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, March 01, 2014

Guru Report: Princeton and Penn Stay 1-2 in the Ivy Race With Road Wins at Yale and Brown


By Mel Greenberg

NEW HAVEN, Conn. --
We start the day's blog, which is really from Friday night, with the following mathematical/logical question.

If at the exact same moment, the Guru leaves the John Lee Amphitheater, home of the Yale Bulldogs, from the Ivy League Friday night encounter won 85-63 by frontrunning Princeton, and Penn leaves from its 70-54 win over Brown in Providence, R.I., and heads down to the same hotel the Guru is staying at five minutes away from the arena, who gets to register first at the front desk?

If your answer is the Guru because celebrity trumps the Quakers' historic season of sorts, you're wrong.

The reason is the Guru joined Yale assistant and Philly-bred Lauren Thomer and her folks at a nice little Mexican restaurant next door to the hotel and by the time the evening ended (see Thomer tweet) the Penn delegation, which is giving the Guru another hitch home Saturday night, arrived just a few steps in front.

In terms of the PhilahoopsW local collection, the Ivy duo in the Guru's 10-team group organized for local Division I coverage were the only ones who played and the 1-2 Ivy frontrunners stayed in place for a potential season-ending showdown at the Tigers' Jadwin Gym on March 11.

Harvard stayed a game behind Penn in third with a 70-66 win at Cornell after trailing by 15 points.

Meanwhile, since the Guru wasn't sure whether Pepe's Pizza was still opened prior to hooking up with the Rider grad and her family, he got lucky anyhow since Princeton coach Courtney Banghart's dad presented his daughter with a box of Peppe's and she offered a slice.

Princeton (18-6, 9-1 Ivy) didn't offer Yale (12-13, 6-5)anything, however, bolting to a quick lead ang getting five players to score in double figures.

"How about that balance," Banghart said afterwards. "I knew Kristen (Helmstetter) was ready to have a big game after last week."

Helmstetter, who was 1-for-13 in Princeton's road struggle at Harvard until the Tigers pulled away down the stretch, had 17 points against Yale, shooting 7-for-9 from the field, including 3-for-5 on three-pointers.

"This team is so laid back you worry beforehand," Banghart said. "Especially for this game becauee Yale is tough and this was probably the game everyone had its eyes on in the Ivy League tonight."

Michelle Miller added 16 points to Princeton's attack, while Blake Dietrick and reserve Amanda Berntsen each scored 12 points and Alex Wheatley from lower Bucks County (Pa.) scored 10 points.

Sarah Halejian had 18 points, including her 1,000th career score, for Yale and Whitney Wyckoff scored 12.

Princeton, which has won four straight Ivy crowns and was the media preseason favorite in the fall for this time around, has won eight straight since dropping its home-opener in the league to Harvard after a rout triumph at Penn followed by the annual three-week break for exams prior to the visit from the Crimson.

"That's what has made me really proud of this team staying focused after that loss," Banghart said. "Because if you lose a game later on the schedule, you have some margin of error. Otherwise, you pretty much have to almost win everything if you drop a game in the Ivies at the outset."

Penn (18-6, 8-2), meanwhile, had a challenge early from Brown (8-17, 2-9) and then managed to get through the second half even though the frontcourt duo of rookie sensation Sydney Stipanovich and Kara Bonenberger got into serious foul trouble.

But in the end, Bonenberger finished with a season-high 22 points and eight rebounds, while Stipanovich had her ninth double double and fourth in a row with 14 points and 13 rebounds.

Kathleen Roche had 10 points while Alyssa Baron, coming down the stretch of a future-labeled Philadelphia Big Five Hall of Fame career, had nine points, seven rebounds, and dealt five assists.

Carly Wellington had 15 points for Brown and Lauren Clark had 12.

Incidentally, for those who read the quick mention here last weekend and further discussion in the Guru's temporary women's column on Tuesdays in the Inquirer, senior Meghan McCullough did get the job offer from the interview she had to give in Charlotte, N.C., last Friday on the morning of the Harvard game before flying to Boston to rejoin the team.

Yale may be the last impediment to Penn at least getting the Ivy automatic bid to the WNIT, won a year ago by Drexel, as the second place squad.

A victory Saturday night makes this the second most winning season for Penn behind the 22 of the 2000-01 contingent featuring local all-timer Diana Caramanico that captured the first of two Ivy titles under Kelly Greenberg, the La Salle grad who now coaches Boston U.

Mike McLaughlin, in his fifth year that was marked by just two victories at the outset, has now led Penn to back-to-back seasons of at least 18 wins for the second time in program history tied with the 1999-2001 squads.

It's also the first time in over a decade of at least two winning seasons in league play for the Quakers, who possibly could get an at-large invite to the WNIT if they fall behind Harvard at the finish, which would be a first-ever achievement for the Ivy League in advancing members to that postseason tournament.

Harvard (18-7, 8-3) renained two behind Princeton and one behind Penn with three games remaining after rallying from what would have been a virtual fatal loss at Cornell (12-12, 5-6).

Penn, which finishes at home Friday against Columbia and Saturday againat Cornell, has the tiebreaker for the second slot and automatic bid to the WNIT vs. Harvard because of a sweep of the Crimson.

Princeton has the same opponents next weekend as Penn in reverse order and then the two will face each other in the season finale that could result in a tie and potential playoff as of this post prior to Saturday night's games as in tonight.

Harvard, in beating Cornell at the Big Red's Newman Arena in Ithaca, N.Y., got 18 points from Christine Clark, 12 from Temi Fagbenli, and 11 from Elise Gordon.

Cornell's Sephanie Long and Nia Marshall each scored 13 points.

Looking Ahead and a Bit Behind

Elsewhere Saturday and since this is posting at mid-afternoon as opposed to the Guru's normal daybreak insertions -- the hotel bed felt good, what can he say -- Villanova edged host Xavier 57-55 shooting 14 treys at the Cintas Center in Cinnati.

"We held on for dear life -- I don't think we scored a field goal in the last four minutes," veteran coach Harry Perretta said after Villanova (21-7, 11-6 Big East) clinched at least fifth-place in the Big East heading into Tuesday's senior night at home against Marquette, which is also in the hunt for fourth as of this posting.

Devon Kane had 16 points for the Wildcats against the Musketeers (8-21, 3-14), who formerly were in the Atlantic 10.

Katherine Coyer added 12 points.

DePaul won at St. John's 80-65 to clinch first place and the No. 1 seed for this week's Big East tournament at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, a suburb of Chicago where DePaul normally plays its home games.

La Salle shocked St. Bonaventure at home on the Explorers' senior day at Tom Gola Arena with a 55-49 win that has created a wild finish in the Atlantic 10 with Sunday's games to be played before standings and seeds are set for next week's tournament in Richmond, Va.

Alicia Cropper had 17 points and dealt eight assists for the Explorers (14-14, 9-7 Atlantic 10) while Leeza Burdgess scored 13 points, and Jasmine Alston scored 11 points and dealt eight assists.

Katie Healy scored 22 for the Bonnies ( 22-9, 11-5).

George Washington shocked frontrunner Dayton 88-79 at home in the Colonials's Smith Arena to set up a situation that Sunday's winner between St. Joseph's and Fordham will pull into a three-way tie for second with the Colonials (20-9. 11-5) and the Bonnies.

In games just under way before posting this, Temple is at UCF trying to get a sixth-place finish in The American Conference while top-ranked Connecticut is hosting No. 24 Rutgers in the same conference with the visiting Scarlet Knights trying to finish third.

No. 8 Penn State, on Narberth's Maggie Lucas' final regular season appearance at home in the Bryce Jordan Center, was tied 8-8 with Michigan as the Lady Lions looked to finish in at worst a three-way tie for first in the Big 10, whose final seeds for nect week's tournament, will be determined Sunday.

The Ivy duo, as mentioned at the top, is slated for Saturday night to complete the day's card, which will be updated with everything before sunrise Sunday -- promise.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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