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.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Guru's College Roundup: Penn And Penn State Make Separate History

By Mel Greenberg

Penn and No. 16 Penn State actually had something in common Wednesday night with both programs reaching notables milestones in their respective programs.

Here at The Palestra the Quakers struggled on offense throughout against an equally inept scoring effort from Lafayette in a nonconference matchup.

But Penn awoke down the stretch to gain a 49-39 victory over the Leopards (2-5) and that made the Quakers 4-1, the best-ever five-game start in the program’s history.

Meanwhile some 200 miles to the West Penn State produced a 103-84 winning shootout against No. 14 North Carolina at home in the Bryce Jordan Center in a game that part of the Big 10/ACC Challenge.

The Lady Lions (6-1) went over the century mark for the second straight game on the scoreboard but in this one against the previously unbeaten Tar Heels (5-1) they set a school record with 14 three-point shots.

The back-to-back triple digits performance is the first for Penn State since the onset of 1993.
As ugly as the Penn game appeared, make no mistake, this was an encounter that might not have gone the Quakers’ way the past two seasons, especially year one of the Mike McLaughlin era when the team’s 2009-10 overall record was 2-26.

By comparison the 2000-01 Ivy championship year under former coach Kelly Greenberg, who is now at Boston University, started out 1-5 before the Quakers soared on a 21-game win streak the rest of the way.

“It wasn’t the cleanest game, but both teams battled pretty well, we made shots at the right time. We won two games two years and our seniors saw it, so it’s a pretty good feeling for them,” McLaughlin said.

“We’re not going to try to analyze the game other than we found a way to get it done.”

The 3-ball was a key factor for Penn, whose freshman Renee Busch was 5-for-8 from beyond the arc to account for all of her game-high 15 points.

Sophomore Alyssa Baron struggled from the field but still finished with 14 points while Kara Bonenberger, the reigning Ivy freshman of the week, grabbed 10 rebounds.

Lafayette was 0-for-7 on three-point attempts.

“Our defense kept us in the game, forced them into tough shots, forced them to turn the ball over (18 times) as well and in the end we started knocking down the shots when it counted,” Baron said.

Emily Homan scored 13 points for the Leopards, who will host St. Joseph’s Wednesday night next week after hosting Manhattan Saturday. Danielle Fiacco, who is the Patriot League player of the week, grabbed 14 rebounds.

Busch is listed as coming from Surrey, England, where she played on the 2010 Under-20 national team for Great Britain but her first five years were spent in the United States and her parents were both graduates of Ivy rival Harvard.

“I really wanted to go to a great academic school, so I obviously was looking at the Ivy League and when I came to visit I loved the campus and the coaches and what they had to offer,” Busch said of her choice to play with the Quakers.

“I thought it was really a good opportunity for a team on the rise, getting better. I just loved it when I came to visit.”
She said her parents were not unhappy with her choice despite being Harvard grads.

“They didn’t really influence me at all,” Busch related. “I visited Harvard but they were really fair about it and happy and let me make my own decision.”

As for her performance, which is another indicator that Penn has other weapons when Baron is struggling from the field, Busch said, “I think we have a lot more depth on the team this year.

“We have such a young team – five sophomores, six freshmen – everyone has something to offer. Alyssa definitely carries us a lot of the time but we’re all ready to step up when the defense is pressuring us.”

The road gets a little rocky before hitting the traditional Ivy opener in January, which will be challenging enough playing two-time defending champion Princeton.

Penn will visit No. 3 Notre Dame on Friday night in South Bend, Ind., return Dec. 10 to host Army before a long break and a Dec. 22 game in The Palestra against nearby Drexel.

Then it’s a trip to California for the San Diego Surf ‘N Slam Classic against UNC Greensboro and host San Diego State to finish off December.

In later matchups than usual for Penn the Quakers will get a three-part diet of Big Five opponents visiting St. Joseph’s, Villanova and Temple following a home game against NJIT that is set for Jan. 11, four days after meeting Princeton.

Back at Penn State, which the previous record for treys in a game for the Lady Lions was 13, which occurred twice. They also tied a record for most treys allowed against North Carolina.

Senior Zhaque Gray was 6-for-10 on three-point attempts and led all five starters, who scored in double figures. She had 25 points and a career-high six assists.

Senior Alex Bentley, the preseason Big Ten player of the year, scored 15 points and dished a career high 11 assists.
Sophomore Maggie Lucas, a graduate of Germantown Academy and native of Narberth, scored 21 points, while Ariel Edwards and Nikki Greene each scored 13 points.

North Carolina’s Brittany Roundtree scored 27 points and Laura Broomfield had 21 points and 17 rebounds for the Tar Heels.
Penn State snapped a three-game losing streak in the conference challenge but now heads Saturday to Forth Worth where the Lady Lions, who beat No. 19 Texas Tech a year ago, will meet the Red Raiders as part of a return matchup in the Big 10/Big 12 challenge.

Big Ten Wins Challenge Against ACC

The Big Ten went 5-1 against the Atlantic Coast Conference in the challenge around the Midwest and East.

No. 6 Maryland (8-0) was the lone ACC winner, beating Michigan 74-65 in a closely-fought contest at the Terrapins’ Comcast Center in College Park as Alyssa Thomas scored 24 points highlighted by a late surge from the home team.

“What I liked about this game is we had to work,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. “I thought we learned a lot about ourselves. It was a game we had to compete and go after it for 40 minutes.”

Courtney Boylan scored 17 for the Wolverines (7-1), who had a seven-game win streak stopped.

No. 17 Ohio State stopped another ACC win by prevailing in overtime with a 78-75 triumph against Florida State (3-5) as Tayler Hill scored a career-high 31 points, including five in overtime for the Buckeyes (6-0) at home in Columbus.

Cierra Bravard had 27 points for Florida State.

Big Ten teams were home in the other three games in the challenge which they all prevailed. Northwestern topped North Carolina State, 76-59; Iowa beat Virginia Tech, 58-47; and Wisconsin beat Boston College 58-50.

Sweeney Saves ‘Nova in Bethlehem

Villanova had to get up early and finish late to top Lehigh 62-54 in overtime in a nonconference game that got under way well before noon at the Mountain Hawks’ Stabler Arena in Bethlehem, Pa.

The Wildcats’ Laura Sweeney had a career-high 27 points and made the key scores in the overtime to give Villanova (5-2) the lead for good. She also had a carer-best 13 rebounds.

Coach Harry Perretta’s squad seemed to have the game under control near the end of regulation but Lehigh junior forward Kelly Petersen named a desperation three-pointer at the buzzer to extend play another five minutes.

Redshirt-freshman Lauren Buford scored 12 for Villanova and Rachel Roberts added 11.

Sarah Pearce scored 13 points for the Mountain Hawks and Alexa Williams had eight points and 13 rebounds.
Lehigh (2-6) has lost to three Big Five schools, dropping the season opener at La Salle and then another game to St. Joseph’s two days later at the Hawks’ Hagan Arena.

Villanova launches its Big Five play Sunday traveling to La Salle, which has a win over Penn in the only City Series game played to date.

La Salle Rally Falls Short At West Virginia

Alexis Scott, the reigning Big Five player of the week, scored a game-high 21 points but La Salle fell short to West Virginia 63-52 in a nonconference game against the lame-duck Big East Mountaineers at their WVU Coliseum in Morgantown.

West Virginia (4-2) is heading for the Big 12 away from the powerful conference in women’s basketball to another similar power group, potentially as early as next season.

The Explorers (2-6), who will play their second Big Five game of the season Sunday, hosting Villanova 2 p.m. at the Tom Gola Arena, also got 13 points from Brittany Wilson.

Taylor Palmer had 20 points for West Virginia, which led by a slim five points in the second half before pulling away for the win. Asya Bussie added 18 points to the Mountaineers’ attack.

The winners held a 34-18 lead late in the first half.

Rutgers Adds To Temple’s Woes

A reversal of fortune highlighted and lowlighted Temple’s visit to No. 11 Rutgers at the Scarlet Knights’ Louis A. Brown Athletic Center in Piscataway, N.J.

In terms of Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights (7-0), off their second best start in the C. Vivian Stringer era (8-0 in 2005-06), dispensed of two years of frustration at the hands of the Owls with a lopsided 71-50 triumph in the nonconference matchup that was not as marquee as the preseason indicated.

Several months ago, Temple-Rutgers loomed large with the Owls (2-5) being co-picked with Dayton to win the Atlantic 10, and Rutgers projected as one of several key challengers to Connecticut’s reign in the Big East.

The Scarlet Knights certainly looked the part Wednesday night with April Sykes scoring 19 points, Khadijah Rushdan scoring 16, and Monique Oliver contributing 15.

All three were in double digits by halftime as Rutgers now looks to a trip back to warmer climates, this weekend making road stops Friday against Florida and Monday at ACC favorite Miami, which is in the top 10.

But don’t talk about the road to Temple right now, which just finished a six-game trek away from the Liacouras Center with a five-game losing streak after beginning the jaunt with a win at Northeastern.

It’s the first five-game losing streak of the four-year era under Tonya Cardoza, who might be seeing that total for the first time ever dating to 14 seasons as an assistant to Geno Auriemma at UConn.

It might even be the first dating back to her years as a player at Virginia in the Dawn Staley era.

By the way, Temple’s last losing streak this long or more was a seven-game occurrence in 2002-03 when Staley as the Owls coach had to endure a rebuilding season.

Shey Peddy, one of 50 players named to the Naismith Award Watch List Wednesday, scored 16 points for Temple that has been struggling with shooting problems. Freshman Tayonna Williams came off the bench to score 11 points.

To be a bit fair, Temple doesn’t exactly play cupcakes prior to A-10 competition, but the loss at Northern Illinois was unexpected and it was also thought that the Owls in their recent trip to the Bahamas might be able to beat St. John’s, who they met after a competitive loss to defending NCAA champion Texas A&M.

Rutgers is vastly improved, no doubt, but right now it could be said that while the Owls football team shares Lincoln Financial Field with the NFL Eagles, Cardoza’s group is sharing disappointment row.

Temple returns home Saturday at the Liacouras Center on the first part of the doubleheader to host Auburn, which offers anything but a guaranteed win, though the Owls could be considered favorites.

The Owls will stay home, but the slate is also challenging after Tuesday’s game with Kent State as UCLA visits Dec. 20 after a long break, followed by improved Villanova on Dec. 22, and Duke on Dec. 30.

The good news is that the Atlantic 10 is wide open but the bad news is that at this rate the Owls’ traditional insurance policy to build a resume for an at-large bid to the NCAA may not exist by the time the conference championship arrives at St. Joseph’s in March.

Speaking of Dawn

Staley’s South Carolina squad won 67-56 Wednesday night at Xavier to go to 6-1 while the Musketeers fell to 1-4.
She has a record of success against Xavier, dating to her days with Temple in the Atlantic 10.

But Amber Harris and Ta’Shia Phillips don’t live there anymore, having graduated and moved on to the WNBA with Phillips playing for the New York Liberty and Harris with the WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx.

And while the Gamecocks were doing their thing former Xavier coach Kevin McGuff was winning in Moscow, not that Moscow, against Idaho, coaching the Washington Huskies.

Xavier may not be as bad and new coach and former Musketeer player Amy Waugh is capable enough but the squad at the moment is like the WNBA Tulsa Shock after moving from Detroit.

Staley has a homecoming visit after Christmas when South Carolina visits Drexel. Note relayed to the Dragons' men's coach's wife -- What's for dinner? :)

Fanning-Otis Joins The 600 Club

Mississippi State coach Sharon Faning-Otis became the latest to join the 600-career victory club Wednesday night when the Bulldogs (6-1) of the Southeastern Conference topped South Alabama 63-47 at home in Starkville.

Villanova coach Harry Perretta hit the milestone at the start of the season in the Wildcats’ second game.

She has also coached at Tennessee-Chattanooga and Kentucky and is 600-445 in 36 seasons as a Division I head coach.
Fanning-Otis is 273-217 in 17 seasons at Mississippi State.

Elsewhere In The Top 25

In less than week’s time the Towson women, if they were home, got to enjoy a visit from President Obama, who attended a men’s game, and then got on the wrong end of another nuclear attack launched by No. 2 Connecticut, when not competing against equal world powers.

That comes, incidentally, Tuesday night when Texas A&M visits Hartford in the Jimmy V game. UConn does have a win over Stanford in the only major challenge to date on the schedule.

The Huskies (7-0) trounced the Tigers 92-31 as sophomore Bria Hartley scored 24 points.

Freshman Kaleena Mosqueda Lewis added 21 points as UConn has now extended its NCAA record home win streak to 90 games, the same number as its NCAA record for overall wins, either gender, in succession that was then stopped by Stanford on the West Coast almost a year ago.

Coach Geno Auriemma’s team is now 163-0 against unranked opponents since the last loss to such a foe and is also 256-0 against similar teams at home since the last loss.

Camille Alberson had nine points for Towson (4-2).

Mid-Major Brawl

Times change and Delaware-Princeton has gone from “Elsewhere on the Schedule” to a major deal and it will be far beyond the tagged Mid-Major attraction must are calling Thursday’s game at the Tigers’ Jadwin Gym in Princeton, N.J.

The visiting Blue Hens have their first-ever ranking at No. 24 in the Associated Press women’s poll while the host Tigers are the two-time defending Ivy champions.

“I can give you a large list of conferences besides ours that Princeton could either win right now or challenge for the title,” Penn coach Mike McLaughlin said when the subject of the game became part of the conversation following the Quakers’ win in The Palestra.

Delaware, which features Elena Delle Donne, the nation’s leading scorer with a 30-point average, will try to avoid the AP Poll jinx in which first time ranked teams then go out and lose their next game.

Considering the regard of Princeton, a Delaware win is another step, following the upset of Penn State, in building a resume for NCAA at-large status if the Blue Hens fall short of their goal to win the CAA.

And a Princeton win moves the Tigers closer to a first-ever ranking for them and an Ivy school besides enhancing their chances for an at-large bid if they stumble in the Ivy race.

The Tigers feature Niveen Rasheed, who was a sensation as a freshman but missed most of last season following a knee injury in December.

She has returned and is playing like she has never missed a beat.

-- Mel


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Did you forget that Nebraska in now in the Big Ten? Georgia Tech beat them last night as the Yellow Jackets improved to 5-0 all-time in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

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