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, December 11, 2011

Guru's Local Report II: Penn Rally Shoots Down Army

(Guru’s note: The Villanova-St. Joseph’s game is in the post above this one. Some other stops the Guru made and is making during the week at Rutgers hosting Fordham, Seton Hall hosting UConn, and Sunday’s doubleheader in New York will be handled in Sunday night’s post.)

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA –
Penn continues to set new milestones in coach Mike McLaughlin’s third season and the latest one occurred in dramatic fashion Saturday night when the Quakers rallied from a 10-point deficit that existed in the first half to beat Army 70-60 in a nonconference game at the Palestra.

The result made Penn 5-2, which is now the program’s best-ever start through seven games. The Quakers avenged a loss at West Point a year ago and got their first win over Army since Jan. 26, 1999 to go ahead 3-2 in the series between the two teams.

An 11-year drought in the competition existed until Penn’s visit to the Black Knights last season.

Freshman Kara Bonenberger, who is following sophomore Alyssa Baron’s path of last year in piling up Ivy League rookie of the week awards, became a strong candidate for her third straight honor after scoring a game-high 21 points as a reserve off the bench in Saturday’s game.

She shot 6-for-10 from the field and grabbed seven rebounds while dealing four assists, grabbing a steal and blocking a shot.
Baron scored 20 points – deep research is under way to find the last time two Quakers scored 20 or more points in the same game.

Jess Knapp, one of just two Penn seniors along with Jourdan Banks, scored 11 points and grabbed nine rebounds.

The Quakers, who trailed 31-29 at the break, shot 52 percent in the second half.

Anna Simmers scored 18 points and Molly Yardley scored 13 for Army, which competes in the Patriot League and has now dropped from a 5-1 start to 6-5.

“It was a very big game for us to come back (from last year) and show ourselves,” Bonenberger said. “And it was a huge game for the older girls.”

Two years ago in McLaughlin’s first season Penn won just two games and the second one did not occur until the very last weekend of Ivy competition.

A week ago Penn ventured to No. 3 Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., and lost to the Big East Conference powerhouse and NCAA national runnerup 69-38.

“The Notre Dame trip was fun for everyone but it was also a learning experience,” Knapp said. “They’re going to be the best competition we see this year. We handled ourselves as best we could and we’re going to be able to compete in the Ivy League and certainly in the Big Five as well.

“Going just off of that I think we were playing tonight as if we were playing Notre Dame or as if we were playing a Big East team.

Certainly that was a learning experience and I’m really glad we were able to take something away from that game.”

The players are not upset with the fact that they must keep their enthusiasm alive for nearly a two-week break during finals before hosting Drexel from up the street in West Philadelphia in a noon game on Dec. 22.

“”It’s a time to do individual work to get better but also individual work to help us as a team,” Bonenberger said.
It’s been a two-year struggle for McLaughlin, who moved up from a long stint guiding Holy Family in Northeast Philadelphia as a perennial Division II national power.

But from the outset once he started getting commitments from recruits, he looked to this season when the turnaround might occur.

“To go to Notre Dame and get a great on-the-court basketball experience is only as good as you use it,” McLaughlin said looking back to last week’s trip. “Hopefully, that game will help us go further, it certainly helped us today.

“Army’s a good team and they’re going to win a lot of games. I was really proud of this group – especially in the second half they did a lot of good things.”

A year ago Penn nearly upset Virginia in Charlottesville. The Cavaliers will return the game next season.

The win ruined another in a series of homecomings Army coach Dave Magarity has made to Philadelphia, his native city. McLaughlin used to attend his camps.

Magarity is in his sixth season moving up from an assistant position following the tragic sudden death of Maggie Dixon who in her only season of 2005-06 led Army to its first Patriot League title and NCAA tournament appearance.

She collapsed back in West Point a day after the Women’s Final Four concluded in April, 2006, and died a day later.

Dixon’s brother Jamie coaches Big East men’s power Pittsburgh. The annual Maggie Dixon tournament in her name will be played Sunday in Madison Square Garden with top-ranked Baylor meeting St. John’s before No. 7 Tennessee and Hall of Fame coach Pat Summitt meets No. 20 DePaul, whose coach Doug Bruno has been an assistant to Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma with the USA Basketball senior national team.

Army played in the classic the first several seasons.

“We knew we were going to have a problem with Baron but I thought we did a decent job on her for most of the first half,” Magarity said. “I just think Mike’s done a terrific job with their balance and ability to get everybody involved.

“We couldn’t stay with that balance. And they made some big shots at the end of shot clock possessions,” he added.

“I watched the tapes (of Penn). I really like his team. They’ve improved so quickly. I think Bonenberger is a great addition and I love his guards. His guards gave our perimenter players a lot of problems.”

Army next visits Arizona State on Dec. 20.

-- Mel

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