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.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Guru Report: Princeton Mastery of Drexel Continues in Closely-Fought Battle

Guru note: Team reports were used to compile the other four schools in the Guru’s PhilahoopsW mix of local Division I schools beyond the lead game he was at which begins the roundup.

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA -
Princeton coach Courtney Banghart keeps pleading her four-time defending and league favorite Ivy champions are young, especially with one of the departed seniors being Niveen Rasheed, one of the all-time players among schools in the Ancient Eight.

However, a formula feed offering large doses of another tough non-conference schedule has had them growing at a rapid rate.

That was evident after both Princeton and Drexel wrapped up out-of-league competition on the regular season against each other Saturday afternoon with the Tigers pulling away down the stretch of a closely-fought contest to grab a 66-59 victory at Drexel’s Daskalakis Athletic Center.

“Obviously, losing Niveen was big but we are really doing a really good job this year of sharing the ball, being a pretty balanced offensive team, but we’re still working on our defense,” said sophomore Michelle Miller, who had a game-high 23 points for Princeton, shooting 7-for-12 from the field, including 5-of-7 off three-point attempts, and grabbing eight rebounds.

Blake Dietrick, who had been named the United States Basketball Writers Association player of the week, also had a near double-double with 18 points and nine rebounds, while Alex Wheatley, a graduate of Council Rock South in Bucks County, had 10 points.

One of the events not foreseen by George Orwell in his classic novel 1984 is that the Drexel and Princeton would meet for the first time in December of that year, the Dragons would win, but that would be the last time in what is now 29 seasons after Saturday’s game.

The Tigers extended their win streak in the series to nine straight, including the last five in the Denise Dillon era of coaching Drexel when the teams began meeting annually in December, 2009.

“It’s good to have close games,” Miller said of another recent nail biter against another Colonial Athletic Association school that is Delaware, whom the Tigers beat 84-80 at home in overtime on Dec. 15 in Jadwin Gym.

“We haven’t had many since I’ve been here. This win shows how we’ve grown together to be able to close out a game like this.”

Since late December, Drexel (5-8), which has also played a challenging schedule, has met three straight Ivy schools, squandering a 19-point lead to Penn down the street, winning big at Cornell and then taking another loss to Princeton.

That slate enabled Banghart to play some mind games with her squad, especially with their Ivy opener occurring right back here in West Philadelphia Saturday when Princeton meets the suddenly red hot Quakers in The Palestra.

“It’s always been a good battle and I have a lot of respect for what Denise does,” Banghart said. “We know they’re going to be a team that’s going to challenge us defensively, we know we’re going to play a team with a winning tradition, so it’s a good matchup.

“They’ve played a lot of Ivy teams and our non-conference schedule was against teams that are not like Ivy teams so it was important that we meet someone who plays like that, to get used to it,” Banghart said.

“We were treating them like an Ivy team. It was an Ivy League game that didn’t count as an Ivy League game so it was a good way to get ready for Ivy play.”

Princeton dominated the boards 43-30, including 15-7 on the offensive glass, and doubled the Dragons’ output in the paint, 20-10, besides a 16-9 differential in second chance points. The Tigers also were a plentiful 15-for-24 from the foul line compared to Drexel’s 5-for-7 attempts.

If Drexel had a silver lining to find, it was the production of the bench, highlighted by 14 of the 24 points from Alexis Smith to lead the entire team. Starters Meghan Creighton had 12 points while Rachel Pearson scored 11.

The duo combined on making 7-of-12 three points.

In terms of righting the ship, Dillon is hopeful the nonconference scheduled prepared her team, winning record or not, for the CAA wars ahead in which the coaches had picked Drexel second behind James Madison.

Play begins at home Thursday night against the College of Charleston, a new member to the conference which lost former heavyweight Old Dominion to Conference USA, while George Mason departed for the Atlantic 10, and Georgia State also bolted.

“It’s almost like a nonconference game because we really don’t know them yet,” Dillon said.

Drexel was right there for the first time at the finish in the five-year re-rivalry with Princeton, trailing 59-58 on Alex Smith’s jump shot with 1:33 left to play.

Then the Tigers’ Vanessa Smith hit a layup with 37 seconds left before Drexel’s Alex Smith committed a turnover with 27 seconds left.

Miller than missed the front end of a 1-and-1 but Wheatley grabbed the offensive rebound with 23 seconds left. Dietrick then was back on the foul line and hit both free throws for a 63-58 lead with 18 seconds left.

Carrie Alexander than went 1-for-2 from the line with 11 seconds left for Drexel and Miller did likewise for a 64-59 lead by the Tigers with eight seconds to play.

After Alexander’s missed jump shot with two seconds left, Alex Rodgers got the rebound and went to the line to sink both shots with two seconds left for the final 66-59 score.

“Princeton’s a good team and we knew it would be a tough game,” Dillon said. “Obviously, we played better against Cornell. For us to beat teams like this, we have to put two solid halves together.

“The first half, it was a game of possessions, back-and-forth, even the second half we gave uup way too many points, the offensive rebounds and we just weren’t making the adjustments,” Dillon continued.

“Down the stretch, we have an opportunity to take the lead and missed a three and gave up an easy two. We talk so often about a game of possessions, and you work on those situations in practice but ...”

Heading into the CAA, Dillon observed, “This has been a very tough nonconference schedule for a very young team. We’re not young anymore. The only thing you can hope at this point is that the inexperience isn’t a factor anymore because of the teams that we played.

“On Thursday, we start fresh. We’ve been practicing better. They’ve been more aggressive. The intensity is there. You just can’t take a possession off. We’d probably be better off playing a team we know because we shift the focus and the first game is somebody our kids don’t know so it still feels like nonconference. But we’ll see.”

The Other Locals Enjoy Sweep Saturday

Four other PhilahoopsW squads played and all were winners with Temple and Rutgers dominating at home with American Conference triumphs while Villanova stayed home to pick up another Big East victory and La Salle stayed perfect in the early going in the Atlantic 10 with a road triumph.

Temple shook off its New Year’s Day loss at home to No. 7 Louisville by returning to McGonigle Hall and topping Central Florida 75-54.

That makes the Owls 8-5 overall and 2-1 in the conference with wins over teams picked above them in the coaches preseason poll in which they were slotted next to last at ninth.

UCF is now 8-6 and 1-2 in the conference with the other loss being the New Year’s wipeout by top-ranked and undefeated Connecticut, which claimed Memphis on Saturday to go 2-0 in the league.

The visitors led most of the first half and by as many as seven points but a 14-2 surge by Temple led to a 34-28 lead at the half.

The Owls kept it going with another stampede, this time 15-2 and built the differential to as many as 24 points to reach cruise control while still working it.

Tyonna Williams had 19 points and a career-high five treys while Natasha Thames had 14 points, Shi-Heria Shipp had her third double double on the season with 13 points and 10 rebounds, and Erica Covile scored 10 points.

“Tyonna was looking to shoot more today,” Temple coach Tonya Cardoza said of Williams’ performance. We needed her to make some threes and she took that to heart.”

UCF’s Zykira Lewis had 13 points but leading scorer Briahanna Jackson was held to 10 points.

“We knew we had to limit Jackson’s touches,” Cardoza said of Jackson’s 18.4 average. “Tyonna did a good job containing her. It was definitely a team effort to hold her.”

Temple owned the boards 44-31 and shot 54 percent from the field.

“We want to have more consistency in winning more games in a row,” Cardoza said with an eye to a road week that has stops at South Florida on Tuesday and then on to Cardoza’s second reuinion with her former boss, Hall of Famer Geno Auriemma as the Owls meet UConn Saturday at noon for the Huskies’ first-ever regular season home game in Bridgeport.

Tuesday’s action will be televised by the conference’s American Digital Network, making it three straight telecasts from the conference’s streaming website and a fourth in the mix that aired on ESPN3 involving the Louisville game.

Saturday’s will be carried as part of UConn’s local package on SNY-TV.

Meanwhile Rutgers continued its hot, run beating Houstron, picked 10th behind Temple,678-47 at home in the Louis Brown Athletic Center in Piscataway, N.J., in a very early afternoon game.

In taking its home opener in The American competition, its first and last before moving to the Big Ten next season, Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Sftringer’s squad (11-2, 2-0 American) continued its bid to return to the AP women’s poll for the first time since spending the entire 2011-12 season among the elite.

Kahleah Copper of Philadelphia just missed matching her career high by a point, scoring 25 and also grabbing nine rebounds in the first-ever meeting with the Cougars (4-10, 0-3).

Betnijah Laney continued her bid to be on the receiving end of postseason awards with 17 points and 15 rebounds for her sixth straight double double.

As lopsided as the score looks toward Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights actually trailed 34-33 with 14:14 left in the game before taking control.

Syessence Davis had had seven assists for the second straight game and had perfect ball handling in not committing any turnovers.

Houston’s Marissa Ashton had a career-high 19 points off the bench.

Next up is a trip to a familiar foe in Cincinnati, which was a regular opponent in the Big East prior to last summer’s official schism putting the football schools with newcomers into The American except football-indepent Notre Dame, Syracuse and Pittsburgh, which are in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The seven Catholic veteran institutions, including Villanova, stayed under the banner and were joined by Creighton, Xavier, and Butler.

Villanova’s strong season to date continued at home Saturday with a closing kick to avoid an upset by longtime rival Providence as the Wildcats emerged from The Pavilion with a 68-59 victory over the Friars (5-8, 0-2).

Devon Kane with a 7-14 effort from the field, scored 17 points and Taylor Holeman was 8-for-9 from the field and scored 18 points for Villanova (11-2, 2-1).

The Wildcats continue to be one of the PhilahoopsW group of teams on an NCAA tournament track along with Rutgers, Saint Joseph’s, Penn State, while Princeton or Penn could get there with an Ivy title and Temple is probably a bubble team for the moment. Drexel and Delaware each need to win the CAA, at this juncture, as does La Salle do the same in the Atlantic 10.

Katherine Coyer had 10 points off the bench while Providence’s Alexis Harris had 23 points.

The Wildcats forced 16 turnovers and outscored Providence 22-4 in transition and the bench outscored the Friars reserves 33-5.

The game was almost similar to one that didn’t go Villanova’s way several years ago in a collapse in Rhode Island.

The Wildcats were up 37-25 with what became their largest lead of the game, coming after intermission, when Providence went on an 18-3 run for a 43-40 lead with 11:22 left in the game.

Then Kane scored, Providence missed two foul shots and Holeman scored to get Villanova the lead back to be held the rest of the way.

Emily Leer’s trey with 3:09 created some confort for a 57-50 lead before the teams traded baskets and then Kane nailed a 3-pointer to get Villanova safely out of harm’s way for good.

When Kane has scored in double figres, Villanova has been 24-2 including 7-0 this season. Caroline Coyer has averaged six assists and under 1.0 turnovers her last six games.

After being home only three times to date, Villanova goes back on the road to the Midwest Wednesday to meet Atlantic-10 defector Butler in Indianapolis and then return Saturday against Seton Hall.

In the only other game involving a Division I local, La Salle continued its resent resilency by beating newcomer George Mason 65-50 near the nation’s capital in Fairfax, Va., to make it four wins in the last five games – a one-point loss blunted the run.

Within that stretch Leeza Burdgess has now had three double doubles after scoring 10 points and grabbing 16 points for the Explorers, who are now back to .500 at 7-7 and off to a 2-0 start in the Atlantic 10.

Micahaya Owens had a game-high 17 points against the Patriots (6-9, 0-2), while Alicia Cropper had 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

Taylor Brown had one of George Mason’s best efforts with 12 points.

The Explorers have been on the road with travel back and forth for six games beginning Dec. 20, but on Wednesday they return to Tom Gola Arena to host streaking Virginia Commonwealth.

Small Colleges: USP Back on the Victory Trail

Brianne Traub had 26 points and eight rebounds while Camille McPherson had 22 points and six rebounds at home in Bobby Morgan Arena in Southwest Philadelphia as the University of the Sciences in NCAA Division II topped Post 85-53 Saturday afternoon to become the first Central Collegiate Athletic Conference team to reach 10 overall wins, which goes with a 5-1 mark in the South Division of the league.

The loss, though, has the Devils trailing front—runners Philadelphia University and Holy Family.

Isabella Ross had 10 points and 13 rebounds and Jessica Sylvester dealt eight assists.

Kaitlyn Schmid, who is leading the team in sacrifices, taking 10 charges, dealt seven assists.

Hailey Griffin was the only player in double figures for Post (4-8, 4-2) with 15 points.

Next up is Chestnut Hill College on Wednesday.

Looking Ahead

The PhilahoopsW teams that were idle Saturday are in action Sunday with Saint Joseph’s, also bidding for a ranking, hosting longtime Atlantic 10 rival George Washington at 1 p.m. in Hagan Arena.

The school is also taking donations to help the family of Hawks star Natasha Cloud, who lost their home to a fire in Broomall in Delaware County last month.

No. 15 Penn State is in Iowa City to meet nationally-ranked Iowa as the Lady Lions open defense of their regular season Big Ten title.

Delaware opens defense of its two-time unbeaten CAA championships hosting Hofstra. Former Blue Hens star Kayla Miller, who is also coaching at Archmere Academy, is threatening to return to the Team Guru fold with a report from the scene in the Bob Carpenter Center.

Fresh off their landmark win on New Year’s Day at Miami, beating an ACC school for the first time, the Penn Quakers begin the first of a two-game tune-up with Mideastern Athletic Conference schools for Saturday’s Ivy opener at home with Princeton, will host Norfolk State before traveling to Morgan State in Baltimore on Wednesday.

Right now Penn’s RPI is at an all-time high 37 with a strength of schedule at 34 according to the Realtime RPI measurement and while the site is not the most accurate, it is usually in the ballpark with others.

The one-time weekly public release Collegerpi is out Monday morning and with no one in action that day, the Guru will be roundup RPIs, performances in the NCAA stats and other information involving local schools.

Speaking of local, out of the area mix but big in the national picture on Sunday in the ACC, Maryland and North Carolina clash in Chapel Hill and there is some local accent with the Tar Heels since former Saint Joseph’s star and summer league playing-coaching star Katie Kuester is the video coordinator.

The Guru will be back in 24 hours with Sunday action and will be on the scene tweeting from Hawk Hill at @womhoopsguru.

-- Mel












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