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.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Guru's College Report: Princeton and Delaware Wins Set Thursday Showdown

By Mel Greenberg
Princeton took care of its business Sunday beating host Rider 75-55 while Delaware picked up an impressive win over another Atlantic 10 team, topping host St. Bonaventure 61-49 in Olean, N.Y., to set up Thursday night’s showdown between two of the nation’s elite mid-major and unbeaten teams a few miles away from here at the Tigers’ Jadwin Gym.

Though the Broncos (2-2) were able to hold Princeton’s celebrated Niveen Rasheed to just six points, the Tigers found other ways to stay unbeaten (6-0) by getting 14 points from Lauren Edwards and 10 each from Devona Allgood and substitutes Blake Dietrick and Megan Bowen.

Rider’s MyNeshia McKenzie scored 17 points but after Ali Heller got 12 points in the first half, the Tigers were able to keep her off the scoreboard the rest of the way.

Princeton’s defense was able to force 23 turnovers to yield 26 points while Rider was able to harvest just 11 out of 14 Tigers miscues.

“We’re versatile,” Tigers coach Courtney Banghart said. “We’ve got kids who are tough and fast at all positions so it allows us to be versatile.”

Rider would make runs just when the game seemed it might be wrapped up early but each time Princeton would answer and get back into a more comfortable lead.

“We shuffled a lot of people in and out,” Banghart said. “And the whistle was blowing a lot in terms of in the stripes. So it didn’t let us get into any kind of rhythm.

“So I just told them (her players afterwards) you hope in the preseason you play a variety of opponents. This team gave us a variety in terms of a stop and go game. There was no flow to it. We found a way to impose our will and get another 20-point win.”

Princeton continues to look like an Ivy all-timer because even players who may not be scoring do other things to contribute in a game.

That was certainly true Sunday of junior guard Lauren Polansaky, who was 0-for-4 from the field in 21 minutes but dealt five assists and grabbed four steals.

Polansky was most likely one of the Princeton players Delaware coach Tina Martin alluded to last week saying, “They have talent. They have two kids from California who should be all rights landed at Stanford but decided to enroll at Princeton.”

Polansky after the win over Rider talked about what drew her to this part of the world.

“Obviously, it’s an incredible school,” she explained. “When I came on my official visit I came with Niveen. We came together to check it out and we absolutely loved the team, we loved the coaches and we loved the entire culture we got from the school.

“So the combination of amazing academics and the opportunity to create something – Princeton had never gone to the (NCAA) tournament or anything like that so it’s great to have a chance to make history.”

The Tigers have won two straight Ivy titles, losing just one league game the last two years, which occurred early last season.

Many believe that despite being in a league that historically would get terrible NCAA seeds until Princeton won the last two titles, the Tigers are strong enough to merit an at-large bid if they would falter in the title chase.

The Ivy is the only one of 31 conferences who don’t play a postseason tourney to determine a champion and automatic bid, which is won in the regular season.

However, if teams are tied at the finish, they are declared co-champions and then playoff to determine the NCAA representative.

In recent years, the expansion of the WNIT has allowed the Ivy runnerup a chance to play in the postseason.

As for Rider’s challenge in Sunday’s game, Polansky noted: “We knew the game would never be over. They’re a really tough team. They play with a lot of fight and they never give up.

“So we knew we had to battle the entire time, no matter who came in. Teams would make runs, so we would just have to respond.”

Princeton has beaten Delaware twice the last two seasons, though junior Elena Delle Donne, who had another dynamic game Sunday, didn’t play a year ago in the Bob Carpenter Center when she was in the early stages of still eventually being diagnosed that Lyme disease was the cause of her being extremely fatigued.

“We’re really excited. Every game is really important to us. But they’re an incredible team so hopefully we’ll get a lot of support behind us.”

By the way, when Ivy teams use the word preseason they are really discussing the nonconference portion of the schedule before the annual back-to-back weekend gauntlet of Friday-Saturday games begin in January.

On the other end, Rider coach Lynn Milligan was pleased with the Broncos’ effort attempting to rein the Tigers.

“It’s another step forward,” she said. “Princeton’s a terrific ball club. Obviously, they’re going to capitalize on your mistakes.

“In the first half, we made too many mistakes. We fought strong. We fought hard. We did a great job on Niveen, but when you’re playing at the level Princeton has right now you have the depth and someone else steps up and they have that,” Milligan added.

“Edwards and Allgood play a tremendous first half and put some points on the boards for them. I wasn’t dishappy with our team’s effort, though I was dishappy with the outcome. I think we took a step to compete against a higher level program and we have to do that.”

Blue Hens Baffle Bonnies

While Princeton was doing its part to stay unbeaten down here, Delaware on its upgraded schedule grabbed another nice win at St. Bonaventure.

Delle Donne scored 26 points and tied her career high with 18 rebounds for the Blue Hens (4-0) at the Reilly Center.

With wins at two improved programs in Villanova and St. Bonaventure, it will be interesting to see if Delaware can leap into the Associated Press women’s poll for the first time after finishing 28th a week ago – it’s highest move in history.

Teams at risk of falling out of the poll are No. 25 UCLA (3-2), No. 22 Virginia (5-2) and No. 20 LSU (3-3).

The Bonnies (4-1) came into the game with wins over St. John’s and West Virginia of the powerful Big East.

“I’m happy with our double digit win,” Delaware coach Tina Martin said. “Overall, the girls did a very good job, but it’s still a young season and we have some challenges ahead of us.”

Delle Donne also had three assists, blocked three shots and grabbed a steal while Danielle Parker narrowly missed a double double with nine points and 12 rebounds.

Lauren Carra added 15 points to the Blue Hens attack.

St. Bonaventure’s Jessica Jenkins had 12 points and Megan Van Tatenhoven collected 11 points.

Delaware took control early with an 11-0 opening run and stayed ahead the rest of the way.

Penn On A Winning Track

Not too far from where Delaware was competing, Penn moved to 3-1 for the first time since the 1982-83 season just under three decades ago by winning at Niagara’s Gallagher Center 55-41 in Niagara Falls, N.Y.

Sophomore Alyssa Baron flooded the baskets for 23 points on a day Ivy teams just missed a 5-0 sweep on nonconference opponents that was short-circuited by a late rally by Holy Cross over Harvard.

Freshman Kristen Kody set a high in her fledgling collegiate career with 11 points for the Quakers, who next host Lafayette at The Palestra Wednesday night before heading to No. 4 Notre Dame on Friday night.

Penn dominated the Purple Eagles in the paint, 26-12.

Shy Britton was the only player scoring in double figures for Niagara (1-5).

Looking Ahead

Besides Penn’s week, Drexel and the Guru will be at St. Joseph’s Tuesday night for a 7 p.m. tilt at Hagan Arena, the only D-I game on the local schedule.

On Wednesday, Temple, in a four-game losing streak, will be at No. 13 Rutgers with the Guru, though the Scarlet Knights’ ranking number might change when the next AP poll is released early Monday afternoon.

La Salle visits West Virginia the same night while Villanova visits Lehigh and No. 17 Penn State in the Big Ten/ACC challenge hosts North Carolina.

The Delaware-Princeton game is the only D-1 local on the Thursday bill while on Friday night in addition to Penn’s visit to South Bend, Ind., Rutgers plays host Florida in Daytona Beach.

On Saturday, Temple hosts Auburn on the front end of a doubleheader with the men’s team in the Liacouras Center, while Penn State visits Texas Tech in the Big 10/Big 12 challenge and Princeton travels to Baltimore to play UMBC.

The week finishes with Drexel launching play in the Colonial Athletic Association visiting UNC Wilmington Sunday while in the CAA Delaware will host William & Mary on the front end of a back-to-back in which the Blue Hens on the following night hosts Yale.

Villanova makes its Big 5 season debut visiting La Salle, also on Sunday.

The National Scene

On the high end of the ranking world, top-ranked Baylor (6-0) was able to hold its spot over the rest of the Division I world rallying to a 76-67 win at No. 6 Tennessee (2-2) in Knoxville.

Brittney Griner, a leading candidate for player of the year, scored 17 of her 26 points in the second half for the Bears, who will host No. 1 Connecticut early next month in another 1-2 showdown for Baylor, which knocked off Notre Dame from the runnerup spot a week ago.

The Lady Vols did not lack for key statistics in the loss with Shekinna Stricklen getting 25 points and 12 rebounds, Vicki Baugh had 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Taber Spani had 10 points and Glory Johnson grabbed 11 rebounds.

Baylor’s Odyssey Sims delivered 23 points and Jordan Madden scored 11.

No. 2 Connecticut (6-0) completed its three-game romp in its own World Vision Classic at Gampel Pavillion on campus in Storrs by beating Atlantic 10 co-favorite Dayton 78-38.

Freshman Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis scored 23 points as the Huskies set an NCAA record in all divisions with their 89th straight home win, including games at the XL Center in Hartford as well as NCAA and Big East tournament hosting games.

Rutgers’ win in the Big East championship in 2007 was the last Huskies loss in the state of Connecticut.

Division III Rust (Miss.) College won 88 straight home games from 1982-89
Dayton fell to 3-3 and had the second best tournament record at 2-1 in Storrs.

Philadelphia native Keisha Hampton set a career-high with 32 points to lead No. 23 DePaul (5-1) to an 88-72 win at Northwestern (4-1) in nearby Evanston, Ill. The host Wildcats are coached by Joe McKeown, a graduate of Father Judge High in Northeast Philadelphia.

-- Mel


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