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.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Guru's College Report: Penn Climbs to Top of Big 5 After Powering Past Saint Joseph's

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

Alyssa Baron may have graduated and gone off to a pro career in Israel but the departure of one of the all time players in Penn’s program has not crimped one bit the Quakers’ ability to keep producing great historical moments.

The defending Ivy champions apparently are out to collect some local notches on their belt before the league wars get under way next month.

The latest victim after years of dominating Penn is Saint Joseph’s, which until Tuesday night had never lost to the Quakers in the Palestra and only fell to them once, a record of 38-1 in the long-running series.

It seemed it might be more of the same when Saint Joseph’s did not show any wear and tear from Sunday’s narrow win over Villanova on Hawk Hill and was ahead by five points with four minutes left in the opening half.

But then the Quakers erupted across the two periods with a 17-4 run and powered their way past the defending Big Five champions to a 65-51 victory and sole possession of first place in the City Series with a 2-0 record.

Penn players who participated in the first game of the series in 1973-74 have become old enough to be grandmothers before the Quakers could beat Saint Joseph’s in their own arena, with the sole win coming on Hawk Hill in 2003-04.

The win overall snapped a two-game losing streak, including a 58-43 thumping from Hampton here Friday night that the Quakers (4-3, 2-0 Big Five) shook off after going back to the drawing boards over the weekend.

It was another strong outing from the Penn bench which this time outscored a Quakers’ opponent 19-4 to negate the 20 turnovers, including 13 in the first half when Saint Joseph’s was out in front.

“When we had 13 turnovers I didn’t really see it, the way the flow was going,” Penn coach Mike McLaughlin said afterwards. “It wasn’t so glaring – they weren’t poor turnovers.

“When we came out of the gate and made (shots), whatever the numbers were, I think we started feeling confident and we could make shots,” he continued.

“Once we settled in the half-court I thought we were able to get shots on them.”

Sophomore Sydney Stipanovich had 13 points and 11 rebounds while Renee Busch had 11 points spurred by three straight 3-pointers that put distance between Penn and Saint Joseph’s.

“Renee was the difference and she helped spread the floor,” McLaughlin said. “I thought Sydney played as well as she’s played this year. I thought she was the game-changer for us, defensively.”

Stipanovich is the reigning Big 5 and Ivy rookie of the year.

Reserves Katy Allen and Melanie Lockett had eight and seven points, respectively.

“It really helped that we started out well defensively in the first half, because it kept us in it,” Allen said. “When we start out well defensively, it doesn’t really matter how much we score, as long as (the opponent) can’t score.”

Ashley Robinson and Kathleen Fitzpatrick each had 12 points for Saint Joseph’s (3-6, 2-1), while Ciara Andrews scored 10 points. Natasha Cloud dealt eight assists.

McLaughlin’s squad had held leads over the Hawks in the second half each of the past three seasons and seemed poised for an upset last January when deadlocked 50-50 in the final two minutes in Hagan Arena until coach Cindy Griffin’s squad pulled out the win.

This time, however, after Penn took control, the Quakers kept clamping down the defense and built the lead into double digits, courtesy of three 3-pointers from Busch.

“I just want to celebrate this one with our players before we have the next task at hand (up the street at Drexel, December 20, after finals),” McLaughlin said. “They worked really hard and we got better this week after not playing well against Hampton.”

Had Saint Joseph’s won, the Hawks would have clinched a tie for first with only La Salle to play in the one of two games with the Explorers on the Atlantic 10 schedule that also counts in the local title pursuit.

Now, it will take only one victory over either Temple here on January 5 or Villanova also here on January 21 for Penn to win an unprecedented three Big 5 games in the same season and at least tie for the title. A sweep will give Penn the series outright.

Technically, Penn has already won three consecutive wins locally for the first time dating back to beating Temple in January and La Salle last month.

With the first back-to-back season wins of two City Series games McLaughlin is now tied with the most Quakers’ Big Five wins, coaching-wise, with six and his milestone has come in just six seasons.

It’s the second time Penn has started 2-0 in the Big Five, the other being in 2004-05.

Saint Joseph’s, after finals, heads to South Bend, Ind., for a date with No. 5 Notre Dame coached by Hawks alum Muffet McGraw, whose records at Lehigh (7-0) after in jeopardy at the moment.

Princeton Still Perfect After Battering Michigan

How about those Ivy powers co-picked to win the league?

On a night that Penn made some Big 5 history, rival Princeton took a quick road trip to Ann Arbor and routed Michigan 85-55 at Crisler Arena to stay unbeaten at 9-0, best start ever for an Ivy team.

It’s the fourth straight game the Tigers held a lead of 30 or more points over the opposition while the defense held Michigan (6-2) 20 points below the Wolverines’ average.

Michigan was ranked 11th in the NCAA RPI before the game while Princeton was at 14th.

Michelle Miller had 25 points for the Tigers, who next host Binghamton Saturday afternoon at Jadwin Gym. She connected on 5-of-7 3-pointers.

Blake Dietrick, the reigning Ivy player of the week, had 22 points, nine rebounds and eight assists while Annie Tarakchian had 12 points and Taylor Williams scored 10 and the team had a 35-23 advantage on the boards over the No. 2 rebounding team in the Big Ten.

Cyesha Goree, one of two players in double figures for Michigan, scored a team high 14 points.

Looking Ahead

No. 17 Rutgers visits Temple in McGonigle Hall at 6 p.m. Wednesday night prior to the men’s game next door in the Liacouras Center and the Guru will be on the scene tweeting.

Penn State, in the only other of the 10-team Guru’s PhilahoopsW group, will try to win two in a row for the first time this season when the Lady Lions visit Hartford.

It will be the first time in a long time PSU will be playing someone other than the reigning national champion in Connecticut, but the squad will still run into UConn DNA since former all-American Jen Rizzotti is the coach of the Hartford Hawks.

AP Poll Trivia

The Guru after updating the AP Poll women’s database forgot to give you all this week’s readout.

Though Arkansas dropped out, the Southeastern Conference is still the league leader in member appearances for the week at six, while the Atlantic Coast and Big Ten have five each, the Big 12 has four, the Pac-12 has three while the mid-power (one step above mid-major) leagues of The American and Big East (put them together and you have the old Big East) one each.

Maryland has tied Penn State for total appearances at seventh with 405 while North Carolina had made its 200th Top 10 appearance and is in ninth place, all-time.

Nationally Noted

Former George Washington star Megan Nipe, who appeared here over the summer covering the WNBA Washington Mystics, returned home, alma mater wise, from her real Minneapolis home to help broadcast the Colonials’ win over Georgetown in a big local tilt in the nation’s capital.

More to come.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad


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