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.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Guru's College Report: Villanova Wins Big Five Title

By Mel Greenberg

VILLANOVA, Pa. – Following its annual spanking from Connecticut in Big East play, Saturday, though a little less painful this time around, Villanova was the thrasher Tuesday night beating Penn 52-30 at home at The Pavilion to complete a sweep of the Big Five at 4-0 for veteran coach Harry Perretta’s 13th City Series title.

The Wildcats (12-6, 4-0 Big Five) matched their entire win total for last season and with win 96 in the Big Five contests they lead St. Joseph’s by two games.

The Hawks can catch them in that regard by beating La Salle and Temple in what will also be Atlantic 10 contests while Temple and St. Joseph’s will also play a solo A-10 game as part of the annual home-and-home rivalry in the conference between the two schools.

Penn (7-7, 0-3 Big Five) will finish its local slate at Temple 3 p.m. Saturday at McGonigle Hall and then return to Ivy play the rest of the way trying to finish second to Princeton – does anyone think the Tigers won’t win three straight crowns – and get a bid to the postseason WNIT.

Villanova’s Laura Sweeney, continuing her fine play, scored 22 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.

Newcomer Lauren Burford had 17 points.

Additionally, senior Lindsay Kimmel became the first to win two Big Five titles at separate schools. Temple won when Kimmel was a freshman who later transferred to the Main Line school here after her sophomore season.

“It’s fun. I like playing against the local kids. Some of the girls I played against in AAU and some of the local high schools so it makes it competitive and makes it fun,” said Sweeney, who starred at Cherokee High across the Delaware River in South Jersey in Marlton.

“It’s fun to play with them and play against us them. Penn put a lot of pressure on us so that will help us when we get back to the Big East.”

Villanova may want to take its time changing back into the Big East mindset considering the Wildcats head to South Bend, Ind., against No. 2 Notre Dame, the Big East leader, which destroyed Pittsburgh 120-44 Tuesday night.

Here against the Quakers in one of only two local games on the slate, Villanova held a slim 20-16 lead with five minutes left in the first half and then finished with a 10-0 run culminating with Sweeney’s layup before the buzzer for a 30-16 advantage at the break.

The lead grew to 27 points late in the game prior to the final score.

Villanova bedeviled Penn into 23 turnovers and as a result had a huge 21-6 differential on points off turnovers.

“It’s always fun to win,” Perretta said of earning another Big Five crown. “And for the kids it means a lot. And for me, I’m from Philly so it means a lot to me, too.”

The women have competed in a full round robin every year since the 1979-80 season.

“Even though we won by a lot of points, it was a typical Big Five game – it was ugly, that’s what it was,” Perretta said.

“I kind of expected it to be really ugly,” he said.

“In the first half we were rushing things and either make a turnover or not get a quality shot. But then in the second half we decided to walk the ball, take our time, and then what happened was we put Sweeney and (Emily) Leer in position to see the double team better and we started to get more quality kick outs.”

Perretta said his team still lacks a certain confidence needed to get Big East wins bolstered by the RPI to have a good shot at the NCAA tournament as an at-large team.

“To be honest with you, I thought today we played scared,” he said. “I don’t think we had the same concentration level today that we had against UConn and I think it was because we’re nervous, we’re just scared because we knew we had a chance to play for the Big Five title.

“You have to be able to handle success and they’re not handling success,” Perretta said. “By success I mean now that we’re winning we’re the favorite. Last year we were the underdog and we were scared to lose.

“Good teams don’t worry about being the favorite – they just go out and win.”

Penn, meanwhile has hit the skids with a toughened stretch of schedule before getting back to Ivy competition.

“I’m really disappointed overall,” Penn coach Mike McLaughlin said. “We didn’t play the way Penn plays. We didn’t play as hard as we have to do just to give ourselves a chance, let alone s fair chance.

“Penn didn’t put on a lot of pressure on us. Just careless turnovers. Just not a very good effort for us.”

No one scored in double figures for Penn with Jourdan Banks scoring nine points and leading scorer Alyssa Baron being totally shut out.

She was 0-for-8.

“She struggled against St. Joseph’s. I’m more interested that she handles this right,” McLaughlin said. “She’s hard on herself. She’ll have better days ahead.”

Rutgers Upset By St. John’s

For the second straight year the Scarlet Knights had a disastrous visit to the Red Storm in Queens, N.Y.

The last time Rutgers lost at the finish on an error while the Scarlet Knights were on the line. Tuesday night the seventh-ranked Scarlet Knights parted with a six-game win streak losing 62-57 despite 16 points from Khadijah Rushdan and 14 from Monique Oliver.

"I was hoping we'd remember we had lost to them before and have some sense of urgency coming out,"Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said referencing two straight losses last year. "We just weren't. We were a day late and dollar short."

Rutgers (15-3, 4-1 Big East) committed 21 turnovers and St. John's got to the free throw line 32 times.

The Scarlet Knights didn't really have any urgency until they were down by nine points with 2½ minutes left. That's when senior Khadijah Rushdan tried to rally her team. It just wasn't enough.

"We were lax," said Rushdan, who led Rutgers with 16 points. "We really couldn't get into our 55 (press) and we draw a lot of our energy from it during games. We misunderstood personnel. Tonight we were playing them like shooters and they went to the line 32 times."

St. John's (12-7, 4-2) was 26 of 32 from the free throw line in the game, including making 14 of 16 over the final 4½ minutes.

"We did a great job of making our free throws," St. John’s coch Kim Barnes Arico said.

-- Mel

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