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, November 20, 2011

Guru Roundup: Princeton Stops Villanova While Penn Goes 2-0

(Guru’s note: There is a separate post below this on the Hofstra win Friday night over St. John’s. If you are in megreenberg.com click the mel’s blog link on the left to get to the full blogspot archive.)

By Mel Greenberg

PRINCETON, N.J. –
In scouting Princeton prior to Saturday’s nonconference matchup at the Tigers’ Jadwin Gym he thought he saw something that looked very familiar.

“They’re a little less talented, but they remind me of Trish (Juhline) and Katie’s (Katie Davis) team,” Perretta compared the two-time defending Ivy champion to his Wildcat bunch who in 2003 stopped Connecticut’s then-NCAA record 70 game win streak in the Big East championship and advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament.

“They don’t have the talent of that team but they play very good together, they’re coachable, they hustle on every play, they’re just a very good team.

“I thought they would expose a lot of those weaknesses because they play so smart.”

On the other side, however, though Princeton was ahead 20-17 in the game against the Wildcats, Tigers coach Courtney Banghart didn’t think her group resembled the power she has developed in recent seasons.

“We couldn’t have played much worse, offensively, in the first half, but these guys are fighters,” Banghart said. “`Guys,’ at halftime, `We worked too hard for this. This is not who we are. If it’s going to be ugly, we’re going to go to the glass.’ We had 18 second chance points. (Nova was up 5-4 in that category at the break). We’re going to go to the free throw line. And we’re going to attack.”

Princeton then became familiar again to Banghart, rolling to a 56-41 victory and stay unbeaten at 3-0, including a win over St. Joseph’s.

After a day off, Princeton hosts another mid-major power in Marist, the perennial champion of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference but also one that Villanova upset on Wednesday night to go 3-0 before Saturday’s loss.

In meeting the Red Foxes, the Tigers are switching animals to play following wins over Lafayette's Leopards and Villanova's Wildcats.

Rasheed Niveen, back after a season-ending knee injury last December, scored 19 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Devona Allgood scored 18 points.

Villanova’s Emily Leer scored 12 points off the bench, but the Wildcats were forced into 19 turnovers while Princeton committed just 12 in gaining a 17-8 advantage off the Wildcats’ mistakes.

The Tigers also dominated the paint 36-20 and stopped Villanova’s perimeter attack, limiting the Wildcats to 3-for-21 from beyond the arc.

“We completely took them out of their rhythm,” Banghart said. “This team (Princeton) has set very high goals for themselves and my job as their coach is to help them reach them.”

Villanova next hosts Delaware Tuesday night in the Wildcats’ first home game of the season.

The Blue Hens, who could be nationally-ranked Monday for the first time ever, will be coming in off of Thursday’s upset at home over No. 11 Penn State when junior Elena Delle Donne scored 40 points.

Ironically, Villanova was among her final four choices when Delle Donne originally decided to go to Connecticut before chaning her mind and deciding to stay home and enroll at Delaware.

Princeton will host Delaware on Dec. 1 and prior to the Ivy wars the Tigers will be hosting DePaul and traveling to Stanford. Hofstra and Drexel before the New Year.

A Princeton-Villanova game might not have drawn many in the past but on Saturday such notables as former Virginia coach Debbie Ryan was in the crowd as well as most of the officials from the Ivy League.

Ryan, a native of nearby Mercer County, had been in New York last week to receive the Lapchick Character Award along with former Princeton men’s coach Pete Carril and former Mount St. Mary’s men’s coach Jim Phelan.

Ryan, who suffered pancreatic cancer, has been a fundraiser in the fight against all forms of the disease.

Her sister-in-law Mika, who was her first assistant coach at Virginia, and brother Pat live in the area and often attend Princeton games as well as those at Rider.

Rutgers Holds Off LaSalle

PHILADELPHIA -- The Guru stopped here, also.

The Explorers (1-3) made the pre-game form card of little value Saturday night at their Tom Gola Arena when La Salle extended No. 15 Rutgers (3-0) before fading in the final minutes of a 61-48 loss to Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer’s Scarlet Knights.

La Salle entered the game off a 66-45 wipeout defeat Wednesday night at St. John’s while Rutgers had played two games at home, showing some new scoring prowess with 70-plus scoring efforts over California and Boston College.

Despite the trend indicator, La Salle took a 30-20 halftime deficit and moved to 51-45 late in the game before Rutgers then clamped down and went on a 10-1 that became 10-3 when the Explorers’ Nadia Duncan scored at the buzzer.

It was the first road game for Rutgers’ prized freshmen that included Betnijah Laney from Delaware whose mother Yolanda played at Philadelphia’s University City High and was an all-American under Stringer at Cheyney in the Philly western suburbs.

Stringer did not believe her newcomers handed the visit well, but thought things will get better.

We didn't do a lot of things we should have done," Stringer said. "We were half playing, I'm saying running and trapping the way we did before, we didn't have the energy. We simply weren't moving. I do believe we should be able to play our game no matter who it is."

Senior Khadijah Rushdan, who is from Wilmington, Del., and actually is in her fifth season because of an injury as a freshman, scored 20 points, while senior April Sykes scored 12. Laney scored just two points but grabbed eight rebounds.

La Salle’s Alexis Scott scored 18 points while freshman Jayda Payne scored 11 and Ruvanna Campbell scored 11.

Second-year La Salle coach Jeff Williams said the St. John’s lopsided win was an eye-opener for his players.

"The kids learned from that game you have to fight you have to compete, especially at this level," Williams said. "We try to prepare the kids for a tough Atlantic 10 Conference season."

La Salle next launches the city’s Women’s Big Five season Tuesday hosting Penn, which upset the Quakers a year ago to end a long drought in City Series games.

The same night Rutgers will host Lehigh. The Scarlet Knights hosts Temple Nov. 30 in a nonconference game and in February visits Villanova as part of the Big East schedule.

Former La Salle star Cheryl Reeve was at the game while visiting home. She guided the WNBA Minnesota Lynx to the league championship in September and was also the coach of the year winner from a national media panel who covers the league.

Many of her former teammates were also at the game.

Drexel Rallies To Zip Akron

The Dragons (2-1) continue to recover from last week’s opening upset loss at home to Long Island U. in the first round of the preseason WNIT.

In the consolation round, Drexel, which beat Detroit Friday night, made it a weekend sweep Saturday by rallying over host Akron for a 67-60 victory as senior Kamile Nacickaite of Lithuania scored 25 of her career-high 33 points in the second half against the Zips (1-2).

Taylor Wootton finished just two short of her career high, scoring 16 points while Hollie Mershon scored 10.

Drexel next visits Pittsburgh Saturday and will be on the road three more games before playing in the Daskalakis Athletic Center.

Penn Rules Rider

For the first time in five seasons the Quakers are 2-0 are building a 23-point lead and holding on for a 66-57 nonconference victory at The Palestra.

Sophomore Alyssa Baron continues to be a scoring machine, this time putting up 30 points against the Broncos (1-2).

Coach Mike McLaughlin’s squad, which snapped a long Big Five losing streak upsetting La Salle last season, visits the Explorers Tuesday night.

Jess Knapp had 10 points and 10 rebounds for Penn, while Rider’s MyNeshia McKenzie had 23 points and 12 rebounds.

St. Joseph’s Falls at Vermont

The Hawks made it a weekend split in Burlington after beating Dartmouth on Friday but losing to the host Catamounts 80-67 to drop to 2-2 in the early season.

Vermont remains unbeaten at 4-0 after winning their own TD Bank Classic in which St. Joe’s Ashley Prim and Kelly Cavallo were named to the all-tournament team.

The Hawks trailed by as many as 17 points caused in part by a 2-for-13 effort from the floor in the first eight minutes.

Individually, Prim finished with a team-high 17 points to go with three assists, while Cavallo posted a 12-point, 14-rebound double-double.

The Hawks stay on the road to go to No. 10 Maryland on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. in the Terrapins’ Comcast Center.

Looking Ahead

On Sunday, Temple will try to shake off Friday night’s narrow loss at No. 24 Ohio State with a nonconference visit to Northern Illinois while Penn State, off the loss at Delaware, travels to South Carolina, coached by Dawn Staley.

The Guru will be in Connecticut for Monday’s game in Hartford against Stanford.

-- Mel

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