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, December 03, 2011

Guru's College Report: Rutgers Still Basking In Tropical Climates

(Guru’s note: Wire service and team reports were used for part of this post)

By Mel Greenberg

Though it has been in the conference movement news driven by football the last several months No. 11 Rutgers isn’t heading anywhere just yet.

But it looks like playing in warm climates has become quite likeable to Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer’s current edition.

A week after visiting Puerto Rico and sweeping the San Juan Shootout by topping Georgia Tech and Arizona State, the Scarlet Knights got this weekend’s tropical swing in the Sunshine State off to a successful start Friday night in Daytona Beach with a 63-49 win over Florida.

That victory matched the best start in the Stringer era that began in 1995-96 by improving to 8-0 – the same perfect launch achieved in 2005-06.

You remember that team, don’t you?

All it had was four future WNBA stars – the New York Liberty’s Cappie Pondexter who went on to win two league titles with the Phoenix Mercury prior to the swap for the 2010 season; Liberty stars Essence Carson and Kia Vaughn and Washington Mystics point guard Matee Ajavon.

And another future WNBA star was on the way to Piscataway, N.J., for the next season in Epiphany Prince.

Now this blend of talented newcomers and solid veterans seem on the way to making new memories though certainly much more will be determined just ahead. And many on the current roster can be expected to make appearances on draft day when their moments of eligible arrive.

In Friday’s game against the Gators (6-2), who had won six straight, Erica Wheeler scored 15 points, while April Sykes and Monique Oliver scored 13 points each and freshman Betnijah Laney added 10 points.

Jordan Jones scored 20 for Florida, which was held to 24 points below its 73.0 scoring average coming into the game.

Despite the absence of senior Chelsey Lee, who sidelined all season with a shoulder injury, Stringer’s vaunted 55 defense is getting results.

“I continue to appreciate my team’s efforts this year, and the effort of everyone we faced,” Stringer said. “It was a great test for us because we needed to see how we could play on the road. The Gators were held for a 13 minute, 17 second stretch across the two halves without a field goal and were hounded into a season-high 22 turnovers.

“We didn’t have our edge or our fight,” Florida coach Amanda Butler said. “You have to give Rutgers a lot of credit for their hustle, for their fight, and on the turn around.

“We didn’t play the way we have been playing this season,” she added. “Rutgers got every loose ball; they played a lot tougher than us. They brought us down to earth a little bit.”

The Scarlet Knights came into the game just two days after thrashing Temple at home to snap a two-game losing streak to the Owls the last two seasons.

Now comes a stronger test Monday night when Rutgers visits No. 9 Miami, the favorite in the Atlantic Coast Conference just ahead of Duke.

Stop the Hurricanes and then upset Tennessee at home in a few weeks and for the first time in several years the loyal fan base, whose message board seemed to rediscover the Guru’s blog this week, won’t be heading into January wondering what it will take to return to the NCAA tournament field.

That is not to say losses in those games would be deadly, in fact as long as they’re competitive it will be OK because at this rate, the Scarlet Knights can head for the Big East mega back-to-back Notre Dame-UConn conference wars at the end of January without too many serious obstacles between now and then.

Irish Stew Quakers

When Penn was struggling against Lafayette Wednesday on a win over the Leopards in the Palestra it was noted that on Friday night if the Quakers get the same total against third-ranked Notre Dame on the road in South Bend, Ind., it might seem an accomplishment.

Sure enough the Irish spanked the Quakers 69-38 and Penn coach Mike McLaughlin’s only regret, if any, was having too short a time between games to get ready to meet last season’s NCAA runner up.

“Simulating their quickness in practice is very difficult to do,” McLaughlin said. “Just like it was difficult to simulate the 6-foot-7 girl from Lafayette.

“Since we played Wednesday night, it was even more of a challenge,” he added. Still, I thought tonight was a great experience for our team. It was a good opportunity to come out here and experience this great atmosphere.

“Our goal was to come out here and compete, to look Notre Dame in the eye, and I think we did we that.”

Mary DisStanislao, Penn’s senior associate athletic director, coached the Irish when they became Division I prior to the hiring of former St. Joseph’s star Muffet McGraw, a Big Five Hall of Famer who had been coaching at Lehigh.

Karen Bonenberger, the reigning Ivy freshman of the week, had nine points and seven rebounds for Penn (4-2), which had been off to its best ever performance after five games.

Sophomore Alyssa Baron, who has been averaging 20 points a game, was held to seven points, shooting 3-for-15 from the field.

“Alyssa is required to do so much for us,” McLaughlin explained. “And when you rely on one player, you get some days where she goes 3 for 15 from the field, especially against superior athletes.

“We expected that and she will learn from that.”

The meeting was added to the Penn schedule when Virginia, whom the Quakers nearly upset in Charlottesville last season, couldn’t schedule a return date this time around but will visit the Palestra next season.

Notre Dame’s Deveraux Peters scored 16 points and Natalie Novosel scored 14. Skylar Diggins, a leading candidate for national player of the year honors, had been averaging 21 points a game, but scored just eight, though she had five steals.

The Irish ruled the backboards with a 49-34 rebounding advantage.

Delaware Making Good In RPI Ratings

The Guru does not normally pay attention to RPIs this early and Jerry Palm at collegerpi is not doing a women’s report this season, so despite its flaws the Guru decided to take a gander at realtimerpi with one month in the hopper and it is quite interesting.

Even with flaws all these reports are usually in the same basketball court.

Believe it or not seven midmajor teams are in the top 20 involving games through Thursday night.

Delaware, that’s right, Delaware is No. 1 and also No. 1 with strength of schedule, which is what wins over No. 3 Penn State and No. 12 Princeton has done. The ranking reference here is the one on the report – not the weekly polls.

Wisconsin- Green Bay is No. 5 with a No. 18 SOS followed by No. 10 Hofstra (that’s two CAA teams) with a No. 19 SOS.

No. 12 Princeton has a No. 10 SOS, while new Division I member Florida Gulf Coast is No. 13 with a No. 14 strength of schedule.

Hartford is 15th with a No. 13 strength of schedule and Gonzaga is No. 19 with a No. 40 SOS.

Penn State is No. 3 with a No. 4 SOS, Baylor is No. 6 with a No. 24 SOS, Stanford is a No. 7 with a No. 11 SOS, Maryland, whom Delaware may play, is a No. 8 with a No. 31 SOS and Connecticut is No. 9 with a No. 45 SOS.

Rutgers is No. 14 (before win over Fla) with a No. 57 – the schedule is less horrific than the past at this time of year, Villanova is No. 17 with a No. 6 SOS, Tennessee is No. 23 with a No. 3 SOS, and Marist is No. 24 with a No. 9.

Among teams in the Philadelphia area, St. Joseph’s is 36 with a No. 23, Drexel is 59 with a 74 SOS, Temple is 89 with a No. 21 SOS, Penn is 167 with a 305, while La Salle is 150 with a 35.

Big Ten And ACC Finish In A Draw

The Guru was a bit hasty the other night in noting results from the Big 10/ACC challenge and furthermore because the Apps on his iPad did not have Nebraska as a Big 10 team when he used the conference filter, he missed Georgia Tech’s win over the Cornhuskers, who are new to the Big 10 this season.
Here are all the scores:

B-Illinois 61, Clemson 50
A-Virginia 65, Indiana 49
A-Wake Forest 82, Minnesota 65
A-Miami 76, Michigan State 60
A-Duke 64, Purdue 53
A-Maryland 74, Michigan 65
A-Georgia Tech 73, Nebraska 57
B-Northwestern 76, NC State 59
B-Ohio State 78, Florida State 75
B-Penn State 103, North Carolina 84
B-Wisconsin 58, Boston College 50
B-Iowa 58, Virginia Tech 47

A-ACC B-Big 10

That’s it till the next sunrise.

-- Mel

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