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.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Guru's Saturday Report: Penn's Fountain of Youth is Getting Old Hat

By Mel Greenberg

Penn has become a place where ongoing arrival of young talent in the Mike McLaughlin coaching era is getting old.

Four years ago guard Alyssa Baron became the face of the Quakers’ turnaround and has remained so in this latest signature season during her senior farewell tour.

Then Kara Bonenberger came along in the post position followed last season by Keiera Ray at guard.

Now the rookie glory belongs to Sydney Stipanovich, a 6-foot-3 inch center from St. Louis who was a McDonald’s All-American nominee last season.

On Saturday night in which Penn completed an historic week for the program, Stipanovich had a school record eight blocks in just 20 minutes of action as the Quakers (10-5) routed NJIT 84-48 to set record for most nonconference wins at 10.

As far as the game stats are concerned in the win at home in The Palestra, Bonenberger had 18 points, Stipanovich, given another start due to injuries, had 11 points and 10 rebounds in addition to her rejects of offerings by NJIT (5-18).

Kathleen Roche scored 10, Katy Allen, off the bench being limited as a precaution, scored 10 points, and Renee Busch scored 11.

Penn was picked third in the Ivies, which kick in play the rest of the way this weekend at home, behind powerhouse Princeton and Harvard.

“For our younger players, the Ivies are a different experience,” McLaughlin said. “You play back-to-back on Friday and Saturdfay nights and you have to have short term memory a lot of times.

“We’ll take on Dartmouth first and then worry about the next team. But I think we’re ready.”

The Quakers will get a chance to improve on the projection right from the jump because after Dartmouth visits Friday night Harvard’s Crimson will be heading down from their Friday night showdown at Princeton, which romped over Penn earlier this month in the league opener.

Earlier in the week Penn won at Temple, making it only the second time the Quakers won twice in the City Series round-robin in the same season, and it’s also the first time Penn won two Big 5 games in enemy arenas.

“It was a week of challenging competition and high intensity Big 5 games and we matched it right away,” McLaughlin said of the win Saturday.

“I think it’s an amazing feat (the nonconference achievement) with the schedule we put together – we played some amazing teams,” McLaughlin said.

“We competed with everyone and to win 10 of our last 12 is a remarkable feat at this point.”

Stipanovich was asked about adjusting to the local lore coming from the Midwest.

“So far, I love it here. The one thing I learned playing these last few games is how important and historic the Big 5 is,” she said. “It was great to play in those games (including narrow losses at Villanova and Saint Joseph’s) and I’m excited to start next week in the Ivy League as well.”

The Penn rookie talked about making Penn her choice.

“What drew me was the team and the coaches. The academics here are hard to pass up. I just felt when I came on campus this is the place I would want to be for the next four years. I thought Penn was the best fit for me.”

Stipanovich has been coming off the bench but in recent games started with Bonenberger to cause a strong inside presence for Penn.

“Her positioning really helps our guards,” McLaughlin said. “She can make up for some of their mistakes. The positioning is going to make her a force in our league.

“She’s coming at the right time and it’s the right time for Kara because the past two years she was strictly a `five,’ but with her experience we can move her to the `four’ as a natural fit and Sydney can slide right in and play her natural position.

“It’s a good combination, they work well together, they work hard together, and it’s been fun to watch.”

Rutgers Foils Temple Upset Bid

Earlier Saturday, the Owls in McGonigle Hall, greeted Rutgers, a national force they have met in recent years out of league but for this one season are playing the Scarlet Knights home-and-home as part of the affiliations in The American Athletic Conference before Rutgers moves on to the Big 10 next this summer.

Hall of Fame Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said after her team held off Temple, 74-68, she expects the competition between the two schools to continue.

Temple (10-9, 4-4 AAC) came into the game off its upset loss at home Wednesday to Penn in the Big 5 but surprised many by extending Rutgers (15-4, 6-2) until the Scarlet Knights exploded with a 12-0 run during the second half to take control.

Rutgers, incidentally, is in the Guru’s PhilahoopsW collection.

Then the Owls finished with a closing rally.

Temple freshman Feyonda Fitzgerald scored 25 points and Taylor Robinson, another newcomer, had a career-high 18 points.

Cardoza sees the inside-outside forces as two bright spots for the future, but the present day situation still needs remedying.

“We’re losing games down the stretch because we’re not playing defense,” Cardoza said of several key games that have gotten away. “We’re allowing people to score and giving up key offensive rebounds. The way (Rutgers) was scoring on us was embarrassing.

“When the game is on the line we have to do the little things,” she said. “Mentally, I think there are breakdowns.”

Temple had a 24-22 lead at the half but was outscored 52-44 in the final 20 minutes.

Nastasha Thames had 11 rebounds.

Stringer was curious to see how her team would act as the hunted unlike last week when it was the hunter when Connecticut visited.

Earlier this month as the favorite, Rutgers let one get away at Memphis and lost in overtime.

Though Temple was picked next to last in the 10-team AAC by the coaches in the preseason, the Owls’ ability to compete did not surprise Stringer.

“I figured the game was going to be an eight- or 10-point game at the most,” Stringer said. “Temple is a very solid basketball team. They’re fighters. They’re never out of it.”

There were many homecoming touches on Rutgers’ side of the matchup.

Stringer started out making Cheyney, located in the western suburbs, a national force and coached with former Temple men’s Hall of Famer John Chaney.

Junior Betnijah Laney, who had 24 points and 10 rebounds, is from Clayton, Del., near Wilmington, but her mother Yolanda was an all-American for Stringer at Cheyney and played in McGonigle Hall many times in the Public League as a high school standout at University City.

Kahleah Copper, who had 20 points, is from near McGonigle Hall and joked about splitting spectactor ticket allowances with Laney for the game.

Briyona Canty, who came off the bench and scored 13 points to keep Rutgers alive until Laney and Copper heated up, is not far from the city either, hailing from Willingboro, N.J., the same town as WNBA All-Star Crystal Langhorne of the Washington Mystics who was an all-American at Maryland.

Rachel Hollivay had 11 points inside and eight rebounds – adding to Cardoza’s frustrations of the Rutgers 42-30 advantage.

“We’re not going to win trying to outscore teams like Rutgers in the paint,” she said.

Rutgers next hosts No., 5 Louisville Tuesday at 9 p.m. in a key matchup and first of two with the Cardinals.

Temple, as mentioned, has the Huskies coming after being beaten earlier this month by UConn in Bridgeport, Conn.

It could be quite the atmosphere in the smaller McGonigle Hall as opposed to the Liacouras Center on the next block where the unbeaten and No. 1 Huskies have played and won a regional several years ago in the NCAA tournament on the way to a national title.

As of Friday Temple had received 60 media credential requests.

Cardoza, who was on Hall of Famer Geno Auriemma’s staff at UConn for 14 years, is slightly amused at the interest.

“It can’t be the homecoming thing – how many times did he do that at Villanova? (in the old Big East), she referenced Auriemma growing up in Norristown.

“As for anything else, weren’t they paying attention to our score up there?”

After Tuesday, Temple heads to Texas to play at SMU Saturday and Houston next Tuesday before coming home on Nov. 9 to host Memphis in the Liacouras Center.

Villanova Snaps Conference Losing Streak

Speaking of the Wildcats, prior to Saturday’s visit from new Big East member Xavier, a former Atlantic 10 powerhouse, coach Harry Perretta’s squad had lost three out four – the lone win being a last minute escaped of Penn in the Pavilion in the Big 5.

But the conference misery came to an end with an easy 61-32 rout of the Musketeers (8-12, 3-5 Big East).

Devon Kane scored 16 points for the Wildcats (14-5, 4-4), who did not allow Xavier to have anyone score in double figures.

Emily Leer scored 12 points and Katherine Coyer scored 10.

Kavunaa Edwards grabbed 11 rebounds.

Villanova connected beyond the arc shooting 10-of-27 three-pointers. The Wildcats also dominated the boards with a 46-32 rebounding advantage.

The Musketeers shot 24.6 percent from the field.

Villanova next travels to Georgetown Wednesday night in Washington and then hosts newcomer Creighton Saturday after losing earlier to the Blue Jays in Omaha, Nebraska.

The post above this has Sunday’s games and the Saturday La Salle game.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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