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.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Guru Report: Penn Completes Sweep of Harvard and Heads to Ivy Tie for First

By Mel Greenberg

As the Penn women's basketball team stepped out of its travel bus and into Harvard's Lavietes Pavilion Friday night, Mother Nature and her merry band of Weatherwomen struck up a ferocious roar of thunder and teeming raindrops.

The Quakers gave a brief nod and then spent the next 40 minutes making lightning strike twice on the Crimson in a matter of three weeks on the way to a 63-50 victory that flipped Penn with Princeton into a first-place tie atop the Ivy League standings a half-game ahead of Harvard.

The ninth-straight win, second longest in the history of the Penn women (17-5, 7-1 Ivy), includes the 67-38 wipeout of the Crimson (17-6, 7-2) on Feb. 1 at the Quakers' Palestra in Philadelphia.

"Wer competed for this one," Penn coach Mike McLaughlin said afterwards. "To be able to beat this team twice in the same season, to come up here and win, our kids were tremendous. We had a great composure.

"I didn't like the pace early but in the last 15 minutes the pace of the half was where we needed it to be," he continued. "I thought senior leadership was great. I thought Meghan (McCullough) made a winning play off two missed foul shots and turned it into a three."

The portion of the crowd of 804 that was the Harvard faithful was shocked by Penn's electrifying performance that deprived the Crimson of tying their 22-game home win streak and kept coach Kathy Delaney-Smith two wins short of tying Princeton Hall of Famer Pete Carril for most overall triumphs (514) by an Ivy men's or women's coach.

On the other hand, the Penn fans here in suburban Boston were delighted to see the Quakers dismantle the decade-long curse of Lavietes that included six losses of double digits and three gut wrenchers at the buzzer in 2008, 2010, and the one in 2011 that came at the end of double overtime.

"Three years ago we lost a tough one here and maybe we weren't ready to compete," McLaughlin said. "But we were ready to win tonight."

The sweep is Penn's first over Harvard in 13 years.

Princeton, meanwhile, defending four successive titles, gained its move back to the top north of here as the Tigers romped 87-46 over Dartmouth, the alma mater of Princeton coach Courtney Banghart, in Hanover, N.H.

The Big Green, whom Penn will face Saturday night to complete the road trip, are just 3-20 overall and still winless in the league at 0-9.

Think about where Princeton (16-6, 7-1) has been the last four years and where Penn has come from in the same amount of time plus one additional season since McLaughlin took over the helm.

Across the Ivies the Quakers are getting mentioned with the Tigers in the same breath whereas in the past they weren't close enough to share the Earth's oxygen.

It started with a two-win season that was followed with the arrival of Miami native Alyssa Baron, who had 16 of her 21 points against Harvard Friday in the first half and whose three-pointer with 1:35 left in the game gave the Quakers a 12-point lead.

"I thought that was the dagger," Baron said. "It's been such an imoprovement each year. We've had so many heartbreaking losses here, it's just a great win to be able to come here and beat them on their home floor."

Whie Baron has been the main threat, her rookie of the year honors have also gone successively in the Big Five to Kara Bonenberger and Keiera Ray and likely to also go to Sydney Stipanovich.

"Alyssa just wants to win so bad and I'm glad we've been able to add pieces around her," McLaughlin said.

McCullough had eight points and five rebounds while dealing two assists, blocking a shot and grabbing three steals in 39 minutes..

Not bad for a senior whose day started early Friday morning in Charlotte, N.C., making as presentaation as part of a four-hour job interview and then catching a flight to get here at mid-afternoon where she dined more on the game plan than pre-game meal.

"Playing with Meghan these four years have been amazing," Baaron said. "I've never played with anyone with more heart than her."

In the second half, as Baron cooled off, the inside tandum of Bonenberger and rookie sensartrion Stiphasnovich combined for 17 of the Quakers' 19 points over an 11-minute span.

"They were beasts inside," said Baron, who reached 1,700 career points to become the third Penn star and 11th Ivy League woman to cross 1,700 points.

Bonenberger finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds while Stipanovich had 13 points and 12 rebounds.

Christine Clark had 18 points for Harvard while Melissa Mullins and Temi Fagbenle each had 10 points and 12 rebounds, while Jasmine Evans grabbbed 10 rebounds.

Though Harvafrd is second in the Ivies in scoring, Penn held the Crimson about 29 points below their average in the two games combined.

Princeton, in its sixth straight win got 13 points from Kristen Helmstetter, 12 from Blake Dietrick and 10 from Taylor Williams.

The Tigers come here Saturday night for the 6 p.m. tipoff looking to avenge their 78-68 loss at home in Jadwin Gym on Jan. 31 that was Princeton's first following a three-week break for final exams.

Assuming Penn, which seems likely at worst to land in the WNIT, beats Dartmouth Saturday night, the Quakers will either be alone in first or still tied with Princeton depending om the outcome here.

The okty other PhilahoopsW team in action Saturday has Temple hosting South Florida at 2 p.m. in an American Athletic Conference game in the Liacouras Center, not McGonigle Hall.

The Guru will not be on hand to respond to wanting to ask the first question in the postgame press conference since he decided toi remain here and see how things develop.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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