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.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Guru's Catchup: Penn Stars in Miami-Nice New Years Day Thriller

By Mel Greenberg

With apologizes to the late author Thomas Wolfe, Penn senior Alyssa Baron proved you can go home again, which she did to Florida this week.

In fact, joining her was a whole gaggle of Quakers teammates and support people and the pleasant result for allowing her to play in front of friends and family was Penn producing a stunning 67-66 landmark victory over host Miami on New Year's Day in Coral Gables.

While the home folks came to see Baron, who lived up to expectations with 14 points ad eight assists, the win-maker came from Katy Allen with 5.6 seconds left to give the Quakers (6-2) a first-ever win over a school from the Atlantic Coast Conference.

That brought Allen's game total to a career-high 18 points and Penn has now matched the best-ever start over eight games in program history.

It was just a year ago that Penn in a narrow 68-65 loss nearly felled Virginia in The Palestra, which would have made the Cavaliers the Quakers' first ACC victim.

But the bitter taste of that defeat harvested a strong run the rest of the way and Penn just missed getting to the final of the Women's Basketball Invitational in March.

"This is obviously a huge win for our program," said Penn coach Mike McLaughlin. " And it is well-deserved for our players who have put in the time, effort and commitment, and it is an incredible feeling to see them rewarded for that today."

Seems like the hard times of the two-win season that marked the start of the McLaughlin era was ages ago instead of just back in 2009-10 after he left an annual trove of victories and NCAA Division II appearances at Holy Family in Northeast Philadelphia.

Now the Quakers are sitting on a six-game win streak, matching the longest since McLaughlin took the helm, and is the longest non-conference streak in 13 years.

Furthermore, what's coming up in the middle of the month can no longer be ignored by the non-Penn partisans as the Quakers host their annual Ivy opener with four-time defending league champion Princeton at 3 p.m. on Jan. 11 at Tbe Palestra.

Then, it will be completion of the Big Five slate before getting back to the Ivies as Penn takes its 1-0 earlier win over La Salle and goes to Villanova on Jan. 15, Saint Joseph's on the 17th, and then to Temple on the 22nd.

The win over the Hurricanes (8-5) at the BankUnited Center had its fill of suspense after the Quakers dropped a 16-point lead never returning to cruise control until 24 hours later on a yacht to take a celebratory tour of the Miami sights from the water (See Penn's facebook sites).

But just like last time out when Penn set a program record by erasing a 19-point deficit to neighborhood rival Drexel, the Quakers were not dismayed by Miami's four-point advantage with 90 seconds left in regulation.

Meghan McCullough's trey made it a one-point game with 1:21 left. Penn then stopped the Hurricanes but Kara Bonenberger missed two chances to re-take the lead.

However, the back-to-back came off one offensive rebound and then Bonenberger got another to keep the ball in Penn's hands with 11 seconds left.

After the inbounds play as the ball got to Allen, she was set to pass, but saw an opening, just as Baron had penetrated against Drexel, and went to the basket with the winning shot.

The way things have gone against Penn in the past with some heartbreakers, one couldn't assume it was over but the end came quick for Miami with an attempted trey that went off the back of the rim.

"I have deep respect for Penn and I loved watching them on film," Miami coach Katie Meier said. "At a certain point Penn was playing so well and .. the team that wanted it more and was playing their guts out was Penn. That team won."

The streak has a chance to extend because the Quakers will be favored in their next two games with Norfolk State visiting The Palestra Sunday afternoon and then Penn traveling to play host Morgan State in Baltimore on Wednesday.

Sister Act Gives Villanova Key Win at Marquette

Milwaukee made the Wildcats' sister attack famous on New Year Eve as Caroline and Katherine Coyer scored the last 16 points to carry Villanova over host Marquette 63-61 to even both teams' record in the retro-Big East donnybrook at 1-1.

Caroline set a career-high with 20 points while Lauren Burford had 14 points, shooting 5-for-8 from the field and 4-6 on three point attempts. Devon Kane scored 11 as Viillanova ramped its overall record to 10-2 and 8-1 on the road wiith Saturday's narrow loss at Creighton in Omaha, Neb., being the one setback.

Marquette (10-3 overall), which saw its five-game win over Villanova in the former Big East- configured world, got a team-high 14 points from Katherine Plouffe.

"I am very proud of our team," Villanova veteran coach Harry Perretta said. "We didn't play very well at times today, but we kept battling, which allowed us to stay in the game.

"Caroline took over the game down the stretch and were able to get enough stops on the defensive end. This was a very good road win for us."

Next up is a visit from Providence on Saturday afternoon.

Louisville Tops Temple

New Year's Day featured two marches on Broad Street on both side of City Hall.

To the South came the well-known annual parade of the Mummers while to the North, seventh-ranked Louisville marched up and down the court near the end of the first half and at the outset of the second in Temple's McGonigle Hall to ruin the Owls' home debut competing in the new American Athletic Conference with a 77-68 win that was more like a 15-point game.

Natasha Thames matched a career-high set earlier this season with 24 points while Erica Covile, the Big Five women's player of the week, scored 14 points as did Monaye Merritt.

Temple (7-5, 1-1) was coming on the heels of an impressive opening win last weekend at Memphis and in facing the Cardinals (14-1, 2-0) meant facing on of the three signature teams in the conference along with top-ranked Connecticut and Rutgers, which is getting close to returning to the rankings.

"I felt like we played 15 good minutes but towards the end of the first half left them get a couple of easy buckets," Cardoza said. "We came out in the second half and they went on a 9-0 run and we committed some not so smart fouls. They were shooting 1 and 1 with 15 minutes to go.

"It's hard to beat a team like Louisville like that."

Asia Taylor had 18 points and Shoni Schimmel scored 15 for the Cardinals.

Lousville had the upset of the season a year ago when they knocked off top-ranked Baylor in the NCAA tournament and then beat Tennessee to get to the Women's Final Four, only to lose to former Big East rival Connecticut in the title game for the second time and first since 2009.

Of the three key schools mentioned, Louisville is bound for the ACC next season while Rutgers will play in the Big 10.

Temple will next stay home Saturday to host Central Florida.

With the creation oif The American Digital Network as a companion to the conference, there is a 30-game broadcast package of games streamed on electronic devices.

Temple was on last weekend and will be on Saturday while Wednesday's game was aired on ESPN3.

"No, you don't want them to see us turning the ball over," Cardoza said of the chance to be viewed nationally. "But it's good that they can see a team that will compete."

That takes care of the earliier games and Thursday's action is in the post above.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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