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, March 02, 2014

Guru Report: Roche's Marksmanship Gets Penn Back to a Piece of Ivy Lead With Princeton

( Guru Note: The rest of the roundup is under this post. )

By Mel Greenberg

NEW HAVEN, Conn. --
When the Penn women’s basketball team hit the locker room Saturday night here in Yale’s John J. Lee Ampitheater at the half they knew they had control of the game at one of the more troublesome road stops in the Ivy League.

What most of the delegation didn’t know was up the road in Providence, R.I., four-time defending champion Princeton had been eclipsed by Brown 61-58 meaning that another 20 solid minutes of play would undo a chunk of the damage from last week’s upset loss at Dartmouth and put the Quakers back into a first-place tie with the Tigers.

“They tried to keep it from us,” senior Alyssa Baron said after Penn ruined Yale’s senior night with a 62-48 victory of solid offense and defense to return to the top of the race.

“I actually went over to our trainer Amy Graber and she ruined the surprise, she told me, but I had to keep it secret. I couldn’t believe it at first either. It just got me more pumped up to finish.

“It’s definitely going to be different on the drive home this weekend, being able to win both games and follow up like we didn’t do last Saturday (after beating Harvard for a sweep of the Crimson) so we’re right where we’re supposed to be.”

Baron had 16 points and 10 rebounds and passed Philadelphia Big Five Hall of Famer Jewel Clark to move into second place on the Penn career scoring list with 1,748 points, but significantly behind Diana Caramanico, and 10th on the career charts in the Ivy League.

The victory for Penn (19-6, 9-2 Ivy League) put this edition of the Quakers to second all-time in program history behind the 22 in 2000-01 that belonged to the first of two contingents that became Ivy champs.

Coach Mike McLaughlin’s bunch have stayed the course while losing critical parts of the roster, the most recent this past week when Katy Allen was lost the rest of the way after suffering a foot injury.

But Kathleen Roche, a 5-11 junior guard, stepped up big time, knocking down six three-pointers, one short of a Penn record, on the way to 20 points.

“It’s incredible how people step up and Kathleen works extra hard, she’s in the gym before all of us and it really showed tonight,” Baron said. “Even with Katy out, it really hurts us, but it just shows that other people like (freshman) Stephanie Cheyney (seven points off the bench) or others are willing to step up.”

Baron’s three treys helped contribute to a season-high 12 for the Quakers.

Penn hosts Columbia and Cornell this Friday night and Saturday while Princeton (18-7, 9-2) will host the same opponents in reverse order. A Quakers sweep on the weekend guarantees at least a trip to the WNIT, won last year by Drexel.

The two Ivy co-leaders will meet on March 11 a week from Tuesday in what could be a winner take all and the automatic bid to the NCAAs.

Roche talked about her performance.

“It was just a feeling by our whole team coming out on the court tonight,” she said. ”We weren’t really focusing on Xs and Os. We were really focusing on playing with heart and who wanted it more and we knew after a tough game last weekend, we needed to bounce back and it was going to be something more than basketball, it was going to be playing basketball with heart and really passion for the game.

“It’s always a battle with us and Yale. We’re two teams that like to go at it on defense and it’s always an up tempo game,” Roche explained. “We didn’t want them to speed us up. We just wanted to stay within ourselves.”

Roche said she did not know of the Princeton loss until after the game ended here for Penn.

“When we were running off the court after we shook hands, Meghan (McCullough) told me and my heart just jumped. It’s funny how the game can change so quickly.”

Sarah Halejian, who had her 1,000th career point Friday night against Princeton, scored 13 points as the only player in double figures for Yale (13-13, 6-6).

Prior to the opening tip, Yale veteran coach Chris Gobrecht talked about life in the Ivies as opposed to her prior days on the West Coast guiding Southern Cal and Washington.

“We’re on a different mission,” she said. “These four seniors we’re going to honor tonight already all have tremendous jobs locked up after they graduate. We get it.”

Meanwhile the accolades keep being said about the job McLaughlin has done, leaving a powerful Division II program at Holy Family, his alma mater, suffering through just two wins and a bunch of narrow losses his first season before accelerating the Quakers these next four.

“Our coach always says `just stay the course and just worry about us.’ Roche said. “This weekend it worked out for us.”

McLaughlin wasn’t ready to look at what’s up ahead but rather reflect on the way Penn bounced back after the win at Harvard last Friday was dampened by the loss at Dartmouth, though Penn did almost pull that one out at the finish after a rough first half.

“Kathleen was great. She made big shots, spread the court for us,” he said. “She was the first one on the court today (at shoot-around), stayed there longer than anyone and she got rewarded. She really hit some huge shots for us.

“Honestly, it doesn’t mean much to us,” he said about getting back to first. “We’ll worry about that later. This is about the game at Yale. They played their hearts out. And I want them to enjoy it. I want them to stay in the moment right now and just keep competing.

“I just felt we really played well this weekend. We answered the bell. We accepted the challenge. We have a lot of basketball to play. We’ll stay in the moment, like I said, and try to get better and get ready for Friday-Saturday.”

Princeton, meanwhile, struggled from the field, shooting 32.3 percent, with only Kristen Helmstetter having a big game with 20 points against Brown (9-17,3-9), though Blake Dietrick scored 13.

The Bears made 10 three-pointers versus six from beyond the arc for Brown.

Helmstetter’s trey tied the score at 57-57 with 1:34 left in the game but Brown got three of the final four points to preserve the upset and become the first Ivy team in nearly five years not named Harvard to top the Tigers.

Brown’s Lauren Clark scored 24 points.

“The box score says it all,” Princeton coach Courtney Banghart said to the Guru via an exchange on a private social media channel. ”We’re young and have come a long way but we have holes. But we still control our destiny.”

Harvard, meanwhile, stayed a game behind the frontrunners with a 64-51 win at Columbia in New York as Crimson coach Kathy Delaney-Smith tied Hall of Famer and former Princeton men’s coach Pete Carril for most overall victories by an Ivy basketball coach at 314.

Temi Fagbenli, the English Olympian at the London Games in 2012, had a career night for Harvard (19-7, 9-3) with 31 points and 18 rebounds.

Columbia (6-20, 3-9) got 14 points from Miwa Tachibana.

Though Penn has a tiebreak with Harvard off the sweep in terms of getting the automatic WNIT invite out of the Ivies, either could be the first team in the league to earn an at-large invite.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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