked Florida State, which could finish either tied for first, or second, or third Sunday when the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season concludes.

A Princeton win over Dartmouth (7-18, 3-8) at home in Jadwin Gym Friday night knocks Yale out of the race while it ends completely if Penn avenges its double overtime road loss to Harvard against the Crimson the same night at The Palestra.

Otherwise, Princeton can finish off Harvard Saturday night at home.

In Penn’s weekend road trip, coach Mike McLaughlin’s group fell deep behind in the second half of both games but rallied only to fall short at the end.

On Friday, the Quakers lost at Columbia’s Levien Gym 61-54 in New York City and dropped a half-game behind the Lions (6-20, 5-7) to fifth in the Ivy standings.

Columbia held a 13-point lead with five minutes left but a Quakers rally brought Penn within a basket at 56-54 on freshman Alyssa Baron’s shot with 1:53 left in the game.

Brianna Branford missed a long trey on Penn’s next possession, which would have given the Quakers the lead.

Melissa Shafer, who had 15 points for the Lions, then hit a shot and a turnover by Penn on the next possession enabled Columbia to go to the foul line and get two more.

Baron, who had 18 points, then missed a trey and Columbia went to the line and scored on one of two free-throw chances to finish off.

Penn’s Erin Power grabbed 12 rebounds, but ball handling doomed the Quakers with 21 turnovers to Columbia’s 10.

Against Cornell (6-20, 3-9), Bradford nailed a trey with 1:03 left to bring the Quakers to a 51-51 tie after trailing 43-31 midway through the second half. However, the Big Red then busted the full court press to go ahead. Penn missed shots on ensuing possessions and Cornell was successful at the foul line after each one to go 4-4 in the last minute and get a 57-51 victory.

Baron scored 17 points against Cornell, Jess Knapp had a season-high 15 points, and Bradford scored 10.

Meanwhile, Quakers’ traveling partner Princeton started the trip at Cornell with an easy 71-44 win Friday night as Lauren Edwards scored 16 points and Addie Micir scored 14 at Newman Arena.

On Saturday night the Tigers hit New York City and beat Columbia 65-52 as Micir scored 17 points and Kate Miller scored 13.

Penn will be looking to avenge two tough road losses next weekend with the Harvard visit and on Saturday against Dartmouth.

Harvard at home beat Princeton for the Tigers’ only league loss earlier this season but the following weekend, Crimson losses at Yale and Brown tossed the race back into Princeton’s direction when the Tigers swept Columbia and Cornell.

The Tigers finish at Penn on Tuesday, March 8.

Looking Ahead

Penn State (21-8, 10-5 Big Ten) finishes its regular season Sunday with a combo Senior/Pink Zone Day at the Bryce Jordan Center when Northwestern (17-11, 6-9) visits the Lady Lions in a key Big Ten game.

Coach Coquese Washington’s team is tied with Wisconsin (15-12, 10-5) but can take the second seed for next weekend’s conference tournament in Indianapolis by beating the Wildcats and if the Badgers lose to Ohio State (18-9, 9-6), which is looking to stay on the road back from a recent disaster stretch of games.

Wisconsin otherwise takes the tiebreaker over the Lady Lions off a head-to-head win in Madison.

Also, there is an outside chance for a five-way tie for second if Penn State and Wisconsin both lose, which jumps up Ohio State to a three-way and then Iowa and Michigan could join the fray.

Penn State, by the way, will be a host site for first and second round NCAA tournament games and can play in the Lady Lions’ arena, though Temple, which will host one of the four regionals at the Sweet 16 level at the Liacouras Center, must be slotted elsewhere for potential advancement per NCAA rules that don’t allow a regional host to play on its own campus.

No. 10 Michigan State wrapped up the conference title outright and has a two-game lead.

Devon’s Julie Trogele, who will be honored, is the only senior on the roster and had been recruited by former coach Rene Portland before her departure after the 2006-07 season.

Delaware (16-11, 9-7), meanwhile, will be seeking to solidify itself as a conference championship threat, despite the Blue Hens’ record in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA).

Coach Tina Martin’s team gained a major upset Thursday with a home win against fourth-place Virginia Commonwealth and Sunday travel to Old Dominion’s Ted Constant Center in Norfolk, Va., to meet the Lady Monarchs (19-8, 13-3), who are tied for second with UNC Wilmington (21-6, 13-3).

James Madison (22-6, 15-1), the defending CAA champion, can clinch the regular season title with a win at Hofstra (16-11, 8-8), which is tied for sixth with Drexel (16-11, 8-8).

Coach Denise Dillon’s Dragons will be at Towson (9-18, 3-13), near Baltimore, seeking to stay at least tied with Hofstra or perhaps catch Delaware.

Drexel wraps up the regular season Wednesday in the Daskalakis Athletic Center against Old Dominion, while Delaware will host Towson.

-- Mel


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