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 12, 2013

Guru's College Report: Penn Outmaneuvers Army to Extend Win Streak to Four

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA – Once upon his life in the distant past, Penn coach Mike McLaughlin was known as a Washington General, playing for a team that was a foil for the famed Harlem Globetrotters entertainment outfit that used all sorts of trickery skills to keep the Generals out of the victory column.

However, in today’s role as commander of the Penn women, McLaughlin’s job is to use his wits to procure victories against all challengers, including the United States Military Academy.

And so it was Wednesday night at the fabled Palestra that Army was about to forge a finishing knockout that Penn blunted and then came together as a terrible swift sword in the form of a 20-4 surge that resulted in a 67-57 nonconference triumph that extended Penn’s win streak to four.

“What can I say,” McLaughlin assessed the win. “We were pretty steady throughout and really executed great the last eight minutes and we locked down defensively and we ran some really good sets.”

Special wins have been mounting since McLaughlin arrived four seasons ago, and almost each has had its own trademark.

Wednesday was about survival in a tough situation.

“We have to adapt to the new rules, the way they are calling the game, but we’ll just have to work through that,” he said. “Our depth will help us as we get into a little bit of foul trouble but (Army) is a good team, Dave (Magarity) does a good job, they were 7-1, and they will do a good job in the Patriot League, so it’s a very big win for our program. I thought the post play was the difference tonight.”

Magarity said likewise in praising Penn.

“They really went right at us and their front line really hurt us,” the Army coach said.

“You’re prepared for Baron to have a big game just like they’re prepared for Minato but it’s those others – Stipanovich really killed us in the second half.”

  Elsewhere two others of the 10-team PhilahoopsW group in the Guru’s local Division I coverage mix were in action during the current daily light number of games due to finals with split results.

Princeton, the Quakers’ nearby Ivy rival, followed up Friday’s win at Navy with a 75-49 rout of Binghamton in upstate New York but a rally by No. 12 Penn State from a 20-point deficit at South Dakota State fell short and the Lady Lions lost 83-79 in the nonconference encounter.    

Back here, senior Alyssa Baron survived serious foul trouble to score 22 points for Penn (4-2) as did freshman center Sydney Stipanovich , who scored 13 of her 17 points in the second half against the Black Knights (7-2) of the Patriot League.

Stipanovich set a career high in her budding life in college for the second straight game after getting 15 in Saturday’s win at Bucknell, which also plays in the Patriot League.

Kara Bonenberger added 14 points to the local Ivy cotingent while Katy Allen grabbed 11 rebounds, tying her previous season high gained at last week’s win at La Salle.

Army’s go-to player Kelsey Minato scored 20 points and Olivia Schretzman scored 11.

Baron was already being used cautiously by McLaughlin when she was assessed her fourth personal foul with 10 minutes, 36 seconds left in the game. About two minutes later Stipanovich got her fourth as Schretzman completed a three-point play giving Army a 49-46 lead with 8:43 left in regulation.

Not to worry.

Allen hit two foul shots with 6:21 left to stem Army’s advancement and then Baron’s jumper with 5:18 left gave Penn back a lead at 50-49 that the Quakers would not relinquish.

That was the last moment the score reflected what was a close game which had nine ties and 12 lead changes.

Penn took off on the run as Baron scored six points in the surge and Stipanovich had six, including a pair of foul shots that enabled the Quakers to go into the final minute with a 66-53 lead, their largest of the night.

“It was a definitely a battle throughout the game,” Baron said. “Sydney and I were struggling in foul trouble. It was definitely tough to sit on the sideline a little longer than we wanted to. But we had a team effort.”

Stipanovich added “everyone chipped in to help us through and it will help us in future games as well.”

Penn is now off for finals until Dec. 21 when Drexel drops by from a few blocks away for the annual nonconference war of West Philadelphia.

Then the Quakers will be off until New Year’s day when they visit nationally-prominent  Miami in what will serve as a homecoming game for Baron.

Ironically, both teams lost to their season openers to SaInt Francis of New York.

“They’ve been playing well so maybe the losses don’t look as bad as we thought at the time,” Magarity noted.

He has watch Penn grow from McLaughlin’s first of four seasons when the Quakers won just two games. Prior to that, the Quakers mentor had been a longtime coach of his alma mater at Holy Family in Northeast Philadelphia which he turned into a Division II powerhouse.

Last season Penn finished with a second-best 18 wins for the second time and a narrow loss in the Women’s Basketball Invitational semifinals as the Quakers got their first ever taste of victory following the annual Ivy competition.

“What he’s done is steadily built a really good program,” Magarity said. “Now we just played at Yale, probably best we played all year. Yale’s not bad. Pretty good team. We had a couple of good road wins.

“This team, he’s done a pretty good job.”

Princeton Handles Binghamton

The Tigers (5-4) followed up Friday’s dominating win at Navy by concluding their four-game road trip at 3-1 with an easy 75-49 nonconference win over Binghamton (1-8) in upstate New York as Blake Dietrick led the way with 21 points, shooting 8-for-13 from the field.

Michelle Miller added 11 points to the attack by Princeton (5-4), which next returns home Sunday to Jadwin Gym against Delaware in battle of reigning conference champions.

It’s the first time in five seasons neither the four-time defending Ivy champions and preseason favorite  Tigers nor the two-time reigning Colonial Athletic Association champion Blue Hens have their all-time star on its roster.

Delaware graduate Elena Delle Donne, fifth all-time in NCAA Division I scoring with over 3,000 points, went on to graduate and become rookie of the year in the WNBA, though she missed some games in the series between the two with injuries at the time.

Princeton’s Niveen Rasheed has gone to play pro ball overseas in Greece after going undrafted last April by the 12-team WNBA.

Penn State Upset by South Dakota State

The 12th-ranked Lady Lions lost for the third time this season but the first to an unranked team, falling short to the Jackrabbits 83-79 after trailing by 20 at the half at South Dakota State (7-4).

PSU (6-3) previously lost at home twice to top-ranked Connecticut and fourth-ranked Notre Dame.

Ariel Edwards tied a career-high with 24 points while senior Maggie Lucas of Narberth in suburban Philadelphia and Germantown Academy scored 20 points.

Wilmington’s (Del.) Dara Taylor scored 19 points, a career high.
Lucas moved into 15th on the all-time Big Ten list with 2,028 points, past former Ohio State stars Samantha Prahalis and Tayler Hill, who were first-round picks the last two seasons.

Hill was the fourth overall pick of the Washington Mystics, helping a major turnaround and playoff run. She will miss at least part of this season after the recent revelation of her pregnancy.

Lucas is now sixth on Penn State’s all-time list ahead of Kahadeejah Herbert of Willingboro, N.J., in suburban Philadelphia, who played with Olympian Suzie McConnell-Serio, now coaching Pittsburgh after previously coaching Duquesne both in her native Western Pennsylvania metropolis.

Penn State returns home Sunday to host No. 24 Texas A&M of the Southeastern Conference.

That’s it until after Thursday night’s Rutgers-Wagner game in Central New Jersey and Friday’s date is dark with no games but not dark to the Guru coverage.

-- Mel


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