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, January 01, 2012

Guru's College Report: Princeton Stops Drexel To Finish Nonconference Play

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA -
- Drexel and Princeton crossed paths Saturday afternoon in the Dragons' Daskalakis Athletic Center in West Philadelphia reaching the end of their rugged nonconference schedules that were designed with eyes to the future.

In host Drexel's situation, the idea was to get tough enough to navigate the Colonial Athletic Association competition the rest of the way to land in either the NCAA tournament or WNIT.

Princeton, the two-time defending Ivy champion and favored for a third straight, was targeting a slightly higher goal.

With the Tigers having been built under Courtney Banghart to become dominant in the league, the idea was to raise the profile, prepare for what they might face to make a deeper run in the NCAA tournament, and if possible land in the weekly rankings.

Princeton didn't get the wins to do the latter but after beating Drexel 63-51 the Tigers (10-4) go into Ivy play right down the street Saturday night against Penn at The Palestra with just one little nick acquired the last two months.

There was a loss at Navy, the defending Patriot champion, which is the only of the four in which the Tigers were the heavy favorite.

The other three were at home to two nationally-ranked teams -- Delaware and DePaul -- and one at No. 4 Stanford.

The win over the Dragons (5-6) Saturday was the second straight road win against two of the better teams in the Colonial Athletic Association behind Delaware in Hofstra and Drexel.

There's also been triumphs over improved St. Joseph's and Villanova squads as well as perennial Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champion Marist.

"When we looked at our schedule in the spring when we posted it, one couldn't guess we'd be at 10-4 at Christmas," Banghart said. "Just because we have to get used to new personnel, and when you don't have a lot of easy wins, you don't get a chance to develop your bench and your margin of error is so small.

"So if Navy made us better, we'll take it, and apparently it has," Banghart referred to the upset setback.

In Saturday's game, the Tigers led most of the first half, but not by much, and when the period ended they held were just ahead 24-23.

They then hit their biggest margin at 13 several times over the final 20 minutes, including a 53-40 advantage with 5 minutes, 45 seconds left in the game before Drexel rallied to within five points at 55-50 with 1:50 left before the Tigers put on the brakes and finished out on a 8-1 run to claim the victory.

Junior Niveen Rasheed, who missed most of last season with a knee injury, gave another all-American quality performance for Princeton with 22 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, three steals and four turnovers. She also shot 9-for-16 from the field, including 2-for-2 on three-point attempts.

Devona Allgood had 13 points, shooting 5-for-8, and joined Princeton's career 1,000-point club in the first half.

"We played a pretty tough schedule but coach Banghart set us up pretty nicely, though, as far as getting us some experience against top teams and I think we have grown so much from playing those teams," Allgood said. "Our growth is what's important and as we keep playing into Ivy League, it should show."

Hollie Mershon scored 15 for Drexel, while Tyler Hale and Kamile Nacickaite each scored 10 points but the Dragons struggled offensively behind held by the Tigers to a 28.6 percent shooting average from the field.

Princeton also dominated the boards with a 46-31 rebounding advantage.

The Tigers will have a lot of spacing the next several weeks in their schedule because of finals before going on the grueling Friday-Saturday trek that is special to the Ivies this time of year.

"Keeping them fresh, you have to be creative," Bankhart said. "These (nonconference) games are to see how you compete, but now the playoffs are coming because the Ivy League playoff is every single game now. We have a 14-game playoff."

The Ivies are the only one of the 31 conferences with NCAA automatic bids who do not have a conference tournament after the regular season concludes.

Meanwhile, Drexel did not do as well as Princeton but faced enough that to be able to compete in the CAA, where the conference coaches had picked the Dragons fifth.

The first conference game following the December win at UNC Wilmington will be Thursday at Hofstra.

Saturday was the third straight game the Dragons rallied from a deficit and fell short, losing previously in overtime down the straight at Penn and also to budding Southeastern Conference power South Carolina at home on Wednesday.

Drexel also has a loss at St. Joseph's and one at Seton Hall besides the home and season opening loss to Long Island in the first round of the preseason WNIT.

"The reality for us (against Princeton) was we played a good first half," Drexel coach Denise Dillons said. "The second half we just have to recognize that you have to figure out who is going to make the run when you come out.

"You have to come out with your guard up and ready to go and be ready to make the adjustment," she continued.

"And I don't feel we did that. They came out, we had to call a timeout and get into the battle back game we have seen.

"All the teams we played have winning records. But what's important now is the conference play so you help these games prepare you and make you tougher.

"Hofstra has been playing out of their minds, but we'll see."

Perretta Sings The Blues -- Sort Of

Villanova coach Harry Perretta stopped by press row at the Drexel game to chat about Friday's one-point upset loss at Monmouth in the title game of the Hawks' tournnament.

"Does anyone still want me to give shooting clinics?" Perretta joked about his Wildcats' struggles from the field after they had reached a seven-gane win streak the day before with a win against St. Bonaventure in the first round.

"I told their coach (Jen Palmateer) before the game that I didn't think Monmouth was as bad as their record indicated after watching them.

"Here's our problem. Last year we couldn't score because we were bad but we were afraid of losing another and as soon as we missed a couple of shots we got tight.

"I could see the same thing start to happen against Monmouth. Only this time, the problem is we're supposed to win and we're missing shots and we get scared we might lose.

"It's one thing to play when you're a bad team but you also have to learn to play when it is apparent you've become a pretty good team.

"They gave us a million chances to win at the finish and we couldn't do anything but I'll tell you, I want to win as much as the next person, but if we had won at the finish, I would have been happy, but I would have felt bad for Monmouth because they really played hard and deserved to win.

"I'm going to be interested to see how we do as we get into our Big East schedule," Perretta noted.

Following December's win at Providence, the Wildcats hit the rest of the conference slate Tuesday night hosting Pittsburgh in what is another homecoming for Panthers coach Agnus Berenato, who grew up in South Jersey.

-- Mel

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