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, January 23, 2014

Guru's Report: Baron's Play Sends Penn Over Temple to Big 5 Notoriety

PHILADELPHIA -- Senior Alyssa Baron was back doing her closer act for Penn again Wednesday night in what was a fitting final moments in her final Philadelphia Big 5 game for her stellar career with the Quakers.

In a place, situation-wise, where Penn came agonizing close last week twice falling in the last minute at Villanova and Saint Joseph's, this time Baron took a pass from Meghan McCullough and popped a shot and converted a foul shot with 30 seconds left in regulation to snap a tie and spur Penn to a 74-70 victory over Temple at the Owls' McGonigle Hall.

The final point came on an ensuing possession by freshman star Sydney Stipanovich.

Thus for only the second time in Penn's mostly dismal history in the City Series round robin and first since the 2004-05 season have the Quakers (9-5, 2-2 Big Five) won twice in the same season.

In the look back to last week, there's a certain shucks on how close Penn came to going 4-0 against its local rivals.

But on the other hand, coming out of the disappointing wipeout at The Palestra earlier this month by four-time defending Ivy champion Princeton in the league opener, the Temple game was considered the toughest for Penn in its slate of three-straight road games.

However, in the end, it was the Owls (10-8, 1-3), who got caught in rougher sledding in their own building than the elements outside from Tuesday's winter storm.

The result, following Saint Joseph's completed sweep to the Big 5 crown by beating La Salle Sunday, has the final standings as follows: 1-Saint Joseph's (4-0), 2-Villanova (3-1), 3-Penn (2-2), 4-Temple (1-3), and 5-La Salle (0-4).

"You look back at the picture, obviously the win at La Salle was much earlier, but the last three games I thought we played really good basketball," Penn coach Mike McLaughlin said.

"They were really heartbreakers, but to get this one, we really did good in the Big 5 this year and the kids did themselves well. It was awesome for them. They're super excited. They respect the Big 5 and I'm glad we were able to get this one."

Temple jumped to leads of 10-2 and 12-4 before the Quakers closed the gap and made the affair another barn burner where leads changed hands 11 times and the score was tied eight times.

Furthermore, Penn was down four players including two key stars in Katy Allen and Keiera Ray, who were held out for precautionary measure with nagging injuries.

"We asked a couple of people to play a few more minutes and I thought it worked out well," McLaughlin said. "Sydney played well in the more minutes that she got. I thught both of our post players -- Kara (Bonenberger) and Sydney were great."

Behind Baron's game-high 21 points, Bonenberger had 20 points and 12 rebounds while Stipanovich in a starting role had 17 points and 10 rebounds along with blocking five shots.

"I thought Melanie Lockett played very well for a young kid in this environment, I thought Rayne Connell gave us some good minutes and the two senior guards Meghan and Alyssa really played composed."

AS for the game-winner, McLaughlin alluded to a missed shot with 55 seconds left that Baron shook off on the next Penn possession after Temple's Rateska Brown tied it with a three-pointer with 47 seconds left.

"She wants the ball in her hands. I'm glad for her. She made a play and it was huge."

It was apropriate in many ways for Baron, a native of Miami, to star at the finish because she has been the face of the renaissance of Penn women's basketball as one of McLaughlin's first recruits after he took over following a long stint guiding Holy Family in Northeast Philadelphia as a Dkivision II powerhouse.

"We've been working so hard and we came up short at 'Nova and at Saint Joe's and we were ready for this game, and ready to get a win and we were able to do so." Baron said.

"We were hoping for more Big 5 wins, but we'll take two and the Drexel win which was so huge for us," said Baron. "It's so tough playing these Philly schools, especially away. It's always a great environment and the competition is always high each game."

Penn snapped a nine-game losing streak to Temple in the series and nine nonconference wins ties a mark for the program though the Quakers will get a chance to break the mark Saturday when they host NJIT.

The Quakers also set a program record with two Big 5 road wins.

After Saturday, it will be Ivy action the rest of the way with visits from Dartmouth and Harvard at the get-go when the two visit the Palestra at the end of the month.

Considering Penn's RPI -- best ever at this point in both ranking and strength of schedule -- perhaps if in a worse case scenario the Quakers finish a close third in the Ivy race, the WNIT would be well to consider McLaughlins' group as an at-large bid.

Of course, second place gets the WNIT automatically behind the league champ, which automatically qualifies for the NCAA tournament. The Ivies are the only of 32 conferences who do not hold a postseason playoff.

Last year Penn just missed getting to the final of the College Basketball Invitational with Baron making a buzzer-beater in an earlier game to keep the Quakers alive. She also had the game-winner earlier this season when Penn rallied from a 19-point deficit to beat Drexel.

As joyous as the night was for Penn, it was equally morose for Temple, which had mounted a stirring rally last time out to win at Cincinnati Saturday.

Furthermore, two of the three American Conference heavyweights are up next on the schedule with Rutgers visiting Saturday and then the rock stars of women's basketball in Connecticut, which will bring a No. 1 ranking and undefeated record Tuesday into McGonigle Hall where both games will be played.

The Huskies will play in McGonigle for the first time next week but have appeared next door in the Liacouras Center in NCAA tournament regional action.

"Early on I thought we had control of the game just by the way it was being played," Temple coach Tonya Cardoza said. "But when you look up at the scoreboard, it's like we hadn't really taken advantage of opportunities and it was like two baskets away from being a game..

"A lot of it, on the defensive end, we were allowing them to get whatever they wanted. And a lot of it was points in the paint. We knew we couldn't give up points in the paint.

"We got on a little run in the second half but even then there were times when we could convert things and we come away with nothing. And our defense just wasn't there, today."

Freshman Taylor Robinson had 16 points and 15 rebounds for Temple, while Natasha Thames had 13 points and 13 rebounds. Brown also scored 13 points and Tyonna Williams scored 10.

Since Rutgers is up next, the Scarlet Knights' game from Wednesday night is next in this post while the other three games are in an ensuing roundup under this post led by Saint Joseph's win at George Washington.

Rutgers Gets Back on Winning Track at Central Florida

The Scarlet Knights shook off Sunday's decimation by Connecticut at home with a 69-48 triumph over UCF in an American Conference game in Orlando.

Kahleah Copper, who will be making a homecoming appearance when Rutgers visits Temple Saturday at 2 p.m., had 18 points for the Scarlet Knights (14-4, 5-2 American Athletic Conference), while rookie sensation Tyler Scaife had 13 points and Briyona Canty from Willingboro, N.J., scored 11.

A hot shooting night from the field was helpful to the cause as Rutgers' 50.8 percent from the field was the fourth time this season Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer's group reached at least 50 percent.

Rachel Hollivay had five blocked shts off attempts by UCF (8-10, 1-6).

Sarah Djassi and Stephanie Taylor each scored 14 points for the home team.

It was noted to Temple's Cardoza that Rutgers, at times, has been inconsistent, but she responded alluding to the talented roster of the next opponent, "If just one of them shows up we could be in trouble because we need everybody showing up."

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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