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.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Guru Musings: Was Penn State Loss To DePaul Shades of the JMU Debacle?

(Guru's note: Philly.com  has a print story by the Guru who covered for the print alma mater. Yeah, about that play in the first half. The Guru was busy carving two separate stories depending how the game went in order to make the early edition deadline when suddenly coming at him was Sam Quigley and the ball. Other than the shock of the moment and the quick cameo on ESPNU, the Guru covered himself, braced for the worst and survived.)

 By Mel Greenberg

As the Guru watched the second half of the Penn State -DePaul game unfold Monday night in the second round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at the Lady Lions' Bryce Jordan Center, he recalled the time back down the road in 1991 at Rec Hall when Penn State let a previous NCAA game get away in a loss to James Madison, which became the first team in the women's game to be unranked and beat a No. 1 team.

  In similar fashion, Penn State, which lost to the Blue Demons on Keisha Hampton's two free throws 75-73 with four seconds left,  let control of the game slowly get away but while Monday night's game 20 years later might seem comparable the only real resemblence was in yielding a lead.

 First, while Virginia was probably the real No. 1 team that season -- the Cavaliers lost in the ACC tournament allowing PSU in the final poll to return to the top where they had reached weeks earlier for the first time by upsetting coach Debbie Ryan's team in Charlottesville on Shelly Caplinger's three-pointer at the buzzer -- the Lady Lions were an older squad in terms of experience.

Expectations were much higher especially after the win at Virginia.

Two decades ago JMU was a decided underdog while Monday night by seed -- DePaul 3 Penn State 6 - the Lady Lions were the challenger.

  However, Penn State did approach equalizer status in terms of the momentum at the end of the season and the energy provided by the crowd of 3,276 that made the attendance in the vast arena seem much larger.

  This was DePaul's best season and the Blue Demons weren't going to give up without a fight.

   Coach Doug Bruno said he had his team chip away to try to get a tie at the three-minute mark rather than try to get everything back at once.

   Offensive rebounding was big and the recollection of the JMU game was how when a play here or there might have put Penn State with just enough to advance to Temple's Liacouras Center for the Sweet 16 it was DePaul coming back with a key basket or loose-ball grab or second shot opportunity.

  One thing is certain as the Penn State writers said to each other in the press room while authoring their coverage: We know the first question next fall at media day: How tough was the summer and did you live the whoile time thinking what might have been?

   In a sense, Maggie Lucas, who might have been the other Philadelphia story -- Hampton is also a Philly native -- along with teammates Julia Trogele, Renee Womack and Talia East -- already answered it in advance.

    "We're going to be great. We went down this year, but this is just a warning to a bunch of teams in this country that we're coming back, and we're coming back strong."

    Meanwhile, the Guru just wanted to jot this on the blog since he was busy with print coverage and drove back to Philly after the game. He needs some quick shuteye because he has notions of heading down to Maryland for Tuesday night's game with Georgetown that will also send the winner to Philadelphia.

  -- Mel


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