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, November 20, 2013

Guru's College Report: Despite Each Losing All-Time Stars Princeton and Delaware Continue Winning Ways

By Mel Greenberg

LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J. – And so the thinking was last season as the books closed on the careers of Princeton all-time great Niveen Rasheed and Delaware all-timer Elena Delle Donne, so went with them the two best eras of women’s basketball at both schools.

 Rasheed was a two-time Ivy League player of the year being part of four straight conference champions though she missed most of her sophomore season after suffering a knee injury.

Delle Donne became the more celebrated of the duo in claiming three Colonial Athletic Association player of the year titles, finishing fifth in NCAA women’s scoring history with over 3,000 points, taking the Blue Hens to the Sweet 16 last season and going second in the WNBA draft.

Time will tell soon enough about life in the aftermath of both departures, but for the moment Princeton and Delaware are holding their own with youthful rosters based on victories Tuesday night by the Tigers here at local rival Rider and Delaware’s home win against Monmouth.

Princeton made it two straight after a season-opening loss at Rutgers with a 75-62 win over the Broncs (1-3) while the Blue Hens did likewise beating Monmouth 72-58 in the Bob Carpenter Center that improved Delaware’s record to 3-1 and kept the Hawks winless (0-3) out of the gate.

With Courtney Banghart’s squad switching from the go-to attack in the Rasheed era to a share-the-wealth philosophy, the talk here from both sides was that the Tigers (2-1) are not likely to fade as evidenced by their media pick to win the league again.

A balanced attack saw Princeton’s Blake Dietrick run the attack and score 15 points with eight grabbed rebounds while she grabbed eight rebounds.

Taylor Williams had 12 points off the bench while reserve Annie Tarakchian had grabbed 11 rebounds and Kristen Helmstetter had a double double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

      It wasn’t exactly Rembrandt and more like graffiti for Princeton with on one hand dominating the paint 51=20 off the boards and 46-14 scoring advantage inside. The Tigers also impressed with a 31-11 advantage off the bench.

But Princeton sent Rider to the foul line 34 times and the Broncs cashed in with 24 points to help the Tigers from running away with things several times where it looked like they might be ready to cruise.

Rider also forced Princeton into 20 turnovers against its own nine miscues and the Broncs outscored the Tigers 21-6 in transition.

Princeton led all the way and got it to 18 points in the first half but Rider stormed out of the second half start to cut the deficit to six points before the Tigers were back in front by as many as 18 points in the final period.

MyNeshia McKenzie, all-MAAC first team last season, had 19 points and 10 rebounds for Rider and shot 13-for-18 from the line. Lashay Banks also scored 19 points and Emily Fazzini had 11 points.

“Defensively, we were not happy how we played, today,” Dietrick said. “So we need to work on that. Offensively, we didn’t stay with our sets but they did work when we ran them so trusting our teammates, trusting each other we need to work on that, too.”

But all that did not make the night seem like a downer in terms of the future that next has a visit to embattled Georgetown on Saturday in the nation’s capital.

“I think we’re stronger than last year,” she said. “The fact we’re an even scoring team makes us stronger. Obviously, we miss Rasheed, she was amazing, but we’re just as strong. But a lot of stuff that happened tonight, simply can’t happen.”

Banghart was philosophical about the alternating runs in the game following Sunday’s home opener in which the Tigers beat MAAC power Marist.

“With a young team, this early, this is all a valuable experience for us,” the Princeton coach and former Ivy star at Dartmouth said. “Playing on the road after a one-day turnaround, and putting them on the line and not being able to get into our rhythm, it’s just another process. We have to do a better job guarding within the rules but they’re the same for everybody so we’re not going to complain.

“A lot of credit to Rider, they kept battling. They’ll grow from us and so will we.”

On one hand Rider made the game more competitive than in last year’s 88-42 wipeout in Jadwin Gym.

But Rider coach Lynn Milligan, who split the previous 12 seasons at six each at Drexel and Saint Joseph’s before returning to take charge of her alma mater seven years ago, wasn’t thrilled with the first half play of her squad.

“It was a tale of two halves and the first half we didn’t defend anything,” she said of Princeton shooting 70 percent in the first half. “That’s where we are right now. We’re trying to work on this roller coaster ride we’re on we’re we get down, we come back.

“We’re never going to get blown out any more, that’s not who we are. But we have to understand we have to put 40 minutes together. We did some good things but we have to do a better job.

“Princeton is a balanced team and they run good stuff. I feel we have big guards but their guards are very big. They’re a challenge every year. They’re not going to drop off but now they’re going to be where everybody expects them to be,” Milligan said.

“Their younger kids are doing a great job learning the system. And they have veterans that are a little more of a focal point and they’re stepping up and doing a great job.”

By Sunday Rider will be in position to compare both Delaware and Princeton since the Blue Hens will visit here at Alumni Gynasium, not far from Trenton, the capital of New Jersey.

Delaware Wednesday night against Momouth rode on the three-pointer to take another win.

The Blue Hens connected on 10 3-pointers while three players were in double figures.

Five of the treys were a career-best output from sophomore Courtni Green who had all 15 of her points collected from beyond the arc while freshman Erika Brown had four treys and 14 points. Senior Kelsey Buchanan had 12 points and eight rebounds.

“I wasn’t worry about a hangover,” Delaware coach Tina Martin referenced Friday’s win at home over Wake Forest. “The biggest thing I was concerned with was that defensively we have to be  a solid team and get better.”

The Blue Hens like Princeton here had trouble holding a large lead.

“Everybody just kind of took a sigh and we stsrt of doing things uncharacteristic of how we are suppose to play,” Martin said. “We gave them some open looks and let them right back in the game and as a young team, yes we are happy that we won but they have to learn that defense has to be our staple.

“When we get to later in the season, there are no possessions that you can take off. We let a team crawl back into it when we had an opportunity to close the door.”

Buchanan, the co-player of the week in the CAA she se thought Delaware “had grown mentally over the last four games. We’ve gotten our heads straight and learned the physicality of college basketball looks like, especially for some of our younger players.”

Green noted, “Just because we got the win over Wake Forest doesn’t mean we can relax. We still have to be upbeat and play defense. On offense, it still doesn’t matter your age or grade. If you can shoot the ball, ‘Coach still wants you to shoot the ball.”

Brown said there were certain benefits off the way both she and Green had been playing together the last several games.

“Now we’re both hitting threes and the other team is confused and don’t know what to do. I come in every game, play hard and try to contribute as much as I can for my team to win.”

Delaware has now won seven straight since losing the first game in the nonconference series with Monmouth.

USP Continues Winning Way

The sneakers were on the other feet Tuesday night for the University of the Sciences of Philadelphia at the Devils’ Bobby Morgan Arena where this time as opposed to comebacks to win four of the first five games of the season, they had to hold off a Lincoln rally to emerge with a 67-59 victory in the nonconference matchup in Division II with Lincoln, which fell to 1-1.

Camille McPherson had a game-high 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds as the 5-1 start is the best for USP since bolting to a 6-0 record to open the 2000-01 season. Brianne Traub had 14 points and 15 rebounds for the Devils while Kaitlyn Schmid dealt a game-high six assists.

Next up for USP is a nonconference visit to Kutztown next Wednesday.

Looking Ahead

Four teams in the PhilahoopsW ten-school group of local Division I coverage are in action Wednesday night, highlighted by two against each other when Saint Joseph’s hosts nearby Drexel in a nonconference matchup at Hagan Arena.

Both teams are coming off big comebacks the last time out when Saint Joseph’s rallied from 16  down in the second half to win at Wichita State in overtime in a consolation game of the preseason WNIT to move to 2-1.

Drexel was down 17 in the first half before rallying at home to beat Providence.

Meanwhile Rutgers, which escaped La Salle at home in the last second Sunday, will look to go 4-0 when the Scarlet Knights make a nonconference visit to Massachusetts before returning home Friday night for another nonconference tilt in hosting Howard.

Meanwhile, No. 14 Penn State will look to rally from Sunday’s home loss to top-ranked Connecticut when the Lady Lions host nearby in-state rival Bucknell from Lewisburg in a nonconference meeting in the Bryce Jordan Center.

Nationally, Connecticut will look to stay unbeaten after a 4-0 start when the Huskies in their Hartford XL Center will host the high-scoring Oregon squad coached by Philadelphia’s Paul Westhead, who now has the Ducks running his high-scoring offense that was successful in landing a WNBA title when he coached Phoenix and also produced points explosions in the past when Westhead, a former La Salle coach, was guiding Loyola Marymount.

Connecticut will also host the four-team round-robin Hall of Fame challenge this weekend at the Huskies’ campus arena Gampel Pavilion with the opening of the three-day stretch on Friday having Saint Bonaventure and Monmouth meeting while UConn meets Boston U., coached by former La Salle star Kelly Greenberg, who previously coached Penn to two Ivy titles.

On Thursday, former Immaculata star Theresa Grentz, who went on to coach Saint Joseph’s, Rutgers and Illinois, will be one of the recipients of the Lapchick Award in New York City.

Fifth-ranked Notre Dame will visit Penn Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. at The Palestra while Liberty has a 2 p.m. visit to Saint Joseph’s the same day.

The Guru will be back with an in-arena report on the Saint Joseph’s game Wednesday while the other two PhilahoopsW teams will be part of the roundup.

Quotes from Delaware personnel in this report came via the Blue Hens’ postgame email distribution.





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